Posted by Leave a Commenton Friday, April 18, 2014 |
UPDATE: AP’s Obama Library Vote Fail: When a Unanimous Vote Isn’t So Unanimous
As you might expect, a large number of publications here in Illinois and across the country rely on the Associated Press, the country’s largest wire service. So, if they get something criminally wrong, that misinformation is reprinted from Cairo to Zion, from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.
Here’s the way Associated Press scribe Sara Burnett (via ABCNews.com) covered a House Committee vote yesterday to advance legislation to allocate $100 million worth of enticement money that Illinois doesn’t have to try to bring the construction of a Barack Obama Presidential Library to Chicago:
Even though Chicago is where Barack Obama got his start in politics, first lady Michelle Obama grew up and the Obamas still call their hometown, state and local officials aren’t taking for granted that the Windy City will land the president’s official library.
Illinois legislators advanced a plan Thursday to devote $100 million in state construction funds to bring the Obama presidential library and museum to Chicago. Lawmakers said the money was intended to sweeten a city bid, noting that Hawaii, where Obama was born, and New York, where he attended college, also are interested in housing the presidential artifacts and records. …
But he said the goal is to pass the legislation through the House and Senate before the Legislature adjourns May 31, so it can be included in the bid submitted to Obama’s foundation.
The foundation is expected to review that information and notify groups in May that will be invited to submit more detailed and formal proposals. The final decision is up to the president and first lady, and is expected to be announced in early 2015.
And this is from a truncated version of that same AP story, via NBCChicago.com, emphasis mine:
An Illinois House committee has advanced a plan to devote $100 million in state funds to help bring President Barack Obama’s presidential museum and library to Chicago.
The committee voted unanimously Thursday following a hearing in Chicago.
This being the Associated Press, the story appeared everywhere. Washington Times. Wall Street Journal. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Springfield State Journal-Register. San Francisco Chronicle. Townhall.com. Chicago Daily Herald. Salon.com. The Southern Illinoisan. Yahoo News. The Huffington Post. The Peoria Journal-Star. And on and on and on.
The problem? The vote wasn’t exactly unanimous. From WBEZ Chicago:
Illinois State House members are advancing a bill that would devote $100 million toward a Barack Obama presidential library. The House Executive Committee meeting in Chicago today voted, by an official tally of 9-0, to authorize using state money for the library. …
Nine representatives were recorded as voting for the bill, even though there were five lawmakers in attendance at the hearing. That is because Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), who chairs the Executive Committee, employed a procedural move.
Rita used the attendance record from a previous hearing that occurred Wednesday as the vote for the presidential library cash. House Speaker Michael Madigan, who sat in on today’s hearing, clarified Rita’s maneuver, saying the attendance would serve as nine votes in favor of the library, even though the previous committee hearing was on a possible Chicago casino and not related to a presidential library.
No Republicans attended Thursday’s hearing on the presidential library.
How’d this happen? The explanation from the committee’s ranking GOP member, Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein):
In a stunning violation of House rules, Illinois House Democrats used a subject matter only meeting today to advance legislation aimed at steering $100 million in public funds towards luring the Obama Presidential Library to Chicago.
“The legacy of the Obama Presidential Library shouldn’t be kicked off in a cloud of controversy,” stated State Representative Ed Sullivan (R, Mundelein). “Not only was the meeting a misrepresentation, so was the false roll call taken.”
Sullivan was speaking specifically to the Illinois House Executive Committee vote today on House Bill 6010. The legislation was brought up in what appeared as a subject matter hearing only, meaning testimony was to be taken, but no votes were to be cast. At the meeting, only four of the committee’s eleven members were present.
Without a quorum present, and no Republicans to hold the rules accountable, the four present Democratic members claimed the committee roll call to be 9-0 (9 voting “yes” and 0 voting “no”) on the proposal, with even opposing Republicans not in attendance recorded as “yes” votes.
“The roll call appears to be unequivocally out of order. It is often the case that the majority party in Illinois will simply change the rules to get what they want accomplished,” added Sullivan. “In this case they didn’t even care to change the rules, they just flat out broke them.”
Under the rule of House Speaker Michael Madigan (D, Chicago), the House Rules committee often convenes throughout the legislative calendar to alter, change or suspend House rules to move various proposals. In this instance, even the stated rules appear to be violated.
Under current House rules, a committee cannot vote on measures unless a quorum is present and the proper posting requirements have been met. Under a parliamentary review, the following were violated: Rule 32 providing a majority of those appointed constitute a quorum of a committee, Rule 21 authorizing actions by recessed committees but requiring the House to be in session, and Rule 49 providing that no member of a committee may vote except in person at the time of the call of the vote.
The Illinois House does not reconvene regular session until April 29th. It remains unclear at this point what action will be taken on House Bill 6010, but Rep. Sullivan intends to object to the advancement of this legislation.
So, Republican members of the committee were recording as voting YES … even though they weren’t actually there. That’s a pretty relevant piece of information that the Associated Press completely ignored, don’t you think? And they weren’t alone.
The Chicago Tribune report from John Byrne makes no mention of the procedural hijinks.
Neither does Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times.
So, you might want to keep this episode in mind whenever you’re reading coverage of what happens in Springfield. If the fact that four of the nine committee members weren’t even there but were recorded as voting yes wasn’t deemed relevant to appear in the widely disseminated reports of the Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, or Chicago Sun-Times, you have to wonder what else they’re not telling you.
UPDATE: The AP has filed a new story with what they conspicuously ignored in their first report:
A Republican lawmaker is protesting after an Illinois House committee recorded a 9-0 vote to commit $100 million for President Barack Obama’s library and museum, even though the committee’s four GOP members weren’t there.
Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein says he didn’t expect a vote during Thursday’s hearing. He told WBEZ radio and the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald he would’ve voted no.
Sullivan says “the legacy of the Obama presidential library shouldn’t be kicked off in a cloud of controversy.”
Lawmakers approved the money to sweeten Chicago’s bid for the library.
Democrats used the roll call from a Wednesday hearing on gambling as the vote for the library. No one objected.
A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says if there’s a problem the committee will reconvene and vote again.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Champaign is among the nation’s faster-growing cities.
The (Champaign) News-Gazette reports that the city is the only one in Illinois to reach that distinction. Of the others, 74 are in California, 47 are in Texas, and 17 are in the Carolinas.
From July 2014 to July 2015, the Census found Champaign grew by 1.5 percent, to just over 86,900. It’s now the 380th-largest city nationally and No. 10 in Illinois.
Rich Miller sees what is happening in Champaign as something for the rest of the state to emulate:
Champaign is rapidly becoming my favorite small city. So, learn some lessons from that town and help others do some of the same sorts of things. Not everything can be duplicated, of course, but this ain’t rocket science.
Of course it’s nice to see that Champaign is growing. Miller, however, neglects to mention that what we’re seeing in Champaign is a bit of an anomaly for Illinois:
The majority of Illinois’ large cities are shrinking, according to new data released May 19 by the U.S. Census Bureau. The census data consider all American cities with populations over 50,000 and show how much those cities grow or shrink year-over-year, comparing July 2014 to July 2015.
Chicago topped Illinois’ list for population decline – the city lost 2,890 people on net, the second-worst population decline in the country. Only Detroit’s decline of 3,107 people was worse.
There are 758 American cities that have populations greater than 50,000. Of these cities, 629 grew, and 129 shrank. Illinois has 29 cities with populations greater than 50,000, and of these, six grew and 23 shrank.
It occurs to me that it might be at least as educational to examine what is causing these 26 cities to shrink, rather than just looking at what Champaign is doing to grow. That ain’t rocket science either.
But back to Champaign. How are they doing it? Rich Miller says that it’s not rocket science. But actually, in a way, it is. It’s rocket science and engineering and english and business and education and law and football.
That’s because the most likely explanation for how and why Champaign is growing is because it’s home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- Columbus, OH (Ohio State University): +1.5%
- Bloomington, IN (University of Indiana): +0.7%
- Iowa City, IA (University of Iowa): +0.9%
- Madison, WI (University of Wisconsin): +1.2%
- Columbia, MO (University of Missouri): +1.5%
- Lexington, KY (University of Kentucky): +1.0%
Unless Rich Miller is proposing siting major state universities with enormous enrollments (UIUC’s 2015 enrollment is 40,087!) in 26 shrinking cities, from Wheaton to Decatur, I really don’t know how much there is to learn from what is happening in Champaign.
Miller admits earlier in the same post that “[i]f jobs were solely based on workers’ comp costs and property tax costs, we wouldn’t have any jobs here.” As I said before, he’s right about that.
Perhaps his time would be better spent applying some public pressure on Speaker Madigan to end his intransigence on this issues, rather than musing on how 23 shrinking Illinois cities can be more like a city they really can’t actually be like. After all, this ain’t rocket science.
One of the public policy areas where I think Governor Bruce Rauner has it wrong is on marijuana policy. He’s been resistant to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, and his support for the recent marijuana decriminalization legislation has been tepid, at best. It does seem, however, that he’ll sign that bill. So that is good news.
Now that we’ve had some time to observe that marijuana legalization in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado has not resulted in anything like the post-apocalyptic-landscape-from-a-bad-Kevin-Costner-film predictions from pearl-clutching opponents, I find the continuing resistance to moves in that direction to be difficult to understand.
The benefits are multitudinous. It allows law enforcement to focus on far more serious crimes. It stops making criminals out of otherwise peaceful, law-abiding citizens. It has had a greater deleterious impact on drug cartels that our policy of prohibition and interdiction ever has. And it has provided a consistent and reliable stream of tax dollars into to city and state coffers.
But leave it to Rich Miller at Capitol Fax to make the weakest argument for legalization, and then turn it into another petty cheap-shot at Rauner. First up, the pull quote from Rauner’s comments on the decriminalization bill:
“I’ve been a little distracted with economic issues, and frankly more important issues,” Rauner said last week. “We in Illinois tend to get — we get caught up in what our state pie’s going to be and how much marijuana is going to get sold. You know, it’s lovely topics. We got a budget crisis. We need more jobs. We need higher wages. We need more money for our schools. Let’s focus on what matters.”
That was not a unique comment. Rauner said much the same thing Monday afternoon in his Statehouse news conference: “You’re going to see a lot of votes and a lot of bills pop out this week. I hope they relate to what matters. We don’t need band aids. We don’t need to declare another state pie. We don’t need to declare another state vegetable. We don’t need to declare another illegal substance that we should expand. We need to focus on what matters.”
I think Rauner is wrong that it doesn’t matter. It matters for all the reasons I outlined above. But here is where Rich’s argument goes sideways:
Not only that, but he could expand job opportunities in this state by expanding the medical marijuana program or even legalizing it. If jobs were solely based on workers’ comp costs and property tax costs, we wouldn’t have any jobs here. There are other ways to do things that don’t involve his Turnaround Agenda.
Yes, legalization would create new jobs. One marijuana industry group in 2014 estimated that Colorado’s legalization created upwards of 10,000 new jobs in the state. New jobs are a good thing. So, huzzah. But what is peculiar is that Miller doesn’t take even a moment to examine the implications of his own (completely accurate) statement:
If jobs were solely based on workers’ comp costs and property tax costs, we wouldn’t have any jobs here.
Miller is so eager to go to bat for the marijuana micro-economy, but is apparently content to ignore how this state is selling out its far larger and more critical industrial economy through poor public policy choices and a refusal to do anything about them. I guess, to Rich Miller, some jobs are more equal than other jobs?
It’s baffling that Miller can admit that this state is suffering and hemorrhaging tens of thousands of blue collar jobs because of issues like worker’s comp costs and property tax costs, and yet still find a way to think that this is all Bruce Rauner’s fault, even though Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda addresses those issues and it is Mike Madigan who refuses to budge on them.
It’s almost like Miller has a preconceived conclusion that Rauner is the real problem and is working backwards to try to find a justification. Hmmmmm…..
Lest you doubt that’s exactly the case, let’s get to Miller’s petty swipe at the Governor. You’ll recall from the Rauner quote above that he takes a shot at the recently passed legislation to name an official state pie. Well, Miller contorts himself to turn a swipe at the legislature’s focus on symbolic bills over real substance into a swipe at the state’s pumpkin growing industry, which it simply just isn’t:
Also, too, the pumpkin pie bill is an easy target, but Illinois is the national center of pumpkin production… We also process those pumpkins here. So, stop dumping on a vital home-grown industry already.
Vital? Really? I mean, yes, jobs are good, be they in the pumpkin industry or any other. But I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone claim that “as goes the pumpkin industry, so goes Illinois.”
Rauner is wrong to compare the importance of this legislation to the pie-naming bill. But he isn’t dumping on the pumpkin industry. He’s dumping on the state legislature’s fiddling while Rome burns. Pointing out that naming pumpkin as the official state pie has absolutely zero bearing on the wellbeing of the state isn’t at all the same as saying that pumpkin industry is irrelevant.
I’m pretty sure Illinoisans would continue to make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving even if we’d never named it the official pie of the Land of Lincoln.
Exit question: Is there an enterprising reporter out there who might want to go ask the bigwigs of the Illinois pumpkin production and processing industry if they favor workers compensation reforms and property tax reforms that would lower their costs of doing business in this state?
Last week, the Illinois Policy Institute held a rally at the State Capitol for Taxpayer Advocacy Day. The event was covered by Rich Miller at Capitol Fax with exactly the kind of dismissive derision that you would expect from Rich Miller.
You can read the whole post here, and there really isn’t much to it. He scare-quotes “rallies” in the title. He posted a picture of the turnout which he describes as “a bit light:”
He pointed out that the t-shirts provided by IPI were made in Bangladesh because … well, I have no idea why. And I don’t know that he does either.
And finally, he links to this tweet to assert that “of course, the teevee people apparently think it’s all organic.” I don’t know how he gets that from that tweet, but here we are.
It should come as no surprise at this point that Miller would attempt to portray any effort by IPI in a negative light, given his history of general acrimony towards the group. Which is probably why he posted the picture above and not this one:
Or this one:
Those wouldn’t exactly fit his narrative of the turnout being “a bit light.” For what it’s worth, IPI says the total turnout for the event was approximately 100 people.
Also, I should add that, as Miller pointed out in his post about the IPI rally, they were encouraging attendees to lobby GOP legislators to uphold Gov. Rauner’s veto of the union arbitration bill, HB580. Today, Speaker Madigan held a vote in the House to try to override the veto. It failed. Even if the turnout didn’t meet the standard for relevancy and importance in the mind of the almighty Rich Miller, it certainly seems they were effective.
But I doubt we’ll see that pointed out today at Capitol Fax.
I bring all of this up for a reason: Today, in the Capitol Rotunda, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) held a rally. From the looks of it, you might say that the attendance was “a bit light:”
Head on over to Capitol Fax today and you’d never even know that this event is happening. No dismissive post about the size of the crowd. No pointlessly pointing out where t-shirts were manufactured. No condescending to TV reporters about whether this rally is “organic” or not.
Because that wouldn’t fit the narrative.
Rich Miller. He’s so clever.
On April 1st, the Chicago Teachers Union walked off the job for one day in a preview of the full-on strike that is likely coming to Chicago at some point this year.
When they did so, the union issued a threat to their membership not to cross the picket line and show up for school on that day, lest they face the consequences. Here’s what I said about it at the time:
Good, conscientious teachers in the Chicago Public Schools system deserve our sympathy here. The union that they are essentially extorted into joining is putting them in a difficult place. Do your job and lose your voice in the system, or walk out on your students and your paycheck for that day in an action that is possibly illegal.
I hope there are some brave souls in the CTU rank and file who are willing to call the union’s bluff here. It would be interesting and informative to see what the results are, both legal and otherwise, if the union’s expulsion policy were challenged.
This should serve as a reminder that public sector unions like the Chicago Teachers Union don’t really represent the interests of teachers. They represent the interests of teachers unions. And those two thing are not synonymous.
At least one brave teacher prioritized his professional obligations and his students over the union’s demands. And — no surprise here — the CTU is looking to punish him for it:
Math teacher Joseph Ocol’s decision to not join his teachers on the picket line during a one-day strike April 1 has jeopardized his membership with the union. He is being asked to give the pay he received for working that day to the union or say why he shouldn’t have to at a June 6 hearing.
Ocol said he worked that day so he could be with his students.
Now, here is where things get interesting. Here’s the CTU spokeswoman’s explanation for the basis of the action the union is taking to reprimand Ocol for showing up to work and doing his job:
CTU’s strike policy specifically states that members who go against the union and who are found guilty by a jury of their peers will have their membership suspended, said CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.
“A strike breaker will be given the option to pay a fine equal to the member’s net earnings while working in order to be reinstated, if they so choose,” she said in an email. “If they choose not to pay the fine they will be expelled from the Union.”
Got that? He’s in violation of their strike policy, and that’s what opened the door for this Kafkaesque-sounding trial by jury that Ocol is going to face. I see one rather significant potential problem there:
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board still has to hold a full hearing on the legality of the strike. But in Thursday’s preliminary hearing, the panel clearly found merit in Chicago Public Schools’ argument that the CTU’s one-day strike was illegal.
“Contrary to the union’s argument, I don’t think that there’s a serious legal issue about the illegality of the strike,” board Chair Andrea Waintroob said.
Can the CTU punish a teacher for breaking a strike even if that strike was illegal? I’m not a lawyer, so I really don’t know. But it’s an interesting question to pose here.
Even if they can legally do what they’re doing, you couldn’t have picked a more sympathetic teacher to fight this battle:
Ocol is trying to appeal, seeking an alternative action. He said he will offer up his pay if it’s guaranteed that it will go to the students, not CTU. He wants the money to help his chess champions travel to the White House.
Right now, the team is awaiting confirmation for an early June visit with President Obama. He can only take the all-girls chess team, who took home a national championship trophy last month, but there are 35 members on the team, not five.
Ocol said in a letter Monday saying that he has decided to not attend his June 6 hearing because he has practice with his students.
“I do not wish to be absent because I have always promised the kids that I shall always try to be with them after school even if I do not get paid,” he said in the letter he shared with DNAinfo.
He said that CPS doesn’t have the resources to pay coaches or mentors for any of the afterschool programs, which is why he has been volunteering his time from 4-6 p.m. for chess practice. The hearing is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. and he refuses to leave his students early to get there, he said.
Ocol also said he’s tired of the bullying he has been receiving from other union members. He filed a complaint last month. People have been sending him “nasty” messages saying that he should leave CPS and work for a charter school.
You’re probably just as shocked as I am that an organization led by a woman who recently compared Governor Bruce Rauner to the terrorist group ISIS would go so far as to bully one of their own members for feeling that his first obligation is to his students and not to a private political organization he is ostensibly forced to join.
He was a marked man when he migrated to the United States 15 years ago. Joseph Ocol, once a top planning executive of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC), had been placed on the government’s Witness Protection Program for blowing the whistle on what appeared to be a multibillion-peso election fund-raising scam in the agency tasked to transform a former US military air base into an industrial complex and economic zone.
For those who still remember, Ocol had recounted in Senate public hearings how representatives of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and CDC delivered millions of pesos stashed in envelopes to the campaign manager of the then ruling Lakas-NUCD party ostensibly to fund the presidential campaign of Jose de Venecia in the 1998 elections. He claimed that those funds had come from contractors, who were forcibly milked by government officials, resulting in substandard infrastructure and cost escalations for what was then a big Centennial Exposition project.
Now it’s time for your regularly scheduled reminder that the Chicago Public Schools system spends upwards of $15,000 per pupil to graduate just over half of its students, 40% of them drop out, and for the ones that make it through to 8th grade, 80% of them aren’t proficient in reading or math. What’s more, CTU teachers are the highest compensated in the country. They’re participants in a pension system that permits 60% of pensioners to retire in their 50s, make an average employee contribution of a mere $128,000 towards their pension and receive an average pension payout of $2.1 million, only 6% contributed versus their net payout, or more than a 15,000% return on their “investment.”
And later this year, the leaders the Chicago Teachers Union will go on strike to demand more, but without making any significant changes to a school system that continues to fail thousands and thousands of (mostly minority) children every year.
But the one thing they won’t tolerate? Strike-breaking teachers and volunteer chess coaches who just want to do their job and help their students.
Keep this story in mind the next time you hear the Chicago Teachers Union say that they’re doing it all “for the children.”