Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Jan. 28, 29 or 30
Is he planning to make room for imprisoning union members?
After all, this is the guy whose month has been so loony that he proposed taking over Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and claimed to support a Democratic pension-reform idea if lawmakers accepted an anti-union addition.
Indeed, would anyone be stunned by Rauner suddenly announcing his intention to claim the Moon for Illinois so the state could corner the market for green cheese, helping the dairy industry?
Can’t you just hear him?
“Since NASA isn’t launchin’ missions to the Moon, I’m expectin’ our state to start seizin’ this economic opportunity,” he could say. “Agriculture is growin’ and Illinois need to be gettin’ competitive.”
Back to what passes for reality in Illinois…
Last week, Rauner attacked teachers by proposing a CPS takeover, and the next day somehow made impeached ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Prison) look good by endorsing Senate President John Cullerton’s old pension-reform proposal idea while adding a “poison pill” he knew lawmakers would reject.
CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have been negotiating for months, and the rank and file recently showed determination. Of 24,000 CTU members, 88 percent voted to authorize a strike.
In 2012, Chicago teachers went on strike, its first work stoppage in 25 years.
Echoing his anti-union “Turnaround Agenda,” Rauner would let his appointed State Board of Education replace the Chicago mayor's appointed school board until he considered CPS’s finances stable. The state would bargain a new teachers' contract or oversee labor relations if the district goes bankrupt. (Yes, the scheme also would let districts go bankrupt and void contracts. Current state law prohibits bankruptcies by schools or any local government.)
Before the measures were even introduced – House Republican Leader Jim Durkin is filing HB 4498 in the House, and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno reportedly plans to enter SB 2275 – Democrats were flabbergasted and defiant.
“This is not going to happen,” Cullerton said. “It's mean-spirited and evidence of their total lack of knowledge of the real problems facing Chicago Public Schools.”
Indeed, the takeover seemed like a distraction from Rauner’s failure to participate, much less lead, in governing the fifth-most populous state in the country. After all, how could anybody think Rauner could run CPS when he’s done so poorly leading the state?
The next day, Rauner further stunned Illinoisans by proclaiming a pension deal – which didn’t exist.
Rauner said he’d agreed with Cullerton on pension reform (and condemned House Speaker Michael Madigan as "unreasonable”). But the Governor’s claim dissolved the same day.
Announcing a “breakthrough” to reform the state’s pension system, he added that he was changing it to eliminate wages as a bargaining subject for labor negotiations.
“The plan he outlined at his news conference isn’t what we talked about,” Cullerton said hours later. “It’s not my plan. It goes beyond what we discussed – and beyond what I support. I think collective bargaining should continue to exist, and the governor does not.”
Rauner later claimed he was misunderstood, intending only to prohibit unions from bargaining over different wages set when state employees decided between two new options to the pension status quo.
Ah. Sure. (There is a connection between “lunar” and “loon.”)
If Rauner’s make-believe compromise resulted in a failure to launch, or he takes over Chicago schools, who’ll take over the state?
Maybe the Man in the Moon.
[PICTURED: Photo of Gov. Rauner from thepetitionsite.com.]