Tag Archives: Sen. Don Harmon

Clout-heavy UNO hired his firm, Sen. Harmon clams up; narrow-gauge politics satisfy . . .

At town hall meeting, Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters — UNO, fracking, pensions:

The clout-heavy United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) was brought up, reference was made to a sizable public-money grant for a charter school in nearby Galewood in 2009. There had been much spending on a post-announcement celebration — all of it widely reported, especially in detailed Sun-Times accounts.

Harmon responded carefully: “I have no knowledge of money being wasted.”

Spoken like a lawyer, and more than that, a partner with UNO’s lawyer in the firm, Burke Burns & Pinelli, which had taken UNO on as a client as soon as the scandal took shape months earlier.

By March, 2016, the firm had worked long and hard on UNO troubles to the extent of more than $962,000 in fees, wrote Sun-Times’ Dan Mihalopoulos (“THE WATCHDOGS: UNO’s secret spending spree”).

Few knew of this cheek-by-jowl Harmon-UNO connection. Many did know of the news stories, however, about which Harmon apparently had not felt prompted to inquire. He pleaded ignorance, said no more. No one questioned him further on the point.

Other issues arose:

fracking downstate (approved later by the legislature and judicially good to go by December, 2014) , dispensing of psychiatric drugs, and others.

The pension comes first, said Lilly. Harmon backed her up with a graph thrown up on a screen showing the size of pension outlay, asking along the way if anyone had “missed a payment.”

He had asked earlier who worked in government jobs, twenty-five or so had raised their hands. None did so this time. It was a litigator’s question, asked knowing the answer.

Again, it was so far, so good for one side of the issue,

payouts to pensioners, without reference to the state’s fiscal health — and continued ability to meet payments, for that matter.

He was practicing narrow-gauge politics that was good enough for his supporters. He was a sort of good shepherd caring for his flock.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

“Embarrassed by Illinois”

At the Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters — “some dramatic government failures”

The CPA who had urged Sen. Harmon to “do something about corruption” continued.

“To say the pension situation is complicated is a classic delaying tactic. We are spending way more than we are taking in. People leave Illinois [in large numbers]. . . . Taxes are huge, hit even homeless people, some of whom I help. You are part of the problem. not the solution.”

Not even the voluble Rep. Lilly directly engaged him. Harmon did not. Nobody in the audience picked up on his complaints. In the ensuing lull, someone asked about taxing retirement income.

It’s “on the table of [sic] discussion,” Lilly said.

Another man said he was “embarrassed by Illinois.” He cited National Public Radio, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets. “It’s the worst state . . . “

Lilly denied it. “I have an opinion. The media doesn’t represent the facts accurately. The facts don’t state that. . . . I’m very proud to live in Illinois . . . Look at your [sic] history . . . We must come together . . . I celebrate that. . . . This is a great state [in which] to raise your family!”

Harmon conceded “some dramatic government failures,” naming none. “We are climbing out of the hole.”

The Chicago Tribune, he said, “has bashed the heart out of us.”

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Illinois Blues: Limping North Avenue, Not Losing the Merc

At the Oak Park Library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts,” continued:

The man [who had complained about Illinois’ lowest-in-nation bond rating] threw in the towel, giving way to the next questioner, asking about a much-protested pawn shop on economically limping North Avenue and related matters.

Rep. Lilly jumped on this. With more pointing and waving, she declared that North Avenue issues were “what I call ‘on the docket.’” For action or consideration, she didn’t say, nor on whose docket.

Then from the floor came an enterprising suggestion, that even with Sen. Harmon’s proposed fair tax (“graduated”) there still wouldn’t be enough money. “So how about the proposed tax on stock trades?” (A “sales tax on speculators,” a columnist called it.)

Lilly laughed. “Actually, I saw that proposal, among so many that I didn’t read.”

Harmon said he had heard testimony for this tax, naming a local socialist who was an energetic proponent of a mandated “living wage” for village employees. But he gently poured cold water on the idea, Lilly next to him nodding vigorous agreement.

“There’s the fear that this legislation would push the Chicago Mercantile Exchange out of the state,” Harmon explained. It was a rare nod to the role of taxation in damaging the economy.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Illinois Blues: Pensioner’s “desperate look,” bond ratings, unemployment

At the Oak Park Library town hall, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts”:

A man asked why it had taken so long to do something about the pension issue when the Civic Federation of Chicago had raised the issue five years earlier.

Sen. Harmon played the therapist. He shared the questioner’s “frustration,” having seen the “desperate look” on the faces of people who fear losing pensions.

Nothing about why it had taken so long. Treating the do-nothing years as an act of God, himself as horrified observer. Not horrified, however, since even as he spoke, there was no crisis, he had said.

Another man complained that in response to Illinois’ lowest-in-nation bond rating and one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, said citizens got nothing but “rhetoric.”

It was the first question about fiscal issues as such. The man stayed with his complaint, enlarging on it. Harmon listened up to a point, then called “next,” choosing not to engage him.

Rep. Lilly gloriously missed this and picked up with the persistent questioner, entering on extended commentary of her own, pacing back and forth, gesticulating, in general speaking as if to settle the question in an earnest, forceful, however cheery a manner.

The man threw in the towel, giving way to the next question, about a much-protested pawn shop on economically limping North Avenue and related matters.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Property, income tax rates in Illinois

Sen. Harmon and Rep. Lilly continue their town hall meeting at Oak Park library, July 17, 2013 — from Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, Chapter 3, “There Will Be No Cuts”:

The village clerk asked if property tax rates might rise. A “really, really good” question, Lilly said. She herself had asked it in a legislative committee meeting.

But really good question or not, she instead addressed the related but separate issue of allocating state funds for public schooling. “No way is education to be funded equitably across the state,” she said, meaning face-the-facts it won’t happen or over-my-dead-body it shouldn’t. Not clear.

But her “equitably” called up haves-vs.-have-nots funding of public schools — a sensitive issue for Oak Park homeowners. Harmon, an Oak Park homeowner, said he was “very sensitive” to the property-tax issue and let it go at that.

A man wondered if a “teeny tiny” income tax increase might be imposed. Harmon brought up (again) the Democrats’ “sixty-seven percent” increase (from 3 to 5%), signaling quote marks and adding, “We Democrats say two percent.” Challenged earlier, he was not quite ready to let that one go.

Again he ruled out service cuts. “We have already cut too much.”

Nonetheless, the state’s money shortage, said Lilly, was “really, really testing” the state’s financial capacities. Yes it was!

It’s about revenue, a man, said. “The rich should pay more.” He commended Harmon for a Wednesday Journal column in which he had put “crisis” in quotes. “Some are too rich” to need help from the government, the man added.

“Let ’em run for governor,” Harmon interjected, drawing laughter. Bruce Rauner had already announced, was to win the governorship sixteen months later.

Illinois Blues is available in paperbackepub and Amazon Kindle formats.

Tax trades, and say bye-bye to the Merc

Argument is simple enough: you would make trades unprofitable.

A proposal for Illinois to tax trades on exchanges in the state is “ridiculous,” according to the executive chairman of Chicago-based market operator CME Group Inc.

The suggested levy—which would charge $1 or $2 per contract, depending on the product—would make many transactions uneconomic, forcing the exchange to leave the state because customers would stop buying and selling, CME Chairman Terry Duffy said.

The bill, designed to increase revenue in the financially troubled state, is in early stages and faces long odds of approval.

Yes, as Sen. Don Harmon told an Oak Park audience in 2013, in this exchange from my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

. . . from the floor came an enterprising suggestion, that even with Harmon’s proposed fair tax (“graduated”) there still wouldn’t be enough money. “So how about the proposed tax on stock trades?” (A “sales tax on speculators,” a columnist called it.)

[Rep. Camille Lilly] laughed. “Actually, I saw that proposal, among so many that I didn’t read.”

Harmon said he had heard testimony for this tax, naming a local socialist who was also an energetic proponent of a mandated “living wage” for village employees. But he gently poured cold water on the idea, Lilly next to him nodding vigorous agreement.

“There’s the fear that this legislation would push the Chicago Mercantile Exchange out of the state,” Harmon explained. It was a rare nod to the role of taxation in damaging the economy.

Illinois Blues is available also as paperback and non-Kindle ebook.

For the rest of the CME story: Newsalert: CME Boss says he would have no choice but to move CME if Illinois tax passes

Sen. Harmon of Oak Park an uber-loyal Democrat

It’s this Madigan budget. If party loyalty is Sen. Don Harmon’s (D-Oak Park) strong suit, as in his voting to short-change Oak Park schools, then it’s no surprise that he voted for the Madigan budget, with its absurd $7-billion deficit. On the minority side of a 17-31 vote, no less!

You dance with the one who brought you, of course. Harmon knows (and endorses) that. Where would he be without the party? So he went with the leadership, such as it is, and let the devil take the hindmost.

You can read more about Harmon, Rep. Camille Lilly, and others of the Ruling Party in my new book, Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, available also in Kindle format.

Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters

Those Illinois redistricting blues . . .

. . . are being challenged by non-aligned citizens, as we know

The Ruling Party is opposed to this. It kept such a proposal off one ballot and wants to do it in another, each time deploying an ad hoc group represented by the party’s lawyer, while denying its own involvement.

Constitutional issues are arguable in the matter, but the party has a very big stake here. Drawing electoral district boundaries is a monopoly they have gotten used to.

The system seems blatantly undemocratic — hermetically sealed office-holders deciding whom if anyone they will run against. As such it was raised as an issue at a town hall meeting described in my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

A softball question had just been answered at the mid-July, 2013 meeting at the Oak Park Library. Then . . .

A Certified Public Accountant shifted tone considerably, urging [Sen. Don] Harmon to “do something about corruption in our very corrupt state.” He specified “gerrymandering” and complained, “The way it’s set up, candidates know they will win,” continuing at length in this vein.

“Each of us is vulnerable in a primary,” Harmon said. When an opponent surfaces, he might have added. Lilly, appointed in 2010, had run unopposed in primary and general elections in 2012 and would do so again in 2014. Harmon had run unopposed in the general every year but one since he was elected in 2002.

He was to be opposed in the 2014 primary, by a Galewood man with public-employee-union background, whom he defeated handily. He was unopposed in the general, though briefly threatened by a last-minute Republican opponent who thought better of it after a week and withdrew for “personal reasons.”

A candidate needs money to answer nominating-petition challenges, which led to the withdrawal for lack of funds of a credible [primary] candidate seeking to oppose Congressman Danny Davis in 2014, for instance.

Rep. Camille Lilly wound up this meeting with a request.

She closed, telling the questioner, “Give us a call.” This while giving no telephone number or email address or even street address, which for what it’s worth was a few blocks inside Austin, one of the city’s highest-crime-rate neighborhoods.

This location was symptomatic of her low-profile, virtually nonexistent approach to representing mostly white, well-policed Oak Park, not to mention other communities in a long meandering (gerrymandered?) line moving northwest as far as Franklin Park, eight miles from her office.

The long meandering line (her district) was stark evidence of the state’s 2010 redistricting by the Ruling Party to make sure black and other Democrat office-holders are elected with at most token opposition. In another of these meetings, Harmon explained such redistricting as a civil-rights imperative, citing federal law in the matter.

He was apparently referring to the requirement to “remedy a violation” of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. If there was such a violation in Illinois districts in 2010, nobody talked about it. But for the senator, it provided respectability to Ruling Party redistricting.

Illinois Blues is available in paperback and non-Kindle ebook and as a Kindle book.

 

Tough call for Sen. Harmon . . .

. . . as he himself explains.

But it could have been much tougher.

I mean, he could have voted with the Republicans against the new school-funding bill, which passed (easily) on party lines a week ago.

Sure. And I’m the Easter bunny, as TV news man Len O’Connor used to say at the close of one of his “biting commentaries.”

Anyhow, the state funding of public schools arises in my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.

It was at a four-legislator forum at Oak Park’s Percy Julian middle school, on a balmy night in October, 2013.

The legislators were there at the invitation of the parent teacher organization, introduced by the district superintendent and questioned by parent members of the district’s Committee for Legislative Action, Intervention and Monitoring (CLAIM).

An interesting evening all in  all, with Harmon on hand plus Sen. Kimberly Lightford and Reps. LaShawn Ford and Camille Lilly.

School funding came up well into the meeting, when a CLAIM member . . .

. . . raised the long-standing hot-button issue of state funding of public schools in general, setting up a haves-vs.-have-nots give and take.

Lightford complained that the formula for allocating school funding — $4 billion in 2013 — was based on forty-to-fifty-year-old poverty figures. She was to co-sponsor a bill two years later that sought to alter that formula, taking from the wealthier districts and giving to the poorer ones. Nothing had come of it when this book was published. [Yes, but . . . ]

“Is it fair?” she asked, that Oak Park gets as much as it does, “considering its lower-than-average poverty rate?” State aid (to Oak Park schools) “may be” less, she said. Which was sufficiently ambiguous for the occasion. Then she launched into numbing detail about the process of deciding how funds are apportioned.

Harmon ignored her allegation of unfairness — no need to ruffle feathers — but agreed that the formula is “complicated.” He took note also of the long-standing teacher pension subsidy for non-Chicago school districts — featuring highly publicized retirement bonanzas for suburban administrators — as further complicating the matter.

Which it does, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, who had said in May, 2012, that for many years “these fat pensions had a massive, and now dire, impact on state education finances.”

Lilly observed that she would “like to put on the table a corporate round table,” meaning God knew what, and He was excluded from this gathering in a public school. In any case, as often happened in these forums, no one asked.

Illinois Blues is available at Amazon as Kindle and at Lulu.com as paperback or non-Kindle ebook.

 

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