Yesterday, Mayor Daley told reporters
that he was interested in another privatization scheme -- outsourcing
city hiring. Daley said he hoped the proposal would cut costs and
restore the public's "confidence in our procedures." Of course, if the public no longer has confidence in the city's hiring process, it's because of therepeatedpatronagescandals
stemming from Daley's own administration. But the mayor framed the problem another way: "We don't have the expertise," he said.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) thinks that's a terrible excuse. "What it represents is basically an admission on the part of the mayor
that he has utterly failed to manage the hiring process," Moore told the Tribune.
"How hard is it to tell people to not let politics enter the equation?
It is not rocket science."
We made a similar point back in early 2009 following Daley's claim that it made sense to privatize the parking meter system because city workers "can't compete with the private sector." Our response:
In short: [Daley would] rather hand off these services and
assets for the next 75 years -- at a cost to the city -- than actually do the hard work of
Yesterday's announcement of an agreement between Walmart and Chicago's major unions would have been a lot more reassuring if a representative from the mega-retailer had stood with the labor leaders and joined them in calling it a "historic" moment. Instead we get headlines like this from Bloomberg: "Wal-Mart, Chicago Unions Can't Agree If They Have An Agreement." From the article:
This is the “first time that the largest retailer in
the world had seen fit to offer 50 cents more than minimum wage as
starting pay,” said Alderman Ed Burke, waving a printout of an e-mail
from Maggie Sans, vice president of public affairs for the Bentonville,
Arkansas-based retailer, during a meeting of the city council’s zoning
Yet Steven Restivo, a Wal-Mart spokesman, later said
there was no such agreement and that the e-mail from Sans simply
clarified the company’s existing policies on raises.
It just goes to show that the Chicago labor community is going to have to keep the pressure on them as the new developments move forward.
We reported last night on the U.S. Senate's failure to pass a significant extension of the unemployment benefit filing deadline (and Dick Durbin's fiery response to the Republican obstructionists). This morning, the Chicago Reporter is hosting a "public square" discussion on the issue of long-term unemployment from Carter's Barber Shop on the city's South Side. The segment will run live from 10 a.m. to noon on Vocalo.
the Senate Republican caucus -- along with Democrat Ben Nelson (NE) -- stood firm today in their opposition
to a jobs bill that would have extended the filing deadline on
emergency unemployment benefits through November, voting 41-57 to block cloture on the legislation (H.R. 4213). Immediately following the roll call, Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) submitted a motion to extend the filing
deadline one additional month using a small portion of the funding
identified in the bill.
That's when Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin
unloaded on the minority party, suggesting that political posturing, rather than concern about the deficit, is driving their obstruction. "The record is clear: It is a party of no that is hoping that the voters will vote yes in November," he said. "I hope they remember that the Republicans had no alternative [proposal] when it came to this disastrous economic situation." Watch it:
While a standalone bill extending the benefit deadline might surface next, the entire effort has been derailed for the time being. As of tomorrow, the National Employment Law Project projects that 1.2 million Americans will have lost their unemployment aid as a result.
In a release to reporters today, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee positioned Illinois Republican Mark Kirk's ongoing avoidance of the press as part of a larger pattern. They noted that four other GOP Senate candidates have similarly gone underground:
As campaign season heads into the dog days of summer, at least five Republican Senate candidates are nowhere to be found. David Vitter, Mark Kirk, Sharron Angle, Linda McMahon and Rand Paul are all in hiding, undersiege and avoiding the press. Whether the issue is a scandal involving a staffer in trouble with the law, a candidate who literally runs away from the press after embellishing his resume, a candidate so far outside the mainstream that her campaign won’t allow her to do mainstream media interviews, a candidate who is in exile after sticking his foot in his mouth way too many times, or a candidate ducking questions about steroid use, these five candidates are not running phone calls and won’t be answering your questions anytime soon.
Maine's two "centrist" Republican senators are putting state governments in quite a pickle. To lower the cost
of a Democratically-authored jobs bill that would extend the filing
deadline for emergency unemployment benefits, Sens. Olympia Snowe and
Susan Collins want to curtail an extension of the enhanced Medicaid matching rate
included in last year’s stimulus bill. That could force states to reduce coverage for folks that use the public health plan or spend
more on Medicaid in 2011 than they had originally planned, creating new holes elsewhere in those budgets.
Both options are terrible. We've already seen how funding cuts
have impacted social services statewide. And lowering Medicaid spending, even marginally, can produce a nasty ripple effect
on the broader economy. Reduced coverage means the working poor must
find more expensive health insurance, the state's federal matching
funds shrink, and business declines for professionals who rely on Medicaid
reimbursements for their livelihood -- medical providers, technicians,
custodians, and health care administrators. Marc Zandi, chief economist
of Moody’s Economy.com, estimates that some 200,000 jobs could be lost if Congress doesn't pass along the full Medicaid assistance for six months.
In the past month, several financial institutions have committed to providing $150 million in assistance to Chicago's struggling ShoreBank and the Federal Reserve is considering whether to offer up additional bailout funds. This spurred Republicans to call for an investigation into whether the Obama administration pressured Wall Street to assist ShoreBank -- a charge they flatly deny. In late May, Illinois GOP Rep. Judy Biggert sent a letter
to the White House requesting all "e-mails, phone logs, and meeting
records" pertaining to the deal. When they
refused to cooperate, she wrote an amendment
to the financial reform bill, currently being refined in the
House-Senate conference committee, that would require the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to issue a report
on "the influence of political pressure" in this case.
While weakened slightly during negotiations yesterday, the amendment eventually passed
by a voice vote. But that wasn't before Democrats -- including Reps. Luis Guiterrez and Mel Watt -- ripped her to shreds for
politicizing the financial reform legislation when no law enforcement
officials have raised questions about the ShoreBank deal. Watch
some excerpts (the full video is available here):
As the New York Times editorial board noted this morning, it's becoming more and more clear that the U.S. Senate is in no rush
to extend the filing deadline on unemployment aid, even as hundreds of thousands of jobless workers lose their benefits each week. But that doesn't mean some in Congress aren't still trying to figure out a way to push the "extenders" bill through.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday that she planned to hold a bill to preserve Medicare reimbursements rates -- the so-called "doc fix" measure -- until the upper chamber acts on the jobs bill. As of yesterday, Senate negotiations were focused on swaying Olympia Snowe and
Susan Collins. The two Maine Republicans are demanding that, in exchange for their vote, the
Democrats curtail an extension of the enhanced Medicaid matching fund rate included in last year’s stimulus bill.
Here's the catch: Doing so would blow an estimate $230 million hole in Illinois' FY 2011 budget. (As in numerous other states, lawmakers anticipated receiving the extra Medicaid funds when drawing up the spending plan). Taking it out would almost certainly mean more budget tightening (i.e., layoffs). At a time when polls suggest Americans are more worried
about jobs than the long-term deficit, that seems like a dumb move politically. But if Collins and Snowe are the only gettable
votes from the GOP, it might be the Democrats' only option to keep the unemployed afloat.