Monday, May 1, 2017

Treasurer Mike Frerichs Loves Him Some Sashes

There's a long history on the Illinois Truth Team of Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs and his love of wearing a sash. European Royalty, Mike Frerichs will take EVERY OPPORTUNITY to put on a sash and act all important.

We've covered it here and here.  We also covered that one time that Mike Frerichs wore a sash on Chicago Tonight (he didn't).  And how he wore his favorite sash when he met with Michelle Obama (he didn't).   Or that time he wore his giant sash to a fundraiser in Highland Park.

What is interesting to us that in all of those photos there are lots of other politicians that are marching in the various parades right next to Mike Frerichs who opt for NOT wearing the sash.  Here's one with Mike rockin' his lovely sash right next to Senator Dick Durbin, who wisely decided to not wear a sash.  

So, this weekend, imagine our delight when we see Mike's crew posting a series of photos on Facebook of the Treasurer at the Greek Independence Day Parade in Chicago.  Guess who's wearing the sash again?!?  Yep.

I can hear it now:

Frerichs to his sash:  "I can't quit you."

What strikes us the most in this photo is how Toni Preckwinckle has wisely decided to NOT wear the sash.

"Hi.  I'm Mike.  You're on a float and we can almost see eye-to-eye.  Do you like my sash?"

Friday, March 17, 2017

School Board Candidates Are The Worst

It seems to be happening everywhere.  We, the taxpayers, are putting up with a bunch of terrible, conflicted, special-interest-backing candidates for school boards around the State and suburbs.

And then we wonder why our property taxes are out of control?  It's because we have terrible candidates and they get elected.  Are there good school board members?  Of course there are.  But there are a lot of them that shouldn't even be running.

Would it be heresy to state that we believe that anyone who is a teacher or administrator or (gasp!) even worse.... an officer of a teacher's union in another district just flat out are terrible candidates.  And they deserve to be voted against on that fact alone.

It is happening all over.  In Kaneland schools, a principal from a neighboring district is running.  He, apparently, doesn't think being an 'empire builder' in one district is enough.  Now he wants to have his hand in driving property taxes up in 2 districts.

In Mount Prospect District 57, there's 2 teachers running.  Yep.  2 teachers.  They want to be on the school board.  Wonder which side they're going to pick when it comes to negotiations?  Their own teachers union or you...the taxpayers?

In Dundee, there's a former Superintendent running.  Empire building at it's best.  Hey!  He's done it once.  I'm sure the district he looked after raised their levy every year.  And as close to that 5% that they can do without having to ask voters.  Now he wants to be on the board to do it again.

In Park Ridge, there are three candidates who are all married to teachers in the District.  Yes.  Seriously.  So they're in line to vote between voting to give their own wife a raise or siding with the taxpayers.  Which will they pick?

In Downers, there's not one, not two, but three teachers running for the school board.  One retired.  Oh, and this is rich:  one of the candidates is the President of the Teachers Union in a neighboring district.  Wonder where his loyalties lie?  Those negotiations with the teachers are going to be tough, right?

This just *has* to be a deliberate move by the teacher's unions to install sympathetic candidates on boards, right?

Every candidate on the ballot for school board should have to note 2 things:

1.  If they're a teacher.
2.  If they have kids in the schools.

We know that here at the Truth Team we believe this to be true:  The best school board members are most likely going to come from a group of citizens that have no skin in the game other than their property values.  A mom - who wasn't a teacher - who's kids have graduated from the schools?  A dad who works in the private sector who's kids are all in college or grown up?  Look for those folks.  That's who you'll want to vote for.

Common Sense Prevails in ILGA on Translation Issues?

This story about the Illinois General Assembly and a State Representative's proposal to spend $1.5M in state funds to translate the Illinois General Assembly's website into Spanish is so indicative of government leaders today and the problems their proposals create and cascade down upon all of us: the taxpayers.
Democrat State Rep. Robert Martwick (of Chicago) sponsored the bill because he felt the language barrier made it difficult for certain people to fully appreciate the wealth of information available from government resources, specifically online. 
The $1.5 million cost estimation comes from one of the co-sponsors of the bill, who says that software issues could arise, according to Illinois News Network. 
“For these people who are citizens of our country who have the ability, if they don’t have the information to know what’s going on here, how can they properly engage in having their voice being heard?” Martwick asked, according to Illinois News Network. “I think we owe it to be inclusive to all of the language speakers of our country … When we start talking about things we need to spend money on, this is the right thing to spend money on.”
Fortunately for all of us, there's a guy named Keith Wheeler who serves as a State Representative down in Springfield, too.  And, while we're not sure the bill would have passed, because of the political correctness and the need to pander to special interest groups and make everyone feel special, our hunch is that it would have.

But thanks to Keith Wheeler.  We not only killed the bill.  We also got a lot of LULZ out of the situation.  And we have to think Representative Martwick has his tail between his legs a bit.

How?  Well...Representative Wheeler simply turned to Google Translate. And solved the $1.5M problem with a few clicks of his mouse.

Republican Rep. Keith Wheeler, who reportedly runs an IT company as well, translated Martwick’s bill into Polish, after his colleague said that his family of Polish descent wouldn’t have been able to engage with the government.

“While my friend Rep. Robert Martwick was talking, I switched [his bill] over to Polish,” Wheeler said. “It just took a click. That’s all it took … it already exists.”
And he even went further.  According to The Caucus Blog from the Illinois House Republicans, they've set up the Illinois General Assembly site to be viewed in more than a dozen languages.
Anyone with access to the internet can now access a translated version of in any of the most common languages spoken in Illinois simply by clicking on the links below: 
Spanish Español
Arabic عربي
Hindi हिन्दी
Chinese (Simplified) 中文简体
Chinese (Traditional) 中文繁體
Japanese 日本語
Korean 한국어
Russian Русский
French Français
German Deutsch
Italian Italiano
Polish Polski
Greek Ελληνικά
Are these *perfect* translations?  If we know Google Translate at all, we know the answer is going to be no.  But they're going to be 'good enough'.

Fortunately for all of us taxpayers: The bill got pulled.  Because sanity prevailed.  Good on you, Representative Wheeler.

Monday, March 6, 2017

North Cook News: Aurora Austriaco Is Trojan Horse for Boss Madigan and Others

A bombshell of a report is up at the North Cook News and covered by in the race for Maine Township District 207's race for school board.  In the story, they connect all the pieces of the puzzle from the backing and support - to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars - that political boss Mike Madigan, trial lawyers and public unions have given Aurora Austriaco.  Yes, that's right...she's been handed hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.  Can you say "Special Interests"?

But she also had Joe Berrios' attorney represent her at her ballot challenge hearing.  Don't know about Joe Berrios.  Start your reading here.  These are the guys who are backing Aurora Austriaco.

Then the story goes on to talk about the 'quietness' of Aurora Austriaco's current campaign.  Why is she so quiet?  Welp...that's on purpose of course.  The political bosses want this to be a sleepy campaign.  Why?  So they can sneak her in to the board.  You're asking...why would they care about a school board?  Well, it is happening all over, but it is simple:  this is about money and influence.

Think about your property tax bill.  Where does the bulk of the money go to?  That's right, the schools.  There's $130M and growing at stake here.

Chicago political machine folks give Aurora Austriaco over half a million dollars.  And we voters are supposed to think that she'd be an impartial board member?  Please.  Look at that last line:
"If Aurora Austriaco wins a spot on the Maine Township District 207 School Board, Boss Mike Madigan might get a return on his investment, just yet."

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Marohn: The Real Reason Your City Has No Money

If you haven't tuned into the writing of Charles Marohn over on, you should drop what you are doing and head over there to get immersed.  If nothing else, he'll make your mind race and turn some of the things you think you knew about government, financing and taxpaying citizens on it's end.  The first place to start on your journey there is this piece:  The Real Reason Your City Has No Money.  We were turned onto Mr. Marohn by a FotB (Friend of the Blog) recently.   And we've had his stuff open in our Chrome Tabs ever since.

In this first piece, he examines the ordinary city of Lafayette, Lousiana.  And uses the 'predicament' - as he calls it - to shine a light on one of the current dynamics playing out across America: what to do about infrastructure and infrastructure investment.

The median house in Lafayette costs roughly $150,000. A family living in this house would currently pay about $1,500 per year in taxes to the local government of which 10%, approximately $150, goes to maintenance of infrastructure (more is paid to the schools and regional government). A fraction of that $150 – it varies by year – is spent on actual pavement. 
To maintain just the roads and drainage systems that have already been built, the family in that median house would need to have their taxes increase by $3,300 per year. That assumes no new roads are built and existing roadways are not widened or substantively improved. That is $3,300 in additional local taxes just to tread water. 
That does not include underground utilities – sewer and water – or major facilities such as treatment plants, water towers and public buildings. Using ratios we’ve experienced from other communities, it is likely that the total infrastructure revenue gap for that median home is closer to $8,000 per year. 
The median household income in Lafayette is $41,000. With the wealth that has been created by all this infrastructure investment, a median family living in the median house would need to have their city taxes go from $1,500 per year to $9,200 per year. To just take care of what they now have, one out of every five dollars this family makes would need to go to fixing roads, ditches and pipes. That will never happen. 
Thus, Lafayette has a predicament. Infrastructure was supposed to serve them. Now they serve it.

He goes on to lay blame for the insolvency of municipalities large and small on the programs and incentives that were put in place and championed by the federal and state government to induce growth through infrastructure spending.

Got your attention, yet?

He closes with this provocative positioning while tying together new President Donald Trump's promise for increased infrastructure spending.
So what do we do now? Well, we're about to create a huge pot of money at the federal level that we can spread around to try and solve this problem. Only, it's not a problem. It's a predicament; it has no solution, only outcomes. 
It's a predicament that nearly every American city, with very few exceptions, finds itself in. Even if there was enough wealth and productivity to fix all of this -- and there isn't anything close to that amount -- we would be fools to spend it so unproductively. 
All this infrastructure is a bad investment. America needs a different model of growth and development.

Tusk: What You Can Do Beyond Marching

Bradley Tusk (remember him???  One-time Deputy Governor here in Illinois) is back in NYC and has made a pretty good name for himself at the intersection of business and government in the Big Apple.  Between his deal and counseling of Uber as well as his totally warranted and on-going criticisms of the way NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, he's causing plenty of people to pay attention to him.   He launched - a site that includes polls, a tracker of how bad de Blasio is doing and some creative ideas for improving the city.  All interesting stuff.

This week, he's out with a piece in Inc Magazine entitled:  Don't Like the Way Things Are Going in Washington? 7 Ways to Do Something About It.

Everybody loves a listicle, right?  Here's Tusk's list of ways to rattle some cages:
1.  Harass your legislators,
2.  Keep your other elected officials accountable, too.
3.  Don't forget about the cabinet.
4.  Litigation is an important weapon.
5.  Tweet at Trump.
6.  Not everything you do has to be about Trump.
7.  All politics and all governments matter.
Tusk is a smart guy and a pretty good operator.  So, while this is a bit of a puff piece and both some personal PR and Tusk Enterprises/Ventures/Whatever elese he's doing PR-work, we all can learn a bit from what he has to say.

We especially like the 2nd and 7th ones on the list.  And that's why we're committed to ensuring voters have full information on candidates and phonies.  Especially in these upcoming municipal elections.  A school board or local mayor today could turn into a government monster, with an insatiable appetite for tax increases and empire building tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Property Values in DuPage and Across The Suburbs Dropping, Forcing Pressure On Higher Property Taxes

Top 10 Communities that lost the most in home values since 2007 via DuPage Policy Journal

Over at the DuPage Policy Journal, the Local Government Information Services (which publishes dozens of local news outlets across the State of Illinois), is out with an important read for every taxpayer and homeowner in DuPage County.

For those keeping track at home, that means that Bobby McNeily, who is running for Wheaton City Council in the West District, can pass reading this.  Why?  Because he doesn't pay any property taxes.
But the rest of you, if you aren't already, this should make you pay attention:
Homeowner equity in DuPage County is eroding quickly as property taxes soar, driven by surging local government spending and massive municipal debts. Every DuPage County community, including its most-affluent enclaves, saw home values plummet over the past decade. 
...How much will DuPage County homeowners take before homeownership here is no longer affordable? 
Assuming a decline at the same pace as the past eight years, LGIS analysis projected median home values by DuPage community in 2023. 
If trends hold up, a Hinsdale home worth $939,000 in 2007 will be worth $684,988 in 2023. And its homeowner will have paid $242,525 in property taxes for the privilege of having their name on the title for a sixteen year period.
We've pasted the top 10 losers since 2007 that tops out with Willowbrook homeowners losing - on average - almost 50% of their home values.

The results of these depressed home values?  Higher property taxes to feed the beast that is local government and the empire building that is taking place in schools across the collar counties.

When we go to the polling place this year, let's all remember these facts and begin to ask questions about school board members and local elected officials about what cuts they're planning to make to our local governments.

And the biggest questions have to be about the plan on pensions at the municipal level.   If you come across a candidate who is asking questions and talking about pensions and the problems at the local level (teachers, firemen, police, municipal works), you should pay attention.  That's somebody who is working on the tough issues and likely warrants your support.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Maine 207 District Race: One Fatally Flawed Candidate Running Again

Over at West Cook News, they take the local journalist from the Journal & Topics to task for claiming that some are inserting partisan politics into a supposedly 'independent' election process.  It all stems from a few candidates having their nominating petitions challenged recently including a multiple-time loser (at least four-time loser, right?) Aurora Austriaco, who is complaining about someone having the gall to see if she followed the rules.  How dare they?!?!?

We say:  How dare Aurora Austriaco run for school board.  Doesn't she get it?  The voters don't want her.  She's a loser that keeps losing elections.  And, based on all the facts that are out there regarding her history (property taxes, missing meetings, pay-to-play with Blagojevich, being Speaker Mike Madigan's stooge), we're frankly surprised that she's decided to throw her hat in the ring again.

We're certain that the voters of Maine Township need to know the record of Aurora Austriaco and why anybody else on the ballot would make a better school board member than her!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wheeler: Rod Got Too Many Years

Over on Illinois Review, they point to a post by Illinois Republican State Representative Barbara Wheeler on Facebook regarding Rod Blagojevich's 14 year sentence.  Wheeler - some might be surprised - argues that Rod didn't 'deserve 14 years'.

Screengrab via Illinois Review
With just hours left to go, will President Barack Obama shorten things up for former Governor Rod Blagojevich?  Not likely, right?

But one thing we *are* sure of is that Barbara Wheeler is probably right:  Rod got too many years.   Good on Wheeler for saying it publicly.

Having Guaranteed Customers Is the Problem With Schools

Over at the National Review, they've posted a cheekily-titled piece called: "How Dare Betsy DeVos Give American Families an Educational Choice" where they point out some of the things that fell out of Devos' confirmation hearing yesterday.  But it seems it all boils down to this:
School reform is a complex and multi-faceted issue, but there is at least one relatively clear divide between left and right: With few exceptions, the Left wants to improve and reform American education by doubling down on financial, moral, and intellectual support for public schools with a unionized work force; DeVos and other conservative reformers, by contrast, want to improve and reform education by introducing market competition and giving families as many viable educational options as possible.
Market competition.  That's big.  What businesses do you know that have "Guaranteed Customers"?  Meaning...customers they don't have to market-to or lure into their business?  Besides government.  And besides public schools?

There really aren't any.  And that's why schools are suffering.  They don't have to compete for students.   Maybe they will soon.  And that's a great start.
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