Friday, November 21, 2014

Rahm's campaign army of losers, low-lifes and crooks

Rahm Emanuel has enlisted an army of machine cronies, low-lifes, losers and thugs to help run his re-election campaign. This political rogues gallery includes state Democratic machine boss Mike Madigan, County party boss Joe Berrios and Patrick J. Ward, a former Metra employee at the center of the agency’s patronage scandal last year.

The Sun-Times reports that Madigan political workers who gathered signatures for Emanuel include:

◆ Ward, a key figure in the scandal that led to Alex Clifford getting a $718,000 severance package and leaving his post as Metra’s chief executive. Clifford accused Metra board members of forcing him out after he rebuffed Madigan about giving Ward a raise and refused to hire another Madigan loyalist. Ward left Metra and got a state job as a labor administrator after Madigan recommended him to Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. Ward is paid $69,996 a year. As a retired city of Chicago employee, he also gets a $57,591-a-year city pension.

Hugo Chavez (no, not that one) and William E. Nambo, who were hired as “staff assistants” for the Illinois Department of Transportation under Quinn — a job class the state’s executive inspector general determined was designed to skirt anti-patronage hiring rules. Chavez resigned in May after a reprimand for an “unauthorized” absence from work in 2012 and for “insubordination” for bringing his dog to work last year against his boss’ orders, records show. Nambo gave $600 to Madigan’s ward organization four months after being hired at IDOT in April 2011. He now works in Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office.

August A. Olivo, who has given $8,100 to the speaker’s ward organization and is the younger brother of former 13th Ward Ald. Frank Olivo. August Olivo, 52, is retired from the Cook County Highway Department and gets a pension of $81,204 a year. Since 2011, he’s been working for the CTA, where he makes $80,194 a year.

But there's a couple of problems with Rahm's crew (aside from whatever STDs the mayor might catch from them). First and foremost, they are losers. Remember, Joe Berrios couldn't even turn out his own precinct to support daughter Toni in her failed run against Will Guzzardi for state rep.  Toni also had the support of Madigan's machine army -- such as it is.

Remember also, that this was the same gaggle of cronies who mostly backed Gery Chico is the 2011 mayor's race. The most powerful ward organizations from the South Side — including Madigan’s — stayed out of the 2011 race or backed Chico.

Finally, taking a cue from major league sports -- you don't want to build a team where most of your members are likely to be in prison or on their way before season's end.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

'Don't worry. I'll talk to the mayor' -- Ka ching!

Lucas and Mayor 1%
David Sirota at IBT continues with his great exposures of the "dark side" of Chicago politics. Is there any other? Nothing captures it better than Melody Hobson telling billionaire husband George Lucas, "Don't worry, I'll talk to the mayor. I'm sure he'll love it," referring to the plan to give Lucas publicly owned lakefront land. for his wacky blob of a Star Wars museum. Of course there was nothing to worry about. Lucas and Hobson had just deposited another $50K into Rahm's campaign bank account.

Keep 'em coming David.

Huffington Post reports that progressive City Councilmen Bob Fioretti, John Arena, Scott Waguespack  are calling on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct a full investigation of Rahm's accepting illegal campaign contributions from financial firms that manage the city’s pension funds.
Says Dick Simpson, a political science professor for the University of Illinois at Chicago, the allegations against the well-funded incumbent have the potential to cast a longer shadow over his campaign.
Simpson told The Huffington Post that Emanuel's fortunes may shift if his opponents decide to make the campaign cash allegations a bigger issue. First, however, Emanuel's opponents have to make the problem crystal clear to voters.
At last night's Chicago school board meeting...
Much of the heat from the audience was directed at Vitale, who previously served as CPS' chief administrative officer from 2003 to 2008. Vitale is also the former president and CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade and the former vice chairman and director of Bank One Corp.
"Responsibility for pursuing such a risking financial course rests squarely on David Vitale," reads the city council resolution calling for hearings into CPS' borrowing practices.
Speaker after speaker, meanwhile, noted that the CTU and activists have been sounding the alarm on these deals for the past three years. -- Progress Illinois

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


This poll, commissioned by Rahm's own super-dooper PAC, Chicago Forward, which raises about $1million/day and sub-contracted to the Global Strategy Group (impressive name for a bunch of national Democratic Party hacks), still shows Rahm heading towards a runoff. Chicago Forward is headed up by former Obama bundler, Joe Gutman from Grosvenor's Capital Management.

While S-T's Fran Spielman puts the best possible face on Rahm's poll numbers, in fact they aren't that much different from last week's CTU poll which showed the incumbent mayor running at about 36%. Rahm's own super-PAC poll has him at 40% with a plus or minus 4% margin of error.

Neither poll tells us all that much, since Rahm has only begun shelling out some of the millions in his over-stuffed campaign war chest for TV ads and latecomer Chuy Garcia's campaign has barely gotten off the ground. He's already leading Rahm among potential Latino voters and close among African-Americans.

All this is encouraging news for Garcia/Fioretti since all polls show them both as viable opponents, especially if they can somehow combine forces in a runoff.

Spielman writes:
Emanuel has alienated African-American voters who helped put him in office by instigating Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years, closing 50 public schools, opening new charter schools and unveiling plans to build new schools and school additions, with the educational largesse heavily concentrated on the North Side.
 Neither candidate, nor any of us supporters and organizers, can afford to sit back and hope that Rahm stumbles or is beaten solely on his negative numbers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Try not to step in it. Rahm's first big ad campaign buy.

First, a SmallTalk Salute to the young guy who just rang my doorbell with a petition for an elected school board in his hand. I mean it's got to be 20 below out there with the wind chill. Signed it gladly and thanked him.

Just when you thought it was safe to turn the TV on again... S-T reports that Rahm is tapping into his $9M war chest for his first big ad campaign buy. Roll up your pant legs.
According to a new order, the campaign, working through AKPD Media, Chicago is buying a flight to run Wednesday through Nov. 23 throughout Chicago markets and through various cable networks. Longtime Democratic strategist David Axelrod founded AKPD.
Maybe one of the mayor's new T.V. ads can answer Ben Joravsky's question: Why did Mayor Emanuel stonewall the Tribune?
According to the Trib, the architect of the borrowing plan was David Vitale, former CEO of the Chicago Board of Trade, who went to work as the chief administrative officer for CPS in 2003, back in the go-go days of Mayor Daley's reign.
Mayor Emanuel was obviously so impressed with Vitale's money-managing acumen that he gave him a promotion, naming Vitale president of the school board.
Now Vitale is the guy who sits in his leather swivel chair at board meetings and tells parents—outraged over cuts and closings—that they don't understand the intricate nuances of running a big and complicated public school system.
Or how about this one by the Ward Room's Mark Anderson?
Isn’t it ironic that when it comes to pensions, two of the state’s most powerful politicians—Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner—are claiming to be reformers even as they continue to rake in campaign contributions from the very firms currently making millions by managing the public’s money in the first place? No? Well, I didn't think so either.
Me neither.

But I would like to see the Mayor in one of his ads being asked by a constituent, why he won't do anything to undo Vitale's disastrous "rate swap" which is costing the schools $100M in payments to Rahm's banker friends? The ad could have Rahm answering (as he did): “There’s a thing called a contract.”

An ad like that would bring great echoes of laughter from all the viewers who have watched him piss all over labor contracts and pension agreements.

We probably won't see that one either.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We have a shot

Brother Fred's version of the latest poll which shows Rahm to be very beatable. Fred says numbers don't add up to 100% because, "this is Chicago."

As I've been saying all along, despite his over-sized campaign war chest, Rahm Emanuel is beatable.

We knew that when CTU Prez Karen Lewis and Ald. Bob Fioretti were the presumed opposition candidates. We know it now that Jesus "Chuy" Garcia has stepped in and replaced ailing Karen in the race. The latest CTU poll says Mayor 1% will be hard-pressed to avoid a run-off election after the February primary. And in a head-to-head contest, Cook County Commissioner Garcia could be in striking distance of a victory. 

The telephone survey conducted by Lake Research Partners of 621 likely Chicago voters found that on a three-way ballot including Emanuel, Garcia and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), Emanuel would take 33 percent of the vote, Garcia 18 and Fioretti 13. In a head-to-head between Garcia and Emanuel, the difference narrowed to five points with Emanuel at 36 percent and Garcia at 31. 
Amara Enyia and William Kelly have also announced their candidacies for mayor. A vote total of 50 percent plus one is needed to avoid a run-off election. A large percentage of those surveyed -- 30 percent -- remained undecided.  
What's most interesting about those numbers is that Garcia's campaign hasn't even gotten off the ground yet and he is already within 5% of Rahm in a potential head-to-head runoff. And at least in my mind, Rahm is already at or near his peak while the others can go nowhere but up. 

Of course polls are one thing. Raising money, developing an aggressive media strategy and putting troops out in the field is something else. A lot of time has been lost and Rahm has gotten virtually a free pass with only Fioretti (and his Progressive Caucus) among the candidates, speaking out lately and loudly on issues like:
  •  The mayor being on the receiving end of campaign donations from financial firms managing city pension funds
  • Chicago Public Schools borrowing practices, specifically the series of deals engineered by Rahm's financial go-to guy, Board Pres. David Vitale, that ended up costing taxpayers as much $100 million more than more traditional borrowing methods.
  • Demanding the refund the $7.7 million in fines (hidden regressive tax) generated by red-light cameras after the timing of yellow lights was reduced from 3 seconds to 2.9 seconds. (Crap, I think they may have nailed me last night, driving down Sacramento). 

"Chuy" Campuzano
Speaking of Chuys...Thanks to my man "Chuy" Compuzano for having Brother Fred and me on his live podcast today. Chuy is a fierce Rahm opponent and a dynamic community organizer, especially within the city's disability community. The three of us make a pretty good team. I'm sure listeners agree. Let's do it again. 

Shame on Rahm, with single-digit poll numbers in the black community, for claiming credit for the new plaque in honor of the late Mayor Harold Washington that will hang in the Harold Washington Library. Pure political opportunism for the current leader of the same machine that fought Harold and now fights all that Harold stood for. 


Lily Eskelsen Garcia
NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen Garcia
”For students in all types of schools—traditional, charter or magnet—the key is having a sound structure for oversight and accountability, while providing educators with autonomy to create great learning environments for their students.” -- Education Votes
Nicholas Kristof
Can’t we at least acknowledge that in the case of race, William Faulkner was right: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” -- N.Y. Times
Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the SEC
"The perception of Wall Street money going to state and city officials potentially undermines the faith of citizens and investors. Political contributions by any entities that do business with pension funds tends to destroy the confidence that is so fundamental to these markets....Contributions from firms to chief executives of states and cities violates the spirit of the law and it just looks awful...Maybe that’s how business is done in the municipal world, but it certainly smells.” -- Crain's
David Sirota
 The SEC rule prohibits firms from earning management fees from pensions if those firms' executives make political donations to public officials overseeing those pension systems. Emanuel and his administration appoint trustees to the boards of the Chicago city pension systems. -- IBT

Friday, November 14, 2014

Right-wing think-tanker Hess lectures Newark "rabble-rousers" on civility

Community "rabble-rousers" protest Newark One in Feb. 2014.
More lectures on civility from right-wing think-tanker Rick Hess directed towards Newark parents and community activists [Hess calls them "rabble-rousers". No really, he does.] who traveled to D.C. to protest Supt. Cami Anderson's speech at AEI. Once Anderson and the think-tankers caught wind that the angry community members were planning to make their voices heard, they quickly flew the coop and re-staged Anderson's performance in a room without an audience. It seems she can't go anywhere these days without be dogged by angry Newark residents.

Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, is the architect of  “One Newark”, a corporate-style reform plan to relocate neighborhood schools, convert others to privately-run  charter schools and re-engineer still more traditional public schools by replacing all their principals and firing hundreds of teachers in violation of the contract. It's a plan that devastates already resourced-starved Newark neighborhoods.

The Washington Post reports:
The plan for the 35,000-student school system has been the target of lawsuits, a federal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education and student boycotts. It was a central factor in last spring’s mayoral race, which led to high school principal Ras Baraka winning office in large part because of his opposition to One Newark. Baraka wrote to President Obama last month and asked him to intervene on behalf of the community.
"I’m opposed to all of it,” Baraka said by phone Thursday. “She has forced this down people’s throats, and the people don’t want it. We need a new superintendent.”
Tensions have grown so much in Newark that Anderson no longer attends meetings of the locally elected school advisory board, where her opponents regularly railed against her, hurling invectives.
Anderson & Christie
But to the why-can't-we-all-just-get-along-minded Hess, African-American and Latino families demonstrating peacefully but loudly to save their schools is equivalent to "vitriolic and even threatening tactics." To Hess, it's all about civil debate, so long as he controls the speakers and the agenda. To show how fair minded he is, he boasts:
 Over the years, I've hosted "reformers" including the likes of Arne Duncan, Rod Paige, Joel Klein, Kaya Henderson, Michelle Rhee, John Deasy, Jim Shelton, John White, Deb Gist, Howard Fuller, and Campbell Brown. I've hosted those who come at things very differently, such as Randi Weingarten, Diane Ravitch, Dennis van Roekel, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Debbie Meier, Carol Burris, Kevin Welner, and Larry Cuban.
He writes:
But it's the hypocrisy that bothers me the most. A group that claims it is disenfranchised and silenced, and wants only to be heard, adopts tactics that stifle debate.
"Claims it is disenfranchised and silenced"? Did Hess really say that?

Well, let's put it this way. They may still be disenfranchised, but they weren't silenced for long at AEI. Maybe he should have included some of them among his approved list of "reformers".

A real policy debate would have taken place BEFORE the schools were closed and privatized, not after the fact. Parents and community were excluded from the debate then and they were excluded (not invited) to the debate by AEI. Instead they made their voices heard the best way they could. They were heard again last May, in the city's mayoral election when they elected Mayor Baraka, a militant opponent of Anderson's and of "One Newark". And yet the program remains.

Hess should know that people still have the right to protest against oppressive government policies, while those bureaucrats enforcing those policies still have the right to run and hide from the community.

It's a free country.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Charter school churn leaves students and families in turmoil

"A lot of people in the school choice movement like the idea of accountability, but when accountability hits home, it's really hard to maintain your focus on results," said Brandon S. Brown, the director of charter schools for the Indianapolis mayor's office. "It's the authorizer's responsibility to hold an absolute bar for performance, which means that, sometimes, low-performing schools will not continue to operate." -- EdWeek
Privately-run charter school networks try and operate on a corporate business model, even though they are supposedly public entities, supported with public funds and accountable to public oversight. While their original charge was one of collaborating with their public school cousins to drive innovation and school improvement, their business model is one that puts competition ahead of collaboration and market measures ahead of public good.

In order to attract both public and private investment, charter operators need to manipulate competitive market measures, such as test scores and other comparative indicators of school success to show that they are supposedly outperforming, not only public schools, but competing charter chains as well. This high-stakes competitive drive has often led to a lack of transparencytest cheating as well as cooking the books and other forms of financial mismanagement.

Such market competition requires a continuous process of weeding out "low performers" in order to boost average measurable outcomes, gathered in various research studies and performed by willing academic or private research organizations. In the process, overseen by so-called authorizers,  thousands of children's and families' lives are disrupted as schools are closed and teachers fired (without due process) and new ones open. These children and families are often the ones most in need of stability. Teachers and students (overwhelmingly poor and students of color) become the flotsam and jetsam of charter school failure.

In 2011, conservative pro-charter Center for Education Reform reported: " Of the approximately 6,700 charter schools that have ever opened across the United States, 1,036 have closed since 1992."

It's a system that operates much like giant retailers Wal Mart, Target and Starbucks, which turn over their entire work force on average, nearly every six months. 

Edweek reports that in cities like Indianapolis, "failing charters closing abruptly, blindsiding parents and sending them scrambling to find new schools" has become a major problem.
The charter sector has long stood by the premise that if the independently run public schools fail to perform, they are shut down—an idea often referred to as the "charter bargain." But as the movement matures, it increasingly faces the messy reality of closing schools—a situation that could become more common.
In Ohio, according to the report, when the time between the announcement of a charter closing and the actual shutdown stretches the full academic year, it is referred to as a "zombie year." Teachers and administrators learn as early as September that their school—as well as their jobs—will cease to exist come May or June. That situation is generally a product of Ohio's closure law, which mandates the automatic shutdown of the state's poorest-performing charter schools, as well as the timing for when student-assessment data gets released.

The most telling piece in the charter school-closing puzzle is, that despite all the intentional disruption and churn, the great majority of privately-run charters fail to out-perform traditional public schools on every important measure.