by Ben Joravsky
The state's lawmakers had passed a pension bill for all of about ten minutes—socking it to little old retirees from Cairo to Waukegan—when Mayor Emanuel issued a statement to the press.
"The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities," the mayor said in his statement released yesterday.
Translation: Let's beat up some geezers!
The geezers in question are Chicago's retired public school teachers and most likely its retired firefighters and cops, whose pensions are in debt largely because our last mayor—a man named Daley—didn't fund them adequately.
Instead, Mayor Daley took the money that was supposed to go to the pensions and spent it on other things. For which everyone in our larger civic community, Rahm Emanuel included, hailed him as a fiduciary wizard who deserved to be reelected.
Now these same people are saying, Sorry, seniors, but you're going to have to pay the price.
Because messing with geezers is what passes for reform in our great city.
Let's not fool ourselves into thinking this is some noble effort by the mayor to bring us from the brink of fiscal collapse, as he might put it.
No, I believe the mayor's up to his old tricks. That is, he's taking advantage of a problem in order to redirect money from things he doesn't want to spend it on—like you geezers—to things he does want to spend it on.
It reminds me of how he swore up and down that the public school system was so broke he'd have to close 50 schools in poor black communities. Only to magically find $18 million—I believe it was under a potted plant in his office—to build an annex at Lincoln elementary in one of the richest neighborhoods in towns.
That's called taking care of his north-side base.
The pension fight is one he's been itching to have ever since he marched into town determined to promote himself as a new kind of Democratic mayor who enjoyed beating the shit out of loyal, though relatively powerless, Democratic voters.
Sort of like teenage Rahm beat the shit of a relatively helpless younger kid back in Wilmette.
He closed the mental health clinics in poor black neighborhoods. And closed the 50 schools and he forced last year's teachers' strike.
OK, that teachers'-strike thing didn't really work out too well for him. But he's been getting revenge ever since with a steady series of cuts, firings, and charter school handouts.
Hey, teachers—that'll show you for not becoming investment bankers!
So I have no doubt he'll go after the teachers' pensions—probably got the mayoral buzz saw fired up already. But will he have the guts to go after the cops and the firefighters?
That's a tricky one. It's one thing to beat up on a union composed largely of women. It's another thing to take on the boys.
Even Governor Scott Walker largely left cops and firefighters alone when he went after Wisconsin's public sector unions. This is Mayor Emanuel's big chance to out-Republican the Republicans!
Just in case, my advice to the police and the firefighters is to counterpunch.
For instance, I'd like to see a big demonstration of cops and firefighters at the corner of Michigan and Cermak, where the mayor's gearing up to waste at least $92 million in TIF dollars on a basketball arena for DePaul and a hotel for Marriott.
C'mon, fellers: if the teachers can fight back, so can you.