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As Trump rampages, Chicago and Illinois remain broke and dysfunctional

What happened in Illinois politics while we were all paying attention to the new president.

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With President Trump issuing frightening proclamations on a daily basis—hard to believe it's only been about two weeks since he took office—many of you undoubtedly forgot your city or state even exist.

But they're still here—as broke and dysfunctional as ever.

So as a public service offering, I thought I'd catch you up on a few things you might have missed while losing your collective minds over Trump.

For starters, around the time that Trump threatened to send the feds to Chicago—whatever that meant—the Chicago Public Schools forced four furlough days on its staff, saving a few shekels with a backdoor pay cut.

Shortly thereafter, Board of Education member Michael Garanzini talked about trimming the school year. Apparently, the district is still broke, even with the backdoor pay cuts.

And around the time that Trump was putting the final touches on his executive order to block immigrants from seven Muslim countries, the City Council ponied up about $4 million to settle a police torture lawsuit left over from the days of former police commander Jon Burge.

Apparently, the police had tortured Shawn Whirl into confessing to murdering a cabdriver. Largely on the basis of that confession, Whirl spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Our history never really leaves us, does it?

Finally, Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan sued to force Governor Bruce Rauner to cut a budget deal with her father, house speaker Michael Madigan, by threatening to shut down the state's Department of Motor Vehicle facilities. Though I doubt Lisa Madigan would phrase it quite like that.

Let's stick with this one for a while—if for no other reason that it's a relatively benign diversion from Trump's latest tweet.

The Madigan-Rauner fight goes back to January 2015, when the governor roared into office determined to force Democratic legislators to pass union-busting legislation that would effectively dismantle collective bargaining rights in Illinois.

House speaker Madigan balked. Rauner refused to pass a budget without his antiunion legislation. So no state budget has been passed since 2014, former governor Pat Quinn's last year in office.

In 2015, Lisa Madigan tried to force the state to stop paying workers without a budget, but a downstate judge ruled against her.

That meant most state workers got paid, though Rauner's administration did stop paying many of the contractors who tend to the aged, the indigent, and the infirm. Apparently the governor came to the conclusion that his Republican base doesn't really give a hoot about those people, so fuck 'em.

On the other hand, if people were inconvenienced by, say, a shutdown of the DMVs, well, there could be an uprising that would force Rauner to drop the union busting and cut a budget deal with Madigan.



In any case, Rauner kept basic services open by paying state workers, even as state debt rose. Social service providers came together in a collective called Pay Now Illinois and sued to, well, get paid. But they lost their case. Meanwhile, Rauner says the state's backlog of overdue bills has climbed to almost $11 billion.

Let's pause to appreciate the utter shamelessness of Republicans who go on and on about the wonders of privatization. And then feel free to stiff the private vendors to whom they've outsourced the work.

On January 25, Rauner gave his State of the State address—speaking of events you probably missed—where he again tried to make it seem as though there was a large point to his intransigence.

"These problems aren't new," he said. "They've been building up for many years." The next day, Lisa Madigan filed her motion to block workers from being paid until the state had passed a budget.

"The [2015 judge's ruling] has allowed the legislative and executive branches to fail to fulfill their constitutional duties without facing the real threat of a government shutdown," Madigan wrote in her filing. "This situation does not usually happen for a long time on the federal level . . . precisely because the possibility of a government shutdown eventually leads to the passage and enactment of a budget."

You know, that may be the only nice thing anyone's said about the feds since Trump took office.

If she prevails, state workers will probably be furloughed. And then I don't know who will staff the DMVs—unless that's what Trump had in mind by sending in the feds.

Perhaps that will spark outraged Raunerites from Carbondale to Waukegan to demand that their boy quit messing around and pass a damn budget already.

Predictably, Rauner was incensed by Madigan's suit, accusing Lisa of colluding with her daddy to force his hand. For their part, both Madigans swear up and down that they aren't in cahoots.

Anybody believe them? That's what I figured. You know, I think we can convey those denials to the land of alternative facts—a vast, stinking sewer bubbling over with claims like Trump's statement that his immigration order is "not a ban on Muslims."

Whatever, if that's what it takes to get a budget, good job, Lisa. Of course, that's easy for me to say, as I just renewed my driver's license.

By the way, if Trump really cared so much about Chicago, he could help solve most of our fiscal problems. Giving up a portion of that $20 billion he wants to effectively throw out the window by building a wall on the Mexican border would be a start.

But of course, our unwillingness to meet our obligations to the aged, the indigent, and the infirm has never been about a lack of money so much as a lack of compassion.  v

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