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I opened this morning's Tribune and what did I see? An essay, penned by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, extolling the virtues of our very own Mayor Emanuel!
Hey, hey—apparently these fellas have a bipartisan mutual-appreciation society. I'm thinking Walker/Emanuel for a third-party run in the 2016 presidential—on a newly formed Plutocrat Party.
Anyway, the specific mayoral virtue Walker extolled was the mayor's eagerness to whack the crap out of a bunch of geezers by cutting the pensions of retired cops, firefighters, and teachers.
In the name of reform, of course.
Governor Walker wrote that Mayor Emanuel has no choice to impose cuts because the mayor has tried "to reach agreements on benefits cuts with individual unions, though such efforts so far have fallen flat."
Wow! This is breaking news! I didn't realize the mayor had been negotiating with the unions. Could this be true?
This pension stuff's been on my mind, no doubt in part because I set off a howling fit from Mayor Emanuel's fans, who claim I was unfair to him in a recent post.
And that he is not taking advantage of this actuarial nightmare to redistribute the money he might otherwise have to pay to geezers, as I believe I may have suggested.
But instead he's getting ready to cut pensions only because he wants to save Chicago from falling off the "fiscal cliff" and becoming another Detroit.
Never mind that chunks of Chicago already are like Detroit. And that other parts will probably become more like Detroit if we pull the plug on investing in them by, among other things, cutting pension payments to the people who live there.
As you may recall, "We're going to be like Detroit" is a familiar refrain in Chicago. Mayor Daley's fans used to sing that song to me all the time back in the aughts when I'd be bitching and moaning—as I'm apt to do—about some gargantuan scam or another.
Ironically, it's now Mayor Emanuel—one of Mayor Daley's biggest fans—who says it's Mayor Daley's fault that we are about to become another Detroit.
Though Mayor Emanuel is careful never to mention Daley by name.
In any event, I will make a huge concession and freely admit that, yes, we have a problem of underfunded pensions. And what we need is some serious negotiations in which the mayor does what he hates to do—and that is sit down and negotiate with the unions.
You know, like he did with the owners of our parking meters. Oh, wait, that is not a good example. 'Cause in that case the mayor didn't really negotiate so much as cave in. And took campaign contributions from their lawyers.
But back to Governor Walker's scoop.
For months, teachers and cops have been urging me to write about the mayor's cavalier response to their unions' requests for negotiations—even though house speaker Michael Madigan had requested the mayor to meet with the unions.
Could it be that the unions had rejected Mayor Emanuel's overtures, as Governor Walker contends?
I called Mike Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, to get his side of the story.
"We have met on two different times with the mayor's people in the last three months," said Shields. "That was at the direction of the house speaker and senate president [John Cullerton]. So the mayor's meeting with us not out of virtue. They met with us because two guys with large sticks told them to sit down with us."
So far there has been no substantial offer from the mayor's people, Shields says.
In any event, Mr. Mayor, I urge you to give the unions a call and set up more meetings. FOP's number is 312-733-7776.
The Chicago Teachers Union's number is 312-329-9100.
Ask for Karen—as in Karen Lewis. I'm sure you remember her. Just don't drop the F-bomb like you did the last time.