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They Run for the Money

  Have you noticed how quickly Illinois politicians move when it comes to raising taxes or fees?

  Take the Illinois Tollway Authority, for example, and how speedily it "closed" this week's decision to nearly double the rates drivers pay to use the system's highways.

  Board Chairman Paula Wolfe reminded me that her members had considered a toll increase to fund a $12 billion capital program since early 2010. 

  But public hearings on the 87.5% proposed hike did not begin until August 18th and the series of 15 sessions were crammed into the next five days ending on August 23rd.

  Incredibly, the Board met  two days later on the morning of August 25th to "vote" its approval of the 15-year program as if the members had given any real study or consideration to the public testimony, most of which was orchestrated by self-interested labor unions and roadbuilders.

  While covering what critics called the "done deal" at the Tollway's palatial Downers Grove headquarters, I could not help but think of the Chicago Public School Board's decision a day earlier to approve a "maximum-allowed" increase in the city property tax.

  On August 5th, only one week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicagoans were being "nickeled and dimed" by taxers, the CPS Board appointed by the Mayor proposed raising property taxes.  The new levy would cost the owner of an average home ($250,000) an additional $84 a year.  The increase would generate $150 million dollars of the district's projected $712 million deficit.

  Taxpayers barely had a chance to see the CPS budget on line, let alone on paper, before public hearings were scheduled five days later on August 10th, 11th and 12th. 

  Emanuel's Board voted and approved the tax increase unanimously August 24th. 


  The Tollway Authority and Chicago School Board may have learned from the "clinic" Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the democratic legislative leaders held earlier this year on "the need for speed".

  Remember last January when the General Assembly reconvened for its "lame duck" session? 

  In a scant 48 hours ending before dawn on Jan. 12th, the democratic-controlled House and Senate had raised the Illinois corporate and personal income tax rates only hours before new members could be seated.  The next day, January 13th, the Governor signed the bill, which was retroactive to January 1st.


  Taxpayers never knew what hit 'em.

   Keep in mind that high-speed taxation is happening in Illinois as newly-elected state and city "reform" politicians use the word "transparent" to describe their new modus operandi.

  Its transparent, all right.

  Taxpayers should see right through it.




Re-Booting Rahm

  How many "Chicago Guys" do you know who could leave their jobs without having been hired for another one of equal or better pay? 

  And how many people could make that move in this economic environment with three school age children at home?

  Rahm Emanuel, who made his millions during four years (1998-2002) as a private sector investment banker, has to convince working class Chicagoans he "feels their pain" when he launches his campaign for mayor with a "tell it like it is" tour this week. 

  Emanuel--named President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff shortly after "The Great Recession" began-- has less than five months to connect with city voters, most of whom live in neighborhoods ravaged by unemployment, crime, foreclosures, underfunded schools, cops who don't come quickly enough, declining city services, and a privatized parking disaster to boot (pun intended).

  Emanuel, as expected, declined all requests for media interviews after his elaborate East Room sendoff at the White House Friday.  By mid-day Saturday, the website chicagoforrahm.com was up and running and Sunday, the Rahmster appeared on it with a video message, once again bypassing reporters to communicate directly with the voters.

  What we've seen during the past two weeks are signs that Emanuel will use "new media" to eschew the ward bosses who control Chicago politics "on the ground".   It also appears that his most important contacts with local print and broadcast media will occur in the advertising sales departments of those outlets as opposed to their newsrooms.

   I know that politicians like to "control their message".  But if this is an indication of how Emanuel plans to run his mayoral campaign and/or how he would run the nation's third largest city, he already is raising concern among Chicago journalists.  

  Think about it:  Emanuel made his ambition to run for mayor of Chicago public last April and still has not allowed any reporters in the city to interview him publicly on the subject. 

  Mayor Richard M. Daley has been a tough cover for two decades but none of us will say that Daley did not make himself available.

"Change" You Can See

  Just one other note about Emanuel's sendoff Friday at the White House. 

  The East Room was filled with about 200 people, including most of the Cabinet Secretaries, to see and hear the President thank his outgoing chief of staff and introduce Emanuel's replacement Peter Rouse.  The audience included most of the people who work in The West Wing and other top staffers who literally run the executive branch of the U.S. Government.

  The diversity--male, female, people of every ethnicity you could imagine--was a sight to behold.

  America--at the White House--looks more like itself than at anytime in history!