Tom Kacich: Rauner still likes Daniels' approach
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner doesn't talk any more about "government union bosses," but he still loves to mention former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Crain's Chicago Business even slapped a headline on a column last week that said that "Rauner's got a man crush on (Daniels)."
And praise for Daniels is in some ways equal to criticism of those government union bosses, whom Rauner smacked around during the GOP primary campaign.
Daniels, on his first day as governor in 2005, eliminated the right of Indiana state employees to bargain collectively. And they have not regained it.
When Rauner was in Champaign County last week he again hinted at how he'd like to run state government, although what he'd like to do and what he'll be able to do are two different things. If elected, Rauner will have to deal with a Democratic Legislature friendly to labor unions and with a long history of collective bargaining (first permitted by executive order of Gov. Dan Walker in 1973, and later put into law by the Legislature and Gov. James Thompson in 1983).
"When Mitch Daniels turned around Indiana he brought in 30 superstars from the business sector and the private sector who were not career bureaucrats, who were not career politicians, and they were simply to run the government efficiently and more like a business," Rauner said at the northwest Champaign County farm of Scott Bidner. "I'd like to do the same thing here in Springfield, bring in folks who just want to do the right thing and just work in government for a few years, restructure the operations, bring efficiency, transparency, make sure everything is online and publicly viewed so that everybody knows where their dollars are going."
Further, Rauner said he'd like to base state employee pay on "productivity," rather than hours worked.
"I'd like to see government workers be able to make more because they're more productive and efficient in their output on behalf of taxpayers. That's a better way to compensate them. That's what Mitch Daniels did in Indiana."
But Michael LeRoy, a law professor at the University of Illinois, called Rauner's plan "an unrealistic or disingenuous promise."
"That would be a matter for negotiation and while that's his philosophy and he would be entitled to trying to implement his philosophy, those are negotiated wage rates," LeRoy said.
Second, "while that may sound wonderful in principle it ignores the reality that politics often interferes with the evaluation of the performance of employees when there aren't constraints in place. A wage rate takes that kind of discretion or favoritism out of the picture."
Finally, LeRoy said, Rauner's ideas could weaken the existing civil service system.
"We have a vast civil service system that came about because of patronage nepotism that was rife both in our state and in national public sector employment systems. The implication of what he's saying is to undermine the civil service system which makes some attempt to value the work according to some sort of external labor market," LeRoy said.
Anders Lindall, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, noted that in Illinois the right to bargain collectively "has been in state law for more than 30 years."
"As far as compensation, I really don't know what (Rauner's) talking about. But it's indicative of someone who has no experience in the public sector whatsoever and is trying to impose the mindset of the profit-taking businesses in which he has spent his whole life, onto public service," Lindall said. "How does someone judge the productivity of keeping a prison safe, of patrolling state highways, of going into broken homes to protect children from abuse, of caring for individuals with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities or elderly veterans who cannot care for themselves? I don't think he understands public service."
Follow the money
Remember that tainted $250 campaign contribution that state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, gave to charity in February? Well, he's gotten it back fourfold.
The background: St. Louis-based Foresight Energy Services gave an unusually large $10,000 to the Douglas County Democratic Party in August 2013. Days later the Douglas County Democrats gave $5,000 to Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign committee and lesser amounts to other committees, including Frerichs who got $250.
The problem with the original donation was that Foresight Energy, a coal company, is regulated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. And the head of IDNR's Office of Mines and Minerals at the time was Michael Woods of Tuscola, who also was head of the Douglas County Democratic Party.
Woods has since resigned from IDNR, and Quinn and Frerichs each gave the tainted money to charity.
But on March 31 Foresight gave Frerichs' campaign committee a direct contribution of $1,000.
It's among $11,750 that Foresight has given to Frerichs, a member of the Senate Energy Committee and of the Senate Subcommittee on Natural Resources, since 2010. Foresight also has given $139,000 to the Quinn campaign since 2010.
Jimmy John money
Last July James "Jimmy John" Liautaud, the founder and CEO of the Jimmy John's sandwich shop chain who still maintains a home in Champaign, famously said he was finished with giving money to political candidates.
"I am not supporting any politician in any way. I am retired from politics," he said. "I have retired from politics. And I have no plans of coming out of retirement."
The retirement didn't even last a year.
Liautaud gave $5,300 to the "Chicago for Rahm Emanuel" campaign on March 27.
Retiring state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, will be given the Victor Stone Award by the Champaign County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union at its annual brunch and meeting next Sunday.
Jakobsson has been a strong supporter of civil liberties during her 12 years in the Illinois House, the ACLU said, including sponsoring or cosponsoring many bills supported by the ACLU.
Tickets for the 11:30 a.m. brunch at the Hawthorn Suites Conference Center in Champaign are $25 per person. Individuals may pay at the door if they register by April 8 at email@example.com.
Professor Richard Warner, director of the Chicago-Kent School of Law Center for Law and Computers, and co-author (with Robert Sloan) of "Unauthorized Access: The Crisis in Online Privacy and Security," will speak on "Is It All Over? Privacy and the Surveillance State."
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.