Doug Finke: Blago on the radio a blast from the past
Thanks for the warning, WLS radio.
The mellifluous tones of Rod Blagojevich could be heard coming out of the radio speakers Wednesday morning. If not for the advance word that Blagojevich was a guest host that morning, a half-asleep person might have thought he was teleported back in time to when Blagojevich was still governor. It could have been an emergency.
It's hard to believe that only about three months ago Blagojevich was still governor. It seems like it was much longer than that. More, it's been so nice not to have his voice blaring from TV and radios just because he is governor. Now it's got to be a special circumstance to get him on the air and you've got to go out of your way if you want to hear the guy again.
Sometimes professional obligations require that people do things they'd rather not do, like spend two hours Wednesday morning listening to Blagojevich. The truly confounding thing about Blagojevich is that he's changed absolutely nothing in the past few weeks.
He's the victim. He's the victim of a conspiracy to throw him out of office by people intent on raising the income tax. He's never gotten a fair trial. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, is the chief ringleader against him. And on and on and on. Blagojevich has trotted all of this stuff out before, often to great ridicule, but he will not change anything. That's his story and he's sticking to it.
Of course, when you're the host of a radio show as he was, you generally get to say whatever you want without being challenged by anyone. And so it was. Say anything you want without fear of contradiction.
Truth be told, it was sort of interesting hearing the little weasel plead his pathetic case again after a few weeks of silence. Now that it's over, we don't have to listen again.
For a while it was quite the spectacle with all of the special committees and task forces looking into better government ethics and financing.
It started with Gov. Pat Quinn taking office and announcing the formation of the Illinois Reform Commission to look at ways of making state government more open and honest. The thing about Quinn's panel is that none of the members have direct ties to Illinois government. That way they can recommend solutions that aren't tainted by self-interest.
Next up was the Joint Committee on Government Reform. It was the brainchild of Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. It has a similar mission to the commission, but the committee is composed of all lawmakers. In other words, people who might appreciate the idea of not getting too carried away with the job. All good things have limits, you know.
And then we have the Senate's Committee on Deficit Reduction – five Democrats, five Republicans who were to recommend how to deal with the $11.6 billion state budget hole. Certainly a laudable goal.
For a month, the committee met, heard from people about how to cut expenses and things that should be preserved despite the hole, etc., etc. And when the committee wrapped up its work, what did it have to show for the effort? A bunch of vagaries like "cut pension costs" and "think about raising taxes." It was stuff that no doubt did not occur to anyone until the special committee met. Committee members all proclaimed how valuable the work was. Most everyone else was asking what's the big deal.
We'll have to see if the other committees have any more substance. Recommendation: Make state government more open.
Last summer, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had extended negotiations with the state over a new contract. At one point, the union complained members would see no net increase in pay after several years because the state wanted so much more for health insurance and pension contributions.
The contract was settled and union members did not have to pay more for pensions and their health insurance increases were limited. The contract was negotiated by Blagojevich. Now Quinn is governor and he wants employees to pay more for pensions and health insurance, after the contract was settled.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527 email@example.com.