Chicago Sun-Times Latest news from the Chicago Sun-Times Online en-us (Editor) Newspapers Chicago Sun-Times 84 34 30 Copyright 2014 <![CDATA[ Putin rhetoric could come back to bite ]]> Lead story image

If Putin is so committed to maintaining the right of minorities with different cultures and languages to exercise their right to self-determination — to secede and form their own countries — I wonder how he would feel about some of the Russian nationalities taking the same view. ]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:46:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Mayor’s pension deal goes right way ]]> Lead story image

The mayor deserves credit for making two tough decisions: to reduce benefits (and costs) prospectively, and to start funding on an actuarial basis. And Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan deserves credit for making it happen. But several huge barriers remain. ]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:48:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Two longtime friends cross swords in gov race ]]> Lead story image

Two long-time Democrats – and old friends – crossed swords this week in the Tribune. They grew up together and clerked on the Supreme Court together. Newt Minow, FCC chairman under President Kennedy, explained why he would be voting for Bruce Rauner for governor. Abner Mikva, former congressman and chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote that Newt was “wrong, wrong, wrong.” Newt quoted Kennedy’s statement that “sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Abner wrote that Kennedy “never suggested that personal relationships should trump … important political values.” It would be tough to find two more gifted … ]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:48:59 -0500 <![CDATA[ Next governor can’t owe the unions ]]> Lead story image

BY EDEN MARTIN: Theoretically, a successful candidate might accept union support but afterward ignore those expectations. He might insist on facilities closings, salary freezes, work-rule changes and restructuring retirement benefits — and more charter schools. But in the real world of Illinois politics, that won’t happen. ]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 18:02:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ A way forward to equal opportunity: charter schools ]]> Lead story image

Precision and clarity have never been the hallmarks of campaign speeches or political slogans. So President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech was a welcome contribution to the debate about whether equality of income should be a policy objective of government. What is important — equality of income, or equality of opportunity to earn an income? The president made clear that in his view it is the latter: “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise. “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent … ]]> Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:16:10 -0500 <![CDATA[ Some questions on bankruptcy, pensions for GOP gov candidates ]]> Lead story image

With Illinois’ primary election only about a month away — March 18 — the Republican candidates for governor are talking about their views on minimum wages, term limits and the like. It seems to me that the most important issues have to do with the fiscal future of Illinois and Chicago. Whatever the fate in the courts of the state’s pension reform law, Chicago has its own unfunded pension debts to deal with, and it needs state legislative permission to do just about anything. So here are some questions for the candidates. Detroit was able to seek federal bankruptcy protection … ]]> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:24:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Results matter with Bruce Rauner, not his watch ]]> Lead story image

Supporters of some of the establishment Republican candidates for governor and a few media commentators are now taking shots at political newcomer and present front-runner Bruce Rauner. Some say he has an “arrogant” streak, and others claim it’s hypocritical for a wealthy candidate to refer in campaign ads to wearing an old watch or driving an old van. I’ve worked with Bruce for years on state finance and education policy, and I can understand how some who disagree with him might easily mistake self-confidence for arrogance. But I’ve found him to be smart, disciplined and focused on getting results. Full … ]]> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:12:01 -0500 <![CDATA[ $10 minimum wage? Why stop there? ]]> Lead story image

Gov. Pat Quinn, running for re-election in 2014, reportedly will make his main campaign theme the need for more income equality in Illinois. Specifically, he will call for an increase in the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.00 per hour. Some skeptics have suggested that this is just a political gimmick — that the governor is only seeking to play on the basic, normal instincts of voters: greed and envy. They say his position is designed to appeal to the self-interest of those now earning less than $10 per hour, and to twang the strings of jealousy on the part … ]]> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 09:46:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Christmas lamb had lasting effect ]]> Lead story image

BY EDEN MARTIN. My grandfather, I.J. Martin, was a little boy in 1865 when the Civil War was coming to an end. He lived with his family on a farm outside a small central Illinois town. His father was a farmer, carpenter and part-time Baptist preacher. ]]> Tue, 21 Jan 2014 11:15:56 -0500 <![CDATA[ Springfield’s deal won’t fix pension crisis ]]> Lead story image

Now that the details have been disclosed, it’s pretty clear that a proposed deal announced Wednesday by Illinois’ legislative leaders would not fix the state’s pensions or solve its fiscal problems. First, the state’s current pension plans are far too generous and too costly — wholly unrelated to competitive market standards. The private sector, where most taxpayers work, has largely shifted away from pension plans to defined contribution plans, which reduce risk to the employer. Illinois should make the same shift. Instead, the pension deal creates defined contribution plans but makes them optional — and limits participation to no more … ]]> Thu, 02 Jan 2014 06:28:16 -0500 <![CDATA[ Lincoln at Gettysburg: Why we fight ]]> Lead story image

EDEN MARTIN: A few days ago America remembered the speech delivered by President Lincoln at the soldiers’ cemetery in Gettysburg a little over four months after the Union army victory. Editorial writers and TV journalists rightly praised the address for its elegance and brevity. The praise was appropriate, but I think most commentators missed Lincoln’s main point — one that has continuing relevance today. ]]> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 22:10:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ New song, old tune with pension “reform” at Chicago Park District ]]> Lead story image

The Chicago Park District recently negotiated a deal, since approved by the Illinois Legislature, to modify the district’s pensions by feathering down the costs (through COLA adjustments, increasing retirement ages) and increasing funding. The Park District pension deal continues the deferred-funding approach embedded in the structure of the state’s and city pension systems — an approach that goes back to the 1990’s and is in large part responsible for the looming pension catastrophe. ]]> Wed, 13 Nov 2013 08:21:31 -0500 <![CDATA[ Hopeless state pension plan coming down the pike ]]> Lead story image

If Senate President John Cullerton’s proposal were accepted, organized labor would publicly complain about how unfair and hurtful it is. But privately they would be celebrating. ]]> Thu, 17 Oct 2013 00:38:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ The message of Detroit: Feds won’t bail out cities ]]> Lead story image

Sometimes the big news is what we don’t hear — Sherlock Holmes’ dog that doesn’t bark. Something like that happened late last month in Detroit. Senior Obama administration officials, including the attorney general and secretaries of Transportation and HUD, met in Detroit with members of the Michigan congressional delegation and local leaders to announce a $300 million aid package. It includes money to hire firefighters and police officers, to demolish abandoned buildings, to repair buses and help construct a city rail project. Some of the $300 million had previously been awarded, so the announcement represented a partial repackaging — making … ]]> Thu, 03 Oct 2013 19:10:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Back to basics on fixing state pensions ]]> Lead story image

The quest for a public employee pension reform “compromise” goes on. It’s an arm-wrestling contest in Springfield to find some combination of reform (cost-reduction) and funding elements that will attract enough votes to pass both the state House and Senate. It’s about power, not about getting the “right” answer. And the truth is, there is no single “right” answer. At this stage, all possible answers are bad for somebody. It’s “Syria” right here in Illinois. But maybe going back to basic principles would point to a “least-bad” solution. What are they? 1. If possible — if we can avoid state … ]]> Fri, 13 Sep 2013 17:06:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ With term limits, boot out career pols ]]> Lead story image

According to pollsters, proposals to establish legislative term limits are extremely popular, both nationally and in Illinois. The interesting question is — why? ]]> Thu, 05 Sep 2013 00:42:57 -0500 <![CDATA[ How pension mess could get worse ]]> Lead story image

Here’s what our Illinois Constitution — Article XIII, Section 5 — has to say about pensions: “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district … shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.” Does this mean “any” pension system of “any” city or county, like Chicago or Cook County? Sure. Chicago, including the Chicago Park District and the CTA. Also Cook County, the Forest Preserve District. Same with other cities, towns and counties all over Illinois. And the “benefits” of these pensions … ]]> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 22:12:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Can Chicago have a bailout too? ]]> Lead story image

The idea of a federal bailout for Detroit’s broken pension funds seems to have gone nowhere with the Obama Administration. So folks here are wondering: can we get a state bailout for Chicago, which has six pension funds with $28 billion in unfunded liabilities? Is there a way to continue to allow Chicago city workers to retire as early as age 50 with full pensions — and nice cost-of-living allowances? Can we continue to let Chicago fix the salaries on which its teachers’ pensions are based — and somehow arrange for Illinois to pay the pension bill? There is a … ]]> Wed, 14 Aug 2013 17:16:00 -0500