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chicago tribune

Chicago Public Schools: The Predators’ Playground

Everything big city Democrat mayors like Rahm Emanuel do is for the kids, they tell us with ersatz earnestness.

Rahm—Tiny Dancer, I call him--is quick to take up cause célèbres like the Parkland high school gun control brigade in the name of school safety.

What Rahm and his leftist colleagues won’t do is change school systems run by the adults for the adults—even when some of those adults are child predators.

In a blockbuster expose, the Chicago Tribune documented a long-running sex abuse scandal inside the Chicago Public Schools that should end Tiny Dancer’s career, that should be international news on par with coverage given the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, and that should serve as a warning to public school parents across the country.

According to the Tribune, since Tiny Dancer was elected in 2011, 430 reports of sexual abuse, assault or harassment have been investigated with credible evidence of misconduct found in 230 of those incidents.

The Tribune also found that school administrators may have acted criminally in failing to report incidents of abuse to the state’s child welfare agency.

Worse yet, the story identified repeated failures to screen out Chicago Public Schools employees with prior arrests related to alleged sexual offenses involving children.

A lot of attention is devoted to holding pols and their appointees accountable for threats to kids in school that come from the outside.

What about the threats they welcome inside and cover for?

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How Will IL Voters React To More Tax Hikes?

While politicians continue talking about a graduated state income tax, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago are now suggesting a statewide property tax, too. Haven't Illinois taxpayers had enough? On this edition of Illinois Rising, Dan Proft and Chicago Tribune Editorial Board Member Kristen McQueary discuss politician's consistent demands for more out of taxpayers and how it might impact the upcoming election. Wirepoints' Mark Glennon joins for analysis. Proft and McQueary also talk to Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser about his efforts for good government at the local level.

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Is Blago The Next Nelson Mandela?

“I used to be the Governor of the 5th largest state, my jurisdiction now is two hallways that I sweep and mop. I believe in clean government and clean floors.” Is this Blago's new campaign slogan for 2030? It won’t take long for Illinois voters to get the fish hooks right back in their mouths and try to forget everything Blago has ever done. Was this his audition for a POTUS pardon? Chicago Tribune Political Reporter, Jeff Coen joins Dan and Amy to discuss Blago’s latest stint in the limelight.

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Chicago Tribune Editorial Board Member Explains How Illinois is Surrounded

The Chicago Tribune's Kristen McQueary joined Dan & Amy to preview Gov. Rauner's annual budget address and discuss how Illinois is faring with respect to its Great Lakes neighbors after Missouri became the latest state to make right to work the law.

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Showdown Over A Shutdown. IL State Govt. Roundtable With Rep. Jeanne Ives And Chicago Tribunes Kristen McQueary

"People don’t believe that the crisis is real, because we just keep muddling along.”

On this installment of Against The Current (ATC), Dan Proft sits down with State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary to discuss the state budget (lack thereof), schools opening on time and the politics of it all. 

If no progress is made before the November election, will voters cast a pox on all houses or will one party bear more of the blame? Can Rauner recover? 

And McQueary explains why she is a Democrat that Illinois Democrats lost. All of this and more on this edition of ATC.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Thank you for joining us for another edition of Against the Current, coming to you from the Skyline Club atop the Old Republic building in downtown Chicago. My guest on this installment are State Representative Jeanne Ives, republican from Wheaton, and Kristen McQueary, Chicago Tribune editorial board member. Ladies, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. The big news after session ended in Springfield, where the General Assembly is housed, is no budget. So since Governor Rauner’s elected, now two sessions of the General Assembly, we have not had a state budget because Rauner refuses to sign in unconstitutionally unbalanced budget, and the democrats in charge of the House and the Senate refuse to send him a constitutionally balanced budget, so how does this end between now and November, or do you believe what Madigan and Cullerton, the respective chamber leaders, said that we’re not even going to have a discussion of a budget until after the November elections? Kristen. Kristen McQueary: That’s what they’re saying, so I would expect we’ll do what we did last summer, which is maybe have a couple special sessions, maybe lawmakers will get called down to deal with ancillary issues, or they’ll just sit around. Dan Proft: Play Candy Crush. Kristen McQueary: Perhaps, there’s evidence of that, but Madigan has been very clear. He doesn’t want to put his members on any controversial votes and the state scoots along under these court orders with the budget anyway, so I just expect nothing will happen before November. Dan Proft: But what does that say about the Illinois electorate, that, what Kristen said, doesn’t want to put its members on any controversial votes. The idea of not having a budget, or sending a 7 billion dollar unbalanced budget to the governor, that’s not a controversial vote, or doing nothing is not controversial, but potentially doing something, whether it’s a tax increase, or programmatic cuts, or restructuring, that’s controversial. Jeanne Ives: I think it depends on what district you live in. So, if you live in a district with a lot of state workers, you’re much more aware of what’s going down in Springfield than if you live in a district like mine, which, you know, our schools are largely funded with property taxes, we don’t require a lot of the state services in the same way, and so people are just uninformed, and that’s part of the problem. They don’t really see the effects of this. When they will see the effects of this, however, is if we don’t get a K-12 education budget, because we have a number of schools, something on the order of 100 schools, that literally only have 30 days cash on hand. They can’t open in August if they don’t get their general state aid August 10th. And so Michael Madigan is betting on the crisis coming to fruition and he getting what he wants, which is no reform agenda, and yet the spending will continue. So he’s going to wait out Governor Rauner for as long as he possibly can, until this crisis of the schools opening or not comes to fruition. Dan Proft: Well, isn’t that what they did last year? No budget, “Governor, are you going to agree that we need to appropriate money for the schools to open in August, or are you going to precipitate a crisis?” And last year, Rauner said “I’m not going to precipitate a crisis, we’ll do something temporary”, and so, we’re another calendar year away from that. And we’re in the same place we were last year. And so, people don’t believe that the crisis is real, because we just keep muddling along. Jeanne Ives: Last year they at least sent him a budget. It was deeply unbalanced, but Rauner was able to just sign the education portion. This year, they haven’t sent him anything, so I think we are in a different position than we were last year. Dan Proft: They haven’t sent anything and they also rejected his idea, which wasn’t always an idea he supported, but it’s an idea he’s supporting now, on a stop gap budget. Jeanne Ives: Right, they rejected a stop gap budget, which he was agreeable to kind of out of desperation on the last day of session. They won’t send him a clean education bill, which he’s asked for, which would just be education spending. So they’re just blocking him at every turn. This is the way it is. Dan Proft: So what about the idea, then? Is playing this game of brinkmanship with the Chicago democrat leaders of the House and the Senate to the point where if those hundred schools can’t open, or can’t stay open for more than 30 days, well, we need to precipitate a crisis to get everybody’s attention and hash this out once and for all. Jeanne Ives: I think that plays into Governor Rauner’s hands much better than Mike Madigan. I think then, when people do realize that the messaging gets across; look, the legislator has a responsibility to send a balanced budget - spending equals revenue - to the governor; that didn’t happen; I think it’s much easier to message that it really was Mike Madigan who held up education funding and not Governor Rauner. I think he wins on that issue, but it’s how far do you send that brinkmanship, because right now they happen to make decisions about schools. It happens in June, you’re starting to register your kids, you’re doing all sorts of planning, that’s actually school budgets actually happen earlier on. They all happen in February, March, so our budget year’s never been aligned with schools, which has always been a problem, but it’s even worse really not knowing what happens. And it’s not just 100 schools, Dan. 2/3 of the school districts in the state of Illinois deficit spend. There’s a lot of them that are in trouble, I’m just saying, for 30 days. Dan Proft: But there’s still a small percentage of schools that majority rely on state funding as opposed to local property tax dollars and federal grant money. Jeanne Ives: Yes, but it’s one thing for our district to have 91% of its money coming from property taxes, so we only need a little bit from the state and fed. We can make it through a school year. But a lot of these, even though they may not get the majority of the funding from the state, they can’t even open knowing that they’re only going to have 60% of their money. They can’t open. They literally can’t open. Dan Proft: What does that say about how schools at the K-12 level are managed generally in this state, though, that unlike a business, for example, that budgets and strategizes for a rainy day, for a downturn, or makes difficult decisions when there is – I’m not suggesting this is ideal or it should be precipitated for no reason – but it seems like – and we said the same thing at higher-ed – it seems like they want to continue to rely on ever increasing amounts of money in perpetuity, despite the fact that we all know, or should know, what the financial picture of the state is? Kristen McQueary: Well, I think there are some districts that spend responsibly, but I think if you look at, probably, the majority of districts, school boards are made up of people who are not accountants, who generally are cheerleaders for the teachers – they want to support the education system, so they approve pretty generous teacher contracts – and at the end of the day, most of your property tax revenue is supporting the teachers and the personnel and the healthcare and the benefits of the system, and not the kids in the classrooms. Dan Proft: Right, and we’re not even talking about poor districts, to Kristen’ point, you had the Palatine Grade School district sign a 10 year contract with the teachers’ union. 10 years! You don’t need to be an accountant or a lawyer – and there are a lot of accountants and lawyers in that school district, oh, by the way – to know that is insanity, to make that kind of commitment, not knowing where you’re going to be 10 years down the road. Nobody does it. Even most units of government don’t do something so reckless. Jeanne Ives: Well, you do it if the lead negotiator from the administrative side is the previous union president. That’s how you get that deal. Dan Proft: But isn’t that deal an extreme example, but yet a microcosm of Illinois, where you’ve got those people that have concentrated benefits and they can defuse the cost through a large population, they game the system then on both sides of the deal, which is why, essentially, 13 million Illinoisans are more or less used as spare economic parts for 2% of the population that’s a member of the public sector union. Jeanne Ives: There’s no doubt about it. That’s what we saw this year in Springfield, so sitting on labor and commerce committee, I’ll tell you what, the crisis in Illinois did not chasten Mr. Madigan in his membership; it actually emboldened them to go for stronger things. So we’ve had a number of bad bills that really hurt employees and economic development. One of them, which I think should be highlighted as, they passed through a bill that mandates that on any economic development commission, and even any chamber of commerce that takes in any amount of taxpayer money, you must have on there two union members and two minority members. So then you’ve got a board of five, your majority is definitely these minorities and union members. So they’re emboldened by this whole conversation. They’re pushing it, the conversation, with pro-labor anti-taxpayer measures. They’re not chastened at all. Kristen McQueary: Look at how many votes they gave to the AFSCME bill, which would have weakened Rauner at the bargaining table. No bill in Springfield gets 2, 3 chances at an override. I mean, if you ever doubt the grip that public employee unions have over Springfield, that was a prime example. There was no vote on school funding reform, or many important issues, there was no balanced budget, but they spent a lot of time and resources trying to jam that bill through. I’ve never seen a bill get that many chances at overrides. Dan Proft: Is it to the point you’ve got AFSCME, SCIU and the Teaches’ Unions, the main public sector unions, that are essentially business partners with Speaker Madigan and Senator President Cullerton? And this is one of the ways that you exercise control, is through the financing they get from the public sector unions, that’s one way, and the other way – and I recently had a conversation with the former State Senator Steve Rauschenberger about this, and this is an inside baseball thing – but in terms of the lay men out there trying to understand how Madigan has such control, the other way he has such control is actually legislative process in the House: which bills get called, what the calendar is, if your bill gets out of a committee you want, if your bill is ever going to see the light of day for a vote on the House floor. Madigan controls all that. Jeanne Ives: And that’s what the electorate doesn’t understand. Because you’ll hear at the door, or you’ll be in a conversation, “Can’t you guys just compromise? Can’t you just bring this to the table?” Why isn’t your bill accepted? I filed a bill that says, look, taxpayers get to see these contracts prior to a ratification and a vote. I’ve had it for 4 years. It’s always gone to committee just to die in committee. Dan Proft: Collective bargaining contract. Jeanne Ives: Yeah, collective bargaining, but I also included compensation of over 150,000, so it didn’t look like I was picking on unions. These bills never go anywhere by design. And so, people want you to get along, file the right bill, “Can’t you do some of our term limits? Can’t you do…” No, the process is broken and the process was even more broken this year. We never adopted a revenue number. We never worked in appropriations committees. We never set priorities. So everything that would happen in a normal legislative process completely failed this year. Completely. Kristen McQueary: That is really crazy, to think about the fact that even Springfield, in its dysfunction, has on occasion over the years passed a budget the way it’s supposed to, where agency heads come before appropriations committees, they ask for revenue numbers, they get quizzed, they get asked about various programs, there is some measure of accountability. And then there are years when the democrats pop a budget out at the last minute, and that’s what they did this year. So there was no back and forth. There’s no chance for republicans to even weigh in – or even democratic lawmakers, for that matter – when at the last minute they just pop a bill out like they did. Dan Proft: Well, and right, so this is a process thing, but it turns out to be really important, because this is different than other states where you’ve got one person that can control all of those things. A lot of other states know how their state legislators work. Give me four of five legislators get together and they want to move something, then it’s coming to the floor for the vote. Leadership is responsive. In this state – and you saw this highlighted with the exchange between Barbara Flynn Currie, who’s Madigan’s majority leader in the House, and Dwight Kay, who’s a republican backbencher from southern Illinois - wanting to go line item by line item through that 500 page budget that Madigan popped on everyone’s desk 2 hours before he wanted them to vote on it. And Kay said, “What’s this for?” “So, well, that’s a continuing appropriation.” “Well, what’s this for?” “Well, it wouldn’t be in the budget if it didn’t have value”. And then the next thing, Barbara Flynn Currie, the majority leader, said, “Look, no matter what you say, you want to go through with this, it’s a waste of time. I’m going to say the same thing with every single line item”. She doesn’t know what the line item’s in there are – nobody in the General Assembly can possibly know, because you can’t read a 500 page budget in 2 hours – and the response from legitimate inquiry, line item by line item of inquiry, where real money is being spent, is if it’s in the budget, then by definition it adds value, or it’s a continuing appropriation of something that adds value. And that’s all I have to say about it, and if you don’t like it, go pound sand. Jeanne Ives: You’re absolutely right. No process, no setting of priorities, even though I sit on one appropriations committee, at least if you had normal appropriations going on in the other committees that I don’t sit on, I can trust my colleagues to have done the due diligence, maybe prioritize it, maybe understand that this is the revenue number and these are the expenses, and the are – what? – in your area of expertise, maybe it’s higher-ed or general services, you know what you’re doing. I can trust that. There was none of that this year on any of the budget that was passed, so there was no conversation going on. Frankly, that is the problem. The state is broke. I don’t know how many times I can say that. The state is broke. We have got to get rid of all the nonsense and highlight that. Dan Proft: But people don’t believe it. You’ve got, whatever, 80% of the population that says Illinois’ on the wrong track; they get that part about it, because they’re living it, and they see their tax bills, and they see their job opportunities, or lack thereof, and they see what’s happening in higher-ed, and what’s happening in K-12, so they say, “This could be better. I’ve got friends in other states. I know it’s better. I’ve got friends that used to be here that are no longer in the state, and they tell me it’s better”. But they don’t believe it because we just keep pushing it along. Credit downgrade to the state’s bond rating… Jeanne Ives: Right, that happened today. Dan Proft: Another 15 billion dollars in unfunded pension liabilities for the city of Chicago. Kristen McQueary: We’ve been a deadbeat state for years. Our bill backlog – if you don’t believe we’re broke, why do we have a 8-9 billion dollar stack of bills that we can’t pay? Dan Proft: Ask social service providers. Ask vendors to the state. Kristen McQueary: Sure. The state does operate on what we think is 32 or 33 billion dollars of income that it doesn’t go to debt every year, but it’s spoken for. We wouldn’t have a pile of bills if it didn’t. And yes, the public is not as engaged as it should be. If the schools come to a crisis point where they can’t open, that’s when it’s going to have an impact. Just like teachers’ strikes usually are successful because you are disrupting the lives of every person who has kids in a school. Dan Proft: Right. Kristen McQueary: That will be the breaking point in the state if it happens. Dan Proft: Yeah, but are you suggesting that it will be a breaking point the way that a teacher strike is, where the person precipitating the crisis derives most of the benefit? I mean, if schools didn’t open in the fall, or a lot of schools, or they weren’t open for very long and there was this kind of disruption we’re talking about, how do you think that plays out politically? Kristen McQueary: Well, Representative Ives thinks that that would put Governor Rauner in a better position, because if the democrats never gave him a budget, I just think he’s not doing well as far as public relations and the messaging. I think he’s losing that battle. I think the democrats are winning in portraying him as an uncaring billionaire, and so I actually think it could be very, very bad for him. Dan Proft: Yeah, I tend to think that’s right. In terms of what Rauner has done messaging-wise over the last year, if we’re being honest with ourselves, even though I’m sympathetic to Rauner, you’re sympathetic to Rauner, you’re sympathetic at least to some of Rauner’s policy proposals, but he’s been non-existent north of I80. And he’s allowed himself to be put into this binary position of a conventional politician, another guy down there, he calls Madigan names, Madigan calls him names. He calls Rahm names, Rahm calls him names. Everybody’s friendly but they’re in a fight. And it’s just about them, it’s not over anything substantive policy-wise, or to the extent it is, it’s not decipherable to me. I think Rauner’s messaging has been non-existent or counterproductive, and I think if we’re being real honest with ourselves, he has been played like a Stradivarius by Madigan this session, in particular. Is that fair? Jeanne Ives: It’s somewhat fair. I think, when they passed the 7 billion dollars over budget, I think that there actually was some backlash there. And I think that’s why the senate didn’t actually approve it. I think you saw some of Madigan’s stallwork members not vote for it, because I think that they knew better. So I think that was a little bit of a turning point. Now, the stop gap budget that he has proposed I think is actually a great idea: you fund K-12 and you do the 6 months while we continue this conversation, and he got rid of his reform agenda, which we have to have reform. This state will not change unless we have the reform that’s necessary. Dan Proft: That’s not what Jim Edgar says. Former Governor Jim Edgar says that he needs to give up the turnaround agenda and just focus on the budget, like the two are in silos, juxtaposed one to another. Jeanne Ives: They’re not in silos. Dan Proft: One is a necessity of the other. If you don’t reform the structure of state government, that throws off obligations we can’t afford, then you can’t get balanced budgets. I don’t know why this evades the comprehension of Governor Edgar. Jeanne Ives: I don’t either, because Ray Graham Association sends out a 2 page letter, says “Look, we have an ankle injury turning into a 650,000 worker’s comp claim. We had our workers comp costs gone up triple in the last five years. We need workers comp reformed, and that is a knot for profit serving the disability community”. So the fact that that doesn’t impact budget is completely false. All of these things impact budget. Kristen McQueary: I think, too, Edgar oversaw the state in a very different time. You can’t even compare the unfunded pension liabilities that we’re in now, series of unbalanced budgets. Yes, he was a more moderate friendly to labor unions than Governor Rauner, for sure, but for the press to continually go to him as the answer to all these problems and to try to create this friction, it just doesn’t make sense. He oversaw the government when they were fighting over who was getting port projects and where in their districts. That was the big controversy under Edgar’s term. Are we going to have a Jack Benny statue or stain glass windows in a parking garage in Naperville? Dan Proft: How about both? Jeanne Ives: That’s right. Kristen McQueary: The state was flushed with cash. This was a very different time. I just don’t think his opinion should be held to the regard that it is. Dan Proft: I’m in complete agreement, but partly, unfortunately, he’s a creation of the Republican Party, because after he decided not to run for office in 1998, we put him in an emergency glass, and we were trying to break him out of that emergency glass for the next decade for every statewide office that was open during that period of time. And it completely prevented the Republican Party from turning the page and looking forward and ushering a new generation of leadership, which frankly, is just happening in the last couple of cycles. It’s more a been party from the demise of George Ryan to the election of Bruce Rauner, which is one of the reasons you have, in my opinion, republicans in a superminority position, despite the fact you had Chicago democrat hegemony in control of all three branches of government for two generations, and they’ve destroyed the state’s economy without any political consequences. So of course Madigan and Cullerton are going to keep doing the same things. It’s been working lovely for them. Jeanne Ives: That’s right, and so I’d be interested actually to find out exactly how did the legislature work back in the Edgar days. What did they do differently? How was committee work? What was the relationship? What happened back then, because it is completely broken now. Dan Proft: Yeah, but one of the things you had, you had the House republicans in charge for 2 years of his 8 years, 94 to 96. Jeanne Ives: You had tight majorities. Dan Proft: Well, you had the Senate republicans in charge for the entire decade, republicans in charge of the Senate. It turns out to make a big difference. And so, not all policy was being driven by the governor. You also had policy being leveled up from the general assembly to the governor. So that made a big difference. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves again, a little bit of equal treatment, it was Governor Edgar and republicans who ushered in the last 25 years of playing politics with pension funds. Because it was Edgar’s pension ramp that went from a 14 billion dollar unfunded liability in 94 a 44 billion dollar unfunded liability by the time Blagojevich took off, that’s a decade later, and then to the 120 billion it is today. It was Governor Edgar who said, “We’re going to push off our obligations tomorrow so that we can spend on all of these pet projects today”. Kristen McQueary: I’m a rare defender of that ramp, because I was down there when they passed it, and there was no… yes, we were looking out at 2012, but there was a belief that there will be growth, and that those numbers will be manageable. There was no set payment schedule at that time. They just paid into the pension funds whatever was left over after they decided the budget. So the idea of putting into statute a fixed amount was seen as a fiscally responsible thing to do. Now, the legislature, over the years, they didn’t even abide the ramp anyway. When they couldn’t make a pension payment, they just kicked the can. They skipped it, they changed the statute. But the idea of putting it in place in the first place did make sense at the time. Dan Proft: Yeah, but you still have to get the numbers right. You still have to use actuarially founded numbers and not these rosy 7.5-8% return in perpetuity. Jeanne Ives: Well, of course. Dan Proft: And they haven’t done that. Edgar’s time in terms of pension politics and when the state was lust with cash, and, frankly, tax increases. Jeanne Ives: I’ll be honest for you, I’ve no appetite for a tax increase, and I know what’s being negotiated behind closed doors. Dan Proft: Negotiated, but with whom? Jeanne Ives: You know, among themselves. Among the elite group of working folks, I guess, the budgeters, whomever. Dan Proft: Not legislative leaders and the governor. Just other legislators? Jeanne Ives: Well, other legislators that have been actually appointed to these working group committees. You know, they’re negotiating a tax increase; that entire tax increase goes nowhere but the pensions. So I’m done with that until we do pension reform. Dan Proft: Well, but also, I mean, let’s be honest, these working groups of legislators that are pretending… this is like model UN. This is like a student club down in the...“Oh, look, they’re having a committee meeting. Aren’t they darling?” What they do is irrelevant. Jeanne Ives: Is it? What do you think? Because I think some of these legislators really are… Dan Proft: Even if you have a good idea to write about. Jeanne Ives: They don’t think they’re irrelevant, though, which is kind of funny. Kristen McQueary: Do you think they’re irrelevant? Dan Proft: They should get in on the joke. Kristen McQueary: In the past, when personalities got to be a problem, even under Blagojevich, even under Quinn, they had budgeters go in a room and knock something together, because the personalities of the leadership were just not going to allow that to happen. And it did work in the past years. Dan Proft: Yeah, but when it was Blagojevich and Quinn you had democrats and democrats and democrats. Now you’ve got a republican and democrats want to control their supermajority, so they’re willing, I think, more willing to be put out there as Madigan’s Saturday night players and do their kabuki theater to set up, you know, making sure they get funded for reelection, making sure they keep their majority and supermajority, because it’s about being opposed to Rauner; it’s not about where democrats are in charge of everything, so they have to get something done. Jeanne Ives: So, regardless of what you think of the working groups; if you think they’re actually going to come up with something or if you think they’re a joke, which quite frankly, as somebody who sits on the pension committee, but isn’t on the pension discussions, who sits on labor and commerce isn’t in that discussion, who sits on an appropriations committee, I’m not involved in any of these discussions, I’m thinking, “Go ahead, you guys, go do what you want! I’m not interested in your result, quite frankly”, because, again, there’s no process here. So we have no process again to actually let other people know what’s going on, to let me have weigh in, or other members of the General Assembly, democrat/republican, weigh in on the things. So when you have these working groups, that means you have no process. And I don’t know what other states do, but we are the worst run state in the United States, for a reason: we’ve no process. Kristen McQueary: Well, there’s a two year budget, which would be so smart. Jeanne Ives: Smart, smart. Kristen McQueary: And when they convene in January, the first thing they do is pass their budget. And then they spend their next few months doing all the little ancillary things. We do it exactly the opposite. I mean, how many days were you in Springfield? January, February, March. Jeanne Ives: 90 days. Kristen McQueary: Okay, so then we try to cram everything in in the last week. Jeanne Ives: Well, there is a primary election to handle. Kristen McQueary: Well, of course, everybody had to go campaign. Nobody had time to govern. Dan Proft: But also, if you do the budget first, then you may not get to regulate the number of bobcats that people can kill in Illinois. And then what happens? Then you go out bob killing, saying, “Can I take one? Can I take two? I don’t know.” Kristen McQueary: Pumpkin pie is the official desert in Illinois, we would have missed out on that important part. Dan Proft: I like pumpkin pie. Jeanne Ives: At least we didn’t regulate yoga teachers this year. We decided not to do that. Dan Proft: They did not fall under profession reg? Jeanne Ives: That’s right. Kristen McQueary: But you did pass Healthy Puppy Day. At least the Senate did. Jeanne Ives: I didn’t pass that on. Dan Proft: Puppy Day? Kristen McQueary: Healthy Puppy Day. Dan Proft: Healthy Puppy Day. Kristen McQueary: That got a vote. Dan Proft: Oh, do we have a puppy lemon law too? Jeanne Ives: Yes, that was a couple of years ago. Dan Proft: Oh, sure, it was? Kristen McQueary: You were running. Wasn’t that the gubernatorial campaign you were running in when Bill Grady got tagged as the puppy hater? Dan Proft: That’s right. I ran on the puppy lemon. I wanted to pimp the puppy lemon platform and under the puppy lemon law banner, because why not? This is all so much fiction, so why not do these things, right? Jeanne Ives: Nonsense. Dan Proft: So let me ask you a serious question, not about bobcats and healthy puppies. But we have a divided opinion on if you, essentially, precipitated a shutdown of schools because they didn’t have their percentage of state funding, if that’s a bad idea for the governor and a bad idea for Madigan, and neither really wants that, what about this? What about this outstanding contract with AFSCME - since you brought it up, how many times they tried to pass that bill to cut Rauner off – what about the idea of 37,000 employees facing something on the order of a Patco situation, what Reagan did to the air traffic controllers? What about precipitating that short time, because here, unlike with education, Rauner has some moral high ground? Here’s what he can say: “I’ve negotiated 18 collective bargaining agreements in a year and a half with public sector unions who are at present smaller groups of state employers, and they’ve taken wage freezes, because all of these unions and the employees they represent understand the fiscal condition of the state, and they understand, well, I want to secure my employment, I want to be compensated, but I understand that everybody’s got to take a hit with where we’re at. I’ve done that. So I’m a reasonable guy, I’m a practical guy. I was able to do it 18 times. That’s some pretty good evidence”. AFSCME wants to continue to live in Neverland, and they want 28% salary increase over the life of a 3 year, 4 year deal. It’s somewhere between 2 and 3 billion dollar cost for the taxpayers that we obviously cannot finance, so here’s the deal. You can either accept my last best final offer, something that approximates the other 18 agreements that I negotiated, or we’re going to put your jobs to a market test. Now we’re going to see how many Illinoisans who are unemployed or underemployed would like to be a midlevel case manager in the Department of Human Services making 60 grand with a guaranteed seven figure pension. What about that? What about precipitating that? What about precipitating what essentially could be a state worker or majority state worker walkout or lockout? Jeanne Ives: I’ve always said, this is not going to get solved until somebody starts missing a paycheck. Then the reality hits home. So right now state employees are getting paid, because that’s the interpretation of the comptroller, that they should get paid even in this impasse, with no budget and no appropriations. Dan Proft: But Leslie Munger did put them in the cue. So they’re not first pass pose, they’re in the cue to get paid like everybody else. Jeanne Ives: No, I’m saying state employees get paid, legislators get in the cue, whatever. But state employees get paid, so until somebody misses their paycheck, whether it’s a teacher, in my district, whether it’s a state employee worker, they’re just going to keep trying to push this down the road to the next election, to the next cycle, until 2018, when you have a governor’s race. We’ll just see what we can handle on continuing appropriations. People have even said that even if the schools were getting close to a shutdown, it’s quite possible that, once again, the courts will step in and make a determination that this is something that you’d have to fund; letting everybody off the hook and not creating that pressure point. I don’t know that, I’m not a judge, but until someone misses a paycheck you’re not going to have a result. Dan Proft: Right, and if everybody else, the 98% who are not a member of a public sector union in the state knew the compensation levels; they make a quarter more than what their private sector counterparts, with guaranteed job security, essentially. If they knew the numbers and the deal and what they’re demanding at other people’s expense, maybe that’s the revolt that we need. Kristen McQueary: That’s the pressure point that I think the governor should have started with when he was sworn in and stuck with. Instead of going around and bad mouthing AFSCME and calling them AFSCAME, you know, trying to do prevailing wage and right-to-work on a large scale as soon as he sworn in. This is not Wisconsin. A lot of downstate republicans have lots of public employee union and family members. So the pressure point with Rauner, which he should have taken is where we are now, with negotiating the next contract with AFSCME. Not all this other bad mouthing public sector workers. As for a walkout, or forcing them, you do have to keep in mind they are running our prisons, you have DCFS case workers who are checking on abused children. You can’t just be gunning for a walkout or a force out of state workers. Dan Proft: Well, but at some point you have to draw a line and say which side are you on. And so, my point is not say to be Willy-Nilly about dismissing 37,000 people, but to say, “Last best final offer, I’m telling everybody now”, and this is what Reagan did with the air traffic controllers, “You have this amount of time to come back over and say you’re staying on the job”. And if you’re staying on the job, then you’re on the job and you’re going to get paid. And if you’re not, then you’re going to get replaced. We are going to move to replace people. That’s what’s going to happen. I mean, the predictions were it was going to paralyze air traffic in the United States. It did not come to pass, because if you do it right, it turns out that there are a lot of people that can do the jobs that people currently do in state government, and this is not to denigrate state employees. I was a state employee for a time. Kristen McQueary: How is your pension? Dan Proft: Didn’t last long enough to get a pension, because I… Kristen McQueary: Big mistake. Jeanne Ives: Yeah, it was. Dan Proft: Although by the time I would be ready for retirement, I’m not sure it’ll be there. Kristen McQueary: Oh, they think it’s going to be there. Dan Proft: Well, sure, but what about that? You can do this in a way that is responsible, and frankly, this is not eliminating people for its own sake, like you’re dismissing people. This is saying “I want people who are going to work and do these jobs, and if you don’t want to do them, we’re going to find other people who are capable, who haven’t had the opportunity, to do them”. What’s wrong with that? 37,000 state employees. This is their birthright to do the job they do in state government, on their terms? No. Jeanne Ives: So here’s what happens at local government level. You basically come up with a contract, you settle a contract, and in this case there’s quite possibly no contract, which means that then the governor sets the contract rules, because if that contract is expired and he’s is no longer offering that contract after all this has been negotiated with the lawyers and everything, you’ve got a contract. If their demands are so high that we can’t afford it, people get laid off. That’s what you do at the local government. Look, you want all these pricing increases, you want salary increases, a bump here, higher payments, less co-pays on your health insurance, everything else. Guess what? That costs real bodies, so we’re going to have to cut 3 police officers, 2 firefighters and 10 from public works. So in 2008 when the crisis hit and the tax money started to decline, city of Wheaton lays off 37 people. It happens all the time. That’s what you do when you can’t afford the contract. That’s why I said on the House floor, “You know what, I’m talking to the state workers here. Listen up! You need to get a hold of your leaders, because it’s your job at stake, not theirs. It’s your job”. That’s the problem. Kristen McQueary: Even Quinn, to his credit, at one point, when they sent him an unbalanced budget that included raises, he said “I can’t honor these raises for AFSCME workers”. Now that has worked its way through the courts. 64 million dollars of back-pay for AFSCME workers is in that House budget that Madigan co-passed; 64 million dollars of back-pay dating back to 2011 over the Quinn controversy. Jeanne Ives: So you just start laying off workers; completely not essential workers. Start with the secretaries. Managers, you don’t have secretaries. You just start laying off staff. That’s what you do. Dan Proft: Shutting down agencies. Jeanne Ives: Except the problem here is that they have such onerous work rules that if you wanted to make a move for 7 people, and in fact this is what one department had, who will remain nameless, said to me, “We need to back-fill and make moves for 7 people”. It took 42 moves with other state workers to fill the 7 positions that we want. And we don’t get to pick the people that we want, because it’s all based on seniority. That’s kind of what you do. Dan Proft: Here’s what I think is happening politically, and I think it’s paralyzed Rauner to some extent; it’s harder than he thought it was going to be. He thought that these people are people that are going to negotiate or people that are reasonable, or people that he was a member of a wine club with, and at the end of the day they’ll be able to cut a deal. And the democrats are very good at aligning interests and playing power politics, and they will not relent, and they won’t relent because they see republicans relent all the time. And the reason Rauner’s numbers are upside down now is not because he’s done anything wrong, but he has kind of been exposed to this point - and I think this is counter to who he is, perhaps bad staff advice and counsel – he’s kind of been exposed to somebody who’s not going to fight. And isn’t this the whole conversation, is when is somebody going to stand up and fight for my interests, come hell or high water against all of the entrenched interests? And the other challenge Rauner has is that’s precisely what he said he was going to do as a candidate. And however he’s fighting internally, and he is standing up against a lot of pressure to just sign off on another unbalanced budget – he’s not doing that, he deserves credit for it – but the perception is, we’re not moving forward; hopelessness is on the rise again after there was some renewed hope that change could come to Illinois with Rauner’s election. And he’s not being perceived as taking up that mantle to be the Maverick that he ran as, and so people just throw up their hands and say, “It’s just all the same again and nothing’s ever going to change in Illinois and let’s just join everyone else in plotting their exit strategy”. Jeanne Ives: Yeah, I think he thought he came in with a mandate where when he had these dueling press conferences with Madigan and Cullerton, which just happened again this week, that the public was just going to rise up and support him. And that just hasn’t happened. Dan Proft: Like we haven’t heard this rhetoric directed at Madigan and Cullerton before. Jeanne Ives: All the time. Kristen McQueary: Right. Dan Proft: Decades. Especially with Madigan, it’s been going on for decades. Republicans have been unsuccessfully trying to run against Madigan and make him the albatross around everybody, every democrat’s neck, from Zion to Cairo, for 20 years, since I’ve been in this racket. And it hasn’t worked, period. Kristen McQueary: Right, but that was kind of Rauner’s ace, that he thought he had coming in, sure. Dan Proft: Well, let’s talk about financial issues - continue to talk about financial issues - and the governor’s turnaround agenda. There are five component parts to it. So we’ve got to prioritize some of it in terms of term limits, redistricting reform, workers’ comp reform, property tax reform, and tax reform. Where do you think the priority should be, particularly as we’re still in this position of not having a budget for the current fiscal year? What is it that you think the governor should demand as a necessary element in any budget agreement, in addition to a balanced budget, but a necessary element in terms of structural reform of state government? I know you probably support all of it, but here’s the thing we’ve got to have. Jeanne Ives: I support all of it, but… the thing we’ve got to have isn’t on that list. That’s the pension reform. We have to have pension reform. Dan Proft: But that’s a thing that the governor supports, to be fair. Jeanne Ives: He supports it, he completely supports it. He tries to leave it in with his property tax reform which came before our pension committee, to some degree. And he came up with a bill, I think it’s a little too complicated. I’m a supportive of it, completely supportive of it, but how about we just start moving people to it, to find contribution, instead of to find benefit. Let’s start there. Just everybody new employee, that would be huge. Just to start to not dig the hole any further would be great. Dan Proft: Just new employers, not existing employers? People that have not yet been hired. Jeanne Ives: Just start there. Believe it or not, in the state of Illinois, it’s a heavy lift, which is, to me, incredible. It’s eating up 25% of our budget. Why do you think we can’t fund disabilities? Why do you think the school support comes more from the local than from the state, where it’s actually the opposite in almost every other state? It’s because pensions eat up such an enormous amount of our state budget all the time. And we’re not going to have money for infrastructure until we solve this problem; because they’re all just working around the edges. We’ll do infrastructure with some sort of a capital program and then designated revenue stream, and what’s that going to look like, and should we go to a per-mile gas tax, with everybody having a monitor on the car, or something. They’re just coming up with crazy schemes, when all you can do, the pension reform, and you did it right, and you started to have people believe that you’re really going to dig out of this. I don’t know. I think all of those are important. Look, he’s already whittled down his list to these five. I think all five are important. Dan Proft: But he’s not going to get all five. Realistically, he’s not going to get all five. If you were the governor and you were willing, as it seems like Governor Rauner is, to say, “I will broaden the sales tax to include services” – so that’s a revenue play – “And in exchange I want at minimum this thing, or these things: pension reforms”. What would your demand be of Madigan and Cullerton, the democrat legislative leaders? Jeanne Ives: Workers comp reform, but real workers comp reform, just for example, not for profit. They serve the disability. How does a broken ankle turn into a $600,000 worker comp plan? Dan Proft: I don’t know, how does it? Jeanne Ives: It happened. Dan Proft: It happened where? Jeanne Ives: I won’t give the details. We’ll be putting that out more, but I want to get more details and more follow-up, but that’s a real true story. Dan Proft: For a non-profit social service provider. Jeanne Ives: For a non-profit social service provider. Dan Proft: And so, what is it about the system that allows for something like that to happen? Jeanne Ives: You’ve got multiple lawyers involved in these workers comp cases; you’ve got a worker comp system where it doesn’t have to be 50% the cause of the employer or the workplace. It didn’t have to happen there. It just had to be a participating factor. So you’ve got really easy ways to get worker comp through, or worker comp injury compensated. Dan Proft: The democrats say we passed workers’ comp a couple of years ago and it’s working. What about that is untrue? Jeanne Ives: And then they want to tell you it’s because those evil insurance companies that are holding all of the savings and they’re not passing them onto the actual employers. And that’s not true; we have over 300 insurers in the state of Illinois. They’re not all in collusion here and rate fixing. They’re not doing that. Dan Proft: But for those who are not familiar with the workers’ comp history, this is a phrase that’s thrown around. What does that mean? What’s the problem with the workers’ comp system? Is it how injuries are determined? Is it employer responsibility for injuries that didn’t occur on the job? What is it about it that makes Illinois different than its surrounding states. Jeanne Ives: So causation is one of the main things, and that is that we have a standard where if the injury occurred on the job and the job was part of the causing injury, just a part of it, any percentage, 1%, doesn’t matter, then they can get a worker comp claim. Dan Proft: So, for example, what you’re suggesting to me, just to make a hypothetical, to make this concrete, I’m a week-end Warrior, I play in the basketball league on Sunday nights; I twist my ankle playing basketball on Sunday nights, I go to my job on Monday morning, I fall down and I say, “I twisted my ankle lifting this box, or whatever, on the warehouse floor”. Now that’s a worker comp claim where the employer’s responsible for 100% of the… Jeanne Ives: That’s correct. Dan Proft: And so this is part of the problem. This is what drives rates higher than in Indiana or Wisconsin or Missouri or Iowa or anywhere else. Jeanne Ives: So we’re down 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the state of Illinois in the first 9 months of the year already, and you can cite case after case where they moved specifically form workers’ comp cost. And they’ve moved across line to Indiana, where it’s sometimes 4 or 5 times cheaper for the same type of job for workers’ compensation. This is not small manufacturers. People are saving millions of dollars a year on worker comp alone. Dan Proft: All these issues. Jeanne Ives: They’re all big issues. Dan Proft: They’re all big issues; we have all these big problems. The good news is they’re all manmade problems. We did this to ourselves. But they seem to be very difficult to drive to some kind of substantial and long term improvement of the situation, so K-12 education, how we treat the disabled in terms of social service providers and the costs that they encumber and the state support for social service providers, which is not particularly strong. Jeanne Ives: No, it’s not. Dan Proft: Tax policy, all of these other related issues that drive quality of life, that drive business climate, what is the short term/medium term/long term prognosis for Illinois, in your estimation? Jeanne Ives: We have so many natural advantages; our transportation network, you can’t necessarily rebuild that; even in a couple decades, you just can’t; resituate O’Hare Airport, or our miles and miles of track and our freight. We’ve got more freight that comes here; we’re the second busiest rail hub in the United States, every day. You can’t rebuild some of our natural advantages. You can’t do that. I think we continue to decline and we lose the good middle income jobs. The manufacturers will move still out of the state, and with them, the people that need a job. I think that’s going to continue to happen until… Dan Proft: So they’ll continue hollowing out of Illinois? Jeanne Ives: Yeah, absolutely. Dan Proft: But we see press releases about corporate titans moving their headquarters and some jobs to downtown Chicago. We saw, just recently, ConAgra, they’re going to move from Omaha to Chicago. Are those indications that we’re starting to rebound, or is that so much kind of papering over this howling out you’re describing? Jeanne Ives: A lot of those jobs, those sea-suit sorted jobs, tech jobs, fine. The young people, they do want to be in Chicago. They like the night life, it’s a very robust downtown area. Don’t look underneath the planters too far, but it’s pretty robust fun place to be for that age group, but if you have a family, you’re moving out of the suburbs, Chicago’s not going to really benefit from that. And those jobs are not your middle income jobs that you need to sustain a robust economy. They’re not your manufacturing jobs, for the most part, they’re very few and far between, and they don’t need as many as those jobs, so what can I say? We have to bring back manufacturing, we have to do it. We have great energy resources here. Dan Proft: What do we have to do to make the Republican Party – I understand, again, this celebratory climate within the Republican Party, because we elected a republican governor for the first time in nearly decades – but what do we have to do to reinfuse the Republican Party with more meaning to win state legislative races that we’ve been losing, districts that Governor Rauner won in his gubernatorial election, but that we lost at the legislative level, and frankly, it kind of handcuffs Governor Rauner, preventing him from doing some of the things at the state level that Governor Walker did in Wisconsin, or Mitch Daniels and now Mike Pence did in Indiana? What is it the Republican Party is not doing politically, communication-wise, policy-wise, the fights they’re taking up or not taking up? What is it that we should understand about where the Republican Party is versus where it should be, so that at some point we can get on the path to being a majority party and give Governor Rauner some reinforcements for some of these issues? Jeanne Ives: I think people are afraid to make the arguments. They’re afraid to be challenged, and then they may not even know. Some of our candidates, some of our incumbents, they don’t want to talk about collective bargaining if they’re in a downstate republican district, necessarily, because they have prisons that are unionized. The school districts are the largest employer, yet the normal taxpayer understands how much these… you can’t be afraid of the argument, you have to put it out there. You have to tell these people, “We have to have collective bargaining reform, because your school boards can’t afford to provide the education, given these rules that they’re forced to work with”. That’s why the property tax freeze is such a difficult issue; because the democrats have been passing the fake property tax freeze bills without the collective bargaining reforms. You can’t tie the hands of those local boards when they’re forced in the contracts that they can’t afford. So you have to have one with the other, which is what Rauner is rightly doing. He’s combining the two together. But people are afraid of the argument. Maybe they don’t know the facts behind it, but I think also they don’t want to challenge their neighbors. Here we have to have an honest conversation about where we’re going as a state, because we’re going nowhere right now. Dan Proft: Has the climate in the Republican Caucus and the General Assembly changed at all as we’re all watching the presidential race and we see 3 people who’ve never held office before as the leading 3 candidates representing the majority of the Republican primary electorate vote currently in the presidential race? Has that said, “Gosh, it seems like my party is sending its elected officials a message, and maybe it’s a message I should get hipped to?” Jeanne Ives: No, they’re not hipped to that message. They’re listening to the people that e-mail them every day, that are providers of states services. And they’re saying, “We need our money, we need money, we’re going to shut our doors; my medicate reimbursement rates are too low”. Or you can’t change our school funding formula, or you can’t freeze my property taxes, or anything. They’re listening to them; because they’re the interest groups. Dan Proft: These are the people who e-mail them and say that you cannot freeze my property taxes. I want to pay higher property taxes! Jeanne Ives: Well, no, these are not the people that are doing it. These are the schools that are doing it. Dan Proft: The organized advocacy groups. Jeanne Ives: Absolutely. Dan Proft: So we have this classic problem of concentrated benefits and diffuse costs? Jeanne Ives: Yes. Dan Proft: And so, what is your feeling about continuing to serve the General Assembly? You’re a West Point grad, your husband’s a West Point grad, as I mentioned at the outset. You could do a lot of different things, being a member of the General Assembly. It may not be the most that you can accomplish in life. I suspect it’s probably not. So what’s your sense of optimism about the future and your continued service here? Or are you going to be kind of another casualty of a bad public policy and find yourself visiting your children at colleges outside of Illinois and living outside of Illinois in the not too distant future? Jeanne Ives: Well, I certainly like my home town. I like Wheaton a lot. It’s a great place to raise kids, I’ve got wonderful friends, great relationships, fabulous community. And so, I don’t want to leave Illinois, we’re not certainly planning on leaving Illinois. But it is very frustrating. I feel like, you know what, I’m not afraid to say what needs to be said down there, that’s why I think there’s still some usefulness to that. At some point you’re called upon to be a witness to the truth. And I feel like I’m called upon to be a witness to the truth, as to what’s going on, what are the facts. A witness to the truth with my son’s story, and I feel that as long as I’m useful in that way, where I feel like I am maybe encouraging new members to speak up, because there’s definitely, “Oh, you’re new, be careful how you vote on this issue, don’t speak up on that issue, careful what you say in committee”. No. You need to represent your people, and I think people want somebody who says what needs to be said. And I’ve heard it from a number of people, and for those people I can’t quit. I won’t quit until I decide that I want to do it. But I enjoy making an argument. I enjoy actually representing all sorts of interests, whether you're a public school – which I actually have your best interest at heart, because I’m trying to do the right thing for you as well – whether you’re a private school parent. Whether you’re a small business or whether you’re a big business, I want a leveled playing field. And I like doing the research, and I’m more about policy than politics, which is why I’m not in leadership, obviously; because I won’t do that. Dan Proft: Someday that may change. Witness to the truth, State Representative Jeanne Ives, thank you so much for joining us on this edition of Against the Current!

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Marques Gaines case is reason to reflect: Are we guilty of ‘bystander effect’?

This post originally appeared in the  Chicago Tribune  on 4/26/2016   A video of the incident can be found  here .   By, Dan Proft  What would you have done early on that February morning had you come upon an unconscious Marques Gaines lying facedown on State Street at a busy Chicago intersection?  Would you have come to Gaines’ aid? Be honest.  Research suggests that only 1 in 55 of us would have.  No one assisted the 32-year-old man after he was punched unconscious and left prone on the street. Surveillance video released in mid-April showed more than a dozen people nearby failing to come to his aid. At least one person, reportedly an employee of the 7-Eleven on the corner, called 911. But no one outside even bothered to shield Gaines from traffic, though two predators swooped in to pick the injured man’s pockets. Eventually Gaines was accidentally run over by a taxi, and he died after finally being taken to a hospital.  Cornell University sociologists recently released a study that found only 1 in 39 Americans would respond to assist their fellow man in a health emergency. But add race as a factor (Gaines was black) and the research is even more alarming. The likely response rate to help a black person with a health emergency was 1 in 55, compared with 1 in 24 for a white person in dire straits.  Much has been written about the so-called “bystander effect” in the wake of the release of the video detailing Gaines’ unnecessary death.  We rationalize our own behavior. We want to absolve ourselves and blame the proprietor of the 7-Eleven.  We are good people, we think to ourselves. If not for some group psychosis, of course we would render aid to a man in need.  In our therapeutic culture, there is always a ready-made psychological explanation for man’s inhumanity to man so any consideration of our moral depredation may be avoided.  The two scavengers who scurried to rob Gaines while he was out cold are not vile, we tell ourselves. They are victims of economic injustice that pushed them into a life of picking at the bones of their brethren. We must not assign opprobrium, we must enact a $15 minimum wage.  And the post-moral rationalizations similarly abound for those who blithely meandered past Gaines finding nothing out of the ordinary with a young man lying facedown in the middle of State Street.  I could get attacked, too, we think. I don’t want to expose myself to any legal liability by helping.  I am not a medical professional. I didn’t want to do more harm than good, we assert, ignoring that it doesn’t take a medical professional to call 911 or to stand by until first responders arrive, or to enlist others to rally assistance.  I pay taxes so that other people will respond to such situations. I gave at the office. The list goes on.  In America today, we are much more content to be our brother’s sugar daddy than we are his keeper.  Gaines was punched. He was robbed. He was run over. There were three opportunities to prevent his death and many onlookers present to seize them.  None did.  This is not a new phenomenon. Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York in 1964 while residents who heard her cries for help did nothing. They didn’t want to get involved either.  In our atomized society, we are encouraged to live autonomous lives in which the only responsibility we owe anyone is to live “my truth.”  Your truth says you help someone in distress, my truth says I don’t.  When we conclude those views are morally equivalent, social mores disappear, the bonds that hold civil society together fray, good Samaritans vanish and Marques Gaines is roadkill.   Dan Proft is a talk show host on WIND-AM 560.

This post originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on 4/26/2016

A video of the incident can be found here.

By, Dan Proft

What would you have done early on that February morning had you come upon an unconscious Marques Gaines lying facedown on State Street at a busy Chicago intersection?

Would you have come to Gaines’ aid? Be honest.

Research suggests that only 1 in 55 of us would have.

No one assisted the 32-year-old man after he was punched unconscious and left prone on the street. Surveillance video released in mid-April showed more than a dozen people nearby failing to come to his aid. At least one person, reportedly an employee of the 7-Eleven on the corner, called 911. But no one outside even bothered to shield Gaines from traffic, though two predators swooped in to pick the injured man’s pockets. Eventually Gaines was accidentally run over by a taxi, and he died after finally being taken to a hospital.

Cornell University sociologists recently released a study that found only 1 in 39 Americans would respond to assist their fellow man in a health emergency. But add race as a factor (Gaines was black) and the research is even more alarming. The likely response rate to help a black person with a health emergency was 1 in 55, compared with 1 in 24 for a white person in dire straits.

Much has been written about the so-called “bystander effect” in the wake of the release of the video detailing Gaines’ unnecessary death.

We rationalize our own behavior. We want to absolve ourselves and blame the proprietor of the 7-Eleven.

We are good people, we think to ourselves. If not for some group psychosis, of course we would render aid to a man in need.

In our therapeutic culture, there is always a ready-made psychological explanation for man’s inhumanity to man so any consideration of our moral depredation may be avoided.

The two scavengers who scurried to rob Gaines while he was out cold are not vile, we tell ourselves. They are victims of economic injustice that pushed them into a life of picking at the bones of their brethren. We must not assign opprobrium, we must enact a $15 minimum wage.

And the post-moral rationalizations similarly abound for those who blithely meandered past Gaines finding nothing out of the ordinary with a young man lying facedown in the middle of State Street.

I could get attacked, too, we think. I don’t want to expose myself to any legal liability by helping.

I am not a medical professional. I didn’t want to do more harm than good, we assert, ignoring that it doesn’t take a medical professional to call 911 or to stand by until first responders arrive, or to enlist others to rally assistance.

I pay taxes so that other people will respond to such situations. I gave at the office. The list goes on.

In America today, we are much more content to be our brother’s sugar daddy than we are his keeper.

Gaines was punched. He was robbed. He was run over. There were three opportunities to prevent his death and many onlookers present to seize them.

None did.

This is not a new phenomenon. Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in New York in 1964 while residents who heard her cries for help did nothing. They didn’t want to get involved either.

In our atomized society, we are encouraged to live autonomous lives in which the only responsibility we owe anyone is to live “my truth.”

Your truth says you help someone in distress, my truth says I don’t.

When we conclude those views are morally equivalent, social mores disappear, the bonds that hold civil society together fray, good Samaritans vanish and Marques Gaines is roadkill.

Dan Proft is a talk show host on WIND-AM 560.

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The Art of Politics with Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis on ATC

The political cartoon is an integral part of Americana. More people gain their understanding of the news of the day from a cartoonist who can boil an issue down into a single picture with but a word or two of description than they do from the deep thinkers writing 800 word op-eds. Scott Stantis is part of a small brotherhood of political cartoonists who possess the talent to draw combined with the talent to synthesize the salient issues of the day.

Who is the politician he most likes to draw? Who has the thinnest skin? How does he come up with his ideas? Is political cartooning immune from the contagion of political correctness?

Stantis answers these and many other questions and we pepper in some of his favorite cartoons on this edition of Against The Current.

View full transcript


Dan Proft: Dan Proft coming to you with another edition of Against The Current, from the Skyline Club on top of Old Republic Building, in downtown Chicago; my guest on this edition is the Chicago Tribune’s renowned political cartoonist, he is Scott Stantis. Scott, thanks for joining us! Scott Stantis: Thanks for having me! Dan Proft: Appreciate it! Scott Stantis: Renowned? Dan Proft: Wow, renowned. Renown, not renowned, that is past tense. You’re current - you’re still – you’re a current political cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. Scott Stantis: Yeah, what have you heard? Dan Proft: Exactly. So you came to us straight out of Birmingham, you’ve been in Chicago for six years, after spending more than a decade in Birmingham; couldn’t cut it in Birmingham, that’s why you came to Chicago? Scott Stantis: Couldn’t make it, it’s just too big city. Dan Proft: So what brought you to Chicago and give us your perspective as someone who’s only been here half a dozen years. Not exactly half a dozen of our salad years; what your perspective is on Chicago coming from Birmingham? Scott Stantis: It’s been amazing, people ask where I come from, and then I say – as you said it – I came to work over a dozen years in Birmingham, Alabama, and they look at me like ‘Oh’. I say ‘You don’t understand. Alabama actually kicks Illinois’ ass in so many different areas: job creation, transparency’. You can walk into a state legislator’s office in Montgomery and say I want your records from the cell phone that the state issues you, and the secretary will literally go and hand you the records. This state, in some places, you still have to get a [foyle? 00:02:07] to get a police report, which is public record; I mean, that thing was shocking when I came here. Dan Proft: Not to mention the mayor’s cell phone records, messages, yes. Scott Stantis: Which we’re still not allowed to see; nor the videos from his property, nor anywhere a crime occurs, or anything. Dan Proft: So what did get you to Chicago? Should you clean up this town as you did Birmingham, or? Scott Stantis: Yes, everything’s just perfect there. Chicago’s the big leagues, it really is. Still, Chicago has been – historically – the job that cartoonists have wanted. It started with John C. McCutcheon at the turn of the 20th century, won the first Pulitzer for the Chicago Tribune; three more Pulitzer Prize winners came through here, not to mention Jeff MacNelly, who was the one I replaced nine years after his death; Dick Locker, and many, many others. Dan Proft: And where’s your Pulitzer? Scott Stantis: It’s coming. Dan Proft: I know Mary Schmich has that coveted title over… Scott Stantis: She does. Dan Proft: Look, I can’t read enough columns about cats, just like the next guy. In terms of political cartoons, first of all, I guess, just a little bit of background; it’s a rarefied space, it’s like being a governor, there’s only like 50 of you in the country, right? Scott Stantis: Oh, there’s fewer than that, there’s fewer than 40 now. Editors have… Dan Proft: Is this a function of newspapers going away or something else? Scott Stantis: I think it’s both. Editors have always had a hard time with cartoonists, for a myriad of reasons: temperamental, hard to deal with, expensive, and that’s part of it; and the other part is they still view the written word as sacrosanct; that is far more important than any silly cartoon you could possibly draw. They look at what they do and do not want, and the thing that causes them the most trouble. I was at a conference of feature editors in New Orleans a few years back, and I was with the guy that does ‘Pearls Before Swine’, Stephan Pastis, and also Berk Breathed, who does ‘Bloom County’, and we said to them, ‘Isn’t it great when you get a reaction? When people blow up, and either one cartoon, or either a political pliant or some other things that gets them to all the newspaper’, these editors looked as if we have just insulted their entire family. The point being was that our take was that it’s great when people get involved and have a sense of ownership in your product, that you produce. Their take was the readers are a pain in the ass, and I just want to produce what I produce and go home. Dan Proft: Rich! ‘These damn customers!’ It’s an interesting perspective, because if the readers are a pain in the ass, so you treat them that way, then sometimes they go away and isn’t that sort of what’s happening to a lot of major daily newspapers around the country? I mean, I don’t think newspapers are ever going to go away, but they’re not going to be – some of them may, some of them have – but they’re not going to be presented in the same format they’ve been presented for the last 50 years, at least the ones that survived and thrived. Scott Stantis: If you had to guess what’s working now for newspapers, the breaking news on the internet; we’ve had this discussion a lot about what comes next in media, and cell phones, your smartphone, that’s really where it begins and ends with anyone under 35. So where does the newspaper fit into that? When they visit our page, the Chicago Tribune page, through their mobile devices, they’re on it for like 3 minutes, maybe; they want the headlines, they want a paragraph or so, they don’t want in-depth stuff. You counter that with probably a premium product on the week-ends, on Sunday, and that may be what we’re going to see down the line, but to say that newspapers won’t go away, I’m not entirely convinced to that. Dan Proft: On the cartoons, what’s the reader’s response, what are the number of eyeballs on your cartoons every time you publish one as compared to say, Eric Zorn’s mustery column? Scott Stantis: I don’t know what… they don’t share those numbers with us. I’m not kidding. Dan Proft: What kind of feedback do you get? Scott Stantis: I get great feedback, and in fact I’ve had a number of cartoons that have been shared tens of millions of times, literally. The cartoon, to be fair, the more sappy ones, oh Gosh, what’s his name? The great movie reviewer for… Dan Proft: Roger Ebert. Scott Stantis: Thank you, when he passed away, and that cartoon was shared. Dan Proft: Pro life leader Roger Ebert. He’s very much pro life. Scott Stantis: Is that true? It’s a good thing to be. Dan Proft: Because catholic faith reformed his position. That’s what I like, I like to skewer the liberals in town, reminding them that Roger Ebert was a big pro lifer. It gets hard for them to reconcile. Scott Stantis: What do they say when you say that? Dan Proft: Nothing. Scott Stantis: They just look at you and then… Dan Proft: They then go away, which is kind of – I’m used to that reaction. That’s mostly what I get, because frankly most of the people in your profession, particularly in this town, you may have noticed, they’re not so zealous about facts. Scott Stantis: No? You don’t think so? Dan Proft: Yeah, they’re kind of tied to their orthodoxy and that’s all they care about, which is an interesting segue to some of what you do, because some of your cartoons lampooned - haven’t – some of the sacred cows - and I mean that as a double entendre - in the city of Chicago, in the state of Illinois; the political Pangaea drums that they like to get along with. Lisa Madigan, the way you caricatured Lisa Madigan over the years, for example, as daddy’s little girl, with a balloon and a lollypop, that’s received some pushback, hasn’t it? Scott Stantis: It’s received, yeah. In fact, a feminist group I’ve never heard of, from Washington DC, started to take me on and write letters, and start some form of a campaign; clearly was paid for by somebody; her daddy. But somebody paid for it. Dan Proft: Way to double down. Scott Stantis: Yeah, you know? Dan Proft: So didn’t like your minimizing all of Lisa Madigan’s legal accomplishments. Scott Stantis: Dan, think about this for just a moment. Since Lisa Madigan’s become the attorney general of the great state of Illinois there’s been no corruption prosecuted in this state, at the state level. You have to hand that to her. So come on, just clean it all out! Dan Proft: Yeah, she’s outsourced it to FEDs, I guess. Scott Stantis: In fact, if you remember one of the cartoons I brought here with me was one of the first cartoons I ever drew of her as that little girl with the heart dot in her eye and her name, and she literally said – do you remember this? – ‘That’s above my pay grade’… to investigate corruption in the state, when another Madigan thing boiled up. Dan Proft: Yes, see, that’s what’s fun about political cartoonists; maybe different than some of the op-ed writers in town, with the exception of your colleague John Kass – he’s one exception: the institutional memory. So to go back, for example, and recall Lisa Madigan when she first ran for attorney general after she had had her law degree for five minutes, and that she had said she was running because where were the republicans when it came to prosecuting corruption under governor George Ryan? That was not going to happen; if the prosecuting public corruption in the state of Illinois was going to be her raise on debt as attorney general, and as you suggest, people were so afraid of her prosecutorial proactiveness that they have not committed any illegal acts in the intervening 14 years. Scott Stantis: You don’t want the wrath of Lisa to come down you, unless of course you’re a crib maker, which she has protected us from. Dan Proft: Yeah, the crib makers. Scott Stantis: Yes, so the crooked crib makers. Yeah, that works. Dan Proft: Right. To don’t remove the tag from the mattress in that crib or she’s going to come after you. Scott Stantis: It says explicitly. Dan Proft: So with Lisa now, you’re not just dealing with the wrath of Lisa, you’re dealing with the wrath of the most powerful politician in the state with whom you’ve become intimately familiar over your six year, House Speaker Mike Madigan, has he responded? Because he’s very protective of – as you draw her – daddy’s little girl. Scott Stantis: I think there was a connection, because this feminist group came out of nowhere, and it’s since disappeared. At least it’s acts on me. Clearly that was one response from that machine to my tax on him. Just to show you that cartoons do have a profound effect on politics, my first cartoon on Mike Madigan was within the first couple of weeks when I worked here; and I had drawn him, and he had actually slid his hair back – you may not remember this – and after that cartoon. Dan Proft: He was doing an ensemble performance of Greece, I think, in Springfield. Scott Stantis: Was that it? Dan Proft: Yeah, I think he played Frenchie, if I’m not mistaken. Scott Stantis: Well, that may have explained it. I’m sorry, missed that. I am. Dan Proft: So he slid his hair back… Scott Stantis: He slid his hair back, I drew him with this – because his hair line is further back than mine, it’s preposterous, he continues to part it. Dan Proft: Well, he is 120. Scott Stantis: Maybe… we don’t know how old he is, so we have to wait for the Carbon dating. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: But he will never die, so… I noticed that a week later his hair was puffier, fluffier, and a different color. Dan Proft: Maybe he hadn’t seen the stylist. Scott Stantis: He saw the cartoon, I think. Again, coming back, cartoons have a definite tangible impact on policy in this great state. Dan Proft: I mean, political cartoons are part of the Americana since the founding. Scott Stantis: Sure, yes. Benjamin Franklin, ‘Join Or Die’, the snake that’s cut into the various segments; Ben Franklin drew that. Dan Proft: And it’s a way to kind of capture the essence of an idea, of a personality, of a policy, of a policy debate, right, in a way that unless you’re H.L. Mencken quality six or seven hundred words doesn't. Scott Stantis: Right, and for me the great joy, especially coming to a place like Illinois – there’re so many players, it’s just impossible to keep them all straight – but if you can draw Madigan the way I draw him now, which is pretty much as the crypt keeper… if you look at him and put his picture next to my cartoon, that doesn’t really look like him anymore, but every person who reads the Chicago Tribune knows exactly who that is, to the point that I don’t have to label him anymore. Dan Proft: And I also like that you stay current too. You got Mike Madigan on the iron throne from Game of Thrones too. Scott Stantis: Game of Throne! Dan Proft: Game of Thrones singular. Scott Stantis: Notice, look at the detail of that cartoon! He’s sitting on a phonebook. I imagine that probably has to take him off a little bit. Dan Proft: Because he’s a Shetland person, he’s one of the Chicago democrats – there’s something in the water here; I make this point over and over and I can’t figure out – maybe you know, because you’re very precise when it comes to sizing up these characters that you draw. Why do we have these little licentious leprechauns like Madigan and Cullerton, and Rahm (he’s an honorary Irishman), Richie Daley – they’re all could fit in your breast-pocket. Scott Stantis: It’s bizarre. What’s important about cartooning too is obviously I have the option of showing them as being roughly this tall, which is exactly what I do… Dan Proft: Drawn the scale! Scott Stantis: Pretty much! Rahm now is about 3.5 feet tall in the cartoons, but his eyes make him about 4.5 feet tall. All I have to do now is just draw those massive bug eyes he’s got, and everyone gets it. Dan Proft: So Rahm, Madigan, the governor, the previous governor, which politician is the most thinned skin, in other words, the caricature that you have offered of a particular politician – where have you gotten direct feedback or surrogate feedback that says – you know – Mr. Madigan or Mrs. Whoever doesn’t appreciate that? Scott Stantis: I did a draw Rahm when he first swore in – it was a step by step, exactly what it sounds like, how to caricature around Emanuel; the only thing I ever heard from him – or from anyone in his office was – he walked in the next day, shows us this stuff and he’s ‘Is that okay?’, and he said ‘Yeah, it kind of looks like you’, he said ‘Okay’. That’s all I ever heard. He does have one of my cartoons in his office; it was when the courts ruled that he was a resident – apparently if you keep your bride’s, your bridals. Dan Proft: Yeah, the blue dress, of sorts. Scott Stantis: Or was it gold and white? And he’s going ‘Exploitive Yeah’, that’s the one he liked, that’s the one he likes. Dan Proft: The only thing with Rahm, I love the caricature, the only thing is I want – have you ever seen him in his ballerina outfit from back in the day? With the big fro where he looks like Tim Curry from ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Scott Stantis: Yes. Dan Proft: Well, why didn’t you go in that direction? Scott Stantis: I have. If you look at the drawings, here’s a little insight to you and your viewers: every time I draw him full body he’s always in some kind of a dancer’s posture. Look at his feet, it’s poulet, or pallet, some French thing, and his hand is always like – there’s always a pinky up – he’s always very dancerly whenever I draw him. Dan Proft: The prancing around in a bar class, something like that. Scott Stantis: Yes, and I have one of him in a tutu. Dan Proft: Tiny dancer, I like it. So you’ve got feedback from him, what about… Scott Stantis: That’s it… nothing from Madigan, nothing from Cullerton. Governor Rauner when he was running stop by when I was with your radio show actually, and he stopped by and said he liked the cartoons, even when he was the victim, which at that point he never had been, but that was nice of him; recently this kind of freaked me out, and scares me a little bit, I don’t mind telling you – Cook County commissioner president Toni Preckwinkle… Dan Proft: Toni Preckwinkle, right, she is not one of the Shetland people. Scott Stantis: She is not. Dan Proft: She is quite striking. Scott Stantis: And it’s interesting, she’s actually been very cold every time I’ve – a few times I’ve – met her, but she called the other day, and I drawn her as a Don Corleone, and she said ‘Tell Alvarez it’s politics, it’s not personal’. She loved that one. Apparently, that’s what she likes to project, and she was effusive and friendly and very nice on the phone. Dan Proft: So she likes to be portrayed as a mobster, but in the sensible shoes. Scott Stantis: Yes, but there were no shoes. Scott Stantis: And Fox, of all people, jumped in apparently in one meeting and said, ‘You know that cat is me!’ Corleone in the scene is petting the cat. Dan Proft: Kim Foxx. Scott Stantis: Kim Foxx, yes. Dan Proft: Who’s running for state’s attorney and her former chief of staff. Scott Stantis: Against Sal Rust. ‘You know, that’s me in there too’. I’m like ‘No, it’s really not’ Dan Proft: Everybody wants to be in the Stantis cartoon, even if they’re being lampooned, they’re a parry daedal. Scott Stantis: I’ve never heard of – you keep slamming away at these guys, and you hope you hear something, but no, not yet. Dan Proft: On the other side of the spectrum, you mentioned the schmaltzy cartoons – I’m being pejorative, but I don’t mean it that way – the more pointy inter-sentimental cartoons. The cartoon I remember, because we spoke about this, that you got the most reactions to – or perhaps the most reactions, but you got a lot of reactions, national and maybe international reaction – was a cartoon and a story about your childhood. Tell us about that. Scott Stantis: Yes, well, it was when the NFL and all the players were coming, all the stories were breaking that… one player knocks his wife out in an elevator, another one beat his child with a switch until... Dan Proft: Right, right, Adrian Peterson. Scott Stantis: Four year old child. All of this other bubbling excuses that – this is cultural, this is how we do it, this is our culture, I go ‘No, and if that’s your culture, then it has to be destroyed, because it’s wrong’. I’m game mad now. It got me mad, so because I came from an abusive background – my father was a abusive alcoholic, he got found by Sobrieties, and we became great friends years later – that is a story I’d never told anybody; in fact, a lot of friends, in fact, there are some details in there that my wife didn’t even know; but I thought it was important, and if I had to tell the story, it had to be the story. You couldn’t tap dance around it, you couldn’t make it fiction to make it have the impact it had. Actually, we ran on Medium.com recently and had like 5 million shares, so yeah; what’s been interesting about it too is I did a presentation at LID Fest about it, and that was hard; that’ll be the last time I’ll talk details in public about this thing, because it was too hard, but afterwards, for the Q&A, there were no Q’s; they were all men – mostly men, standing up, and the most moving part of the whole thing was, this guy stood up, a south side Irishman, quintessential, stereotypical, he must have been six something and massive, and by the time he was done, that room was in tears, as was he, talking about the stories of overcoming this stuff, and so, for me, there’s a couple of things about coming from an abusive upbringing, and one is that you’re told never to talk about the family outside the family. That’s a rule, right, for obvious reasons. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: Hindsight, but at the time it just gets engrained in you; and the second thing is you think you’re alone. You think this only happened to you, or it’s very rare, and it turned out that it’s not. I had literally tenths of thousands of e-mails from that thing. And that’s good. Dan Proft: I understand that what was going on in the NFL was the backdrop for this, but as a general, do you feel like it’s better to keep your professional distance from your readers and your subjects, or when appropriate kind of open yourself up and share personal story that connects you more deeply to this – because you know, about the people in the public eye, and op-ed writers, and politicians, they go both directions. Some people get more closed off, and some people feel like sharing experience that other people have endured as well is a way to better connect and build a relationship. Scott Stantis: I think I have a relationship with the readers, and for me it’s a postcard, it’s a little note to the readers every day. The internet has allowed for more engagement, which is phenomenal. 9 times out of 10 people call, even if a write now or a comment, and even if it’s really nasty if you respond – oftentimes a person will respond back saying ‘Hey, listen, I’m sorry, that was a little bit over the top’. Dan Proft: Only if you respond even more nastily than they responded. That’s the approach that I take. Scott Stantis: You’re trying to be a nice guy. So, for me, I’m out there, these are my opinions. I’m lucky enough that the Chicago Tribune views my cartoon as an individual opinion, and so there are times when they don’t like the cartoon and it gets pulled, which is always frustrating, but for the most part, they view it as my comments to the world, and so I take it very personally, I mean you can tell, I’m not a closed off person. I don’t think. Dan Proft: Please, keep your professional distance here, I am a closed off person. I don’t want us making out by the end of this, so just relax. So that’s an interesting point, right? Your cartoons are treated the same way as an op-ed writer’s appends, which is to say, if I don’t like this piece, if it’s rambling, if it doesn’t make sense, if it’s incendiary in some way, then we burn an obligation to run it, that’s I guess the same with the cartoons, so is that just an individual case by case judgment call, or there’s some kind of rules of the game that are set so you know more or less where the boundaries are? Scott Stantis: More or less, I mean, the field moves somewhat, but yeah, it’s basically I know what can and cannot be talked about. It’s odd too, and I don’t know how to combat this. I don’t know sure if it should be. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but the view of the newspaper is so correct and almost puritanical, and it’s a view of language, particularly. So I do a comic strip that’s called Prickly City, and I can still – to this day, this is the 21st century – can’t say ‘that sucks’ in the comic strip. And so, the notion that for some reason, you know, Dwight Eisenhower is still president, is still a head scratcher. Dan Proft: If only, if only Dwight was still… Scott Stantis: I don’t want to drop the f-bomb. Yeah, no kidding. Dan Proft: It’s interesting, on radio we have George Carlin’s nine words, and you have more words than those nine. Scott Stantis: Yeah, it’s strange, and it’s viewed – I did a caption contest as well, and this week’s is Rahm Emanuel at the end of a cigarette, and the ash is about to fall off; I’m about to fall in my ash stuff, a lot of jokes like that, which could not run as finalists for to vote on. It was kind of strange. Dan Proft: I’m about to fall on my ash. Scott Stantis: Yes. Or, I’ll make an ash of myself. Obviously, because people might actually think that the word ass was involved in that somehow, and people would be shocked. Dan Proft: You apparently weren’t listening to president Obama’s speech to the General Assembly, where he called for more civil discourse in our political dialogue, and you are coloring outside the lines, as a pretense to that. Scott Stantis: Yes, I’m trying to coarsen the culture, I’m sorry. Dan Proft: And so… right, yeah. Scott Stantis: Too late. Dan Proft: How does that play out to the extent that you can give us a peek into the editorial board, to the editorial decision making process? They say this goes too far and you say it doesn’t, and you have a pillow fight, how does that go? Scott Stantis: Yeah, well, I do it rough. It’s a very quick sketch of my idea, and then I send it to Bristol, who’s my editorial page editor under John McCormac, who is a deputy editorial page editor, and they come back with suggestions, or not; it’s better when it’s not. Sometimes they have comments and say ‘Change this, change that’, but sometimes I’ll say ‘Why?’ and they’ll have a reason that I think is either good or bad, and if it’s bad, then I’ll say ‘I think that’s a bad idea’, and then they’ll tell me do it our way. It’s pretty simple. Dan Proft: So it’s not quite The Agony and the Ecstasy, where Michelangelo is an ass to when is the Sixteen Chapel going to be done, and he says ‘When I’m finished’. It’s not quite that way. You don’t have that kind of platitude. Scott Stantis: No, although I do, there is a papple element where he does wrap you with a stick once in a while. Dan Proft: So let’s just go city and state level. Who is your favorite character to the extent that all these politicos are characters to draw? Who provides the most fodder for your fertile mind? Scott Stantis: Well, Rahm, clearly, because he’s the guy in charge, and he came in – the arch of that story is so interesting. He came in because he was the SOB; he was charmless. Dan Proft: The sheriff. Tough guy. Scott Stantis: Yeah, he was charmless, he was just a nasty piece of work, but he could get things done, and then after the first term he realized, he really can’t, and yet he got reelected – sadly. You and I had that discussion – I have to give you your props – you suggested that Chuy, regardless, would be a better choice, and you were right. So, on video in front of here. Dan Proft: Finally, I get my due. Now I want a cartoon that memorializes that for all eternity. Scott Stantis: Sure, ok. Dan Proft: Shared on Medium and all the other outlets so that I’m shared million two times like your work product. As it pertains to Rahm, though, one of the topics that I see you cartoon most on is violence in Chicago. How is that received – not just by the political ruling elites in the city – but also your leaders, the residents that actually live in some of these shooting galleries on the west side, or the south side, or people who live where we live, and are frankly – at least to this point – insulated from a lot of that. Scott Stantis: The most surprising response to a cartoon I’ve had since I’ve worked here was Tyshawn – last name, help me, the kid who was executed, the nine year old boy. Dan Proft: Oh, yeah. Scott Stantis: And it goes, Monday he was executed, and drawing this beautiful kid, and then the next scene is just an empty Chicago street, and said ‘Still waiting for the outrage’. The idea being that black lives matter, obviously massive protests all over the country on that, on that subject, which I thought was legitimate as well; but this is legitimate too. It had hurt nothing, and I got calls after calls after calls, and the Twitter verse – whatever the hell it’s called – got castigated for the cartoon because, ‘How dare someone like me’ – and I guess that means white and male – ‘would say that there’s no outrage. Of course there’s outrage!’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you have protests, and they’re led by preachers, led by mothers, but you don’t see the kids who are actually – the 18 and 25 year olds who are directly responsible for this. What? Dan Proft: I concede your point; do you have protests, or is the ark of those stories, ‘Oh, it’s terrible, we’re outraged for a day, we do a midnight vigil, we put the child victim’s image on a t-shirts, we call for an end to street violence, there’s a couple of walks around the neighborhood, and four days later we’re onto the next child victim. Scott Stantis: Yeah, and you know, you would hope for a bigger response than that from that community, and you don’t; and that was my point, and of course I got raked over the coals for that by my liberal friends as well. I just don’t understand. Dan Proft: What is it that you don’t understand from their perspective? Scott Stantis: That they are outraged. They just don’t voice it. Dan Proft: They outrage in silence and they continue to perpetuate the status quo that produces these outrages. I see. Perfect, makes perfect sense. Scott Stantis: Yes. Sure. Dan Proft: What about the police? Sticking on this topic of violence and caricaturing former police chief Garry McCarthy, these incidents that maybe it’s tough – it’s tough to draw ha-ha a cartoon about, like Lequon McDonald, or Quintonio Legrier and Betty Jones on Christmas Day; how do you treat subjects where a punch line not appropriate. Scott Stantis: One thing I come back to - my cartoons are postcards to the readers, and to me I’m not angry every day. Sometimes something just needs levity, but there are also times where there’s sadness – I have a drawing style that allows me that latitude, because it’s not very broad, it’s not very cartoony, and so when there is a serious issue at play here; all this violence just keeps piling up and piling up, we’re losing kid after kid; I mean, kids, children; and so it’s just a teddy bear with a t-shirt on that says ‘I Gunshot Chicago’ , and it’s very stark and it’s very telling, and it’s very dark, and for me, that was one way to express myself; I’m lucky I have that, but I really did develop an artistic drawing style that allows me to do that. Dan Proft: So are you trying to channel the emotion that you feel about the subject or the emotion that you think that the city feels, by a larger populace? Scott Stantis: No, both, I would suspect that we’re all flummoxed by the violence on the south side; we’re all incredibly frustrated by this dead, we’re incredibly aghast by the school system that puts what? Seven hundred and thirty million dollar bonds out there at eight and a half percent interest? I mean, yeah, there’s rage, there’s anger, there’s sadness, all of that. Dan Proft: Did you ever feel like you need to produce cartoon different than the tone that is - the majority tone, the majority response to something, so that there’s a little bit of leavenings – leavening not necessarily in terms of parody and comedy, but just leavening in terms of ‘How about looking at it from this perspective rather than just these conventional wisdom perspective?’ Scott Stantis: Right. I was speaking to a group, mostly – I was at the library of congress, and mostly are obviously very liberal – my take on the police shootings, was that the police were shooting themselves in many ways, and of course, the panel didn’t think that was the right way to go; you have to blame them, but there’s two victims here; law enforcement is incredibly difficult, but you bring up a great point: I also happen to be a conservative in Chicago, Illinois; that creates its own dynamic where yes, I’m going to approach issues differently than I think most commentators in this city would. Dan Proft: It’s interesting, because we’ve talked to other guests about this on the show all the time, the virulent strain of Stockholm syndrome that afflicts Chicago. In part, you’re describing – what we talked about – the lack of outrage; you don’t have the city up for grabs, not that I’m suggesting it should be, but you don’t have the kind of response in Chicago to Laquan McDonald that for example, you saw in Baltimore with Freddie Gray; you just don’t. Scott Stantis: Precisely. Dan Proft: You have some protests, and then they subside, you some recall move on Rahm, and then it subsides, and people get on with their business, and people want to talk about people disrupting shopping in Michigan Ave, and kind of ancillary issues. I wonder if you see those responses and you say ‘People aren’t getting it and the conventional wisdom is insufficient to describe what’s happening; I need to come at this from another angle, such that’, and you do so, and you actually have people that disagree with your worldview, philosophically, that come and say, even including in your news room or your editorial board ‘Oh well, I never thought about it that way; do you see any possibility?’, because this is one of the fatalistic aspects of Chicago, everybody believes certain things that’s never going to change that it’s liberal and all this. Do you see movement on different issues among people that don’t otherwise agree with you but agree with the take you had on an issue that they hadn’t considered before? Scott Stantis: I think we’re seeing – in the city and in the state - we’re seeing the problems finally reaching critical mass; we have a Daley who spent us into oblivion. I think they’re finally recognizing that, and the solutions that are being offered by the same old guys are the same old things. We’re going to borrow more; you have a mayor who’s borrowing more; another 2 billion dollars just to pay his bills? I think people finally are seeing that, and they’re seeing their taxes go up and up; we have the largest property tax increase in the city’s history, not to mention sales tax that are through the roof. At what point do people stop coming here? And the violence is another example. The young woman who was – they still don’t know how it happened – my wife and I took our son and his wife down to the Pilson the other day, and we saw the posters saying ‘Any information, $1000’ for this woman that was show in your car while she was talking to her dad on her cell phone. Dan Proft: Right, straight bullet, right? Scott Stantis: Right. That’s what we think, we don’t know. We’re seeing that kind of thing happening more and more. At what point do people stop coming to Chicago? At what point do people stop coming to Illinois? We’re hemorrhaging jobs, I don’t care what anyone else says. I asked an unnamed liberal radio personality here in Chicago, when I was on his show, ‘Would you start a business in Chicago?’, and there was a long pause, and to his credit, he said no. I said, ‘well?’ You have to imagine, eventually, either it catches up, or we become Benton Harbor. Dan Proft: How are you treated in Chicago, as compared to how you’re treated in Birmingham or other stops along the route? Scott Stantis: Well. I think people get what I do. There’re a lot of people, especially in the news room, who’ve never talked to me, who hate me, because they see the work, and ‘He’s just a knuckle dragging’, and so on. Talk to me, ask me, confront me, and then a couple who made that invitation, a couple of them have, and that’s great. I like to have that discussion, but for the most part it’s been terrific, it really has been, and let’s face it; once you get to city or state issues, less so here, but still that liberal conservative thing melts away a little bit, and there’s just right and wrong and what works and what doesn’t, and we’re doing the doesn’t a lot. Dan Proft: Yeah, but do you get the sense particularly from your editorial board that what doesn’t work, based on the evidence, is something they recognize as not working? Because it doesn’t work, and the Chicago Tribune endorses president Obama for reelections, it doesn’t work and the Chicago Tribune endorses Rahm for… Scott Stantis: Not just that. If you remember, we gave him a report card his first year. We gave him an A-. That wasn’t my idea. Dan Proft: A little room to grow. Scott Stantis: I proposed this, and it’s not just the Chicago Tribune. It’s every editorial page I worked on, virtually; particularly when you’re becoming ensconced to the community. In this next election cycle let’s just say, up front, we’re not going to endorse a single incumbent. Period!. And you make that face, that’s the face they make, but the fact is. Dan Proft: Well, because there are some people that are first and second termers that are actually fighting the fight, that are trying to change the paradigm, so why would you throw the baby out with the bath water. Scott Stantis: Because I’m not sure that it is. I think that, yes, we’re going to throw a handful of decent public servants, but you’re also going to have gobs of public servants who were god awful. I have this discussion off every two or four years. Dan Proft: Right, and we have some primaries again. I’m just thinking for the March 15th primary upcoming, you have some primaries where the primary challenger represents a continuation of the same, where the incumbent represents something at least somewhat different. It’s a culture problem, fundamentally, in my view, but it’s also a personnel problem, as to the extension of that, so why would you want to dump the people that are working as punishment. Scott Stantis: They’re probably not, because I would argue that the results argue differently. It’s an extreme view, and no one has taken it up – you know, 3-5 year career – and no one’s taken me up on it, so. Dan Proft: So let’s level up to the national level, because obviously, your purview is national, internationally even; you’ve drawn cartoons related to the war on terror, and combatting ISIS. Scott Stantis: I’m very popular in [Inaudible 00:36:38]. That’s where my clients… Dan Proft: Yes, and the presidential campaign as well. The cartoons, the national perspective that you try and provide for the Chicago Tribune, is it something that you’re just trying to provide an unique take on what’s happening on the national scene, or are you trying to translate it down to relevance, to your Chicago readers? Scott Stantis: Sure, I mean, why would I care that North Korea launches a missile? Well, because it can hit the West Coast of the United States, you might have relatives there. There has to be some kind of relevancy to your life that hopefully I can bring, but I’m also a different voice on that paper. I’m prolife, the paper is prochoice; things like that. And again, to their credit, let me run those cartoons. I am not a great fan of this administration. I did not think we should have endorsed it for reelection. I lost that discussion. Dan Proft: I actually think that’s been established by the record. The figure favored presidential candidate to draw in the current field. Scott Stantis: I’ve drawn Hillary for 20+ years, so she’s easy, that’s like I can do that in my sleep. Dan Proft: And how do you caricature her? Scott Stantis: Dower, she has very heavy eyes, and she’s very jowly, and she’s had some work done, but from here down it’s just McKane-ish – many, many things going on. Dan Proft: How do you draw mannerisms like her cackle? Scott Stantis: Here’re some inside baseball: I have been berated by – we have some older women on our editorial board who don’t like the way I draw, that she is… she has a very – this is maybe the strangest conversation you’ve had on this program – she laughs like this, and her eyes, she just looks demonic. So you draw that, it’s not hard. On the republican side, and plus, Barry. Barry - why do I keep saying Barry Sanders? - great running back; Barry Sanders, he looks like Albert Einstein’s love child; his hair is pleah, and that’s easy to draw; republican side, clearly it’s Trump; that hair. Dan Proft: It draws itself. Scott Stantis: To this day, I cannot understand the architecture of it. Dan Proft: It’s a physical impossibility. Scott Stantis: Yeah, just should not happen in nature, and yet there it is. It’s also a color. His victory speech in New Hampshire – can he get more orange? – because that was weird. Dan Proft: He could get more orange. He got more orange in the South Carolina debate, because that red back dropped. He actually did get more orange. That’s surprising, but true. Scott Stantis: Cruz looks like Joe McCarthy. There are similar facial features. Dan Proft: Or Tom Rickets. Scott Stantis: Yeah, actually. Rubio is now – have you noticed – he’s trying to do the strategic hair combing now? Dan Proft: Yeah, because he said it’s going away. Scott Stantis: Oh, it’s going away, so he’s doing the forward and over. See, we have editorial board meetings, and it’s very important people come in and when they leave they go like ‘What did you think of his view of monetary policy in China?’, and I go ‘Did you see his shoes?’ Dan Proft: That’s the detail that makes it fun, I guess the point is – this is my take – I never think we should treat politicians with reference. Even the politicians I like, I think they should all be lampooned; I think they all should be made fun of so that we remember that they’re not our betters; they’re just some guy who happens to be a congressman or a senator, or even the president of the United States for right now. Scott Stantis: And he works for us. Dan Proft: Right, and to keep a sense of proportionality that we’re not looking at them as our exalted rulers, right, but as you suggest, people who work for us. Is that your take, do you pick a favorite, like in the republican primary, or the democrat primary, and say I’m going to go after the ones I don’t like more and try to protect the ones I like a little bit more? Scott Stantis: That’s a great question. I actually tend to – it’s odd going through my body at work – that I tend to go after republicans harder, and the reason for that is I expect them to be better. I expect them to be the grownups in the room, I expect them to be honest, I expect them to do the right thing, and when they don’t, I really get mad, I tend to just go crazy. Dan Proft: If there are any republicans in Illinois, you could probably draw those, it’d be hard on them. Scott Stantis: Are there any? Because… we have some that’s sort of a governor. Dan Proft: Technically, yeah, technically we have a governor, and then there’s the governor, and then there’s the governor. Scott Stantis: But the lieutenant governor. I guess we have one, right? Dan Proft: It’s like a tail, it’s a vestigial organ. Yeah. Not so sure. Not sure that’s going to captivate your readers. Really sticking it to Evelyn Singuenetty – finally. Scott Stantis: Yes. And you and I, this was from our first conversation that we ever had was me trying to understand the republicans in the state of Illinois, and how there aren’t any, how even though they’re in a super minority now in the House. Dan Proft: And Senate. Scott Stantis: Is there a super minority in the Senate? Dan Proft: Oh yeah. Scott Stantis: So why aren’t they more… what do they have to lose? Can you be – I guess you can be more minority, but it just seems, this whole cadre of that political class hoping for… they’re like the runt hyenas. That’d be funny. Dan Proft: I feel a cartoon coming out. Scott Stantis: We’re in the back of the pack, we’re just hoping against hope that some piece of bone or something gets flung back there, and they are so grateful. If I hear one more thing about ‘We have to work together’… Why? The democrats in the state don’t want to. They don’t want to do the right thing, they don’t want to do what obviously has to be done, and that’s what’s incredibly frustrating, is someone like me coming to this state; especially coming from Alabama, which was predominantly a democratic state when I got there, shortly after I left it’s now a republican state. It’s a good thing to see, and you mentioned it earlier in this discussion – I can’t get my hands around the politics of this place. Why do these people keep getting reelected? Why is Madigan scoring – his district, I’m told, he is very where liked; even though they can look around him and see the squalor and the destruction; the burning buildings. Dan Proft: Here’s a cartoon idea for you. I’ll invoice you later. Scott Stantis: I’ll take it. Dan Proft: Banana republic – it’s a cleptocracy, and so it’s cut me in or cut it out, and Madigan cuts in his constituents, so they’re the have’s, they’re the more’s versus the less than’s, and the more’s reelect the guy who’s giving them more to the exclusion of others for certain, but that’s the whole play, and what is rent seeking behavior in gender? Not outrage, more rent seeking. Oh. I see how it works! You have to have clout, you have to know the right people, and you have to get in line so you can get your cut. Scott Stantis: Is that number so big in this state that it allows that class to stay in the position of power for this long? Dan Proft: Well, think about the city of Chicago? Who are the top employers in the city of Chicago? Scott Stantis: Well, it’s got to be the city county, cops and firefighters, right? Dan Proft: The city, close. Institutions, the city of Chicago, CPS, Cook County, the state of Illinois. Those are four of your top 6 employers. So you tell me, is there enough spoils of war to pass out? At least to pass out until the lights go out? And that’s essentially been the spoils of war model that both parties have abided since I’ve been involved in Illinois politics, since I graduated from college 20 years ago. That’s been the model, and both parties have essentially adopted the model, and so you adopt the spoils of war model, and to your point about the little hyena cubs in the back, just hoping for scraps, that’s the posture that the republicans have taken, because they adopted the underlined philosophy, that it’s about distributing the spoils of war. And someday, if we ever get the majority again, and we narrow the super-minority into minority, or even a closer minority, then we’ll get a few more scraps. Scott Stantis: Well, that’s a sad commentary on the future of this state. It really is, and so guys like you, guys like the Illinois policy institute, others who are fighting the good fight, and are trying to do the right thing. I get the sense that we’re placed to actually move in that direction; that that argument is finally getting to action with people. Dan Proft: Based on? Scott Stantis: Hope. Dan Proft: Right. Unbounded hope. Scott Stantis: What I’m seeing, and Lou from the hockey game, the other night; I was test marketing him; we were sitting next to this guy, and you’re hearing it more and more, so people are recognizing that Madigan is not good for this state. Dan Proft: Yeah, it’s a problem, and what was Lou's solution? Bernie Sanders. Scott Stantis: Well, there’s that. Dan Proft: They didn’t it was a perfect conversation, but the status quo is terrible. You know what the problem is? It’s not big enough! Scott Stantis: It’s not status enough! Ah, Lou, Lou. Dan Proft: Let me ask you another question about another institution that doesn’t get enough coverage in my estimation – and this might be a little bit too close to home – because it is your home, it’s the question that used to say kind of ‘What will take it, why are things the way they are?’ There’s another institution, The Fourth Estate. Scott Stantis: Yes. Dan Proft: Well, who watches the watchmen? Who watches the media, who lampoons the media? Who takes journalists to task when they’re complicit, when they have their own sacred cows that they protect to the exclusion of their job. Scott Stantis: I agree! Dan Proft: I mean, where is the – I could name names, and I’m happy to do so – but what about that, what about those internal conversations about some of the ‘news coverage’ – forget the op-ed page for a second – the ‘news coverage‘ that’s provided by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the network affiliates, the Chicago media. How complicit is the Chicago media in this complex that we have here, like how complicit is the Washington Press Core in this complex that we have in DC. Scott Stantis: Well, look at how the Washington Press Core covers this White House. It’s preposterous. It doesn’t. Dan Proft: It’s fawning. Scott Stantis: Well, it is fawning, and if you’re ever spending time with them, it is, it’s a strange alchemy, it’s hard to imagine. I think what you have to do is move people in and out, and unfortunately newspapers and television don’t have that person that would do that with them. Dan Proft: We’re talking accountability mechanisms, so other than forcing people out, which is difficult – you want to talk about term limits, or you want to talk about longevity – take a look around at the political reporters in this town. Scott Stantis: Exactly. Dan Proft: Not exactly a bunch of cubs running around, maybe at Fox Chicago, but by large, that’s not the case, so what about those individuals and institutions as a target for your wicked pen? Scott Stantis: It’s tough. And you did mention it; it’s a good question; and there are times that I do talk about the media, but it’s hard for me to do when they’re right down the hallway. We do keep a separation there. Dan Proft: Is there any prohibition on a reporter who’s in the tank – maybe this is even a bit of inside industry knowledge – and taking that reporter to task, pictorially? Scott Stantis: I don’t know, I’ve never done it, so I’m not sure that I couldn’t. I could guess that I couldn’t, to be honest. Dan Proft: There’s only one way to find out. Do you want me to give you a list of names? Scott Stantis: Alright. After Rahm. Dan Proft: And it’s not just the Tribune. We’ve known this for about – look, the idea that reporters are any less transactional than politicians is folly. I know too many reporters for the last 20 years in this town to know better, so what about that? I think that this is really kind of an under-disgust topic. These are the guardians, these are the gate keepers. Scott Stantis: I think it is, and a lot of them are very good. And a lot of them try very, very hard, but… Dan Proft: So do a lot of politicians, so what? Scott Stantis: Right, but you and I have our filters, they have theirs, so that’s what you’re going to get. You have it, but here and states across the country, something – which I think is wonderful that’s happening; things like Illinois News Network, is one example where people have a free option to go to someplace that doesn’t have that bias, of that perceived bias, even, if that’s what you want to do; and places like Alabama, California, there are new sites now that are cropping up all over this country, that are calling these guys on their coverage, and that can only be healthy. Dan Proft: What’s the culture like in the Tribune, and your sense of the culture Chicago Media, more generally: is it very much like academia, where you have a certain kind of orthodoxy, and there’s so much inertia behind that orthodoxy? And even though people are tenured, so to speak, in Chicago media, like there, in Academia, there is still this group think, so for example, in Washington Press Corp, this has been tracked since 1960, anywhere between 84 and 92% of the Washington Press Corp votes for the Democrat candidate for president. So do you think coverage would be different if 84 to 92% of the Washington Press Corp. were voting for the republican nominee’s president? Scott Stantis: Of course. Dan Proft: So, it’s the same thing in Chicago. Scott Stantis: Yes. And so, do you think it would be different if the majority of contributions at Harvard weren’t going to Hillary Clinton – 91%, but were going to Ted Cruz – would Harvard be different? If the majority of people in Washington Press Corp and the editorial board in this city, and the network affiliates in this city – and state – we’re voting for Bruce Rauner instead of Pat Quinn, or republican candidates for legislative office, instead of democratic candidate, would the coverage be different? Scott Stantis: I don’t think that you could argue that it wouldn’t. Dan Proft: Right, but this is the under-reported story, and these are the opinion shakers that drive this political culture that we all de-cry, but are we really serious about trying to expose it, be transparent about it, like you were talking in Birmingham, so that your readers and the body politic can make and form decisions and understand what’s going on, and also have some accountability mechanisms for these folks? Scott Stantis: What accountability would you have, other than… Dan Proft: It’s not that you’re wrong, it’s ‘Do you think you should be reporting on the story when your wife has a job in that office?’ Conflicts of interest; clear and manifest conflicts of interest, for example, do you think you should be reporting on the story when you have some other kind of business relationship or personal relationship with the subject, or the subject’s principle – this happens all the time. Scott Stantis: Even more so now, as journalism gets more and more eroded… Dan Proft: Oh, the relationships. Scott Stantis: You see more and more reporters going to work for – they don’t go to work for republicans, generally. Dan Proft: Correct, and that’s another good example, right? Any time you have a member of the Chicago media leave to go work in politics, where do they wound up? With the democrats. Scott Stantis: Right. Again, and I’m not going to be a sycophant for these guys, but I’m going to say that a lot of them really do do a great job, and they really work hard at doing a great job. Dan Proft: What about for the ones that don’t though? I mean if you don’t make examples of people, then the bad people – whatever percentage they represent, people that are in the tank, they get away with it- they can operate with impunity. Scott Stantis: I think that comes to the for – and it’s becoming more and more obvious – as I said, news organizations and news providers, and just people who are generally interested in one subject or another, will bring that to the attention of the public, and so ‘Is there a mechanism that we could put in place that would take care of it?’ I don’t think so, I don’t want one. But I think people like you people – again, the Illinois News Network is one area where you can go and say ‘Here is another take on that same news story, oh, I didn’t know that’. There’s a reason why Fox is number one news network on cable television; because they are covering things differently than the traditional – certainly MSNBC, but CNN as well. Dan Proft: No, I mean, a different angle is refreshing, and it expands the parameters of debate, but you still have this who watches the watchmen, and it’s not just those watchmen in Springfield, or Washington DC, it’s those watchmen with the pens and who buy in the old time sense of it, buy ink by the barrel. Scott Stantis: That’s so charming. Dan Proft: Thank you very much, yeah, over with the harkening back. So kind of last bit of business on this: with respect to the cartoons that you draw, I forget politicians or individual characters. What about on cultural issues? Death penalty, abortion, the redefinition of marriage, policy matters and cultural matter, how do you try and tackle those to take something that’s abstract and turn it into something concrete that’s meaningful for the readers. Scott Stantis: That’s the hard part of the job, and it’s the part I love, and those are the issues I love, because those are the ones that people actually care about. Politicians, they come and go, but those issues will always be there, and how do you frame it? What do you use to frame it? Part of my job is to look at these things and say, ‘ok, this isn’t Nazi Germany’. But this also isn’t like a tea party; this is someplace - ‘a tea party’, not ‘that’ tea party. Dan Proft: Right. Scott Stantis: But someplace in-between, so where on that scale is it, and how do I demonstrate this, so people who see that will immediately get that this is what I’m talking about and this is my position on it. Meanwhile, on abortion, I’m prolife across I’m against euthanasia, I’m against the death penalty. But abortion, and especially the planned parenthood thing, one cartoon that got a huge reaction, was – it’s a butcher shop, and you got a fetus with parts, like rump and shoulder and all that stuff, and it says ‘so, how many parts you want?’, and it’s planning parenthood person with a… Dan Proft: I bet that got a reaction. Scott Stantis: That got a reaction. It got a big one, and I thought it was an important point to make. I love the blowback from that whole story, because they don’t get charged with anything, and no one said they were doing anything illegal, which in my mind makes the story that much more heinous. But that they’re charging the guy who did it because he showed a fake driver’s license or something, right? Yeah. That’s one of those issues that I tend to go off on, and I also had – what was the breast cancer Grogan who gave a lot of money to plan parenthood, and I showed the little ribbon kicking a baby into a trashcan – that got a reaction. Dan Proft: And now, when it comes to taking on those hot button issues, is there content oversight, or is it just kind of tone and language oversight, from your editorial point, from your uptance. Scott Stantis: Right, it’s tough, but for the most part, that’s the one area where my editor, Bruce Dold, gives me a very free hand. He seems to be actually very grateful that they have that other voice on the editorial board, on the editorial page. Dan Proft: So it’s time – place – manner restrictions to borrow a first amendment construct. You don’t feel like you’re ever censored in terms of ‘You can’t tackle this topic area’? Scott Stantis: No, which is great. Dan Proft: What’s next for the Chicago Tribune, and what’s the next iteration as you’re in this very small collegial universe of cartoonists, and it may be a shrinking universe of newspapers, how do you see this playing out in five years both for cartoonists and newspapers? Or ten years? Scott Stantis: Boy, if I knew that I don’t know what I’d be. Dan Proft: What’s the dialogue internally in the Tribune about where we need to be versus where we are to continue to be viable. Scott Stantis: Well, we’re going digital first, that’s the edict, and I think that’s wise to a point, although the newspaper still makes 70% or more income currently from their print edition, so getting rid of the print edition is insanity, but looking to the future, I feel… do you want a really practical thing done? Dan Proft: Yeah. Scott Stantis: It’s the cartoons, if you look at my cartoons today, versus, to say, five years ago, they’re much simpler, because I know that people are going to see them in 72 dpi, on their smartphones, so something as simple and practical as that Dan Proft: Adapting to the technology, and how people consume the cartoons that you draw. Scott Stantis: And this is one of the frustrations of dealing with newspapers. I approach my syndicate about this recently. I do a comic strip, which is usually multiple panels; why don’t we change this out a little bit, when they look on it on their phones it can run horizontally instead of vertically? Vertically instead of horizontally, the comics are traditionally like this. I’ve done it on my blog, and you can actually scroll up and read the comic like that, and it’s really very intuitive and it works really well. And they just look at me like, you know when you blow in a dog’s face? They have that same look, like ‘Okay, never mind’. Trying to move this thing in the 21st century, it’s hard. Dan Proft: But you don’t see political cartoons and comic strips going away, I mean it’s like letters to the editor, the most well read section of the newspaper; it’s the most visited section of the newspaper. People want a little levity; they want something that crystallizes their thought, or an issue, or a personality in a picture, or in a strip. Scott Stantis: I don’t think we go away, I think that we take different forms, and it’s a question that everyone’s asking, so I’m talking monetize that’s going forward. Is it worth having a cartoonist on staff? Should you get syndicated work? Well, almost 70% of my work is Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. They can’t get anywhere else. Part of my Scott Job protection program is doing that. Where else are they going to go for a Rahm cartoon? Where else are they going to go for a Madigan cartoon? There’s no place else for them to go. So that’s part of my plan going forward. Dan Proft: Alright. He’s Scott Stantis, we hope that his job is protected for years to come. Chicago Tribune, political cartoonist, Scott Stantis, thanks so much for joining us. Scott Stantis: Thanks for having me.

Dan & Amy Interview Mark Janus on his Chicago Tribune Article, "Why I Don't Want To Pay Union Dues"

Mark Janus likes working for the State of Illinois at the Department Healthcare and Family Services. But he doesn't like being forced to be a member of AFSCME. And he's talking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear oral arguments on the matter next week. He joined Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson on Chicago's Morning Answer for a conversation on topic.

related content

When teachers threaten a strike, call their bluff.

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chicago tribune mast head

By Dan Proft (Article published in The Chicago Tribune on 12/10/15)

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan put a marker down for the rule of law when he fired more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers who had walked off the job in violation of federal law, despite enjoying the backing of their union, PATCO, in the 1980 presidential campaign.

Is there a school board in Illinois willing to put a marker down for the next time its teachers walk the picket line?

In recent months, there have been three missed opportunities.

The 150 teachers at Prospect Heights School District 23 were out for a week in September before they came to terms with the board for a contract that provides a 14.25 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making less than $90,000 annually and a 9.75 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making more than $90,000.

Mari-Lynn Peters, the school board president, told me that for every job opening in District 23, the board receives 200 to 300 applications.

In October, it was the 248 teachers at McHenry County School District 156 who walked for a week. They agreed to come back after the board agreed to a 9 percent raise over three years in addition to splitting the cost of covering increased health insurance contributions.

Before the new contract, the average teacher salary in District 156 was just under $80,000, with 15 percent of teachers making more than $100,000 and two-thirds of teachers making more than $70,000. As in Prospect Heights, McHenry 156 board President Steve Bellmore told me that a substantial number of applications are received when there is a job opening in the district.

On Nov. 2, East St. Louis District 189 teachers returned to class after 21 days on strike with a four-year deal that provides an average salary increase of $12,834 over the life of the contract along with fully paid employee medical, dental, vision and life insurance (no deductible).

In East St. Louis, all of the more than 6,000 children in the district qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. The median household income in East St. Louis is $19,000. The median pre-strike District 189 teacher salary was $72,000. Only 6 percent of East St. Louis students are deemed college-ready in spite of the fact that in the 2012-13 school year, East St. Louis spent $14,462 per student, compared with a statewide average of $11,483 among similarly sized school districts. And, when I say the district, I really mean the state of Illinois, because District 189 has been under state oversight since 2011 and receives two-thirds of its funding from state government.

My grammar school basketball coach used to tell us, "The graveyards are full of indispensable people."

The school boards in Prospect Heights, McHenry and East St. Louis all had the opportunity to put that pithy aphorism to the test in an environment where it appears that demand for teaching jobs outstrips supply.

I understand why they demurred. Replacing people is no fun.

But no individual teacher or even district full of teachers is more important than moving the K-12 culture away from conferring salaries and benefits to the adults and toward schools that are child-centered and outcome-focused.

Some will dismiss this piece as an attack on teachers because it is easier to propagate the imaginary battle between pro-teacher and anti-teacher forces.

But someone has to put a marker down.

School districts throughout Illinois, including in the leafy suburbs, are following the trajectory of the bankrupt, junk-rated Chicago Public Schools.

So it's apropos that CPS is up next for its second teacher strike in five years.

Rather ironically, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis seems to be the last honest potentate in the Illinois edu-ocracy. To keep CPS teachers enjoying the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, Lewis supports a LaSalle Street tax on financial transactions and a progressive state income tax, and she is open to a city income tax if that's what it takes.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS chief Forrest Claypool pretend they can make a go of it at CPS with a $500 million state bailout of a system where a $1 billion annual budget deficit is the new normal.

Clearly the PATCO moment will not occur inside the leadership vacuum that is Chicago.

But it is going to happen if for no other reason than the axiomatic Herbert Stein's Law: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

Our K-12 school systems cannot go on forever in their current form. Even if the will is weak, the math is inexorable.

Original article can be found here: http://trib.in/1NXRD3L

Dennis Hastert and the Comatose GOP

chicago tribune mast head
chicago tribune mast head

By Dan Proft (Full article published in The Chicago Tribune on 10/29/15)

Why are the feds giving Hastert such a sweet deal?

Should we still call him "coach" as well?

I mean if we are going to participate in the fiction that the plea agreement between former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon is justice, then we might as well take it to the absurd extreme when we next see Hastert shopping for wrestling singlets at Dick's Sporting Goods.

...For the "I'm a fiscal conservative but anything else goes" crowd within the Illinois GOP who suggest we ignore a candidate's character and private conduct as long as everyone is getting paid — folks who have been awfully quiet during the Aaron Schock and Hastert meltdowns — remember this: When you induce a state of moral comatosity in a party, if you wake up at all, you do so in the superminority.