Springfield Rules

by

Maze Jackson

If you know anything about Springfield, you know The Rule: The Speaker always wins. Everyone knows not to get on The Speaker’s bad side or you risk the possibility of being neutered in state government and politics. It appears however, that Governor Bruce Rauner does not know The Rule, nor does he care.

Feared as the most powerful man in Illinois politics, rarely if ever is The Speaker’s authority questioned. While the media likes to portray The Speaker as some nefarious character in the murky world of an Illinois political drama, he has actually proven to be the leader strong enough to build “consensus” among his members. From what I have observed, The Speaker spends a significant amount of time accommodating his members, converting even the candidates most vocal against him on the campaign trail into supporters once in the legislature.   The Speaker also has a formidable, military-like political organization that relies on discipline, legislation, and fundraising to maintain control of state government. The Speaker’s status is rarely challenged and his members remain loyal because of The Rule.

Enter Governor Bruce Rauner trying to break The Rule with Black people possibly paying the price. Rauner campaigned heavily on the promise to beat The Speaker in Springfield, but he has found the task to be a bit more difficult than he anticipated.   Unlike The Speaker, he is a business titan but a political novice, with even less knowledge of Springfield. Governor Rauner also has a talented, yet relatively green to Springfield staff, even if for no other reason than Democratic dominance for the last decade. What he lacks in experience he makes up with money: money to insulate himself and his staff from the effects of a government shutdown; money to finance media campaigns; money to finance campaigns; and money allows him to ignore The Rule.

The Speaker has already shown his early dominance, soundly defeating every significant piece of legislation that Governor Rauner proposed. The Speaker has also gotten the Governor to remove two of the four pillars of his turnaround agenda. By all accounts, it is only a matter of time before The Speaker teaches the Governor, The Rule; except this time I am not so sure it will be as easy.

On numerous occasions, I have heard Governor Rauner speak, and somewhere in that speech, he always says something to the gist of, “I am willing to take the arrows…be the bad guy.” Translation: “I’ve made the necessary but painful necessary for the long-term sustainability of the company, regardless of the human impact.” And that’s why I think The Speaker may have a much more difficult time teaching the Governor The Rule.

Bruce Rauner the businessman has prepared Governor Rauner for the protests that will ensue if the government shuts down. Bruce Rauner the philanthropist has prepared Governor Rauner for stories of the families that will suffer. And the long-term outcome for Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has prepared Governor Bruce Rauner for a protracted union battle (Walker is now considered a potential Presidential candidate.)

In Illinois, we have grown accustomed to Democratic governors who, regardless of their issues, put “people” first regardless of “fiscal” challenges. Gov. Rauner came into office prepared to deal with the “fiscal” challenges, regardless of the “people.” In the past The Speaker was able to give the governor a budget and let him “take the arrows…be the bad guy,” for the any cuts. Those governors were always concerned with voters, so they generally did not make deeps cuts to services important to Black people, so Black people usually benefitted from The Rule.

If The Speaker gives Governor Rauner a budget with a $3 billion hole, he WILL make the cuts. We already know those cuts will not be good for Black people. So, I am not suggesting that The Rule has changed, but maybe the game has.

 

Dunkin Breaks with Madigan, Says Not “Enough…for Black People”

by

Maze Jackson

(from the September 16-22, 2015 edition of the Chicago Defender

Fifth District State Representative Kenneth “Ken” Dunkin seems to have no problem keeping his family commitments and travel schedule even if it comes into conflict with Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan’s political power plays. Some might even infer that those “family commitments and travel schedule” include a broader family, the residents of his district, and in some cases the even larger Black community of Illinois.

AP-Ken-Dunkin

Born and raised in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green Housing Projects, Dunkin has always been one to go against the grain. “Even as a kid, we called him ‘GQ’, because Ken was always trying to achieve a higher standard. Whether it was how he dressed or the way he carried himself, he always knew we could do better,” recounts childhood friend and fellow Phi Beta Sigma brother Cyril Nichols. Dunkin went on to graduate from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and received his Masters from the University of Chicago. Dunkin ran the Robert Taylor Boys and Girls Club, before being elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2002.

 

While in Springfield, Dunkin established a reputation as a legislator who was willing to buck Madigan to cut a better deal for the constituents of his district. Dunkin even aligned himself with former Governor Rod Blagojevich when it made the most sense for his constituents. Because of his alliance with Blagojevich, Dunkin faced numerous Madigan backed challengers early in his career, soundly defeating all challengers. During the last remap, Madigan went as far as to map Dunkin out of his home base, but being the consummate campaigner, Dunkin adapted and was re-elected with little fuss.

 

In 2009, when Madigan wanted to put his full power on display against his than political mortal enemy Governor Rod Blagojevich, “family commitments and travel schedule” kept Dunkin from being present to vote on the impeachment. Dunkin’s refusal to take part in the process was symbolic of Dunkin’s unwillingness to kick Blagojevich, who was wildly popular in the Black community in spite of his legal issues, while he was down.

 

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Since the House voted 114-1 to impeach Blagojevich, Dunkin’s absence was easily missed, but when Senate Bill 1229 failed, and Madigan said “If Mr. Dunkin were here we would have had 71 votes” because of those same “family commitments and travel schedule,” it sent a ripple through Springfield. When Dunkin was quoted to ABC 7 reporter Charles Thomas as saying, “There was not enough in the bill for Black people!” that ripple became a shock wave.

 

Dunkin sent a shockwave through Springfield, because for the first time, he dared to interject the interests of the Black community into the political death match between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats led by Speaker Madigan. Because the Governor has veto power, the Senate has a bullet proof super majority, and the House has a super majority, the state budget impasse has reached gridlock. Dunkin’s break from Madigan over Black issues could become the game changer for either side, up to this point, only Rauner has been even willing to discuss the needs of the Black community specifically.

 

Springfield Power Dynamics

In the Illinois Senate, President John Cullerton listens closely to the advice and counsel of Assistant Majority Leader and Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Senator Kimberly A. Lightford. Additionally, the Senate Black Caucus has taken the lead in identifying areas of compromise, but are leery to trust Rauner, who they say has yet to back up his campaign promises. “We haven’t seen the business he was supposed to bring.” Lightford said, but she did indicate that there was room for compromise. “I can see some term limits if you think some people have been there too long and have a monopoly (on state government)” she continued in a veiled reference to the 40 year Speaker of the House.

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In the Illinois House the situation is a bit different. While the Illinois Speaker of the House is widely regarded as the most powerful man in Illinois, his position of strength relies on his ability to control his members. In this situation, Madigan must be able to corral all 71 of his members to be able to override Rauner’s ability to veto, and any defection leaves Speaker Madigan in the weakest negotiating position of the three major players. Always the master strategist, in the past Madigan has typically been able to convince at least one Republican to vote with Democrats, but since Rauner entered the scene, he has commanded the loyalty of the House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

 

 

While Cullerton has the strongest Democratic position, he and his Senate colleagues have taken a backseat to the “Madigan v. Rauner Show.” Equally in the background, is the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, who until this point has also been overshadowed, even though they control the second largest Caucus in Springfield. Rauner has openly courted their support, and has been rumored to have offered the Black Caucus a menu of social service and economic concessions tailored to the Black community. The Black Caucus so far has rejected Rauner’s overtures because of his stance on basic “Democratic core values.”

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Meanwhile, Madigan has yet to even mention the issues that concern the Black community, with many suggesting that he is at the root of Blacks being excluded from equal participation in state contracts and the political decision making process. As a matter of fact, during Madigan’s 40-year tenure as Speaker, he has never had a Black person on his Senior Leadership Team. He has been able to count on the unquestioned support of the Black Caucus members, without ever having to confront his own record in the Black community… until Ken Dunkin missed that vote and audaciously mentioned, “Black People!”

 

Senate Bill 1229

When Black State Representative Ken Dunkin missed the vote on Senate Bill 1229, he took on two of the most powerful forces in Springfield, Speaker Madigan and organized labor. The bill, which would have strengthened state employee labor union AFSCME’s negotiating power and proved Mike Madigan as the biggest boss in Springfield failed by 3 votes, and Madigan blamed it singularly on Dunkin’s absence, he inadvertently gave the Black community their strongest negotiating tool in almost two generations.
Traditionally, state workers negotiate their contract with the Governor and the Executive Branch not the Legislative Branch, but because of the extreme anti-union position Bruce Rauner has taken against unions, AFSCME sought the assistance of the General Assembly to gain additional leverage. Because AFSCME needed to involve the Legislative Branch in the negotiations because things are not going so well, Dunkin saw it as the perfect opportunity for Black legislators to leverage concessions from the trade union that represents state workers including downstate prison guards.

Dunkin admits he voted for the bill initially, but after Rauner vetoed the bill and he had more opportunity to ask questions, AFSCME representatives told him that they “don’t typically share that information.” Dunkin admits he was incredulous at the fact that the union would not provide the information he requested, but still demanded his vote and unquestioned support. Dunkin knowing that he had previous commitments said “he informed House leadership that he would be unavailable” the following week. House leadership scheduled the vote anyway, and added SB 570 to restore childcare subsidy levels, on the same day with the hopes of guaranteeing Black lawmakers would be present for the vote.

When Dunkin followed through with family plans and travel schedule as he had previously communicated, the Speaker called SB 1229 in his absence. When the bill failed by 3 votes, Dunkin alone was vilified by the leader of the Democratic Caucus for the bill’s failure. Then knowing that he did not have the votes to pass the childcare bill, SB 570, the Speaker called it and it failed by one vote. Insiders speculated that Madigan called the bill knowing it would fail, so that it could be used against Dunkin in future campaigns. It is common practice in Springfield to leverage Black social service needs to secure votes on issues important to him. While SB 570 failed, Rep. Jehan Gordon made a motion to reconsider, which allowed SB 570 to be called again, a fact that has been lost in all of the rhetoric.

While the Speaker and AFSCME continue to attack Dunkin, for being “disloyal,” they fail to mention that 40% of AFSCME’s downstate membership voted for Governor Rauner in the past election. They also fail to mention that they spent the better part of two years attacking Democratic governor Pat Quinn. They also fail to mention that their leadership threatened to “punish” Dunkin for not supporting their bill.

Geneva-Rose-Brenda

 

In the Black community, the narrative has been all about the failure of SB 570, but the real battle was SB 1229, because it would have given Madigan and AFSCME the upper hand in their negotiations with Rauner. When Dunkin made the declaration, “I don’t work for Mike Madigan,” he dramatically shifted the power of the supermajority out of the hands of the all-powerful Madigan into the hands of a Black man. It’s a position that Blacks have not been in very often, and are very uncomfortable with.

 

While most Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members have remained silent, it is clear from their response that they are not happy with Dunkin. They have refused to speak out publicly against the former Chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, but behind the scenes many are calling for the Speaker to “punish” Dunkin, but that would leave the Speaker in a precarious position.

While the House Democrats have a supermajority, there is no room for error. If they lose one vote, the Governor’s vetoes stick, making the supermajority worthless unless they can increase it. As we saw this week after Dunkin’s no show, the power dynamic shifts pretty fast in Springfield if anyone, particularly anyone Black leaves the proverbial “plantation,” a notion thought unthinkable until Dunkin rebelled against Madigan publicly last week.

 

That leaves the Speaker with a whole lot to think about, and based on his record in the Black community, that is not something he’s had to do for 40 years.

 

 

 

Black Caucus-Governor Rauner…”Together?”

(from The Weekly Intelligence Report)

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Members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

As the state budget impasse continues with little to no progress, the state budget battle is shaping up to be a battle of egos between two of Springfield’s “five tops,” holding the rest of Illinois hostage until someone blinks. I sat down with the Chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford on The Maze Said Radio Show and Podcast, and I got the distinct impression that some members of the Black Caucus were willing to negotiate with Rauner, depending on the terms.

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Kimberly A. Lightford
Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Kimberly A. Lightford

On the flip side, sources inside the Rauner camp tells me Rauner wants the support of the Black Caucus so bad, he would be willing to fund Black Caucus priorities AND grow Black business opportunities with in each of the districts. Of course, that would mean supporting Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda.” Black Caucus members remain skeptical, preferring Rauner to bring business to the state before they consider cutting a deal, but they did not rule out the possibility of a deal, which is intriguing.

Gov. Rauner and Rev. James Meeks, who Lightford implied sided with Rauner after being frustrated with Democrats treatment of Blacks.
Gov. Rauner and Rev. James Meeks, who Lightford implied sided with Rauner after being frustrated with Democrats treatment of Blacks.

A Black Caucus/Rauner alliance would not solve the budget crisis, but it would change the balance of power in Springfield, giving the Black Caucus a bigger voice in directing where the state’s funding goes.   The Senate President John Cullerton has already shown some willingness to work with the Governor, but as Lightford acknowledged, has not been as “involved” in the battle as the Governor and Speaker Madigan. She also acknowledged that it would be more difficult to gather the same support in the House.

Sources inside the Caucus inform me that Rauner has been quietly meeting with Black Caucus members in the House. Democratic leaders were so nervous about Black Caucus House members meeting with Rauner, they requested written confirmation of the meetings. Members balked at the suggestion, but clearly there are concerns that the Black Caucus will begin to leverage the power of their numbers.

Gov. Rauner talks with Sen. Napoleon Harris at State Budget Address. (photo courtesy of Reboot Illinois)
Gov. Rauner talks with Sen. Napoleon Harris at State Budget Address. (photo courtesy of Reboot Illinois)

But “we are looking at it,” Lightford answered when I inquired why not cut the best deal for the Black people. “The Governor has a list,” she continued, “but we need to look at that list together” and pick which things “we can live with.”

“I’m not for term limits…that’s what elections are for,” she goes on. “Maybe some people have been there too long, I get that,” which is why they need to look at the list together she reasons.

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.

In a state where Blacks continually do less that 2 percent of the state’s business and cuts to vital services in the Black community are always on the table, the fact that the Black Caucus is talking about looking at a plan TOGETHER with Rauner should be of grave concern to the people Lightford said have built “legacies” while not letting the Blacks participate equally.

I don’t know whom she was talking about, but they better be concerned…

#mazesaid

 

Our Own Plan | The Chicago Defender

By the time you read this article, Chicago will have elected its next mayor who once again will not be Black, but by all accounts will be elected based on the Black vote. In Chicago’s first-ever may

rahm-black-caucusBy the time you read this article, Chicago will have elected its next mayor who once again will not be Black, but by all accounts will be elected based on the Black vote. In Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, both candidates have spent a significant amount of their time campaigning in the city’s Black wards. But with no true Black agenda, it is important that the Black community have its own plan for the next four years, regardless of who is elected mayor.

 

The Black Agenda

Since the gains achieved during the civil rights era, there are very few issues that the Black community has consistently coalesced around, stood for or stood against consistently, which has made it difficult to build unity within the Black community. Taking this into account, the first step is a meeting of representatives from the Black political, business, civic, service and education communities to develop a Black Agenda. The Black Agenda would serve as the measurement tool of Black progress, the measuring stick by which the Black community can judge how worthy both Black and white candidates, businesses, non-profits and schools are of our support. By creating a Black Agenda, with input from all aspects of the Black community, Blacks can create our own uniform standard of accountability.

 

Black Infrastructure

When Harold Washington successfully ran for mayor, it did not happen on a whim, but was a well-orchestrated plan made possible by the existence of a Black infrastructure that no longer exists today. Washington was able to rely on the independent Black politicians for signatures and votes, Black activists for organizing and Black businesses for funding. At the time of Harold Washington’s election, there were 28 businesses in Chicago on the Black Enterprise 100. Today there is only one. Between Daley and Shakman, the Black political organizations have been decimated and the Black activist community has aged out, leaving up-and-coming activists without clear guidance or direction. Regardless of who is mayor, the Black community must rebuild its internal infrastructure of businesses, political organizations, civic and service groups, and educational institutions through consistent communication. By developing the Black agenda and having the Black infrastructure to support it, the Black community can focus on economics.

 

Black Economics

When Black politicians pass laws that help Black businesses, those Black businesses in turn hire Black people. This means that regardless of who is mayor, Black people must be vociferous in the demand for their economic piece of the pie in every aspect of city government, including jobs, contracts and purchasing. City records show that whites are still dominant in the areas of jobs and contracts, so to advance economically in the city, the Black community must redefine its path to success. Oftentimes Black activists waste countless hours protesting worksites and construction companies, knowing that a limited few companies can actually compete for the work. Instead of constantly fighting for the construction jobs, Blacks should consider fighting for the jobs that create jobs by generating contracts and providing purchasing opportunities. Blacks should consider the route of procurement over the numbers working in streets and sanitation.

 

De-Emphasize Social Services

Social services have become an all-consuming liability in the Black community. In many cases, social service agencies are not only service providers, but also major employers in the community. This leaves the Black community in a precarious position because whenever the government needs to make cuts, the first place they cut is social services, which has a two-fold effect on the Black community — cuts in services and cuts in jobs. Going forward, if the Black community is to succeed, we must decrease our dependence on social services as an economic engine and replace it with other entrepreneurial ventures that are less likely to be impacted by government cuts.

 

Regardless of who is the next mayor, the Black community needs our own plan.

Source: Our Own Plan | The Chicago Defender

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