After all these years in the business, I can still be naive. When a friend asked me a couple days ago if Kristen McQueary would be fired for her now-infamous Hurricane Katrina column, I said I wasn't sure it would come to that, but that the Tribune bigwigs were undoubtedly huddled together trying to figure out how to address McQueary, her editor/s, the column and the PR disaster it wrought.
Now I don't believe they were huddled at all. I don't think it even registered at Trib Tower. After all, this is what editorial page editor Bruce Dold had to say in a (chicken-shit) statement e-mailed to WGN-TV:
When paired with McQueary's non-apology, in which she was "horrified" at the way the rest of the world outside of the Trib's editorial boardroom read her words, it's clear that the paper is standing by the column - and blaming the outrage on everybody's poor reading comprehension.
As WGN-TV reported, "[McQueary] offered no apologies in a follow-up column, posted [Friday night] on the Chicago Tribune's website."
The Trib is, quite simply, only sorry that we all got it so wrong. Case closed.
She wouldn't want viewers to misconstrue her.
The following is a transcript of an interview between Steve Cochran of WGN Radio and Governor Rauner that aired this morning on WGN Radio.
HOST: . . . look, the legislation you're trying to push through the legislature, including an interesting arbitration piece that's a little deep for most people to wrap their heads around in the short term here, the school funding situation that certainly appears to have merit. All of this stuff, including relieving some of the restrictions on schools doing business with third-party vendors, were ridiculous - the restrictions that had been in place - I've read this stuff inside-out and backwards, I don't see how it's even a fistfight. Why can't we get this done?
RAUNER: Exactly, ya know Steve, we sponsored, we put forward, a great bill that has wins for the students in Illinois and the parents and taxpayers in Chicago, that helps bring value and transparency into government, has a real property tax freeze in with local control of the costs of government. This is a win on every level and we are willing to help Chicago financially to get through its crisis in its public schools, from the states, as part of this. Madigan and Cullerton are dug in, they just don't want to talk about reform, they only want to force a tax hike and that's just fundamentally wrong.
HOST: Well you said that revenue could be on the table in the form of a tax hike, this would too, and I've been saying this for months you guys are going to get into a room and punch each other out, this would be you giving something up here that maybe you're not inclined to give. So what are they giving you?
RAUNER: Well, so far, really nothing, I mean, we put forward six bills, and for those who say, 'Well that's just too much,' I remind everybody we put forward six bills to reform government and get it working for the people again, term limits and property tax freeze and redistricting reform, we put forward these six bills, they refuse to call a single bill; not a single one of them. And meanwhile they pass five hundred and thirty bills. I'm glad, I love sweet corn, and I've eaten a lot of it this week at the state fair - glad it's the state vegetable - but ya know what, when we got a financial crisis, we've got to focus on our priorities.
Madigan doesn't wanna change, he doesn't want to give up any of his power, he doesn't want anything to change, and so far he's refused any reforms. The one thing he's done, and I give him some credit for this, he's voted for a two-year property tax freeze. Now that's a good thing. We've advocated that. But he knows, if we do nothing else but a two-year freeze, it really doesn't accomplish a whole lot, because real estate prices will spike in the third year and continue on their skyrocketing pace. We need local control of bargaining and bidding and contracting so we can keep the property taxes low.
HOST: Yeah and I don't blame the public sector union members here, the people that are running the unions are the issue. The math doesn't lie; this is the part that continues to baffle me. If you don't settle for a percentage of whatever you're owed going forward or fully funded what you're owed going forward over time, new employees, what do you think the magic money tree is gonna start for the state? The math is the math.
RAUNER: No, that's exactly right. I don't blame the government employees at all, I've met thousands of them. They're good people, most of them are there for the right reasons and they're working hard. Their leaders, the government union leaders, are failing the government employees, and as an insider of the system, it's rigged against taxpayers, and the proof of it is this bill that I vetoed, this senate bill 1229. For the first time in as far as I can tell American History, AFSCME the big government union has tried to take away collective bargaining from themselves. No lockout can be done by the governor and we can't strike. Let's turn the whole contract negotiation over to an unelected, bureaucratic arbitrator. They know two things; they know first that arbitrators in Illinois come from Labor Union backgrounds so they will be very friendly to labor unions. They also know that I'm the only governor in American history - Illinois history - who hasn't taken campaign contributions from AFSCME, so they have no leverage with me; they have no special appeal. I'm just working for taxpayers. So that scares them. They don't want to have good-faith negotiating with a strong governor who's fighting for taxpayers. They want to take away my ability to negotiate with them and turn it over to an arbitrator. It's terrible legislation. I vetoed that bill, and now tomorrow the Senate is debating whether to override my veto. I hope your listeners will call their state representatives, state senators, call Speaker Madigan, call Cullerton's office and say "DON'T OVERRIDE THE GOVERNOR'S VETO. Let him negotiate on behalf of taxpayers to get a fair deal for government employees and for the people of Illinois."
HOST: Well let's take this both ways now, and let's say your veto is subject to an override, and the vote comes in tomorrow, then what?
RAUNER: Well, you know, then it goes to the House, it's going to be voted on in the Senate tomorrow, then it goes over to the house, and if the house overrides my veto, and again, Madigan's got a supermajority there, then my ability to negotiate would be stripped away, and if the union doesn't like my proposal, they think that I'm too tough, for example, I've recommended that we have a wage freeze for a few years, if they don't like that, they want salary increases and higher pension, and right now their proposal is gonna cost Illinois taxpayers 1.7 billion dollars more in the next four years than we're currently spending with the government employees. So it's a terrible proposal from the union, and if they don't like my proposal, then they turn the whole thing over to an arbitrator who's got a labor union background, and they've got to choose either the union proposal or mine - well, the odds are they're gonna choose the union proposal, and the taxpayers in Illinois could be looking at billions in higher costs as a result.
HOST: Now, if they don't override your veto what's the next step?
RAUNER: Well then we continue our good faith negotiations.
HOST: It's funny, it's funny, has there ever been a more ironic statement than good faith negotiations because you know you were elected on a platform of someone who's had tremendous success in business and could understand how to run a business like the State of Illinois. You've negotiated more than anyone. The key to negotiation is to get decision makers in the room. Have you and Madigan been in the room, or is it people representing each of you, and what are your efforts to get Madigan in the room and work this out.
RAUNER: Okay let's talk about two things. First, since I want to finish your question now about what happens if we negotiate with the union. So, if they don't override, basically what I do is I sit with AFSCME and work out a deal. We've already done that with the Teamsters. The Teamsters have been critical to me. John Coley the head of MNI have battled a bit. But we worked out a deal and we had a salary freeze for four years, we had other modifications, we had outside contracts, we got them some healthcare improvements, and we cut a deal. I'm asking for the same from AFSCME but AFSCME has such an incredible deal, they don't want to get the same deal as the teamsters they want something better. So we're going to negotiate in good faith over the next month or two and trying to work it out. When it comes to Madigan, here's the issue. I have met with him a lot. Frankly I got to know him well before I ran for governor; I figured I'd get to know him personally. And on a personal level I mean we get a long great, great communication, and we've been in the room just the two of us as well as with other legislative leaders; many times in the spring and the summer. The reality is so far he has refused to budge. He doesn't want to do real reform. He wants to force me to do a tax hike. That's his real priority is putting a tax hike on to balance the budget. And I've told him I'll negotiate revenue, but we have to have taxes that are pro-growth because if we don't grow we're not going to fix our problems. I'll negotiate with ya, but please vote on at least some of our reforms. Don't just sweep them to the side. Vote on term limits. People want that. People want a real permanent property tax freeze, vote on that. Don't just do a two-year temporary one, do a real one. Vote on redistricting reform. Pick out a handful of our reforms vote on 'em please, and I'll work with you on the other issues.
HOST: We're gonna run out of time and I've got to ask you on the gas thing. I've got a question here in a second, but I would just tell again, I always tell you this because its true and I have merit. My daughter's a teacher. I care about teachers. But the teachers' union, especially the teachers' union in the city needs to understand that if there's a big property tax increase, that money is offset about whatever you're concerned about for your benefits that you're trying to protect, going forward with money that doesn't exist.
RAUNER: That's exactly right, crushing Chicago's economy, and pushes more people and small business owners out of the city. We've got to change the structure and not just raise taxes.
HOST: Governor, the price of a gallon of gas obviously much lower than it was this time last year, but in Chicago its about 80 cents more than the national average and they're blaming that on problems at the refinery in Whiting. Is there anything you can do as governor for gas tax relief?
RAUNER: We're willing to look at all forms of taxes and reforms on 'em. The reality is gas prices are gonna move up and down a lot this year and the next year, and it's very frustrating the Chicago area has always had very high gas prices, relative to the rest of the state and the rest of the country. And a lot of that has to do with the restrictions around ozone and the emissions, much, much heavier restrictions in the Chicago area that only certain types of gasoline with certain restrictions can be sold there. That's a big part of the cost.
HOST: Yeah the seasonal blend thing and if you could get a temporary relief on the gas tax, I don't know how that could be argued against again. That has direct effect on business and moving goods and services and everybody else including all of us. Governor Bruce Rauner, I appreciate your time. Good luck with it and please punch someone and allow yourself to be punched as well.
RAUNER: Will do that. Thanks so much, take care.
I don't have time to fact-check Rauner's statements, but I'm fairly sure there are some doozies in there.