Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda” reinforcing Illinois’ urban/rural split?

Gov. Bruce Rauner has his “Turnaround Agenda,” a set of policies meant to reinforce the anti-organized labor attitude he has expressed ever since he became a candidate for governor some two years ago.

The agenda is meant to reinforce the idea that local people should be allowed to undermine the authority of labor unions, and it is with that goal in mind that Rauner’s staff has been working to try to get local governments across Illinois to pass a resolution saying they support the agenda.

I HAVE FOUND some amusement from reading the Capitol Fax newsletter’s website in recent days, as publisher Rich Miller is running tallies of which communities are feeling compelled to express their support for the governor’s desires to make Illinois a “right-to-work” state (implying that unions interfere with people getting jobs, rather than merely protecting their right to be compensated respectably for their work).

Day after day, it seems that every rural community across the southern third of Illinois, and even a few in central Illinois, adds to the list of Rauner supporters. Then again, the voters in those places were the bulk of Rauner supporters in the 2014 election cycle – so it’s no surprise!

Monday was the day they finally got a “big” city on board – the City Council in Rockford voted largely on partisan lines (The Register-Star newspaper reported that one Democrat flipped) to support the resolution.

I know some will remember the days when Rockford was the second-largest city in Illinois and will want to think that means something. Although considering that Aurora and Naperville are both now larger, and Joliet's growing population nips at the heels of Rockford, I'd say it means Rockford isn’t what it once was.

WHAT I HAVE noticed about this is that the trend doesn’t seem to be spreading into metro Chicago. If there are any communities among the roughly 260 municipalities that comprise the Chicago suburbs that have backed the idea, I’m not aware of them.

In fact, the only area community I have heard of that even considered the idea was Crete – a Will County town that realistically can be considered the southern tip of the Chicago area and the place where some would say downstate Illinois begins.

Even then, Michael Einhorn, the long-time village president tried rewriting Rauner’s agenda a bit to soften it up. But the trustees decided to postpone any kind of action.

Reading through the suburban press these days finds a lot of quotes from suburban mayors who just don’t want to touch the issue. Which when combined with the fact that Mayor Rahm Emanuel will likely be the leader of the effort to quash Rauner’s symbolic resolution from becoming reality (because it would interfere with many of the priorities Emanuel thinks the state should have) means this is turning into the two-thirds of Illinois’ population refusing to go along.

EVEN THOUGH I’M sure the masses in the remaining third will want to see themselves as representing the true sentiments of Illinois.

All the “Turnaround Agenda” (which includes such language as, “Voters in our community should be allowed to decide by referendum whether or not employees should be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment”) is doing is becoming more evidence of the “urban vs. rural” split that has become Illinois’ character.

If anything, Rauner by pushing this resolution (thinking that it will pressure legislators into giving in to the governor’s anti-union beliefs) is making that split bigger than usual.

I’d argue he’s becoming the source of the problem, rather than any attempt to become a solution.

HONESTLY, I WON’T be surprised if a lone suburban community or two wind up backing “Turnaround.” Naperville in onetime GOP bastion DuPage County took up the issue Tuesday night. There always are a few exceptions to the rule. But this isn’t a revolution sweeping its way across Illinois – the way Rauner backers would have us think.

If anything, I wonder if Makanda (the Southern Illinois municipality that was the long-time home of now-late Sen. Paul Simon) is the true way of how the Land of Lincoln thinks.

It seems their village officials voted to support the resolution earlier this month without realizing exactly what it meant. The Southern Illinoisan newspaper reported that village President Tina Shingleton said officials thought it was just a call for local control of local government.

Rather than part of an agenda to undermine organized labor and the people who work at such jobs – a desire that Makanda officials are now desperately trying to undo to avoid looking even more foolish than they already do!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Will “Turnaround” be the issue that breaks up the Emanuel/Rauner friendship? Or at least membership in that pricey wine club?

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