Hey, every once in a while it's worth taking a breather and considering other truly amazing political stories from the big city. Consider this story entitled "Billion Dollar Baby: A Cautionary Tale" published today by Andy Shaw, formerly a local Chicago ABC-TV correspondent and now President of the Better Government Association (good luck there, Andy!).
In this tale, Mr. Shaw recounts how Illinois' 67% tax increase was passed by a single vote Tuesday evening during a short, one-week lame duck session. You see, the Dems who run this State with an iron fist were facing the loss of several seats to the Republicans when the new legislature was sworn into office on Wednesday, hence the need to pass the tax increase Tuesday in the middle of the night. How to do it, how to do it???
"She is somebody somebody sent.
In the best—or maybe it’s the worst—tradition of local politics. And she was pressured into voting for a multi-billion dollar hike in the state income tax in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. By her Democratic Party allies in Springfield.
Some of her friends and neighbors may be unhappy with the tax vote but she won’t be facing any political consequences or voter backlash. And here’s why: She stepped down as an Illinois State Representative at noon on Wednesday. After one week on the job. That’s right—one week. She was, in simple terms, the lamest lame duck in a feckless Springfield flock. A billion-dollar baby.
“She” is Kathy Moore, a Lincoln Park friend and former public school teacher who was put in that unenviable position by the stark reality of political hide-and-seek. Or, in this case, seek-and-hide. Her reliably Democratic 11th District, which includes Lincoln Park and Lakeview, elected a brand new state representative, Ann Williams, in November, to replace John Fritchey, a popular long-time rep who won election to a seat on the Cook County Board. Fritchey began his new job in December, so Williams could have been sworn in as a state rep a month ago to represent the district in the lame-duck session going on in Springfield this past week. That was her initial plan.
But there were questions about how she would vote if a tax plan was on the lame-duck agenda. Williams claims that local Democratic leaders, including Fritchey and Senate President John Cullerton, wanted her commitment to support the tax hike before arranging for her to be sworn in. They say she got cold feet and decided not to start early—choosing instead to wait until Wednesday, when the rest of the freshman legislative class was sworn in.
(That, parenthetically, will save the taxpayers a few bucks because Williams won’t qualify for a more generous legislative pension than the one awaiting the new class in Springfield, thanks to a modest pension reform bill that took effect on Jan. 1. But her decision will cost the 11th District politically because, instead of moving to the top of the seniority list of new legislators by starting in December, she will be near the bottom since she’s entering with all of the other newbies, and her last name begins with “W,” a letter near the end of the alphabet. Oh well.)
Meanwhile, back at the raunch—yes, I said raunch and not ranch—Williams’s decision not to be seated early meant the political bosses in the district—Fritchey, Cullerton and the other ward committeemen—had to find someone else to fill the seat for the one-week lame-duck session. So they recruited Kathy Moore, the wife of Tom Moore, a well-known Lincoln Park zoning lawyer—because Kathy had the time and the willingness to “serve.” And down I-55 she went. Admitting sheepishly at a party last week that “they tell me what (voting) button to push and I push it.” Democracy in action.
So when the tax bill passed, without a single vote to spare, our lawmaker-for-a-week was a major reason. She says she’s not happy about voting for a gargantuan tax increase but she doesn’t think that she, or the state, had any other choice. Even though, as of Sunday, she hadn’t seen a bill. Or a press release. Or a fact sheet. Or a list of cuts, accountability measures and streamlining to go along with the increase.
“I hope it works,” she said wistfully in a text message on Wednesday morning. Williams says, for the record, that she would’ve had a hard time supporting the tax bill in its present form.
In any event, Kathy Moore was back home in Chicago by Wednesday night after morphing into a regular resident following her week as a political pumpkin. Kind of like “Cinderella” in reverse. And she may not be the life of the cocktail parties in the neighborhood for awhile, at least among the well-healed wine-and-cheese folks who will have several-thousand fewer dollars in their pockets for each of the next four years.
As for Ann Williams, the newly elected House member, she assumed her duties as the new representative of the 11th district at noon on Wednesday. And my spies at her Springfield welcoming parties report there was no evidence of any dust, dirt or snow from the rock she’s been hiding under.
Don’t you just love the Illinois Way? And can’t you see why we love being civic watchdogs?"