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Illinois, this beautiful, wonderful, thriving state, is a mess. We have the most productive farms in the whirled, we have great natural resources, and we have Chicago - the bestest, most beautiful, coolest city in the known galaxy. Museums, food, music, art, architecture, the lakefront, we have everything but decent sports teams. (OK, the Hawks are doing OK.)

We have a pension program that is not just broken, but so disastrously out of whack that super massive black holes admire it from afar, wondering if they could ever match such utter destruction.

Our schools continuously fail. Fail to improve, fail to educate, fail to fix their obvious problems. But, boy, can we administrate. Yessiree, we can administrate.

Roads? Bridges? We rank 35th in the nation, with 8% of heavily used bridges in serious need of repair. If those repairs don't begin soon, several rivers will become impassible and impossible to cross. Peoria County (tornado central last week) has the worst of the worst. Peoria and East Peoria are separated by the Illinois, the major barge-capable river that connects both the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence Seaway (via a few great ponds)

From the Church of Ineffable Stupidity:

1. Minor Pension Reform.

A nearby neighbor was a detective for Cook County. Retired. Full benefits. Full pension.  He immediately was hired at a similar rank for the local forest preserve police. Immediately vested with full benefits. Full pension. He retired a second time after 6 months, earning a double full pension. He makes more retired than he ever earned while working.

His wife was a Cook County Hospital ICU nurse. Worked for the county. Full benefits. Full pension.  A triple pension family.

As nice of a guy as he is, I cannot help but feel anally probed by his actions.

THIS
MUST
STOP.

The double dipping by politically favored employees is simply unconscionable and financially, it is an unsustainable disaster. One way to deal with it is to prevent anyone already receiving a full state government pension from vesting for another, unless they work a minimum of 20 years at the new post. If they wish to work, while receiving their first pension, more power to them. But NOT a full second pension.

As for those who are already getting two pensions in similar ways, I think we need to set up a committee to review each and every double pension and see if any crime or fraud was committed. If so, cancel the smaller one and if they bitch, threaten to seek recovery of the previously paid amounts. Every time someone earns a double pension, someone else is losing out of a necessary benefit. There are other common sense fixes, many of them proposed by Gov. Quinn, only to have them pissed on by Mike Madigan, the true underworld Tsar of Illinois.

2. School reform.

There is an easy fix that would save millions.  Illinois has over 127,000 teachers. That's fine. So long as class sizes remain stable, that number should be about right.

Illinois has 1,101 SCHOOL DISTRICTS.  And that is simply insane.

Some districts have many thousands of students, others are like ghost towns.

Cook County (Chicago) School District 299 has over 600 elementary schools, 400,000 students, and constitutes one of the largest school districts in the country.

Alexander County's School District 1 has one elementary school.

Let's put that in perspective. Both Alexander #1 and Cook #299 have a District office, District officers and workers, a District school commission, and a full District staff. They also have a principal and vice principal in each school. Why the hell do we have a complete administrative entity for one piddly little elementary school, while #299 deals with 600 separate schools?

The one simple idea here would be to go through all the rural school districts and lop off the vast majority of them. Have districts combined geographically, with no less than 30 schools in each district. That would cut administrative costs tremendously, without impacting the quality of the education provided to the kids. It would not cut one teacher's job, while freeing up millions  in funds in the process.

Illinois has 102 counties (and that is probably too high. See my argument above) Except for the three largest counties, lets limit each county to one school district, and place all the schools there within them. That would total 99 rural school districts, a far cry from 1101. As for the three largest counties, they have worked relatively well with quite large districts, so lets keep them intact.

3. Invest in our future.
Sorry, but we need money. Lots of it. Bonds, loans, grants, gas taxes, whatever means possible, we need it.

Our roads and bridges are shaking apart. Many of them are over 50 yrs old, and maintenance was more of an accident than a routine. They must be rebuilt and repaired.

Our train system suffers from several congenital problems. Chicago remains a huge train, barge/train, ship/train, and truck/train center.  The common denominator is "t r a i n ". Unfortunately, there exist several Clog Centrals, which limit the number of trains severely. Doubling the number of tracks, especially in the most congested areas would speed up traffic and cut costs tremendously. But, this means closing down and rebelling several major roads, like Cicero Ave in Chicago, and several other infamous locations.

Trains are one the the most efficient means of shipping. To make it modern, we need to invest. And that means big bucks.

Passenger trains also need a lot of work. Why does China have more than 20 high speed train systems, with hourly (or more frequent) service? Imagine what a high speed rail from Milwaukee, through Chicago, Springpatch,, and finally St. Louis would do? I am not talking about that piss poor 95 MPH train that Amtrak is bragging about (and that is only around Springpatch and Peoria). I am talking about hourly or better service, 24/7, at speeds no less than 175 MPH.  Chicago - St. Louie in 1.5 hours? Milwaukee to Chicago  (73 miles) in 20 minutes? The Hiawatha  service now takes 1.5 hours.

Don't get me started on solar power. That will be another day, another diarrhee.

Originally posted to Church of Ineffable Stupidity on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 09:58 AM PST.

Also republished by Land of Lincoln Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 09:58:43 AM PST

  •  This all makes perfect sense... (4+ / 0-)

    which is precisely why none of it will ever happen.

    Nevertheless, please send this missive to every one of our state legislators.

    Every 'public servant' who is eligible for a pension (including the state legislature) will fight against pension reform.  But does that have to mean that someone who knows how to game the system should get double pensions?  Of course not.

    Every school administrator will fight against reducing the number of school districts and school administrators.  The schools are the major component of property taxes and the tax increases have to stop somewhere.  How refreshing it would be if the next time a school district needs to balance its budget, it reduces the number of administrators instead of threatening cuts to programs.

    We are seriously considering relocating to a state with better finances when we retire.  I don't think that Illinois is going to take the steps necessary to change course.

  •  I share your despair (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mentatmark, PatriciaVa, agnostic
  •  For this retired "publice servant"... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, Odysseus

    ...pension "reform" would mean one thing: loss of my pension. I have only 35 quarters in Social Security, and no desire to get a job with a consulting firm to get it past that, and I'll bet there's a loophole that would continue the windfall restrictions on SS even if my pension was killed by "reform", maning a pittance.

    Yeah, the abuses are rapacious, but I'll bet they are few and far between. I only get roughly 70% of my before-tax salary, since I retired early, and the most I could ever get would be 80%. The early retirement rules were meant to allow younger staff to move up and take my place, but it isn't my fault the City of Chicago eleiminated unfilled positions and there were no younger traffic engineers to do so. Hell, my last supervisor would have been ecstatic if I had been forced to work until he retired, 11 years from now.

    Feh!

  •  Breaking: GA reaches pension deal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic

    The General Assembly is reconvening on Tuesday, Dec. 3, for a pension deal.

    Details:

    The Capitol Fax Blog

    Chicago Tribune

  •  You mentioned the train from Milwaukee (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    agnostic, JeffW, Odysseus

    to Chicago. It is now slower than it was 75 years ago when some of the Milwaukee Road an C&NW trains made the trip in an hour and ten minutes.  Some progress.

  •  But, but, but... (0+ / 0-)

    More trains would ease traffic congestion durin rush hours!!! and trains don't use gas or tires!
    larger school districts would mean fewer principals and superintendents who could work for a year or two and retire to another state where they could work as a Super in ----
    And then collect another retirement! It is a bene that has been popular for years, without which who would want to be a Super?
    And the above applies to double dipping County employees!

    Hey, the State has worked out reform for school teachers, it is possible they might try to work on others....of course the double-dipping will not be addressed! as we all know, if they weren't worth it, they wouldn't be able to get the second pension....after all the military and many government workers get that opportunity!

    So losers....get a life!

    Character is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lizardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 05:22:26 PM PST

  •  One problem with larger school districts: (0+ / 0-)

    In rural areas, it means much longer bus rides. During the winter, that can be quite problematic when there's snowstorms. I live in such an area, and there was quite a fight when the county consolidated 3 districts into one. Those towns that lost their high schools also lost a lot of businesses, our property taxes still went up, the commute for the kids got longer, but the new district seems to be working out. The children have access to a much better educational environment than was available when I was going to school.

    "Now is not the time to build fences around our freedom, but to emancipate our culture from the fear of losing it" Keith Olbermann, 2010

    by NightOwl40 on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 05:42:35 PM PST

    •  Not skules, just their admin orfices. (0+ / 0-)

      Big diff.

      Why have an entire admin office per skule in rural counties? Keep the skule, can the admins.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Thu Nov 28, 2013 at 12:49:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know Quinn is in trouble next year... (0+ / 0-)

    ...but what is a Repub gonna run on that will have statewide appeal???

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