Rauner pivots to center as romance with right wing cools

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Just six weeks after hitching his political future and much of his government to a group of hard-line conservatives, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the newcomers are headed to couples counseling and potentially a quickie divorce.

At issue in the separation, which involves not only political control but a reported $30 million in promised campaign donations, is whether Rauner will return to the sometimes moderate style he displayed when his inner circle was compromised of veterans of former U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s office or instead follow the more confrontational advice of arch-conservative consultant and operative Dan Proft and of the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian Chicago think tank.

Already, a deal in which Proft and donors closely connected to him were to have big influence in GOP legislative races next year has hit complications, with a top Proft associate stepping down as chief strategist of the governor’s re-election campaign. And some top IPI staffers who went to work for the governor’s office were fired or quit, with others rumored to be on the way out.

Meanwhile, things could heat up even more if Rauner signs a pending bill to guarantee abortion coverage for women on Medicaid and state employees. Doing so might infuriate much of the political right, but that didn’t stop the governor from recently signing an almost-as-controversial “motor voter” registration measure and a bill limiting the ability of local police to arrest illegal immigrants.

The marriage “is over. That relationship is gone,” says one top GOP insider who asked not to be named. “I think (Rauner) quickly realized the error of his ways.”

Officially, the Rauner camp is blowing off any sign of feuding. “This story is filled with rumors that are false, ridiculous and clearly being made by people with an ax to grind,” said a spokesman, who declined comment on the abortion bill or further staff changes.

Proft declined to comment.

IPI chief John Tillman, in an email, said there was no connection between Rauner’s July staff hires of ex-IPI hands and campaign contributions. He also defended the recent deal the governor struck on a school-aid package, saying the deal negotiated in part by Rauner chief of staff Kristina Rasmussen, who used to work for Tillman, was a good one.

But he did not deny some tension exists. “(Rauner) speaks to many people. I am just one of many voices he listens to,” Tillman said. “Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree. . . .He is the principal. He makes his own decisions.”

Here’s the background, based on interviews with more than a dozen knowledgeable sources.

According to several Rauner administration veterans, a certain jockeying had occurred for years between the Kirk folks and the Tillman/Proft camp. In some ways, the competition parallels the dispute within President Donald Trump’s administration between the Steve Bannon revolutionists and more traditional Republicans.

Here in Illinois, I’m told, that jockeying turned much sharper after the General Assembly in July overrode the governor’s veto of a new state budget and tax hike, an embarrassing incident he did not expect to occur.

On the heels of that setback, Rauner made a series of high-level staff changes, firing his chief of staff and his communication staff, with his general counsel and top campaign strategist Mike Zolnierowicz departing shortly thereafter.

Those departures occurred in early July, and were widely reported in the media.

What hasn’t been reported is that around that time Proft and top donors, including industrialist Dick Uihlein, offered to sharply step up activity on Rauner’s behalf.

One source says they agreed to raise up to $30 million for legislative races, something that would allow Rauner to focus his own resources on his own re-election, in which he may end up running against Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker. Another source says there was an explicit understanding that, in exchange, Proft would pretty much run the legislative races and IPI staffers would come into senior government jobs. A third source says the $30 million offer wasn’t made until after the July staff shakeup.

Whatever, several IPI staffers did come over, including Rasmussen and the new communications director, Diana Rickert. They helped draft an amendatory veto of the school aid bill that included a variety of clauses dealing with matters such as tax caps and tax increment financing that fit libertarian ideology, but seemed way off point to many lawmakers.

Then, in early August, a cartoon posted by IPI on tax-increment financing and the funding bill came under fire for allegedly having racist undertones. And Rickert was ousted after, without checking with Rauner, she released a statement in his name saying he couldn’t comment on the cartoon since he is a “white male.”

In the midst of that brouhaha, Proft on his radio show, which is sponsored by IPI, sharply criticized as “providing political cover for the Democrats,” state Rep. Tom Denner, a conservative downstate Republican who had attacked the cartoon. At the same time, talk spread that Proft and associates were looking for “true conservatives” to challenge some incumbent GOP lawmakers in next spring’s primaries.

Such events sparked personal complaints to Rauner from Jim Durkin and Bill Brady, the GOP leaders of the Illinois House and Senate. In a meeting with him on Aug. 23, both complained about attacks on their members and asked him to step in, four sources close to the matter tell me.

Durkin and Brady’s spokeswomen declined to comment on what they categorized as private meeting. But in the wake of that get-together, the Proft group moved to run its own legislative operation without Rauner, sources close to the matter tell me. And Rauner began veering to the left on key legislative matters, notably praising the schools bill that he’s spent a month ripping as a “bailout” of Chicago Public Schools.

Another source tells me some of the conservatives met a few days ago with Diana Rauner, the governor’s wife, in what is described as a “very difficult” session.

At the moment, Rauner has no known opponent in the GOP primary. But this nasty divorce could play out in unexpected ways.

One veteran GOP operative says it’s not quite clear who’s doing what. But other outside political consultants brought in by Rauner when Zolnierowicz left likely have told him that, in Democratic-leaning Illinois, it’s smarter to act like former GOP Gov. Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar.

Rauner himself may not know. But continue to look for more rolling-pin-wielding in his bumpy marriage with the GOP’s hard right.

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Rauner pivots to center as romance with right wing cools

Emanuel says property tax hike needed to avoid CPS ‘train wreck’

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he signed off on yet another massive property tax increase for teacher pensions to avoid a “train wreck” at the Chicago Public Schools after years of pension neglect.

Hours before Gov. Bruce Rauner signs a hard-fought school funding compromise that will provide a $450 million windfall for CPS, Emanuel refused to say how large a hole remains or how the city plans to fill it.

Instead, Emanuel laid the political groundwork for a $125 million property tax increase for teacher pensions — on top of the $250 million increase imposed last year.

He did that by pointing the finger in three directions: the state; Chicago teachers; and his predecessor and political mentor, former Mayor Richard M. Daley — without ever saying Daley’s name.

Emanuel noted that, from 1995 through 2004, CPS made no payment at all to the Chicago Teacher pension fund and made reduced payments from 2009 until he took office.

That postponed the day of reckoning — until now.

“Nobody takes lightly the property tax increase of $83-a-year [on a home valued at $200,000]. On the other hand, the cause of it is the state of Illinois has never contributed to teachers pensions. There was a hiatus for about a decade where the city never participated. And since 1983, teachers basically took a hiatus. That’s what created the crisis,” Emanuel said.

“Now all parties are part of actually averting that train wreck and doing what’s necessary.”

The budget framework approved this week by the mayor’s hand-picked school board counts on $269 million in help from the city.

That gap has likely been been cut in half, now that the Illinois General Assembly has authorized CPS to blow past a property tax cap and impose a 45 percent increase for teacher pensions.

But, Emanuel refused to put a number on the hole that remains. Nor would he say how a city grappling with its own sizeable budget shortfall would find the money to help put the Chicago Public Schools on solid financial footing.

Other sources said the need to tax downtown businesses, high net-worth individuals or a combination of the two has now been eliminated.

“Now that the uncertainty at CPS has been eliminated and removed, we can now start our planning process at the city. Until that happened, you couldn’t have done that,” the mayor said. “We can start our planning. That’s what we’re gonna do and when we have something to say, we’ll say it.”

Last year, Emanuel used $87.5 million in surplus tax-increment-financing funds to stave off another teachers strike.

The four-year contract included a two-year pay freeze, increased health care contributions and benefit changes and an 11th-hour concession that sealed the agreement.

It called for the mayor to drop his longstanding demand to eliminate the 7 percent “pension pick-up” granted to teachers years ago in lieu of a pay raise.

Instead, veteran teachers will continue to contribute just 2 percent to their pensions. Newly-hired teachers will contribute the full 9 percent, but they will get a commensurate pay raise to offset the cost.

Beleaguered Chicago homeowners and businesses have already endured an $838 million property tax increase for police, fire and teacher pensions and school construction. Under Emanuel, the city’s property tax levy has doubled.

If, as expected, the school board approves the $120 million increase, the hit will approach the $1 billion mark.

That has Chicago aldermen who face re-election in less than two years bracing for the political fallout — and running for cover.

Earlier this week, a 38-13 vote by the Illinois Senate sealed the school funding compromise.

The vote was the culmination of months of negotiations, finger-pointing and uncertainty for school districts across Illinois — many of which, after missing two general state aid payments, have borrowed or cut their budgets to pay for classes that are already underway.

Schools could see their money within days of the bill becoming law, according to the state comptroller.

The inclusion of a tax-credit program for private schools ate up most of the debate on the 550-page bill aimed at prioritizing new education money for Illinois’ poorest and neediest districts.

Illinois contributes the least money of all 50 states to educate its poor students and also has the largest gap between poor and rich districts.

That’s the “inequity” Emanuel talks about that will now be eliminated.

Emanuel says property tax hike needed to avoid CPS ‘train wreck’

Rauner celebrates education funding bill at BHS

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BLOOMINGTON — After months of fighting with legislators over the state budget and an education funding bill, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was in high spirits on Thursday.

Rauner explained the landmark bill to about 75 students, spoke about what didn’t make it in and praised lawmakers on hand during a celebratory stop at Bloomington High School with Republican State Sens. Bill Brady and Jason Barickman, both of Bloomington, among others.

Rauner left just after noon to make a 2:30 p.m. bill signing ceremony at a Chicago public elementary school.

BHS principal Tim Moore said the new model “will provide for adequacy and equity for all schools while immediately targeting those that need it most.”

Brady praised Rauner as the leader who spearheaded the bill that gives more money to all Illinois public school districts and provides $75 million per year in tax credits for private school scholarships — despite the governor’s campaign against Senate Bill 1, which remains the backbone of the proposal he will sign.

When asked whether the tax credits mean school vouchers — state funds given to parents to send their kids to private schools — are next, Rauner demurred.

Instead, he discussed tax increment financing (TIF) districts that divert property tax revenue from governmental bodies, including school districts, to spur economic development.

A commission will study how to address those districts, which aren’t counted as part of a school district’s property tax base.

This story will be updated.

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

Rauner celebrates education funding bill at BHS

Bloomberg spends $3 million more on campaign to back soda pop tax as repeal showdown looms

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Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending another $3 million to air a new TV ad backing the controversial penny-an-ounce Cook County tax on sweetened beverages.

The $3 million is on top of $2 million Bloomberg already plowed into a different ad supporting the tax, which went into effect Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the beverage industry continues an effort to push back. Their Can the Tax Coalition on Thursday took its campaign to Chicago’s Little Village, where the group joined retailers and the local Chamber of Commerce to advocate for repeal of the tax. The event was in the heart of the district represented by Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who voted for the tax.

A showdown of sorts is set for Sept. 13, when a vote on repealing the tax is expected to take place at a County Board meeting. But passing a repeal and getting it to stick is a tall order.

Board President Toni Preckwinkle in November broke a rare tie vote to approve the pop tax, following an 8-8 tie vote. The late Commissioner Robert Steele was hospitalized and unable to attend that meeting.

If all 17 commissioners attend the upcoming meeting, and new Commissioner Dennis Deer backs the tax, it would take two changed minds to repeal the tax. Deer said when he was appointed to the seat that he favors the beverage tax.

And if a repeal vote succeeded, Preckwinkle would likely issue a veto. Then, it would take even more commissioners reversing their votes to repeal the tax.

The Bloomberg ads will be airing in the meantime. The billionaire media empire owner has long backed efforts to curtail the intake of sugary sodas, perhaps most famously when he backed an ultimately failed effort to ban Big Gulps and similar oversize sugary drinks in New York City.

The new ad features Dr. Javette Orgain, a family physician who is an associate professor of clinical family medicine at the University of Illinois Chicago.

“Soda companies are targeting our children, and every day I see the results,” Orgain says in the ad. “Obesity leads to heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes. It makes me angry, and it should make you angry too. The soda tax will mean healthier kids, healthier families, healthier communities. If we don’t protect the kids, who will?”

hdardick@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ReporterHal

Bloomberg spends $3 million more on campaign to back soda pop tax as repeal showdown looms

Illinois Issues: No Money For Shoes

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Illinois’ child poverty rate is just as high as it was in 2010. Is the state doing enough to bring it down?

Listen to Daisy Contreras’ interview with author Maureen McKinney.

Kellia Phillips’ teen-aged daughters Jaleece and Janae run track. They have had to do so in ill-fitting shoes sometimes as old as three years.

Janae, 13, loves to knit and crochet. Her mother, says, “I could only get her yarn like every three months and she was so much into knitting and crocheting. I still can’t do that for her right now because I have no income.’’ 

Janae and her siblings would like bikes and a television, but that’s not in the picture any time soon.

“It’s very difficult right now, and I’m trying to pull it together so they can have the stuff they require and actually need,’’ says Phillips, who spent 4.5 years in shelters in Chicago with her children and now lives in Bronzeville on the city’s south side.

Phillips’ family, which includes six children between the ages of 7 months and 18, is a living example of the child poverty problem in Illinois.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation annually compiles a national report with statistics on child well-being. In terms of economic well-being — defined as areas where factors such as the child-poverty rate and children whose families lack secure employment were measured —Illinois ranked 25th.    

Anna Rowan, Kids Count project manager for Voices for Illinois Children, says, “Areas where we do well: We have a low rate of uninsured and a high percentage of children in early childhood programs. Where we don’t do so well are the indicators of economic well-being, specifically in our high poverty rate. We have 19 percent of our kids in the whole state who are living in poverty. That’s over half a million of our state’s kids. We need to focus on getting them and their families out of poverty.

“And the alarming thing is that this number hasn’t really changed since 2010, which was the height of the great recession, and our data only go up to 2015, so it’s important to know that we haven’t seen any possible impact of the state’s budget crisis on our numbers.”

What organizations working to assist the poor know is the mission has been harder in the face of a budget crisis. Though a Fiscal Year 2018 budget was approved in July, agencies are still waiting for money. As of Tuesday, there was a bill backlog of $14.5 billion, and $6.1 billion of those bills had yet to be sent to the comptroller’s office. A recent report by the Chicago Foundation for Women detailed some of the consequences of the impasse on organizations that help women and children.

“When this continued for a second year, were started to see a falloff in the number of women and children being served,’’ says K. Sujata, who is president and CEO of the foundation. “When we started talking to the organizations, we started hearing about layoffs and waiting lists and burnout. Certainly, in terms of our own anecdotal sense …we are seeing that people are not receiving services.’’

Mitch Lifson, senior policy analyst for Voices and a contributor to the report, says, “When you look at the demographics of those who are in poverty and what happened as a result of this budget impasse with the curtailment of cutback of services, it had a disproportional impact on women and children of color, and that, of course, makes the circumstances that they’re in more difficult for just getting by on a daily basis.”

But Meghan Power, director of communications for the Illinois Department of Human Services, counters, “Throughout the budget impasse, IDHS worked hard to maintain many programs that served Illinois’ children and families, including the Early Intervention program, the Women, Infants, and Children food assistance program, Family Case Management services, and our Child Care Assistance Program. … IDHS is continuously evaluating our programs in order to create systems that are effective and also sustainable in these hard times.

And Jason Schaumburg, director of agency communications for Gov. Bruce Rauner, wrote in an email:

“Since taking office, the Governor has worked on many initiates to address the needs of children and their families who are living in under-resourced communities.”

Among the initiatives directly related to poverty cited by the Rauner administration:

“Last year, the governor signed into law a bill that expanded the school breakfast program to an additional 175,000 children. Senate Bill 2393 made breakfast an official part of the school day for low-income schools in Illinois. It guarantees that every student has access to the healthy food they need to learn.”

Like hunger, there are real consequences for the children who are in need of services to help mitigate the effects of poverty.

Children living in poverty face greater chances of suffering from malnutrition, exposure to violence and other trauma and see limited educational opportunities as compared to kids who don’t have to deal with being poor, says Katie Buitrago, who is director of research at Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center. The alliance is an organization with initiatives that include anti-poverty programs.

Cristina Pacione-Zayas is director of policy at the Erikson Institute, a Chicago graduate school that focuses on child development and provides services to families.

“One area where poverty absolutely has an impact on how a child gets the resources and services they need that can either enhance their development or continue to depress their development. Another area to think about is their access to high quality early childhood education,’’ she says. “A lot of that is dependent on where your family lives: how easy it is to enroll in a program and if there are available slots, and, ultimately, if the program matches the schedule that this family needs for this child. We do know in research that early high quality education and care absolutely helps to mitigate the circumstances around poverty and the conditions of poverty.” 

What are some of the effects of lack of school readiness?

“It has everything to do with is the child ready to be in a formal setting, and what I mean by that is does the child socialize well with his/her peers? Does the child follow instructions? Does the child know how to focus and attend to an activity or is the child going to be distracted and then do what it wants to do?” Pacione-Zayas asks.

“Children who are not ready for school can be labeled as having behavioral issues and then potentially get integrated into a special education program when actually it had nothing to do with what the child’s development but everything to do with was the child was prepared for and exposed to what they need to be successful in kindergarten.

“All of that has sort of a long-term impact because if the child gets misdiagnosed in terms of special education, … We all know there is a strong connection with what happens in early experiences and how you are tracked early on and the outcome you will have later on in life.

“There is also a strong connection between what happens behaviorally in preschool in terms of how young children are being categorized or miscategorized with behavioral issues and how that leads to premature expulsion or suspension and that connects to a long legacy from the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Then why has Illinois placed a greater emphasis on early childhood education and health insurance than child poverty?

Lifson of Voices for Illinois Children has a theory on why the state appears to have done better in the areas of health insurance and early childhood education than poverty.

“It’s clear that while there has been progress in a number of areas, there is still work to do. I would say part of the reason that you see the improvement in terms of children who have health insurance and in terms of some of the education access to education, such as early childhood programs, it’s because the state made a deliberate effort to expand early childhood services, and it made a concerted effort to register children for health care. And so that’s been a success, and really, it’s an indicator that when the state makes a commitment to changing those measures positive things can happen.

“It’s important to continue to make those investments and to see what else we can do to reach those individuals to whom, for whatever reason, don’t have access to early childhood programs or, for whatever reasons, don’t have health insurance,’’ Lifson says.

State Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, is the chairman of the House’s Human Services Committee. He says he doesn’t believe the state has done enough to tackle child poverty or to boost early childhood services or health insurance numbers. He points to cuts made by the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner as a factor

“We’ve seen growing poverty in the last number of years. We’ve seen increase in uptake in programs that serve families in poverty with food assistance, medical assistance, and other related services. And at the same time, we’ve seen the governor trying to reduce child care, try to limit the availability of food stamps, try to restrict enrollment in the Medicaid program, and it’s making it harder and harder for these families to meet the basic needs of their kids.”

His Republican counterpart, state Rep. Patty Bellock of Hinsdale, agrees with the need to do more about helping child poverty but says, “I think one of the major things we have to look at is the economy in Illinois. We need to create more jobs so more people can support their families. That’s crucial to bring children out of poverty.”

Rowan of Voices, says, “If we’re talking also about helping families get out of poverty, that’s about creating economic opportunities for our families. Are there jobs for children’s parents? Are they jobs that pay a living wage? We know there’s been wage disparity so we want to make sure that we’re getting more families into living-wage jobs. So, does that require job training, additional education so we’re getting people access to full-time year-round positions that pay a living wage?”

Good government programs are a necessity, says Sujata of Chicago Foundation for Women. “We in philanthropy cannot fill the void that the government has put in place. We just don’t have the money, even collectively speaking, to step in and fill the voids when government doesn’t step up and provide …  the safety nets that people require.”

Illinois Issues is in-depth reporting and analysis that takes you beyond the headlies to provide a deeper understanding of our state. Illinois Issues is produced by NPR Illinois in Springfield.

Illinois Issues: No Money For Shoes

Juliana Stratton: Pritzker’s Running Mate Speaks Out

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Photo: Mary L. Datcher/Chicago Defender

On a hot summer day in early August, people packed into the Englewood field house for an official announcement that some anticipated was the boldest move made by the JB Pritzker campaign since the billionaire started his bid as an Illinois gubernatorial candidate.

The evening before, the news leaked Pritzker tapped 5th District State Representative Juliana Stratton as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor. To political insiders, this decision would not be surprising since the Democratic candidate has laid down stakes in the Black community since May. To select the first African-American woman as a campaign partner brought the added the adrenaline shot it needed and once again thrusts Stratton back into the political spotlight.

Working in public service throughout the last two decades and managing her small law firm as a mediator, Stratton threw her hat into the ring to challenge (seven-term) incumbent, then State Representative Ken Dunkin. Dunkin was not present for the last effort to vote along side other colleagues to acquire the needed votes to override Rauner’s veto. His absence was the final straw for some who supported the long-time legislator for so many years but highlighted the rift developed between him and Speaker Michael Madigan.

Stratton became the poster child for child care, labor, and home care advocates with campaign support from leading unions including AFSCME, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). In addition to having the support of former boss and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle—the 5th district race was set as the first electoral battleground with Rauner. It would become the most expensive political race for the state representative office in Illinois. There was nearly $5 million spent and mile-high direct mail from candidates filling resident mailboxes. Stratton also received a personal endorsement by President Barack Obama bringing national attention to the Southside district.

The mother of three and Bronzeville resident defeated Dunkin, winning the 5th district seat by 68 percent. Eight months later she continues the regimen of connecting with folks in her community.

Stratton Goes To Springfield

“After being sworn-in January, I continued most weekends to knock on doors and listen to residents. As I said to many of them, over and over again, ‘I cannot represent people if I don’t hear their concerns directly. I love it! that’s one part of being a state rep. The other part is being in Springfield meeting with advocates, organizers and ling bills. I led over 25 bills after this first session,” she said. “I was very ambitious because these were all things that I knew were significant. One of the things I learned during my time in Spring field, there’s a process going on from a bill into making it a law. I’ve known that process—you learn it in school or ‘School House Rock’ [she laughs]. It’s different when you’re there and see that process and how much it requires you to build relationships with those who have advocated around an issue with my colleagues in the state legislature.”

She said out of the 25 bills that led; nine ended up on the Governor’s desk.

While she admits her pace has been non-stop as a junior state representative and the office is new, she feels her experience in public service has prepared her for the opportunity to join JB Pritzker as his running mate.

“I’m so excited to have been asked by JB to join him on this team. I very much believe in his leadership ability. I believe he is the one to steer this state in the right direction after the failed leadership of Gov. Rauner. He and I have gotten to know each other over these last several months,” Stratton says.

Stratton and Pritzker enjoy a moment of laughs at the official announcement. Photo: Mary L. Datcher/Chicago Defender

“JB was a leader in early childhood education—that’s a priority of his. He helped to make sure 100’s of thousands of children and low-income families got breakfast. He recognized that getting a good early start in life is important.”

Stratton currently serves on several different committees as a state legislator which involves higher education, criminal, mental health, aging, economic and policies.

Her New Role As Pritzker’s Running Mate

Although she is making strides along with her colleagues on the key criminal justice bills that were signed into law last week by Gov. Rauner, the question remains… is Stratton ready to leap into the Lieutenant Governor’s shoes?

“I didn’t think about being ready. I’ve been in public service for about 20 years on different levels. I’ve been on the city, county and now on the state level. I went to Springfield because I wanted to be a strong advocate for the 5th district and the state because we are state representatives—every law affects the entire state. I went to Spring field because I knew that I had a passion and wanted to work hard for the residents and wanted to be effective.”

The district Stratton represents is diverse in race and economic levels which includes from the South Loop, Oakwood, Kenwood, Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Washington Park. Her base is predominately African-American residents, but both Hyde Park and South Loop are not limited to her core base.

To those outside of her district and Cook County, the familiarity of reaching other Illinoisans built on the same foundation in which she won her seat. Stratton’s main concern is how Gov. Rauner’s policies are affecting the working and middle-class residents.

“He [Rauner] has a personal agenda. His agenda is not about doing what’s best for our communities. I’m motivated that I can join up with someone like JB. I believe he brings the vision. He brings the leadership abilities. He brings capacity to get things done because we’ve been stuck in Illinois for the last 2 1/2 years under Gov. Rauner’s failed leadership,” said Stratton.

Photo: Mary L. Datcher/Chicago Defender

Both she and Pritzker has been very outspoken on why Gov. Rauner should sign HB 40 to protect women’s reproductive rights. Knowing this is a ‘hot button’ issue among pro-choice advocates, it can bring Pritzker the necessary female boost to the campaign.

Stratton explains. “The ability for women to decide in consultation with their doctors for what is best for their bodies. I’m a sponsor of HB 40 and spoke out on the House floor and talked in particular about the fact that for women of color, our bodies throughout history have been legislated. We deserve the right to make decisions for ourselves about our bodies. The message that I’ve given to my daughters, people should have the right to decide what is best for themselves with consultation with their doctors. It’s not just that. When I think about the message to mothers, I think about education, healthcare, and public safety.”

Moving Forward 

With the concerns of many Illinoisans throughout the state, the effects of budget cuts have rippled throughout both major townships and rural areas. Towns such as Rockford, Cairo, East St. Louis, Decatur, and others rely on government services when employment is still high—Illinois is at an average 4.9 percent compared to 4.6 percent in the US.

“Social service organizations dissipated and cuts to funding that would’ve costs institutions of higher education to close their doors. Gov. Rauner and his veto of the budget. He vetoed services for autistic children, vetoed domestic violence programs, vetoed funding for violence prevention, senior care, and early childhood education. Virtually everything we could think of that would be necessary for the very fabric of sustaining our communities and communities across the state, not just Chicago,” Stratton continues. “When we think about the entire state, communities that were struggling at a time they needed it the most, Gov. Rauner vetoed the budget that would’ve provided funding to help those cities and towns and villages to start putting the pieces back together.”

In talking with folks across the board, she feels the connection is about ‘relatability.’

“We find ourselves in that sandwich generation where we have to do both— take care of children and our elders. That’s something I would never change. I was very privileged to look after my mother during her last years of her life. When I think about safety, and we’re concern about our children as they go back and forth to school. Men are also concerned about this but often, we as women, are not thinking about how to care for just our families but about our entire communities,” she sighs. “Raising the minimum wage and thinking about how women are often in jobs and how we can increase those wages so they can better care for their families. Equal pay, believe it or not, came up before the Illinois legislature this year and there was a heated debate—still in 2017 on whether women should make the same amount as men do for the same work.”

When addressing a room full of people, Stratton is poised and con dent. Her discipline is attributed to her love for working out and training for marathons and triathlons over the years. She is focused and direct but conscious of the campaign ahead in the next few months while gearing up to travel throughout central and downstate Illinois—she says “as many communities as we can to hear from talking to people directly.”

The grueling schedule of a state-wide campaign is no joke and pales in comparison to walking the streets of her 5th District. She understands and adds, “To train for marathons and triathlons, which I’ve done as a hobby for the last decade, people often say: ‘Oh you run 26 miles, bike, swim and run.’ I don’t think about it as far as from the physical capability, I reflect on the mental tenacity and the discipline that is required to train your body and your mind for long distances.”

Stratton smiles and says, “I think about a campaign like an endurance sport in some ways. You have to remember to drink your water, you have to get sleep, you have to eat right, and you have to know yourself. That is something I’ve come to know in my years of training; it’s something I’ve applied to my first campaign and this one. To recognize it’s not a short sprint, it’s a long-distance race. We have another 14 months to go—hopefully. I’m keeping my eyes on the prize.”

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Juliana Stratton: Pritzker’s Running Mate Speaks Out

SVM EDITORIAL: Legislators finally do their jobs on school funding – SaukValley.com

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When all is said and done regarding Tuesday’s passage by the state Legislature of Illinois’ school funding overhaul, what will there be left to say?

Perhaps we should cheer lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner for finally accomplishing what they should have completed by May 31. They’re only 3 months late doing their jobs!

As vital state money is poised to again flow to local schools, the politics of it all leaves us frustrated. And we’re not the only ones.

It all boils down to this: Four powerful men (House and Senate majority and minority leaders) getting together behind closed doors to hammer out an agreement in secret that everyone else had to take or leave.

With the school year already well underway, and no state money being sent to schools, enormous pressure was put on lawmakers to go along with the deal, and enough of them did so to make it happen.

But remember that the state budget, approved July 6, included the stipulation that state money could not be distributed to schools until a new formula was approved.

So this manufactured, man-made crisis didn’t have to happen, and shouldn’t have happened.

We hope local schools receive some added benefit from the compromise legislation, above and beyond receiving their payments on time.

We say the Legislature and the governor had better get their acts together and do a better job serving the needs of the people – people who have been blithely ignored by politician after politician.

In the real world, you don’t last long by not doing your work on time, or by leaving a lot of it undone.

By the way, the next confluence of the real and political worlds isn’t that far away. It will happen next year. It’s called an election.

SVM EDITORIAL: Legislators finally do their jobs on school funding – SaukValley.com