Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cincinnatus Supports Dan Cronin for DuPage County Board Chairman

" DuPage County families are making tough decisions every day. Government must do the same."
- Dan Cronin

For the past 60 days I have been doing independent research on the four Republican February 2, 2010 primary candidates for DuPage (Illinois) County Board Chairman. The candidates, State Senators Dan Cronin and Carole Pankau, DuPage County Board member Debra Olson and Burr Ridge, Illinois mayor Gary Grasso are in a knock-down-drag-out fight in the primary. Located just outside Chicago, DuPage County has an electorate that is still fairly conservative, although following recent national and state trends, the county has become more liberal over the past 20 years. Since the electorate is still leans conservative, the primary winner should handily beat the Democrat candidate, Ms. Carole Cheney, in the November General Election.

With a hat tip to Tip, the issues are local. Like municipalities everywhere, DuPage County is worried about fiscal issues and the opacity of its government.

Mrs. Transparency.

Mrs. Olson chose to make transparency in government a centerpiece of her campaign. My research of public records indicated that over the years, she has accepted significant contributions from over a dozen contractors and vendors doing business with the county. I have written many posts on the local blogs outlining my criticism of Mrs. Olson because she brought up the issue of Ethics as the centerpiece of her campaign, and the shear hypocrisy of her claims compelled me to blog. I will do so until she satisfactorily answers the ethical questions surrounding her.

ARAMARK had lost a bid for the county food services contract. In an unusual and virtually unprecedented sequence of events, the winning bid of a different vendor was stopped by the County Board. A new round of bidding was ordered. ARAMARK still lost the bid, but significantly, around the time of the rebid, ARAMARK made campaign contributions to Mrs. Olson. One of its vice presidents currently serves on Mrs. Olson’s campaign committee.

In a scandal revealed just last year, the DuPage Water Commission was found to have depleted its funds. The funds were inappropriately transferred to the County General Fund. Those funds were promptly spent by the County Board to cover its burgeoning operating expenses. DuPage County was required to borrow $30 million to cover the shortfall in the coffers of the Water Commission. And who was the County Board member that chairs the Public Works Committee that has primary oversight responsibility over the Water Commission? Debra Olson. And who was a member of the County Board that voted to spend the misappropriated money? Olson, again. When asked if the General Manager of the Water Commission should be fired for letting this misappropriation happen, Sen. Pankau, Mayor Grasso and Sen. Cronin all said yes. Mrs. Olson said a task force should be set up to “study the issue.”

Where would you get the money?

Mrs. Olson says she was the fiscally responsible candidate in the race. Leading the attacks, she berates Sen. Cronin as fiscally irresponsible, pointing to taxes Sen. Cronin has voted for while in the Illinois General Assembly. Close examination of the voting record indicates that Sen. Cronin has been a spending hawk. NONE of the criticism aimed at Sen. Cronin is about his spending habits. All of the criticism revolves around taxes.

So we are then compelled to look at Sen. Cronin’s record on taxes. Sen. Cronin has never voted for an income or property tax, in fact, he sponsored the property tax cap legislation passed in Springfield that save property owners in DuPage County tens of millions of dollars. Sen. Cronin has fought Governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn tooth and nail over income tax increases.

Sen. Cronin has voted for consumption taxes. All his votes for these consumption taxes were made after he ensured that DuPage County would receive new, significant revenue streams from these taxes. It was just these new revenues funneled into DuPage County that allowed the County Board to cover the deficits they were racking up, including the shortfall left by the Water Commission fiasco that had Mrs. Olson at its heart.

Mrs. Olson touts the cuts in spending made by the County Board, and the property tax reduction the Board recently rebated. She should be given credit for voting for a $30 million County Board budget decrease. Close examination of this budget cut shows that it rolls the budget back to 2006 levels. What must be realized that the budget had increased by that amount since 2006, during her tenure on the County Board.

If Sen. Cronin had not found and channeled money into the County Board coffers, the current County Board budget would be $70 million out of whack. What would Mrs. Olson have cut to balance the budget? So far, all we've heard is she would cut critical public safety personnel like State's Attorneys, prison guards, bailiffs and sheriffs.

One thought on consumption taxes, they are one of the necessary evils that provide revenue to provide government services. From my point of view, consumption-type taxes are preferable to income or property taxes. If you don't like 'em, don't consume the product or service being taxed. At least then the individual has responsibility; those using those goods or services being taxed pay for those services, while those that do not consume do not.

Philosophically, do you attack spending or taxes first? I think that government needs to go after spending with a battle axe, taxes will fall as a result of decreased government spending. This line of thought embraced by Sen. Cronin.

Rolling craps.

Mr. Grasso was a non-starter choice for me. Both he and Mrs. Olson have railed against Sen. Cronin for his vote to allow video gaming decisions to be made at the local level, instead of being dictated by the corrupt government in Springfield. I have no problems with gaming in general, and I certainly have no problems with local choice of gaming. Those decisions should be made by those as close as possible to the people potentially affected. Indeed, while I don’t necessarily support it, I think Mrs. Olson’s vote against video gaming in DuPage County is entirely appropriate. If her constituents don’t like her vote, they can voter her out of office. Curiously, it was Sen. Cronin’s support of the video gaming legislation that she and Mr. Grasso so hotly criticize that allowed Mrs. Olson to cast that vote.

Mr. Grasso heads a consortium, Calumet Gaming, dedicated to getting the prized last state casino license. Mr. Grasso’s law firm’s website proudly highlights that it represents gaming interests across the U.S. His attacks on Sen. Cronin are hypocritical at best, or a giant conflict of interest at the worse. You be the judge.

Mr. Grasso touts his work as mayor of Burr Ridge. Indeed, Burr Ridge has been significantly improved during his tenure. At what cost? Looking at the budget of Burr Ridge on its city website shows that the village is running a one million dollar deficit this year, and has one million dollar a year deficits projected for the next five years. Inconvenient facts for "Gambling" Gary.

Panning Pankau?

Close examination reveals that Sen. Pankau's County Board record meets or exceeds Mrs. Olson's. Sen. Pankau's tenure at the County Board has many accomplishments, without all of the controversies surrounding her time in office, unlike Mrs. Olson. Sen. Pankau is an attractive candidate because she is a budget hawk and she benefits from experience in the State Senate, she was high on my list for my vote. Mrs. Olson must be worried about Sen. Pankau since Mr. Olson has thrown so many attacks her way. I'm sure Mrs. Olson is worried that Sen. Pankau may split off some of the women's vote that Mrs. Olson so desperately needs to remain competitive in this race and this must be why Mrs. Olson has attacked Sen. Pankau so vociferously.

The problems I see in Mrs. Olson and Mr. Grasso record and behavior left me with a choice between Sen. Cronin and Sen. Pankau. I ruled Sen. Pankau out because of the time I spent looking at their legislative records. Sen. Cronin’s is orders of magnitude superior.

Finally, Cronin

Sen. Cronin not only fought spending in Springfield and programmed critical revenues to DuPage County, he has led the fight on several other issues that should be considered by the voters. Sen. Cronin was the lead sponsor of the resolutions leading to former Gov. Blagojevich’s impeachment. Sen. Cronin was out front on this issue, months before anyone else in the General Assembly got sick of the slime ball that is Gov. Blagojevich. Compare this to the ethical lapses in Mrs. Olson’s record.

Sen. Cronin is the leading expert on education issues in Springfield, and is recognized as such on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Cronin led the fight to reform the Chicago Public School system. He led the fight to bring accountability and improved standards for teachers, administrators and students in Illinois, and is a strong advocate for new approaches in public education such as charter schools and alternate teacher certification to expedite the hiring of new qualified teachers.

In addition to the things I have mentioned in this rather long post, the list of Sen. Cronin’s accomplishments goes on and on.

Cincy says

Voters are struggling with a trade-off between conservative principles and the slate of candidates they are presented. The choice between this particular batch of candidates can be difficult since they all have strengths and weaknesses. I am not God, nor a Father Confessor, it is hard to judge a candidate's heart. I can only use their records. When facing a tough choice on a ballot, I always fall back on a saying from Mr. William F. Buckley: "Always vote for the most conservative ELECTABLE candidate." Politics requires tradeoffs.

As I write this, most of the loyal DuPage County Republicans, the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald (a newspaper historically very friendly to Olson) and the Pioneer Local (the local Chicago Sun Times newspapers) all agree. They endorse Sen. Cronin.

I agree. Vote for Dan Cronin.

For my analysis on the DuPage County Board Chairman candidates:


The Factor said...

Just a few comments regarding your points against Mrs. Olson..
1)ALL of the donations you refer to are dated prior to her forwarding of ethics reform. She never said she hadn't taken money from county vendors or contractors, but that she wouldn't. And if you look at the dates, she hasn't.
2)You missed the "ara"mark! Debra voted for Aramark's competitor to get the bid every time. Also, Erin Vaughn (sp?) did not begin work with Debra until she had left Aramark.
3)Water Commission $$$. This commission was formed by legislation supported by Dan Cronin, and is headed by Mr. Rathje, a strong Cronin supporter. They are a seperate entity from the County Board, and are solely responsible for monitoring their own funds.

Cincinnatus said...

Olson provided a revised ethics statement saying her company does business with the county.

ARAMARK received an unusually, almost unprecedented. favorable ruling which allowed it to bid on a contract already won by another vendor. Olson received contemporaneous campaign contributions. Some of those contributions have not been returned as she recently stated, according to Illinois State Board of Elections record. Erin Vaughan was a vice president of ARAMARK, and now works on the Olson campaign.

The oversight of the Water Commission is provided by the County Board Committee of Public Works. Olson is the Chairman of that committee.

The Factor said...

County contracts are public record. Check them. I know her company. I've worked with them. NOTHING there.
Once again, you're right, Erin Vaughan WAS with Aramark, and NOW works voluntarily with the Olson camp. Also, the "unreturned" donations, as you have previously stated, were personal ones, and are not tracked in the same manner. You or I have no way to know if they were returned or not. Or at least, we shouldn't.
And lastly....
Rarely, but usually once, you're WRONG. The Water Commission in NOT overseen by the chair of Public Works, anymore....thanks to Dan Cronin.

Cincinnatus said...

The Factor said:

"Also, the "unreturned" donations, as you have previously stated, were personal ones, and are not tracked in the same manner"

Flat wrong. The address given on the ISBE website is the corporate address for ARAMARK, not the residence of the contributor. Perhaps the Olson campaign did not fill out the D-2 correctly, in which case they should file an amendment. They should be familiar with the process since they file numerous amendments to clean up their consistently sloppy paperwork. I actually think it speaks volumes about Olson's ability to administrate.

The Factor said...

"For eight straight years and as of April 2009, as required by Illinois law, Olson filed a Statement of Economic Interest stating she had no business relationship with DuPage County. In October 2009, after declaring her intention to run for Chairman, she filed another statement saying she did actually do business with the County."

Again, Cincinnatus, perhaps you will go over to the County and take a look at those 8 years of Economic Interest Statements. They are public documents, I have seen them, and you are absolutely wrong. Furthermore, she does not state that she did business with the County. What it states is that she has ownership interest in a business. That business, however, has never had any county contracts. FOIA requests have proven that to be the case.

And let’s talk about conflicts. Cronin’s law partner is already a County Board member. Exactly how is THAT not a conflict – to have two business partners on the same board? Furthermore, Cronin is the County Party Chairman, also running for County Board Chairman, who used County Party resources for robo calls and letters to party faithful while running his County Board Chairman campaign. Andy McKenna has just been deemed in violation of Ethics rules for doing exactly that. Cronin ought to be censured by the County Party and resign his post as party chairman. Cincinnatus seems to like the Chicago-style political hack m.o.

"According to Illinois State Board of Election and DuPage County Board Records, Debbie Olson has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from vendors doing business with the county."

According to the State Board of Election and County Board Records, Debra Olson has taken 10% or less of her total contributions from County Vendors over the years, which means 90% of her contributions are coming from the private sector citizens. By contrast, Pankau and Cronin have taken huge sums of money from state vendors, lobbyists, unions, and pacs, all the while voting on their legislation. In this County Board Chairman’s race, Olson is the ONLY candidate who HASN’T taken any contributions from County vendors.

And let’s not overlook the fact that Cronin and Pankau are maxing out their state pensions, so coming to DuPage County to start, or in the case of Pankau, beef-up the County pension, is just one more way those two want to scam the system, and taxpayers.

"One of her campaign coordinators works for ARAMARK, a major vendor for DuPage County that is under the purview of a committee chaired by Olson. Olson claims to have returned all of the campaign contributions received from ARAMARK, however, the Illinois State Board of Elections shows un-returned campaign contributions from an ARAMARK vice president. ARAMARK was the recipient of a favorable ruling during the negotiations for a county food service contract."

Olson voted to give the contract to A’Viands, Aramark’s competitor, as did all 18 County Board members.

The Factor said...

Just a little more here...
"Debbie Olson did not, could not, and would not identify any budget cuts. Instead of showing leadership, she and other county officials went hat-in-hand to Springfield begging for a new revenue stream into county coffers."

Olson did NOT go to Springfield, Chairman Schillerstrom went to Springfield, without the advice and consent of the County Board (because he is not required by the Rules to ask for it), to ask DuPage legislators to vote in favor of the RTA bill and add the quarter-cent tax. Dan Cronin, Kirk Dillard, and John Millner were the only Republicans on either the House or Senate side to vote in favor of the legislation. Olson and many other board members were NOT in favor of the tax, and were prepared to do the hard work of making cuts.

"The 600-page 2010 budget, passed under the claimed leadership of Debbie Olson, is based on unrealistic budget assumptions. The current budget assumes sales tax revenues will significantly increase in 2010, in spite of the continued economic downturn and a state unemployment rate above the national average."

Olson, along with other board members, agreed with the Civic Federation Report that the assumptions are too aggressive. That is why Olson and others have refused to pass a resolution to bond for projects until the revenue assumptions can be verified, which is unlikely. The dollars allocated to the bond issue are the safety net, along with a separate $5million cash reserve fund above and beyond the $40million general cash reserve fund, and can only be spent with the super-majority vote of the board. So safeguards were put in place in case revenue projections aren’t met.

"The 2010 budget assumes continued issuance of grants by Springfield despite the bloated and busted budget deficits in Springfield. There is no reason to believe these grants will be provided at levels equivalent to those from last year."

If the State grant dollars do not come in, the County will not be funding those programs. That has been consistently stated by numerous board members, including Olson.

"Even while knowing about the 2010 budget assumptions, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Debbie Olson said that she could probably find funds to spend more on human services in 2010, which would deplete any budget reserves that would be used in the event that revenue estimates are not achieved."

Olson did not say she would find more funds to spend on Human Service programs. She said she would not look first to Human Services for cuts. Again, Cincinnatus didn’t do his homework, and takes comments out of context. Watch the Chicago Tribune video for yourself, folks.

"The budget contains no plan to find new or increased revenue streams."

True enough – you’ve heard of the TEA Parties, haven’t you, Cincinnatus? People are SICK of “new revenue streams” aka NEW TAXES. I applaud Olson for her stand on that.

Cincinnatus said...

Folks, please just go to the linked posts. Instead of cutting and pasting the answers to The Factor here, I answer them in the linked post comment sections.