Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving eve local politics items

While I was on the road getting back home, there were a lot of things going on. I didn't know that Pace bus drivers were having a nice little strike. They have however returned to work. Courtesy of the Tribune...
The strike was announced by Teamsters Local 731, which represents about 175 drivers and 50 mechanics operating 22 Pace routes in the north and northwest suburbs, Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said. Picket lines are being set up outside the garage in Des Plaines.

Wilmot said the union rejected the suburban bus agency's contract offer earlier this month, effectively authorizing a strike. But the union had indicated it was willing to participate in further bargaining sessions before walking off the job, he said.

"In our eyes this is an illegal strike," Wilmot said. "Our belief was that the union was going to come to the table and negotiate."

Teamsters Local President Terrence Hancock, who was overseeing about three dozen picketers at the Pace northwest division office in Des Plaines, said union members were prepared to stay out indefinitely.

Union members were dissatisfied with the progress on contract negotiations, which have been going on for a year, he said. The two sides were close to an agreement, with only two issues separating them, but he declined to say what those were.

The strike was not expected to spread to other Pace routes. Other unions represent workers at the other Pace garages.
The strike is the latest problem for the bus agency fraught with budget woes and disputes with its parent agency, the Region Transportation Authority.

Last week, faced with a $50 million deficit for 2008, Pace's board of directors approved a new budget calling for "devastating" service cuts -- including evening service on all routes -- and fare increases in January unless long-stalled mass transit funding legislation is approved.

Fares on all Pace routes will increase to $2, and all paratransit, dial-a-ride, taxi-access program and vanpool rides also will cost more. Pace will no longer accept CTA passes except for the CTA/Pace 30-day pass.

In addition to eliminating all service after 7 p.m., Pace will cut 24 weekday routes, weekend service on 78 routes, and 65 Metra feeder and shuttle routes. Pace will also eliminate 230 jobs.
Courtesy of Crain's Cook County sues itself in budget war...
In a bizarre twist to Cook County’s budget woes, the county’s public defender on Tuesday announced that he is suing County Board President Todd Stroger in a bid to get needed funding for the office.

A suit filed by Public Defender Edwin Burnette contends that the office is unable to fulfill its constitutional task to represent the indigent because of layoffs, hiring freezes and other steps ordered by Mr. Stroger and the board. It asks a third unit of county government — a circuit court — to order the reinstatement and reimbursement of all office personnel, and to mandate other actions to ensure “the independence and autonomy of the office.”

An attorney for Mr. Stroger and the co-defendants in the case, presidential chief of staff Lance Tyson and comptroller Joseph Fratto, termed the lawsuit "ridiculous."

Burt Odelson said if the public defender doesn't like his budget, "he should have come to the board like the state's attorney did and lobby" for more money.

"You don't file lawsuits to ask for more appropriations," Mr. Odelson said. "That's not the way our democracy is based."
Another story from Crain's about the Mayor hiring a new compliance officer...
Mayor Richard Daley has named a compliance expert to head the Chicago's new $2.5 million-a-year department in charge of policing the hiring of city employees.

Anthony Boswell, 43, was named executive director for Office of Compliance and will be in charge of overseeing all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Mr. Boswell, formerly a principal of Denver-based Institute for Corporate Ethics and Governance, will also be responsible for implementing any court-ordered compliance decrees.

His first priority will be creating a Code of Conduct for city employees.

At a Tuesday news conference announcing the appointment, Mayor Daley said he was confident that the city was taking “another big step forward in managing government efficiently in a way that protects taxpayers.”

The compliance office was created in September in an effort to consolidate the jobs of the city’s chief compliance officer, internal auditor and the compliance unit of Chicago’s department of human resources.

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