Monday, May 16, 2016


This is a touchy subject.  I’ve noticed throughout a lifetime of reading, and now with an eye on writing, that what we do in toilets, eliminating bodily waste, is not represented particularly well, if at all, in literature or its contemporary new cousin blogging.  I think I know why.

You can write about how well you’ve slept, go into great details about meals you’ve eaten, gain readers by your ability to write about sex, wax in great detail while describing diseases, injuries, blisters, sunburn, road rash, medical procedures, gunshot wounds, stabbings, what have you.  But venture into the daily, if you’re lucky, human experience we all share known by many names but most acceptably as pooping, or sprinkle throughout your novel the number of times its main character urinates, and you cross the line of what readers will tolerate.  They will put your book down and never pick it up again.  They will click your writing off the screen of their device within seconds.  You may be getting ready to bail at this very moment.  Why?

Nobody wants to read about it.  It’s a fact.  You can write about ingesting, even digesting, but elimination is taboo.  We’ve learned as writers that we can’t share everything about our lives because there are things humans just won’t stand for.
And let me assure you I’m not going to write about it today either.  I’m going to write about where we carry out those activities when we’re not at home.  It’s a blog about public toilets, offered in the manner of an advice column.  Last summer I wrote a series of blogs about the best places to eat hot dogs.  Today I’m writing a single blog about where you might choose to use a public facility for the most personal of functions when you’re away from home and you must leave your comfort zone.

Because in the world of where we poop and pee, I think we all agree that Dorothy said it best in the Wizard of Oz -  “There’s no place like home.”  Give me a bathroom in my own house, where my magazines are, where I know where everything is located, the air freshener, and the extra TP in the bottom drawer.  Put me where no one is going to walk in on me, and if they do they’re someone I love.  Give me familiarity, give me comfort, give me habit, frequency, and repetition.  Give me my own toilet, the feel of my own seat or that spot on the wall where I put my hand while standing and letting loose.  There’s nothing like it.  It’s a joy to be at home when you need to go.  But unless you’re a complete hermit it is virtually impossible to use your own crapper exclusively.  You’ll be out somewhere in the world, you’ll need to go (you know you will) and you need a strategy.  There are choices available.  I’m writing this to help you create one.  Let’s start with the least desirable toilets out there.

Grocery Stores
There are problems with rest rooms in grocery stores at nearly every level, but for me they begin and end by the question of who cleans them.  Have you seen the signs in public bathrooms that ask you to please report to staff any unclean conditions?  I’ve rarely if ever done that anywhere, but I’m telling you now I would never do so in a grocery store BECAUSE I DON’T WANT THE PEOPLE SELLING ME FOOD TO CLEAN TOILETS.

Who are you going to report that to?  How about the person in produce unpacking and laying out an inviting display of unwrapped lettuce?  My nightmare is that I inform the friendly woman arranging bright green heads of romaine of a big mess in the far stall in their men’s room, she thanks me, and rushes in to clean it.  Not her, please, for God’s sake, nor the people in the deli who slice the turkey.  Certainly not the butcher.  And by all means spare the checkout clerks. Why, they have their hands on literally every food item that leaves the store.  I know grocery stores are big facilities and we need rest rooms in them for our convenience but unless I absolutely have to use a grocery store bathroom I’m not doing it.  Store designers put them up front, or otherwise try to separate them from the vast array of food as best they can, but still it’s off putting to me.  At the store I shop most frequently the bathroom is located next to the floral section, which makes sense.  We don’t eat the flowers after all.  But by and large, as clean as they might be, there is something unseemly about grocery store public toilets and I don’t recommend them.

Gas Stations
Gas stations are the closest thing we have to stand alone public rest rooms.  It’s perfectly acceptable to stop at a gas station simply to use their rest room.  None but the smallest and most provincial station owners expect you to make a purchase in order to use their facilities.  You may have to ask for a key, which the person behind the counter usually offers gladly.  They may even wish you a good day when you leave, sailing out the door immediately if you’re in a hurry.  No problem.  Gas stations usually have plenty of parking, they’re small buildings, the rest room is convenient, it is but one of the services they provide us.  That’s the problem.

Gas station rest rooms are among the most heavily used in America, along with fast food and other roadside businesses.   When you use a gas station toilet, especially one along an interstate highway, you’re using a toilet shared by thousands of people.  I venture to guess that if there is a ranking of toilets most likely to be out of toilet paper, the gas station toilet would win hands down.  Too many people use those bathrooms.  If you must choose among gas station restrooms, choose a new place.  They’re almost always better ventilated.  They have those new high speed air hand dryers, which are a living hell for people with hearing aids by the way, but lots better than the old ones.  I always wipe my hands on my pants anyway after using either.  I prefer paper towels, assuming I wash my hands, but we’re getting off the subject.   That is a whole other blog post, or at least a good joke.  Gas station toilets may be unavoidable, but there are better choices.  Let’s move on to those.

But before we do how about the terminology?  I’ve interchangeably used the various names we use for these rooms in which we do our most private business, but they are not entirely accurate.  We’re so repressed on this subject we can’t even be straightforward semantically.  No bathing takes place in public bathrooms, just as little if any resting occurs in restrooms.  Why don’t we call them all toilets?  Because that’s somehow offensive?  We have a long way to go in regard to this whole concept.
Hospitals and Medical facilities
While not entirely convenient, given the location and size of our hospitals today, the toilets in hospitals and most medical facilities are damn good.  For one thing they are sparkly clean. These are after all nationally accredited institutions with the highest standards for cleanliness and sanitation.  The toilets reflect that.  They are generally Spartan when it comes to furniture and decoration which is a good thing when you’re talking public toilets.  You won’t find bad floors or outmoded equipment in a hospital toilet.  On the contrary, their toilets are usually made from Cadillac building materials; high quality ceramic tile, good institutional stools and sinks, mirrors flat to the wall, and always handicapped accessible with wide doors, grab bars, and good locks.  I find there is usually plenty of soap and toilet paper in medical facilities, although the soap tends to be watery and antiseptic smelling and the toilet paper that flimsy but stiff one ply kind.  Why is that?  We don’t know do we?  Bulk purchasing I’d guess.  Despite that drawback most all toilets associated with medical joints are a good bet.  If you’re near one, try it.  You won’t be disappointed.

But the crème de la crème of public toilets, the star if you will of what can be a dreary sky of options when away from home, is found in a place you may well have overlooked.   I feel a certain amount of pride in bringing this find to you.  It is the fruit of personal research and just plain luck.  And so I pass it on to you.  If you are away from home and need to go, look no further than the nearest community institution whose deposits are insured by the federal government.

Banks are where it’s at when it comes to going away from home.  There’s a reason for the development of this fairly recent phenomena.  Here’s the story.
Back in the nineties when Bill Clinton was President and the federal budget was balanced the banking industry enjoyed a period of significant prosperity.  Money was in ample supply, interest rates were low, loans were plentiful and construction was booming.  As a result, banks across the country seized upon those factors to tear down, build new, remodel, expand, and otherwise upgrade banks everywhere. There was increased competition among banks and bankers turned to their facilities to create or keep an edge over the bank down the street.  In my community of Ottawa virtually every bank in town reinvented itself.  Savings and Loans became banks, old banks renamed themselves, banks and credit unions bought out smaller banks, and in the process lavish new bank buildings sprang up to take the place of tired old institutions.
Ironically during that same time computers changed the mechanics of banking in rapid and dramatic fashion.  Not only were paper checks no longer cleared by armies of workers in the back office but banks that were designed for increased foot traffic began to see fewer and fewer people in their buildings.  Customers were paying bills on line, getting their cash from the drive through ATM’s, buying checks on the internet.  And then to compound things debit cards made checks largely passé.  You rarely have to go into the bank now.  And when you do the few remaining employees look up in surprise.  You could shoot a cannon off in most bank lobbies and hurt no one, significantly lowering banks’ value as a targets for terrorists.  There is that, I suppose.  Cold comfort to laid off bank tellers. 

But the other unintended but terrific result of the improvement of bank facilities along with the rapid disappearance of customers inside them is this: their toilet facilities are pristine, by far the best in town. 

For weeks this past fall I had been driving around with my real estate tax bill in the visor of the Buick and decided suddenly one day to pay my taxes at an Ottawa bank where I have a savings account.  I needed to pay my taxes, yes, but I also had to go to the bathroom and was driving past the bank.

This bank has a power assist door.  You pull the handle only to get the door started and it opens itself.  Classical music plays through hidden speakers.  But for the music the place is very quiet.  The floor is marble. Turning the corner into a spacious well lit lobby a single employee at a desk surrounded by wood panels smiles broadly as I approach.  The rich dark wood around her looks to be walnut or mahogany, a swinging half door held on by shiny brass hinges.
“How can I help you today?”

I look past her to a marble counter with matching wood accoutrements.  Standing there is a lone bank teller amidst at least eight teller stations.  I hesitate.  She fills the silence.

“Would you like a mint?”

This bank passes out individually wrapped mints, the soft buttery kind like you get at weddings or when kids sell vacuum packed cans of candy to support their school band.  They’re great mints.

“Thank you.”  I take a handful.

Her full attention is on me, as if she has nothing else to do but tend to my needs.  Maybe she doesn’t.
“I’m just here to pay my real estate taxes.”

“Of course.”

This woman has an exceptionally big and genuine smile on her face.  I can’t imagine feeling so happy working at a bank.

“Amy can help you.”

As she says this she sweeps her hand towards the lone teller, who now is also looking at me.  I can’t see into all the glass walled offices along the wall, but those within my view are all empty.  I get the feeling it’s only the three of us in the entire building.

“Thank you.  Uh…where are your rest rooms?”

You have to say rest rooms in situations like these, as phony as that term might be.  It would be gauche to ask a woman for directions to the toilet.  Not good form.

“Just around the corner sir.”

She used her other arm to gesture in the direction of the facilities.   I’m not entirely sure but I think Amy, overhearing our conversation, pointed that way too.   Both women are positively beaming with smiles.  I make my way quickly in the direction of the crapper.

The door is solid wood, heavy, thick, and polished.  When I open it a light came on by itself.  The marble continues from the lobby floor into the bathroom.  It is gorgeous and shiny.  A granite counter with built in sink sits atop a vanity that is, I think, cherry.  The grain of the wood is beautiful.  The toilet itself is one of those which flushes almost silently.  My wife would kill for a bathroom like this upstairs at our house.  And unlike hospitals, on the wall full roll of thick high quality toilet paper.
Not only did this relatively small room not smell bad, it smelled wonderful.  How often do you encounter a public toilet with a wonderful smell?  You’re happy with the absence of smell right? This one smelled like a field of lavender, and it was immaculately clean.  I felt as if I was the first person ever to use this toilet.  I almost hated to leave.  The water was I’m sure softened, and made softer by an aerator on the spout.  Not one water spot on the faucet, knobs, or sink. The soap dispenser was full of that really thick and rich liquid soap, the kind that’s hard to rinse off. Thick paper towels.  A waste basket with nothing, absolutely nothing in it till it cradled my one used paper towel. 
Of course the bathroom in the bank is beautiful.  They spared no expense when building it because it’s a bank which has plenty of money, or did when it was constructed.  But the key advantage the bank has over the grocery store and the gas station is their bathrooms get perhaps the least use of any bathroom in town.  Not only are there less employees there to use the toilets than when it was first built, there are far less customers in the banks than the facility was designed for.  An abundance of great bathrooms with little use equals a great deal for you.  I recommend that when you can’t go at home, drop into a bank.

On that particular day I used the bathroom, paid my taxes, and got mints and smiles both upon entering and leaving.  Try getting that kind of service anywhere else.   You don’t need an excuse to drop into a bank.  Since I discovered this hidden gem of community service I’ve since gone to banks simply to use their bathroom.  They’re fine with it.  I genuinely believe they are glad someone shows up.  Try it.  You’ll be glad you did.  You might even get candy.  Don’t tell them I sent you but do tell me if you agree that those bathrooms are the best in town.

You’re welcome.  You can thank me later.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Musical Conversation with my Dad

May 8th was choir appreciation Sunday at our church.  Our pastor was out of town at her son’s college graduation and choir members were asked in her absence to deliver responses to one of three questions: Why Church?  Why Music?  Why Worship?  When I saw that simple question: Why Music? in connection with church, I immediately remembered a talk I once had with my Dad on that very subject.  Here’s that talk, along with some background on my Dad and our family.

My Dad turned 42 the year I was born. And though math is not my strong suit when I was ten he was 52 and he was 62 when I was twenty.  So as a kid I thought of him as old.  I never knew him with hair.  He was a farmer.  He milked cows, sowed oats, made hay, shucked corn and did all the things farmers did back then and that was how I knew him.  He hardly ever went to town.  He lit Camel unfiltered cigarettes with a Zippo lighter and snored.  He laughed easily and was very kind.  As I got older I came to realize he was soft hearted.

It took a while for me to imagine my Dad having a life other than the one I saw him living.  I’m not sure kids, at least kids when I was growing up, grasp that life can change or that your parents had choices and that things happened to them, both good and bad.  I don’t know when I started to put the narrative of my Dad’s life together but when I did I was astounded at what I found.

We had an upright piano in the living room that no one could play.  If you opened the lid on the bench there was sheet music no one could read.  I take that back.  My brother played the trombone and my sister played the coronet in fleeting stints with the school band.  So they might have been capable of reading that music but they didn’t.  Mom and Dad gave the piano away, to cousins I think.  Iowa cousins?  I’m not sure anyone knows now.

In the attic there was a bass drum, a wood block, a cymbal and a snare drum.  They had always been there way off in a corner.  At some point at the dinner table, which from the time I was nine was made up of only Mom and Dad and I, I asked whose drums those were.

“They were mine,” my Dad said, in the past tense.

“When did you play them?”

“When I was in high school.  I was in a combo.”

“What songs did you play?”

“None you would know.”

And that was that.  My Dad played the drums?

My Dad went back to church at some point, maybe when I was in Junior High.  We would sit in the same pew every Sunday, Dad on the left and Mom on the right.  When we stood and sang hymns I sometimes held the hymnal together with Mom and sometimes with Dad.  My Dad’s voice was smooth and strong, and he sang on key.  When the notes got too high he would drop an octave.  Sometimes he saw it coming and started an octave lower at the beginning of a phrase but sometimes it was just one note to the next.  I learned to do the same thing.  I thought that was improvisation.

My grandfather, my Dad’s dad and also a farmer, died in an auto accident when my father was eighteen.  His mother tried to hang on to their tenant farm but it became too difficult so she moved her family of four to Oak Park and they all got jobs in the city.  My Dad worked downtown.  I couldn’t picture my Dad, who always wore big overalls on the farm, in downtown Chicago.  It seemed unreal.  He told me once that the office building where he worked was near Symphony Hall and that sometimes after work he would go there to see if they had leftover single tickets.  When he could buy one cheap he would go in by himself. 

“I never knew music that beautiful existed,” he said.  “I would sit in that big hall with all those people, more people than live in Danvers, and the music from the instruments would fill up the place and sort of wrap itself around me.  The sound was amazing.  And I didn’t know a soul there.”  When you’re a farm kid from a small town it’s hard to get used to being anonymous.  My Dad and his first wife, also a farm girl, left Chicago and came back to her Dad’s farm to raise their family.

My Dad sang on the tractor.  I could hear him singing sometimes when I took him lunch in the field.  He made up new lyrics to old songs.  He didn’t whistle, at least when I knew him.  He hated doctors and that extended to dentists.  Dental care and my Dad were not acquainted.  When his teeth went bad I think he lost the ability to whistle.  Or maybe he never had it. There are some things we never know about one another.

When my Mom sang in church she belted out the hymns.  She was off key, scratchy, sometimes not even close to the melody.  She didn’t seem to care.  When I looked up at her as we sang in church she smiled back broadly.  I don’t know if she realized how bad she sang but if she did she didn’t care.

When my Dad was thirty six his first wife, Irene, died in childbirth.  He brought a new baby boy back to the farm to join two brothers and a sister but his wife never came home again.  And the next morning, and every morning and evening after that for thirty two years, he had to milk the cows, who looked at him dumbly that next morning, unaware his life had caved in.  Dad, his motherless children, the cows sheep and chickens all lived together on his father in law’s farm, where my Mom and I would also later live.

When I was old enough to imagine and appreciate that experience, probably after I became a father, I asked my Dad how he got through that part of his life.

“I’m not sure how I did it.  But a lot of people helped me.”

“Were you going to church then?”  Dad had a big gap in church attendance.  That’s another story.


“Did going to church help after Irene died?”

“Yes it did.”  He was quiet for a moment.

“I would go to church and the women there would help me with the kids.  It seemed like the only time I could sit still and be with other people comfortably.  I was in a fog for quite a while.” He kept thinking.

“It wasn’t the sermons.  I could barely concentrate on anything, let alone words in a sermon.  My mind would wander back to Irene and my troubles.  It was the music.  It was that good organ music they play before church starts when everyone is quiet.  It calmed me down.  And the hymns. Oh God the hymns felt so good.”  He became animated as he talked.

“It felt so wonderful to sing after I had been so sad.  It helped just to hear my voice blend in with the other people in church.  I couldn’t talk to them about what happened to me but I knew they cared for me and singing with them, all of us on the same beat with the same words, I think sometimes it was the best I felt all week.”

He paused.

“Yeah church helped me a lot.  But it wasn’t the talking.  When I needed it most it was the music.  It lifted me up.” 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Principals are Wounded. Bring in the Seconds.

So when was the challenge thrown down on this duel that is dominating Illinois politics?  I’m not sure. Neither am I sure why it started in the first place.

 I’ve not shared with you everything I learned about dueling but the dark side of this testosterone charged deadly contest was to sucker an opponent into a contest he was sure to lose.  Duels became in that case a legal and socially sanctioned way to erase a rival from existence.  If you played it right you could eliminate an enemy through a lopsided duel with little personal risk.  Life can be awful as you probably realize if you’ve lived any time at all.  One of those awful times is realizing you’ve not only been manipulated but that you have no recourse.  Being drawn into a duel and killed is one thing, but being grievously wounded and defeated while living with the realization you were in fact taunted into a contest you were doomed to lose, and had no one to blame but yourself, well, I would hate for that to happen to me.
It’s anyone’s guess when the parties concluded the only way to settle their differences was through a duel but mine is that it began when Speaker of the House Michael Madigan sent a message to Governor Bruce Rauner via a budget bill filled with spending priorities approved by Democrats in House and Senate minus a tax increase.  Passing that budget bill sent this message:

Madigan: “We have passed a budget bill and are in control of this process.  Your job now sir, as governor, is to sign it and by doing so become complicit in admitting that Illinois needs a tax increase to carry the spending plan out.”  Gauntlet thrown.  Face slapped.

Our new Governor didn’t react well.  Early in his term he all but admitted the need for new revenue, and expressed the possibility of approving an extension of the income tax at its previous level, but this?  To put virtually no stamp of his own on Illinois’ budget and accomplish nothing his campaign promised?  That would not be shaking up Springfield.  That would be same old, same old.  In response his rhetoric, his spluttering blame filled speeches, the vitriol (does that have anything to do with vituperation?) boiled down to this retort:

Rauner:      “You have the audacity sir, the unmitigated gall, to suggest I tie my   political party and administration to the same template of  government  spending that has put Illinois in this fiscal hole o’ these many years while helping you raise taxes besides?  You expect me to accept this while gaining no satisfaction on my turnaround agenda?  I’ll be damned sir, damned if I will consent to that.  I accept your challenge wholeheartedly and without reservation.”

Madigan:    “Excellent.  What weapons do you choose and where?”

Rauner:       "I choose private social service agencies in communities throughout  Illinois.  At what distance?”

Madigan:     "We’ll fire from whatever distance the newspapers, TV anchors,  bloggers, twitter feeders, and Rich Miller allow us.”

 Rauner:       “Agreed.”

Rapid acceptance of terms can be a bad sign when arranging duels.  You would like to see some hesitation from the other party.  A wince of the face upon hearing the weapon selected, a hint of discomfort at the prospect of doing battle with a weapon your opponent feels unskilled in using would is a welcome sign. 

As it turns out, Michael Madigan and the Democrats have been using social service agencies for years in all sorts of ways.  Social Service agencies are like Poland in Europe.  When war breaks out the first thing that happens is some invader rolls into Warsaw.  The Democrats know all about manipulating social service agencies, and the people they serve, for political purpose.  Not only do they seem to have no problem using that weapon, they seem to welcome it.
Governor Rauner may have sensed that.  He quickly offered a solution that would eliminate the need for a bloody fight to the death.

Rauner:  “Should you wish to reconsider risking death in a close range shooting match you may acquiesce to my demands which are these: term limits, an independent and fair electoral map, significant changes in collective bargaining, right to work, no fair share contribution among unions, and changes to worker’s compensation law.  What say you Mr. Madigan?”

Madigan:  “I say Mr. Rauner without reservation and with total confidence in my position, NO.  I will not consider such demands which are outside the purview of the matter at hand.  Let the duel begin.”

The rawness of dueling, the possibility of death, and the stark reality of preparing to die is designed deliberately.  The prospect of a fatal duel should and typically does force careful consideration, among thinking men, of the importance of one’s position in a given matter.  The prospect of death has a way of clearing out the clutter.  The parties should weigh outright retraction of offensive remarks or actions, or at the very least entertain some compromise in hopes of avoiding the duel.  Because in theory the desired outcome of a duel is not necessarily the death of one’s opponent but the removal of dishonor he by taking back words or deeds inflicted upon you.  Removing the stain on one’s reputation is the deal.
That conclusion relies of course on honor being the true goal.  The argument falls apart completely if either party’s real motive is simply killing his opponent.  In that case it matters not at all what compromise might be offered.  All logic is ignored.  The result in that case progresses this way; stubborn resistance to reason, fact, and persuasion followed by ready, aim, fire.

Calculations of possible damage from backing down or parsing one’s offensive assertions, brainstorming scenarios, considering a different tack should all be part of the dueling process. Hopefully such deliberation is done in collaboration with trusted advisors.  That’s where the seconds come in. 

Seconds.  Not shooters or shootees, but friends who help the combatants through the process or better yet find a way to avoid the whole damn thing.  It’s a beautiful little system really.  Seconds are all over the place in the Tipperary code.  Here’s but some of the tasks of seconds sprinkled among the code’s 26 rules.

Rule 3. If doubt exists as to who gave the first offense, the decision rests with the seconds; if they won't decide, or can't agree, the matter must proceed to two shots, or to a hit, if the challenger requires it.

Rule 14. Seconds to be of equal rank in society with the principals they attend, inasmuch as a second may either choose or chance to become a principal, and equality is indispensable.

Rule 18. The seconds load in presence of each other, unless they give their mutual honors they have charged smooth and single, which should be held sufficient.

Rule 21.
Seconds are bound to attempt a reconciliation before the meeting takes place, or after sufficient firing or hits, as specified.

Rule 24. In slight cases, the second hands his principal but one pistol; but in gross cases, two, holding another case ready charged in reserve.

Rule 25. Where seconds disagree, and resolve to exchange shots themselves, it must be at the same time and at right angles with their principals…

Who are the seconds in this Madigan vs. Rauner duel?  John Cullerton for Speaker Madigan and Christine Radogno for Governor Rauner.  And what have the seconds accomplished?  Damn little.  The duel continues unabated.  They fire, reload, suffer hits, but no one is declared the winner.  They appear to be fighting to the death.  Do they want it that way?

A huge hit was scored when Representative Ken Dunkin-D went missing on a key vote and later voted against Madigan on another.  Madigan was heavily wounded.  In the primary election shots were fired furiously and Dunkin was defeated, which hurt Rauner deeply, especially after spending all that money.  The duelists are still standing, though crippled from the conflict.  Behind them stand the seconds reloading pistols when they should be working furiously towards reconciliation.  For God’s sake have Illinois politicians forgotten how to throw each other a bone?

Madigan will not accept right to work laws in Illinois or term limits.  Everybody knows that. That concept, “Everybody knows that”, is actually a great way to find and avoid deal breakers.  Anybody that knows anything in Springfield could relate that bit of common knowledge about Madigan to the new governor.  Go ahead, ask they guy who cleans toilets in the Capitol building. 

“Excuse me sir, I hate to interrupt you but do you think Speaker Madigan would accept term limits and right to work laws as part of a budget deal?”
He puts down his Johnny mop and looks directly at the guy posing the question.
“Hell no.  Everybody knows that.”

Same with Governor Rauner.  Do you think Rauner is going to back down from this duel deal without getting something?  No.  Everybody knows that.  So what is Speaker Madigan going to give him?

Speaker Madigan should give Governor Rauner the fair map.  By 2020 the Speaker might need a fair map.  Find something in the worker’s comp law that Rauner can hang his hat on.  HE needs to be able, however lamely, to claim a victory of some sort when this is over.  Maybe tweak collective bargaining.  There must be something in there Democrats can live without.

In addition to term limits and right to work Rauner should give up on changes that most directly threaten unions and work for incremental change over the next three years.  You can’t there from here now.

Instead of tilting at windmills ala Don Quixote why don’t both sides work on genuine school funding reform?  In regard to school funding you can’t freeze property taxes until school board members across Illinois know there is another way for them to fund quality public education in their communities.  Simply freezing property taxes isn’t reform.  Local school boards exist to maintain good schools, and in Illinois for good or bad boards maintain good schools primarily through property taxes.  Locally elected school boards have few other choices.  Fix the funding mix for schools and then freeze property taxes if you choose, but not the other way around.   Communities and politicians who represent them can’t support education reform unless it works at home.  Everybody knows that.
And Hello?  Have you forgotten that pension reform is the big prize? Instead of posturing theoretically about economic theory, the future of Illinois, and your political parties do that.  Hunker down with the actuaries and figure something out.  There are plenty of meaningful tasks to accomplish, why keep shooting at someone who won’t go down?  Get to work on things Illinois can actually do given today’s politics.  Be real.

I say the duelists in Illinois need new seconds.  If I were Governor Rauner I’d bring in some old hand with a good smile, a moderate profile, a firm handshake and some common sense like Representative Bob Pritchard from DeKalb.  He’s not known for putting out a line of bullshit.  He sees things in a balanced way, speaks sparingly, and can be trusted. 

And while it seems ludicrous to even offer advice to Speaker Madigan he clearly needs help.  I’d tap Jehan Gordon-Booth on the shoulder.  She has no particular political ax to grind, comes Peoria which is outside the political maelstrom that is Chicago, and isn’t inflammatory.  To the contrary, she’s calming.  If she proposes a deal you can trust she’ll make good on it.
Something clearly must give.  If one or both sides wanted leverage in forcing a compromise I believe they have all they’ll ever get right now.  It’s impossible to do an FY 17 budget without a FY 16 budget on the books.  On May 4th 64 human and social service agencies sued Governor Rauner and the State of Illinois for over $100 M.  The basis of the suit?  Enforcing the provision of services in contracts they haven’t paid a dime for since July 1, 2015.  Sounds reasonable to me.  What else you going to do?  Close down and let the needy in your community fend for themselves?

What if the new seconds don’t prevail and this political duel continues?  In that case I propose we go back to the old fashioned duel.  I know a woman in Hannibal, Missouri with a big Jon boat that claims she can find Bloody Island in the Mississippi River where Lincoln’s and Shield’s lives were spared by the fast talking of their seconds.  She‘d be more than glad to give them a ride there.  She’s disgusted with both Speaker Madigan and Governor Rauner as we all are.  Given the choice of weapons available in America in the 21st Century I’d hate to see it.  Glock 9’s at 20 paces? AR 15’s?  Bloody Island would most certainly live up to its name.

I’m kidding of course.  But Illinois has to act.  Someone needs to take over for the principals who have both proven they aren’t up to the task.  We’re past the point of declaring winners.  We’ve crossed over into the business of saving lives.