February 16, 2018: #MeToo In Madigan’s Backyard
Once again, there’s been no shortage of drama in Illinois politics this week:
- A political operative accused powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of waiting too long to act on her sexual harassment claim against one of his top aides. We catch you up on the details and the political fallout.
- Cook County residents who own modestly valued homes pay more property taxes than they should, according to a report released this week. We explain how the findings could blow up an already nasty race for Cook County Assessor.
- Three more residents of a state-run veterans’ home have contracted Legionnaires’ disease, one of whom was reportedly a recent guest of Gov. Bruce Rauner at his State of the State address. We explain how Rauner and his Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, propose to respond to the outbreak.
WBEZ’s politics team broke all of that down during our weekly Illinois Elections 2018 podcast. You can get the podcast delivered to you every week by subscribing here. Below are highlights.
Ex-staffer claims Michael Madigan moved too slowly on her harassment claim
State political reporter Tony Arnold: The week began with Speaker Madigan announcing that he had fired a top political aide, Kevin Quinn, and that aide was accused of harassing another employee, Alaina Hampton. She’s a campaign consultant who worked for Speaker Madigan’s powerful political organization. She said that Quinn, her supervisor, repeatedly sent her unwanted text messages during the 2016 campaign and that once she told Madigan what happened, no action was taken against her harasser until she went to the Chicago Tribune three months later.
Madigan’s political rivals have said he should resign. Madigan himself has said he’s not going to do that.
Should he stay or should he go? Some Democratic candidates for governor reluctant to weigh in on Madigan
Arnold: In the instance of J.B. Pritzker, reporters had to ask and then ask and then ask and then ask some more to get him to answer what he thought of Madigan’s management. After several minutes, here’s the most critical that Pritzker was of Speaker Madigan: “So far what I know is that there were reports that were made and not enough was done early enough.”
You can contrast that response with Chris Kennedy, who says that Madigan needs to temporarily step down as chairman of the state Democratic Party. Kennedy says that as more information comes out about the handling of the harassment complaint, then they can decide whether to reinstate him as leader of the party.
State Sen. Daniel Biss said that it’s not right to fire one person and then think the situation’s been addressed, or even to call for the resignation just to end up with some kind of sloppy political fix, so he says an outside investigation is appropriate here.
Long-awaited property tax study casts shadow over assessor
Chicago political reporter Becky Vevea: This report was done by the Civic Consulting Alliance, and they got a lot of access to staff and data and other resources in the office of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios. Their findings echo what the Chicago Tribune and Propublica found, which is that people with expensive homes tend to file more appeals to get their bills lowered and that people with more modest homes tend to pay more in property taxes than they should be because their properties end up over-assessed.
Host Melba Lara: How’s this playing out in the ongoing Cook County Assessor’s race?
Vevea: So Berrios, in responding, said five ways to Sunday he will implement whatever recommendations the Civic Consulting Alliance makes. He says his administration has already been working on implementing changes and repeated that this problem predated him by decades.
Three more residents get sick in Quincy’s state-run facility
Arnold: Gov. Rauner not only defends his administration’s response to the outbreaks, but he also wants to budget up to $50 million in upgrades. This could go toward new plumbing or a new building. All that’s still being worked out. But the point is that Rauner says when you’re dealing with an elderly population who are vulnerable, you can’t just close the place down and move them. So he’s keeping them there, even though three more people got sick this week.
You can contrast Rauner’s approach with state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who this week said that residents there should be moved out while the state’s deciding what to do. So it’s a very different approach than the one Rauner’s taking.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.