Illinois Politics and Fiscal Solvency with Bruce Dold, Editor of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board


Last Thursday, September 19th, a group of Niagara’s community members braved the rainy weather to hear Bruce Dold, Editor of the Editorial board at the Chicago Tribune, speak at a Niagara Forum. These regularly occurring events are a platform for distinguished speakers to spotlight trends, analyze important issues, exchange ideas, and participate in productive interactions that promote innovative global and public policy solutions.

Dold started his forum by mentioning two mementos he has on his office wall. The first is a picture of Obama at an editorial board meeting from when he was running for President in 2008. Describing Obama as calm and collected, Dold also said that meeting Obama showed him, “Not everything about Illinois politics is a complete disaster.” Interestingly, the second thing on Dold’s office wall is a transcript of a secretly recorded conversation of former Governor and current inmate Rod Blagojevich attempting to extort the Tribune company by asking them to fire the entire editorial board in return for political ease when they tried to move Wrigley Field.

The Blagojevich story was the first of many Dold told us about corruption in Illinois. Dold said, “We’ve sent three Illinois residents to the White House and four governors to jail.” Dold spoke for most of his forum about how he believes it is the Tribune’s Editorial Board’s goal to fight corruption, which has been endemic in this state for so long. According to Dold, since 1976 there have been over 1,828 public corruption convictions in Illinois. Yet Illinois politicians still get voted into office again after being expelled or indicted.

Before moving the conversation to the fiscal problems in Illinois, Dold stopped to say that the two problems he was discussing, fiscal solvency and corruption, go hand in hand. Dold said, “We have the second highest unemployment in the country, the worst credit rating … and we have the most political crooks.” Dold’s point was that those statistics are not unrelated because the quality of life is affected by each of those issues.

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He moved on to talk about the pension crisis in Illinois, and expressed wariness over the pension deal currently under consideration in the statehouse. His understanding of the deal is that state employees will still have the option to retire at 55, which seemed to irk Dold and the audience seemed to agree with the absurdity. He also believes the deal will have beneficiaries paying less than they do now, which means although Dold is “ not going to write off the deal…[his] hunch is that Illinois is not going to deal with the pension crisis until you get closer to a real catastrophe.”

Later while joking about the grim state of affairs in Illinois, Dold took a question from the Deputy General Consul of Germany, who announced his recent arrival to Chicago. Dold interrupted to say, “… and now you want to leave?” to much laughter.

Answering a question about the state of the governor’s race, referencing Hillary Clinton’s remarks that Pat Quinn is the luckiest guy in politics, Dold said it doesn’t pay to underestimate Pat Quinn, especially as a campaigner. Dold said he used to play basketball, 25 years ago on Saturday mornings with Pat Quinn and remarked that although it’s easy to underestimate him, he has “sharp elbows.”

On a lighter note, Dold said he loves city politics, even though they’re grim as well. Answering a question comparing the differences and similarities between former mayor Richard M. Daley and his predecessor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he said that both tend to be defensive and resist complaints against their leadership. He said this was especially the case for Daley’s last four years, which he considers a waste. Dold believes Rahm is essentially playing catch-up from Daley’s disastrous last four years and has spent two years just on crisis management. Yet, it is clear to Dold that Emanuel doesn’t like being challenged either, which can be seen in the Inspector General controversy, in which Emanuel came off “poorly,” as well as the “mistake” of the teacher’s strike.

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Continuing to speak about the teacher’s union, Dold was asked if Karen Lewis, President of the CTU, would run for office, and he immediately responded “No”. Then, with a smile said, “I really like Karen Lewis” and continued on to say that the Chicago Union leaders really “don’t want you to know they’re Ivy League.” His reasoning as to why Karen Lewis will not run for office is because he believes she is already overwhelmed by the responsibilities of her public persona, and is not looking for more personal attention.

Ending on a higher note, Dold announced that the Tribune is about to launch a Request for Proposals from citizens in order to give the public the space to discuss ideas to help stem the fiscal crisis. Also, thinking about the future of the Tribune, Dold said, “You probably know the Tribune has gone through bankruptcy… but you probably don’t know that the newsroom has had remarkably stable leadership over the past 25 years. They have been extremely supportive of the editorial board over the years.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011
11:30am- 1:00pm

205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

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