Republican hopeful Bruce Rauner brings campaign to black community

Spars with CTU organizer

Dem. Gov. candidate Tio Hardiman rips chicken dinners

By Chinta Strausberg

Billed as a free Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dinner held at Josephine’s Cooking Restaurant, a community forum held late Monday night became quite lively and intellectually challenging when the surprise sponsor, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bruce Rauner,  took on some tough questions from the audience.

Courting the black community, Rauner reached out to long time journalist Hermene Hartman, publisher of N’DIGO, who organized the forum. Hartman said small businesses and the black media need financial help, and Rauner agreed tos upport the African American media saying, “That is a part of our plan.”

According to Rauner, the state of Illinois is dismal. “Businesses are leaving, jobs are leaving, schools are deteriorating, the social services safety net to help our disadvantaged folks are” disappearing, “services are being cut. I don’t think career politicians in Springfield are going to fix it the right way.”

Saying he is “sick and tired of it,” Rauner, a father of six who is very wealthy said he doesn’t need a job. He said many state elected officials make money on the side and that it’s time for a change. Admitting it was a “big decision” to run for governor and that he has never run for office before, Rauner said his youngest daughter urged him not to run because she didn’t want him to go to jail.

“I am running to do four things…get more jobs in every community in Illinois, bring down the tax burden that is chasing our businesses out of state so we can employ more folks, great schools in every community, emphasize education as the most important thing to do, and to put term limits on all the politicians sot hey serve eight-years and then they’ll be gone instead of staying down there for decades….”

Rauner said he and his wife, Diana, president of Once of Prevention, have “dedicated most of our lives to education…especially in Chicago.”

On Charter schools, Rauner said, “I am pushing Mayor Emanuel to do a voucher program throughout the city of Chicago….” Referring to Chicago’s schools and aquestion about the paucity of black businesses, Rauner said, “The educational opportunities for African Americans have been terrible. I think the schools intoo many African American communities are terrible.

“They are not educating our young people…and I also think that many businesses have decided that it’s risky to invest in the black community because of either crime or violence or lousy schools or bad roads, bad infrastructure” may be the reason why businesses don’t come to the black community.

Rauner said he has a plan to “create growth throughout Illinois especially in the communities with the highest unemployment primarily African American communities” including Chicago, Decatur, East St. Louis” he described as“brutally high unemployment and it’s outrageous.”

“Rather than trying to do tax incentives for business because that does not work and ends up being corporate wealthy, I believe if we reduce the regulatory burden on businesses…. Illinois is one of the most hostile states in the nation for business,” Rauner said blaming this for Illinois’ high unemployment rate in the nation. “We need to become more pro-business with our regulations so companies want to come here…,” he said would attract more businesses. He has a detail plan to do that.

But, the discussion between Rauner, who managed state pensions for Illinois andother states, and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) organizer Brandon Johnson who attended the forum became some what terse with Rauner candidly admitting, “I don’t like the CTU.

Johnson said of Rauner’s position like “right to work because these things are fraudulent and very harmful to black people.” Johnson asked, “If you’re going to make this thing better, how do you reconcile your position juxtapose to the very man (Dr. King) we’re celebrating and your open disdain towards public sector unions? How do you say that you’re going to make Chicago or Illinois better while at the same time demeaning the very entity that made the middle class possible for black people in particular”?

Johnson ,who said many have issues with Gov. Quinn, also asked Rauner about the proliferation of charter schools saying they are a “vehicle for the very corrupt practice that you want to combat in Springfield.” Johnson referred to money taken by UNO and gave other examples of charter schools that are now scandal ridden.

“Why is it when it comes to the black communities that we are not talking about investing in schools that everybody else wants to send their kids to and that the only so called option of choice for our community are these privately run institutions that have not fared any better than the very structure that’s in place,” Johnson stated who is also a teacher.

While disagreeing with Johnson’s last statement, Rauner said, “I am on a mission to improve the schools and to grow job opportunities for everybody in Chicago and around the state.

“I love teachers. I’m a big teacher advocate, but I don’t like the CTU. The CTU is probably the most powerful political force in America. I don’t think there is anything more powerful. The CTU has blocked school reform in Chicago for years, and I’ve been trying to help school reform.

“I believe that quality gets driven by choice and competition,” Rauner said. “The reason why suburban schools are forced to get better because folks in the suburbs can move, and they choose where they live based upon the schools. We live in our community because we like the schools there and we can move if we don’t like them. That’s the competition that forces the suburban schools to getbetter.

“In Chicago, poor families get stuck. They can’t move and they can’t choose their school and so the bureaucracy can afford to have their schools deteriorate and be lousy and those parents and children are abused. That’s wrong. Parents need choice. We need competition to improve the quality of the schools. That’s true…. Competition drives quality.

“When there is no competition and parents have a choice, the school can afford to be lousy and the parents are stuck there. I don’t want parents in Illinois stuck to a failing school. That’s it. It ain’t complicated. My wife and I have donated tens of millions of dollars to try to help improve the public schools in Chicago so parents have choice. I want every parent in Chicago to have choice. That’s what America is about freedom to choose. To me, education is theg reat equalizer…what drives equal opportunity….”

“It’s not American to let our children, any child, get stuck in a failing school while other American kids have good schools. That’s just not what America isabout. That’s why I’m running for governor. It’s not complicated,” said Rauner.

But, Johnson said, “I think that the notion that schools are failing is a notion that doesn’t get addressed in a very broad terms, Bruce. The reason why school sare failing is because they are not being invested in,” he said giving Rauner apiece of paper.

“You’re looking at a piece of paper form the 21st Ward on the South Sidethat shows all of the schools that don’t have the basic resources,” Johnson pointed out. “If you talk about children not being able to read and they don’thave a computer lab, Bruce we have 166 schools that don’t have libraries. We have schools in Chicago that do not offer world language.

“There is a school on 79th and Ashland that did not have a fist grade teacher for ten weeks,” Johnson said. “That’s not the union’s fault. I take issue as a teacher. You cannot separate me from the union. The union is consisted of black people, white people, brown people….

“What we’ve seen in Chicago that corporate reform for this so-called school of choice has caused the greatest decline of black teachers in the history of black teachers,” Johnson said. “Since we have had corporate reform, we’ve nearly lost half of our black teachers. Explain to me how choice and competition reconciles with the fact that we’re losing the very people that make up the middle class.

“What I’m hearing from both political parties is that the only way you can educate ablack child is to bring in a corporately run charter school and none of the teachers get to be black,” said Johnson. “What makes those suburban schools good is because they actually have property taxes that actually work“ and that they are funded.

Johnson told Rauner, “Before we start denigrating our children and our families, let’s invest in the schools that we have. As a teacher, I can tell you” how he did not have the basic resources including teaching in Cabrini Green “with kids come to me without coats, whose parents are trying to survive off the $7.25 anhour that people take issue with.

“We can talk about failing schools, but what we do know is this. Just this yearalone, CPS cut the budget of schools across this district by four percent.Two-thirds of corporations do not pay income taxes in this state. There are awhole lot of fundamentals we can do better on both sides of the aisle,” Johnson said.

“This notion that some how the very man we are celebrating today that stood up forpublic sector unions to demean, the, Bruce, you are not going to win this audience,” Johnsons aid referring to Dr. King’s birthday, life and legacy.“There are a lot of things I think you can woo the black vote with, but you’re not going to woo this audience if you’re going to go after public sector workers which is overwhelmingly black women. It’s why Dr. King stood on that  balcony.”

Johnson asked Rauner “We may disagree on some of those fundamentals about what schools should look like, but I’m asking you do not demean the very essence of what made my father, a union man, his father, a union man. The reason why I got three degrees and was able to make $48,000 a year as a seventh grade teacher was because my father had a public sector job and a pension.”

Saying this is the core issue of the election, Rauner responded. “My grandfather was aunion man. I am not anti-union at all.” Referring to President Franklin Roosevelt, Rauner said he was “probably the most pro-union president in American history. He was against government unions because he said they were organized against the public good.”

Rauner said, “There is a difference between a private sector union where you got to compete and businesses can move, you negotiate. There’s competition. In government, they’re no choices. Those schools can’t move. There is no option.The government is locked in. The schools are locked in and if the unions arepowerful, they just drive up the cost and can drive down the quality.”

Rauner said the wealthiest states have some of the strongest government unions, the biggest pensions, the biggest deficits, highest taxes and highest unemployment “because the government unions are increasing the size of government, crushing businesses, businesses are leaving. Businesses have choice.

“When the government gets too big and the government unions make them too big, businesses lose and working families, poor families especially, lose becausethe businesses lose. Not everybody can get a juicy pension working for the government. The families who can’t are hurt by the government union bosses who make the juicy deal…. That’s wrong,” said Rauner.

Johnson said he has to work 34 years and that he has 21-years and five-months before he can retire. “The average pension for a teacher is $43,000 a year. That’s not juicy,” he told Rauner. “That is not what is crushing our government.”

Rauner said the biggest problem with the teacher’s pension “is the administrators who have two and three pensions. That’s wrong. It’s corrupt, and it’s hurting your pension and the taxpayers…. That’s money out of our schools. That’s money outof our taxpayers pockets we could create jobs. That is what I am going to fight.”

Saying education is the core of his campaign, Rauner said, “I want great schools, schools that are competing with each other and to get better and better…. I want many more Whitney Young’s and Walter Payton’s….

“We’ve got to become growth again to be able to get employment and income’s rising and we’ll be able to afford good schools,” Rauner told the audience. “I want tomake Illinois one of the top growth states, top job creating state in the nation. It’s possible.”

Asked by this writer why he wants to roll back the minimum wage from $8.25 to $7.25, Rauner explained, “I do not want to reduce the minimum rate. I made that comment. I was flippant. I was in a forum. Our minimum wage is higher than allthe other states around us and that is hurting our competitiveness,” he explained.

“One of the reasons jobs are leaving Illinois and moving to Indiana, moving to Wisconsin, moving to Missouri and they are moving is because we are not competitive,” Rauner stated. “That was my comment.”

Clarifying his position on minimum wage, Rauner said, “I support raising the minimum wage either by raising the national minimum wage so all the states around us come up to Illinois or higher. Then, we will be on a level playing field and Illinoisis competitive again. If we’re not competitive, we’re not going to have jobs. We’ve got to be competitive.

“I’ll support raising Illinois’ minimum wage itself but in partnership with workers comp…tax reform” Rauner said would be key in attracting more businesses to Illinois then “they can afford to pay a higher minimum wage.

“If we only raise the minimum wage in Illinois and do nothing else, it will hurt many of the people it is designed to help. Watch unemployment rate go up more especially in your communities. Now, it will help some families, but it will hurt a lot of other families and we’ve got to be careful how we do it,” Rauner said.

However,in an interview on Illinois Radio WGBZ (, Rauner said, ““I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois,” Rauner said. Aftera slew of criticism, Rauner has changed his tune on this issue.

But gubernatorial candidate Tio Hardiman and his running mate, attorney Brunell Donald who attended the forum, disagreed with Rauner’s explanations. “When itcomes down to the minimum wage to roll it back to $7.25 an hour, he said he didn’t mean it the way he said.

“When people flip-flops on something like that it means you’ll be doing moreflip-flopping down the road,” Hardiman said.  “There is no way in the world that people on certain level’s of society make that kind of comment and didn’t know what he was talking about. That was something he probably meant.”

“A lot of elected officials feel they can come to the community and buy chicken dinners for the constituents in the black community while we’re suffering inthe areas of economic development, unemployment, high crime areas and poor schools,” Hardiman said.

“Just having a good conversation talking about you’re going to solve these issues in six or seven years to give you a chance, we need something right now,” Hardiman said. “I would not be in favor of a six or seven-year solution to our problems. Our people are suffering out here in a major way.”

However, Hardiman said, “Seventy percent of the homicides across the state are black-on-black homicides. We need some solutions right now, not next year, not six years from now and you give us a chicken dinner. We don’t need those kinds of solutions.”

Referring to himself and his running mate, Hardiman said, “In the first time in history, you have a qualified black man and black woman running for the highest level office and some of our black elected officials refuse to support” them because he says “they are part of machine politics.

“You have black leaders holding Gov. Pat Quinn up as if he’s really done something for the black community but the numbers reflect a totally different story,”said Hardiman.

“We are number one on the ballot,” said Hardiman referring to Quinn who challenged his signatures. “We won. This can be seen as history in the making, and we need everybody to support us because we stood up to Pat Quinn so imagine what we’lldo for the people.”

Hermene Hartman said this is one of several planned community forums Rauner will host.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: