Monday, November 08, 2004

Updated November 8, 2004 at 4:50 pm
Tonight’s City of Chicago edition of “Public Affairs,” features State Rep. John Fritchey (D- Chicago), a potential statewide candidate in 2006.
Jeff Berkowitz: Wait a minute, come on—you don’t think they make their property taxes intentionally high to keep people out [do you?]; they make them high so they can have quality education. You have to agree with me on that, don’t you?

State Rep. John Fritchey: I don’t think that it is lost on individuals that high property taxes can also serve as a barrier to entry.
Tonight’s City Edition [8:30 pm, Cable Ch. 21] of “Public Affairs,” features eight year state Rep. John Fritchey [D- Chicago, 11th Dist.] debating and discussing with show host and executive legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz the State’s Affordable Housing requirements for affluent suburbs, School Vouchers- School Choice, Tax Swaps, Gay Rights and Senate Bill 101, Concealed Carry, real estate assessment caps, increases in the income tax, Governor Rod Blagojevich's performance, differential state minimum wages, the Business Climate in Illinois, the free market, the Theory of the Second Best and much, much more.
Berkowitz: …Let’s go on to something else related to the free market. Affordable Housing, Planning and Appeal Act. A hot topic up on the North Shore.

Fritchey: Yes.

Berkowitz: You supported that Act?

Fritchey: Yes

Berkowitz: People seem to be backing off [as to that Act]. Garrett abstained. Susan Garrett, she is a state senator from Lake Forest [D- 29th Dist.]. Michele Bromberg [D] is running to take Beth Coulson’s seat [R- Glenview, 17th. Dist.]. Bromberg, on this very show, said she doesn’t know if she would support the Affordable Housing Act. State Rep. Julie Hamos [D- Evanston, 18th Dist.], who is a sponsor [of the bill] seems to be somewhat lukewarm to it at the moment. Her opponent in her race, Julianne Curtis [R- Wilmette] has taken a strong stance against that. You understand that.

Fritchey: Of course.

Berkowitz: People don’t want to be told- to have the State be able to tell them [what their] local zoning [should be]. You know something about local zoning. So, tell me, what’s the defense of this law?

Fritchey: The defense of this is I think we tried to take a law and [we tried to] make it a one size fits all and we can’t necessarily do that. You are not going to find $125,000 housing in Glencoe.

Berkowitz: So, you are telling me that it is not a good law. But, you voted for it.

Fritchey: The idea that we are underlying here is that we have to take into account that we cannot have an accessible workforce; we cannot have regional planning and economic development if we do not have housing choices for individuals. Now, that doesn’t mean we can shoehorse those individuals into a community where there is no room for them. But what I do think we need is going forward—

Berkowitz: Wait-- Why does the state have to decide that? Why can’t the local areas decide what kind of affordable housing they need?

Fritchey: Because, what you wind up with is exclusionary areas, in that area where they say, “We don’t want affordable housing and I will submit to you high property tax assessments may serve two functions, not only to give increased education funding in certain communities, but also as a barrier to entry in those communities.

Berkowitz: Wait a minute, come on—you don’t think they make their property taxes intentionally high to keep people out [do you?]; they make them high so they can have quality education. You have to agree with me on that, don’t you?

Fritchey: I don’t think that it is lost on individuals that high property taxes can also serve as a barrier to entry.

Berkowitz: So, you stick with your vote. You support the Affordable Housing and Appeal Act. When you run for Governor some day, that is going to be saddled around your neck, you understand that? You are going to have to explain that not just to the people in your area but across the State of Illinois.

Fritchey: I have made enough votes in eight years that something is going to be saddled around my neck and I can either defend how I voted or explain why I think it was a bad choice at the time or—

Berkowitz: Business climate. You think you have a good business climate in the State of Illinois?

Fritchey: No, I think that we have put the business community’s back against the wall.

Berkowitz: [Business] fees have been going up under [Governor] Rod Blagojevich. Did you support those tax and fee increases on business?

Fritchey: No.

Berkowitz: You opposed it?

Fritchey: Yes.
The commentary and partial transcript of the show with Rep. Fritchey, below, was published on this blog last Friday and is re-printed here for the reader’s convenience:
How long can many pols send their own kids to private schools, oppose school vouchers for everyone else, turn their heads and pretend that they just don't see the hypocrisy?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind. [with apologies to Peter Paul and Mary]
Joining a long list of dignitaries who are hypocritical [without meaning to sound too harsh] on the issue of school vouchers-school choice is State Rep. and potential 2006 statewide candidate John Fritchey [D- Chicago]. That list includes former President Bill Clinton, Senator Hillary Clinton, Former Veep Al Gore, Senator Gore, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Speaker Mike Madigan, U. S. Senator-Elect Barack Obama and Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. But, we should note that, at least in the view of “Public Affairs,” State Rep. Fritchey seems poised to jump off that list [See, below]. Come on in, John, the water's fine.

Also, a number of these pols have graciously come on "Public Affairs," or given us on-site video taped interviews, happily subjecting themselves to vigorous questioning on these and other issues. Included in the list of guests who have generously given their time to "Public Affairs," are Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Gov. Rod Blagojevich, U. S. Senator-Elect Barack Obama [numerous times on the show], Rep. John Fritchey [multiple appearances on the show] and Paul Vallas [numerous interviews when Mr. Vallas was a gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic Primary]. Thus, this commentary is intended as a collegial, intellectual criticism, and certainly not a personal attack.

Moreover, in the case of State Rep. Fritchey, he appears quite open to considering school vouchers and he almost seems ready to support them, but seems not to believe that new private schools will arise in sufficient numbers to meet the demand-- even if school vouchers in the amount of $10,000 per kid per year are distributed. Of course, one wonders how school voucher recipients could be made worse off by having the voucher choice, since they could always choose to stay in the public schools, if Rep. Fritchey is right. In other words, why not try it, State Rep. Fitchey?
Jeff Berkowitz: While you are trying to do this [a tax swap that changes the way we finance elementary and secondary education in Illinois], which may take another two or three decades, why not try another approach? The School Choice-School Voucher approach. How would you feel about that?

John Fritchey: I have openly said that I will eagerly look at any workable voucher program, as well.

Berkowitz: Would it be workable if we—there are distressed [educational] areas through-out the state, where the problem areas are greater than other areas. One is in the City of Chicago, another is in Decatur and so forth. Let’s take the city of Chicago as an example, but it would apply throughout the state of Illinois. 435,000 students roughly [in the Chicago Public Schools, “CPS”]. We spend- budget is over 5 billion dollars now [for the CPS].

Fritchey: Um-um.

Berkowitz: And, that works out to about $11,000 per kid per year [in the CPS]. On an operating basis, it is at least $10,000 per kid per year. You would favor a plan where we said to every parent in the City of Chicago- “we give you this backpack…in this backpack, we put $10,000- all of those kids and their parents get 435,000 backpacks- there is a $10,000 bill [which can be spent only on education] in there and if they are happy with the public schools, they stay there. If they are not, they can take that $10,000 bill and go to the private school of their choice. You pointed out that you went to the Latin School [a private, elite K-12 school in Chicago]. We know you did that with financial assistance, we understand that.

Fritchey: Um-um.

Berkowitz: But, now you are sending your own daughter to the Latin School.

Fritchey: That’s correct.

Berkowitz: And, she is benefiting- and you are—and I don’t say this in a disparaging way—

Fritchey: No, please.

Berkowitz: You are wealthy enough, whatever that is- and I am not saying you are Blair Hull wealthy, but —

Fritchey: Would that it were true.

Berkowitz: But you are wealthy enough for you to be able to exercise that choice, opt out of the public schools

Fritchey: Um-um.

Berkowitz: And go to an extremely good private school. Now, not everybody may be able to go to the Latin School on $10, 000- I assume the tuition is a little higher now.

Fritchey: Correct.

Berkowitz: What is it, for say, a second or third grader?

Fritchey: It is upwards of that.

Berkowitz: Up to $14,000 or $15,000, or something like that?

Fritchey: Right, there.

Berkowitz: So, they [the individual voucher recipients] may want to supplement it [the $10, 000 voucher], but there would be a proliferation of new private schools, from which they could choose. If they are not happy [with the public school], they could go to a private school, and if they are happy, they could stay in the public school.

Fritchey: But, that private-

Berkowitz: That could happen, that could happen tomorrow. We could make that plan [happen] tomorrow.

Fritchey: It can’t happen-

Berkowitz: If the teachers’ unions oppose it. And, you said you want to get a handle on the teachers’ unions.

Fritchey: And the private school network doesn’t exist. What does exist and is growing and flourishing along that concept are the charter schools around Chicago—is the Renaissance 2010 program of [CPS CEO]Arne Duncan that says we want more private involvement--

Berkowitz: That’s group control. That’s group control. I want to give every individual parent the kind of control—if you wanted to improve the quality of your [daughter’s education], you didn’t have to go and get another 200 parents to agree with you and start a charter school, and then you have to go to meetings and make sure it worked out. You just said, “The heck with it, I am not sending my kid to the public school right here [where I live]. I am sending my kid to the Latin School." It was a family choice, you and your wife. Right? Karen, right?

Fritchey: Correct.

Berkowitz: All right, so why not give other families the same kind of family choice?

Fritchey: I think we are expanding that range of choice. You have tremendous parochial schools. You have tremendous charter schools, right now.

Berkowitz: But, add another option. I am not saying charter schools can’t exist. But, give them [the parents] this individual choice. Will you take that next step with me?

Fritchey: I would say that we will look at any workable voucher program.

Berkowitz: Is there something not workable about what I just described?

Fritchey: The school network that you described doesn’t exist today. And, I don’t know that Renaissance 2010-

Berkowitz. Purchasing power. You know, you studied economics [at the University of Michigan]. Wherever there is purchasing power, demand creates its own supply. If all of these 435,000 families have the $10, 000 to go where they want, trust me- you will have schools there in a month or two. Do you doubt that?

Fritchey: I do doubt that. There is a big difference between opening up another school and opening up another Kinko’s. Nothing against the fine folks at Kinko’s. But you need an educated teacher corps. You need the physical stock. You need a lot of things—

Berkowitz: It can happen over night. It is just one of the wonders of the free market. But, we are not going to go for the whole show about that. Let’s go on…
State Rep. John Fritchey [D- Chicago, 11th Dist.], interviewed on Oct. 24, 2004 and as it is airing on “Public Affairs,” tonight [Monday, Nov. 8, 2004] through-out the City of Chicago on Ch. 21 [CANTV].
The City edition of Public Affairs airs throughout the City of Chicago every Monday night at 8:30 on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV].
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs, and an Executive Legal Recruiter, can be reached at