Thursday, August 04, 2005

Unhealthy Leaps of Logic

I don't know if Republican support of the city/county health department merger was based primarily on the desire to provide more efficient healthcare, or a power grab for jobs currently controlled by the Democrats. I do know that the Illinois Times'* conservative (because she's a mom who drives a minivan) columnist Dusty Rhodes doesn't make a very compelling argument for the latter based on the evidence she lays out in this week's editorial.

Rhodes looked to finance disclosure forms that show that the Republicans spent $20,000 in the period leading up to the referendum vote in April, versus $8,000 for the Democrats, and concludes that the Republicans won the vote "at a price of $1.66 per vote." And based on this she feels safe in ascribing the Republicans' motivation by stating that "the merger really was about patronage and politics." That's quite a leap.

No one can know for sure what effect pre-election campaigning on the issue had on voters. Therefore, you can't assume that the election turned on those activities, unless of course you are already predisposed to believe that the merger was a power grab and you're looking for any type of evidence to back it up.The Democrats could have spent three times as much and still not have won, or the Republicans could have spent half as much and still had the result come out the same. Or the opposite could be true. We just don't know.

Rhodes seems to rest her case on the fact that County Board Chairman Andy Van Meter spent $14,300 of his own money in support of the merger. It's one thing to question his motivation for doing so, it's quite another to assume that you know when you really have nothing else to substantiate your claim.

Rhodes mentions that Alderman Kunz (D) offered to support the merger if his friends on the other side could offer proof that it was a financially prudent decision. If they failed to offer up such proof, that would be compelling evidence that the merger was all about jobs. Of course if they did prove sufficient saving, that wouldn't mean that jobs played no factor in their quest for the merger, but it would run counter to Rhodes' case. Unfortunately, she doesn't bother to tell us what Kunz found out, if anything. She does say Kunz was punished for pledging to cross party lines if he could be convinced, but doesn't really say what that means or what it entailed.

In his attempt to combat allegations that the merger was only about jobs, Van Meter stated that the health department isn't exactly a hotbed of patronage hires because of the specialized health degrees required for most of the positions. If he was only blowing smoke with that statement, not only would that have been a health hazard, but it would also have been an opportunity for Rhodes to support her case by revealing the fallacy of his statement. But she offered nothing to that effect.

Rhodes is correct in her assessment that this issue became overly politicized, as, unfortunately, most issues are these days. But again, how is this proof that it was all about handing jobs to Republicans?

I didn't support the health merger because I was bombarded with pro-merger messages. I supported it because it seemed that most of the healthcare professionals in the community supported it. I figured they would know better than anyone if it was a good move and surely they couldn't all be lock-step Republicans bowing to the wishes of their party. This was a good enough reason for me, although I can understand how it might not have been for others.

I'm perfectly willing to be swayed on this issue, or any issue for that matter, if a compelling case can be made for the other side. I don't believe this indicates a lack of clarity on my part, but rather, an open mind. Rhodes claims that if you follow the money, you'll come to the same conclusion that she did. But the most the money will tell you is that the Republicans wanted to win more, it proves nothing about why they wanted to win. And Rhodes doesn't either.

In other IT observations…

My most heartfelt respect goes to movie reviewer Chuck Koplinski for slipping in a somewhat obscure reference to SCTV in his review of The Dukes of Hazzard, and to Tom Irwin for his profile on the Bottle Rockets. I've seen the Bottle Rockets live several times opening up for Uncle Tupelo and later Wilco. I would highly suggest, if you have the means, to check them out this Saturday.

*Thanks for the correction Aakash


Dan M. said...

Ahhh, the wonderful investigative journalism of IT and Dusty Rhodes! What a pleasure it is.

What a pleasure it is to blow holes in their ridiculous, paranoid ramblings. Anyone with even half a brain (liberals, sit this one out) can see that the slanted works of Ms. Dusty is worthy of nothing more than picking up after an incontinent puppy. As I said before, if you are conservative, a republican, or in city government you are an IT target, and they are hell-bent to not let truth or common sense get in the way.

Aakash said...

There's a conservative writer at the Illinois Times? Well, I guess all paper's need their contrary writer. That must be why the NYT had Safire.

By the way, you're apostrophe (in the newpaper's name & link) is in the wrong place.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Aakash, thanks for the correction on the apostrophe.

The reference to Dusty Rhodes is kind of an inside joke from a previous IT editorial. Editor Roland Klose was dispelling the notion that his paper was "reliably left-wing" by jesting that Rhodes might be a conservative because she's a mom and drives a minivan, an indication of a conservation lifestyle but not necessarily conservative values. His editorial and my blog response also addressed the inane practice some publications have of labeling certain people according to their ideological leanings as a way to discredit them. So I was just being facetious by calling her a conservative columnist.

Anonymous said...

Patronage was the reason the Sangamon County GOP pushed the merger so hard. It will not be patronage in the traditional sense - incompetent hacks sitting at desks writing memos. It will be patronage as it evolved under Irv Smith and Jim Thompson - people trained in public health activities who were drafted into Irv's machine while working at the Illinois Department of Public Health. Even after hiring, the patronage hook continued - if you wanted promotions, to get necessary career training, you had to serve in and donate to Uncle Irv's patronage army. THOUSANDS of state employees did so. The SERS website says about 200 IDPH employees took early retirement under King George IV's "Incompetent Hack Enrichment Act of 2002" That is where the Sangamon County GOP will get the patronage hires to force out the current City of Springfield employees - and poor ole Andy Van Meter will be totally oblivious to it!

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

to 11:02

You have some intereting information to support the position that patronage hires were behind the push for the merger. I guess we won't really know for sure unless the merger goes through and county officials clean house to make room for former IDPH employees.

If you are correct in your summation, the question that I have is, could it be that the GOP wanted control over the jobs, but at the same time, the merger does make sense from a healthcare and financial standpoint?