Illinois legislators gather input from cities, unions on pensions

CHICAGO ­— Municipal and union officials from throughout Illinois gathered in Chicago on Tuesday to discuss proposals to change the pension structure of public safety workers.

At one end of the divide stand city officials like Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, who said the benefits are too rich and that police officers and firefighters aren’t contributing enough of their salaries to fund them. On the other end are police and fire unions, who say poor financial investing and low market returns are to blame. Read more.

Read my tweets from the event here. 

Road to pension nightmare started in 1950s

Illinois’ modern pension systems were created with a simple goal: to help public employees secure their financial futures in the wake of two world wars and the Great Depression.

But a half-century of mismanagement has turned the state’s pension systems into a financial morass saddled with a $78 billion debt. Read more.

Part 2: Varied payouts stir pension jealousy

All pension funds are not created equal, but the most active unions help bring home the best deal for retirees.

Two sides of Illinois’ pension systems need to be fixed in order to help bring the state out of its retirement funding quagmire: the benefits, which some say are overly generous, and the funding, which is $78 billion in the red.

Younger Rockfordians create a future from city’s hidden jewels

In early December 2007, Gloria Lundin went to Beloit, Wis., to visit Ken Hendricks. With her was a framed postcard of the Elks Club building in downtown Rockford.

It was a small gift, she remembers, but one with meaning. Her husband, Jon, had been hatching a plan with Hendricks to turn the dilapidated building into a banquet hall befitting its more august history. But Jon died unexpectedly the previous May, leaving the club’s fate in limbo. 

Less than a month later, Hendricks was dead.

It was the year the Rock River Valley lost two visionaries. Read more.