The Northwest Municipal Conference called on Grisko to build support for public safety pension reform through a highly targeted public affairs and public relations campaign.
Municipalities across Illinois were on the verge of bankruptcy as they struggled to keep up with the cost of public safety pension benefits mandated by the state. Even though communities had more than doubled their pension contributions, pension costs had skyrocketed because the state legislature passed a series of benefit increases, while investment returns had declined. But the strong political influence of public safety unions made meaningful pension reform an uphill battle.
Through targeted community outreach and strategic coalition building, we created the Pension Fairness for Illinois Communities coalition, which quickly grew to represent more than 200 Illinois municipalities and business organizations calling for pension reform. Grisko unified coalition members around the key message that a fairer, more balanced system was urgently needed to protect both communities and pension beneficiaries. This gave the coalition a powerful and consistent narrative, resulting in more than 20 editorials in support of public safety pension reform in newspapers across the state, including the Chicago Sun-Times, State Journal-Register and Daily Herald.
On the media relations front, we coordinated a series of press conferences at the state capitol in which dozens of mayors and business leaders made urgent appeals to legislators to address the pension crisis. Media coverage blanketed the state from Rockford to Carbondale.
Through a Pension Fairness website, supporters contacted state legislators directly and accessed the latest information and news on the campaign.
Grisko’s strategic communications support helped the Pension Fairness Coalition achieve a major victory in 2011 through the overwhelming passage of one of few pension reform bills passed in the Illinois General Assembly.