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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

April 10, 2019

April 8, 2019

Chicago Sun-Times

Measles and the increasing danger to Illinois kids

The evidence keeps piling up that Illinois must toughen its law on vaccine exemptions.

In dozens of schools in the Chicago area and in hundreds across the state, vaccination rates are below what experts recommend to prevent the spread of measles, according to a new analysis by WBEZ.

According to experts, at least 98 percent of students in a school should be vaccinated for their own protection — and to provide group protection for children who, for legitimate medical reasons, can’t be vaccinated for the highly contagious disease.

But WBEZ found that at 67 Chicago-area schools, and 514 schools across Illinois, vaccination rates topped out at 95 percent or lower. At four Chicago schools, fewer than 50 percent of children had proof of vaccination.

None of this should be surprising. As we wrote last month, the number of religious exemptions from childhood vaccines has spiked alarmingly in Illinois despite a 2015 law that was supposed to make it tougher to get such an exemption.

Meanwhile, in late March, the Cook County Department of Public Health released a scary timeline showing how an infected person exposed thousands of others to the measles over seven days.

It’s playing with fire to let students attend school without the required vaccines. Besides being highly contagious, measles can have serious complications.

Scientists have repeatedly proven that the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is safe, despite conspiracy theories and myths to the contrary.

Yet those baseless myths are fueling an alarming rise in measles cases nationwide. When we first wrote about the dangers of anti-vaccine myths, 206 measles cases had been reported in the U.S. Five were reported in Illinois.

Since then, the national number has more than doubled, to 465, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two more cases have been reported in Illinois.

Time to heed the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Eliminate all non-medical childhood vaccine exemptions.

Do it for our kids’ health.

___

April 7, 2019

The (Moline) Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

Take back Illinois elections; demand fair maps

With time running out to give Illinois elections back to voters in 2021, we eagerly join with editorial pages around the state in urging readers to call their leaders in Springfield to demand action.

A nonpartisan coalition of 17 public-policy groups wants Illinoisans to tell Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to let senators vote on the Fair Map Amendment.

Our readers are not new to the fight against partisan gerrymandering. They know that it allows politicians to cut voters out of the process with razor-sharp precision and, in many cases, devastating results to the democratic process.

Springfield insiders claim that such hand-wringing is overblown. But these numbers tell a different story:

-- Nearly half of state legislative races were uncontested in 2018.

-- 82 percent of the races were uncompetitive (meaning the winner got more than 55 percent of the vote).

-- In past elections, that number has exceeded 90 percent of all races.

We accept that in a democracy, “to the victor go the spoils,” and “elections have consequences.” But when the deck is stacked so heavily in favor of the party in power -- whether Republican or Democrat -- it no longer resembles a democracy but an oligarchy.

Illinois and other states, as well as our nation, have suffered the consequences of concentrating power in the hands of small group of leaders who are intent on keeping it. As Cullerton’s one-time Illinois Senate colleague and former President Barack Obama has said, gerrymandering is “how a party gains more seats while winning fewer votes, which isn’t fair. It means that politicians don’t have to worry as much about a serious challenge from the other side. That moves our debate from the rational, reasonable middle where most Americans are to the extremes.”

A vast majority of Illinois lawmakers -- many of whom have benefited from or been hurt by gerrymandering -- say they support fair maps. If we take them at their word, only Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan stand in the way of a resolution that gives voters the power to decide who draws Illinois political maps: politicians or an independent commission. Madigan, who owes his massive power in part to his mapmaking prowess, won’t move the amendment until he believes he has no choice.

Cullerton, on the other hand, has shown a willingness to embrace reforms if he believes they are good for the state and voters want them. Leadership from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has pledged to veto any gerrymandered map that reaches his desk, also can help convince legislative leaders to yield to the wishes of his constituents.

A whopping 70 percent of Illinois residents support independent maps, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy institute. But poll numbers are no substitute for the combined voices of Illinoisans demanding action. It was, after all, a citizen call-in campaign that convinced state leaders to end the record budget impasse.

Many Quad-Citians who joined that effort are part of a cadre of volunteers who helped collect nearly 600,000 signatures to put independent maps on the ballot in 2014. Only the Illinois Supreme Court stood in the way of a vote.

Now reformers are back with a new amendment designed to survive a court challenge and put an end to politicians’ “incumbency-protection racket.” But time is running out to keep it alive. The deadline to get the measure on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot, is May 3. If it doesn’t make it, voters could be condemned to contend for another decade under the old, unfair and broken system.

Don’t let that happen.

___

April 8, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Another shot at reducing size of government

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, has taken that advice and, so far at least, it’s working out well.

There’s still a ways to go before a piece of legislation he’s sponsored can become law. But H.B. 348 was approved by the Illinois House last week. The next stop is the Illinois Senate, and it’s important that it ultimately becomes law.

McSweeney’s bill concerns one of those low-profile issues of which many people are not aware — township government.

In a state overwhelmed with expensive and expansive local units of governments, townships are the worst offenders.

They represent a form of government best suited to the agrarian lifestyle of 100-plus years ago. But while times have changed, township government lives on.

Township governments exist in virtually all of Illinois’ 102 counties. Champaign County has 30 townships, which are funded through property taxes.

They need either to be eliminated and/or consolidated for two reasons — more efficiency in government and less expense.

Township government officials, however, are resistant to change, and why not? They’ve got a good thing going.

So it’s going to take incremental change to get the job done.

McSweeney’s legislation is limited to a couple counties in northern Illinois — McHenry and Lake. It would allow voters in McHenry County to dissolve their 17 townships through a referendum process and requires townships in Lake and McHenry to dissolve any road districts with less than 15 — yes, 15 — miles.

If modifications are approved by voters, proponents anticipate a reduction in property taxes levied to support the townships.

McSweeney has indicated that, if his measure becomes law, he’ll use it as a template to push for similar modifications in other counties.

The legislation would have become law earlier this year, but outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it because he said the process in McHenry County should be applied “across the state,” not limited to a couple counties.

Rauner was correct in the policy sense, but mistaken in the political sense.

The General Assembly wasn’t going to pass legislation applying to the whole state. That’s why McSweeney took what he could get and promised to come back for more later.

Incremental change may be too slow for some people’s tastes, but democracy can be — and usually is — a cumbersome process.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Democrat from Gurnee, is the chief supporter of McSweeney’s bill in the Senate. So it has bipartisan support, and chances of passage appear favorable.

If the legislation does eventually pass the House and Senate, Gov. J.B. Pritzker should avoid committing the same mistake former Gov. Rauner did.

Illinois must address the size and cost of government in this state. McSweeney’s township legislation represents a small, but necessary, move in that direction.