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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

September 25, 2018

September 24, 2018

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Rauner, Pritzker and a dismal first governor debate

Given the dismal state of politics in Illinois, we guess we shouldn’t have been surprised by the candidates’ embarrassing display at the first governor’s race debate last week.

But disappointed we nonetheless are. The voters deserve better, The state deserves better.

This was a chance for Gov. Bruce Rauner to answer the central questions that voters have about him: What has he learned from his floundering first term and why should we think his second term will be any better?

Instead, his answer to every question seemed to be built, awkwardly at times, around his opponent’s presumed big spending and corruption. The question didn’t matter; queue the Republican campaign slogans.

Then there was Democrat J.B. Pritzker, whose performance was no more reassuring. His theme? Liar, liar, pants on fire.

There’s a great irony in Pritzker calling Rauner a liar. It is Pritzker who, with our Editorial Board earlier this year, raised the possibility of a tax on vehicle mileage — and now denies that he mentioned it. Even though it’s fully recorded. Denied it outright even when Carol Marin gave him a chance to acknowledge but downplay what he’d said.

What the electorate needs out of you, Mr. Pritzker, is transparency. You deny Rauner’s charge that your graduated income tax proposal would raise taxes on the middle class, but you provide no specificity that would enable anyone to see whether that’s true. Where are the brackets in your graduated income tax proposal, J. B.? What is your definition of “middle class”?

Two other candidates took part in the debate on NBC5 and Telemundo Chicago, with sponsorship from the Union League Club of Chicago and Chicago Urban League -- Libertarian Kash Jackson, who had trouble getting anyone’s attention, and conservative Sam McCann, who spent his time yelling derisively over everyone to make sure attention wasn’t his problem.

We hate to say it, but it’s hard to get excited right now about any of these candidates.

There will be more debates. Maybe not as many as we’d like. Both to us and to the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker refused joint Editorial Board interviews that would include Rauner.

But there will be more debates, one in Chicago on Oct. 3, and another in Quincy on Oct.11.

Let’s hope the candidates appreciate that the voters will be watching. Let’s hope the candidates see the debates as a chance to make the case for themselves rather than focusing on what’s wrong with their opponents.

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September 21, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Homeowners taking a hit

The Illinois Policy Institute recently released a study of housing ownership that is disappointing in at least two respects.

The study concluded that “Illinois ranked 48 out of all 50 states in terms of improvements in the user cost of homeownership and now has the eighth-highest cost of homeownership in the nation, up from 25th-highest in the pre-housing bubble period. For every $100 in home value in Illinois, homeowners are now paying $10.15 in annual costs associated with owning their home — more than in 42 other states.”

The study stated that “these findings are of particular importance for low-income families in Illinois, since higher costs associated with homeownership have a disproportionate negative effect on low-income households.” It attributed part of Illinois’ ongoing problem of more people leaving the state than moving in to homeownership issues.

That is, indisputably, bad news. But compounding the problem is that Illinois’ decline is a relatively recent trend. Prior to the burst of the housing bubble in 2007-08, Illinois ranked in the middle in terms of the costs of homeownership.

The state, clearly, is headed in the wrong direction, and the pain isn’t restricted to homeowners.

“Even renters have experienced drastic negative effects. In the post-recession period, the median rent has increased 24 percent in Illinois. It is noteworthy that the median rent increased by 24 percent while the user cost of homeownership remained virtually unchanged, and home values decreased by 0.5 percent over the same time period. One explanation could be that potential homeowners — discouraged by high property taxes and low home price appreciation — are instead choosing to rent, thus contributing to the increase in rental prices,” the IPI reports.

Just as concerning, however, is unwillingness of the political class in this state to address the problem.

The IPI, a free-market think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, attributed part of the problem to increasing income and property taxes. Yet, state and local officials have done nothing about property taxes, while J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic candidate for governor and likely the state’s next chief executive, is running on a pledge to increase the state’s income tax.

At the same time, property taxes are increasing and going to support public employee pensions, not services. No responsible state official has shown much interest in that problem either.

So it’s the worst of both worlds — a growing problem that is being ignored.

The 14-page report, which is available on the IPI website, makes a strong case for the benefits of homeownership to individual property owners and the communities in which they live.

But one of the traditional benefits of homeownership, rising value, allowing people to sell it for more than they bought it, has slowed dramatically in this state. At the same time, the cost of owning a home has increased.

The bottom line, according to the report, is that “owning a home in Illinois has become less attractive than in most U.S. states.”

“Measuring homeownership costs points to one simple fact: Housing in Illinois has become less attractive relative to housing in other U.S. states. This has been driven largely by increases in income taxes and property taxes. There is no reprieve to be found for Illinoisans — homeowners or renters. With greater housing costs, it is not surprising that the post-recession growth in home values has been suppressed in Illinois relative to the rest of the U.S. This is more painful for homeowners since home appreciation has yet to match the pre-housing bubble period,” the report states.

Politicians who are constantly talking about their desire to assist the middle class and “working families” need to focus on this insidious problem.

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September 23, 2018

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Emergency training is time well spent

Picture yourself at work.

It’s just another day. You’re toiling away at your desk, counter or work station. Suddenly, shots ring out. The shots are followed by an eerie, ominous nanosecond of silence. As the gravity and reality of the situation becomes clear, you see co-workers screaming, hiding behind their desks or running to safety.

What do you do? What is your plan?

If you’re like most of us, you may have given this terrifying scenario a momentary thought. However, before you could actually formulate a plan that might save your life, the phone rang, a customer walked up to the counter or a co-worker interrupted your train of thought.

The fact is most of us have no plan. And, in today’s world, that could be a fatal mistake.

Workplace violence is one of the scourges of modern society. The most recent deadly instance was the killing of five journalists at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland earlier this year. Just recently, four people were injured in a workplace shooting in Madison, Wisconsin. Most businesses, most employees, are woefully unprepared for the unthinkable, but eminently possible, violence.

That point was driven home dramatically when the Carbondale Police Department visited the Southern Illinoisan. Staff members went through four hours of instruction, discussions and role playing, all of which proved the obvious lack of thought that has been given to this type of emergency.

On the surface, this may sound like the fire drills or tornado drills that are mandated in most workplaces — an alarm goes off and employees march dutifully, laughing and joking, to areas designated as shelters. That’s not what happened during the visit.

Once staffers were briefed on the scenario that was about to unfold, the officers fired blank rounds and sometimes added screaming. If anyone was taking the training lightly, the sounds of actual gunfire sent frivolity scrambling to the far reaches of the brain.

Although totally aware this was training, the sounds of gunfire had the desired effect — as individuals, as a team we became focused on planning our survival. Staffers worked in unison to barricade themselves in safe spaces and use whatever tools they had at their disposal to insure their safety.

At the completion of each scenario, the officers dissected the steps we took, highlighting the things we did well in addition to pointing out our shortcomings. Each and every scenario was enlightening, and ultimately, humbling.

There were several important lessons gleaned from this training. The vast majority of us do not have a plan of action if a shooting does occur. This is an issue that needs to be taken seriously by employers and employees alike. It also became apparent that all employees, regardless of where they work in a building, need to be familiar with hidden rooms, hallways and exits. Something as basic as familiarity with a building’s floor plan could make the difference between life and death.

This type of training is available through many police agencies. We urge businesses to contact their local police. We thank the Carbondale Police Department for taking time to make us better informed.

And, if the training is available, please make it available to your employees. It is time well spent.

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