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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

November 1, 2017

October 28, 2017

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Campaign advice for Gov. Bruce Rauner

Recently in this space, we offered some unsolicited advice for the Democrats who are running for governor in next year’s election.

Today, we offer some for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who announced last week that he’s running for re-election.

Let’s preface it by acknowledging our advice probably will come across as critical. We prefer to think of it as tough love for a bright and talented fellow who needs to hear some solid if unpleasant truths.

In offering it, we recognize that the governor is not apt to take our advice. His first term suggests that he generally doesn’t listen to advice from anyone.

And that, Mr. Rauner, seems to be one of your fundamental problems -- figuring out how to work with people and keeping in mind that a big part of that is listening to their problems and ideas, building consensus and trying to build win-win solutions rather than dictating winner-take-all confrontations where someone has to lose.

This is especially important when you face an opposition party that has overwhelming control of the Illinois legislature and the someone who is most apt to lose is you!

Somehow, you didn’t recognize that obvious truth during your first term, leaving even those of us who endorsed you, sympathize with you and pull for you perplexed by your apparent naiveté.

Where has this man-in-the-tower approach gotten you, Governor? A state in stagnation. A tax increase you didn’t want. A mass exodus of frustrated legislators.

And now you don’t even get along with many of your fellow Republicans. In fact, they’re so upset that one may end up running against you in the primary.

In a state like Illinois, virtually everything has to go right for a Republican to win statewide office. How that will happen in 2018 given a split in the GOP, lack of achievement in the Executive Mansion and an off-year election that traditionally favors the party that’s out of the White House, well, we shake our heads and wonder.

A big, big challenge lies ahead of you, Governor.

No doubt, you will campaign against House Speaker Michael Madigan and in favor of shaking up Springfield. These themes resonated in 2014. That they can resonate again in 2018 is frankly doubtful unless they are combined with the strong articulation of a concrete strategy for how you’re going to deliver on them.

It’s not enough, Governor, for you to tell us again that Springfield needs to be reformed. We’re with you on that and most of the state is, too.

But unless you can show us how you’re going to effect that change, it’s just empty talk. Illinois needs action, not recycled rhetoric. What will you do, Mr. Rauner, to produce it?

___

October 28, 2017

Belleville News-Democrat

Illinois gambling addiction’s only cure is more gambling

In Illinois, state politicians practice moral relativism. A thing is good or bad depending on how much tax revenue it generates, so any moral objections to gambling are gone and the only questions are how big a bet should we place to get more, more, more.

They have been rewarded for their belief that they can win more with more gambling. Adjusted for inflation, Illinois’ coffers have gone from the equivalent of $533 million in taxes when only the lottery and horse racing existed in 1975 to $1.3 billion for the past fiscal year with lottery and horses and riverboats and video gambling.

So in the face of all this jackpot jocularity, excuse us for pointing out the losers as Illinois gambling continues to swell.

Old gambling forms lose. Horse racing in 1975 generated $285 million in today’s dollars but last year just $6 million. Two horse tracks closed in 2015 and Fairmount Park is again begging for video gaming to survive and threatening to cut live racing dates down from 41 if economics warrant it. Casino revenues have dropped in each of the five years since video gaming began, with video gaming revenues of $296 million pulling ahead of $270 million from casinos last year.

Students are losing. Lottery revenues are flat. Casino revenues dropped to their lowest level since 1999. Those revenues went into education. Video revenues are on the rise, and those dollars go to capital projects. Students are losing to construction workers, with the trend unlikely to reverse.

Businesses that actually create wealth lose. Economists have long held that gambling merely circulates money within the economy. It does not create money, because there is not a product created. The boats were touted as economic engines when they started, but look around Alton and East St. Louis and try to find a business supported by the glow of gamblers to those boats.

East St. Louis loses. The riverboats were added under a bill entitled the Distressed Cities Act, intended to saving aging, depressed river towns with exclusive gambling franchises. In 2006 the city received $10.8 million from the Casino Queen. That amount dropped to $6.6 million last year.

Losers lose. Nationwide, 15 million adults are at risk of becoming problem gamblers, 3 million are problem gamblers and 2.5 million are gambling addicts. Add their family members to those total when college funds disappear and rent money evaporates.

Illinois loses, again. We lose jobs and population to our neighbors, so why not gamblers. Illinois has a larger population base, but Illinois casinos trail Indiana, Missouri and Iowa in adjusted gross revenue.

So how is Illinois responding to dips in its gambling sectors? As it always has. The fix to poor gambling performance is more gambling. State lawmakers continue to propose more casinos, including a Chicago casino with 10,000 gaming positions compared to the 1,200 seat limit on the existing boats. They aim to fix Fairmount Park with 150 video gaming machines. There is no limit on the number of Illinois video gambling machines, which are expected to hit 28,000 this year.

If only the City of Chicago with one-third of the state’s population allowed video gaming. More is more in Illinois.

___

October 29, 2017

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

It’s not time to be careless

The Illinois State Capitol is less than a half-mile from the governor’s mansion.

Yet, the two buildings are light years apart politically.

That was proven, yet again, when the Illinois House voted 112-0 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a government transparency measure. The bill requires state agencies to report monthly to the comptroller the amount of outstanding bills within that agency, as well as the amount of interest penalties on those overdue bills.

Rauner’s reasoning for vetoing the bill was curious at best, but more accurately cast as dubious.

A businessman himself, Rauner argued agencies already have to report that data once a year, and tougher standards would be time-consuming. He also alleged was an attempt by Comptroller Susana Mendoza to “micromanage executive agencies.”

Since the state pays its bills, at least theoretically, on a monthly basis, like every business or individual, Rauner’s argument makes no sense from a business standpoint.

As for as the onerous time-consuming nature of the measure, that may have been true in the era of adding machines, but, in 2017, moving reports around is a simple matter of a couple key strokes.

How obvious was the fallacy of Rauner’s claims? The Illinois House voted 112-0 to overturn the veto. It’s difficult to imagine what else could amass that kind of unanimity in Illinois government.

Case in point — the governor’s veto of a measure that would prohibit municipalities from creating right-to-work zones, a key provision in Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda. Right-to-work essentially allows employees to work in union jobs without paying union dues.

Rauner’s veto was overridden by a convincing 42-13 margin in the Senate, but the override fell one vote short in the House, 70-42. That’s what passes as normal in the Illinois legislature these days.

That’s why the override of the transparency veto is so stunning. Perhaps we’re reading too much into this, but it is alarming to see the statehouse and governor’s mansion so far apart on any legislation.

It’s a symptom of a larger problem in Illinois.

Despite passing a budget, albeit over the governor’s veto, and despite passing a school funding mechanism, it’s blatantly obvious our political leaders are still deeply divided by both policy and party loyalties — the transparency bill being one notable exception.

The budget and school funding mechanisms were important first steps in restoring the state’s financial health. Yet, in typical Illinois fashion, the executive and legislative branches keep tossing hurdles in each other’s way.

Monitoring bills on a monthly basis? That’s a no brainer. Everyone does it.

Yet, in Illinois, it’s a political fight that takes legislators away from actual issues. This non-issue fight does nothing to further anyone’s agenda. It only takes up time that could be spend on more productive enterprises.

At nearly every level of government, we have lost sight of how our political process is supposed to work.

In theory, no one gets everything they want. For nearly 250 years, our country has operated more or less smoothly because of the art of compromise. We saw a healthy give-and-take during the crafting of the school funding bill.

Did everyone think the final product was perfect? No. Is it workable? It appears to be. Will it be re-visited at a later date? If need be.

It’s not that difficult if our leaders truly have the best interests of the state at heart. Healthy debate of the issues is vital for our survival, but so is the ability to compromise and move forward.

That’s why it is alarming to see the gulf, even if just on one issue, that exists between the legislative and executive branches. Financially, Illinois is still in critical condition.

___

Nov. 1, 2017

Chicago Tribune

The New York attack: Terror by the ton

Imagine the scene along Chicago’s lakefront path on a typical weekday afternoon. Cyclists cruising in both directions, past runners and darting children just released from school.

Now imagine a rental pickup truck barreling down the path, smashing bicycles and pedestrians for a mile or more.

It happened in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, not far from the World Trade Center memorial. A driver bent on mayhem sped down a bike path beside the Hudson River, sending bodies and bicycles flying. He struck a school bus outside a neighborhood landmark, Stuyvesant High, before crashing the truck. Leaping from his vehicle, he brandished a pellet gun and a paintball gun and was shot by a police officer. Even as they scrambled for safety, some people wondered if this was a Halloween prank. Others reached for their cellphones, capturing snippets of the chaos on video: A figure that appears to be the driver, trying to escape on foot. The wreckage of the truck. Crumpled bicycles. Lifeless bodies.

So the pattern established oceans away now visits America. Hamas terrorists had been so successful with vehicle attacks against Israelis that, in 2014, an Islamic State official urged similar attacks across the West. This resort to terror by the ton — cheap and easy to execute — is a paradoxical tribute to the sophisticated protections that have denied extremists many of the conventional weapons, and the easy access to air transport targets, they enjoyed at the turn of this century.

We don’t know if this suspect was heeding an Islamic State call to attack trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Or if only his own twisted thinking drove him to choose this day, this celebration, to attack New Yorkers on this trail in a neighborhood laced with residential buildings and clotted with people traffic — the ultimate soft target.

We’ve seen enough of these car and truck attacks — in London, Nice, Stockholm, Berlin — to know they are all but impossible to predict or prevent.

Early news reports had Islamic State voices cheering the attack. If so, they’ll awaken to the realization that an onslaught in New York - the deadliest attack since 9/11 — doesn’t diminish the swift and formidable victory of U.S.-backed forces against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. To the contrary, any terror attack on the West affirms that the job of eradicating this group and others like it isn’t finished.

Defeating Islamic State on the battlefields of Mosul and Raqqa has to be followed by a victory in the treacherous terrain of cyberspace. Islamic State can spew hatred and draw terrorist wannabes to its savage cause. It doesn’t cost much to brainwash and recruit adherents on the internet.

Our hope is that as Islamic State becomes more desperate to avenge its losses to superior forces in its former caliphate, that the appeal of the group will fade. That’s the hope.

The reality is that terrorists humbled in one place can regroup in other countries — in Libya, elsewhere in Africa. That’s why the Trump administration recently pledged $60 million to help five African nations build a counterterrorism force.

The New York attack underscores what we’ve always known: This is a war that will be fought not by one generation, but by this and other generations to come.

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