Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois
January 6, 2019
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
State leaders need to govern, not rule
With the election of J.B. Pritzker as governor, Democrats will control the governor’s mansion, the Senate and the House for the first time in four years. While Illinois remains a blue state, Southern Illinois’ congressional contingent got a bit redder in November when Republican Patrick Windhorst unseated Natalie Phelps Finnie in the 118th District.
While divided government can sometimes lead to compromise — necessity is the mother of invention — that wasn’t the case during Bruce Rauner’s tenure as governor. Rauner’s name will forever be inextricably linked to the two-year budget impasse that brought an already unstable state economy to its knees.
The state has taken some important steps back toward financial stability, notably paying down a significant amount of backlogged bills, but if the Illinois economy were a hospital patient, it would still be in ICU.
Universities, social service entities and state agencies have glaring wants and needs, but the state still cannot afford to address them. One more thing the state can’t afford — two more years of hyper-partisanship.
Yes, Democrats are in control. But, Pritzker, Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Mike Madigan need to govern, not rule. The days are long gone when Illinois’ elected officials can act with the sole intent of scoring political points.
To paraphrase former president Barack Obama, there is no Red Illinois, there is no Blue Illinois.
People are still streaming out of the state at an alarming rate. There was a story in this newspaper last week stating that only New Jersey has lost a greater percentage of its population to outward migration last year.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale, one of the region’s economic engines, is still struggling financially, as is other state universities. The needs in our state run wide and deep, too deep to put party affiliation before sworn duty to the people of Illinois.
If the past four years proved anything, it’s that such lofty ideals of bipartisanship and compromise are easily lost in the political clamor of Springfield. One needs to look no further than the ill-considered budget impasse.
Ultimately, the budget impasse was settled because a few courageous Republicans, including Terri Bryant of the 115th District, bucked party orthodoxy and voted for their district, their region and their state.
And, the new school funding formula, that according to another recent story in The Southern Illinoisan, is pumping new funds and new life into small rural schools such as Pinckneyville, Du Quoin, Vienna and Cairo, needed bipartisan support to become a reality.
As long as there is a central Illinois government, as long as there is a party system, there will always philosophical disagreements in Springfield. However, it is also important to realize that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.
Although Illinois appears to be on slightly better financial footing than two years ago, there are still serious issues the governor and the legislature will face. Some, like the legalization of marijuana, will cause elected officials to weigh financial need against their personal beliefs.
For many legislators, voting on such issues will follow hours of soul-searching. Some will decide the benefits are overwhelming, others will reach the opposite conclusion. But, make a decision they must, that is why ‘we the people’ sent them to Springfield.
The important thing to every citizen of Illinois is that these tough decisions be based on something more than party fealty. That is unacceptable. That is something the state can no longer afford.
The only way this state can move forward is by Republicans and Democrats finding common ground. To Gov. Pritzker and members of the legislature we offer this request, no, a command, “Do it.”
January 6, 2019
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Madigan’s rehabilitation campaign
Illinois is about to swear in six Democratic statewide officeholders and a host of new Democratic lawmakers, but the star of a new 30-second TV spot is the party’s wildly unpopular chairman, House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The blue wave that swamped Illinois politics in November will translate into a bigger Democratic majority in the General Assembly that will be sworn in Wednesday. And on Jan. 14, six Democrats will be inaugurated as statewide officeholders, occupying every one of the constitutional offices from governor to treasurer.
But who’s the star of a 30-second TV commercial that is running statewide through Tuesday? Why it’s Michael Madigan, the 76-year-old chairman of the Democratic Party, a fixture in the Statehouse since 1971 and the man who last year was found to be the least popular among the friendless few of Donald Trump, Bruce Rauner and himself. Polling last February by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that Madigan had a 21 percent approval rate and a 68 percent disapproval rate, including 49 percent who strongly disapproved of him.
Part of that unpopularity could be attributed to Rauner’s five-year campaign to portray Madigan as responsible for every ill in Illinois.
But it’s Madigan who, as usual, gets the last laugh. He’ll be back as speaker and head of the Democratic Party while Rauner leaves Springfield after one fruitless term.
After nearly 50 years in Springfield, it appears that Madigan has no intention of leaving voluntarily, as much as Republicans and even some Democrats would prefer. Why else would he spend nearly $70,000 from his Friends of Madigan campaign fund at four broadcast TV stations in the Champaign-Springfield market — and more elsewhere around Illinois — to congratulate himself, dance on Rauner’s political grave and begin a rehabilitation campaign?
The only Democratic officeholder featured in the spot is Madigan (the only Republican is Trump), who closes with this line: “In the fights that lie ahead, Democrats are on your side.”
But those efforts apparently don’t include stabilizing Illinois’ economy, its horribly out of balance budget or fixing the government pension mess, but instead focus on a Madigan favorite: ensuring the wealthy “pay their fair share, so we can get a break,” as a narrator says. If only it was that easy.
January 6, 2019
How suburban police departments are wising up about drug abuse
The best time to help drug addicts is when they reach out for help.
So, at a time when America is struggling with spiking rates of deadly drug abuse, we’d like to call attention to a new and more compassionate approach to the problem that is being tried in Lake and Kane counties. Addicts are being encouraged to walk into the nearest participating police station to seek help, without fear of being charged with a crime.
The cops will even take and dispose of whatever drugs the person might be holding, no questions asked.
Many drug abusers never seek help because they simply don’t know where to turn. Or they fear they will be drug-tested and arrested. Or they don’t know how they would pay for rehab.
But everyone knows where the closest police station is.
North suburban Lake County launched the program in 2016, and a third of all police departments now participate. Kane County will launch its own program this year.
Police departments work out arrangements with drug treatment providers in advance to ensure care is available around the clock. They then drive addicts seeking help to the front door of a treatment facility and ensure in advance that insurance questions or the ability to pay are not obstacles.
Police in Lake County have placed 516 people into treatment since June 1, 2016, said Mundelein Police Chief Eric J. Guenther, who hopes that the program will continue to expand across the county.
Communities in the program , he said, also have seen a decline in the number of retail thefts, burglaries to motor vehicles and domestic violence — all crimes that often revolve around substance abuse.
According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of teens and children dying from opioid overdoses has tripled in the past 20 years.
Putting addicts in jail has not worked. And it never will.
Countering addiction with treatment instead of jail time could save thousands of lives.