Excerpts of editorials from Illinois newspapers

September 21, 2013

The (Sterling) Daily Gazette

Make pilot project permanent

Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Rock Island Democrat, will yield control of the Illinois Supreme Court next month to a new chief justice, Rita Garman, a Danville Republican.

One of Kilbride’s initiatives during the past 3 years – allowing news cameras and microphones in certain courtrooms on a trial basis – appears to be in good hands.

We are thankful for that.

After the latest group of counties was accepted last week for the Extended Media Coverage trial program, Garman voiced her support.

Garman, who will mark her 40th anniversary in the judiciary in January, appears to be fully on board with Kilbride’s initiative, which was announced in January 2012.

The number of counties participating in the pilot project has now increased to 35, a number that includes Whiteside, Lee, Ogle and Carroll counties.

But Illinois has 102 counties, meaning that courtrooms in 67 counties still do not allow access to news cameras and microphones.

Frankly, we had hoped that cameras in the courtroom would become a permanent fixture statewide before Kilbride left his 3-year term as chief justice next month.

However, Garman’s commitment to cameras in the courtroom appears sincere.

In addition, Kilbride still has 7 years left in his term to further promote his initiative, so the chances that it will stall are minimal.

Based on Sauk Valley Media’s experience with cameras in the courtroom, the process works well.

We salute outgoing Chief Justice Kilbride for his groundbreaking initiative, and we encourage incoming Chief Justice Garman to carry it through to a successful conclusion.

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September 20, 2013

Belleville News-Democrat

Consolidation will need a nudge

Any reasonable person can see it: Illinois has too many school districts for taxpayers’ and students’ good. There are 863 districts, down from 891 a year ago. Still, that’s ridiculously high number. Fewer districts in general would save money on salaries and overhead, and in many cases broaden the academics and extracurricular activities schools could offer.

But consolidation remains a four-letter word in most districts.

O’Fallon School District 90 wanted to consider consolidation with its neighboring elementary districts. But Shiloh District 85 and Central School District 104 aren’t even willing to explore the possibility.

Frankly, if District 90 were flush with cash, it wouldn’t want to do it, either.

If Illinois is ever going to get serious about school consolidation, it’s going to have to attach enough financial strings to make it happen. And rather than expect individual school boards to start the conversation, the state will have to lead.

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September 22, 2013

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

Wanted – Candidate with plan for state’s overdue bills

The future of another social service agency is in jeopardy as it continues to wait on Deadbeat Illinois to make good on its backlog of unpaid bills.

This time it’s the Mary Davis Home, a juvenile detention center in Galesburg that cares for children ages 10 to 16 from numerous west-central Illinois counties while they await court proceedings for various types of legal problems.

For more than a year, the state of Illinois has owed the facility about $5 million at any given time; much of which is owed from 2005 or earlier. The state currently owes the center $4.9 million.

Illinois is supposed to fund 58 percent of the detention center’s budget, authorities say, but this year state funds made up only half of that – 26 percent.

Finances are getting so uncomfortably tight for the Mary Davis Home that members of the Knox County board, which oversees the home, are considering significantly reducing its services or closing its doors for good.

As the state continues to ignore its mountainous fiscal obligations, another race for governor is getting underway. Crafting a workable plan to dig Illinois out from its backlog of unpaid bills should be a top priority for every candidate.

Any candidate who wants the job as the state’s chief executive can’t simply tell voters the state needs to pay down its backlog of bills. He must tell voters specifically how he intends to make it happen.

Illinois’ backlog of bills is a problem that continues to grow. The state’s entire general fund is $35 billion; its unpaid bills equal roughly a quarter of that amount. Yet, few lawmakers and elected officials are focused on the problem because of the never-ending discussion and hand wringing about the state’s $100 billion pension crisis – an enormous problem in its own right. Pensions and unpaid bills are separate but equal issues in terms of priorities.

The state’s bill backlog affects the cost of doing business with and within Illinois. It’s past time for elected officials to come together and address the problem. It is inexcusable for needed agencies like the Mary Davis Home to struggle to stay open simply because the state won’t pay its bills.

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September 22, 2013

(Decatur) Herald and Review

Quinn now has nothing to distract him

We may never know the exact reasons Bill Daley unexpectedly dropped out of the governor’s race this week.

Daley, who was challenging Gov. Pat Quinn for the Democratic nomination, said he thought he could win but was apparently worried about the enormity of the job if he was successful.

The state has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, the worst state government credit rating, $7.5 billion in unpaid bills and a $100 billion unfunded pension obligation. The state’s political leaders don’t appear inclined to address any of these issues, preferring instead to dither and delay.

The next governor will not only have to face that mountain of problems, but also establish a working relationship with House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. In addition, the new governor will have to deal with a General Assembly that is much more comfortable spending money the state doesn’t have on projects it doesn’t need than facing the state’s real issues.

Yeah, who wouldn’t want that job?

The Daley decision practically guarantees the Democratic nomination will go to Quinn. A challenger could still emerge, but it’s doubtful anyone would have the pull or the ability to raise campaign funds to mount a serious challenge. The two biggest threats to Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Daley, have stepped out of the race.

Quinn has been handed a unique opportunity, and he should push the advantage. He has the chance in the next year to set the state on the path to recovery. Without a primary to dog him, he should make clear to the General Assembly that he wants fiscal discipline, a pension solution that actually solves the crisis and an end to the corruption and ethical lapses that prevail in the state. If the special pension committee’s proposed legislation doesn’t go far enough, Quinn should announce before a vote is taken that he will veto it. He should be ruthless about calling out Republicans and Democrats who refuse to take the necessary votes on pension and other reforms. He should make it clear that all government spending will be carefully scrutinized.

Governor, you’ve been released from campaigning for the next several months. The next governor of Illinois needs to be someone who can lead the state back from the current abyss. Of the remaining candidates, you are best poised to start that process now.

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September 22, 2013

The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald

Healthier lives for our children

We want what’s best for our children.

Which is why we all should be paying attention to the childhood obesity epidemic in our country. More importantly, we all should be acting to reverse this troubling trend.

In 1980, U.S. children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 19 held obesity rates of 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively. By 2010, obesity rates in both age groups had increased to 18 percent, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Causes for the problem vary, but usually included are societal changes such as children spending more time in front of TVs, computers and gaming systems. The food we eat too – inexpensive fast food and soda, filled with empty calories and sold in large quantities – fit better into on-the-go lifestyles than taking time to cook a healthy meal.

It would seem to be a problem with a simple solution – eat healthier and increase physical activity, and children should be healthier.

But the problem is behavioral, not logical. And it’s anything but simple.

Besides having additional health problems such as diabetes or asthma, overweight children are more susceptible to bullying from their peers. Their unhealthy habits likely will continue into adulthood. There could be long-term mental health issues.

Thankfully, more agencies and organizations are realizing the need to act.

Obesity is a disease best treated by preventing it from happening at all. The efforts done so far locally are encouraging – but they are just the start. Communities must embrace the need to reverse this epidemic. The consequence of not doing so may best be summed up by this observation in a 2005 study in The New England Journal of Medicine: this generation of children could end up living shorter lives than their parents.

We want what’s best for our children. When it comes to their general health, we need to start showing it.

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