- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

EDITORS:

NEWS DIRECTORS:

Thanks to all members for submitting editorials that help The Associated Press assemble the weekly Illinois Editorial Roundup. Due to several factors, it has become more challenging to find fresh, original editorials on member websites. We would very much appreciate if you could take a few minutes to submit editorials that you would like to share with other members. They can be sent to our main email address, chifax@ap.org. Please use “Editorial Submission” as the subject line.

Please remember that we try to use editorials with appeal and interest for a statewide audience, and that not all submissions can be used. If you have any questions, please contact AP-Illinois News Editor Hugh Dellios at 312-920-3624 or hdellios@ap.org. Thank you.

The AP-Illinois

_____

January 29, 2015

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle

Include public in contract negotiations

If Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators want to do something to address the public anger over how community colleges are spending money, they should change the law.

What’s really fueling the outrage is the secrecy with which public bodies negotiate and vote on contracts. Want to change it? Then lawmakers should change the state’s Open Meetings Act to give the public some window into collective bargaining and contracts. No contract should be approved without the public knowing the details in advance.

In DuPage County, the College of DuPage’s Board of Trustees were harangued by members of the public over their decision to buy out college President Robert Breuder for the princely sum of $763,000.

The college board approved the buyout agreement last week without releasing any details and without any public discussion, much as they had amended his contract several times since hiring him in 2008.

The college’s board approved what many in the public consider an outrageous deal first, then told them about it - no doubt after consulting with their attorney, who probably told them that was the best way to handle it. Attorneys - and judges - might be good at interpreting the law, but they don’t always concern themselves with good government.

On the same day an overflow crowd was having its say in Wheaton - too late to make any difference - trustees at Kishwaukee College in Malta voted on a new labor agreement with their teachers’ union. They handled it in similar fashion, with a two-minute public meeting at which they voted on a contract without sharing any details.

Once the vote was done, trustees talked about what was in the agreement and about how a tuition increase would be necessary next year to pay for it. We can only assume tuition increases will follow in each successive year, as the faculty will receive average annual raises of 4.5 percent a year for three years.

Shutting the public out of these discussions makes them easily manipulated, ignorant of the real issues, and in the end, little more than a piggy bank to cover the promises our state makes to public employee unions in education and government at large.

It is time that our state and its elected officials show more concern for the people who pay for these labor agreements. Collective bargaining meetings should no longer be exempt from the requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act. The public deserves to know the issues in negotiations and what is at stake for them.

Teachers should not have the right to hold students hostage with strike threats. Illinois is one of only 12 states that allows teacher strikes and their divisive and detrimental effect on the public’s perception of its schools. Even if state lawmakers refuse to act, remember that no one compels public bodies to keep the details of contracts secret.

They could always stand up for their constituents and make the details of the agreements - and the attendant consequences for taxpayers - public before taking a vote.

___

January 28, 2015

Effingham Daily News

Say it ain’t so, Unit 40

We just heard the New England Patriots allegedly deflated some footballs to give their quarterback an edge in bad weather for the AFC Championship game.

Say it ain’t so.

We’ve also been handed an urgent bulletin advising of point shaving scandals, recruiting violations, and academic fraud in the ranks of college sports that would make even a bookie cry.

Say it ain’t so.

Chicago Black Sox, anyone? Steroids? Pete Rose?

Say it ain’t so.

We mention all this because of the funny feeling we got in the pit of our stomachs after the recent discussion at an Effingham Unit 40 School Board meeting. Officials are considering raising money through advertising at high school sporting events.

We know it’s not really fair comparing the placement of a few signs around a high school stadium with the scandals big and small that seem to plague upper level sports. We can’t help it, though.

Sports have become far more than just a pastime in this country - it’s business on a scale that’s sometimes hard to comprehend. The billions of dollars that drive the industry are the cause of almost every scandal you can think of - looking for an edge that will help get the biggest possible slice of the pie.

High school sports seemed the last refuge of purity in the games that we grew up loving so much. We know that even athletics at that level are sometimes tainted by pressure to reach higher, where those giant slices of pie are so tempting.

But when a crisp fall evening pits arch rivals on the high school football field, or the dark of a winter’s night has enveloped everything but the glow from the gymnasium, or spring arrives with warm breezes and the crack of a bat .

Why mar such beauty with sales messages that sway us from anything but the game at hand, and the honest competition that molds boys into men and girls into women?

Say it ain’t so, Unit 40.

___

Jan. 28, 2015

Sauk Valley Media

The feds deliver for Dixon

In the latest news on forfeiture efforts regarding disgraced Dixon ex-Comptroller Rita Crundwell, we see, once again, the handiwork of the federal government on behalf of its citizens.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Philip Reinhard issued a judgment to transfer ownership of a nearly $200,000 debt from Crundwell to the U.S. government. The money is owed by former City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen and his wife to Crundwell. The Ortgiesens now owe the money to the federal government, which upon repayment, will give the money to the city.

Federal lawyers also argued successfully, and the federal judge concurred in a ruling last week, that about $90,000 in retirement fund reimbursements owed to Crundwell be turned over to the Clerk of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois. The money will be turned over to the city.

In addition, the same federal judge issued turnover orders in December for insurance policy refunds, a bank account, and trust programs worth a total of $38,500.

A motion has been filed by federal attorneys to seize about 700 trophies that Crundwell won during horse competitions, show clothing, and other items. Crundwell’s stake in a family trust is another asset the federal government seeks to acquire, liquidate, and apply to the court-ordered restitution.

Actually, federal officials have been involved with the Crundwell case from the beginning, when Dixon Mayor Jim Burke called in the FBI in 2011 to investigate a heretofore unknown city bank account controlled by Crundwell.

FBI investigators built their case, then about half a year later, in April 2012, arrested Crundwell at City Hall and charged her with wire fraud. Further investigations revealed her theft from the city over two decades of nearly $54 million.

As federal prosecutors pursued justice, the U.S. Marshals Service catalogued and liquidated much of Crundwell’s property. The service eventually presented the city with about $9.2 million, which was applied to the court-ordered restitution. She still owes more than $44 million to the city.

We believe the federal judge is correct to order the forfeiture of Crundwell’s remaining assets so that the Dixon residents whom she victimized will receive the maximum restitution possible.

Perhaps an argument could be made that when Crundwell gets out of federal prison in 17 some years, she will need money to live on.

But that argument pales in comparison to the absolute enormity of her thefts.

A legion of federal officials - investigators, prosecutors, U.S. Marshals, judges, court officials - has served Dixon well throughout the Crundwell saga.

Oh, and the feds are also putting her up in federal prison in Minnesota during her 19-year, 7-month term.

Think about that the next time someone knocks the federal government.

___

January 28, 2015

The (Kankakee) Daily Journal

Baseball never had a better ambassador than Mr. Cub

The achievements of the late Ernie Banks were impressive. He hit 512 home runs in the era before either the players or the ball was juiced. He won two Most Valuable Player awards, two home run titles and two RBI titles. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

He was one of three shortstops named to the All Century team, along with Honus Wagner and Cal Ripken Jr.

He was “Mr. Cub.” He was the first African-American to play for the Cubs. He was the first Cub to have his number retired by the team.

But all of that, perhaps, is not the reason we should remember him. He smiled early and often. In a world where players jump teams to turn $7 million into $10 million, Banks’ watchword was loyalty. After the Cubs purchased his contract from the Kansas City Monarchs of the now-defunct Negro Leagues, Banks never played for another team. In a world where everything changes, you could count on Ernie Banks in that Cub uniform.

Banks was asked once, toward the end of his playing days, if he regretted signing with the Cubs, as opposed to another team, say, the Dodgers, or the Giants, or the Braves, where his chances for a baseball post-season would have been much, much greater. He said “no.”

Time has obscured just how bad so many of the Cubs’ teams were in Banks’ days. From 1953 to 1971, Banks played on only one team that won 90 or more games. Banks holds the major league record of 2,528 games without ever playing a single playoff or World Series game. For the first 15 years of Banks’ career, the Cubs failed to draw 1 million and at home.

It was only toward the end of Banks’ era that the Cubs assembled talent around him and got a competent manager, Leo Durocher. The last five teams Banks played on won 83 or more games. None of the first 14 won more than 82. Banks played on eight teams that lost 90 or more games.

Banks was famed for saying “Let’s play two,” a reference to doubleheaders. That’s a fading term now. Baseball no longer schedules doubleheaders. Banks’ quote was often transmuted into a love of the game, which he certainly had.

But it’s also a sign of optimism. Keep trying. Keep smiling. We’ll get them next time. Where others suffered, he saw only sunshine. You admired his abilities on the field. His outlook on life was just as remarkable. His glass was more than half-full. It overflowed.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide