- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 3, 2014

The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle

‘Rita’s law’ could curb corruption

When out-of-staters are asked what comes to mind when they think about Illinois, government corruption is near the top of the list.

Illinoisans would ruefully agree. And who can blame them?

Illinois’ last two governors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich, ended up in prison on corruption charges, and before them, ex-governors Otto Kerner and Dan Walker did time for their crimes.

Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, D-Chicago, is currently behind bars because of a corruption conviction.

We can think back to the days of Secretary of State Paul Powell and his shoeboxes full of cash, or just as recently as 2012, when former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s massive municipal theft of nearly $54 million was uncovered.

Illinoisans are accustomed to such things.

However, when corruption is quantified in dollars and cents so you know how much it’s costing individuals, maybe people will sit up and take notice.

Prosecution of corrupt officials is only one response to the problem.

Prevention is another.

Elected government officials, who are supposed to be watchdogs over the public purse, have been given a new tool to monitor tax dollars on the local level.

That’s because legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, was signed into law last week by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The law, inspired by Crundwell’s brazen thievery, is designed to give much more attention to the annual audits of city and county governments.

More copies of audits and financial statements will be given to officials.

Public presentations of audit results will be required, where questions can be asked of the auditors.

If the governmental entity has a website, the municipality or county board must post information contained in the financial statements of the audit.

The idea is that with more people scrutinizing how the public’s money is spent, the likelihood improves that any monkey business going on will be detected.

And maybe, just maybe, the process will deter larceny-minded public money handlers from helping themselves in the first place.

The new approach to auditing has been dubbed “Rita’s Law,” which sounds appropriate to us.

In the future, when Americans are asked their thoughts about Illinois, maybe government corruption won’t place so high on the list. If so, “Rita’s Law” might just deserve some of the credit.


August 1, 2014

The (Ottawa) Times

Enough already with useless ballot issues

Don’t get too excited.

That’s the message Illinois voters should hold dear when encountering politicians trumpeting the minimum wage referendum on November’s general election ballot, as we wrote at the end of June, and it’s the exact same message to keep in mind during any talk of the newest referendum.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Tuesday adding a nonbinding resolution to the ballot asking voters whether incomes greater than $1 million should be taxed with a 3-percent surcharge. The money would help fund schools.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and the state’s most powerful political figure, said his plan could bring in $1 billion a year for education - about $550 more per student. According to his income figures, Madigan himself earns enough “in a good year” to qualify for the tax.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, Illinois had 14,692 tax returns in 2011 from households where adjusted gross income was $1 million or more. Collectively, their income was $42.7 billion.

Illinois has 4.8 percent of the nation’s millionaires, according to an analysis of IRS figures, and ranks fifth in the number of wealthy residents behind California, New York, Texas and Florida.

However, the key word to remember is nonbinding. The referendum could pass with 100 percent favorable votes and it still wouldn’t change the fact Madigan couldn’t rustle up the 71-vote supermajority in the House needed to put the actual amendment before voters. So here we are, with a flat tax and nothing more than the chance to say maybe we should change that, but, you know, there’s no mandate or anything.

As was true with the nonbinding minimum wage referendum, proponents of the millionaire tax says strong voter support would put serious momentum behind the issue, perhaps as soon as the lame duck session.

Illinois lawmakers do not legitimately care about the will of the people, and the fact Democrats are adding yet another nonbinding referendum, at great taxpayer expense, is all the proof you need. If lawmakers really wanted to know what people thought about the minimum wage and a millionaire tax, they’d hire a reliable polling firm. Instead, Democrats are using the referendums in hopes of driving voters inclined to support Quinn to the polls in November.

Specifically, the idea of a millionaire tax referendum will help Quinn’s class-war campaign against his wealthy opponent, Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Quinn’s best hope is for undecided voters to see Rauner as an out-of-touch Mitt Romney, a winning national strategy from 2012.

For his part, Rauner noted Quinn and other Democrats raised income taxes 67 percent in 2011, but still cut millions from general state aid - money sent to schools to help cover the basic cost of educating students. He maintains lowering taxes will make Illinois more competitive, and whether or not he’s right, at least he’s offering a new direction instead of the tax-and-spend strategy Democrats have deployed for decades.

And no matter if Quinn or Rauner emerges victorious, it’s safe to say the results of the two nonbinding referenda won’t amount to a hill of beans in determining the future of Illinois. So why even bother?


August 3, 2014

(Danville) Commercial-News

Be a part of the solution

Several Danville neighborhoods - along with those in Champaign, Urbana, Chicago and other cities - know the sound of gunfire all too well. Just last week, Danville police investigated another shooting incident.

Rightly so, many people speak out against the violence. But then when police start their investigations, far too few offer any substantial help.

The violence won’t stop until the whole community - especially those who know the identities of the gunmen involved - step up to present a united front.

It’s difficult for those who did not grow up or who do not live in the same circumstances as those responsible for the shootings to understand how someone could decide picking up a gun and firing randomly at a rival is the right thing to do. Stories about innocent people being hit by stray bullets or caught in a crossfire. And one shooting often leads to another, as retaliation leads to retaliation leads to retaliation - all the while as the list of victims grows.

The decision to use a gun puts everyone at risk. Those not involved in any way with the conflict can end up wounded or dead. The same goes for intended targets. And the one pulling the trigger can spend his or her life in prison or become the next target and for what reason? None come to mind that make the consequences of gun violence acceptable.

Police officers need the community’s help to stop the gunfire and make our neighborhoods safe places in which to raise our families. Witnesses and those with information can use the local Crime Stoppers program anonymously if they fear retaliation for their cooperation.

It’s easy to make snarky comments in social media. It’s much more difficult to step forward to be part of the solution. Will you stand up? You? Or will the violence continue due to our silence?


August 4, 2014

(Peoria) Journal Star

Impeach Congress instead?

On occasion in this space we have invoked the word “schizophrenic” - defined in the dictionary as “a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements” - to describe the behavior of politicians who make a lot of decisions for the rest of us. It applied perfectly last week to the Republican members of the U.S. House.

On Wednesday the House voted to give Speaker John Boehner the authority to sue President Obama for allegedly not carrying out the nation’s laws as intended by Congress - with local Congressman Aaron Schock in the affirmative - specifically regarding the Affordable Care Act, though Americans have pretty much gotten the message by now that Republicans consider the president a tyrant across the board.

Then on Thursday, the House Republican leadership backed off an immigration bill to address what they themselves have labeled a humanitarian “crisis” regarding the waves of Central American children coming across the nation’s southern border, suggesting that’s the president’s job, not theirs.

Really, it’s OK for Obama to act like a king and violate the law on Thursday, but it wasn’t on Wednesday? Boehner & Co. see no inconsistency there?

Alas, embarrassed by their own impotence and evidently concerned about encouraging the impression that this is both the laziest and most hypocritical House of the modern era, on Friday GOP leaders brought members back from the airport and from beginning the five-week August recess to vote on two bills, one authorizing $659 million to deal with the border situation - the president had asked for almost six times that - and essentially invalidating the 2008 law that gave Central Americans a pass from immediate deportation, the other an attempt to undo Obama’s executive order permitting children brought here illegally by their parents, the so-called DREAMers, to stay with work permits. Schock skipped those two votes.

Of course, the GOP’s attempt at saving face was meaningless, as the U.S. Senate had already left town. How convenient.

Schizophrenic, or just too cute by half? It’s not a compliment, either way.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide