- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 14, 2014

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

VA issues demand solutions

The unearthing of major issues with our nation’s veterans’ health care system must spur major changes.

It’s not going to blow over. No longer can it be swept under the rug.

Congress has worked this week to pass legislation that would provide more money for VA hospitals. That’s the right move.

A Senate bill, which passed 93-3 on Wednesday, would authorize about $35 billion over three years to pay for outside care for veterans. It would also allow for the hiring of hundreds of doctors and nurses and lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states and Puerto Rico.

The House approved a similar measure earlier in the week with a unanimous vote.

The White House said President Barack Obama supports the Senate bill.

They’re all right. The VA system needs more money, more people and more locations. It’s the only way to fix this badly broken system.

The Veterans Affairs Department released an audit this week showing that more than 57,000 veterans have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments. An additional 64,000 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade never got them.

In Marion, it was found appointments for 494 patients were never made. A spokeswoman for the Marion VA said that number is not entirely accurate.

Accurate or not, there’s clearly a glitch that needs fixed. The system should not state nearly 500 vets went without care.

The Marion hospital is slated for further review. That’s a good thing.

It’s a major regional hub of veteran care. It’s had well-documented issues in the past. A good, hard look at how things are done there will be to the benefit of our local vets.

Three Republican senators were the only ‘no’ votes in either house for this week’s legislation, arguing the bill writes a blank check. They voiced concerns about oversight of the funds and the ability to rein in the spending.

Those are realistic concerns, and it’s Congress’ job to ensure the money allotted for the VA is used properly and monitored closely.

Our veterans are entitled to nearly unlimited care. That’s the blank check we owe them.

It doesn’t mean veterans should be able to use the VA for any and all medical issues at a moment’s notice.

It means they should have every resource available to them in a reasonable time frame. When one of veterans needs medical attention, they should get the very best as soon as possible.

We asked them to give everything, and we should offer everything we can in return.


June 14, 2014

The (Joliet) Herald-News

Decision needs to be made on old prison

The deteriorating, old Joliet Prison is starting to look like a symbol of what’s wrong with state government in Illinois.

The limestone walls, 25 feet high and accented with turrets where guards would watch over prisoners with loaded weapons, stirs the imagination about what life was like in this bleak environment in olden days.

The prison on Collins Street, however, is rotting and crumbling. The state owns it but is doing nothing with it. The condition of the structure gets worse by the day - the roof on the main building of the prison collapsed recently - even though some would like to see it preserved and put to new use.

Local state legislators proposed two initiatives this spring to deal with the prison.

One would have authorized a sale of the prison to the city of Joliet for $10. The sale would give the city control of the prison and put Joliet in a stronger position to market the property.

The other would have provided tax credits to private investors who want to develop state-owned properties, including the prison.

Both proposals got hung up in the Legislature despite the efforts of state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, and state Sen. Patrick McGuire, D-Joliet.

Legislators were concerned that the $10 proposal left the state liable for environmental clean-up. The proposals for tax credits supposedly looked bad at a time when legislators were thinking of keeping the income tax hike in place, although that was scrapped, too.

But the state, which owns the prison and bears some responsibility for its future, should become partners with the city of Joliet and any private investors who come along in redevelopment of what has become a nuisance property. You can argue all you want about whether Joliet should acquire the property. You can contemplate whether the Joliet prison really has the potential appeal of a place like Alcatraz, the state prison in California that has been turned into a tourist attraction. You can imagine other potential uses for the property at 1100 Collins St.

But at least the legislation proposed this spring attempted to move the old Joliet Prison out of the completely moribund status in which it now exits and in which it is turning into ruins.


June 13, 2014

The (Freeport) Journal-Standard

More specifics needed in Rauner’s plan

Bruce Rauner’s campaign strategy up until this point boils down to “I’m not Pat Quinn. Vote for me.”

It appears to be resonating with many disgruntled voters. A new poll from We Ask America and Reboot Illinois shows Rauner, the Republican challenger with a 10-point lead over the Democratic incumbent. However, 16 percent of those surveyed said they were undecided.

We doubt most of that 16 percent were impressed with Rauner’s “Bring Back Blueprint” for government reform that his campaign released Thursday.

Rauner’s 11-page document told us a lot of what he wouldn’t have done as governor and not enough of what he would do. It’s not the budget plan we and other editorial boards have called for.

The plan looks more like an entry into a media association contest, referencing newspaper stories and television reports about some of Illinois’ problems.

Rauner maintains that his plan would save the state $1 billion, but his math doesn’t add up. For example, he says $500 million could be saved by reforming Central Management Services, but he doesn’t say where the money would come from. He wants to eliminate the state air force, which may be a good thing, but how much would that really save when you consider that mileage reimbursement would have to increase to make up for the loss?

It’s time to show us the money. For instance, how does Rauner plan to cut taxes and still deliver the services that Illinois residents demand? How does he plan to restore trust in government, curtail corruption, improve schools and get the state’s roads in shape?

The lack of specifics has not hurt Rauner yet, but he’s missing an opportunity - a “golden” opportunity as one former governor would put it - to truly distinguish himself from Quinn’s policies.

We know where Quinn stands on the issues. He wants to retain the 5 percent individual income tax so that schools and other areas of government receive adequate financing.

Quinn presented his budget - a five-year fiscal plan - in March. His campaign has challenged Rauner to come up with an alternative.

We’d all love to pay less in taxes. We’d love to see a booming economy and we’d love to have faith in our government. How do we get there?

The broad concepts Rauner has outlined look good on paper, but we’d like to see the math that shows how what he believes in will work. And, will it work in Illinois, where he would doubtless have to deal with a Democratic-heavy General Assembly?

Rauner can do better than what he released Thursday. We’ll be waiting.


June 12, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times

Hey, Donald, here’s how to do a sign

Consider the Chicago Sun-Times.

Not the media company, but the two matching signs - “Chicago Sun-Times” - on our riverfront building.

The signs are a flat and muted color. They are set demurely to the left of center. They are backlit after dark by the softest light, like candlelight at a quiet dinner.

They are good neighbors, sociable but not loud. They add a touch of hometown color to the graceful bend in the river below.

We like to think that the two signs, not to lay it on too thick, reflect the spirit of the Sun-Times itself, a news operation in print and online that we like to think serves as a friendly beacon in a city we serve and understand.

Aren’t we great?

But then there is Donald Trump, who has a sign, too.

Trump’s sign - “TRUMP” - now being affixed to his skyscraper on the Chicago River, is no friendly beacon. It is no candlelit dinner. It is anything but a good neighbor.

It is, rather, an obnoxious New York interloper, not unlike The Donald himself.

It is Donald Trump in stainless steel, braying for attention, front and center in everybody’s sightline, impossible to miss. All it lacks is the hair.

Chicago’s downtown riverscape, especially that stretch from Lake Michigan to where the river forks, grows more attractive by the year, adorned by old and new stylish buildings - definitely including Trump Tower - and lined with outdoor cafes and restaurants, walkways and greenery. But it is a functional elegance, more understated Midwest than brash New York.

You won’t find many building signs along the river, but there are some, most of them reasonable in design, size and placement. At their best, such as the Boeing logo affixed unobtrusively high atop its building, the signs say something good about Chicago - this is a happening town for corporate headquarters - without despoiling the view.

If only The Donald had consulted with us before putting up his gaudy sign. We could have explained to him how such things are done west of Times Square.

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