- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November 26, 2015

Belleville News-Democrat

I lied, I cheated, I want to represent you in Springfield

Bob Romanik filed paperwork Monday to run as a Republican for Illinois House District 114, the seat being vacated by Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson. Also running is Latoya Greenwood, whose father is chief of the East St. Louis school board and city’s Democrats.

Bob Romanik filed paperwork Monday to run as a Republican for Illinois House District 114, the seat being vacated by Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson. Also running is Latoya Greenwood, whose father is chief of the East St. Louis school board and city’s Democrats.

Bob Romanik for state representative, eh. Maybe his campaign slogan will be: “At least you know up front that I’m a liar and a crook.”

Romanik is a twice-convicted felon. In 1997 he obstructed justice by lying 150 times to a grand jury probing Tom Venezia and Amiel Cueto’s $48 million video gambling racket. Then in 1999 Romanik was convicted of bank fraud involving a $1.5 million loan to construct the now defunct Jewel Box cabaret in Washington Park.

Once Romanik was a shotgun-toting police chief in Washington Park. Later he ran strip clubs: businesses his longtime companion and his son took over when he could no longer hold a liquor license. Then came the gambling ring and prison years. Now he is best known for his political rants as the “Grim Reaper of Radio” on his KQQZ-AM 1190, as well as for billboards putting St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern’s head on a bikini-clad woman’s body - thanks so much for that image, Bob.

Romanik on Monday filed as a Republican to replace state Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson, D-East St. Louis, who is retiring from the 114th Legislative District. Also running is Democrat Latoya Greenwood, whose father is chief of the East St. Louis school board and the city’s Democrats.

Only in Illinois - and that’s actually the case - can a convicted felon serve in the statehouse. Romanik’s convictions disqualify him from running for a local school board or city council, but a quirk in the Illinois Constitution allows felons to serve in constitutionally-defined offices. He could run for anything from St. Clair County Board up to the governor’s office.

Maybe sending Romanik to the statehouse is just the thing. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect purgatory than being a Republican in Springfield.


November 24, 2015

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Government prayer excludes too many

Local governments should stick to governing and leave the preaching and leadership of public prayer for the professionals trained to do so.

Few human endeavors are more personal than religion. One’s god is frequently very different from his neighbor’s. Marion’s Mayor Bob Butler is correct in saying “Prayer is so personal, and I think it doesn’t necessarily belong in that (council meeting) setting.”

Yet several city councils throughout Southern Illinois open each meeting with a purely Christian invocation. Some rotate local pastors. Others are led by a council member or member of the community. No Krishna. No Muhammad. Even Judaism goes unrepresented. It’s a political statement, the politicization of religion, in a country that promises total freedom to practice whatever belief system one chooses.

We can appreciate asking God for a little help while grappling with the problems of the day. Money is tight. Roads are eroding. Taxes are high. Supernatural wisdom could come in handy. Surely, a moment of silence would do.

Congress has long opened with an invocation. But, unlike city councils in Harrisburg, Murphysboro and Sesser, Congress embraces all of the major faiths.

One session opens with a Jewish rabbi. The next with a Lutheran priest. Even that falls short; there ends up being too great a variation in religious beliefs to include all. A person’s relationship with the universe is far too individualized to include everyone. At its core, government-sanctioned prayer is nothing but a vehicle of exclusion. Another unsatisfactory alternative is some version of a universalist’s prayer; one so general yet meaningless that it offends no one.

Prayer to a specific god - even the Judeo-Christian God favored by over two-thirds of Americans - has become a recipe for a lawsuit. And, judging by the data, proponents of the practice could, over the long-term, be waging a war against themselves. Most proponents of organized prayer assume that Christianity will always be the dominant religion. What happens when it is not?

In response to what some see as a “war on religion”, many communities ramped up the inclusion of religion in wholly public activities. “In God We Trust,” for example, was added to paper currency in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, feeding into propaganda about the “Godless Communists.” Now, the slogan is popping up on police cruisers throughout Southern Illinois. It might appear benign. But, in reality, it’s a message sent loud and clear to every non-believer who sees it.

Few things rival the American tradition of universal rights, regardless of creed. But those rights are moot if local government actively promotes one god over another.

An alternative used by many that allows for individual differences seems the best alternative. A moment of silence prior to meeting allows each individual the opportunity to pray to the god that they worship - or not. It includes all, yet allows each to respond individually. It is not Christian, nor Jewish or Buddhist or Islamic. It is, however, very American.


November 28, 2015

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Alvarez and the delay of justice for Laquan

Let us put this succinctly: Overnight — or more pointedly, over the course of 13 months — Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has lost virtually all credibility, and the onus is on her not only to restore it but to explain why she should not be expected to resign.

Her resignation is what the National Bar Association called for on Wednesday after the city of Chicago finally released the now-infamous video showing a white police officer, identified by authorities as Jason Van Dyke, gunning down black teenager Laquan McDonald in October 2014.

Alvarez’s office filed murder charges against Van Dyke on Tuesday, and a few hours later the city released the video it had sought to suppress.

The long delay in prosecuting this case is one of the more inexplicable aspects of a tragic police shooting that in itself defies explanation.

The reality is, every aspect of this case is troubling. Earlier this year, the city — with the blessings of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council — reached a $5 million settlement with Laquan’s family.

That settlement came without a lawsuit, despite the fact that Laquan was a ward of the state, and with an agreement to seal the dash-cam videos from public release.

But the most stunning aspect of that settlement is this: Even while the city was paying out $5 million, no one was filing charges against the officer who was identified as pulling the trigger without any apparent cause or justification.

Nothing adds up in this bizarre, cynical and unconscionable collaboration of injustice.

Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy also share culpability here, to be sure, but Alvarez is the chief criminal justice authority in the county, and we have expected so much better from her. We were the first major newspaper to endorse her when she ran for state’s attorney for the first time in 2008. We enthusiastically endorsed her for re-election again in 2012.

But in this case, she disappoints. She disappoints not just us, but the public she has vowed to serve. Her explanation for the delay in prosecution has so far been circumspect. She has attributed it to collaborations with federal authorities.

Should she choose to remain on the ballot, Alvarez will be up for election again next year. One of her challengers, former prosecutor Kim Foxx, put it this way in an interview with Slate:

“This was what we would consider to be a slam dunk. It’s not a matter of whodunit. You know who did it. You had a videotape and a vantage point that clearly shows where Laquan was in relation to the officer. You had eyewitnesses, both civilian and police. You had the autopsy report, which was available within days. So this wasn’t difficult.”

We, the citizens, say this: What Foxx says makes much more sense than what Alvarez has so far said.

Alvarez owes all of us a detailed explanation for the 13 months it took to bring charges. If not, she owes us her departure.


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