- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 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, [email protected] 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 [email protected] Thank you.

The AP-Illinois

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January 24, 2015

Sauk Valley Media

Taking the measure of an important issue

The other day in Chicago, Gov. Bruce Rainer said something both simple and profound: “We can’t manage what we don’t measure.”

Rauner’s comment came as he issued an executive order in regard to what The Associated Press described as “disproportionately high unemployment rates among Illinois minorities and veterans.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers measurements from 2013, the most recent year data is available for Illinois.

Rauner wants to reduce those rates by using the apparatus of government to help.

But there’s information he needs to know first: What is the extent of underrepresentation of minorities and veterans in certain areas within his control?

The governor wants to find out the number of minorities and veterans involved in training or apprenticeship programs sponsored by labor groups, contractors and subcontractors who work with the state. Such programs often lead to good jobs. Rauner’s order calls for that information to be collected and reported within 30 days.

The state’s personnel agency was ordered to review laws on preferences for hiring and contracting with veterans. That report is due by June 30.

A report is also to be prepared on the ability of businesses owned by minorities and veterans to be awarded state contracts, along with recommendations to eliminate disparities. Dec. 31 is the due date.

As the information is obtained, it should help Rauner’s administration figure out ways within its power to improve job chances for minorities and veterans.

Rauner, a Winnetka Republican and venture capitalist, is applying a traditional, effective means of getting results: What gets measured, gets accomplished.

Find out measurable facts about employment of minorities and veterans, and then determine a course of action to improve those rates within the purview of state government.

And then, measure the outcome. Did the actions have the intended results? Does more need to be done? What additional changes are necessary?

By ordering a measurement of this particular problem, Rauner will provide his administration with the tools to manage it.

As time goes by, the process also will provide a standard to measure Rauner’s ability to identify a problem and solve it. The public will be watching for the outcome.

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January 24, 2015

The (Freeport) Journal Standard

Ernie ‘Mr. Cub’ Banks’ love for baseball made fans love him

Ernie Banks is the reason so many of us are Chicago Cubs fans. It was not just his tremendous talent, but his sunny disposition that endeared him to us. His famous catchphrase, “Let’s play two,” has become a mantra for those of us who love what we’re doing.

Banks loved baseball. He loved it enough to play 19 seasons for a mostly lousy team. The Cubs finished below .500 in all but six of those seasons. He put up tremendous individual statistics but never made it to postseason play.

Banks, “Mr. Cub,” died Friday. He was 83.

Growing up, many, if not most, of us, tried to copy Banks’ unique batting stance, but none of us had the strong arms, quick wrists and hand-eye coordination to make it work. None of us had the 1,000-watt smile and that always-positive attitude either. Imagine how different the world would be if there were more people like Banks who always looked on the bright side.

He played when all Cubs games were during the day. Many young Cubs fans in Chicago rushed home from school, went to Wrigley Field for the last few innings of a game, stood on Waveland Avenue and hoped to catch a home run ball from Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams or any other Cub. That was long before ball hawks became fashionable.

If you lived too far from the park, you rushed home to watch the last few innings on television and hear Jack Brickhouse’s play-by-play.

No Cub fan could forget May 12, 1970, when Banks hit his 500th home run, and Brickhouse made the call. “Fly ball, deep to left, back, back . that’s it, that’s it, hey-hey, he did it. Ernie Banks got number 500.”

Of course, some of us would occasionally play hooky from school so we could catch a game. Tickets were cheap enough that we could afford them with the money we earned on our newspaper routes.

Banks always made time for his fans, young and old, and plenty of us have stories about interacting with him at Wrigley. The park became somewhat of a shrine Friday night as fans dropped off flowers, candles and personal Cubs memorabilia.

In his later years Banks, the first African-American to play for the Cubs, fought for the homeless and sought solutions for urban problems. In 2013 he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S.

Banks epitomized everything good about sports. He played because he enjoyed it; he never sulked no matter how poor the team around him was, and he always had time to shake a hand or sign an autograph.

There was no finer ambassador for baseball and no finer ambassador for the city of Chicago.

President Barack Obama, a noted White Sox fan, praised Banks: “Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class - ‘Mr. Cub’ - is ready to play two.”

Amen. Rest in peace, Ernie Banks.

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January 23, 2015

Effingham Daily News

Keep public notices in newspapers

Some of the driest reading in the newspaper is buried back with the classifieds: Public notices.

They contain such inviting prose as, “This publication is made in accordance with Section 12-10 of the Property Tax Code (35ILCS 200/12-100), and serves as notice to the taxpayers of Effingham County of the assessed values fixed upon their property.”

Doesn’t that flowery legalese make you want to read more? Curl up with it by the fire one of these dark January evenings. Or take a dose of it with some warm milk when insomnia strikes.

The fact is, it should make you want to read more. That particular public notice, published in the Effingham Daily News on Thursday, relates to what Effingham County says properties in Douglas and Mason townships have been assessed at for 2014.

Have a complaint about how much you pay in property taxes? You can’t really make it unless you’ve studied that public notice to see if your share is equal to what the owners of similar properties pay.

Other public notices alert you to government meetings, bond issues, contracts bid and awarded, foreclosures, tax liens, zoning plans, and other neighborhood concerns.

We feel that publishing such notices is an important part of what newspapers do: Inform the public about vital local matters and the activities of the government that acts on its behalf.

Sometimes it seems that government is in the business of keeping its activities a secret. If “secret” is too strong a word, let’s say that government doesn’t always make it easy for people to find out more about its activities - say, by casually flipping the pages of their morning newspaper.

We say that because there’s an effort underway to remove government public notices from newspapers, shifting them to government websites as a way to save money in tight budget times.

We think that argument lacks candor. If only the public servants so concerned about saving the tiny amount of tax dollars public notices cost would apply such laser-like scrutiny to all of the millions of tax dollars that they control.

Government-run websites cost money to run, too. What’s more, few people visit them and when they do, the sites are not as easy to navigate as a newspaper.

Public notices are published in newspapers because they are an independent source of information, and a permanent record of the actions and intents of government. They also serve a much larger audience by serving folks without Internet capabilities, and people who don’t trust the Internet or government.

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January 22, 2015

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

Private support helping Illinois’ public schools stay afloat

News this week that Illinois’ budget deficit may be larger than previously reported doesn’t leave much hope that struggling school districts will be able to come up for air anytime soon.

And that’s going to make community support of public education more critical than ever.

According to newly published research by the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Illinois’ deficit is double what many had believed it to be.

Researchers, citing years of pay-later budgeting, believe the state’s current deficit is $6 billion - not the $2 billion to $3 billion that commonly is reported - and that it will be $9 billion for the coming fiscal year, rising to $14 billion in 10 years if there are no changes in state spending. They also say the state has promised $159 billion worth of IOUs.

That’s scary stuff and may not bode well for public schools, where uncertainty has become a guiding principle of school districts’ budgeting.

At the same time, districts face increased demands in the classroom, many of which are unfunded, as well as the challenge of educating a growing percentage of students who live in poverty and lack learning advantages.

A study released last week by the Southern Education Foundation revealed that for the first time in at least 50 years most U.S. public school students come from low-income families. In Illinois, 50 percent of students live in poverty, according to the data.

On top of those challenges, there is a growing push for teacher accountability and for schools to incorporate technology into the curriculum and use computers to administer yearly student assessments.

Educating youth in 2015 is neither simple nor cheap, and that’s not likely to change going forward. District 186 Superintendent Jennifer Gill called it “the biggest gray area of our lives.”

In the absence of adequate state funding, a growing number of school districts are relying on support from independent nonprofit foundations that were set up to raise money for public education and provide teachers and schools with money for books, technology and underwriting of special projects when other types of funding fall short.

District 186 benefits from the support of an active fundraising organization.

The Springfield Public Schools Foundation has raised more than $2.5 million for the city’s students since it incorporated in 1982. Each year it sets aside thousands of dollars for teacher grant requests for innovative activities that supplement classroom lessons and other education-related efforts.

Foundation leaders say they avoid paying for things that ought to come out of the district’s budget, but they said they are seeing more requests for help with classroom technology needs, a trend that is unlikely to change.

Unfortunately, those requests for help with the little things may quickly become requests for help with the essentials if lawmakers can’t correct Illinois’ fiscal free fall and agree on a way to properly and fairly fund schools statewide.


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