- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 15, 2015

Chicago Sun-Times

Springfield’s secret to criminal justice reform - compromise

People who work with troubled kids will tell you that it does no good to put a child as young as 10 in a county detention facility.

Talk about setting the kid up for even more trouble.

But the police will tell you something else: they don’t always have a choice. Taking a child out of his home and putting him in a detention facility is sometimes, unfortunately, the only way they can protect the child from a dangerous family fight that’s about to explode.

Those two conflicting truths were at the heart of negotiations in the Illinois Legislature this spring on a law establishing when and why a child can be put in county detention. Both sides compromised and produced a bill that, while not perfect, is a good step forward in helping and protecting children.

Equally important, passage of the bill - and almost a dozen other reforms in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice - serve to remind us of how bipartisan progress is still best made in Springfield: Eschew rigid ideology, compromise, and don’t trash your opponent.

The child detention bill, for example, which was sponsored by Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, and Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, originally would have raised the minimum age a child could be held in a county detention facility to 13 from 10.

But to get votes on the bill, Gabel and Steans revised it to allow the police to still place a child as young as 10 in a detention center pending a court appearance, but only after they first checked with a local social service provider who might be able to find a foster home or group home for the child. Such alternatives to county detention often are available, but the police routinely fail to seek them out. This bill would require that they do so.

Similarly, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, introduced a proposal to end the automatic transfer of minors as young as 13 to adult court, no matter what the child’s offense. Nekritz’ original bill would have required that a juvenile court judge rule in every instance whether the defendant should be tried in adult or juvenile court.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle pushed hard for the bill, but state’s attorneys from Cook, Kankakee and Sangamon counties testified against it.

The final bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, strikes a compromise. It does not eliminate all automatic transfers to adult court - still allowing them for the most serious crimes, such as murder and criminal sexual assault - but effectively reduces their number by 70 percent.

Compromise is the way of the world. No one side has it all figured it out. Not even in Springfield.


June 13, 2015

Rockford Register-Star

The time for ‘double-dog-dare you’ is over. Illinois needs a budget.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his nemesis, House Speaker Michael Madigan, have been playing the age-old kids game called “I double-dog-dare-you” about the 2016 Illinois budget, which Madigan says we have and Rauner says we haven’t.

As we’ve been over many, many times on this page, Madigan, the state’s top Democrat, says the state has a 2016 budget, the one passed at the end of May with only Democratic support. Rauner said it’s a bogus budget because it proposes to spend $3 billion to $4 billion more than the state will collect in taxes. The state constitution requires a balanced budget.

Rauner, who was elected to rein in spending and to make Illinois more business-friendly to attract investment and jobs, says he won’t sign it.

In fact, Rauner says he won’t sign any budget that doesn’t contain some of the pro-business and cost-cutting reforms in his “turnaround” agenda. They include reforming workers’ compensation law, eliminating prevailing wage requirements that Rauner says drive up the cost of infrastructure projects, and capping property taxes so that any local tax increase would require referendum approval. He wants lawsuit reforms, term limits, a reduction of mandates to local governments and a slew of other things.

But Madigan says no, he won’t consider any reforms that weaken unions or make it tougher for injured workers to get a decent settlement for their injuries. He says Rauner’s reforms can be considered later (on the 12th of Never, maybe?).

We find ourselves, again, between a rock and a hard place, with Madigan and his sidekick, Senate President John Cullerton, over here and Rauner over there, continuing to play double-dog-dare while the clock moves ever closer to June 30.

That’s the last day of fiscal 2015. On July 1, we no longer have a budget. State Comptroller Leslie Munger was in Rockford on Thursday to warn that, without a budget, she won’t be able to pay state vendors. State employees will stop being paid after July 15, and schools would not receive state aid by Aug. 10. Checks to Medicaid providers and expedited payments to nonprofit agencies and small businesses also would stop. Pension and debt payments would continue.

Conventional wisdom told us that our leaders would end their dog-and-pony shows when push came to shove, get together in the governor’s conference room at the Capitol and hammer out a compromise budget in which neither side gets all it wants but both sides can live with it.

But these are unconventional times. Rauner has been hurling insults at Madigan, who is doing a slow burn. What’s developing before our eyes is a nonviolent version of World War I trench warfare: Both sides dig in and prepare for a long, withering conflict.


June 14, 2015

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Kirk’s gaffes are adding up

U.S. Sen. and Gaffe-bot 2000 Mark Kirk stepped in it yet again last week. And this time, his tasteless attack on women and African Americans happened while sitting in the lavish U.S. Senate.

Kirk, during a Thursday Appropriations Committee hearing, chided unmarried GOP colleague and soon-to-be presidential also-ran Lindsey Graham as a “bro with no ho.” Kirk’s mic was hot.

Kirk was hoping to make a private joke, riffing off of Graham’s also awkward comment about a “rotating first lady” should he win the White House. But it would be too easy to let Kirk off the hook with the classic “boys will be boys.” This was a committee room in the U.S. Capitol, not a locker room. Regardless, we would expect more from a senator from Illinois, especially while making light of the plight of historically unprivileged Americans.

It’s what happens when the clueless try to be hip. And sadly, presumed ignorance is Kirk’s best defense here. The possible alternatives are downright troubling.

Let’s dig a little into what’s implied by Kirk’s bizarre, women-shaming quip.

Graham, a man from South Carolina, is a “bro.” He’s without a wife or a “ho.” For the slang-challenged, “ho” translates to “whore.” You know, a loose woman. A quick translation would read something like “Lindsey is a man without a slut.”

It doesn’t reflect well on Kirk’s perception of half the species.

OK, everyone says something stupid now and then. And, when you’re in the limelight, the chances of getting caught are boosted exponentially. Kirk quickly apologized for the crack.

Kirk has compiled quite the catalog of stupid statements in his relatively short tenure in Washington.

But there’s something particularly unsightly about a group of powerful white men making cracks at populations who’ve spent generations clawing for equality. Kirk’s “bro with no ho” gaffe is more than a privileged white guy making a cultural reference that’s clearly beyond his comprehension.

In four short words, Kirk minimized decades of oppression and suffering. And he did it while seated comfortably within the halls of power.


June 13, 2015

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Kirk’s slips of the tongue help us see past the politician’s veneer

“A bro with no ho.”

Yep, he said it.

Not your teenage son talking about a buddy without a prom date or a rap artist who peppers his lyrics with “hos.”

It was uttered by a 55-year-old Republican U.S. senator from Highland Park about fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an unmarried presidential candidate.

It was caught in one of those I-thought-the-mic-was-off moments during a roll-call vote.

And as one might expect, Kirk is taking some heat.

Kirk’s opponent in the 2016 Senate race is Democratic Hoffman Estates congresswoman Tammy Duckworth.

Her spokeswoman called Kirk’s comment “offensive” and “unfunny.”

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called it “inappropriate” Friday during a visit to Vernon Hills.

Kirk did apologize when asked about it, wisely not bothering to try to excuse what he said. His spokeswoman said he was merely joking with colleagues.

Of course he was. We’re all guilty of joking around with colleagues.

But most of us aren’t relying on the support of a majority of Illinois voters to keep us employed.

You can divine whatever you’d like from his comment — whether he is disrespectful toward women or whether he’s just a guy who’s overshot his comedic ambitions — to help you formulate a broad view of Kirk.

Since returning to the Senate from his 2012 stroke, Kirk seems to have lost his filter, occasionally saying cringe-worthy things.

In April, he said he would no longer talk about race after a comment he made to the Peoria Journal-Star exploded in his face.

In discussing efforts to bolster entrepreneurship in the African-American community, he was quoted saying, “That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through.”

In January, Environment & Energy Daily reported that Kirk told them “political correctness took over climate science.”

His staff later said that quote didn’t accurately sum up his position on global warming.

Don’t take this as an endorsement of Kirk’s views, but we hope that you use these unvarnished comments to add texture to what you’ve already learned about Kirk’s positions on the myriad important issues facing the nation and that you not base your opinions solely on such sound bytes.

We’d ask you to do the same with any candidate.

There is value in seeing beyond the carefully crafted veneer of a politician. Too often we don’t get a glimpse of the person behind the image.

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