- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 16, 2017

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Falling by the wayside

First, the field was growing. Now it’s starting to thin.

Many people probably didn’t know that Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar was running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor until they heard about his announcement that he’s dropping out of the campaign.

That’s the way it goes with long-shot candidates with little money and support who decide to throw their hats into a high-profile, multi-candidate race for governor of Illinois.

It was just a couple weeks ago that Alderman Pawar was campaigning on the University of Illinois campus, trying to sell students on his hard-core progressive policy platform that he called a “New Deal” for the people of Illinois. He favors, among other things, a “progressive income tax, mass commutations of low-level, non-violent drug offenses, calling out the War on Drugs as a racist failure, universal childcare and single-payer health care.”

Now he’s just another wannabe who has campaign handicappers speculating about how his decision will affect the other candidates. Probably not at all, largely because Pawar had virtually no supporters.

On the ideological scale, Pawar most closely resembles state Sen. Daniel Biss. But Pawar said he’s not endorsing any of the Democratic rivals but is launching “a political action committee to organize young people around progressive issues and fight the false and bigoted divides around race, class and geography.”

Having raised less than $900,000 from more than 2,500 donors, he attributed his decision to drop out of the contest to a lack of financial resources. The onetime candidate also complained about the high cost of campaigns, calling it a “troubling trend.”

Pawar is right about that, and it’s understandable that he resents wealthy candidates who are free to underwrite their campaigns with personal contributions. That includes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, a multimillionaire businessman who is seeking his second term in office, and wealthy Democratic rivals, businessmen Christopher Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker.

Money, unfortunately, is the mother’s milk of politics. No wonder legendary GOP political strategist Mark Hanna once said, “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

But it is not dispositive. Wealthy candidates can afford to deliver their messages, but they can’t make people embrace those messages. It takes more than a few campaign commercials to strike a chord with the voting public.

But money does help to demonstrate the depth of a candidate’s support. A large contributor base demonstrates broad support and real enthusiasm for one candidate as opposed to another.

With Pawar’s decision to drop out, there are still six candidates left in the race - Kennedy, Pritzker, Biss, Tio Hardiman, Bob Daiber and Alex Paterakis.

Another dropout or two may be on the way. The filing period runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, and the field is too large for all of them to make a big splash with voters casting ballots in the March 20 primary election.

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October 15, 2017

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Controversy should not lead to threats

Before kickoff of Southern Illinois University’s Sept. 30 football game against Northern Iowa, and then again before yesterday’s Homecoming game, three African-American SIU cheerleaders decided to take a knee during the national anthem, joining the protests that have marked National Football League games this season.

The young ladies didn’t take this action lightly. They were fully aware their actions would be controversial. They walked into the breach with open eyes, understanding there would be repercussions, including possibly being removed from the squad.

What they didn’t expect was the vitriol, hatred and physical threats heaped upon them.

SIU’s student newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, reported their protest. The story resulted in a torrent of comments on various social media platforms. Some of the comments were physically threatening.

“These people know our faces and names now,” one of the cheerleaders said. “And, we’re getting death threats and sexual assault threats and being called the N-word so many times.”

The SIU Department of Public Safety investigated the threats made on social media, and ultimately decided that “none of the members of the squad were the subject of direct threats .” Still, the comments were threatening enough that they were reported to the department.

Granted, this is a controversial issue, but issuing physical threats because someone takes an opposing political view is not only immoral and illegal, it is un-American.

The young ladies who decided to take a knee were fully aware that they would face criticism for their actions. They knew there would be dialog and discussion. They understand the First Amendment doesn’t protect you from criticism and invective, it simply protects you from governmental reprisals.

But, no one, no matter how reprehensible their views, should be subjected to threats of murder or rape. And, of course, threats were from anonymous sources directed at people who had the courage of their convictions, who took a public stand.

This is not the America our forefathers envisioned. We are a country born of dissent, nurtured on lively debate about what it means to be an American. We have had long, loud angry debates about women’s suffrage, Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. The arguments weren’t pretty, but each time we emerged a nation for closely aligned with America’s ideals.

Unfortunately, this is not the America of a generation ago where anonymous death threats could be largely dismissed as simply overheated rhetoric. This is the America of Las Vegas, the America of Sandy Hook. The incident needs to be investigated thoroughly with anyone making personal threats prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Second, the racial component of the backlash cannot be ignored. The inability of Americans to get past the racial divide is like an alcoholic’s battle with the bottle - we seem to be in constant recovery, but we have never been cured.

It is foolhardy at this time in our history to believe that society will have a sudden moment of clarity, of unification. The protest picks at a scab that America has been trying to hide since the early days of the republic.

As Americans, we have every right to state our political beliefs. We have every right to vigorously debate those issues. We do not have the right to threaten others. We do not have the right to coerce others to adopt our point of view.

Finally, we commend the university for its handling of the matter. University officials have acknowledged their personal views, at the same time noting that our constitution allows for peaceful dissent.

“SIU Carbondale encourages all members of its community to respect the flag and our national anthem. We also understand that these two important symbols stand for one of our most important Constitutional rights: freedom of speech. The university must ensure that all members of the community have the right to express their views safely and peacefully, whether or not others agree with those views or the means being used to express them,” Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said in a statement to the newspaper.

He also stated that the university’s first concern is for the safety of the students. Political disagreements should never force personal safety to be a concern, not if we truly believe in what the flag represents.

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October 12, 2017

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Fighting opioid epidemic on many fronts

If anyone doubts the extent of the opioid epidemic, pay attention to these stories on the federal, state and local level just in the last couple days.

First lady Melania Trump highlighted the issue by visiting a drug recovery center for infants in West Virginia, the state, according to The Associated Press, with the highest rate of babies born dependent on drugs. The center, Lily’s Place, is the first of its kind in the nation.

“I want to be here to support you and give a voice to Lily’s Place and also for the opioid epidemic,” the first lady said. “We need to open the conversation to children and young mothers how it’s dangerous to use drugs and get addicted.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Opioid Prevention and Intervention Task Force began a state tour in search of information and partners to help implement the state’s Opioid Action Plan to curtail the growing opioid overdose epidemic in Illinois.

“The opioid epidemic knows no neighborhood, no color, and no class. It is not confined to alleys in urban settings, nor isolated in rural communities,” said Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton, the task force chair.

Locally, the suburban region has led the way in recent years in addressing the crisis, highlighting the increasing number of deaths due to heroin and other opioids and working to raise awareness. Wednesday, Kane County took another step in the fight by moving forward with a lawsuit against opiate drug manufacturers.

Meanwhile, DuPage County learned recently that the Office of National Drug Control Policy has added the county to the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, meaning DuPage is eligible to receive additional resources, including intelligence and specialized equipment.

“What we’re trying to do is get to the source of the drugs coming into the county,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said. “It’s easy to arrest the small-time drug dealers. We’re trying to go after the big drug trafficking organizations. It’s going to have a huge impact on public safety.”

This is a nationwide battle on many fronts. It’s telling that officials at all levels of government see the need for coordinated efforts and gratifying to see that happening, especially close to home, in a variety of ways.

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