- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 14, 2018

August 11, 2018

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Checks and balances are this year’s ballot issue

Checks and balances. They’ve been a fundamental premise of our system of government since the founders first began contemplating how the original colonies should be joined as one.

That’s why we have three branches of government, each intended to carry equal weight.



That’s why, for that matter, we have freedom of speech and press, why there are protections that ensure public access to government meetings and records - so that the governed may provide a check on the governors.

Checks and balances. They are, ultimately, our pre-eminent safeguard against autocracy.

This year, perhaps as never before or at least more than in recent memory, checks and balances will be a central election issue.

Do we allow President Donald Trump free rein to impose his agenda without the necessity of bargaining or compromise with the loyal opposition?

In particular, given the cynical approach so many House Republicans seem to have taken to the Mueller investigation - despite its numerous indictments and the universal intelligence assessments of Russian meddling - do we want Mueller’s ultimate findings to be debated by politics and judged by partisanship?

Conversely, in Illinois, do we allow Democrats control of all three branches of government to carry out the party’s agenda without apparent constraint?

Do we leave matters such as a graduated income tax, public pensions, casino gambling, immigration and school funding to one party to decide without the need to consult with the other?

November 6 seems like a long way away, and of course, it is.

But Election Day will be here before we know it, and, in fact, the early voting period is less than two months away.

The angry advertisements are already showing up on television and in the direct mail.

We have always believed in judging candidates on an individual basis, by that candidate’s qualifications, temperament and ideas.

We’ve always split our ticket, never been tempted by a straight-party voting option.

But checks and balances matter. Especially this year.

So, for example, Republicans like Rep. Peter Roskam and Rep. Randy Hultgren have to do more than show their credentials or articulate their philosophies. They have to show, concretely, their willingness and fortitude to challenge Trump when necessary. Their independence matters, this election year more than ever.

And, for example, a Democrat like J.B. Pritzker has to do more than smile and question Gov. Bruce Rauner’s competence. He has to show, unequivocally, that he can stand apart from House Speaker Michael Madigan - not with slogans or puppies, but with deeds. His independence matters, too, this election year more than ever.

___

August 11, 2018

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Hiring lawsuit

A state patronage hiring scandal going back 12 years just won’t go away.

The political class in Illinois has an entitlement mentality, and not just those at the top of the political heap.

The mindset goes all the way down to the lowliest party patronage worker.

How else does one explain the recent lawsuit filed by eight workers who were illegally hired at the Illinois Department of Transportation, fired after the extent of the patronage conspiracy was disclosed and now are suing the state because they want their old jobs back?

The lawsuit, which alleges they were illegally fired after they were illegally hired, was filed last week in Sangamon County.

The IDOT illegal hiring scandal goes back to the days of former Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn. To get around state hiring rules requiring employment based solely on merit, they oversaw a plan where IDOT managers created new positions - staff assistants - that supposedly were managerial and not affected by the hiring rules.

After being hired, these staff assistants were assigned routine job duties that were subject to the hiring rules.

After a long investigation, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced in September 2016 that he had closed the book on the scandal by dismissing 29 IDOT employees who should never have been brought on the state payroll.

The position in the lawsuit of some of those who were fired is that after being hired illegally into a staff position, they obtained other positions in IDOT by going through the traditional hiring review.

That’s an arguable claim, with two caveats.

They should never have been hired in the first place. Further, a report prepared by a court-appointed outside monitor said many of those job application processes were as phony as the original hires.

At any rate, those illegally hired are challenging their dismissals and - who knows? - maybe they’ll win.

But their claims represent another bad joke on the people of Illinois who have come to resent the costly, ineffective and inequitable political business as usual here.

___

August 12, 2018

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Same ol’ story, just a different day

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Repetitive sounds have interesting, sometimes debilitating, effects on human beings. Virtually no one can listen to consistent banging, squeaking or screaming without reacting in some way.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

It human nature to dislike hearing the same thing over and over, hence the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

Thump! Thump! Thump!

There is a good reason this newspaper is running yet another story about the public housing crisis in Cairo, in East St. Louis and towns and cities across the United States. The problems are not being addressed, at least not in any palpable fashion.

People we work with, the children our kids go to school with, people who work at the grocery stores and the shops we frequent are living in substandard conditions - and little is being done to see they no longer have to live in squalor.

Molly Parker, an investigative reporter for The Southern Illinoisan, has been telling stories about the atrocious conditions in Cairo’s public housing complexes. The government’s response - shutter the buildings and force the residents to move elsewhere.

Ben Carson declared mission accomplished in East St. Louis - where public housing is still a disaster.

That isn’t adequate.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Mahatma Ghandi said, “A nation’s greatness is judged by how it treats its weakest members.”

Here, in America, at this time, we push some of our most vulnerable citizens out of their homes, move them to another location and hope the problem goes away. Or, government officials suggest we triple their rent to incentivize them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

And, it’s painfully obvious we are going to have to keep beating that drum.

As long ago as 1985, Housing and Urban Development officials understood there was a problem with public housing in East St. Louis. They seized control of the East St. Louis Housing Authority, citing poor living conditions and fraud.

In a ceremony earlier this year, Ben Carson, the current HUD director, came to East St. Louis to return control of the public housing units back to the East St. Louis Housing Authority. It was his “Mission Accomplished” moment.

Carson declared that residents were no longer at risk - a bold statement considering nine of the 12 public housing projects in the city had failed health and safety inspections by HUD’s own inspectors. The inspectors found windows and doors that didn’t lock, infestation, mildew, peeling paint, and maybe most damning of all, missing lead-based paint inspection reports.

This is America. This is 2018. Our fellow citizens deserve better.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

Think about the situation for a moment.

Are those conditions acceptable for your family? Could you stomach to see your children, your parents living in such conditions?

Should that even make a difference?

And, despite nearly universal agreement that something needs to be done we run in the opposite direction. HUD funding for major repairs at public housing complexes has fallen 35 percent, from $4.2 billion in fiscal 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2018, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Remarkably, earlier this year the White House proposed eliminating the funding completely.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

In the meantime, in Illinois we watch the systematic dismantling of the once-bustling city of Cairo.

HUD is failing to protect children from lead paint poisoning, audits find

Sure, there have been meetings with politicians “Tsk, tsk, tsking,” but to date the only suggesting for reviving the town is a port facility. While not negating the validity of the plan, a port becoming a reality is at least 10 years in the future.

The prospect of a port opening in 2030 does nothing, not even offer hope, to someone trying to eke out a living in Cairo in 2018.

That is why these stories need to be told again and again. We need to be aware of what is happening to our fellow citizens.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

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