- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

February 16, 2019

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

All should fear precedent set by political definition of ‘emergency’

Some people may oppose President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on immigration because it sidesteps the Constitution’s explicit assignment of spending powers to Congress, not the president.

Some people may oppose the declaration because in order to keep a political promise that couldn’t be achieved through the political process, it cynically makes use of powers that are supposed to exist only for exceptional circumstances.

Some people may oppose the declaration because it smacks of authoritarianism and throws democratic principles to the curb.

Some people may oppose it because by definition, an emergency is a circumstance so dire that there is no time to debate an appropriate course of action, and the need for a border wall with Mexico clearly has been a source of debate for years.

Some people may oppose it because illegal immigration is demonstrably on the decline and the facts about immigration from the president’s own administration do not support claims that it poses a serious threat to the nation’s safety or at least they leave those claims open to question.

Some people may oppose it simply because all these things together add up to an egregious abuse of presidential power.

But there is one reason for which all people should condemn the declaration of an immigration emergency, and it’s one that should send shivers through even the president’s most ardent supporters. For, the precedent President Trump has set puts the bar for defining “emergency” so low that future presidents may feel emboldened to invoke emergency powers for whatever political end they may conceive.

Democrats already are saying that if illegal immigration can be declared a national emergency, surely a similar case could be made regarding gun violence. What about other issues? Steps to fight, say, the emergency caused by the effects of climate change? Affixing minimum-wage rates, perhaps, to combat the scourge of poverty? Elimination of privacy protections to fight burgeoning opioid dependency? Addressing the health crisis with the imposition of Medicare for all?

The potential for others to compound President Trump’s abuse of emergency powers with other abuses is almost endless.

The declaration on immigration is certain to be fought in the courts. Opponents have already reported plans to challenge it. So, we may well soon see whether a court packed with avowed constitutional conservatives will put the clear words of the constitution first or political objectives.

If it becomes the latter and the precedent is established that a president can declare anything to be an emergency that he or she can summon the political support to justify, the state of our democratic republic is in grave danger.

And that is something everyone in America — certainly every member of Congress the action would circumvent — should oppose.


February 17, 2019

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Gilbert best choice to chair SIU Board; we hope Pritzker keeps Ryan, Sambursky and Britton

We are at once encouraged and alarmed by changes and potential changes on the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

The election of Phil Gilbert as chairman of the board is a serious step in the right direction. The SIU System, more specifically Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is enduring the most troubled period in its 150-year history.

Shackled by the State of Illinois’ financial free fall, SIUC has seen its enrollment drop precipitously in the last decade. Planned projects to build new student housing and a new Communications Building have been put on the shelf. Faculty and staff have been cut.

Worse yet, self-inflicted wounds in the form of administrative scandals have further soiled the university’s reputation. Former system President Randy Dunn was dismissed by the board last year after he was implicated in a scheme that would result in the dismantling of the SIU System.

And, the board was rendered ineffective by a schism so deep it threatened the viability of the system it purported to manage.

That is the minefield Phil Gilbert will be stepping into when he begins his term as board chair.

We can think of no one better suited for the job.

Gilbert is committed to the university system. And, with the current sense of estrangement between the two schools, Gilbert’s time as a federal judge makes him uniquely qualified to seek common ground. Unfortunately, during the last few years the governance of the SIU System has at times devolved into territorial spats between the two campuses.

While it is natural for Southern Illinois residents to feel territorial or familial allegiance to one of the two campuses, it is vital to the interests of Edwardsville and Carbondale that the system remains intact. Individually, the campuses lack the clout of a system that includes a medical school, a law school, a pharmacy school and a dental school.

Gilbert is well aware of those facts and committed to the survival of the system. In our estimation, Gilbert was more than the best choice to lead the board - he was the only choice.

As elated as we are by the prospect of Gilbert leading the SIU Board, we are equally alarmed by the possibility that Gov. J.B Pritzker may decide not to re-appoint Joel Sambursky, Marsha Ryan and Tom Britton.

While unsure of all the political machinations behind the scenes, one thing is clear. These three board members were courageous in standing up to the corruption of the previous president and other board members. They faced tough decisions and made the right choices. They took the actions they were legally bound to.

Their reward? Possible removal from the board.

For a university struggling to get back on its feet financially, for an institution battling to maintain its institutional dignity, board members like Sambursky, Ryan and Britton are invaluable assets. They are exactly the type of people the governor should nominate. This is not a time for politics. This is a time for action.

Too often being a member of a body such as the SIU Board of Trustees is a thankless job. In too many instances, there seem to be no good decisions. Changing direction in the face of the work Sambursky, Ryan and Britton did to preserve the university system would send the wrong message.

Being a member of the SIU Board of Trustees shouldn’t be about politics. A member of the SIU Board of Trustees shouldn’t have to worry about stepping on the wrong toes. The job should be about doing what is right for the SIU System.

It is clear to us that Sambursky, Ryan and Britton have done just that.


February 14, 2019

Effingham Daily News

Talk of jettisoning Chicago has always been goofy

We understand the meaningless gesture by some state legislators from our area suggesting that a cleaver be taken to the Illinois map, separating Chicago from the rest of us.

But that’s all it is: Meaningless. It isn’t going to happen, no matter how good it feels to spout off about it now and then. We often feel that Chicago doesn’t “get” us. We certainly don’t always get the urban complexities of Chicago from our perch amid the rolling hills of central Illinois.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, filed a resolution this month appealing to the United States Congress to separate Chicago from Illinois and make it the 51st state. It was co-sponsored by State Reps. Darren Bailey, R-Louisville, and Chris Miller, R-Robinson.

Halbrook told EDN reporter Kaitlin Cordes that he’s bringing attention to the disconnect between the Chicago area and the rest of the state. Well, that sort of attention has been brought before and no doubt will be brought again.

A study last year by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale noted:

“This red county versus blue county history is especially evident in Illinois, where our politics are marked and marred by regionalism. It is so prevalent that fairly often some angry pundit or politician will advance the perennial idea of dividing Illinois into two states, Chicago and the downstate region, ostensibly in order to free the rural areas from the burdens of Chicago.”

Halbrook put it this way: “They make financial decisions and policies that don’t follow what the rest of the state wants.”

Halbrook said the resolution is also meant to spotlight what he calls “intrusive and overreaching” regulations. He identified gun regulations, saying that issues with gun dealers in the Chicago area should be policed there and that Chicago politicians should refrain from forcing such regulations on the rest of the state.

Here’s the thing: Pretty much everybody who lives in Illinois takes a dim view of state government and how it reflects their values, priorities and general outlook.

The SIU study polled residents across Illinois with this question: “How much attention do you feel state government pays to what the people in your community think when it decides what to do?”

Statewide, just 5 percent responded “A good deal.” In Chicago, 7 percent said that. Downstate, it was just 3 percent.

Statewide, 70 percent said “Not much.” In Chicago, that answer captured 72 percent of the answers. Downstate, it was 73 percent.

An eye-opener in the study looked at the revenue generated in taxes in Illinois counties compared to the money those counties receive from the state.

Cook County - where Chicago is located - gets back just 80 cents for every dollar it sends the state, according to the study. In that respect, Effingham County is similar to its northern counterpart: It gets back just 84 cents for every tax dollar it sends the state.

But Halbrook’s own Shelby County gets back $1.44 for every dollar it sends. Clay County, where Bailey is based, gets back $1.84.

To find the full study, google “The politics of public budgeting in Illinois.”

We’re not oblivious to the frustrations felt in this area, which often seems a sea of red in a state of blue. But talk of jettisoning Chicago is akin to that old saying about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

To Halbrook, Bailey and Miller we say: Carry on the good fight for us in Springfield. That’s how representative democracy works. And it can be done, even in one as diverse as Illinois.

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