- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Here are editorials published in newspapers around Illinois.

July 25, 2020

Chicago Sun-Times

Goodbye, Columbus. Now let democracy, not violence, decide what monuments we keep

The sculpted bas-relief panels on the four bridge houses at Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River are among our city’s best examples of public art - and, quiet as kept, probably the most racist.

One panel depicting the Battle of Fort Dearborn shows U.S. Army Ensign George Ronan preparing to plunge his sword into a Potawatomi. A slain Native American lies crumpled at the feet of the soldier. An angel floats above, positioned to indicate that God is on the side of the white settlers and the army protecting them.

It’s right there on the corner of Michigan and Wacker - did you ever notice? - adorning a bridge now named in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Black man who was the city’s first non-native settler.

In the wake of Friday’s early-morning removal of two contested Christopher Columbus statues, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has promised to create a formal process to assess the appropriateness of all the city’s public monuments, memorials and murals.

This needs to happen - and quickly.

Monuments and public imagery associated with racism, slavery or imperialism are being re-assessed around the world as part of the calls for racial and social justice following the senseless killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25.

Some monuments are being taken down by elected officials. Others have been defaced, pulled down or destroyed by demonstrators.

In one of the latest incidents, a bronze bust of 19th century white supremacist Cecil Rhodes was decapitated a week ago in Cape Town, South Africa. And in Virginia, a life-sized statue of Robert E. Lee and six busts of his fellow confederates were removed from the state capitol building late last week.

Lightfoot made the right move in “temporarily” - read permanently - taking down the two Columbus statues, one in Grant Park and the other at Polk and Loomis streets.

The Grant Park Columbus had become a flashpoint as police and protesters clashed and injured each other. It was best to just remove the statue - and reallocate the police assigned to protect it - until the monuments process that Lightfoot has promised unfolds.

This is not all new Chicago. Chicago has struggled with this issue before.

In 1889, a 9-foot statue of a uniformed cop was erected near Halsted and Des Plaines streets to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket Riot, in which a bomb killed seven police officers.

Haymarket was a pivotal moment in the American labor movement. But the monument honored only the police casualties, not the civilians injured. Nor did it offer a balanced view of the events of that day, a decision that would haunt the work for decades.

Today, the monument stands on the grounds of police headquarters. And a more inclusive Haymarket monument, featuring an artistic recreation of the wooden wagon that was used as a speakers platform, has sat - unbothered -on the original Haymarket site since 2004.

There is worthy, but tough work ahead if Chicago is serious about reexamining its many statues and monuments. Beautiful, but deeply flawed works will have to be removed or recontextualized. That includes the artwork at the DuSable Bridge.

The four panels were created in 1928 to honor the city’s rebuilding after the Chicago Fire, the Battle of Fort Dearborn, the early settler John Kinzie and the explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet.

The panels devoted to the early settlers and the Chicago Fire could pass muster if designed today. But the Fort Dearborn panel, with its depiction of the Potawatomi, likely wouldn’t. It also gives the historically false impression that the U.S. Army was victorious over the Potawatomi. They weren’t. Ronan himself was killed in the battle.

In the Marquette and Joliet panels, the explorers make their way through the wilderness surrounded by subservient Native Americans.

So what should be done here?

We’re not arguing for removing the panels. But this clearly is an example of where a monuments commission formed by Lightfoot could be helpful, suggesting ways to reinterpret the panels through additional signage or art.

We’d rather not see the mayor yank down more statues in the dark of night in response to protest violence.

But if Chicago is committed to the call sweeping the nation for greater justice and equity, it is time to deliberately and democratically decide which monuments to keep, which to redefine and which to flat-out get rid of.


July 26, 2020

The Quincy Herald-Whig

Mayors Challenge residents to mask up for 21 days

PERHAPS MORE than at anytime since the Great Flood of 1993, we are now being reminded that while we might be separated by rivers and state lines, our lives are more connected with others across the region far more than we realize on a daily basis.

It’s not, however, a raging flood or damaging storms or a similar disaster teaching us this lesson. No, it is a tiny virus, heretofore unseen among the human population, traversing the globe in a wave of infection that has killed nearly 700,000 people so far, about 150,000 of them Americans.

That’s why it was heartening on Thursday to see Kyle Moore, James Hark and Tom Richardson — the mayors of Quincy, Hannibal, Mo., and Keokuk, Iowa, respectively — don their masks and gather in Hannibal to announce a challenge to area residents they feel could put a halt to a recent spike in cases before it climbs to devastating levels.

The challenge is simple: For 21 days, get nearly everyone to wear a mask while in public when safe social distancing isn’t possible to turn back the rising tide of cases, saving lives and the local economy.

Their message was couched in the belief that fighting the virus is a matter not only of self-discipline but also one of caring for our neighbors’ well-being, an idea with which we are in wholehearted agreement.

As the mayors pointed out, it’s really a matter of being good neighbors. This virus easily can be passed on for days before carriers even know they’re infected. By wearing a mask, they significantly reduce the chance they might pass on the virus. That carrier could be any one of us, and we never know when we might pass the virus on to someone whose body could be ravaged by the immune response that is killing or causing serious long-term conditions for so many people.

The mayors were joined at the gathering by Blessing Health System’s Chief of Medicine Dr. Chris Solaro and Dr. Erik Meidl, an internal medicine physician at Hannibal Clinic. The physicians shared scientific evidence to support the mayors’ push, reminding those gathered that masks have shown to be 70% effective in stopping transmission of the virus.

The reality is quite concerning. On June 16, there had been 44 cases in Adams County. By July 1, that number had climbed to 98. On Friday, Adams County surpassed 300 cases, and the numbers across the river are showing increases, as well.

An example was shared at the meeting of a previous cluster of cases from several weeks ago that reached 84 people across all three states before it was halted.

It’s a stark reminder to us all that it only takes one gathering to ignite a cluster.

We offer kudos to the mayors for coming together and demonstrating how regional this fight must be. This virus will not stop at rivers or borders in its search for a host. Our efforts to stop it must not, either.


July 24, 2020

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Family ties are trying

That, of course, is a ridiculous question. Of course it isn’t.

Given all the federal criminal investigations swirling in and around Chicago and Springfield, it’s clear the Land of Lincoln is a political cesspool.

But it’s not just the outright corruption that is disturbing, it’s the day-to-day tolerance of questionable business as usual - the politics that is shot through decision-making at various levels of government.

Here’s a recent example of what the people of Illinois are expected to not just live with, but accept without reservation.

Commonwealth Edison, which provides service to 70 percent of the state’s utility customers, last week acknowledged that it participated in a years-long bribery scheme in which it lavished money on the friends and political associates of House Speaker Michael Madigan in exchange for favorable treatment by Madigan of legislation favored by ComEd.

One of the many allegations in the government’s statement of facts referred to Madigan, through cutouts, soliciting a $5,000 monthly salary for one of his friends in exchange for little or no work.

That friend - characterized as Associate 3 in court filings - was subsequently identified as former Chicago Alderman Michael R. Zalewski.

It just so happens that Zalewski is the father-in-law of Carrie Zalewski, chairwoman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates utilities.

If that’s not enough, Carrie Zalewski was among those whose names were on the “clout list” Madigan presented to incoming Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to hire.

Madigan, the alleged ringleader of the ComEd bribery scheme, recommended Carrie Zalewski. Her father-in-law is an alleged beneficiary of the bribery scheme. She leads the commission that regulates ComEd.

Well, isn’t that cozy?

Administration spokeswomen rushed to defend Carrie Zalewski, adopting a what’s-the-problem tone.

“What happened … does not involve Carrie Zalewski,” a spokeswoman for her agency said.

Actually, it does involve her. How could it not? At a minimum, circumstances look terrible. Luckily for Carrie Zalewski, this is Illinois, a venue where corruption thrives and appearances, however suspicious, are not a problem.

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