Category: Editorial

Maywood, You Need To Get Serious About Spending Taxpayers’ Money

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: A screenshot of a page from a typical Maywood budget document. Compare Maywood’s budget presentation to nearby towns like Oak Park and River Forest. 

The Dec. 5 public hearing on Maywood’s 2017 tax levy, where village officials heard just a fraction of the collective heartache felt by residents, just reinforces the need for the village to inject long-term strategy, values, goals and expectations into the budget-making process.

Continue reading “Maywood, You Need To Get Serious About Spending Taxpayers’ Money”

EDITORIAL: Putting ‘Toxic’ Water Into Proper Context

editorial

Monday, September 26, 2016 || By Michael Romain || EDITORIAL || @maywoodnews

Yes, there’s stuff in the water. No, local governments aren’t to blame. No, you aren’t in immediate danger 

The recent release of a report by the Environmental Working Group showing unsafe levels of the toxin hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, in the water supplies of more than 200 million Americans has caused quite the panic. And, it seems, too much of it.

Two days after we published the Sept. 24 story, “Cancer-causing Toxin Found in West Suburban Drinking Water,” I got a call from Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, who said that residents were frantically calling her office with worries that Maywood’s water is undrinkable and that village officials may be to blame for this catastrophe.

To be clear, you can still drink the water and no, your local village manager or elected officials or public works people aren’t to blame for a problem with national significance that affects more than 200 million people.

As the EWG report, and our story based on it, makes clear, chromium-6 has been found in the drinking water supply of most communities in metro Chicago and in many metro areas across the country. The blame lies with lax federal regulators, crooked, profit-hungry corporations who lobby against reasonable safety standards, and the inability of most states across the country (apparently all of them except California) to want to really grapple with this problem.

You should be calling your state and federal lawmakers and regulatory agencies, not the mayor’s office. To call the mayor’s office or village manager or local trustee about this issue would be like calling them about the arctic glaciers melting or because Illinois hasn’t passed a budget.

Secondly, chromium-6 does indeed appear to be cancerous, but it’s not the only, and probably far from the worst, cancerous substance that is all-too prevalent in our everyday lives. Moreover, finding correlation between certain carcinogens and actual, individual cases of cancer is often virtually impossible.

Consider that the public health goal set by California scientists is 0.02 parts per billion and the state’s legal limit for chromium-6 is 10 parts per billion. A limit of 0.02 parts per billion, as the EWG notes, is the amount that poses “no more than a one-in-a-million risk of cancer for people who drink [the water] daily for 70 years.”

The level at which chromium-6 was detected in samples across Cook County ranged from no detection at all to 1 part per billion. The average level county-wide was 0.188, which is closer to the level found in water supplies of west suburban communities like Maywood, Melrose Park, Bellwood, Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest.

Even at this heightened level, an individual’s chances of getting cancer from chromium-6-infected drinking water is still around one-in-a-million over basically a lifetime. We don’t know how long chromium-6 has been an unsafe presence in the drinking water of millions of people (although the EWG detected it six years ago).

Still, over time, your chances of getting fatally struck by a car are probably significantly higher than your chances of developing cancer due to chromium-6 in the drinking water (around one in a million versus around one in 13,000).

The point is not to panic. This isn’t a Flint, Michigan situation, which involved the outright negligence and corruption of local, state and federal officials that led to an immediate public health crisis.

And unlike less than one part per-billion of chromium-6, the absurdly high amount of lead found in Flint’s drinking water means that not only is significant damage already done (consider the mothers who lost babies to lead poisoning), but the worst damage is yet to even reveal itself (because the effects of lead reveal themselves subtly and over a lifetime).

Thirdly, you can remove chromium-6 (and the thousands of other potentially cancerous and toxic substances) from your drinking water by purchasing a filter. The EWG even has a water filter purchasing guide to help you select the right one.

So, calm down, don’t panic. Your water hasn’t been rendered immediately undrinkable. And it’s unlikely that your or your relative’s case of cancer is directly related to chromium-6.

You can be fairly certain, though, that our environment has slowly, gradually become contaminated with all manner of cancer-causing substances. That’s, in part, because of the nature of our modern, industrial economy. But it’s also, in part, because of toxic politics that allow some of the country’s largest polluters to make a profit at the expense of our health.

For years, companies whose actions have led to this chromium-6 pollution schemed with public relations companies, lawyers, lobbyists and crank scientists to discredit the correlation between chromium-6 and cancer and/or to block attempts by lawmakers to pass laws and other measures designed to monitor, regulate and control the presence of chromium-6 in water supplies.

The best solution to this widespread problem is to educate ourselves about how this corruption works, to develop disciplined resolve over irrational fear and to get organized.

Call your U.S. congressperson or state lawmaker. Call the Illinois and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies. Demand to know what Illinois plans to do about monitoring and regulating chromium-6, and whether or not the state plans on setting a legally enforceable limit (as California did). Sign the EWG’s petition. But whatever you do, don’t panic. VFP

 

Enough: Illinois Budget Standoff Must Be Resolved, Says State-Journal Register

Springfield.JPG

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 || By State-Journal Register Editorial Board 

Approximately 65 Illinois daily and weekly newspapers are running editorials today through the beginning of July, many on their front pages, on the need for an end to the state budget standoff. The State Journal-Register editorial board shared this editorial and urged other newspapers to weigh in on the need for a resolution to Illinois’ budget crisis.

letter i.jpgllinois’  budget standoff must be resolved, and must be resolved now. Whether or not our leaders manage to pass a stopgap funding measure this week, Illinois still needs the stability of a full budget to restore the health of our state and its economy.

For a year, our state’s elected leaders have engaged in what can only be called political malpractice.

Illinois is the only state in the country that doesn’t have a budget. For a year, because of that failure, it has stiffed small businesses, social service agencies and its higher education system, leaving them trying to operate without money they’re owed. State operations have been cobbled together through a patchwork of court orders, and the state gets deeper in debt by the minute.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said on Monday the state was on the verge of crisis, and that it would be an “outrageous, tragic failure” if schools don’t open on time this fall.

With all due respect, Governor, the state is already in crisis and the budget standoff has already been an “outrageous, tragic failure.” A stopgap may delay imminent emergency and we desperately need that. But it’s still not enough.

As legislators return to Springfield today — for the first time this month — Illinois’  historic, serious problems have been made even worse by the failure to compromise on a balanced, long-term spending plan.

The political war between Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan has been confounding and unconscionable.  Rauner has insisted on passage of the so-called Turnaround Agenda, a series of pro-business measures, as a condition of the budget. Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton have seemed focused primarily on thwarting the governor.

Neither the governor nor the legislature has put forth a balanced budget. Decades of delaying action and willfully ignoring issues like the state’s epically ballooning pension obligations have devastated its financial stability. The state must make cuts, and yes, more revenue will be needed to stanch the economic bleeding.

The consequences of having no budget have been harsh and far-reaching.

The state’s colleges and universities, which ought to be linchpins for growth and economic development, instead have been starved. Hundreds have been laid off, programs have been shuttered. High school graduates look at this mess, fear for their future, and enroll in out-of-state colleges. Our best and brightest may not come back after they complete their education elsewhere.

Meanwhile, more than 130,000 low-income students have had financial aid snatched away. Do these students who wish to better themselves and their future job prospects through education have other resources to continue? In most cases, no.

One million of Illinois’ most vulnerable people — the poor, the at-risk kids, the elderly, the mentally ill, the homeless, the victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault — have been directly harmed by the state’s dereliction of duty, as social service agencies cut services.

Hospitals and medical providers are owed hundreds of millions in unpaid state employee medical bills and delayed Medicaid payments.

Countless business owners, large and small, have struggled to survive because they haven’t been paid. Cities and small towns have been left holding the bag for unpaid state bills.

And yet, it could get even worse.

More than $2 billion in active road construction projects might be shut down, leading to as many as 25,000 workers losing their jobs.

The state’s corrections system says it’s on the verge of not being able to feed inmates and operate prisons.

Social services agencies will continue to turn away the ill, the homeless, the elderly.

The state’s schools were spared last year by a separate appropriation. But this year, many districts face the very real possibility of not opening or not being able to stay open.

But what have citizens seen from the Capitol? We have seen political posturing. We have seen a governor who campaigned as a practical business leader dedicated to finding fixes instead act as an ideological purist. We have seen elected representatives apparently unable to stand up to Madigan, Cullerton and Rauner to demand a resolution to the crisis. We have not seen compromise.

Perhaps the most damaging long-term effect is the toxic cynicism and frustration this crisis has created among its residents, who have to wonder at this point if Rauner, Madigan and Cullerton simply view the toll on Illinois’ people as mere collateral damage. At a recent Better Government Association panel on the impasse’s impact, multiple social service providers said flatly they don’t believe leaders care about their plight.

Many long-term changes are needed to restore Illinois to solid ground. Redistricting reform is a critical piece of restoring true political competitiveness that will lead to legislators facing more accountability to the voters they represent.

But the day has come. Illinois’ people cannot be held hostage for a second year without a budget.

Voters must revolt and demand better.

Enough. VFP