Category: Editorial

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


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

REVIEW: The D209 Election Starts Now

Proviso Township District 209Wednesday, May 11, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || 5/10/16 || EDITORIAL 

It’s done.

The school board at Proviso High School District 209 has changed its leadership. Out as board president is Theresa Kelly.  In as board president is Teresa McKelvy.

Took a whole lot of disturbing political machinations for the new and narrow board majority to pull off this insider play. Kevin McDermott, the swing vote here, ought to be ashamed of the role he played in this sad game.

The upside though is that after a year of pretty much unqualified success in starting the slow process of turning this failed school district toward the light, the narrow new majority just couldn’t live with its progress, couldn’t avoid embracing the sort of political squabble that has turned the community sharply against it, and, so have now offered absolute clarity to voters on what must be done in school board elections now just 11 months away.

McDermott, McKelvy, Brian Cross and Dan Adams must be decisively turned out of office and replaced with more non-political, community-based, educationally focused board members.

In this silly and unnecessary battle to strip Kelly of her leadership post half-way through her agreed upon term, these four have made crystal clear where their interests and allegiances rest. And it is not with the thousands of young people whose futures have been trampled and ignored by this perpetually failed school board. It is not with taxpayers from nine decent towns whose hard-earned dollars have been taken from them without respect or a determination to right the political and educational malfeasance that has been perpetrated on this district.

This was petty but hardball politics. And its practitioners must be made to pay at the ballot box next April.

As we have said previously, Ms. Kelly was an imperfect board president. Sincere though and focused on students and teachers and the community. Ham-handedly changing board policy in mid-stream to cut the term of a sitting president in half was a ludicrous response to personal disagreements over matters not of educational substance but of alleged slights.

Now is the time for the 209 Together movement to begin its search for a slate of four vital candidates for next April so that this sad district can once and for all be rid of the politics and self-dealing.

Our thanks to the new board majority for so boldly defining the divide between this district’s pathetic political past and its prospects for a much better future.

The campaign for the possibilities of District 209 starts right now. VFP

The views and opinions expressed in this Forest Park Review editorial are those of that publication and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Village Free Press.

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From The Review: Two-Faced Kevin McDermott

Review.jpgTuesday, April 19, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || EDITORIAL 

It didn’t take long, right about a year, for the school board at our Proviso High Schools to turn the subject back to its favorite topic. Itself.

Always. Without exception. Without regard for the suffering of its students, the shame of its unending failure to educate or spend wisely, to connect with parents, to raise up its teachers, to modestly acknowledge its decades of blundering and self-dealing, the District 209 school board again has put its own internal politics at the fore.

This time the absurd debate is over an ill-timed effort to change the number of years the school board president can serve from two years to one year. Maybe that is a good idea. Maybe it isn’t. But it is blatantly political, absolutely rude, and hopelessly and needlessly divisive for a newly aligned board majority to attempt to wrestle the gavel from the current president in the middle of her duly chosen, unanimously elected two-year term.

And Kevin McDermott, the swing vote, ought to be ashamed of himself. In a One View in today’s Review, McDermott attempts to defend himself by self-flattery and puffery. His “energy, experience and integrity” are just what this board needs, he opines.

Nonsense. What this board, with its incoming superintendent arriving in the early summer, needs is steady, mature, open-minded leadership from each of its members. It needs school board members who see beyond its perpetual politicization, who can acknowledge and work with the strengths and the weaknesses every board member brings to the table.

McDermott’s right when he says the Review has previously endorsed his election efforts. We’ve also backed Theresa Kelly, the longtime board member and current board president. Both have their virtues. Both have their flaws.

But one year ago, Kelly led a reform slate to an overwhelming victory on this board. As the veteran of the slate, as the passionate advocate for change, as the African-American woman, she was the singular correct choice for board president. And she has led the district through a critical year of change.

Is she the perfect board president? Nope. Her passions can swamp her at times. She is not the most organized or articulate person at times. She could have done better at times in building connections on this politically-divided board.

But she was the right choice a year ago. She was elected to a two-year term. And the effort to wrest this role away from her by the untrustworthy McDermott and the clearly reelection-focused remainder of this board assures that the year ahead will be yet another year of distraction, chaos and accusation.

We are so sick of this. And based on the results from the change election last year, the majority of the Proviso community is in full agreement.

Much progress has been made in the past year. But the only way to secure the future of this vital school district is at the ballot next year. The remnants of the political machine must be crushed.

And Kevin McDermott has declared his allegiance to the machine. VFP

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