Pray for safety of all faith gatherings
We as leaders, lay and clergy, of diverse religious groups in the Northwest suburbs write in response to the senseless shooting at the Sikh temple in a Milwaukee suburb. We are heartsick that a gunman would shoot people innocently gathered in a house of worship. We grieve with families who lost loved ones, our hearts stand vigil by the injured and our prayers are with the community traumatized by this violence. We hope that with support and understanding the Sikhs of Milwaukee and other cities will find healing and real acceptance.
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This is not the first time churches, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, temples have been desecrated by violence bred of hatred. Houses of worship must be safe places where families and communities can gather freely to seek connection with the holy. This nation holds dear the idea that each faith must be free to practice unmolested, unharmed, as it does no harm but instead contributes to the common good. An attack on any faith is an attack on the practice of every faith.
Our nation is great because it fosters freedom to worship. We call upon people of all faiths to take time to honor those slain and to pray that no one will again attack folks gathered in innocence. Let us pray that we may not fall into the violent brokenness that has devastated too many nations -- that in houses of worship (and everywhere) we may gather in the spirit of community and acceptance that made this country great.
Let us do more than pray. Let us act toward one another in respect and good faith, living the teachings of compassion of the great religions, and bringing our society back from descent into destruction and chaos and forward into acceptance and true democracy. We pray in different ways yet in one spirit.
Rev. Hilary Landau Krivchenia
Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist in Palatine
-- with nine local leaders of faith traditions including Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Baha'is
Pension costs should be shared 50-50
While Illinois politicians vacillate on the issue of public pension reform, the investment ratings firm Moody's is proposing that pension funds lower their projection of future investment returns to 5.5 percent. Teachers' Retirement System, the largest public pension plan in Illinois, assumes an annual investment return of 8.5 percent. A recent article by Pensions and Investing (pionline.com) on the Moody's proposal states that this change would immediately increase Illinois' actuarially calculated $83 billion pension shortfall to a whopping $135 billion.
And who would be responsible for every penny of this shortfall? Why, the taxpayer would be of course, as the Democratic leadership in Illinois hides behind the claim that asking public employees to contribute more to their pensions is "unconstitutional," a claim that is refuted by many.
Illinois is not the only state with a constitutional clause regarding public pensions. The Arizona constitution mandates that public employees and taxpayers each share pension costs 50-50. However, in Illinois, using the Democratic leadership's interpretation of Illinois' constitution, the public employees' fixed contribution to their pensions cannot be increased for current employees. And, any added pension enhancements, missed investment return targets, end-of-career pay bumps and various pension abuses are 100 percent the responsibility of the taxpayer to cover. Is this fair? I think not.
The only idea floated by the Illinois Democratic leadership for "pension reform" is to shift the responsibility to fund pensions from the state to the local school districts, essentially producing a "back door" tax increase by significantly increasing local property taxes. Instead, Illinois should propose changing its constitution to mirror Arizona's. Such a plan would end the pension abuses we constantly read about and restore fairness to the system.
Don't fund schools with property taxes
An open letter to Gov. Pat Quinn:
I bought my house -- a modest, three-bedroom split level -- in July 1955, and it has been my home ever since. My property tax for the first full year of ownership was $275. The property tax for the 2011 was $6,433 -- $4,020 of which went for school costs. That's 62 percent of my total tax. This 2011 tax is a little over $1,000 more than the previous year's, and most of that increase was in school costs which I believe are unjustifiably excessive.
I have been angry for years at the unfairness of taking all the school costs solely from property taxes. Certainly a large percentage of Illinois citizens do not have a property tax to pay, and thus do not contribute to those school costs.
I have complained to Illinois state representatives on various occasions over the past 10 to 15 years, suggesting that Illinois should follow the path of neighboring states such as Michigan, which draws all its school costs from state income taxes or state sales taxes. That way everyone who has a reasonable income will contribute to the school costs, not just we property owners.
Something has to be changed -- elderly property owners, such as myself, are being taxed beyond the capability of our limited retirement incomes and face the possibility of losing the homes we completely paid for decades ago. You are our representatives in Illinois government. You have the responsibility to do something to rectify this gross inequity.
Robert S. Johns
Some solutions to high gas prices
Well, here we are again. The was a little burp in gasoline supply, the speculators jumped in and -- voila! -- the consumer saw gas prices rise between 40 and 50 cents a gallon in two days. Has anybody wondered why? I'm not a genius or a financial guru, but I think I know why. No, it's not our Middle Eastern brethren, nor is it the oil companies. Rather it's the tree-hugging do-gooders, the EPA and financial speculators.
You see, the conservationists convinced the EPA years ago that every major metropolitan area has a unique air quality problem and accordingly each area needs a special gasoline formula to combat those pollutants. As a result we now have boutique gasoline, a formulation that is different according to the air quality of each major city. And what happens when something is customized? The price goes up!
Now I enjoy the outdoors and am all for the environment, but there needs to be a balance between clean air and the consumers' budget. Right now the balance of power is in the hands of environmentalists and the EPA. Lets get rid of boutique gasoline.
The other factor is the role of the financial speculator. They are the ones bidding up the price of oil and gasoline on the futures market. We need to find another pricing mechanism to replace this market. Today I saw a story in the paper that there was a problem with a pipeline in Wisconsin and also refinery problems in Whiting, Ind., and Lockport, Ill. All that needs to be reported is the word "problem" and the speculators bid the prices up. This needs to stop.
Our lawmakers need to step in and protect the consumer from being pillaged and plundered.
Paul M. Lyczak
Alter pension system to be sustainable
A recent article in the Daily Herald, "Chief gets $136,000 salary and a $100,000 pension," illustrates the absurdity of the government pension system. A pension based on 75 or 80 percent of the final salary with an automatic 3 percent annual compounded boost is unrealistic and unsustainable.
It is time the pension system for all public employees, from the president on down, be changed to a defined contribution plan such as a 401(k). Also, pension gains through questionable backroom deals like working one month as a teacher to qualify for those benefits must be rescinded immediately.
Do we have any politicians with enough common sense to propose this change and to few to vote it into law? I doubt it will happen. Too many are in office too long and have lost touch with reality.
Elk Grove Village