Last Monday, our Editor John Lampinen announced that the Daily Herald will be co-sponsoring a public forum later this month with Reboot Illinois, a civic-minded digital operation that strives, like us, to engage the public in addressing the challenges facing the state.
One of those challenges is the state-run and state-mandated public pension system. As we have said in this space in the past, the system is facing eventual bankruptcy if something isn't done to reform it and to properly fund it.
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And so we've set about on community building, starting with The Pension Forum to try to bring people together to find common ground.
The area that gets most attention is the Teachers' Retirement System, but it's not the only area where the obligation is growing higher and higher. Officials in area municipalities, for example, almost all worry about how police and fire pensions are going to be paid.
It's not just one system that is in trouble. It's virtually all public pension systems.
The issue isn't simple, although some like to make it seem that way. The reality is the challenge is a pretty complex soup and the ingredients include questions of fairness, affordability and, frankly, politics and clout.
There may be some debate about the complexity of the challenge, but there is little doubt about its importance. The public as well as the special interests recognize that.
No sooner had Lampinen announced The Pension Forum than our email boxes filled up with requests for admission. We and Reboot have been, in fact, overwhelmed by the interest.
So much so that we have changed venues to try to accommodate the crowds.
Originally, we had planned to hold the forum at the Wheeling Township town hall in Arlington Heights, and we are grateful for the willingness of Supervisor Michael Schroeder to make the town hall available for the event. A tip of our hat to Schroeder and the staff at Wheeling Township.
But before the day was out last Monday, we realized that we were going to need more room.
Thankfully, officials at Harper College in Palatine were able to offer a meeting hall with more than twice the capacity, and so, with a card of thanks to Harper, The Pension Forum is moving there.
The tone of the conversation in Illinois has been, to a large extent, acrimonious. And already, even with something as innocuous as this forum, we've received indications that the special interests may try to flex their muscles.
That's a shame.
If we're ever going to find a solution, it's going to be because people of good will strive to work collaboratively to find common ground.
Let us all talk, not shout. Let us all listen, not command. Let us find solutions, not stalemates.