From hoarding to government overload

Updated 2/24/2014 12:09 PM

Sunday Soapbox. Some opinions require lots of words and elaboration. This is my Sunday Soapbox, not-so-briefly-stated commentary from one Daily Herald editor, and stolen from the Saturday feature with almost the same name.

Detailed look at animal hoarding

I'll admit I was a little skeptical when Harry Hitzeman, who covers Kane and McHenry county courts for us, suggested a weekend piece on animal hoarding. The two high-profile cases we had covered extensively -- in Aurora and Elgin -- were getting to be 2 or 3 years old. However, the Elgin man accused of hoarding is up in court next month. And the Aurora hoarder pleaded guilty to animal cruelty just three months ago.

Turns out, as you'll read in his Page 1 centerpiece in today's paper, Hitzeman turned up all sorts of detail on the incidence and psychology of hoarding:

• Suburban cases are extremely rare, maybe two a year in Elgin, a town of 100,000. A DuPage County expert said he sees about the same amount each year.

• Yet this seems to be a horribly underdetected and underreported crime. One expert estimated there are as many as 250,000 hoarding cases each year nationwide.

• The recidivism rate is similar to that of sex offenders: between 99 and 100 percent, Hitzeman was told. And some are suggesting state or national databases to track hoarders.

Too much government?

Sometimes seems it's tough to get the public passionate about important issues. Illinois' pension crisis isn't exactly daily water cooler discussion. The jury-rigged legislative maps, which allows the party in power to draw the boundaries in a way that keeps them in power, doesn't evoke the outrage one might think. Perhaps most obscure of this lot is the issue of how many governments we have in Illinois. There are 7,000, and the runner-up, Pennsylvania, is a distant second. We've written a lot about DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin's efforts to consolidate some ineffective or duplicative agencies, but it's a slow, tedious process. Now the Better Government Association has entered the fray, It's holding a free public forum Monday, trying to drum up support for a lobbying effort to persuade the legislature to give voters some say in combining or eliminating some of the units. So here's a free plug for their efforts: The forum is at 6:30 p.m. at National Louis University, 850 Warrenville Road, in Lisle.

A real stressful test

A somewhat belated shout-out to Kane County Coroner Rob Russell, who shared with the world what many would view as sensitive health issues: Only 46 years old, Russell has diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and family history of heart trouble, and after taking a battery of health and vascular tests earlier this month at Sherman Hospital he told us that based on his heart scan he needed to get active and lose 50 pounds. Russell's screening -- which we reported on, photographed and videotaped -- appeared on the front page. He became a high-profile guinea pig to raise heart health awareness and to promote the reduced-fee tests the hospital was offering. I took a higher-than-usual interest in the story because it's not every day a public official goes quite so public. I also thought it might not be the worst idea to get checked out myself. So, a few days after Elena Ferrarin's story ran, I called to sign up for the testing. Turned out a few people might have read that story; even though Sherman added 50 sessions, all were sold out quickly, I learned.

That, gentle reader, is how follow-up stories sometimes start.

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