Illinois Editorial Roundup:
Here are editorials published in newspapers around Illinois.
October 4, 2020
No property tax relief, no to `Pritzker Tax'Ě
If you voted early, you already know what the proposed Pritzker Tax amendment looks like on the ballot. It's at the top, and the language is leading, not neutral:
In an ongoing series of editorials, we have outlined why Illinois voters should vote no.
Today we introduce Part Four: Why broken promises on property tax relief should encourage voters to say 'úno'Ě to more taxes.
Pritzker's tax problems
Gov. J.B. Pritzker had two property tax problems in summer 2019.
Federal authorities were curious about the removal of five toilets from a Pritzker mansion on Chicago's Gold Coast. That evident effort to render the house uninhabitable, and thus save $330,000 in property taxes, was part of what Cook County's inspector general had labeled a 'úscheme to defraud'Ě other taxpayers. Pritzker made good on the tax money. The feds' investigation apparently continues - as do voters' memories of the episode.
But the broader issue confronting the governor mid-2019 was taxpayers' frustration over their runaway property tax bills. Democratic legislators had put the Pritzker Tax constitutional amendment on the November 2020 ballot; if passed, Springfield would institute graduated income tax rates to lift an additional $3 billion-plus from taxpayers' pockets.
Most voters look not only at one tax they pay, but at the totality of state and local taxes they pay. And by national comparisons, Illinoisans pay a lot. So Pritzker wanted to soften the threat of this new gouge. Plus, the governor had to placate some Democratic legislators who were nervous about supporting his amendment: How could they justify to constituents voting to enable even more taxation while blocking voters from voting on other reforms, such as pensions, term limits or remap reform?
Pritzker tossed the Democrats a bone: He would offset the income tax grab with a promise of, yes, property tax reform.
Here's what Pritzker said on Aug. 2, 2019, when he announced formation of his legislative task force to reduce local reliance on property taxes. 'úTogether, we'll ensure our children receive the quality education they deserve even while we provide more property tax relief for our homeowners and make our system more fair for everyone.'Ě
Here was a double-down quote from state Rep. Sam Yingling, D-Grayslake, who chaired Pritzker's property tax task force: 'úIntroducing anything less than a substantial overhaul will not be tolerated by the public. This will be a heavy lift, and we're going to have to make some tough decisions.'Ě
'úSubstantial overhaul.'Ě 'úHeavy lift.'Ě 'úTough decisions.'Ě Great.
Except nothing happened. The task force flopped. Zero reform. Zero relief - even with Democratic supermajorities in both chambers. Another broken promise.
Property taxes and Illinois Exodus
Eye-popping property taxes aren't just lowering home values here. Illinois' total tax burden - income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, recently hiked gas taxes and all the others - are driving the Illinois Exodus to lower-cost states.
Democrats could blame the coronavirus pandemic for their failure to reform property taxes, but that would be flat-out dishonest. Illinois property taxes have been studied for decades. Reform is a question of willingness, not of finding time.
But now they want to tinker with rates, again, after two hikes in 2011 and 2017 and fundamentally change the Illinois Constitution. We suggest voters, sucker punched with piles of broken promises, send Springfield a clear message: No.
October 3, 2020
The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
Masks are key in war against virus
Here we are again.
Counties in Illinois have had COVID-19 warning levels elevated. Essentially, it's a last-chance. Our COVID positive rates must drop, or we'll face a step back to more draconian limitations being reinstated.
Illinois is in the midst of its second climb in active cases. After a mid-July bottoming out of that number, we're now at the same level as we were in early May, more than triple when the numbers were at their lowest.
We're not flattening the curve. Not even close.
We're not the outlier among the United States. But the United States is the outlier in the world. Despite being less than 4% of the world's population, the United States accounts for almost a quarter of the positive cases globally.
Might the world be underreporting its results compared with the manner in which the United States is reporting? Sure. China's behavior and response has been questionable throughout the crisis. Russia appears to be operating with a policy of widespread disinformation. Africa remains a continent that Western Civilization largely ignores.
But that doesn't change the numbers posted in the United States or Illinois. Did some of us get sloppy or forgetful with Labor Day activities, and are we now paying the price?
Or is this the result of too many of us avoiding masks too often?
Let's be honest. We all see the people who decide they're not wearing masks. Some of them do it defiantly, appearing to almost seek out confrontations. Some appear to be waiting for someone to confront them. The worst are the individuals who have decided regardless of what the numbers and reality say, this crisis is done and they're done playing along.
There's been one consistent as the world has battled this pandemic. Masks and social distancing have been the tasks that have reduced positive cases and slowed the spread of COVID-19. It's that simple. But around the world, we've been in a rush to return to 'únormal.'Ě We're slow to learn that whatever 'únormal'Ě ends up being, life won't be like it was in January. And predictions of COVID impacting the world well into next year seem more accurate than those suggesting otherwise.
The key weapon in the mitigation war - one which we're currently losing - is a simple mask, and the courtesy of social distancing. Until we're willing to do that, any discussions about rebuilding must be placed on the future file.
Historically, pandemics seem to run their course in about 18 months. Do we have the capability to make it through that amount of time? The politicization of masks has made discussion about tactics impossible. We're in the worst possible world - one 'úside'Ě is trying to pacify medical concerns by insisting on the use of masks, and the other 'úside'Ě is concerned about rights and overstepping bounds and control of those without interest in being controlled.
But there's no force in the tactical plan. Honestly, we probably don't want there to be. As a society that has the default setting of thinking people are decent, it's too much to ask that police storm in and close businesses not 'úenforcing'Ě mask regulations, or revive paddy wagons to haul away individuals who don't mask up.
Additionally, we don't need citizen vigilantes fighting on either side. Leaving enforcement of mask mandates in the hands of part-time or underpaid retail and service workers is expecting too much. Similarly, though, the behavior of maskless mobs stomping through stores mocking the idea of facial protection is senseless, cruel and uncalled for. The point served by mask 'úprotests'Ě remains elusive.
We don't get to break off into our own regional areas and behave as we wish regarding masks. Not if we want to live in a society.
We also need to remember that in all societies, people who disagree still need to work and play side by side.
October 3, 2020
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph
Service clubs remain important to communities
One of the saddest facts of 21st century life is how no one is mourning the demise and absence of service clubs.
Not that no one misses when Jaycees and Kiwanis and Sertoma members and their sort break up their groups. Those active within the groups at any point definitely miss when the organizations disband.
But too many of those members have moved away, or grown tired of being ignored and disregarded.
Service clubs exploded in the 1910s, leaving most of them in excess of 100 years old today. The decline has been most precipitous since the 1970s, when many local service groups had member counts in triple figures.
Service organizations were the norm. They provided a source of socialization and an outlet for help to and in the community. It was networking before we came up with a word for that.
Some companies even require participation in service groups as part of a person's employment. Service groups create a connection to the community, allowing workers to better understand the community they are living in and the people they are serving, while possibly creating a bond that gives a person a reason to make the community their forever home.
As time went on, the average age of the membership went up while the size of the membership declined. Club membership got to the point where its membership was largely retirees with the time on their hands and the desire to their communities.
We haven't always realized or appreciated the full extent of the contributions of organizations and the individuals who comprised them.
One of the problems is no alternative has emerged. Volunteers are still out there. We see them and their works every day. But the younger among us seem to have abandoned the traditional idea of service groups.
We know our area has its share of volunteers, and we see and feature their work on a regular basis. But we share the sadness of those who have seen their organizations' demises.