Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Posted8/10/2021 7:00 AM

Bloomington Pantagraph. August 7, 2021.

Editorial: Kinzinger steps up, does right thing on national stage


John F. Kennedy in his book 'Profiles in Courage' wrote about eight senators who bucked public opinion or their own political party to do the right thing.

Take John Quincy Adams, who tussled with his Massachusetts Federalist party. Or Lucius Lamar, a Reconstruction-era Mississippian who called for cooperation between the North and South. Or Nebraskan George Norris and his bold effort to rein in the power of the speaker of the House, a fellow Republican.

Sixty-five years after that was published, tenacity and courage are still in short supply among our elected officials.

Which makes the actions of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R- Channahon, all the more important.

Kinzinger, a product of Normal Community West High School and a former McLean County Board member, has gained national prominence for his role on the committee to investigate the heinous Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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The accounts of that day in testimony are terrifying and gripping - of Capitol police officers being assaulted by a savage crowd armed with guns, Tasers and bear spray. Mayhem reigned. The televised images are still hard to watch.

We continue to be alarmed by the downplaying of what happened, that somehow an attempt to block the lawful transfer of power to President Joe Biden is not a big deal. Equally alarming is that the creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate won only 35 GOP votes in the House and was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Party leaders ended up picking a slate of GOP members (including U.S. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville) to serve on the panel, but then two Trump loyalists were rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting up a political firestorm.

Republicans decided to boycott the whole thing because it wasn't bipartisan enough, another example of diverting attention away from the actions inspired by former President Donald Trump.


Pelosi ended up going with Kinzinger.

Was that a politically motivated choice?

Of course.

After all, he is also one of 10 House GOP members to back impeachment and was a vocal criticizer of Trump. Critics say he's been on too many national television shows or is positioning himself for another office. (Like Davis, he is mentioned as a possible Illinois gubernatorial candidate.)

A group called the House Freedom Caucus wants to kick Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, out of the party because they agreed to join the Jan. 6 committee. Kinzinger has said he's even at odds with members of his own family and those who backed his first run for Congress in 2009.

But he has pressed on.

'You guys all talk about the effects you have to deal with, and you talk about the impact of that day,' Kinzinger told officers during the testimony. 'But you guys won. You guys held.'

He delivered on his commitment and protected our Constitution with a bipartisan spirit that's too often missing among elected officials.

Kinzinger said he's serving on the panel because 'the American people deserve transparency and truth on how and why thousands showed up to attack our democracy.'

The simple truth is, Kinzinger only did what was right. He crossed ideological and party lines in search of the truth.

How that will play out among those who vote for Kinzinger is unclear. Having courage sometimes has that effect.

Consider that the eight senators in 'Profiles in Courage' all paid a steep political price. Their political careers were altered, some irreparably.

As Kennedy wrote, too: 'In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'holds office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.'


Chicago Tribune. August 4, 2021.

Editorial: Businesses in Chicago are insisting on vaccinated customers. Good. No counterproductive government mandate needed.

New York's shrill Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference Tuesday to say he is mandating that New Yorkers get vaccinated. In so doing, he turned untrained gym workers and restaurant employees into adjunct law enforcement officers, charged with checking the vaccination status of every customer walking through their doors. Presumably on pain of prosecution of the people on both sides of that transaction.

The de Blasio crew tried to spin the new mandate as positively as possible. Even though it actually prohibits the unvaccinated citizenry from doing things, de Blasio's people co-opted the language of opportunity and called their plan the 'Key to NYC.'

'When you hear those words,' he said at an Orwellian-like news conference, 'I want you to imagine the notion that, because someone's vaccinated, they can do all the amazing things that are available in this city.'

The tone was paternalistic and condescending - hardly unusual for de Blasio - and risked being counterproductive.

The city of Chicago should resist any and all temptation to do the same.

Let's be clear - in case you've missed our previous protestations - that we believe all unvaccinated Illinoisans should overcome any reluctance and roll up expeditiously for their free shots. Ideally, immediately upon finishing this editorial.

The highly transmissible delta variant presents a clear and present danger to the unvaccinated of all ages. The scale of this problem represents relatively new information and it requires those of us who've chosen not to get vaccinated (no shame) now to re-evaluate the data, pronto, lest the only subsequent opportunity to do so comes too late, when you're flat on your back in the emergency department.

Sure, vaccinations do not offer perfect protection, nor are they free of side-effects for every last human. It also remains unclear how long they will protect us without booster shots. So stipulated. Few things in life are perfect.

None of these arguments undermine the preponderance of evidence that the unvaccinated represent a major impediment to Illinois and Chicago moving forward.

But the counterproductive polarization within the American response to COVID-19 is a consequence not just of people being dug into outdated positions and our collective inability to make effective cost-benefit analyses. It represents a deficit of relative thinking and our hapless failure to talk to each other without pernicious judgment.

Of course a good number of Americans are resistant to government officials telling them that they must allow a needle to enter their arm, like it or not! That's not an inherently irrational response. History teaches us such skepticism is warranted. 'Follow the science' is not the binary admonition it often is assumed to be. Scientists say different things from each other as data gets tried and tested and their emphases and conclusions vary. As they should. It's science for adults.

Smart people listen to all sides, including skeptics, before they make the best decision for themselves and they allow their decisions to evolve with the facts. And, let's be frank, you don't have to be reluctant to get vaccinated to think that the messaging from the federal government throughout this crisis has been disappointingly partisan, feverish and unclear.

That's why the situation in Chicago is the best solution to this dilemma: private businesses are leading the way.

Numerous employers now are insisting that their employees get vaccinated before they return to the office. If you don't want to comply, you are free to work elsewhere. More and more restaurants and nightclubs are checking vaccination cards at the door and politely suggesting that those without them get their hamburgers elsewhere (they don't have to call the cops). These eateries, posh and humble, are well within their rights to protect their staff members, and also their other, wiser customers. And if you don't agree, you can take your business down the street. As is your inalienable right.

Where children and public education are concerned, of course, the ethics get trickier. So it makes good sense for local school boards to insist on vaccinated staffers and vaccinated eligible teen students, given that kids have to show up for an education with no obvious right of refusal. We've long recognized the right of schools to insist on a raft of childhood vaccinations. And if a nonprofit institution, such as a college, decides that it wants to require vaccinations from its faculty and students, we think it should have that right. Nobody is forcing anyone to take classes there.

But once you get politicians insisting everyone takes a vaccine that the government itself has yet to fully approve, that's sure to cause the kind of counter-reaction that has led to broad swaths of the independent-minded populace of this country going without vaccinations, to the detriment of us all.

So Chicago officials should stick to ensuring easy, equitable access to the vaccine and on amping up their nonjudgmental forms of persuasion. They key message? Respond to the new reality. Get the shot.

They might also copy something de Blasio and the public health crew in Albany have done well, which is to make it easy to prove your status with a secure, good-to-go app, rather that suffering the fate of the many at Lollapalooza who reportedly dropped their easily forged vaccination cards on the ground, where they got ripped in the mud.

An apt metaphor.

People are more likely to listen to those who they think understand where they are coming from. Period.

And if your boss or your favorite bar reluctantly denies you entry? All the more reason to chill out and roll up your sleeves.


Chicago Sun-Times. August 5, 2021.

Editorial: Use license plate readers to solve crimes, but not to snoop

Illinois has no safeguards to ensure the huge numbers of photos police have stored showing where people have been are used properly.

These days, Big Brother knows where you drive.

Extensive networks of high-definition cameras mounted along streets and roads and on squad cars continuously snap photos of license plates as cars roll by - as many as 1,800 plates per camera. Private groups install cameras that send images to law enforcement to look for porch pirates and reckless drivers. Sometimes the faces of the drivers and passengers are captured, too. The images are transmitted to a central server, where they may reside indefinitely.

Don't get us wrong. The surveillance cameras are an effective tool for checking vehicle registrations, spotting cars whose drivers don't have insurance, locating stolen cars, tracking vehicles in hit-and-runs and solving other crimes. Anyone who gets a stolen car promptly returned because an automated license plate reader spotted a license plate registered to a car that was reported stolen is grateful for the high-tech help.

But the cameras also keep tabs on countless innocent Americans.

This should make you nervous

Do we really want some police department or elected official or business to know exactly where we have been driving over the past few years? If you care about privacy, this should make you nervous.

The Illinois Legislature ought to find a way to allow the police to use the cameras to fight crime while protecting our personal privacy. As of now, there are no limits in Illinois on how the camera-collected data can be used. Individual police departments may have policies against, say, selling data to insurance companies, but those policies can change without notice. False matches also are a risk.

When an automated license plate reader captures a plate and uses GPS to pinpoint its location and the time a photo was taken, technology compares that plate number with federal, state and other 'hot lists' - databases of things such as cars that have been reported stolen or are associated with some other type of crime. The photos also show the make, model and color of vehicles captured in photos.

While Americans drive around, the cameras are snapping away.

In California, the 15 biggest data collecting law enforcement agencies conducted 1.4 billion license plate scans between 2018 and 2019, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has stored hundreds of millions of records about motorists. Chicago has hundreds of license place readers mounted on police cars, poles and mobile booter vehicles. The cameras transmit data to the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Suburban police departments also are enlarging their networks of license plate readers. Often, the data the cameras collect is shared among a vast range of government agencies.

Who went to that political protest?

No regulations limit which databases can be compared with numbers collected by cameras, stipulate how long authorities can hold on to the data, spell out who can access the data or require safeguards from hacking. We've got a problem with the idea that those in control of the systems can know, with a few key strokes, who goes to church, a bar, a union meeting, a political protest or a therapist.

And drivers can't opt out of the system because state law, understandably, requires every vehicle on the road to have a visible license plate.

As for police, they have been known to turn off the systems in their cars because the cameras flag so many minor violations that an officer can't keep up.

In 2015, the Illinois House passed legislation 75-24 to regulate the cameras. But the bill died in the Senate without being brought to a vote. It's time the Legislature took this issue up again. Much of the legislative work already has been done.

No one is talking seriously about removing the license plate readers, which can be an excellent crime-fighting tool. But we should all be wary of the unintended consequences.


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