Editorial Roundup: Illinois

 
 
Updated 5/3/2022 3:47 PM

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. April 28, 2022.

Editorial: We should ensure highway cameras are only used to fight serious crimes

 

Two bills are headed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's desk that aim to provide significant help to authorities responding to or investigating crimes on Illinois expressways. Part of a pilot program, the laws reflect strong, well-intended legislation demonstrating a commitment from the state to try bold action to fight crime.

But their very existence also is a demonstration of their greatest risk, and that observation needs to be a consistent refrain as this test program proceeds.

The measures headed to the governor were supported by the Illinois State Police and the state attorney general, and Pritzker set aside $20 million in next year's budget to help fund them.

They add 21 counties -- including DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will in the Daily Herald circulation area -- to a pilot program introduced in 2020 to use license-plate reading cameras in response to growing cases of highway shootings. They also add several violent felonies to the list of crimes to which the cameras can be applied, and they push the end of the evaluation period to June 2025.

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Again, all reasonable adjustments to a commendable goal -- reducing highway violence. An online tool created by the state police shows expressway shootings increasing from 51 in 2019 to nearly triple that number in 2020 and more than double that number -- 310 -- in 2021. So far, 73 cases have occurred this year, down by four compared to this time last year but still an alarming figure. Obviously, the issue deserves attention.

But Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, described the lurking danger in a Capitol News Illinois report this week.

'úAlthough these tools can provide some public benefit,'Ě Barickman said, 'úthe risk is that they're susceptible to abuse and have a chilling effect on public life.'Ě

To recognize the senator's concern, one need look no further than the shenanigans that have sometimes occurred involving traffic cameras in local communities, a subject we discussed earlier this week.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Ann Williams, a sponsor of one of the bills expanding the pilot program, said she too is concerned about that risk.

'úBut targeted use of cameras that are limited in use and narrow in scope ,,, it's about violent crimes that concern people every day, and the way to hopefully address those,'Ě she told CNI.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So far, the plan is narrow in scope. And so far, it seems potentially beneficial. But good ideas have a way of creeping beyond their original intent. The actions approved this spring by overwhelmingly bipartisan majorities in both chambers obviously expand the scope and the targets of the original legislation. And, they seem consistent with constraints placed on the technology.

Assuring that continues, though, will require detailed data collection and broad analysis. We look forward to seeing those details and that analysis in three years.

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Chicago Sun-Times. April 30, 2022.

Editorial: Why we are not endorsing

The Sun-Times can no longer make political endorsements, but we're still committed to providing information for voters.

The Chicago Sun-Times has a long history with political endorsements, dating back to the days when newspapers were routinely and unashamedly partisan in their news coverage as well as on their editorial pages.

Indeed, political endorsements have long been a staple in mainstream newspapers, even now at a time when legacy news outlets adhere to a goal of providing unbiased, non-partisan news coverage. Many readers rely on endorsements, which is why so many of you protested in 2012 when the Sun-Times, under a previous owner, announced that it would no longer make them.

Disgruntled readers made it clear that, especially for down-ballot races that typically do not receive a lot of news coverage, endorsements are a valuable resource. Even when readers disagree with a particular choice of candidate, they told us that endorsements at least gave them a starting point to help them decide which candidate would get their vote.

Based on that feedback, the Sun-Times reversed course and has endorsed candidates in every election since 2014. We have viewed endorsements as a vital public service for readers, who don't have the same access to candidates as a news outlet does, or the same opportunities to grill them on the issues.

Changing times

Times change, however. The Sun-Times is now a nonprofit news outlet, an affiliate of Chicago Public Media and a partner with WBEZ. This partnership - one of the largest nonprofit news operations in the country - is supported by private foundations and other donors who stepped up because they believe the Chicago metro area must maintain robust, competitive local media.

Readers have told us they're excited to see how this partnership unfolds. But as the 2022 election season kicks into high gear, with the June 28 primary and the Nov. 8 general election on the horizon, many readers have also asked:

'úWhat about endorsements?'Ě

As a nonprofit, the Sun-Times can no longer make endorsements.

The IRS guidance governing 501(c)3 nonprofits is clear on this point, and we want to make sure our readers are aware of that.

Here is the relevant IRS language:

A 501(c)3 'úmay not publish or distribute printed statements or make oral statements on behalf of, or in opposition to, a candidate for public office. Consequently, a written or oral endorsement of a candidate is strictly forbidden. The rating of candidates, even on a nonpartisan basis, is also prohibited.'Ě

While we can no longer endorse or rate candidates, the Sun-Times is still deeply committed to helping our readers make well-informed decisions in the voting booth.

The Sun-Times and WBEZ are discussing how best to reach our audiences with news coverage, analysis and informed opinion this election season. On the table are potential products that may include a voter's guide, candidate questionnaires, a 'úcrib sheet'Ě on some of the Chicago area's big races, data visualizations, email newsletters, public opinion polls or community events such as candidate debates.

The Editorial Board will continue to take stands and express its views on public policy. Whether it's holding the line on higher taxes when necessary, improving public safety and public schools, cleaning up the environment, encouraging smart economic development or another important policy issue, the board will continue to speak out and demand that officials do what's best for the public they serve.

The Sun-Times can no longer participate in the tradition of endorsement. But the tradition of informing voters is alive and well.

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Champaign News-Gazette. May 1, 2022.

Editorial: Court rulings all over the lot on legislative gerrymandering

When it comes to redistricting of federal and state legislative seats, what's good for the goose is not necessarily what's good for the gander.

Those familiar with political science will recognize the phrase 'úlaboratories of democracy.'Ě

That's a reference to the 50 states in the U.S. political system that are separate and free to make public policy as they wish in the context of federal/state governance.

State sovereignty essentially allows each of 50 to set their own rules within our constitutional system.

So keep that in mind when examining a recent decision by a state judge in Kansas who struck down a proposed new congressional map adopted by the state Legislature.

The judge was shocked to discover politics in politics and ordered the Legislature to draw a new map that would withstand his constitutional objections.

'úMost Kansans would be appalled to know how the contest ... has been artificially engineered to give one segment of the political apparatus an unfair and unearned advantage,'Ě Judge William Klapper wrote.

Voters probably would be distressed if they bothered to take the time to inform themselves of what was going on. But the sad fact is that voters, for the most part, pay no attention to the redistricting process that takes place every 10 years after the U.S. census.

There is little doubt that the judge is correct in his assessment that Republicans employed a partisan process in producing the congressional map. Their goal is to win all four of the state's U.S. House seats. They now have three of the four.

Partisanship seems to be impossible to eliminate from redistricting. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it's a legally acceptable fact of life, unlike gerrymandering for purposes of racial discrimination.

But the judge here is not without sin. He's a Democrat who was appointed by a Democratic governor, and the appeal of his decision will be heard by a state supreme court with a Democratic majority.

The New York Times said the Democrats' court majority suggests a 'úreasonable prospect'Ě the trial judge's decision 'úwill be upheld.'Ě

Whatever happens in Kansas stays in Kansas. But from an Illinois perspective, the ruling comes across as farcical.

After all, Illinois Democrats did the same thing to Illinois Republicans that Kansas Republicans did to Kansas Democrats.

When a coalition of groups representing Hispanics, Blacks and Republicans challenged the Illinois Democrats' gerrymandered map, a three-judge federal panel said there was no legal problem because partisan gerrymanders are not unlawful.

The judges' decision on Illinois' state legislative seats was so emphatic, no one bothered to challenge the Democratic congressional map drawn to produce wins for the party in 14 of the state's 17 congressional districts.

The 13th District, which includes Champaign-Urbana, has been described as the most gerrymandered in the nation, its worm-like shape splitting another district in two as it winds its way from Champaign-Urbana to the Missouri border.

Some gerrymanders apparently are more equal than others, depending on who's doing the gerrymandering and who's doing the judging.

It's a sad fact of political life that the debate about politicized maps is political folderol designed to disguise the politicians' interest in rigging the electoral process in legislative elections from the get-go.

END

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