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220

A controversial book’s inclusion on a middle school summer reading list has fueled outrage among some parents in Barrington Community Unit School District 220.

The graphic novel “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe has sparked similar debates at schools across the country, including Downers Grove High School District 99 and Antioch Community High School District 117. Earlier this year, the American Library Association named “Gender Queer” the most challenged book of 2021.

The book has been in the library collection at Barrington High School but is now undergoing a school-level review. That could result in a district-level review by a committee consisting of a parent, an administrator, a teacher and a school library information specialist, officials said Thursday.

Any district-level review and recommendation by the committee to the school board could lead to the book’s being left on the shelf, reclassified, restricted or removed from the collection.

In a letter to the school district community Thursday, Superintendent Robert Hunt said the controversy stems from an email to middle school parents encouraging students to read over the summer. The email included links to two book award lists created by the American Association of Illinois School Library Educators: the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award 2023 and the 2023 Illinois Lincoln Award List.

“Gender Queer,” a memoir about struggling with self-identity and coming out as asexual and nonbinary to family and friends, appears on the Lincoln list.

Hunt’s letter follows a contentious school board meeting Tuesday night at which many parents railed against the book’s inclusion on the summer reading list and in the high school library. One held up a sign with the crossed-out word “PORN” over the phrase “in our schools.”

“This is exactly (how) I would expect a pedophile to behave when approaching a child to normalize sexual behavior, to abuse them,” Nelda Munoz, who has children in fourth and sixth grades, said after reading a passage from the novel. “Stop sexualizing our kids. Stop abusing them.”

Read more here.

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Fireworks Ban

Illinoisans celebrate Independence Day by taking their fireworks business to other states, despite bans and threats at home, causing the state to lose out on jobs and revenue.

Red, white and blue flags, the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs, and most of all, the familiar boom and sparkle in the sky are sure signs of Independence Day, but in Illinois freedom is quieter thanks to one of the nation’s most-restrictive laws for fireworks.

Fireworks are a long-standing Independence Day tradition dating back to the Founding Fathers. As John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” Across the United States, Adams’ vision remains alive and well: Americans in 47 states spent $2.2 billion dollars on consumer fireworks in 2021.

However, despite the Founding Father’s wish, Illinoisans do not get to partake in the patriotic practice. It is one of three states that ban all or most consumer fireworks.

In 1942 Illinois passed the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act, making it illegal to purchase and use fireworks other than novelty items such as sparklers, small noise makers and smoke bombs. Under this act the possession, transportation and use of any consumer fireworks such as firecrackers, Roman candles or bottle rockets is deemed a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines up to $2,500 or a year in prison.

Despite the legal consequences, Illinois license plates flood the parking lots of fireworks retailers just across the state lines on and around Independence Day each year. The fireworks ban prompts Illinoisans to take their business to neighboring states, costing Illinois both tax revenue and jobs.

Pennsylvania, which has roughly the same population as Illinois, brings in $10 million in tax revenue annually from fireworks sales. Illinois state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who wants to repeal the fireworks ban, argues Illinois is missing out on that $10 million in sales tax revenue each year for no good reason.

Read more here.

Related:Fireworks ban a boon for neighboring states, restricts Illinoisans

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JBNH

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addressees the New Hampshire Democratic Convention on Saturday, June 18, 2022

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire Democrats zeroed in on abortion rights during their annual convention here Saturday, bringing in Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to prop up the campaigns of Sen. Maggie Hassan and governor candidate Tom Sherman, who will likely ease through September’s primary but face tough races heading into November’s general election.

“The Republican Party is so afraid of the power and influence women have achieved in our society that they are seeking to shame and criminalize your very autonomy,” said Pritzker, who leads a state that has a law that codifies Roe v. Wade.

It’s a subject that generated the most applause throughout the day, including during a speech by Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor and the former mayor of Boston (Massachusetts also has codified Roe). For the record, Walsh told the crowd, he’s not running for president.

Pritzker’s name, on the other hand, has popped up repeatedly as a potential future presidential candidate, most recently when it was announced he’d be speaking Saturday in New Hampshire. But the Democratic governor’s political team says Pritzker is only focused on his reelection and on helping elect Democrats across the country who support abortion rights.

Pritzker, a self-described “Ukrainian-American, Jewish, Democratic, billionaire, businessman,” was scheduled to travel to Maine after leaving New Hampshire to campaign for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

By the end of his speech, Pritzker had won over a cadre of Belknap County delegates who enthusiastically told a POLITICO reporter that they’d like to see him run for higher office.

“I think he should be our next president,” Johnna Davis, co-chair of the Belknap County Democrats, said as a couple other delegates seated in her row nodded along. “He’s got great energy. He’s perfect.”

Oy. Read more of the story here.

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IDES

A state audit found the Illinois Department of Employment Security lost to fraud more than half of the $3.6 billion in federal COVID-19 dollars earmarked for out-of-work Illinoisans. The full scope of the unemployment fraud remains unknown.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security sent nearly $2 billion in unemployment benefits to crooks during the pandemic, losing more than half the federal dollars earmarked for out-of-work Illinoisans, according to a new audit.

The partial state report uncovered “unprecedented” levels of theft, showing the agency failed to “maintain accurate and complete” data on residents filing claims through the program. IDES previously admitted there were 212,000 false claims, but had refused to disclose the cost.

Auditors said this resulted in the vast majority of fraudsters being successful at stealing real Illinoisans’ identities and swiping their unemployment payments. In total, the department lost more than half of the $3.6 billion in pandemic funds promised to residents between July 2020 and June 2021.

Republican state lawmakers have decried the rampant fraud and blamed Gov. J.B. Pritzker for mismanaging the program rollout, which ranked seventh worst in the nation. IDES has attempted to downplay the losses.

IDES failures during the pandemic were widespread. It was months late in implementing a system to get federal dollars to the self-employed, allowed a data breach that exposed the private data of 32,483 unemployment applicants, made applicants wait months for benefits and at one point had a call backlog of 156,000 people awaiting help with their claims.

IDES administrators said they “stopped roughly $40 billion in fraudulent payments across state and federal programs” through the end of last year and have introduced new technologies to mitigate theft moving forward.

More here.

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Property Taxation

A proposed change to the Illinois Constitution would effectively transfer power over taxpayer money to government worker unions. The trend of property tax hikes would likely grow even worse during the next four years.

It’s election season in Illinois, and politicians are running on the promise of property tax relief as usual, including every major candidate for governor.

Illinois’ property taxes are already the second-highest in the nation and a major reason taxpayers are fleeing to lower-tax states. That problem could be made worse on Nov. 8 when voters will be asked to decide the fate of Amendment 1, a tax hike disguised as a “workers rights amendment.”

The change would prevent commonsense reforms to reduce homeowners’ tax burdens while giving government union leaders virtually limitless new ways to demand higher costs from taxpayers. If it passes, Illinois’ trend of large annual property tax increases will likely grow faster than ever. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has failed to deliver on property tax relief during his term – the average family paid $1,913 more during his administration.

Amendment 1 would guarantee that family pays at least $2,149 in higher property tax bills over the next four years, no matter which politicians win this November or how well they try to follow through on their promises.

This is a conservative estimate, assuming the rapid growth of Illinois’ property tax burden holds steady. It’s likely property taxes would grow at an even faster rate, because Amendment 1 would give Illinois government unions unprecedented bargaining powers that don’t exist in any other state. Exactly how much faster is an open question.

Read on here.

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CAT

One of the state’s biggest employers is relocating their headquarters to Irving, Texas. A decade ago Caterpillar’s CEO warned state leaders of business losses unless they balanced the budget, controlled workers’ comp costs and cut taxes. He was ignored.

After nearly a century, Caterpillar is moving its corporate headquarters out of Illinois. Their office in Irving, Texas, will transition into the new base camp.

Illinois state leaders were warned a decade ago by Caterpillar’s CEO about what they needed to do to keep businesses from leaving. His warning in 2012 about balanced budgets, workers’ compensation costs and taxes were not only ignored, but the problems have grown worse.

The construction and mining equipment giant is the second major company to leave Illinois in five weeks. Boeing aerospace also announced its headquarters was moving to Virginia.

“We believe it’s in the best strategic interest of the company to make this move, which supports Caterpillar’s strategy for profitable growth as we help our customers build a better, more sustainable world,” Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby said in a statement.

Most of Caterpillar’s 230 corporate employees will gradually transition to the new headquarters. Caterpillar will still employ more than 17,000 Illinoisans after the move, but there’s no guarantee those jobs will stay in Illinois.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch said even with employees remaining in the state, Caterpillar moving their headquarters is a bad sign.

Read more here.

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Barrington Village Hall

Barrington’s village manager presented a case Monday night for seeking home-rule status. The village board has until Aug. 22 to decide whether to put the question to voters Nov. 8.

Barrington village board members listened Monday as Village Manager Scott Anderson outlined the advantages of home rule. Whether trustees will take up the banner remains to be seen.

The village board would have to decide by Aug. 22 to put the question to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Such surrounding communities as Barrington Hills, Lake Barrington and South Barrington have voted to become home rule.

Anderson’s presentation was intended to highlight the differences between communities with home rule and those without, the additional tools it would provide the village, and the process for attaining home-rule status.

“Simply stated, home rule gives municipalities greater authority to govern themselves,” said Anderson, adding that the village would have greater flexibility in day-to-day operations.

Anderson pointed out that Barrington is providing a full complement of services, including police and fire protection, water delivery, waste treatment, snow plowing and street maintenance.

“We have the responsibility for covering not only the operating day-to-day costs, but the long term capital costs and employer costs related to pensions,” he said. “And while we have the benefit of tailoring our services to what our customers need, we have the expenses related to that.”

He said home rule would allow the village to diversify its sources of revenue and rely less on property taxes.

Read more here.

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220 Admin

The District 220 Board of Education meets this evening at 7:00 PM at the District Administration Center, 515 W. Main Street. Topics for discussion in their agenda include:

  • Consideration to Approve the Negotiated Agreement Between the Board of Education and the BSEO (2022-2026)
  • Consideration to Approve Revised BHS Athletic Program Donation Agreements
  • Consideration to Approve District Administrative Center Roof Bid, and
  • Consideration to Approve Appropriating up to $299,752 for Initial 2023 Summer Capital Project Engineering and Architectural Preparation

A copy of the agenda can be viewed here.

The meeting will be livestreamed on the district YouTube channel.

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TP

The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted May 24 to give its members a 10% raise in December, followed by automatic annual pay increases up to 3% each year while working. The board voted 13-4 in support of funding the raises despite concerns from the minority members and civic groups about the promised perpetual raises…

The Cook County Board of Commissioners voted May 24 to give its members a 10% raise in December, followed by automatic annual pay increases up to 3% each year while working.

The board voted 13-4 in support of funding the raises despite concerns from the minority members and civic groups about the promised perpetual raises to politicians during times of economic hardship.

President of the Cook County League of Women Voters Cynthia Schilsky said members of her organization supported the raises for the officials – but not indefinitely. The Civic Federation similarly opposed the automatic pay raise provision.

“We elect these people to serve in their office, and they should be required to be transparent about what they’re saying their salaries are,” Schilsky told the Tribune. “It would be much better, to the point, that they vote on it rather than just have it continue forever.”

Other board members like Sean Morrison voted against the measure, arguing that now was not the time for county officials to be considering pay raises.

“It’s not the type of situation that I think we need to be in,” Morrison told the Tribune after the vote. “We have inflation that’s up. People are paying $5 for gasoline. … I do not believe this is the time for it.”

The cost-of-living adjustment would increase the officials’ salaries by 3% each year or the Chicago region consumer price index – whichever is smaller – without requiring an annual vote. Over the last 12 months, the index has increased 7.2%.

Read more here.

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Pump Price

Price at the pump in Barrington this morning.

The average gallon of gas in Illinois has surpassed $5 a gallon, according to AAA. At $5.13 on average, Illinois is the only Midwest state over the $5 mark.

Regular gas and diesel in Illinois reached their highest recorded prices of $5.13 and $5.31 respectively on June 1. Record prices are taking their toll on businesses and consumers across the state.

Brett Retherford of Annawan, Illinois, drives 80 miles round trip to work daily.

“It affects your pocketbook every day. So, I don’t know how else to put it: It’s frustrating,” Retherford said.

Every state is reeling with elevated gas prices, but Illinois’ second-highest gas tax in the nation piles on to already soaring gas prices. Only six states have higher gas prices than Illinois.

“Gasoline is $1.05 more than it was on Feb. 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine,” AAA Illinois spokesperson Molly Hart wrote.

More here.

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