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Archive for the ‘OP/Ed’ Category

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democratic politicians want voters to profoundly amend the Illinois Constitution. Call their proposal the “Pritzker Tax,” placed on the ballot thanks to exclusively Democratic votes in the General Assembly.

For the first time since Connecticut in 1996, if approved, an American state would switch from a flat income tax to a graduated tax. That is, if you earn five times what your neighbor earns, you must pay five times as much to the state. In 2018, Colorado voters rejected an amendment to convert from flat to graduated. North Carolina and Kentucky have gone the opposite direction, to flat taxes.

The switch hasn’t gone well for Connecticut, where progressively higher income and property taxes have driven residents to other states. The change would be similarly bad for Illinois, which already has lost population for six straight years. As young people abandon this state or don’t return here to start their families and careers, the Illinois Exodus intensifies. Every time a taxpayer departs for Florida, Tennessee or Texas, the tax burden on those of us who remain grows heavier.

So each of us should think skeptically, not reflexively by political tribe, about what the Pritzker Tax would do to Illinois. Five reasons, among others we’ll discuss in future installments, why you should vote it down:

  • The pols haven’t earned trust
  • ‘Save Illinois — and get a tax cut too!’
  • ‘Double pinkie swear, this time is different!’
  • What the Dems don’t admit
  • ‘Let the people vote’

Read the full Chicago Tribune Editorial Board’s opinions here.

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In just a few days, we have witnessed some very troubling communications decisions made by the District 220 Board of Education and their Superintendent. Some call it censorship, but it’s up to readers to decide that after considering some facts.

Tuesday night, upwards of 1,500 people tuned in to a live stream YouTube broadcast of a special meeting of the District 220 Board that began at 6:30 PM and lasted nearly three hours. For the first half hour of the meeting, a few participants checked off under on-line comments whether they liked or disliked what was being discussed (as seen in the graphic below).

Sometime after 7:00 the ratings were deleted and viewers could no longer register their opinion.

From the start of the meeting, participants were feverishly texting comments on what Superintendent Brian Harris was saying, and more often than not, the texts were much more insightful and interesting than Harris’ canned presentation.

Many of the texts were critical of the District, and around 7:00 PM, the texts were also silenced. The trail of comments were deleted as seen below.

It is also worth noting that the standard YouTube feature of free-form comments was also turned off. To view what we’ve described thus far, click here to view the recording of Tuesday’s meeting.

Yesterday afternoon, District 220 sent out a mass email with a link to a two hour Vimeo recording of the Tuesday meeting (seen here). However, the emailed recording failed to include over forty-five minutes of public comment from community members who waited patiently for two hours for their turn to speak their minds.

There is no question in our minds that the 220 Board of Education, but much more so Superintendent Brian Harris, failed to manage the expectations of parents, students and teachers in the months leading up to the unexpected announcement that fall classes would be all-remote learning last week.

As a result, the parties involved are upset and deserve to have their voices heard. For them to be silenced in the ways we’ve documented is tantamount to censorship.

Note: Those wishing to view the email sent by Dr. Harris yesterday can click here.

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Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan is implicated in a federal corruption case in which ComEd agreed to pay $200 milion in fines.

Editorial: Time to step down, Mr. Speaker

The hammer that dropped Friday morning was not velvet.

In a one-count criminal information, federal prosecutors announced a bribery charge involving utility company ComEd and more than $1.3 million in favors the company admits it granted to high-ranking public officials to curry special favor in Springfield. Which public officials? While House Speaker Michael Madigan was not charged with wrongdoing and was not named in the documents, the feds made no secret of identifying him by title. There is only one House speaker, the most powerful politician in Illinois.

But for how long?

Until Friday, Madigan has managed to dodge the spotlight during the federal investigation of ComEd’s lobbyist practices, stating, “I am not the target of anything.” While other key players also were not named in the federal paperwork — a lobbyist, ComEd’s former CEO, a law firm — prosecutors laid out a case that puts Madigan in the middle of things.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board here.

Editorial: It can be denied no longer: Speaker Madigan must go

Federal prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will indict the Illinois House speaker they dub “Public Official A” in documents filed with an explosive ComEd plea deal on Friday, but as far as the quality of Illinois government is concerned, they don’t have to.

The suggestions of impropriety in those documents are so overwhelming that Michael J. Madigan, whether innocent or guilty of wrongdoing, cannot escape being a major distraction both to good government and to the hopes of the political party he leads. The Chicago Democrat has survived many a controversy and many a scandal in his 35 years as Illinois House speaker, but this one is unsurvivable.

This time, it is inevitable that Speaker Madigan must go.

Read more from the Daily Herald Editorial Board here.

Madigan might be wise to step down — but, first, shame on ComEd

For the sake of Illinois and the important public policies that he himself has fought for, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan should consider stepping down.

The stakes are just so high.

At a time when Illinois is fighting a deadly pandemic, struggling to revive an economy that was in trouble even before COVID-19, and is months away from voting on a badly needed graduated income tax, the state — to our thinking — can ill afford even the slightest perception of compromised leadership. Madigan must decide whether he can continue to lead effectively, or whether his presence is a distraction from the agenda that he and his state Democratic Party support.

But as we read the stunning “statement of facts” that prosecutors laid out Friday that implicated Madigan — but didn’t formally charge him with any crimes — our focus also sharpened on the company that admitted to a series of outrageous bribery schemes: electricity giant ComEd.

The power company admitted to using lobbyists to shower jobs, contracts and payoffs all over Springfield for the sole purpose of gaining favor with Madigan, who denies any wrongdoing but, at minimum, is standing in a bad storm.

Read the opinions of the Chicago Sun*Times here.

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July is sweat-and-fret month for many taxpayers in Illinois: How will households slammed by job disruptions and a public health contagion now pay their property tax bills? Those local taxes gouge virtually everyone: Employers and homeowners — or whoever services their mortgages — make most of these payments to the county treasurer; renters indirectly pay property taxes in rent to the landlord.

And after the pending property tax deadline, another threat looms. Voters this fall will decide whether to let their politicians raise state income taxes or instead force them to clamp down on state spending that just grows and grows.

What we call the proposed “Pritzker Tax” — named for Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who calls it a “fair tax” — would replace Illinois’ constitutionally protected flat-rate income tax with graduated rates. The change would make it easier for politicians in Springfield to raise income taxes. Currently, a tax hike requires more heft from politicians because it affects every taxpayer. Tinkering with a graduated structure is a softer lift.

Oh! We’re just raising this itty-bitty rate on this itty-bitty group of people. Those itty-bitties add up.

As a voter, you’re supposed to trust Illinois politicians. Trust that they’ll give you property tax relief. Trust that they’ll start passing smarter budgets. Trust that they’ll undo some of their past mistakes. Oh, and trust that they’ll only slap this top itty-bitty 3% of taxpayers with higher tax rates — as if higher earners are to blame for this state’s fiscal mess. You’ll see ads urging you to trust the pols, including the most influential pol, House Speaker Michael Madigan, and vote yes on the Pritzker Tax amendment. Pritzker dumped more than $50 million of his own money into the campaign to get it passed.

Read more of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board’s opinions here.

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“The pushback builds. And that levee is just about to break.”

“If you’d told me six months ago that the governor of Illinois would declare churches ‘nonessential’ and shut them down, while liquor stores are ‘essential’ and open, I’d have asked what blend of weed you were smoking,” Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society told me.

What we’ve been smoking? Fear. It’s all been tightly rolled in the scraps of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. We’ve been inhaling deeply for months.

And the leaders of the lockdown party — Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot — are on the verge of losing control. Rookie politicians make rookie mistakes.

Pritzker’s initial stay-at-home-order, in March, did not consider worship services as essential. But after the Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit on behalf of a church in Lena, Illinois, the governor scrambled to modify his order. Pritzker allowed worship services but imposed social distancing guidelines and limited the free exercise of religion to only 10 or fewer people at a time.

Read more here.

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To maximize participation, the state should mail a ballot to every registered voter. At the same time, it will be critical to preserve and protect in-person voting options.

This year’s primary election season will go down in history as the time American voters braved the threat of a deadly virus in order to cast their ballots. 

Amid rising calls for the public to stay home and avoid crowds to stem the coronavirus outbreak, some states chose to delay their elections while others forged ahead. Fear, anger and confusion reigned, regardless of the decision. With November fast approaching, this much is clear: We must rethink our democracy’s reliance on in-person Election Day voting.

Illinois dealt with widespread confusion on its March 17 Election Day, from poorly communicated last-minute polling location changes to a shortage of poll workers and cleaning supplies. These inefficiencies created long lines and big crowds, heightening the risks for poll workers and voters alike.

In a March 30 poll, roughly two in three U.S. adults said they were uncomfortable with the idea of voting in person. Yet voters in Wisconsin were forced to stand in line for hours to vote on April 7, after Gov. Tony Evers’ last-minute order to delay the election was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. At least seven cases of coronavirus in the state have now been linked to Election Day.

Wisconsin’s experience makes it clear that last-minute changes can disenfranchise voters and put the public at risk. It’s impossible to rule out a lingering COVID-19 or a resurgent second wave, so it’s urgent that we prepare for November’s consequential election like the emergency that it is. Illinois will need to do more to ensure the safety of in-person voting, to promote alternative voting options and to prepare election authorities for increased demand for such alternatives.

So what’s right for Illinois moving forward?

Read the Better Government Association article here.

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The Village of Wayne is described on their website as,

“A BEAUTIFUL, FRIENDLY AND SAFE RESIDENTIAL AND EQUESTRIAN COMMUNITY FOUNDED AND SUPPORTED BY VOLUNTEERS.”

Established in 1834, the Village, located in both DuPage and Kane Counties, had 2,431 residents as of the 2010 US Census living on minimum four (4) acre parcels.

Unique about Wayne is that it has one zip code and its own post office – something almost unheard of today.

The reason we are enlightening readers with this background is that the Village of Wayne has no documented cases of COVID-19. None!

This is not to say no one has contracted some form of the virus, but according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDBH) map (see below), Zip Code 60184 is blank:

(Click on map to enlarge)

The Village of Barrington Hills falls primarily under Zip Code 60010, along with portions or all of Deer Park, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Kildeer, Lake Barrington, North Barrington, Port Barrington, South Barrington, Tower Lakes and, of course, Barrington.

The estimated population of 60010 was 46,350 in 2017, or a little more than eleven times that of Barrington Hills. The IDPH report indicates only 40 people have contracted the virus in 60010, not one person has died from it and we’re aware of no one in Barrington Hills who has tested positive.

All we read or hear in the news every day are numbers of doom and gloom from Pritzker and Lightfoot. Hopefully, the positive numbers from 60010 form a basis for discussions in our community. That discussion should begin with ways to reopen suburban businesses now!

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Our Village Board of Trustees meets this evening, and one of the topics on their agenda is the,Open Burning Ordinance.” We have the sneaking suspicion this might me the first of many occasions this subject will appear in their and other’s agendas.

Many residents have shared their thoughts and frustrations on this ordinance since it was first passed around the turn of the century. It rarely comes up in public discussion even though open burning of “bonfires” is a daily occurrence somewhere in Barrington Hills.

Since it will be discussed tonight, here are some of our collective thoughts on what we see as the two primary components of contention of the ordinance:

Bonfire size:

The code states, “A bonfire shall not be more than 5 ft X 5 ft X 5 ft in dimension.”

Our experience is that few residents gather a bonfire for the purposes of roasting weenies and s’mores. When tree limbs and other debris are stacked on their five-acre property, can it be assumed that residents are following code or is it more likely that their bonfires are “illegal” due to the size?

Clearly there needs to be limits to the limits of the burn pile (our technical term), but the current limits are too low and unrealistic in most cases.

Hours and duration burning is allowed:

No bonfire shall be started or maintained other than between the hours of 10:00 AM. to 10:00 PM and for a maximum duration of 3 hours per day:

Experience shows winds are almost always calmest in the early morning and late evening hours. On any given day, by 7:00 – 8:00 AM, if you cannot see some neighborhoods with smoke rising, you will likely smell it some days.

Then, depending on the season, by 6:00 PM people are outdoors enjoying their property from barbecues to bocce, and they likely do not appreciate the smell of smoke other than that from their own grills. Also, in the spring and fall, who does not want to open their windows for fresh, cool air?

Summarizing, when it comes to size and time/duration of bonfires, although in most cases inadvertently, residents are breaking the law. If the codes are deemed acceptable, they should be enforced. If not, the need to be amended.

The Board of Trustees meeting is at 6:30, and a link to the remote proceedings can be accessed here.

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J.B. Pritzker listens intently in the background as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot dictates policy in Springfield.

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of 220 schools, issued the following update Friday shortly after J.B. Pritzker announced Illinois public and private schools would closed for the remainder of the school year: 

“Dear Barrington 220 Community,

This afternoon Governor Pritzker canceled in person classes at all Illinois schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

Given the current public health crisis and the need to put everyone’s health and safety above all else, I’m sure this news does not come as a surprise. However, I share your disappointment, as I know many of you, including myself, were holding out hope that somehow our students and staff would be able return to our school buildings before the end of the year.

I know this announcement brings forth many questions about how to pick up items left in our school buildings, summer school, BHS graduation and other big end of the year events, just to name a few. Please know the district has been working on a plan for all situations. More information will be coming from your school principal on these topics and many others over the next few weeks.”

What we cannot begin to comprehend is why Pritzker chose Friday afternoon to devastate the moral of thousands of students, teachers and parents. 

He makes his daily update addresses each afternoon, so what harm would have come from announcing the news today instead Friday? The answer is none, and that’s inexcusable. 

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The Barrington Hills Bulletin Board claims to be, “AN ALTERNATE RESOURCE OUTLET FOR LOCAL BARRINGTON HILLS RESIDENTS TO READ, COMMENT AND REACT TO NEWS AND TOPICS WITH THE INTENT TO EDUCATE, PROVIDE AWARENESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY TO RESIDENTS IN A UNCENSORED FORMAT.”

The Barrington Hills Bulletin Board posts fabrications, typo-ridden incoherent ramblings and now offers a new feature to their minimally followed blog; censorship of comments that are posted on Facebook (“…some comments may have been filtered out”).

As for the offensive comment that was, “filtered out”?

“Paragraphs and proper grammar and punctuation would be nice.”

So much for transparency.

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