Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Bloomington Pantagraph. September 25, 2021.

Editorial: Jelani Day, family deserve answers

Many people have already done their best for Jelani Day. For their sake and his, we must insist on coming to a conclusion about his story.

The LaSalle County coroner Thursday identified Jelani Day as the deceased person whose body was found on the bank of the Illinois River on Sept. 4. The Illinois State University student was last seen on Aug, 24.

The effort to find Day was widespread and extensive. The family reported him missing Aug, 25. Searches, including a gathering of 100-plus supporters at the Illinois State University Bone Student Center, were conducted. The case received national attention.

One way to at least reduce some of the pain felt by Day’s family, friends and community is to find out exactly what happened to him. His car was found two days after he was reported missing. The vehicle, with Day’s clothes inside, is discovered in a wooded area in Peru, about 60 miles north of Bloomington.

Investigators are understandably releasing few details at this point. A toxicology test is being done.

Expressing “thoughts and prayers” in support to those in grief has the makings of a cliché we don’t hear. But it’s the best we can offer those in pain. We embrace the words of Day’s mother, Carmen Bolden Day, who post on Facebook her gratitude to “every single person who has thought about, prayed for, talked about and searched for Jelani. We love each and every one of you for making Jelani’s story personal.”

A family so caring deserves every answer it wants.

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Champaign News-Gazette. September 24, 2021.

Editorial: Emanuel’s past complicating ambassadorial nomination

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted to keep the top job in his city, but his unpopularity with Chicagoans made it impossible. He wanted to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation in the Biden administration, but his unpopularity with the super-progressives in the Democratic Party made it impossible.

As a consolation prize, Biden has nominated Emanuel to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and he should win confirmation. But it’s not a sure thing, because the Democrats who didn’t like him before still don’t like him.

Speaking for the hard-core left, party leader U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called Emanuel’s nomination “deeply shameful.”

It’s not easy to agree with Ocasio-Cortez on the issues, but she has a solid point here. It’s one that Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both prominent Emanuel supporters, will have to ignore when and if they eventually cast their expected “yes” votes for Emanuel.

Ocasio-Cortez objects to Emanuel’s nomination, as do many others, because of the leading role he played in the attempted cover-up of the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer.

The mayor tried to push an out-of-court settlement with McDonald’s family quietly through the Chicago City Council. But he was found out.

He resisted release of the shooting video until he was elected to his second term. Despite Emanuel’s best efforts, a judge ordered the video’s release, dooming his plans for a third term as mayor.

For those who do not recall, the video revealed a horrific display of unjustifiable use of deadly force. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

It was not until after the video’s release that Van Dyke was charged in the case. Convicted of second-degree murder, he was sentenced to 81 months in prison.

In a recent story about the controversial nomination, The Washington Post wrote charitably that Emanuel was criticized “over his handling of the deadly shooting.”

Actually, he was criticized for trying to cover up what occurred to enhance his electoral prospects in the 2015 mayor race.

While despicable, it was not surprising. Emanuel is a master politician to whom the ends justify the means.

That will help him because he’s plugged in to congressional Democrats as a consequence of having served both in the U.S. House of Representatives and as White House chief of staff under President Obama.

He won plaudits for his House role because, as chairman of the House Democratic Congressional Committee, he led his party to the 2006 takeover of the House.

But he’s radioactive enough that many Senate Democrats refuse to speak publicly about their position on Emanuel’s nomination. The Washington Post said it contacted all 100 members of the Senate but that “most did not respond or declined to take a position.”

Cats have apparently captured the tongue of Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Equally silent are the two Black Senate Democrats — Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia — who are normally outspoken.

It’s ironic that Emanuel has enough Republican support to win even if some Democrats, trying to appease their party’s left, vote no. Among the GOP senators supporting Emanuel are Linsdey Graham, Roy Blunt and Susan Collins.

There is little question about Emanuel’s competence. He’s a master of the black art of politics. But there is a substantial question about his vindictive character and belligerent personality.

Those are odd qualities for an ambassador. But it’s probably politically safer for President Biden to have him in the Far East than closer to home.

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Chicago Sun-Times. September 23, 2021.

Editorial: Progress made, slowly but thoughtfully, in taking school discipline out of the hands of cops

We urge those who agree with us — that there are better alternatives to cops in schools cracking down on 12-year-olds — to keep on pushing.

Uniformed police officers, for a host of reasons, should not be posted in public schools.

That’s been our view for a few years now, and we’ll continue to argue the point for as long as there are cops in the halls of any Chicago public elementary or high school.

But we’d like to recognize today the progress that’s been made on this issue and the thoughtful manner in which the debate has played out, even as we urge those who agree with us — that there are better alternatives to cops cracking down on 12-year-olds — to keep on pushing.

If we know anything as an editorial board, it is that change works best from the ground up, with new ways of thinking preceding new laws and policies. This takes time. So, with that humbling thought in mind, we find it heartening that at least a small number of CPS schools in the last couple of years have voted to remove all full-time police officers and — more heartening still — dozens of other schools have developed plans for alternatives to blunt police discipline.

These schools are working to create safer student environments, physically and emotionally, whether that includes the presence of a full-time police officer or not. They are pushing the sensible stand, for example, that a student’s encounter with a police officer should rarely, if ever, lead to criminal charges and the lifelong burden of a criminal record.

That would seem to be the bare minimum for slowing our nation’s infamous, and very real, school-to-prison pipeline.

We are seeing the beginning of a healthy shift in thinking about school discipline, and advocates for removing uniformed officers from school buildings deserve much of the credit. They are being heard.

On Wednesday, as reported by Nader Issa of the Sun-Times, the Board of Education voted to renew an agreement with the Chicago Police Department to assign officers to schools — those schools that want them — at a cost of $11.1 million.

But it was a divided vote, 4 to 2, with the two dissenting board members saying they could not support any policy that allows for officers in any school. They stuck to that view even though the board also shifted $3.2 million of money previously spent on police officers to other more holistic approaches to school security, such as hiring more counselors and involving student peer groups in restorative justice programs.

Had we a vote on the board, we likely would have sided with the two dissenters, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Luisiana Melendez. Their fundamental objection, that the presence of cops in schools every day seems to lead almost inevitably to a disproportionate policing of Black students, is true. And we, like Todd-Breland and Melendez, would have preferred a district-wide ban.

Too often, as we’ve written before, the kind of teenage misbehavior that might lead to counseling at a good suburban school is treated as a criminal matter in a city public school. This has been true particularly for Black students, who comprise only about 36% of all CPS students yet are the subject of 66% of all police notifications.

The impact is lasting. It can be devastating. A 2018 study, from the University of California at Los Angeles, found that putting police into Texas schools led to a decline in graduation and college enrollment rates.

Yet we remain optimistic. It is good news that 42 police officers, so far, have been removed from school buildings. We respect the work of those officers but believe they can be of greater service working the streets outside those schools.

And it is good news — or so we hope — that the school district’s incoming CEO, Pedro Martinez, has expressed reservations about school police.

At a recent news conference, Martinez said cops should never be used to carry out school discipline, a very welcomed view. He also said CPS should consider creating its own highly specialized police force, one that knows how to work well with children, which we find to be a less appealing idea.

We’ll take more counselors, social workers and teachers, as well as an entirely new way of thinking about school discipline, every time.

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