Champaign News-Gazette. May 22, 2022.
Editorial: DCFS investigation reveals more of the same
Too many children are falling through the cracks of the state’s structurally flawed children protection infrastructure.
A recent investigation into operations at the state’s Department of Children and Family Services revealed a catalogue of shortcomings that threaten the state’s most vulnerable children.
But what else is new?
A similar probe conducted in 2019 by the same investigator — Illinois’ auditor general — found similar failings. Legislators were so moved by the findings they announced the creation of a new caucus whose goal was to fix what ails DCFS.
Considered in that context, it’s fair to conclude that there’s plenty of talk about DCFS failings and very little action that results in improvement.
Like the 2019 investigation, the 2022 investigation found that the child welfare agency failed to ensure adequate care for children in its care and failed to properly track cases of potential abuse and neglect reported to them.
One gaffe stands out. The agency failed more than half the time to document support services provided to reunited families — that is those to whom a child was returned after being removed from the home.
The auditor general’s recent report is just another in a long line of shortcomings that have made the news in recent months.
Most prominent among them have been repeated contempt of court citations aimed at DCFS Director Marc Smith. He was repeatedly found in contempt because DCFS was holding children in psychiatric facilities when they no longer need to be there.
That sounds horrific, and it is. When DCFS fails, children suffer and sometimes even die.
There’s no denying that this agency has a hugely difficult job, dealing with family dysfunction on a grand scale. At the same time, there’s also no denying that it’s failing in ways that can be difficult to understand.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker deserves some credit for trying to fix DCFS. He’s thrown millions of dollars at the agency and overseen increases in hiring and improvements in training.
But if the reports are to be believed, management has fallen dramatically short, and without effective managers and management systems, failure is a certainty.
There’s no excuse for a 50-plus percent failure rate in documenting services to fractured families. Are employees so overwhelmed with paperwork they can’t keep up? Or are too many of them just shirking their duties without fear of consequences? Either possibility reflects a failure of top management to see that necessary work gets done.
The question now is what’s next for DCFS?
Are the responsible parties going to wring their hands in public until the story is off the front page and then continue to wallow in failure until the next disaster? That’s been the past practice.
Surely, Illinois can do better — or at least try to do better. The natural political response to problems of this nature is to throw more money at DCFS. But it’s important to keep one thing in mind — budget increases guarantee nothing.
State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, recently told DCFS’ Smith that “every year you guys come back and ask for more money” and promise that fixes are imminent, but “nothing happens.”
The record indicates that DCFS, probably for a variety of reasons, is beyond management salvation. But given the stakes involved, accepting continued failure is not an option.
Chicago Sun-Times. May 18, 2022.
Editorial: Registering assault weapons would be a good first step to ending the scourge of mass shootings
Already this year there have been 203 mass shootings in America. History shows registration of powerful weapons can be an effective way to save lives.
President Joe Biden wants to ban military-style assault weapons.
There is a better — as in, politically achievable — way.
Gun safety advocates say calling for a ban is not the most effective way to slow down America’s shocking number of mass shootings, including two last weekend. There have been 203 of those shootings just 4½ months into this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Instead, advocates say that requiring the weapons to be registered is a tactic that — if done correctly — could keep the weapons out of those intent on using them to shoot large numbers of victims before they have a chance to flee. Assault weapons are a type of semi-automatic firearm designed solely to kill humans quickly and efficiently and, according to the Giffords Law Center, more than 85% of fatalities in mass shootings have been caused by assault rifles.
After 10 people were killed and three others were injured in the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket, Biden renewed his call for banning assault weapons such as the AR-15-type weapon that the 18-year-old suspect obtained legally. And that legal purchase was not unusual. According to a survey by the National Institute of Justice, the research wing of the Justice Department, 77% of mass shooters legally obtained the weapons they used in their crimes.
Analyses all along the political spectrum indicate that a ban is just not in the cards in the current Congress. Even in normal, less divisive times, enacting such a ban wouldn’t be easy. Now, the nation is mired in a cultural war that makes it harder for politicians to cross the aisle on even the most pressing issues.
Requiring registration of assault weapons would be a heavy lift to get through this Congress, too. But, gun safety advocates say, there’s a better chance to enact it into law. California already has a registration law. Nationwide registration would be an easier sell to existing owners of assault weapons than an outright ban. Registration and a significant registration fee would, in a best-case scenario, persuade many gun buyers they really don’t need assault weapons after all.
History shows registration can be effective. The National Firearms Act of 1934, passed into law after the Prohibition-era mob wars, including the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, required the registration of machine guns. As a result of the registration fees and required oversight, machine guns have pretty much disappeared from the public sphere.
If a large number of people aren’t buying certain types of guns, manufacturers won’t make them. If manufacturers aren’t making them, the small number of people who want to use them in crimes can’t buy them. As police frequently point out, illegal crime guns start out as legal guns before they get into criminals’ hands.
The difference between a machine gun and an assault rifle is someone firing a machine gun can keep firing by holding down the trigger. An assault weapon requires the trigger to be repeatedly pulled, which reduces the number of bullets that can be fired in a set amount of time.
Some mass shooters using assault weapons have found ways to alter the weapons so they can shoot more rapidly. That’s why gun safety advocates say the weapons should not be freely available. The Buffalo shooting put the lie to the repeated claim by gun rights advocates that the best answer to a bad gun with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The supermarket had a good guy, an armed security guard, who couldn’t stop the shooter — the suspect was wearing body armor — and was himself killed as well.
A registration law would have to be carefully drawn up. When a 1994 ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was enacted, it was so loosely written that functional equivalents of assault rifles remained on the market. The 1994 ban expired in 2004.
There is widespread support for getting assault rifles out of the hands of would-be mass shooters. Many police officers support limiting ownership of assault weapons because bullets fired from the guns can penetrate officers’ bullet-proof vests. Ordinary people are justifiably frightened by the constant number of mass shootings that can happen anywhere.
Illinois doesn’t have to wait for the federal government to act. In one important gun-safety step, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed a ban on “ghost guns,” weapons that individuals assemble themselves to skirt federal laws. Requiring registration of assault rifles in Illinois would be a logical follow-up.
But to make a much bigger difference, a federal registration requirement is needed.
Mass shootings account for only a small percentage of all shootings, but each incident causes many casualties. Greatly limiting ownership of such weapons would make America safer.
Chicago Tribune. May 20, 2022.
Editorial: 175 years of editorials and counting
Most self-penned histories of editorial boards trumpet the obvious successes.
The legislation motivated. The bad actors removed. The scandals unearthed and decried. The endorsed officials elected. The common-sense suggestions that then became enshrined in a great city’s legacy of progress (and backsliding).
We’ve had a few of those over the last 175 years.
But the most common condition of the editorial board? The provision of advice not taken.
We’ve had rather more of those.
But as we take part in this newspaper’s 175th anniversary celebration over the next several weeks, we hope to bring you some examples of what this page has had to say at various points in the city’s history, offered up with a bit of context, maybe a puff of pride, sometimes more than a tinge of regret. The page has reflected the quotidian opinion of the city’s leading newspaper, as subject to the changing winds of time and thinking and proprietorship as the city itself and, invariably, crafted without the benefit of time of long-term reflection, this being a daily publication.
Rarely has the newspaper suffered from undue humility.
“EVERY MAN’S DUTY — READ!” trumpeted this page in 1861, decrying “lickspittles” and other undesirables. “Let no Northern man or woman tolerate in his or her presence one word of treason,” we wrote, leading at the edge of the Civil War. “There is a republic!”
The editorial is not so much a suggestion or argument as, well, a command.
Not all of our editorials, though, were written from a position of such surety. And some took more effort to produce than you might think.
That never has been truer than in the first example we share, among the most famous editorials in the newspaper’s history: a piece that strived not to change policy or officialdom but to buoy the mood of a stressed-out city.
The paper had editorialized in September 1871 about shoddy building methods in Chicago: the walls “a hundred feet high but a single brick in thickness.” (Even 150 years later, those “all sham and shingles” issues hardly have gone away, leading us to editorialize about the lack of government oversight on building safety, the fire safety problems that go undetected, the dangerous abandoned buildings that remain to haunt the city.)
Weeks later, catastrophe struck.
On Oct. 9, a Monday evening, fire surrounded the Tribune’s offices, as it did so much of Chicago, leading the paper to rush to open another newsroom at 15 Canal St. and, on Oct. 11, to put out the following editorial, accompanying our story of the fire. Histories of the day make note that the Tribune as a business entity almost went down with its city that week. But we survived. And we had a suggestion or two for a city in the throes of an existential crisis, penned with the moral authority of a fellow sufferer.
You can read it for yourself, knowing more is to come.
In the midst of a calamity without parallel in the world’s history, looking upon the ashes of thirty years’ accumulations, the people of this once beautiful city have resolved that CHICAGO SHALL RISE AGAIN.
With woe on every hand, with death in many strange places, with two or three hundred millions of our hard-earned property swept away in a few hours, the hearts of our men and women are still brave, and they look into the future with undaunted hearts. As there has never been such a calamity, so has there never been such cheerful fortitude in the face of desolation and ruin.
Thanks to the blessed charity of the good people of the United States, we shall not suffer from hunger or nakedness in this trying time. Hundreds of train-loads of provisions are coming forward to us with all speed from every quarter, from Maine to Omaha. Some have already arrived — more will reach us before these words are printed. Three-fourths of our inhabited area is still saved. The water supply will be speedily renewed. Steam fire engines from a dozen neighboring cities have already arrived, and more are on their way. It seems impossible that any further progress should be made by the flames, or that any new fire should break out that would not be instantly extinguished.
Already contracts have been made for rebuilding some of the burned blocks, and the clearing away of the debris will begin to-day, if the heat is so far subdued that the charred material can be handled. Field, Leiter & Co., and John V. Farwell & Co. will recommence business to-day. The money and securities in all the banks are safe. The railroads are working with all their energies to bring us out of our affliction. The three hundred millions of capital invested in these roads is bound to see us through. They have been built with special reference to a great commercial mart of this place, and they cannot fail to sustain us. CHICAGO MUST RISE AGAIN.
We do not belittle the calamity that has befallen us. The world has probably never seen the like of it — certainly not since Moscow burned. But the forces of nature, no less than the forces of reason require that the exchanges of a great region should be conducted here. Ten, twenty years may be required to reconstruct our fair city, but the capital to rebuild it fire-proof will be forthcoming. The losses we have suffered must be borne; but the place, the time, and the men are here, to commence at the bottom and work up again; not at the bottom neither, for we have credit in every land, and the experience of one upbuilding of Chicago to help us. Let us all cheer up, save what is yet left, and we shall come out right. The Christian world is coming to our relief. The worst is already over. In a few days more all the dangers will be past, and we can resume the battle of life with Christian faith and Western grit. Let us all cheer up!
— Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Oct. 11, 1871