Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. October 20, 2021.

Editorial: Local governments should meet in person

Every local government has issues large and small that affect the lives of the people it serves.

Should residents be allowed to have chickens within town? What programs should the school district cut to balance the budget?

Even matters that may seem trivial are important to someone. It is the duty of public officials to give every matter serious consideration. And it is the duty of citizens to whom those matters are important to provide advice.

The pandemic has shown us that virtual meetings can play an important role in providing widespread access to these deliberations -- in a way that livestreaming cannot quite duplicate.

As we have said in this space previously, we strongly encourage local governments to continue this access. It is possible to do so cost-effectively while simultaneously conducting in-person meetings.

All that said, let there be no mistake: In normal times, when a health crisis does not exist, these meetings ought to be carried out in person, allowing for in-person interactions.

Those meetings, many times held in a room full of people with passionate and sometimes opposing viewpoints, are fundamental and vital processes that play out throughout the suburbs.

A bill introduced earlier this year by state Sen. Christina Castro of Elgin would give government entities the power to conduct any meeting electronically, not in person, for any reason.

It is supported by the Illinois Municipal League, but while it might make governing easier for municipalities, it would do so by cutting access to the public, and that is wrong and anti-democratic.

Anyone who has attended a virtual meeting during the past 18 months knows discussions are shorter and ultimately less effective when they are not held in person, face to face. Dialogue simply isn’t as meaningful when we’re all in different rooms.

Certainly, the pandemic was a valid reason for taking proceedings from council chambers to a Zoom room. But it was simply an exception to the rule, a need that no longer exists as we all return to a safer normal.

The public has a right to interact with their elected officials, face to face.

We believe local governments should do it both ways simultaneously -- in person as an obligation to the public, and remotely as a convenience to the public.

The point is not to increase the convenience to public office holders. It is to increase and ensure access to the public. That is government’s obligation.

Castro’s bill should be rejected, or sharply revised, severely limiting the government’s remote options to true emergencies.

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Bloomington Pantagraph. October 23, 2021.

Editorial: State can’t escape map misery

With multiple opportunities to get it right, Illinois keeps getting it wrong. Even though next week offers another (possibly final) opportunity for corrections, Illinois’ legislative maps will probably remain a gerrymandered mess for another 10 years.

This can has been kicked as far down the road as it can go.

The current Democrat plan for mapping – the latest of numerous attempts, one of which has been ruled unconstitutional in federal court -- is as unbalanced as it has ever been. Independents are pointing to the ridiculous shapes of some districts. Voters from Chicago suburbs are resisting being in the same district as rural residents. Even some Democrats are afraid seats might flip the way the districts are drawn. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a nonpartisan group that studies redistricting, gave Illinois’ proposed map an “F” for fairness.

Given our state’s history, that’s hardly a surprise.

Illinois currently has 18 seats in the U.S. House, with Democrats holding 13 and Republicans the other five. The state is losing a congressional seat because of population loss, most of which occurred in heavily Republican areas of central and southern Illinois, according to the 2020 census.

After the census was released, anticipation was Democrats would target Central Illinois and make it difficult, if not impossible, for Representatives Rodney Davis and Adam Kinzinger to be re-elected to the House.

Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats control redistricting, and the party nationally is looking to the state for help in 2022. Democrats control the U.S. House by a thin margin, and Republicans are in charge of redistricting in more states than Democrats, which could give the GOP an advantage in next year’s elections.

Worth noting is that this issue isn’t unique to Illinois, or to Democrats. In states where Republicans draw the borders, they’re being drawn favorable to Republicans. Illinois isn’t the only state in the middle of this debate every 10 years.

There has to be a better way of doing this. Gov. J.B. Pritzker had a map out of the nightmare, but reneged on his campaign pledge to reject partisan legislature map drawing. The map could still have been controversial had it been drawn in non-partisan fashion. But such controversy would have at least been different and could have come to a more satisfactory conclusion.

Instead, what’s happened is painfully predictable. Citizens and voters talking to officials about the maps complain about what they don’t have in common with others in their districts as drawn. Race is a key factor, as is the rural-urban mixtures.

One of the largest issues is more wide-reaching. When voters see that their areas of representation are being divvied up in a partisan debate, they’re bound to lose identity. They can feel disenfranchised. Not in a literal sense – they’re still able to vote. But imagining their vote counts for anything is difficult.

That ultimately winds up with the worst result possible in a dem0cracy – apathy. If we don’t care what happens, we’re leaving open the door for the worst to happen.

We must avoid that outcome. That’s why redistricting decisions are vital.

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Decatur Herald & Review. October 22, 2021.

Editorial: Fortifying battle against bullying

We can all agree that bullying is awful. At best, it’s a nuisance and at worst a nightmare whose fallout lasts a lifetime.

Illinois’ new contribution to battling bullies is Safe2Help Illinois. The statewide school safety initiative is designed to encourage students to “Seek Help Before Harm.”

Safe2Help Illinois is available 24/7, and at no cost to all school districts in the state. In the absence of a trusted adult,

Students are encouraged to use a free app, text/phone, or the website Safe2HelpIL.com to share school safety issues in a confidential environment. Information obtained will remain confidential to ensure student privacy and to protect the integrity of the program. The program, a media release, is not intended to suspend, expel or punish students.

The information will be vetted and then shared with local school officials, mental health professionals and/or local law enforcement. The program also will help local officials by connecting them with mental health resources or other appropriate tools to intervene.

This effort requires the aggrieved to reach out. For some, that will be enough of a challenge, let alone recounting uncomfortable or dangerous situations. But it’s vital to make those students and their loved ones feel safe about reaching out to the help line.

The recognition of potential physical and mental health issues is critical to children’s safety. We’re well past the point of telling kids to “toughen up” – bullying is bullying, whatever form it takes. And when children are in the middle of misery, someone telling them “it gets better” is of little consolation.

We often find ourselves wondering what we can do to battle bullying and remove some obstacles from the lives of our children. Utilized properly, Safe2Help Illinois can be a hugely positive step.

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