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Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

November 12, 2019 GMT

November 10, 2019

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

We must find a way to end gun violence

We don’t know how or when this horrific saga of gun violence gripping Southern Illinois will end. Unfortunately, we feel certain that more heart-rending chapters of loss will be written before we reach a resolution.

Although reports of shootings ebb and flow, it seems the region can’t go 10 days without an incident — whether it be in Carbondale, Harrisburg, Marion or elsewhere. Outwardly, Southern Illinoisans live in what appears to be an idyllic area — small towns with tree-lined streets, rivers, lakes and hills. But we are hardly immune from the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation.

The latest tragedies occurred in Carbondale last week when 16-year-old Xe’Quan Campbell was accidentally killed and Keon Cooper, 27, was gunned down in a parking lot on South Illinois Avenue. Campbell’s killing was apparently a case of mistaken identity. Cooper was apparently gunned down in cold blood.

The police investigation into Campbell’s death indicates the guns used were legally obtained. The shooter had the required permits to carry the guns. While it is somewhat reassuring to the community that his death wasn’t a random act of violence, there is zero solace to be taken.

The harsh lesson here is that legally purchased guns are as deadly as black market or stolen weapons. Legally purchased bullets don’t discriminate between friend or foe, they don’t discriminate by race, creed or age when they tear through flesh, break bones or destroy vital organs.

The tears shed for young Mr. Campbell will be profuse, heartfelt and painful. The fact that his death is the result of an accidental shooting doesn’t diminish the loss to family and friends.

Sadly, this wasn’t Campbell’s first brush with gun violence in his short life. He was feted earlier this year for disarming another person on a school bus in Carbondale. That’s more than enough exposure to gun play in an extended lifetime, much less compressed into 16 years.

These latest deaths, these latest reports of shootings, leave us all shaking our heads, searching in vain for answers, especially easy fixes. The two most commonly heard suggestions — more good people need to arm themselves or we need to return to prayer and traditional family values — leave us empty.

There are more guns than people in the United States right now. If sheer numbers of weapons quashed violence, it certainly feels we would have already reached that point. What is the saturation point?

As far as prayer and traditional family values, our Judeo-Christian background has made it clear for thousands of years, “Thou shalt not kill.”

The vast majority of us learned those words as young children. The vast majority of us hold those words to be sacred and vital to our way of life, yet, here we are, lamenting to death of two more young people as the result of senseless violence.

And, as the frustration mounts, we find one single word haunting us.

Why?

Why do young people have to barricade themselves in a room fearful of being attacked? Why are they in that position? What is lacking in their lives? Why do arguments and fights escalate to the level of lethal force?

Why do so many people seem incapable of understanding that pulling the trigger is an act that can’t be undone? Why do so many of us not realize the finality, the gravity of that simple action?

These questions will have to be answered honestly and completely before we as a community, before the United States as a nation can begin to address this grisly epidemic of shootings.

In the meantime, we are left to mourn those who left this world entirely too early. It’s an empty, haunting feeling.

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November 10, 2019

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

No income taxes in Texas

Public officials in some states see income taxes as the path to economic salvation, a surefire way to pay for what programs legislators can come up with.

Other states also see them as granting legislators authority to tax income the same way, except they perceive that unlimited power as a surefire road to the nether regions, not salvation.

Texas falls in the latter camp, which explains why voters there overwhelmingly (75 percent) passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax.

Now Texans have long made it clear they’re against income taxes. They don’t have a state income tax and their constitution made “passing one a different endeavor,” according to news accounts.

But just in case someone got a mind to try to enact one, some folks there decided it was time to make the anti-tax point — again.

“THANK YOU TEXANS!!!! Future generations of Texans will thank you too,” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott, “Keep Government out of your pocketbook.”

As part of his anti-tax campaign, Abbott distributed a video showing him tearing up a California income tax form. Why California?

Its progressive income tax rates range from 1 percent to 12.3 percent. Plus, there’s another 1 percent surcharge on taxpayers whose incomes are over $1 million for menta-health services.

If Abbott’s ad proved to be an eye-catcher, voters in Illinois may get to see an Illinois version of it.

That’s because Gov. J.B. Pritzker is pushing for passage of an amendment to the Illinois Constitution in the November 2020 election that would replace the current flat-tax mandate with progressive rates — steadily increasing tax rates on rising levels of income.

Passing a state constitutional amendment requires supermajority support from voters, and so far, it’s unclear where Illinoisans stand on the issue.

But it’s very clear how Texas voters feel about state income taxes. They’re against progressive income taxes, flat taxes, any kind of income taxes.

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November 9, 2019

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

Adapting to changes helps community college retain their value

Experts cite various reasons for a continuing decline in community college enrollment:

. In a booming economy, it’s easier for young people to find opportunities elsewhere, whether it be at four-year institutions or in private businesses and industries hungry for workers.

. Enrollment peaked in 2010, driven by a historic recession that had spurred tens of thousands of older adults to turn to community colleges for retraining in marketable skills and professions.

. The college-age population is declining.

Such factors present uncomfortable challenges for the institutions, not least among them the potential need to boost tuitions in order to pay the bills. To be sure, some local colleges have reluctantly resorted to that option during the current downturn. But what’s most noteworthy and encouraging overall is how nimbly community colleges are adapting to local conditions, both to maintain reasonable cost controls and to meet changing educational needs.

As immediate examples, McHenry County College and Elgin Community College point to adjustments they’ve made that helped them buck the enrollment trend this year. Our Madhu Krishnamurthy reported state figures showing MCC’s enrollment has actually grown substantially -- almost 14% -- over the past four years. Although enrollment at ECC still remains below its 2015 level, the school may have stemmed a downward slide by managing year-over-year growth of 3.7% in 2019.

MCC officials cite an emphasis on training in high-demand fields such as computer automation, industrial maintenance, welding and health. The school also added a new science center, built industry partnerships and placed an emphasis on diversity recruiting.

ECC officials note the success the school has had building relationships early with high school students, though they recognize that, with the smaller college-age population, the long-term answer will be in attracting older adults.

Though they did not see the yearly increases this year that MCC and ECC experienced, other suburban community colleges are employing various combinations of these strategies to slow the enrollment slide. And, importantly, all the schools are tapping into the popularity of online learning and producing enrollment increases in e-classes.

Economic and demographic fluctuations will always pose challenges for community college enrollment. But by monitoring economic and social trends, adapting to changes and maintaining close relationships with the local businesses and industries who will employ their graduates, the schools can remain -- and are remaining -- among the best values in higher education and local scholastic treasures.

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