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Editorial Roundup: Illinois

April 20, 2021 GMT

Arlington Heights Daily Herald. April 19, 2021.

Editorial: Time to put aside politics and be ready to govern

The end of a long local election season comes as a welcome relief for campaign-weary suburbanites -- remember, we also had a state and national election in November -- and signals a new focus for members of park, library, school, township and municipal bodies. It’s time to govern.

Candidates who won seats in last week’s election and soon will be sworn into office, as well as current board members in the middle of their terms, now must put aside the campaign mindset of the last four months. The time for rhetoric, criticizing opponents and making campaign promises is over. Now, elected officials must get down to the business of working as part of a team and leading their community.

That means listening, really listening, to competing viewpoints from fellow board members and from constituents, studying data and researching issues and working with others to make the best decisions that solve important problems and benefit the community.

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Running for office is the exciting part of the process. Winning and sitting in the big chair for the next two to four years and facing difficult issues and sometimes unhappy residents, that’s the hard part. That’s when candidates are called upon to be statesmen.

Elected officials will almost certainly be tested quickly as there is no shortage of issues facing all levels of local government, many stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and how to recover from it. That’s likely to include determining how to help struggling business communities, whether and how to proceed with traditional summer festivals and other events and, of course, the transition to full in-person learning for schools.

But COVID is not the only issue, and candidates who focused campaigns on the pandemic will find they’ll have to bone up on a host of other needs, from infrastructure and budget shortfalls to downtown redevelopment and more, that will come before their board for discussion and decision.

That can sound like a daunting task, but it’s also an opportunity to make a difference.

Those who decided to put themselves and their ideas in the public forum and run for elected office often told us they felt a need to give back for all they have received or believed they had unique skills and abilities to solve problems. The spirit of contributing showed itself in the more than 1,000 candidates on ballots in races -- some with more than 10 candidates -- across the suburbs who debated issues to improve their communities. We are hopeful the incumbents who were reelected April 6 are re-energized to the challenges that are ahead and that newcomers who take seats will be the new blood that comes armed with new ideas. We are hopeful that powerful mix will forge fresh, constructive and cost-effective local government bodies.

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Chicago Tribune. April 16, 2021.

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Editorial: The other video that sheds light on Adam Toledo’s life

Chicago is a city in mourning. A city fractured. And yet body camera footage from the March 29 shooting death of Adam Toledo binds us in a most tragic way. We knew the videos from the police oversight agency were coming. But witnessing, absorbing, what actually happened has been shattering.

This is only the beginning of a long and painful journey about that night; about Chicago police training, tactics and interactions with minority communities; and about the thousands of kids who get lost in the system. We will continue to question what prompted an officer to pull his trigger in a split second as Toledo appeared to raise his hands, unarmed. And we’ll continue to examine the chain of events that landed a 13-year-old in an alley in the middle of the night, running from police.

Perhaps one chilling, contributing factor can be found on a separate video, also released Thursday. It’s not the clip shown around the world, the final moments of Toledo’s short life. It is police body camera footage from around the corner as other officers confronted the 21-year-old man, Ruben Roman, who was with Toledo that night and allegedly fired shots at a passing car. That’s what drew police to the scene, prompting both of them to run.

Within minutes, Toledo was shot by an officer. And as he lay dying, the video shows Roman repeatedly telling police that he is an innocent bystander who doesn’t know anything.

“...I was just passing by. I was just on my way home,” he says.

No mention of what police later alleged, that he was seen on surveillance videos shooting at a car — with a kid at his side. This is the person 13-year-old Toledo trusted enough to be out at 2:30 a.m. on a Monday.

In an op-ed in Friday’s Tribune, Chicago photojournalist Mateo Zapata explained what it’s like growing up in a Chicago neighborhood that is disconnected from charming downtown, from the sturdy economies outside it, from the bubbles of upscale, safe and stable neighborhoods.

One of Toledo’s former teachers told Zapata that Toledo didn’t fully understand how dangerous his environment was. He lacked the socialization norms at school that give kids a center, a grounding. He started “hanging out with people that he thought cared about him.”

If true, how heartbreaking, how evil, to see someone he might have considered a friend — Roman — pretending not to know him, to repeatedly lie to police — allegedly — in order to save himself. In that separate video of March 29, Roman is handcuffed and held by an officer near a chain-link fence after being chased down. Here’s a partial transcript:

Police: “Where do you live?”

Roman: “I live in Maywood.”

Police: “Why you over here?”

Roman: “Cuz’ I was just passing by. I was just on my way home.”

Police: “What do you mean you were just passing by?”

Roman: “I just, just dropped off my girl.”

Police: “You ran from police, right?”

Roman: “Never. I didn’t … I don’t know what’s goin’ on. I got tackled. What’s going on? Just trying to get home, bro.”

Police: “What’d you see out here?”

Roman: “Nothin’. What’s going on?”

Police: “What do you think is going on?”

Roman: “I don’t know. Maybe shots fired or something.”

Roman did not, would not, give police Toledo’s real name, police later said. And Toledo, being 13, had no driver’s license, no identification. So his body lay in the morgue unclaimed, unidentified, for two days until police pieced together his mother’s previous missing person report.

These are the “friends” impressionable, struggling 13-year-olds gravitate toward. These are the types of people who prey on the vulnerable. Maybe we can learn from that.

According to Zapata’s interviews, Toledo at a young age was placed in special education classes that removed him from typical classroom settings. He liked to draw, a teacher recalled. Had the school offered an art class, maybe he would have grown into that talent. But there were no art classes at his school. And the pandemic intensified feelings of isolation for many, many teens during the past year.

Roman faces charges of reckless discharge of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, child endangerment and probation violations. His case, as it moves through the criminal justice system, deserves our attention and focus too. We will be watching.

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Chicago Sun-Times. April 16, 2021.

Editorial: If the Illinois Senate cares about Chicago kids, it’ll kill a terrible bill for an elected school board

It was a bad idea back in January and it’s a bad idea now. Listen to the warnings of a host of excellent nonprofit groups working to serve the poor and powerless.

Once again, legislation is making its way through Springfield that would radically change who runs the public schools in Chicago — and, once again, legislators should back off from making a big mistake.

The Illinois House did so in January, tabling a bill to create a 21-member elected board, which would strip Chicago’s mayor of control. The cock-eyed scheme effectively would hand control to the Chicago Teachers Union and billionaires keen on privatization.

It was a bad idea then, though it’s a pet cause in certain progressive circles and among Chicago Democrats who fear the wrath of the teachers’ union. And it’s a bad idea now, threatening to undo years of academic gains and deny a voice to low-income and non-citizen families.

But on Thursday, the full House voted in favor of the bill and kicked the issue over to the Senate.

The Senate has got to put on the brakes.

Also on Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot put forth her own specific proposal for a hybrid school board — eight members to be appointed by the mayor and three to be elected — that would keep ultimate control of the board in the mayor’s hands.

We have long supported the creation of a hybrid board, in some fashion, as the best of both worlds. It would give the public a stronger say in how the schools are run while making sure that the buck stops somewhere when it comes to accountability. Chicago’s elected chief executive, the mayor, would continue to have that responsibility.

False claims of greater democracy

The mantra among some Chicago progressives is that a fully elected school board would become a noble grassroots collective, standing up for the interests of the voiceless and disenfranchised in Chicago. To which we — and now, it seems, an impressive lineup of leaders who are indisputably committed to the welfare of Chicago’s least powerful — disagree.

In an April 12 letter to the Legislature, the leaders of some of the most respected nonprofit organizations in Chicago formally stated that they are “neutral” on the merits of the proposed 21-member elected school board. But then, simply by laying out what they think any good reorganization plan should guard against, they eviscerated the current bill.

The writers of the letter made several excellent points:

Any new board should include ”representation of non-citizens and low-income parents” and not be dominated by “special interests and money politics.” But a fully elected board would run a great risk of failing to do just that. Undocumented parents do not have the right to vote, while low-income parents lack the financial means to run in a costly, citywide election.

“These parents entrust their children and their children’s future to CPS,” the letter states. “They deserve a voice — and a vote — in any new governance structure.”

And who might be those “special interests and money politics?” The letter writers do not say, but you can bet it would be the CTU, as well as billionaire crusaders for charter schools, privatizing and even voucher systems. All of whom are probably champing at the bit to gain more power.

CPS, the letter writers point out, is the second biggest employer in Chicago, with an $8.7 billion operating budget. The school board must administer that budget and make decisions on levying additional property taxes. Not for nothing should the board include business and finance experts of the highest caliber. Any new school board model, the writers warn, must recognize “the importance of including expertise on the board.”

The writers of the letter state that they will support only a school board “model where the financial ability of school board members and their supporters does not determine the composition of the board.” And to understand just how much things could go wrong, the writers urge the Legislature to look no further than the failures of an elected school board in Los Angeles to represent the interests of the poor and non-citizens.

“In Los Angeles,” they write, “43% of school board members are white, even though only 28% of the city’s population is white,” the letter states. “Only one parent serves on the Los Angeles School Board. More money was spent on four school board races in last year’s election than on all city council races combined. The Los Angeles School Board election devolved into a proxy fight between the teachers’ union and so-called ‘corporate reformers.’

“The losers were parents and their children,” the letter concludes. “We cannot let this happen in Chicago.”

Listen to those who know best

And who were the signatories to the letter? Anti-union zealots? Toadies and apologists for mayors past and present?

No, they were in fact as strong a bunch of advocates for people who are up against it as you’ll find in this town. They were:

Tom Vanden Berk, CEO, UCAN

Karina Ayala-Bermejo, President & CEO, Instituto del Progreso Latino

Tasha Green Cruzat, Executive Director, Voices for Illinois Children

Ricardo Estrada, President & CEO, Metropolitan Family Services

Jim Hayes, President & CEO, YMCA Metropolitan Chicago

Dorri McWhorter, CEO, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago

Rev. James T. Meeks, Founder & Sr. Pastor, Salem Baptist Church

Sylvia Puente, President & CEO, Latino Policy Forum

Raul I. Raymundo, CEO, The Resurrection Project

Audra Wilson, President & CEO, Shriver Center for Poverty Law

Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO, Chicago Urban League

Avert a disaster

A fully elected board could prove a disaster for Chicago’s public schools, putting at risk the significant academic progress that has been made in the past decade. High school graduation rates, college admission rates, test scores and enrollments in advanced courses all have improved during CPS’ years under mayoral control.

Our message to the Illinois Senate:

Kill a bad bill. Stand up, for real, for Chicago’s kids.

END