Daily dose: Local histories, Pearl Harbor Day, Rep. Tim Johnson's conceal-carry bill, backgrounder on Blago's sentencing, Illinois' weakened high ed system

Daily dose: Local histories, Pearl Harbor Day, Rep. Tim Johnson's conceal-carry bill, backgrounder on Blago's sentencing, Illinois' weakened high ed system

Local histories

From Saturday ...

In 1911, the main topic of conversation at Saturday’s meeting of the western conference colleges, or the Big Eight, was professionalism. If a professionalism measure is adopted, western conference athletics will suffer greatly. Although there has been professionalism in the past, the conference has made strenuous efforts to keep its ranks clean. No one has been allowed to compete who was found to have been found guilty of accepting remuneration for service. In no other collegiate organization has such a measure come up.

In 1961, Betty Mallow, longtime employee of the Champaign County clerk’s office, will seek to become the first elected woman officeholder in the county courthouse. Mrs. Mallow, 50, will seek the Republican nomination for probate clerk. The probate clerk office will be created in the November 1962 election when a probate judge and clerk will be elected here for the first time. Mrs. Mallow was first hired to work in the county clerk’s office in 1938.

From Sunday ...

In 1911, Adrian Henderson, the 15-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Henderson of West Clark Street in Urbana, drowned at Crystal Lake Park Sunday afternoon while skating. The boy was with a number of companions, skating on the lake north of the canoe house. While skating on ice a half-inch thick he fell into water 6 feet deep. The body was recovered about 5 feet from the shore.

In 1961, the University of Illinois talkathon record already has been broken. Western Michigan University is the new leader, bypassing the UI’s 120-hour record of continuous boy-girl conversation. The Western Michigan group is aiming to talk continuously for three weeks, or about 504 continuous hours, on one dime deposited into a pay telephone.

From today ...

In 1911, the question of the new lighting system for Champaign was discussed at length by the Champaign Chamber of Commerce last night. The $35,000 bond issue will be decided by voter referendum Dec. 15. Isaac Kuhn used the opportunity to criticize the two Champaign newspapers. “Occasionally I read the Courier-Herald of Urbana and it is a refreshing thing to do so,” he said. “That paper is constantly boosting for Urbana and all questions of public importance. What do the papers do here? Well, I’m not afraid to say it. I’m disgusted in the way the papers act here in regard to public improvements. I’m disgusted with the newspapers here.”

In 1961, area residents recalled where they were 20 years earlier on Dec. 7 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Don Helmreich of Champaign remembered going to church after hearing about the invasion. Mrs. Phoebe Short of Champaign said she was in Chicago and heard the news on the radio. “I had a son who was 17 at the time and my one thought was that he would be taken anytime,” she said. “I don’t think we realized even that day how terrible the whole thing was.” William Kammin said he was working out on his farm near Sidney when family members came out to deliver the news. “I listened to the radio the rest of the day thinking how terrible it was,” he said.

Pearl Harbor anniversary
As the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor approaches, I’d like to ask older readers about their recollections of Dec. 7, 1941, and the frightful weeks that followed.
Last week I asked my father what he remembered about that day. He was 14 years old at the time and remembers going with his friends to the Crawford Theatre on the west side of Chicago to see a movie (he didn’t remember what they saw but I checked the ads and it was a double feature of “Flying Cadets” and “Mercy Island” along with a color cartoon). When they got to the theater they heard newsboys hawking “extra” editions of that Sunday’s paper with the story of what turned out to be the start of the war.
“All I remember thinking was that it was going to be a short war because the United States was so big and Japan was so little,” Dad said. “I couldn’t imagine that the war would go for years.”
If any readers have memories of that infamous day, please send me an email or give me a call. I’d love to hear your stories and share them with others.


Pantagraph editorial on Johnson's gun law bill

From the (Bloomington) Daily Pantagraph ...

U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson isn’t backing down from his efforts to use federal rules to usurp Illinois law regarding concealed carry of weapons.

The Urbana Republican told people attending his town hall-style meeting in Normal this week that he is “in favor of doing what’s necessary ... to assure Illinois has the same rights and privileges that citizens of 49 other states have. That is the right to carry.”

Johnson, along with two other Central Illinois congressmen, Republicans Aaron Schock of Peoria and Adam Kinzinger of Manteno, was behind a plan that would force Illinois to allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons here if they qualified for a concealed-carry permit in another state.

His proposed amendment to the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act failed to reach the House floor for a vote, but Johnson is expected to reintroduce it later this month.

The overall bill, House Resolution 822, was approved 272-154 and awaits action in the Senate. It would allow the people permitted to carry concealed weapons in their home state, to carry them in other states that allow concealed carry. Illinois is the only state that doesn’t allow concealed carry, although requirements in each state vary.

Johnson said earlier that his proposal would provide “the opportunity to correct a longstanding flaw in Illinois law.”

Nothing is stopping Illinois from “correcting” this “flaw.” The Legislature could do it in a minute, if it wanted to.

Are Chicago-area politicians projecting too much clout and preventing passage of concealed carry, which has much greater support outside of Cook and the collar counties? Perhaps.

But if the federal government was trying to be this heavy-handed about other “flaws” in state law, Republicans would be the first to scream in outrage rather than lead the parade in support.

Johnson says his action is not a violation of states’ rights.

He argues that concealed carry is a constitutional right and, therefore, it is proper for the federal government to intervene, as it did to protect civil rights.

But even First Amendment protections of such rights as freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble are not absolute. They are subject to regulation of time, place and manner.


Predicting Blagojevich's sentencing

From WBEZ, Chicago ...

Former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to be sentenced this week, following a hearing in federal court that begins on Tuesday. Blagojevich was convicted on 17 corruption counts this past summer, and another one in 2010 – totaling a maximum prison sentence of 305 years.

The ex-governor’s lawyers want Judge James Zagel to sentence him to no more than three to four years. The prosecution is asking for 15-20 years, pointing out that a Blagojevich co-conspirator who “held no elected office of trust,” Tony Rezko, recently got a 10½ year sentence. (Rezko’s case was not handled by Zagel.)

Another reason the government gives for a long sentence: deterrence. “Sadly, Illinois has a history of corruption in government,” the prosecution writes. “The sentences imposed on previous criminals for public corruption crimes were not sufficient to dissuade Blagojevich from engaging in a myriad of criminal acts.”

Let’s now review the sentences those “previous criminals” got. If the government gets its way, Blagojevich will spend far more time behind bars than any other member of the imprisoned governors’ club.


George Ryan: Governor from 1999-2003, Illinois secretary of state from 1991 to 1999. Found guilty in 2006 on 18 federal counts regarding actions during time as secretary of state and as governor. Sentenced to 6½ years, imprisoned from 2007 to present, with an estimated release date of July 4, 2013.

Otto Kerner: Governor from 1961-1968, federal appeals court judge from 1968 to 1974. Found guilty in 1973 on 17 federal counts regarding actions during time as governor. Sentenced to 3 years, but imprisoned for less than a year (from 1974 to 1975) because of poor health.

Dan Walker: Governor from 1973 to 1977. Pleaded guilty in 1987 to three federal counts regarding actions occurring after he left office. Initially sentenced to seven years, but released after a year and a half (from 1988 to 1989) because of health concerns.

Other Illinois politicians

Dan Rostenkowski: Congressman from 1959 to 1995. Pleaded guilty in 1996 to two federal counts regarding actions during time in Congress. Sentenced to 17 months, imprisoned for 15 months, from 1996 to 1997.

Mel Reynolds: Congressman from 1993 to 1995. Found guilty in 1995 on state counts related to having sex with a minor. Sentenced to five years. Then found guilty in 1997 on 15 federal counts regarding actions during campaigns for Congress. Sentenced to six and a half years. President Clinton commuted his sentence in 2001.

Betty Loren Maltese: Cicero town president from 1993 to 2002. Found guilty in 2002 on six federal counts regarding actions during time as town president. Sentenced to eight years, imprisoned for seven years, from 2003 to 2010.

Jim Laski: Chicago city clerk from 1995 to 2006. Pleaded guilty in 2006 on one federal count regarding actions during time as alderman and city clerk. Sentenced to two years, imprisoned for less than a year, from 2007 to 2008.

Tom Keane: Alderman from 1945 to 1974. Found guilty in 1974 on 18 federal counts regarding actions during his time as alderman. Sentenced to five years, imprisoned for less than two years, from 1976 to 1978.

Sources: Archives from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, and “Curing Corruption in Illinois” by Thomas J. Gradel, Dick Simpson and Andris Zimelis from the UIC Political Science Department (2009)


Weakened higher ed system in Illinois

From the Chicago Sun-Times ...

An intransigent Illinois government with no clear goals or consequences for the state’s higher education has turned Illinois from one of the country’s most affordable and accessible states to get a college education to a place where fewer students are seeking degrees or able to afford to attend state schools, a recent report by a pair of Ivy League researchers claims.

“A Story of Decline: Performance and Policy in Illinois Higher Education,” argues that as recently as the mid to late 1990s, Illinois distinguished itself from the rest of the country in terms of the affordability and attainability of a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.

“Illinois had long had a reputation of being such a strong performer as well as a reputation for public policy in higher education,” said Laura Perna, who coauthored the report with her University of Pennsylvania colleague Joni Finney. “When we looked at the data there has been a decline, and that raised questions for us. What happened?”

The report traces the problems to a number of factors, including:

+ An ineffective, weakened Illinois Board of Higher Education after a dramatic reorganization in 1995

+ Political corruption and political appointments in state higher education under former Governors George Ryan and Rob Blagojevich

+ No consequences or incentive for improving performance. For example, the General Assembly requires the state board to present an annual report on closing persistent gaps in degree attainment between different racial or ethnic groups, and the board complies. But no action appears to follow from the reports, Perna and Finney write.

Cuts to the state’s Monetary Aid Program, once one of the strongest state-based financial aid programs in the country, and a 100 percent tuition increase at four-year state schools from 1999 to 2009 are adding to the difficulties of Illinois students attaining a college or associate’s degree.

Perna said the cumulative effect may be that Illinois’ work force won’t be prepared for future jobs that require advanced education.

Stanley Ikenberry, the former president of the University of Illinois, agreed with the conclusion that Illinois higher education was weakened under Ryan and Blagojevich.

“I think for whatever combination of reasons higher education slipped off the agenda of state government,” he said. “While higher education was very much on the agenda for Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar in Illinois I don’t think higher education was on the agenda at all for George Ryan and even less for Blagojevich. If you’ve got a governor who doesn’t really care, that’s a major loss.”

Ikenberry said he believes at the university level, the schools adapted to the changing situation.

“I don’t think the actual quality of education in Illinois has suffered because of this,” he said. “I think tuition levels have gone up higher than they otherwise needed to go if the state had engaged in more rational planning and used their state dollars more effectively.”



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