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Asked to display the wisdom of Solomon, the U.S. Supreme Court wrestled last week with the problem of separating politics from politics. Judging from their comments in oral arguments, always a dangerous venture, the justices appeared disinclined to pursue such a frustrating challenge.
The problem was posed in a case involving the 2003 redrawing of Texas congressional districts, a political maneuver that converted a 17-15 Democratic majority in the state's congressional delegation to a 21-11 Republican majority. Democrats, crying foul, went to federal court to reverse it.
People are used to the political spin that government agencies put on their work to make things look good. But a recent report by state Auditor General William Holland shows that a state economic development agency wasn't just exaggerating its role on generating employment, it was essentially making it up out of whole cloth.
Holland's report indicated the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity exaggerated by nearly 78,000 the number of full-time jobs created in a recent 12-month period.
With only about a month to go until its scheduled adjournment, it looks like the Illinois General Assembly is going to leave Springfield without taking any action on the vital issue of utility rates.
That either means the Legislature is going to allow estimated 25 percent electric rate increases to go into effect next Jan. 2, or it's going to take the issue to the deadline and pass some sort of mitigating legislation in November or December. Bet on the latter. This is all about political posturing and issue manipulation.
The Champaign City Council split down the middle last week on the symbolic issue of forcing local landlords to participate in the federal government's Section 8 rent subsidy program.
So unless Council Member Marci Dodds changes her mind about abstaining on the issue, the proposal is dead. That's for the best.
When public officials talk about taxes – whether it's increases or decreases – the public is interested.
So ears perked up recently when Paul Lucas, a member of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board, suggested reducing the district's tax rate in response to the increased land mass the district obtained through its controversial forced-annexation program.
First, we should be clear that any of the major Republican candidates for governor – Bill Brady, Ron Gidwitz, Judy Baar Topinka or Jim Oberweis – is preferred over the incumbent, Rod Blagojevich.
That said, our endorsement goes to Bill Brady, a state senator from neighboring McLean County, who we believe would best reflect the traditional conservative values of downstate Illinois and also would be in tune to its needs.
Four years ago, Rod Blagojevich promised to contain state spending and to oppose any income or sales tax increases. The belief was that state government would act prudently and not spend more than it took in. But it has not. Every year since he became governor, the state's spending has exceeded its revenue. In the next fiscal year, for example, revenue is projected to increase $860 million; a $1.32 billion spending increase is budgeted.
Blagojevich promised one-time revenue shots – remember the plan to sell the Thompson Building in downtown Chicago and to market naming rights to certain state facilities? – that never materialized. He promised not to raise taxes, but he quickly imposed some $700 million in fee increases on Illinois businesses. Rather than cut spending, he deferred bills to future years by paying for some state operations – including much-need Illinois State Police cruisers – with bonds. Rather than funding an expansive health care program honestly – by paying for this year's services out of this year's revenue – Blagojevich deferred Medicaid bills from one fiscal year to the next; this year, some $1.75 billion in health care spending will lapse into the next fiscal year.
Frustrated that government officials have not even responded to its Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times is suing the Department of Defense, charging the Pentagon has refused to turn over documents related to the domestic warrantless surveillance program.
The Times had made a voluminous request on Dec. 16, 2005, seeking internal memos, e-mails and legal briefings since Sept. 11, 2001, related to domestic spying. Under law the Pentagon was supposed to respond to the request within 20 business days. That doesn't mean that federal agencies necessarily have to grant such requests within 20 days. But the Pentagon didn't respond at all, showing contempt for a law aimed at making government more transparent.
U.S. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who is presiding over the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan in Chicago, got angry and then carried away after news that she had dismissed a member of the jury leaked to the news media.
Pallmeyer placed a gag order not only on the lawyers and defendants in the case but on their family members as well. Although the order is not going to be litigated, it appears to be an overly broad prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. What's even worse is that placing a gag on trial participants does little to prevent news leaks, primarily because leakers don't hold press conferences.
Thanks to the Parkland College board of trustees, the six finalists to succeed Zelema Harris as president at Parkland have been identified and will meet with the public during the next two weeks.
While many other searches for public administrators are held in private so that ordinary citizens play no part in deciding who will head institutions, the Parkland board has let light shine on the process. Beginning next week the public is invited to a series of question-and-answer sessions with each of the candidates.