Delusional Vick finds accountability costly

On Monday, in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., famed NFL quarterback Michael Vick announced that he was "willing to deal with the consequences and accept responsibility for my actions" in organizing a dog fighting and gambling ring.

That's a far cry from his initial claims of defiance and innocence in connection with a pending investigation of his misconduct. But that was before Vick's co-defendants reached deals with prosecutors to testify against him. Given the reality that he faced certain conviction, Vick and his lawyers quickly decided that it was better to negotiate a plea agreement than fight.

Supreme Court ruling gives judges more discretion

The U.S. Supreme Court this week continued its trend of decision-making that restores more discretion in fashioning sentences to the trial judge.

Most dramatically, the high court ruled that trial judges consider sentencing guidelines in cases involving so-called "crack" cocaine as advisory, not mandatory, a step that should allow for more equitable treatment for defendants convicted of distributing crack as compared to those involved with regular cocaine. Sentences in federal court for crack cocaine violations are far harsher than for regular cocaine, a distinction that many regard as unjustified and inequitable.

Illinois' high court is going high tech

The Internet is changing everything, including the Illinois Supreme Court.

Rise in out-of-wedlock births cause for concern

Last week' s report about the out-of-wedlock birth rate in 2006 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control contained news that was bad and got worse.

Not only did the birth rate among unmarried teens, age 15-19, increase for the first time in 14 years, but also the rate of out-of-wedlock births among women of all ages reached a record high.

More class warfare rhetoric from Gov. Blagojevich

How predictable. Rod Blagojevich gets sued over violating the state Constitution and all he can respond is that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – a group of Republican businessmen – are "Scrooge-like."

It's just another example of how the governor views his job as something akin to being the friendly neighborhood grocer doling out free candy to the kids. The problem is that Blagojevich's fatuous generosity is putting the store – or in this case, the state of Illinois – into more financial difficulty.

The myth of pretrial publicity

The trial of a former Urbana grade school teacher accused of molesting several female students likely will be heard next spring in Decatur, instead of in Champaign County.

Champaign County Judge Harry Clem granted a defense attorney's request to move the trial of former teacher Jon White from Champaign County after the attorneys claimed that White could not receive a fair trial here because of extensive pretrial publicity. White's attorney, Brett Olmstead, called the publicity in the case "enormous," and said it had a "substantial, measured effect on this community."

Madigan will get Chicago what it needs, but not downstate

Illinois state government is in chaos, primarily because of the inept leadership of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But House Speaker Michael Madigan should not go blameless either. As much as Blagojevich seems tone-deaf to the manifold problems in the state, Madigan is becoming increasingly obstructionist in addressing any of them.

Campus free speech at issue

Cheers for the University of Illinois undergraduate students who took a stand for free speech at an Urbana campus Senate meeting earlier this week.

Urbana police 'appellate' board soon will be a reality

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing didn't get a big response when she extended the filing application deadline for the proposed police review board by an additional two months to Nov. 30. Only four extra applications – including one from a person who is not an Urbana resident – were received.

Nonetheless, Prussing said the city has enough solid applicants to fill the seven-member body with "a pretty well-educated" group of people.

A too-rare voice for taxpayers

It's too soon to say whether a proposed 25-cent increase in the Urbana Park District's tax rate, to be voted on at the Feb. 5 primary election, is justified or not. There's been little public discussion about what the $1.3 million in additional tax money would be used for, or even why it is needed.

But it was encouraging last week when board President Michael Walker suggested that perhaps the park district could lower its sights a bit and not take the entire 25-cent increase for the first two years that the new rate (about 95 cents per $100 of assessed valuation) would be in effect. "Let's face it, this is not the best of economic times," Walker said.