Understanding Illinois: Intense Minority Trumps Ho-hum Majority Every Time

•February 8, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

How many children are home-schooled in Illinois, I asked a school official, to answer an inquiry made of me from a reader?

“We don’t know,” she responded.

“You don’t know?” I said, surprised.

The school official explained that our state is one of maybe a dozen that do not require parents who educate their children at home to let the state know as much.

So we don’t know who is being home-schooled or, much worse, maybe not being schooled at all.

I called an education expert. He said a few years ago a new state senator in Illinois introduced a bill that would have required home schooling parents to register, so there could be some way of telling a home-schooler from a truant. Read More

Two Against One is Too Much Fun! Oh Brother…

•February 1, 2017•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Ready. Set. Go!

This is the way every visit with grand twins Lyla and Landon begins.

It is a great race game Papa Flower has played with them since they learned to walk. And usually ends up with me crashed on the ground with both kids wrestling to keep me down.

That was during warm weather and while they were younger and slower.

Now they are pushing four years old, and the days of pretending to run after them have turned into the reality of chasing after them. Trouble is they are very quick and definitely the two on one ratio leaves Papa Flower wilted at the end of each stay.

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Understanding Illinois: Can Illinois Put The Bounce Back In Our Step?

•February 1, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I decided to “get outta’ Dodge” for a couple of weeks. I have landed in Thomasville, Georgia (pop. 19,000), just north of the Florida panhandle.

Each morning I have coffee out front of a shop in the upscale, 1880s-vintage downtown. I have been struck by the smiling, friendly and upbeat nature of folks here.

I swear they have a lively bounce in their step as they head out to start their day. Why so, I wondered?

I visited with Tom Hill, a native and the retired curator of the city’s history museum. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Barbell Society is Worrisome For Future

•January 25, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

President Donald Trump faces a real conundrum in trying to meet the expectations of his white, high school-educated supporters. They want a bigger slice of the economic pie while Trump’s fellow one percenters want to see their taxes cut.

The incoming chief executive cannot satisfy both aspirations in our very slow-growth economy where wealth re-allocation is almost a zero-sum game. That is, to provide more for the low-skilled means taking something away from the wealthy to do it.

I am fascinated by this age-old conflict between labor and capital. That is, who should have how much of our overall wealth, and why?

Since the 1970s, more wealth has been going to the one percenters who control the capital and relatively less to those who catapulted Trump’s campaign to the presidency.

As a result, the 16 percent of us with $100,000 or more in income pay 80 percent of income taxes, according to the Pew Research Center. Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Rome is Burning”

•January 18, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Reader alert/warning—another state budget impasse column!

There are reports that Illinois State Senate leaders from both political parties are close to unveiling a tax increase proposal that would raise about $5 billion a year to address the lack of a balanced state budget.

Unfortunately, this alone will not get the job done. Bitter medicine, probably undrinkable to most, is required to rescue the state.

Our lawmakers have never contemplated actions—all politically painful—of the magnitude the economists suggest will be necessary.

I recently wrote a piece for the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, a business group, in which I review a paper by state budget experts David Merriman and Dick Dye.

The two economists say the state has a $13 billion gap between $73 billion in annual expenditures and $60 billion in revenue. Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: Spending Time Waiting on Party Line News

•January 18, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

Most of my class of ’64 would be approaching their seventh decade of life at this time. That is to say that we’ve lived quite a long time and are still participating in the game. We have our eyes and ears open and still learning.

Solomon said that the eyes are never full of seeing and the ears never full of hearing; however, the instruments by which we see and hear things have considerably modified.

Most of the news today is seen in vivid, high definition color on TV. However, there was a time in our lives when some of it didn’t arrive via television and none of it by social media.

Back in our day there was the party line telephone system which we all shared with equal contempt. The contempt we shared was for the lack of privacy and ready accessibility to the phone line when we needed it, not for what we gleaned from our neighbor’s conversations.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Illinois Social Services Under Fire for Neglecting Those in Need

•January 11, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

A recent Chicago Tribune series reveals more than a thousand possible cases of abuse and neglect at certain group homes in Illinois since 2011, some resulting in deaths of those served.

What’s new? I have been reading of exposés about poor care of our infirm populations by the state of Illinois rather regularly over the half-century that I have been observing Illinois public life.

It will probably always be thus—because of the constant tension between cost and care, the complexities of serving folks such as the developmentally disabled and the inability of policymakers to shape up our fragmented, dysfunctional state management of social services.

I recounted earlier to readers a startling experience when I was first elected to the Illinois House as a naïve 26-year-old way back in 1968. Read More

Job Shadowing My Way Through the News Progress

•January 11, 2017•

By Madison Uhlrich
OVHS Shadow Student

When I was a little girl, I loved to flip through National Geographic magazines and look at the photographs. I wanted to take photographs like those, too, photographs that would affect people.

I was very particular with my photography and with my academics. Practicing setting up fake photo-shoots in my backyard increased my interest.

But I knew it would take the best grades in the best classes to get me closer to my eventual career objective, traveling the world taking photographs that tell a bigger story. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Nowlan Riles Readers with Rauner Piece

•January 4, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Several readers sharply disagreed with my recent column that took Gov. Bruce Rauner to task for his budget strategy, even criticism from a savvy, insider Chicago Democrat who said I was too tough on the governor.

I have apparently failed to differentiate for readers between Rauner’s objectives, which I support, and his strategy, which I believe has failed. I subscribe to the old Will Rogers adage: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

I wish now I could have taken back that column before I sent it out, because I committed a cardinal sin of opinion writing: I didn’t propose an alternative strategy, which I offer herewith.

Let me stipulate that Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan has been in that role way too long and must go.

Indeed, Madigan may suffer many of the dastardly faults Rauner has leveled at him, though he is not quite alone the antichrist.

Over his tenure as speaker there have also been three Republican governors. It was also Republican legislative leaders who in the 1990s, when in power relatively briefly, changed the rules that gave Madigan, who simply continued those rules, many of his near-dictatorial powers. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Illinois Held Hostage—Year Three and Counting

Nowlan•December 28, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

At the risk of tiring readers (so what’s new, they muse) at holiday time, I turn yet again to the Illinois state budget impasse, the most important visible problem facing the state.

I continue flummoxed in efforts to understand the efficacy of the strategy(ies) Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is employing in his all-out war to force nemesis House Speaker Mike Madigan to knuckle under, so the guv can figuratively plant his booted foot in triumph on the breast plate of a prostrate Madigan.

For two years, Rauner has been holding a state budget solution hostage, as if it were somehow akin to Madigan’s first-born, demanding that Madigan accede to a “turnaround agenda” of popular, business-friendly changes.

That might otherwise make sense, except that Madigan obviously cares more about his political power than about Illinois.

Insiders say Rauner’s real strategy is to play a multi-election “long game” aimed at taking control of the Illinois General Assembly.

That is sure a legitimate political objective, yet not one a budget resolution can await.

I worry that Rauner as well as most lawmakers and certainly the Illinois public all fail to appreciate the staggering magnitude of what will be necessary to straighten out the state’s finances.
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