Politics and Policy in Illinois: A Not So Typical History

Nowlan•August 17, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This is the first in a series of eight essays about politics and policy-making in Illinois, which will run between now and the November election, interspersed here and there with a few columns on timely topics. Since we will see no presidential election campaign in Illinois (the race has been ceded to Hillary; campaign money will go elsewhere), election activity here will focus on a few contested state legislative races.

[The Roman philosopher and politician Seneca said that, “All that’s past is prologue,” so I hope this series, a kind of primer, will help us understand how we came to where we are today in Illinois politics—fragmented, fractious, barely functional.]

In 2010, the Associated Press analyzed our 50 states and found Illinois to be “the most average.” That is, Illinois almost mirrored the nation as a whole in demographic diversity and economic activity.

Average maybe, but certainly not typical.

In his book, “The Nine New Nations of North America,” Joel Garreau found Illinois to be part of three of those nations, more than any other state: Foundry, Breadbasket, and Old Dixie. Read More

Thinking About Health: New Hospital Safety Ratings Available to the Public

TrudyLieberman-Photo•August 10, 2016•

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently signaled to the nation’s hospitals that it was getting serious-and tough-about patient safety and the quality of care hospitals provide. The government’s rating system-five stars for the best hospitals and one star for the worst-sends a message that patients have a right to know what’s going on inside the hospitals they entrust with their lives or those of their family members.

The overall star ratings, the first for CMS, are a composite of 64 measures the government has used the past few years to rate hospital performance. They include factors such as complication rates for patients who’ve had knee and hip replacement surgery, urinary tract infections associated with catheter use, death rates among patients with serious but treatable complications after surgery, and patients’ reported experience with their care.

Only 102 hospitals out of the 3,600 rated received five stars, and they included less well-known specialty facilities such as Lincoln Surgical Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Orthopaedic Hospital of Lutheran Health Network in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Medicare gave 129 hospitals one star. They included two prominent hospitals in Washington D.C. - MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital - as well as several hospitals in New York City. Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, that health policy experts and politicians cite for exemplary quality involving new ways of delivering and coordinating care, received a below-average two-star rating.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: What To Do For Frustrated White Males

Nowlan•August 10, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The political conventions are over, and the consensus from both parties is in—there are lots of frustrated, even angry white males out there.

What to do for these men appears, however, rather elusive. Neither party has convincing— to me anyway—ideas about what to do over the long term to address growing wealth inequality as well as the structural economic change that leaves many of those without a college sheepskin out in the cold.

The fundamental difference in approach between the parties is that Democrats want to redistribute wealth from the rich to the rest, and Republicans don’t, worried that the wealth would be wasted by government.

Trump (is he a real Republican?) is a wild card. His economic policy would apparently reduce taxes for all and at the same time increase spending for those left out, deficits be damned.

Economic wealth creation is a relatively recent phenomenon, defined for millennia by war and territorial conquest. Read More

Letters to the Editor: 8-3-2016

The News Progress Editor,

Mr. Nowlan’s July 20 column states he now thinks there might be a way to properly fund state pensions, but why were they not funded before? Well, let’s see.

I’ve been following Jim Nowlan’s column for a long time and finally emailed him awhile back as to what I see the problem is in Springfield (as well as in D.C.). Just two words explain it all, it’s very simple, “Vote Buying.”

One party likes to buy votes by handing out massive taxpayer dollars, free gratis, and the other party wants to get government run-away spending under control and start paying off the ever increasinng debts.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Making a Case for Open Enrollment in Illinois

Nowlan•August 3, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

My friend Jennie is an attorney and mother of a youngster entering elementary school this fall. Jennie and her husband live in a central Illinois city, but Jennie travels 30 miles each day to her law office in another town.

Jennie thinks it would be marvelous if her child could ride along each morning, be dropped off at the elementary school near her law office; the two could then return home together after work and school each day.

Oh, Jennie could do this, but it would cost her $10,000 a year in out-of-district tuition, which the young family cannot afford.

Across the Big River, over in Iowa, Jennie and her daughter could do this—at no out of pocket cost.

The “sending” Iowa school district in which another Jennie and family might live would send its property tax support for Jennie’s child to the “receiving” district; after all, Jennie and husband pay taxes. And the state would also send its per pupil support to the receiving district as well.

This is called open enrollment, and it has been available to parents and children in Iowa since the late 1980s. The last time I looked nearly 30,000 pupils (six percent of Iowa’s total K-12 enrollment) attended a school district other than the one in which the family resides. Read More

A Floating Adventure Less than a Barrel of Laughs

Oh Brother...

•July 27, 2016•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Growing up in the Saline River valley, summer rains were a time of great joy in a world of little or no air conditioning.

As kids we didn’t realize the consequence of the rains ability to flood the streets of Harrisburg.

Sure, we had heard our parents and grandparents talk about the great flood of 1937. The Saline River overflowed into Harrisburg, sparing only the few elevated blocks of the square.

The only passage around town was by boat, and Hart’s Department Store led the nation in rubber boot sales.

It was a flood made particularly difficult by arriving in February so several lives were claimed by the cold winter waters.

By the 1950s a levee protected the city, and flooding levels were better controlled, but not so much that a bunch of kids couldn’t find a way to have fun in the low lands.

That’s what Mike Duncan and I thought when we saw some 55 gallon drums floating in a low lying area behind Smith Packing Company in Dorrisville one rainy afternoon.

We had some knowledge of Huckleberry Finn and his float trip down the Mississippi so we started trying to round up the barrels for our own trip. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Three Tribes Of America, In Conflict

Nowlan•July 27, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Warning: The following includes broad, some might say simplistic, generalizations. I also ascribe perceptions by groups of people that certainly don’t hold in all cases. Yet I consider both the generalizations and perceptions overall to be important in understanding America society today.

The people of small Norway and Finland belong, respectively, to a single “tribe,” if you will.

In each case, and in other northern European nations as well, the citizens have mostly sprung from the same stock. They are almost “family,” one might say.

As such, Norwegians and Finns find it proper and easy to use community and government to support fellow family members when they might stumble for a while in the game of life.

In contrast, Americans belong, basically, to three tribes—white, black, brown.

No American tribe fully trusts the other tribes.

The black tribe resents the white tribe for oppressing it throughout our history, first as slaves, then as indentured servants, always denied the full rights of America.

At the same time, blacks are wary of the brown tribe for muscling in over the past century, just at the time blacks might have otherwise gained a better economic foothold. Read More

Understanding Illinois: A Proposal to Fund State Pensions Fully—and Save $2 Billion a Year

Nowlan•July 20, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

A thoughtful friend of mine has an idea that would fully fund Illinois pension obligations—and save more than $2 billion a year in annual state spending.

The State of Illinois will appropriate $9 billion this year, and each year far into the future, for pension funding. This is fully 28 percent of all state general funds revenue of about $32 billion!

Much of this $9 billion is an attempt to “catch up” in pension reserves.

My friend David Eisenman would spend just $6.74 billion.

Policy analyst Eisenman of Champaign has degrees in physics from Harvard and the University of Illinois. As a young man, he served in the initial, and highly respected, Illinois Bureau of the Budget, created by Gov. Richard B. Ogilvie (1969-72).

Background: Over the years, our state has faithfully paid the pensions promised to its retirees.

Illinois has been faulted, however, for failing to set aside an investment nest egg (pension reserve) that would by itself be large enough to fund all future pension promises made to current and past employees. Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: Someday I’ll Take a Visit to Someday Isle

Ginther•July 20, 2016•

By Jerry L. Ginther
News Progress Columnist

Have you ever heard of Someday Isle? It actually exists. It is a resort on Coral Bay, St. John US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

Conversely, you know it as a phrase in this form, someday I’ll… The phrase has been finished in a million different ways depending on one’s future intentions, but for most it seems an elusive destination or a fantasy about something they wish to do, someday.

One thing is certain. Someday Isle keeps hope alive, and hopes for the future makes life worth living. We all want to believe that at some point in the future, the possibilities exist for the consummation of a dream or the accomplishment of a goal. Without hope, we perish.

For some of us, those goals or dreams are accomplished, but they are immediately supervened upon by loftier enticements. The soul’s search never terminates at Someday Isle, but, instead, is unappeasable. It cries out, “There is still time to accomplish more. Here is another dream to pursue.” So, we press on with renewed enthusiasm. Read More

Remember When? 7-13-2016

Compiled by Bekki Ferguson-Stevens

25 Years Ago This Week

Lovington High School senior Andy Kidwell and junior Joy Gale will attend the Midwest Yearbook Experience Workshop July 7-10 at Millikin University in Decatur. Tidwell is the son of Dave and Julie Kidwell, and Gale is the daughter of Tom and Sarah Gale.

Denise Jean Piatt of rural Sullivan, a seventh and eighth grade math teacher, is one of 30 math teachers selected for the second year of a two year project funded by the National Science Foundation, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and Southern Illinois University.

Degrees have now been officially awarded to 1,243 spring semester graduates at Eastern Illinois University.Several area students are among the spring graduates. They include Sullivan residents Patty Jean Linville, Shelly Jo Richardson, Caprice A. Scherer and Robbie Lee White. Others include James B. Underwood of Bethany; Jamison Taylor Boyd of Lovington; Jody Lynn Schmitt of Gays; Wendy Sue Kersey of Windsor;  and from Arthur Jeffrey S. Johnson, Jill S. McDonald and Joseph Messmate.

Toby and Wes Bolsen, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Willis Bolsen of Lovington, will exhibit Angus cattle at the 1991 National Junior Angus Show July 17-20 at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, Wis. Both boys are junior members of the association and will be among 421 young Angus breeders who have entered 862 head in the show. Read More