April 3, 2016
The (Bloomington) Pantagraph
State's financial woes add to population loss
Census data released in late March told us what we already knew, which is that Illinois is experiencing a precipitous drop in population. That includes Central Illinois.
While the data shows an increase in McLean County's population since 2010 (169,572 to 174,061), most other Pantagraph area counties have seen a drop in population, ranging from a few hundred to about 2,000.
It's worse in the Decatur area that includes Macon County, which saw a 1 percent drop, to 107,303, from the previous year. That area has lost 3,465 residents since 2010.
Some counties saw some growth, albeit small. Woodford County is up about 500 people, for example.
Overall, Illinois saw its overall population drop by 22,194, or 0.2 percent, last year.
According to the new census data, between July 2013 and July 2014, the state shrunk by 10,000 residents. Other states in decline include West Virginia, Connecticut and Alaska.
That's unusual: the last time Illinois lost population was in 1987-88, so the more recent slide is certainly cause for alarm.
While many residents do move to other parts of the state for their jobs, for example, the biggest reason the state is losing population, is a greater number of people moving to other states.
In state-to-state migration last year, Illinois had a net loss of almost 95,000 people, the highest rate in decades. That sort of loss has a devastating impact on tax revenues for state government, and local governments.
According to the Illinois Policy Institute, the three states that attract the most former Illinois residents are Texas, Florida and California. Each of these states have warmer weather, but also a warmer job climate.
Unfortunately, a lot of Illiinois' problems are of its own making. The state's budget, or more accurately, lack of a budget, has left the financial condition of the state in shambles.
There is no spending plan, but rather a dependence on lurching from crisis to crisis. Spending is done with no planning or forethought, just a desire to avert the next crisis.
While the state's overall economic outlook would be improved much more quickly with a balanced budget, the budget is not the only factor in play. A stable pension system, streamlined government, workers' compensation reform, lower taxes and a more business-friendly attitude by state government would help, too.
However, these dismal census numbers won't improve until the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner decide to get serious about enacting a balanced budget — and commit to the process every year. Until they do, the moving trucks will surely keep departing the state's borders.
April 2, 2016
The (Joliet) Herald-News
Secrets that state lawmakers can't hide
The Associated Press released an extensive study of statehouse secrecy during the recently concluded Sunshine Week, an event that promotes transparency of public governmental records.
Sadly, it came as no surprise to us that Illinois legislative leaders, both majority Democrats and minority Republicans refused the AP's basic Freedom of Information Act request of one week's worth of appointment calendars and government-related emails.
A few days later, the AP reported that the Public Access Bureau, a branch of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, declined to act on the AP's appeal of the legislative leaders' denials.
It turns out the Legislature conveniently exempted itself from the Public Access Bureau's appeal process that so many other units of government are subject to.
Talk about hypocrisy!
The theory that legislative leaders' schedules and communications should be part of the public record rests on the importance of informing the public about who these leaders meet while conducting the public's business and what they write about in the governmental email accounts that taxpayers pay for. That way, the public can better judge motives behind legislation and results of their elected servants' service.
Illinois' legislative leaders believe such information, so important to the conduct of their jobs, should be kept a secret. No doubt, the Legislature's top leaders have other issues they would like to keep secret, but can't.
It's no secret, for example, that legislative leaders and their minions care more about politics than sound public policies that serve the people.
It's no secret that politicians in the Legislature have perverted Illinois' democracy through gerrymandering, which discourages competition for seats in the House and Senate, thus thwarting the accountability that elections are supposed to provide.
It's no secret that legislative leaders have stood idly by as the 9-month-long budget impasse further weakens the state, particularly in the areas of social services, schools, colleges, and soil and water conservation districts.
It's no secret that legislative leaders have presided over a state that suffers from chronic deficit spending, billions of dollars of debt, and a public pension system that is unfunded to the tune of more than $110 billion.
Top lawmakers can play "I've Got a Secret" with their calendars and emails, but the truth is, they're doing a lousy job. And no matter how hard they might try, they can't keep that a secret.
April 2, 2016
NGA battle may be lost, but war continues
Never underestimate the power of liberal guilt or the width of the Mississippi. It was a suspicion all along, and we absolutely hate the fact that the fear has become reality and the guilt-driven need to make right the sins of the past coupled with Missouri's inability to view Illinois as part of the region — except when they want our money — will cost taxpayers more and make our nation just a little less secure.
St. Louis leaders succeeded in painting this area as a backwards cornfield that couldn't possibly foster the hipster brainiacs who will be manning the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's western headquarters. Well, they are right about our rural roots, but those roots also give us the ability to smell what comes from the south end of a bull from a mile away. The NGA rationale for North St. Louis was purely that, and incredibly insulting as they act bewildered about where workers will be found when the region's No. 6 employer is Scott Air Force Base with 13,000 workers and when 70,000 Illinoisans manage to stumble their way into St. Louis to power the regional economy.
This war may be lost, but this community can either surrender to the emotional illogic being applied to the North St. Louis decision or fight to the death for the logic of putting a defense installation next to Scott Air Force Base, just like its parent institution was sited next to Fort Belvoir and just like military planners have seen as the obvious answer for NGA-West for more than a decade.
B.S. Point 1: NGA's future personnel want to live in the new, gentrified North St. Louis with its urban vibe. Folks, many of the people staffing NGA will come from Scott Air Force Base. They are smart, computer savvy young people who already speak defense, have security clearances and carry the hiring preference of being veterans. NGA employees of the future seeking the "car-optional lifestyle" will want good housing values and strong schools for their kids, which they will find in North St. Louis and its public school system?
B.S. Point 2: It costs less to build in North St. Louis. What?!? Since when does Walmart or any other large developer look for a blighted, inner-city site with aging infrastructure and the bare minimum of space? They want open, shovel-ready land. St. Clair County offers 400 acres for free, with an interstate interchange and light rail line connecting to whatever hip areas NGA employees would want to live. This area offers the security of a military base as a neighbor and the buffer zone of open land to protect NGA. North St. Louis offers a security nightmare, tangled property issues and more questions than answers.
B.S. Point 3: St. Louis and its urban renewal Promise Zone are owed this facility. Sorry. This decision is not about what's best for the City of St. Louis. It is about what is best for our nation's security. Putting it next to the military users of the information and making the link between them secure is paramount. Fixing the wrongs of the Pruitt-Igoe housing experiment should have been a federal and state and city priority for the past 40 years, not some imperative of apologists that drives up taxpayers' costs and compromises the security mission.
So now the end game. We are a community of those who have served and defended this nation. We are once again called to serve and denounce this decision at nextNGAwest.com. Let us not take the path of liberal poster boy U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin in tweeting his acceptance, but golly, still feeling good about Scott's future.
Parochialism and politics have turned this into a pathetic civil war, but this wrong recommendation must not go unchallenged.