Illinois newspapers lash out against entrenched Springfield establishment
This summer has been long and hard for Illinois residents and lawmakers amid a budget impasse and calls for redistricting and term-limits reform.
The editorial boards of dozens of newspapers statewide have been busy, with their favorite topics being the state's debt, redistricting reform and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago).
"Here’s a number for you: $8,031,269,046.06," one Chicago Sun-Times editorial said. "That’s how big a deadbeat the state of Illinois is. That’s how far behind the state was in paying its bills as of noon on Tuesday, when we started writing this editorial. Here’s another big number: $9,634,987. That’s how much Illinois has spent in the last year on late fees and interest for failing to pay its bills on time. Plain and stupid credit-card debt."
Some newspapers took the very unusual step of publishing editorials on their front pages in an effort to attract greater attention. The word "enough" was used in a number of these in June, during the budget debates that ultimately led to the stopgap budget deal. The State Journal Register, Peoria Journal Star, Pekin Daily Times and The Pantagraph all declared in editorials that Illinois residents have had “enough” of the political standoff. Each called on Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly to move past stopgap funding measures and agree to a full budget.
The Daily Herald said lawmakers hadn't done enough: "To them, we say it is not enough to try," the editorial said. "This is the barest of bare minimums that must be accomplished."
More recently, editorial boards have taken aim at a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision, reached along party lines, to keep redistricting reform, commonly called "fair maps" and "free maps," off the November ballot. "The decision is a victory for politicians -- 97 percent of whom get re-elected -- and a slap in the face to Illinois residents who want more accountability from their elected officials," the Rockford Register Star said in an editorial after the high court's decision. "We doubt 97 percent of voters think Illinois’ elected officials are doing such a good job that they should continue to win elections year after year. (How’s that stopgap budget working for you?)"
Other newspapers expressed shock, real and otherwise, at the state Supreme Court decision, laid blame and named names.
"We are shocked (shocked, we tell you!) that the Illinois Supreme Court's four-member Democratic majority would hand their benefactor Michael Madigan a victory by forbidding voters their chance to change the way political maps are drawn and thereby correct a persistent injustice," the Peoria Journal Star said in an editorial. "We are shocked (shocked, we tell you!) that the justice whose campaign House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Madigan bankrolled to the tune of $1.4 million so he could keep his job in 2010 -- Thomas Kilbride -- would write the majority opinion, saying no-can-do to potentially ending decades of self-serving map drawing."
The system is rigged, said an editorial published in the Herald-News.
"It’s a rigged system that was exploited after the 2000 and 2010 Census by House Speaker Michael Madigan and his Democratic cronies to protect incumbents, punish political foes, eliminate competition so their party can stay in power, and basically select their own voters -- which is the reverse of how things should work," the editorial said.
Other editorial boards were ready to move on.
"It may be tempting to throw in the towel and declare the entrenched Illinois political class the winner in the battle to take back our state," The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus said in an editorial. "But we implore reformers to resist the pull of the path to surrender after a sharply divided 4-3 Illinois Supreme Court decision Thursday that declared unconstitutional the citizen-led initiative to put legislative redistricting reform on the Nov. 8 ballot."
That newspaper also issued a call to the people, urging them to demand that legislative candidates, regardless of party, support redistricting reform.
"Make them tell you what they think it should look like, then remind them that there will be consequences if they don’t do more than pay lip service to change," the editorial said. "It’s easy in Springfield to back major structural and ethical reforms when you know your party’s legislative leaders will ensure they never are called for a vote, legislative redistricting among them. Find out how these candidates ensure that their party leaders will be forced to act."