July 8, 2013
The (Alton) Telegraph
17 or 77, your vote still important
The idea of letting 17-year-olds vote in the Illinois primary is worth trying, and now that a measure has been signed into law we'll get a first real look at the potential of it in the spring of next year.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill last week allowing some 17-year-old state residents to vote in the primary. They would be eligible if they would be scheduled to turn 18 by the time of the general election, held later in the same year.
For those planning ahead, the primary is March 14 and the general is Nov. 4, 2014.
The law takes effect Jan. 1.
Democratic state Sen. Terry Link, the Lake County sponsor of the new law, said it emanated from the fact that he was kept from voting in the primary election by having a birthday that was two days late. That disappointment led him to a bill that he believes might entice more young people to vote.
We hope he's right: We need adults of all ages to show up in general. Perhaps there are like-minded teenagers out there, hoping for the chance to be a part of the political process.
Stop and look at the bloodshed that is often stirred in democracy deprived countries. Some people die for the right to vote, and you start to see the importance of getting people to the polls.
You don't have to die for the right in Illinois. You simply have to register.
Turnout in the primary election, especially in a non-presidential years, is generally pretty lackluster. We've seen many instances of 20 percent or fewer in turnout. That's one person in every five who are eligible casting a ballot. That number is hardly the line that goes on for blocks in some places that seem to cherish the honor more than we seemingly do.
Our future is built on the backs of the younger generation. The sooner we give them an opportunity to weigh in on matters of politics — ones that clearly affect them just like they do their parents and grandparents — the better.
July 7, 2013
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register
How to pay for Illinois road, bridge repairs worth debate
As the pool of money available for Illinois to repair its aging roads and bridges continues to shrink, a coalition of transportation experts is asking residents to consider what safe highways, bridges and rails are worth to them.
Are Illinoisans willing to pay more at the gas pump and in vehicle fees to ensure potholes are filled, highways are replaced and bridges and rail systems are repaired?
It's a question worth asking and a debate worth having.
Infrastructure throughout the United States - including such systems as roads and bridges, pipelines, the power grid and levees - is aging and, in some cases, crumbling around us. Experts say the problem is at a near-critical point, but the costs to rebuild the country's networks could run in the trillions of dollars.
Illinois, with the country's third-largest interstate system and third-largest bridge inventory, is not immune. According to the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, a private group of transportation experts, engineers, laborers and others, the state needs at least an additional $1 billion a year to maintain, repair and replace Illinois' transportation infrastructure.
The thing is, coalition members say, government is struggling across the board -federal, state and local. Contributing to the problem is that the state's Motor Fuel Tax revenue has fallen 11 percent since 2007 as cars have become more fuel-efficient.
So, they say, that leaves Illinoisans, who regularly use roads, bridges and rail every day, to step up and fill the void on a "pay-as-you-go" basis.
The coalition and lawmakers will be seeking public input on the issue in the coming months. We want to know what you think. Is this a fair request? Can your wallet handle it? Do you agree the situation is dire, and what price are you willing to pay for safe roads and bridges?
July 5, 2013
The (Dixon) Telegraph
Keep veto power concealed
After watching Gov. Pat Quinn use his amendatory veto power the other day to rewrite the concealed carry bill, we wonder whether he's in the right job.
Maybe his law-writing skills would be put to better use if he held a different elected position.
If he was state Rep. Pat Quinn, or state Sen. Pat Quinn, he could write all the legislation he wanted.
As governor, Quinn ventures into the law-writing business at his own peril.
Especially after a bill is passed by the House, 89-28, and the Senate, 45-12, as the concealed carry bill was.
The concealed carry bill was the result of months of negotiations among all interested parties and hearings conducted before both chambers. State Sen. Tim Bivins, a Dixon Republican, was involved as the representative of the Senate's GOP caucus.
That's when Quinn should have become involved, offering his proposals before House and Senate members.
Instead, Quinn waited until well after the bill was approved to insert his ideas.
The bill as approved would allow qualified gun owners to obtain concealed carry permits for $150 if they pass background checks and undergo training.
Quinn made the bill significantly tougher, banning guns in places that serve alcohol; limiting a person to carrying only one gun at a time; restricting the number of magazine rounds carried to one 10-round clip; requiring that guns be completely concealed; and requiring property owners to post signs if they allow guests to carry guns.
Many lawmakers, even some of Quinn's fellow Democrats, derided the governor's amendatory veto.
Illinois is one of the few states that grants a governor amendatory veto powers. Quinn's former boss, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, used it to the extreme one year with his "Rewrite to Do Right" campaign of rewritten legislation.
We believe in the separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. However, the amendatory veto power makes the governor a legislator. The imbalance is not good for government.
After Quinn's amendatory veto is overridden, the governor will still carry the amendatory veto power. He would be wise to conceal its use for the rest of his term.
July 7, 2013
The (Moline) Dispatch
Giving thanks for John Deere Classic
Monday marks the start of one of the Quad-Cities' favorite weeks. Those who work so hard at the game we love to watch are beginning to trickle into the Q-C to get ready for the start of the PGA's biggest little tournament: the John Deere Classic.
The annual event at Silvis' beautiful TPC at Deere Run is what past winner and adopted hometown boy, Zach Johnson, calls his "fifth major." The former Cedar Rapids resident and JDC board member spends a great deal of his time selling the local product of which he is clearly proud.
Indeed, this year's defending JDC champ told our golf writer Tom Johnston, "I don't think my role's changed. I'm still getting on my peers to try to play this tournament and probably some to a nuisance, which is fine. If they don't play, they are a foolish, right?" He's right and his support has been a god send.
But the little tournament that could also hasn't done a bad job of selling itself.
For example, among its many perks is a tournament-provided charter flight ready to whisk players away to a British Open that falls hard on the heels of the JDC. That almost certainly has boosted the field and offered home towners a chance to see some of the game's best tee off here. Anyone who has played golf at any level recognizes how very difficult it is to play it very well. As golfing great Jack Nicklaus once said, "Professional golf is the only sport where, if you win 20 percent of the time, you're the best."
One of the top reasons for the tournament's consistent success is, of course, JDC. Deere & Co. Clair Peterson, JDC tournament director, recently summed it up succinctly: "Without the support of Deere, we don't have a PGA Tournament."
Once again, our challenge this week is to do everything we can to make our visitors happy and eager to return. That can be as easy to accomplish as offering a smile, some helpful directions or hints on things to do, places to go or where to eat.
It's the least we can do to say thanks for the many blessings this wonderful week has to offer.
July 8, 2013
(Peoria) Journal Star
Remembering Hannah Warren, who lit the way forward
It is with heavy heart that we write of the passing of 2-year-old Hannah Warren, the South Korean girl who became the world's youngest recipient of a bio-engineered organ here in Peoria back in April.
Hannah was born without a trachea, an exceedingly rare condition that almost always proves fatal. Unable to breathe or swallow on her own, she had spent her entire life in a hospital. Her parents had never been with her outside one. So last spring she traveled to central Illinois' Children's Hospital for experimental surgery to transplant an artificial windpipe, made from plastic and bathed in her own stem cells in a new and promising technology known as "regenerative medicine."
Fundamentally, it allows humans to grow their own organs and tissue, which in a world of transplantable organ shortages and significant complications, such as physical rejection, even when they do become available, is quite the scientific breakthrough, and potentially a lifesaver for countless people. So many people had such high hopes that Hannah would be one of them. Sadly, it was not to be.
The second-guessing is perhaps inevitable, but three months out from the surgery and a month and a half short of Hannah's third birthday. But the doctors involved remain undeterred about going forward with a technology they very much believe in, even as they mourn the death of a Hannah "we loved" and whom they described as "bright and funny and cheerful and engaging."
In a phone interview Monday, local pediatric surgeons Mark Holterman and Rick Pearl of Children's Hospital said that the technology itself held up fine but her swallowing tube started to leak, which led to infection and two lengthy, follow-up surgeries that after an initial rally, ultimately could not correct the damage, particularly to her lungs.
Holterman likened it to an exercise in aviation where everything has to work in sync almost perfectly, even though it's never really been done before - in this case with new technology, with an international team that had not worked together before, with a patient who came to them with significant anatomical challenges in the first place.
"Many times in new surgical procedures, the patients who end up going first are the ones who don't have any other choice," said Holterman. The doctor who pioneered liver transplantation lost his first eight patients, noted Pearl. Today people lead productive lives following that surgery. Everybody knew going in that this was experimental, something of a long shot. Sometimes in medicine, "you hit a home run or you strike out," with no in-between, said Pearl.
So, would they do it again?
"It was the right thing to do," said Pearl. "No hesitancy at all."
"Going forward, we'll be that much smarter and we'll know how to do this better," said Holterman. "We should go through this mourning process and then say, 'OK, let's get back in the saddle and keep doing this.'"
Beyond that, on a very human level, Hannah's parents "got to spend more time with her than they ever had in their lifetimes," and at a Children's Hospital that tries to be as accommodating as possible for the families, said Pearl. "They got to know Hannah in a way they never got to do before ... These three months were a life-affirming experience for them."
Today "this is not easy stuff," added Pearl. "This is high-risk, walking the high wire without a net ... But this is going to be the next big chapter in medicine. This can be done, and it can be done in Peoria.
"Hannah didn't live. But we should be very proud of our effort. We mustered a lot of resources. We got a whole lot done. We got real close, we really did."
At the end of the day, Hannah's parents had both the most to lose and the most to gain here, and our thoughts and condolences are of course with them at this tragic time. But ultimately we would agree that the only way here is forward. May Hannah's experience be not a setback but an inspiration, in Peoria most of all. It may not be much solace now, but someday may Hannah's mom and dad derive comfort that through their daughter and what she taught the doctors who treated her, so many other lives were saved.
What a wonderful and brave little girl.