Editorial Roundup: Illinois

 
 
Updated 11/9/2021 12:04 PM

Chicago Sun-Times. November 6, 2021.

Editorial: The world needs more trees. Chicago and Illinois must help.

 

Planting and preserving trees takes carbon dioxide out of the air instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere, where it warms the planet - which leads to climate change.

On Tuesday, more than 100 world leaders vowed to halt deforestation over the next decade at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. President Joe Biden pledged to work with Congress to spend $9 billion through 2030 to protect trees.

The Chicago region and Illinois need to do their part.

Planting and preserving trees takes carbon dioxide out of the air instead of letting it escape into the atmosphere, where it warms the planet. Chicago can help by doing more to protect its mature trees. Last year, it was reported Chicago lost an average of 10,000 more trees since 2010 than it has planted every year. The rest of the seven-county region has slightly better tree cover, but 36% of it is made up of invasive buckthorn trees, which are not good hosts for birds and other native fauna.

Besides absorbing carbon dioxide, trees cool areas that otherwise would be heat islands, where buildings and pavement reflect sometimes-intense heat. They help people with respiratory problems by filtering the air. They create habitat for wildlife and provide a welcome oasis for birds that migrate through the area in the spring and fall. Trees also soak up stormwater that otherwise might wind up in someone's basement, an attribute that will be increasingly important as more and stronger storms - strengthened by a warming climate - move through the region.

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And let's face it, tree-lined streets make neighborhoods more pleasant.

To preserve our tree canopy, protect mature trees

Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office has set aside $46 million for planting new trees - 75,000 around the city over the next five years - which is twice the number planted last year and a big step forward. But the city also needs to act to protect its mature trees, many of which are threatened by infection. To save money, the city in 2018 decided to stop inoculating ash trees against the invasive emerald ash borer and let the remaining 50,000 die off. Instead, the city should protect mature trees when possible because it takes so long for new ones to grow to their full size. New trees with two-inch diameter trunks won't contribute meaningfully to the tree canopy for 20 or 30 years.

Inoculating trees isn't cheap, and it has to be repeated every few years. Costs to do it city- wide are estimated at $2.7 million to at least $6 million. But the cost of cutting dead trees down isn't cheap either. And every mature tree that is lost makes it that much harder to reverse the planet's deforestation.

In the seven-county region outside Chicago, some suburbs such as Hazel Crest and Downers Grove have made a healthy tree canopy a priority. But some other communities don't have urban foresters or any paid staff who attends to their trees. That is no way to nurture a healthy tree canopy.

Globally, according to Global Forest Watch, the world lost more than a billion acres of forest between 2001 and 2020, about half the size of the United States. Almost 64 million acres were lost just last year. Reversing that trend would be perhaps the most effective near-term step that can be taken to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change. The world's leaders have not lived up to past promises to save trees.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was one of seven governors, and the only one from the Midwest, who went to Glasgow, where he touted Illinois' environmental initiatives. We urge him to find ways to improve the tree cover back home, which it can provide environmental benefits and slow down soil erosion.

Restoring trees once they are lost is not always easy. Iceland has been working for 100 years to revive forests chopped down a millennium ago but has managed to increase its tree cover only minimally, from less than 1% to about 1.5%.

The entire seven-county region needs to develop a strategic plan for an urban forest. It's easy to criticize nations where deforestation runs amok. But we must do more than criticize.

It's urgent that we protect and plant trees.

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Champaign News-Gazette. November 7, 2021.

Editorial: Filling vacancy doesn't mean job will get done

Promises, promises are about appearances, appearances.

Last week was another eye-opener in Illinois' long-standing culture of corruption.

It featured a former legislator pleading guilty in Chicago federal court while current legislators were trying to deal with misconduct by their colleagues.

Former Chicago state Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud in connection with his effort to bribe a fellow legislator to sponsor gambling legislation in the General Assembly.

The target of the bribery attempt has been identified as former state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan. Link was wearing a wire and working with federal agents, but not for altruistic reasons.

Implicated in a federal income-tax evasion scam, Link was working with the feds in order to win favorable treatment when he's sentenced on the tax charge.

So to sum it up, Arroyo, acting as a lobbyist, was bribing Link to push legislation backed by one of Arroyo's lobbying clients.

One might wonder why legislators are allowed to work as lobbyists while they hold public office.The answer is that Illinois has its own way of doing things, and it's not related to enhancing the public interest.

While federal prosecutors were working out the details of Arroyo's guilty plea and the larger conspiracy that envelops it, other legislators were going back and forth about their ongoing effort to hire a new state legislative inspector general.

Current Inspector General Carol Pope, a former state appellate judge, resigned her post last summer because it, by design, has insufficient power and independence to investigate and reveal legislative misconduct.

The Legislative Ethics Commission is conducting a search for Pope's successor and apparently has three finalists under consideration.

But there have been delays in the process, prompting commission Chairwoman Jill Tracy to complain that if a hiring decision is not made soon, the General Assembly will meet in January without one in place.

'œAllowing this position to go unfilled is a major disservice to the people of Illinois who deserve an accountable and transparent government,' said Tracy, R-Quincy.

The people of Illinois certainly deserve, as Tracy said, an 'œaccountable and transparent government.'

Bu they won't get one no matter what decisions are made regarding hiring a new legislative inspector general.

Because of the rules overseeing the inspector general's duties, the watchdog is both toothless and somnambulant.

After Pope's resignation announcement earlier this year, some legislators proposed changes in ethic rules and an upgrade in the legislative inspector general's authority.

In the end, legislators passed a bill designed to convince the public that positive changes were made. Those purported positive changes - including new lobbying restrictions - were mostly illusory. It's still, for the most part, the same old, same old.

So the business with the inspector general is mostly about appearance, not substance, as demonstrated by recent history.

When former Legislative Inspector General Tom Homer resigned in 2014, legislative leaders left his post vacant for three years.

That became a major embarrassment when a now-infamous sex scandal became public and it was revealed that there were multiple complaints pending in the IG's office with no IG there to investigate them.

That's why, one way or another, the post will be filled. Perhaps with a new inspector general or perhaps, as state Rep. Kelly Burke said, with an interim inspector general. Unfortunately, whatever transpires won't matter, because whoever fills the post won't have any more authority than the one in place now.

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Bloomington Pantagraph. November 6, 2021.

Editorial: Kinzinger decision disappointing

One of the disappointing results of the redistricting of Illinois is how many popular elected officials may or already have removed themselves from Congressional races.

Adam Kinzinger has already made his decision '" he won't be running for Congress.

A pair of other Central Illinois Republicans, Darin LaHood and Rodney Davis, face freshly eviscerated districts. LaHood has announced his intentions to run, while Davis has been mum.

Kinzinger may have their eyes on another prize. Is there a Republican in the state with a recognizable name who hasn't been linked to a run for governor? He may be looking at that or another office. Or he may be pondering retreating from public service.

Kinzinger has been in office since 2010, Davis since 2012 and LaHood since 2015. That's a lot of experience to be concerned about losing.

Both Kinzinger and LaHood are wildly popular among their voters. Their victories have been one-sided, a tribute to the way their voters feel about them. LaHood was elected in 2015 in the special election that filled the seat from which Aaron Schock had resigned. LaHood's support has always been at 67% of the vote or higher. Kinzinger fell under 60% voter support in just one election '" 2018. The previous campaign, the Democrats didn't place anyone on the ballot to oppose him.'

One unfortunate fact is clear. At least one and potentially three men supported for years by an electorate may be removed from the national picture just because of the way the districts were drawn. That has to be viewed as a loss in some fashion.

END

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