Editorial roundup: Illinois | Illinois News


Chicago Grandstand. May 13, 2022.

Editorial: For Ta’Naja Barnes’ Sake, Governor Pritzker Must Carefully Examine DCFS Leadership

Illinois was supposed to learn from the brief and tragic life of Ta’Naja Barnes. She was just 2 years old when she was found dead on February 11, 2019 in her mother’s unheated Decatur home – starving, dehydrated and wrapped in a urine-soaked blanket.

Prior to Ta’Naja’s death, the state’s troubled child welfare agency, the Department of Child and Family Services, had placed the toddler in foster care at the following abuse allegations against her mother and the mother’s boyfriend. But a court order sent Ta’Naja back to her mother. The mother and boyfriend were later convicted of Ta’Naja’s murder.

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The tragedy led to the passage of legislation, renamed Ta’Naja’s Law in 2021, requiring DCFS to ensure and certify that when a court returns a child to the custody of a parent or guardian , the home is a safe environment for this child. The agency must complete a “Home Safety Checklist” and this check must be completed before the child is sent home, five days after the child arrives, and monthly by the continue until the youth’s child protection case is closed.

A new audit came out last week assessing DCFS’s performance in Ta’Naja law enforcement. The results are maddening, but hardly surprising.

Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino found that DCFS failed to complete a home security checklist in 98% of the cases he reviewed. In 58% of cases verified by Mautino, the agency also failed to provide follow-up services to children within the required six-month time frame after they left DCFS care. The agency also failed to ensure that children in DCFS care received medical screenings and vaccinations, Mautino found.

Mautino’s findings are not surprising because, for decades, DCFS has consistently failed in its mission to care for Illinois’ most vulnerable children – children often subjected to unconscionable levels of abuse, neglect and of misery. Governors have come and gone, scores of DCFS directors have been hired and fired, and yet year after year the agency struggles to fix what is wrong.

Governor JB Pritzker appointed current DCFS director Marc Smith in 2019. Smith’s stewardship falls far short of what the agency and the children in her care need. In recent months, Smith has been held in contempt of court nine times for failing to ensure DCFS found appropriate placements for children in his care, the Tribune recently reported.

Some of these contempt findings involved children languishing in mental institutions or temporary shelters for months because the agency lacked the capacity to place the children in therapeutic foster homes and group homes, where they could receive appropriate care. “It’s hard to think of anything that says to a child, ‘You don’t matter,’ more than being locked up for months in a mental hospital,” the public guardian of the city told us. Cook County, Charles Golbert, in January.

Pritzker has touted an additional $100 million in DCFS’s annual budget, as well as an additional $250 million in the budget year that begins in July. But money alone won’t fix what’s wrong with DCFS. At a March Illinois House Social Services Appropriations Committee hearing in which Smith appeared, state Rep. Rita Mayfield, a Democrat from Waukegan, didn’t mince words about her leadership.

“Every year you come back and ask for more money,” she said. “You tell us the same stories that you are going to hire more case managers. You go to fix these issues and nothing happens. Your budget is one of the largest in the state of Illinois, and we just don’t get what we pay for.

Mayfield was there. Massive chunks of money are not needed at DCFS to ensure that a child returned to the care of a parent returns to a safe and nurturing environment, or to complete mandatory home safety checklists that assess if that happened.

One place where the extra money can indeed help is to add enough therapeutic foster beds and group homes to the agency’s system so that children don’t have to spend months in mental institutions for a long time. after it is medically necessary. It would also spare the agency the humiliation of being hit with further contempt of court charges.

The agency has made progress on some fronts in recent years. Since Pritzker became governor, Springfield has earmarked funding for 300 additional DCFS jobs, and the upcoming budget includes funding for 360 new positions. And, the agency has made progress in reducing the backlog of people who called the DCFS hotline. Several years ago, the backlog created circumstances where callers trying to report an urgent case of abuse or neglect had to leave a message and wait several days before being called back.

But that progress is deeply overshadowed by the agency’s failures. Addressing the DCFS requires careful consideration by Pritzker as to whether Smith should leave. With an agency as troubled as DCFS, strong, mission-driven leadership is paramount. DCFS’s setbacks over the past few years raise deep questions about Smith at the helm.

At the very least, Pritzker needs to weigh these issues and chart the right course for the agency and the children it cares for.

Chicago Sun-Times. May 12, 2022.

Editorial: Anti-Semitism, Lawmakers Say in Letter, Has No Place in Public Discourse

Public figures should discuss the issues without resorting to “hate rants and accusations”.

Everyone, especially in these times of discord, should treat others fairly and with respect.

So-called influencers in particular should strive to do so.

We say this after 11 state lawmakers this week wrote a letter to Kari Steele, president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, asking her to repudiate the remarks of her husband, Maze Jackson. The letter writers called the remarks “hateful rants and accusations,” some of which were anti-Semitic.

Jackson is a podcaster who has a YouTube channel and a former WBGX-AM and WVON-AM host. He also has a real estate lobbying firm, the Intelligence Group. Steele is running for Cook County Assessor.

The lawmakers’ letter cites an April 13 incident in which Jackson referred on his show to a “Jewish organization” that he says is “controlling” affordable housing activists who are part of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of groups working to expand the offering. affordable housing.

Jackson also didn’t correct his co-host DJ Riis when Riis said, “I’m not voting for JB, he’s a Jew. He does not know anything.

Additionally, Jackson, according to the letter, targeted media strategist Joanna Klonsky, saying she was behind a Better Government Association report that he was paid $417,500 to pressure his longtime friend and ally. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), who finally changed position to favor Jackson’s client. On his show, Jackson held up Klonsky’s photo and said, “So, as you know, they’re exploiting us fast. They exploit us quickly.

On Thursday, Jackson said, in part: “I take full responsibility for the words that I have spoken and that have been spoken by others on my show. I acknowledge that they were wrong and I sincerely apologize for the pain they have caused the Jewish community.

Also on Thursday, Steele said, “I unequivocally reject any hateful rhetoric and apologize for the comments made on my husband’s show and the harm they have caused the Jewish community. As a woman of faith, I believe we should respect each other’s religion and faith.

They were words of welcome.

Chicago has many important issues to debate. But please, all of us, let’s do this without hurtful and unnecessary slander.

Champaign News-Gazette. May 11, 2022.

Editorial: Illinois Democrats want to push the calendar forward

Last week, the state’s Democratic Party urged the Democratic National Committee to let Illinois host one of the first five presidential primaries in 2024.

If you’re excited that Illinois is holding its primary elections in late June this year — a time when it’s not snowing, blowing, or dark — prepare to be disappointed in 2024. The Democratic Party Illinois wants to move this year’s primary not just to March, but even earlier.

State Democratic leaders, including U.S. Representative Robin Kelly of Chicago, who serves as chair, sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee urging it to consider Illinois for one of the “pre-window” primary dates. which now include New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

“Democrats must compete and win in the Midwest to win nationally,” Kelly said in her letter to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison. “Illinois represents a true test of what presidential candidates will face across the country, and as the first primary state, Illinois can help bolster Democratic Party presidential candidates in the primary and general elections.”

That may be true, but for Illinois voters – the people who would make the decision on these candidates – the early date of the primaries would be another inconvenience imposed by the powers that be so they could become doers. of kings. Illinois’ 2020 primary was held in March, the 2022 primary will be June 28, and the 2024 primary could be held in February.

And because Democrats lead all aspects of state government, including choosing election dates, Republican candidates and their constituents would also be tied by the early primary. It was 2008 when the Democrats moved the primary to Feb. 5 to help their favorite son Barack Obama win the party’s presidential nomination.

It should be noted that primary elections are actually organized by political parties as a way for them to select their candidates. This is why a voter must choose either a Republican or a Democratic ballot, not both. And no doubt, there are staunch Democrats who would love to have a stronger voice in choosing their party’s presidential nominee next year.

But the reality is that only TV station owners — who could make even more money on ads for presidential candidates in 2024 than they make this year in the gubernatorial election — are really excited about a winter primary in Illinois.

That cost — especially in expensive Chicago and St. Louis markets — could be why Illinois doesn’t get an early primary. Many candidates would not want to see their resources depleted so early in the race for a big state. So consider Illinois’ bid for an early primary a long shot.

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