It wouldn’t be a week in America without another slew of children being punished for childish behavior under the regime of zero tolerance that plagues our nation’s schools. Here are some of the latest incidents.
In Pennsylvania, a 10-year-old boy was suspended for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate, using nothing more than his hands and his imagination. Johnny Jones, a fifth-grader at South Eastern Middle School, was suspended for a day and threatened with expulsion under the school’s weapons policy after playfully using his hands to draw the bowstrings on a pretend “bow” and “shoot” an arrow at a classmate who had held his folder like a gun and “shot” at Johnny. Principal John Horton characterized Johnny’s transgression as “making a threat” to another student using a “replica or representation of a firearm” through the use of an imaginary bow and arrow.
On December 19, the Scott County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the following language for the information-technology (IT) policy for county staff: “The IT Department will maintain a copy of all e-mails sent or received for a period of three years from the date in which they are sent or received. Records may be retained for a longer time period if it is subject to a litigation hold.”
A day earlier, I published an open letter to the board asking it to defer action. (See sidebar.) At the meeting, I was allowed to address the board prior to the vote, and the 14-minute audio recording of that exchange is available below.
Prior to the meeting, I had phone conversations with Chair Larry Minard and supervisors William P. Cusack and Carol T. Earnhardt. On these calls, it was explained to me that “all the important e-mails will be saved.” When asked about details – such as who will be determining what e-mails are important – the answers varied from department heads to staff to one or two county attorneys. When pressed what the criteria were for retention past three years, the answers included “We just have to trust staff to know what to do” to “The frivolous e-mails will go.” The policies of the State of Iowa and the City of Davenport were cited several times in these phone calls and at the meeting, but no particulars were given. The party line was that these entities destroy old e-mails much sooner than the county was proposing.
It’s no secret that Republican-primary voters in Illinois have been almost rigidly hierarchical when it comes to choosing gubernatorial candidates. They pretty much always choose the candidate who can best demonstrate that it’s his or her “turn.”
In 1990, after eight years as secretary of state, Jim Edgar was the clear choice. Indeed, he barely had opposition. The same went for two-term Secretary of State George Ryan eight years later. In 2002, it was clearly Attorney General Jim Ryan’s turn, and he bested two other high-profile candidates in the primary. In 2006, Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka beat three lesser-known opponents to win her primary race, although it wasn’t as easy.
House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesperson said last week that his boss’ statement opposing further corporate “handouts” basically “speaks for itself.” But does it?
Madigan invoked the populist gods last week as he called for an end to the “case-by-case system of introducing and debating legislation whenever a corporation is looking for free money from Illinois taxpayers.” Companies requesting the tax breaks, Madigan said, “pay little to no corporate income tax to the state, contributing little or nothing to help fund the very services from which they benefit significantly.”
It would be much easier to believe Madigan had he not just last month pushed a bill over to the Illinois Senate that would give Univar a tax break to help the West Coast corporation move its headquarters to Illinois. Not coincidentally, Univar has an existing facility just next door to Madigan’s House district.
Practically speaking, there are two ways party leaders draw state-legislative districts in Illinois: domination and dumb luck.
A key phrase in that sentence is “party leaders,” because regardless of whether redistricting is accomplished through one-party rule or a name literally being drawn from a hat, it’s controlled by those with a vested interest in remaining in power – and it’s controlled by one party. Functionally, Illinois’ system is institutionalized gerrymandering.
“Republicans and Democrats want to draw the maps to protect incumbents and punish their political foes,” said Michael Kolenc, campaign director for Yes for Independent Maps (IndependentMaps.org). “We’ve seen them do it in this state. We’ve seen them do it in other states. They do it at any level that they can. And right now they have the data and the technology where they can do it very, very well – where they can slice and dice neighborhoods” to craft maps that benefit them.
Kolenc’s campaign aims to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would change the way Illinois draws its state-legislative maps. (The process of drawing districts for the U.S. House of Representatives would not be affected.)