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Local Editorials

Editorial views about the events of 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, we offer a sampling of the Sauk Valley Media Editorial Board’s editorials that appeared on this page during the past year.

Happy new year, one and all!

Region needs Tollway board representation – History books tell the rallying cry of the American Revolution: No taxation without representation. Shouldn’t the same general philosophy hold true with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority? With more than a tenth of the Tollway system’s 286 miles, our region should have a seat on the Tollway board. It does not. That should change. – Jan. 2

Wahl continues to grow at an amazing clip – It’s estimated that about 7 billion people live on Earth, and more than 1.2 billion of them call India home. No wonder India represents such an attractive business market for Wahl Clipper Corp. of Sterling. Wahl recently announced that it had opened a subsidiary in India to sell and market the company’s products. That’s good news. We’re impressed that Wahl Clipper continues to expand overseas. – Jan. 23

Cameras in the courtroom: Yes! – Illinois Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride announced Tuesday a giant leap toward greater courtroom transparency across the state. We commend him for it. Kilbride and his fellow state Supreme Court justices agreed to allow still cameras, video cameras and audio recording devices, operated by news photographers and reporters, in trial courtrooms on a limited, experimental basis. The move will provide the public with a better understanding of how its court system operates. Additionally, courtrooms that are more open to public scrutiny afford more protection to the rights of defendants. – Jan. 26

Send a message against hazing – Rules govern all aspects of life. They protect individual rights and facilitate the smooth functioning of society. Schools have many rules. If they are obeyed by students, staff, coaches and administrators, everything should run smoothly. Problems crop up, however, when unwritten rules surface. At Erie High School, wrestling coaches apparently had an unwritten rule that it was OK for them to spray cold water and throw ice at wrestlers while they were undressed and showering after practice. The school board and administration should condemn hazing and harassment in all its forms, warn that it will not be tolerated, and make sure the rule is enforced. – Jan. 28

Learn the right way to conduct our government – The Lyndon Village Board did the wrong thing when it voted, in closed session, to fire an employee. The board did the right thing when it conducted a revote in open session. Members should learn the Open Meetings Act and abide by it. – Feb. 6

Legislature eyes pension changes; taxpayers, beware – If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. School boards across the state should have known the generous, pension-sweetening retirement deals they approved for retiring teachers were too good to be true. And now, if the Legislature and governor carry through on suggested changes, local taxpayers could end up footing much more of the pension bill than school board members ever thought they would. – Feb. 14

Welcome home, 1644th! We’re glad you’re back – Members of the Illinois National Guard’s 1644th Transportation Company know all about logistics. For the past 9 months, they’ve lived it. The Rock Falls-based 1644th left July 4 for deployment to Kuwait and Iraq. While overseas, the unit undertook 175 transportation missions. Today, the 115 deployed soldiers of the 1644th Transportation Company return to their armory in Rock Falls. We thank them for their service. We’re glad they’re back. Welcome home. – April 5

“Trust, but verify” failed in Reagan’s hometown – Trust, but verify. Those words were Dixon hometown boy President Ronald Reagan’s motto in dealing with the Soviet Union. The phrase also applies to oversight of government officials who spend taxpayers’ dollars. Trust, but verify. Hire good people, trust they will do a professional job, but verify that they are. Dixon city officials and residents must now deal with the fallout when trust is broken and verification fails. The talk of the town Tuesday was the FBI’s arrest of longtime city Comptroller Rita A. Crundwell. Federal prosecutors said Crundwell, 58, stole more than $30 million in city funds since 2006 – $3.2 million alone since the fall. Crundwell faces a single count of wire fraud. The maximum penalty for someone convicted of that charge is 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. – April 19

State needs better system to detect fraud – Many Illinois politicians say they are against waste and fraud. Unfortunately, their actions don’t measure up to their words. The city of Dixon is in the midst of a financial scandal caused by the failure of its oversight system to detect fraud – the “misappropriation” of $30 million over 6 years, according to an investigator with the FBI. The situation cries out for a new and better system – a statewide system – to root out fraud and waste in the spending of public money. Indiana has such a system. Illinoisans weary of public corruption should demand that stringent systems be put into place. Creating an Indiana-style State Board of Accounts would be a good start. – April 24

Fitting tribute to Dr. Khan – Dr. Rifaqat Khan, who drowned tragically 4 weeks ago, was much beloved in the Sauk Valley. Thursday night’s Celebration of Life, organized by KSB Hospital, gave a good indication of the extent of those feelings. Many people – fellow physicians, colleagues, community members and students – turned out for the memorial event, held at the Dixon High School Auditorium. Some knew the doctor well; others may have just felt the need to be there to support the family. We commend KSB Hospital for honoring Dr. Khan’s memory in such a meaningful way. We join the community in offering our condolences to Dr. Khan’s family and friends. – June 2

Let public know contract details before the vote – We continue to be bothered by the private process that local governments use to approve public contracts involving government employees. Secrecy is a necessary part of the actual negotiating of contracts between local governments and public employees. But once a tentative contract is reached between the negotiating teams for the two sides, the terms of that agreement should be made public before the public body votes to ratify. Unfortunately, government bodies usually regard the public as an unwelcome third party in such agreements, even though the public ends up paying for those contracts. – June 27

Devine deserves warm welcome from Sauk Valley – Dixon has thrown its share of welcome-home parades over the years. With strong public support, Saturday’s parade and fundraiser for Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Devine could well be one of the best. – July 13

Drought days of summer – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, so the saying goes. However, what happens on the farm doesn’t stay on the farm. It reverberates across the land. When times are good, such as last year, farmers deliver bumper crops to market, provide a plentiful food supply to consumers, earn a tidy profit, and spend their money in the community. When times aren’t so good, the ripple effect swings from positive to negative. – July 27

Warm welcome to ‘Gentlemen’ and fans – The Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of the Road concert presents a golden opportunity for Dixon to distinguish itself before 15,000 visitors. As Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Winston Marshall and Ted Dwane prepare to perform at Dixon’s Page Park Saturday, we encourage community members to roll out the red carpet. – Aug. 17

Be aware, be proactive on concussions – Sauk Valley Media’s sports concussion series wrapped up earlier this month. As the 2012-13 high school sports season begins, we urge greater awareness of these serious brain injuries and a new proactive approach toward dealing with them. After all, student athletes get only one brain; it needs to be protected. – Aug. 24

Better late than never for I-88 bridge safety – On Jan. 6, 1992, eight young men from the Sterling-Rock Falls area were killed when the van they were riding in went off the roadway and crashed into a concrete bridge abutment on Interstate 88. This week, a project to improve safety around such bridge abutments was announced by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Better late than never. – Sept. 6

Bring greater transparency to appointments – Twice in recent days, Sauk Valley mayors announced they planned to appoint new members to their respective city councils, but neither mayor would release the person’s name beforehand. We say, release appointees’ names the week before and allow feedback from the public before a final vote is taken. Increased transparency instills greater public confidence in government. That’s something all governments, including cities, need these days. – Sept. 21

Like marshals, finance director has work to do – Out at Rita Crundwell’s ranch southeast of Dixon, a small army assembled by the U.S. Marshals Service has been busy dealing with what Dixon’s ex-comptroller left behind after her April 17 arrest for wire fraud. In Crundwell’s former office at Dixon City Hall, one person is on the job dealing with what Crundwell left behind there. At the ranch, marshals appear to have done a creditable job auctioning off Crundwell’s hundreds of horses and other property, said to have been purchased with some of the $53 million that Crundwell is accused of misappropriating from city coffers over 22 years. At city hall, Paula Meyer, the city’s new finance director, appears to be doing a similar creditable job as Crundwell’s replacement. – Sept. 26

Finally, positive news about Thomson – The Illinois Department of Corrections finished building the Thomson Correctional Center in November 2001. For much of the 11 years since then, the maximum-security prison sat empty, its promise of hundreds of jobs for area residents unfulfilled. Those frustrating days appear to be over. Finally. Tuesday’s announcement by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn should pave the way for the prison’s opening as a federal lockup. – Oct. 4

Trial demonstrates value of extended media coverage – Illinois courtrooms have become more transparent during a pilot program, authorized by the state Supreme Court, to allow cameras and microphones in court proceedings under certain circumstances. The Lee County trial of Byron Adams, who was convicted this week of the September 2009 murder of Margaret Atherton, provided an example of how extended media coverage opens courtroom proceedings to a wider audience. – Oct. 13

The People vs. Sheley: Pictures of justice – More than 4 years passed between June 23, 2008, the date that 93-year-old Russell Reed of rural Sterling was brutally beaten to death, and Tuesday’s conviction of his murderer, 33-year-old Nicholas T. Sheley of Sterling. Though justice has been done for Reed’s family, the process took too long. The killing spree of late June 2008 sent eight victims to their graves. Sheley was convicted last year in Knox County of killing Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg. Two convictions down, six to go: four victims who were killed in a Rock Falls apartment, and an Arkansas couple killed in the parking lot of a Missouri motel. Delays in conducting trials may lessen the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. Greater transparency in the conduct of those trials, however, has the opposite effect. That is our conclusion after cameras and microphones were allowed in Sheley’s Whiteside County trial. – Nov. 10

Brazen thefts end in prison countdown – Rita Crundwell’s brazen thievery of millions of tax dollars ended April 17. That’s when FBI agents arrested the former Dixon comptroller for looting the city treasury. Crundwell’s pretense of innocence ended Wednesday. That’s when she pleaded guilty to one count of federal wire fraud; she also admitted to stealing an astounding $53,740,394 from Dixon city coffers. Crundwell’s freedom will end Feb. 14. That’s when she will be sentenced in Rockford federal court. No slap on the wrist is expected for Crundwell, 59, during her Valentine’s Day sentencing hearing. Crundwell now knows her liberty has a shelf life. In 89 days, her fate will be sealed. Then, rather than counting the millions of dollars she stole from taxpayers, Crundwell will start counting the days she spends behind bars. – Nov. 17

Bridge built; Quinn visits; smiles aplenty – If you build it, he will come. This year, a $27 million bridge was built between Sterling and Rock Falls. Sure enough, Gov. Pat Quinn came to the Twin Cities Monday to help dedicate it. We hope the bridge is a symbol for how the cities can work more closely together. And to Gov. Quinn, we say, Don’t be a stranger. One new bridge does not the entire Sauk Valley make. Come back and see what else we have. – Nov. 23

CEO served the community in many ways – The president and chief executive officer of CGH Medical Center will step down on Jan. 4. Ed Andersen retires after serving 37 years at the hospital, the past 16 as its leader. The leadership he has provided has been both effective and inspirational. – Dec. 12

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