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'Fixing Illinois' worth reading, talking about

Sauk Valley Media embarks on its third community book read today. "Fixing Illinois" points out problems and offers solutions on how our debt-ridden state, once wealthy and self-confident, could be restored.

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 3:15 p.m. CST

The Sauk Valley Media Editorial Board has made several references to the book "Fixing Illinois: Politics and Policy in the Prairie State" in recent weeks.

And there's a reason.

We believe that "Fixing Illinois" provides important context regarding how Illinois slipped into its economic and governmental funk as well as a treasure trove of ideas about how the state could regain its footing and build upon its many strengths.

The authors, both former presidents of the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois, are experts in state government.

James D. Nowlan worked under three governors and served two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives.

J. Thomas Johnson was a director of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Together, they have diagnosed Illinois' many ills and assembled 98 suggested improvements that, they believe, will help the state pull itself up by the bootstraps and begin to function better.

They did all this in 148 pages, not including chapter notes and the index, so the information is compact.

The book's back cover contains endorsements from two leading retired Illinois political leaders, former Democratic U.S. Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson III and former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar.

When their book came out in May, the authors wrote a series of four guest columns, which our newspaper published on the Opinion page.

The first column called on the state to put its financial house in order and revamp its revenue and budgeting system.

The second urged Illinois to modernize its school financing system, radically change the school calendar, and offer more attendance choices.

Column 3 called on state leaders to reduce the cost of doing business in Illinois and provide stability and predictability for business owners.

The fourth column dealt with how Illinois' shady reputation injures the state in many ways, and how a permanent anti-corruption campaign is needed to eliminate Illinois' culture of corruption.

The series of columns scratched the surface of what "Fixing Illinois" is all about.

We now invite the public to dig deeper.

Sauk Valley Media bought a limited number of copies of "Fixing Illinois" for the public to check out and read, as we did several years ago with two other books, "Caught in the Middle" and "Boomtown USA."

People may come to the front counters at the Sauk Valley Media office in Sterling and The Telegraph office in Dixon, sign out a book, and take it home to read. (Please return it within 2 weeks.)

If all the books are checked out, your name can be placed on a waiting list.

We hope to facilitate a community conversation regarding the suggestions raised by Nowlan and Johnson.

We encourage readers to share their views through letters to the editor and online comments.

The authors wrote about growing up in the 1950s when Illinois was wealthy and self-confident. That, sadly, is no longer the case for many residents.

With Illinois approaching its bicentennial in 2018, the authors argue that fixing Illinois' many problems must be a priority.

We agree.

Check out "Fixing Illinois" to see which suggested improvements resonate with you.

 

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