TOPIC: Featured Articles

Immigration reform dreams deferred

Pat Quinn

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the “DREAM Act” into law Monday, legislation that will create privately-funded scholarships for documented and undocumented immigrants to attend public and private colleges in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune’s Monique Garcia reports that Illinois DREAM Act supporters “will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, noting the new state law is a small but important step forward.” But Washington can’t deal with the federal version of the DREAM Act, much less comprehensive immigration reform. (more…)

Illegal immigration and WI dairy farms

Georgia Pabst of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a critical — and flawed — piece Saturday on E-Verify, the joint Dept. of Homeland of Security/Social Security Administration program that makes employers check the citizenship status of their workers. Right now, E-Verify is voluntary — but new legislation would make it mandatory. Pabst implies this would be bad for Wisconsin dairy farmers, the vast majority of of whom employ illegal immigrants. But it could have the positive effect of curbing the exploitation of these workers. (more…)

Meanwhile, progress in cutting auto pollution

In the midst of the ruckus over the debt ceiling, Barack Obama announced strong new fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. This is something of a “man bites dog” story at a time of major cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and Congress’s apparent inability to avoid a federal default. TIME’s Michael Grunwald writes that the standards represent “a big victory in the fight to reduce our foreign oil addiction, our carbon emissions, and our gasoline costs.” The success in writing such an ambitious law — that cars must go 55 miles per gallon by 2025 – seems largely due to the fact that Detroit automakers are literally indebted to the Obama administration, not to mention efforts by California to up tailpipe emission standards.


Conventional labor disputes

Chicago's McCormick Place

Even as both private and public sector unions lose power, labor is a powerful force in Chicago. But Illinois politicians — even Democrats who get union contributions — argue that AFL-CIO unions like the carpenters and the teamsters keep the city from seeing millions, maybe billions, of revenue at the McCormick Place convention center. But, like the dispute between Chicago-based Boeing and the machinist union, federal law has so far sided with labor.

Waiting For Thomson: Guantanamo Bay and an Illinois village held hostage

Thomson (IL) Correctional Facility

President Obama made many pledges during his campaign for president, and one of the most cut-and-dried was his promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It hasn’t happened. “Gitmo” still houses 172 suspected terrorists.

In Thomson, Illinois, the fate of the prison in Guantanamo Bay is not the first thing on Jerry “Duke” Hebeler’s mind. Hebeler, village president of Thomson, oversees the town of about 600 that lies 90 miles west of Chicago. (more…)

Scott Walker’s high-speed blunder

When Scott Walker used a balanced budget bill to strip the collective bargaining rights of public employees, it was defensible if you believed — as the Wisconsin governor did — that unionized public employees had destroyed Wisconsin’s finances. Walker’s rejection last November of U.S. Dept. of Transportation money for a high-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison, however, cannot be defended. Not after the governor pushed — and the state legislature will soon approve — an upgrade of the Chicago-to-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” rail line.

As Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel make clear, the $31.6 million upgrade could have been covered by the $810 million offered by the Obama administration to build the Madison-to-Milwaukee line.


House Republicans have their cake, eat it too

Sean Duffy

Ron Nixon of the New York Times looks at several U.S. House Republicans who were elected on a platform of spending cuts but who are also pushing for spending projects of questionable merit in their districts. This is a timely report as House Republicans have taken a “No, more cuts!” position during deficit-reduction negotiations. These Republicans are hypocritical, effective, or both.


Name that loan modification program: government must do more to market mortgage aid

Four years after the housing bubble burst, all levels of government are getting their bearings in addressing the foreclosure crisis. A mix of programs are either being started or revived that might actually address specific payment problems homeowners face.

Illinois announced on Friday that it will use $100 million in federal money to start a Mortgage Resolution Fund, where a public-private partnership will buy “underwater mortgages” — those where delinquent payments are worth more than the mortgage itself — from homeowners in the Chicago area. (more…)

The death of clean coal

Matthew Wald of the New York Times reported yesterday that the American Electric Power coal company has terminated a planned “full-scale carbon-capture plant” in West Virginia, because the political incentives are no longer there to invest in so-called clean coal technology that captures carbon dioxide emissions before they enter the atmosphere. A similar turn of events happened last August in Illinois: the “FutureGen” clean coal project died, because the energy companies involved no longer wanted to invest. These companies not coincidentally backed out as the chance of Congress passing a cap-and-trade bill withered on the vine. (more…)

Illinois takes new stab at using all its coal

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill yesterday that lets Chicago Clean Energy build a $3 billion coal gasification plant in a rundown section of southeast Chicago, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Illinois EPA, though, opposes the bill: They do not want Chicago Clean Energy (a subsidiary of the Leucadia National Corp. holding company in New York) to add pollution to an already highly polluted area. Environmental groups and consumer advocates also oppose the plant as too environmentally costly and too expensive. The gasification plant appears to be another flawed idea as Illinois figures out what do with its coal resources. (more…)