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The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently gave an inspiring speech announcing her intention to come up with solutions to Chicago's underfunded pensions. They have $9.5 billion in assets and $42 billion in obligations, creating a $32 billion hole produced by overpromising benefits and underpaying mandated contributions.

But she revealed what she has in mind — Lightfoot is pitching a state takeover of city pension funds.

Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz characterized Lightfoot's impending proposal as "a big, big ask."

No kidding. The state already is on its financial knees, one of the reasons being its $136 billion pension underfunding problem as of June 30. The last thing it needs is to take on the unmet obligations of Chicago.

Chicago is absolutely the dominant political force in the state. Most statewide officials, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, come from the city. The General Assembly is led by two Chicagoans, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

Cullerton's office said he has not "had an opportunity to review" Lightfoot's proposal, while Republican Senate Leader Bill Brady said "taxing retirement income will just drive taxpayers out of Illinois."

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, a close friend of Lightfoot, said he looks "forward to working with her in an effort to find a solution that benefits all Illinoisans."

However unrealistic Lightfoot's proposal may be, it is helpful in one disturbing respect.

It reveals just how difficult the city and state's pension underfunding problems are.

Sauk Valley Media

On June 20, Dixon's Isaiah Roby became the first athlete from the Sauk Valley to be selected in the NBA Draft since 1984.

The 2016 Dixon High School grad was taken by the Detroit Pistons with the 45th overall pick, and immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

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The day after the draft, Dixon celebrated the culmination of Roby's dream with a rally. The 21-year-old was escorted through the center of town and then met with fans at the Public Safety Building.

Roby is humble and easy to root for. He has never sought out the spotlight and he made it clear in an interview done with SVM how much he truly appreciates the support he receives from the Sauk Valley.

"It's huge to me, and I feel really blessed; I can't tell you how special that is," Roby said. "Dixon's a small, close-knit community, and I'll always be a small-town guy. I'm proud of being from Dixon, and Dixon's proud that I'm from here, so the feeling is definitely mutual."

Roby should be a great role model for kids here for a long time. He has a strong work ethic, handles success and challenges with grace and dignity, and you get the feeling that the young man will never forget where he came from. We expect him to make a difference on and off the court in Dallas or wherever his career takes him.

(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald

We all tend to think we live in a republic built around democratic principles, with a government, as Abraham Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people, for the people."

We hate to say this, but to some degree, we kid ourselves. It is not hyperbolic to warn against the erosion of our freedoms.

One significant example is gerrymandering, the practice of dominant political parties drawing Congressional and legislative maps in such a way as to ensure the elections of their party's candidates.

Ironically, as our technology grows increasingly more sophisticated, it provides the capability to draw these maps more fairly.

Unfortunately, the parties just take advantage of that increased sophistication to draw maps even more to their liking.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a horrible blow to democracy. In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that even though it recognized that district boundaries were being drawn through partisan gerrymandering, it is up to the voters, not the courts, to address that.

This is not a conservative or liberal issue. It is a liberty issue. Through gerrymandering, the political parties gain power, the voters lose power.

CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan advocacy group on this issue, has not given up its efforts to pass an amendment to the state constitution to change how our districts are drawn.

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