The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Chalk up one more entity that's been put on ice in the wake of sprawling scandal that threatens to engulf government and politics in Illinois.
No, it's not an individual — it's the City Club of Chicago.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered that no one in his administration is to participate in any speaking programs or panels. Pritzker's edict comes after news reports that FBI targeted the club for a search. The feds were reportedly looking for information on a number of individuals, including Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, in connection with Madigan-associated lobbyists working for Exelon/Commonwealth Edison.
Whatever the situation, Pritzker wants nothing to do with it.
This is the second time he's made his distaste for scandal known and taken steps to separate his administration from anything questionable.
He publicly demanded that Senate President John Cullerton remove state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat, from his position as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
The City Club is a regular stop for the city's movers and shakers, a place where political wannabes make speeches and try to make friends. It has a reputation of being bipartisan, but closely connected to the power elite.
But not to the power broker who occupies the governor's mansion, at least not for a while.
When the Chicago Transit Authority awarded a contract for 800 new rail cars to CRRC Sifang in 2016, it looked like a good deal for everyone. The agency would get spiffy modern rolling stock to replace much of its aging fleet, at a savings of $226 million compared with the competing bid. The Far Southeast Side would get a new factory to build the Chinese rail cars, employing 169 people.
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But the operation is now in peril because of paranoia and protectionism. Both the U.S. House and Senate have voted to forbid transit agencies from using federal funds to purchase Chinese rail cars, though they still have to work out differences in their bills. The existing CTA contract wouldn't be affected, but Metra would lose the option of getting the 200 rail cars it wants to buy from a local manufacturer.
Critics fear the company, owned by the Chinese government, could someday put American companies out of business. As it happens, there are no domestic rail car producers for it to compete with. But alarmists fear that CRRC, with unfair help from Beijing, will eventually want to build freight cars in the U.S., taking sales from existing domestic producers.
The critics also fantasize that the Chinese company could incorporate technology to spy on Americans or sabotage transit systems. Said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, "China poses a clear and present danger to our national security and has already infiltrated our rail and bus manufacturing industries."
Any threat to the privacy of Americans is far more likely to come from their Chinese-made smartphones, computers and other electronics. Before the rail cars are delivered, they are subject to thorough inspection by the purchasers. Afterward, they come under the control of transit agencies, not the Chinese government.
As for any potential illegitimate business practices on the part of Beijing, there are better safeguards.
The (Moline) Dispatch and Rock Island Argus
Advocates of right-sizing Illinois government have suspected for months that judges would determine the fate of a new state law that gives local voters more power to decide how they are governed.
We, however, believe that in a democracy, those choices belong to the voters, not the people they elect to serve at their pleasure. Citizen initiatives like this do that by giving voters the opportunity to change governments that don't work, and to support governments that do.
It's hard to imagine that Illinois judges at any level would find it unconstitutional to give voters the power to choose their form of government. Still, there are plenty of worrisome precedents — for example, the Illinois Supreme Court's rejection of a fair map petition signed by more than half a million Illinoisans — to justify concerns that Illinois courts will side with the rights of government officials over the governed here.
Also predictably — and wisely — township officials and supporters aren't counting only on the courts to beat back these downsizing efforts.
As this case makes its way through the Illinois court system, we urge judges to do their duty to protect the rights of the people of Illinois, not the politicians elected to serve them.