Illinois is cooked, and it's time to get out

It is time to leave Illinois.  It's not the three feet of snow; the corruption and tax increases; or even that my city, Evanston, voted in 2019 to award reparations.  The tipping point is that my alderman, the lone reasonable, fiscally responsible voice on the city council, was trounced in our city primary election.

Illinois has been in a steady decline, but there are now "new and improved" reasons to leave the state.  In the last month, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed one of the most aggressively anti-police crime bills in the country, and the state adopted the most progressive, anti-intellectual education bill in the country. 

Illinois H.B. 3653 removes the handcuffs from criminals and puts them on the police.  Its anti-law enforcement measures include:

  • lowering the standards for cash bail, resulting in far fewer pre-trial detentions;
  • banning chokeholds and changing "use of force" standards;
  • limiting and requiring protection of vulnerable people during searches;
  • allowing unsworn anonymous complaints as a permanent part of an officer's misconduct file; and
  • controlling the certification and de-certification of law enforcement. 

Police families' frustrations are felt in their dinner conversations about drug-dealers flushing evidence in the toilet while cops knock to announce their searches and the now weekly social media posts announcing the death or injury of police co-workers.  Normally welcome warmer weather just means more crime along with an explosion of car-jackings and robberies in broad daylight.   The irony of the un-self-aware family (whose basement-dwelling, drug-dealing son has inspired two drive-by shootings) moving because the neighborhood is "too dangerous" is not lost on my neighbors who no longer have to police the block themselves.

And now Illinois forces teachers to learn how to turn classrooms into ideological laboratories and activism workshops.  The Illinois State Board of Educators approved rules that require the training of teachers to focus on the "counternarratives to the dominant culture" and incorporating the wide "spectrum and fluidity" of identities in the curriculum.  The progressive intent is clear: adopt "culturally responsive and leading standards" that incorporate liberal goodies such as "systems of oppression" and "leveraging student advocacy" into the certification of teachers.  Illinois already suffers from a severe teacher shortage, and more than half of public school students fail to meet or exceed readiness and competency standards in math and language arts.  Instead, the ISBE has redefined education as the teaching of advocacy and social action against "the effects of power and privilege."

Teachers' unions' refusals to return to the classroom by their list of pandemic demands, not supported by the CDC, are a misdirection from the real damage occurring in the schools.  My local public high school is already one of the most leftist in the country (it has had segregated debate team practices), and now all Evanston schools use a curriculum created by Black Lives Matter activists and the teachers' union to instruct students during the official Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.  Even our "safe from progressivism" Catholic high school is experimenting with new diversity initiatives attacking "white privilege," telling students they can't have a Republican club because it is "too divisive" and rescinding a coach's job offer because he questioned the governor's COVID guidelines on social media.

The election of our new progressive council means Evanston is redefining its municipal function as one of wealth redistribution rather than service provider.  Winning candidates had progressivism, equity, and reparations as their top priorities, one even declaring that all policies will be viewed through the equity lens.  No mention of balancing the budget.  When the 2019 council approved a reparations proposal, it was clearly limited to housing assistance to victims from 1919 to 1969 of housing discrimination and their direct descendants.  Monies would come only from donations and local marijuana sales taxes, not from residential taxes.  Some opponents were concerned that those residents who might benefit from the program might be the ones significantly funding it, others found a certain irony in that. 

The new progressive members of the council will be developing later phases of reparations.  The major criticism of the program comes from a group that wants to expand it so it can be "true reparations," whatever that is.  Under the misnomer "Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations," they argue that it is merely a housing program intended to work only through historically and systemically racist capitalist organizations such as banks and mortgage brokers who continue to profit from racism.  They argue the money should be given directly to recipients with no use restrictions.  Because the lone council voice that would ask the right questions has been voted out, it is hard to imagine that reparations will remain manageable or even sensible.

Although progressive, Evanston was a city that worked for and served all of its different residents.  As its budget and public pension issues have grown, city services such as free parking, leaf pickup, snow-plowing, salting, street-cleaning, and even park and beach amenities have declined, and taxes and fees have gone up.  Crime is increasing.  With a progressive council more concerned with equity over equality, there doesn't seem to be room for solving real problems or being stewards of the monies we pay to live here.

Image via Public Domain Pictures.