Climate change has arrived with a splash in Illinois. Unusual rainfall combined with bad timing on this past winter's freeze-thaw cycle means we may not have much of a soybean crop this year:
The soggy conditions will likely delay planting, again. Dillon, the Machesney Park resident, lives across the river from a plot of farmland he said has been barren for the last five years due to persistent flooding.
"You used to be able to raise corn in that field," Dillon said. "In the last five years, I don’t know if he’s had a crop in there or not. It’s always flooded. It’s too wet to plant, too wet to harvest."
The torrential rainfall and runoff has been known to wash fertilizer, animal waste and other pollutants from farm fields into waterways. It can also cause sewer systems to back up.
In either scenario, the untreated water can contain an unsafe amount of nitrogen, which can render the water dangerous for consumption. Fertilizer and sewage can also stimulate algae blooms that can degrade water quality. This, in turn, raises the costs associated with treating water, the new report says.
On Wednesday, [Illinois governor J.B.] Pritzker toured flooded areas of Winnebago and Stephenson counties. While no deaths related to the flooding have been reported, state and local officials say nearly 200 people have been evacuated.
“These are some of the highest river levels this area has seen in more than three decades, and I commend local emergency managers, law enforcement, fire and the volunteer organizations that have come together to keep people safe and preserve property,” Pritzker said in a statement. “For downstream communities that will be impacted by flooding in the days and weeks to come, I know that many groups are already preparing to help their neighbors. While we know that rebuilding will take a lot of time and work, we are committed to being your partners for the future.”
The Tribune explicitly tied these events to climate change in its headline.
After four years with a do-nothing governor—seriously, he did absolutely nothing—this weekend almost made up for it. The Illinois legislature passed a ton of bills that we've needed (or wanted) for a long time:
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and those who believe state government needs to play a bigger, more expansive role than it has got just about everything they wanted in the session that ran only a couple of days over, from new policies on hot-button social issues such as abortion, marijuana and gambling to movement toward a graduated income tax, a higher minimum wage, a balanced budget and the largest capital program in state history.
Ironically, the last two came with the backing of GOP legislative leaders and much of the business community. They pointed to a series of business-friendly actions that made the trade worth it, including new tax incentives for data centers and a restoration of the manufacturers’ purchase credit. Other conservatives strongly disagreed.
Also included in the avalanche of legislative action are things most voters are just learning about, such as requiring internet e-tailers to pay the same sales tax as brick-and-mortar operators. Or an initial legislative green light for the $20 billion One Central mega-development to be built on air rights just west of Soldier Field. And permission for a Chicago casino that will be among the largest in the country, and that set off immediate speculation as to where the Chicago facility will be located.
Like it or hate it, “I haven’t seen this much horse-trading here among the parties since (ex-Gov.) George Ryan,” Illinois Manufacturers' Association President Mark Denzler said in a phone interview. And more actually was accomplished this year, he added.
I'm excited. Having a governor who believes that government has value is a refreshing change.
The Illinois legislature has passed a bill legalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana and directing the governor to pardon thousands of low-level drug offenders:
Illinois is poised to be the 11th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana beginning Jan. 1, 2020.
The state House of Representatives approved its legalization bill 66-47 on Friday. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, who campaigned on legalizing cannabis, quickly released a statement saying he’ll sign the legislation.
“It is time to hit the reset button on the war on drugs,” said State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. “What is before us is the first in the nation to approach this legislatively, deliberatively, thoughtfully with an eye toward repairing the harm of the war on drugs.”
The bill would allow adults over 21 to possess and use marijuana recreationally starting next year. They’d be able to buy the drug at dispensaries that must undergo a rigorous state licensing process.
One big component of the bill would create a pathway for people with past marijuana convictions to have those wiped out. Anyone convicted of selling up to 30 grams of cannabis could gain executive clemency through the governor.
For convictions linked to the sale of larger amounts up to 500 grams, a state’s attorney or individuals could petition the court to have those criminal records vacated and expunged.
The law will take effect January 1st. However, marijuana still remains illegal in the United States, so Federal authorities could still arrest and prosecute users, just as they can in the other 10 legal states.
Expungements and pardons could affect up to 800,000 people in the state.
That garnered key support for the bill in communities hit hardest by the "war on drugs."
As Chicago finishes the wettest May in history, Bloomberg points out that all the rain has caused serious problems with Illinois agriculture:
Rabobank is predicting an unprecedented number of unplanted acres of corn, the most widely grown American crop. A Bloomberg survey of 10 traders and analysts indicates growers could file insurance claims for about 6 million corn acres they haven’t been able to sow, almost double the record in 2013.
Corn futures surged more than 20% to a three-year high over the past few weeks on fears farmers wouldn’t be able to get seeds in the ground ahead of crop-insurance deadlines. So-called prevented plant claims reached 3.6 million acres in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
Just a few things in the news:
And hey, summer begins in three days.
The veteran Chicago Public Media reporter says "Black Chicago has to stop chasing the ghost of Harold Washington:"
The spirit of Harold Washington won’t save Chicago.
Washington’s legacy as the city’s first black mayor and Democratic machine breaker is legendary. A remarkable 82 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 1983 race in which he first won. Compare that to the dismal 34 percent earlier this week. Unfathomable numbers when you pair them side by side. Voter turnout in mayoral races has usually hovered around one-third of the electorate in recent years.
His mayoral tenure is oft referred as the halcyon days. It’s a story that reads like a modern-day political fable. The unlikely charismatic candidate who stood up to the powers that be. The experienced politician the white media initially dismissed. He split the white vote and bested a white Republican contender. Once on the fifth floor of City Hall, Washington ushered in new inclusive policies while giving blacks a better share of political power and jobs.
The power of Washington’s name and legacy is real, but today, it’s almost a figment of our imagination. We’ve embraced a romanticized vision of that time and a belief that it is the template for harnessing black political power. His name is always invoked in political campaigns. When local elections creep up, the question comes up: Who is the next Harold? How do black wards agree on a “consensus candidate?” The magic of 1983 won’t likely be repeated. Ever. We will be okay.
Make no mistake. Washington is unforgettable, particularly for black Chicagoans who witnessed his rise to power. That time will always have a place in our hearts. But true black political power has many faces. It helped created the opportunity for Harold to become Harold — not the other way around.
Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk.
I had these lined up to read at lunchtime:
Meanwhile, for only the second time in four weeks, we can see sun outside the office windows:
Chicago has 13 people running for Mayor right now, with early voting already open and the first round vote due on the 26th. If no candidate gets an outright majority, the top-two vote-getters will have a runoff election on April 2nd.
Several local news agencies have rounded up the candidates and their responses to stock questions. Here are the ones I'm reading:
There are also contested elections in several wards, including mine. I've got a lot of reading to do in the next 3 weeks.
I wanted to post this when it came out but life intervened. A couple weeks ago, New Republic reported on the sad tale of exurban town Elwood, Ill., and the "opportunity" they seized on with a giant intermodal freight terminal in 2002:
Fifteen years before Amazon’s HQ2 horserace, Elwood had won the retail lottery. “Nobody envisioned what we have out here,” said Jerry Heinrich, who sat on the board of the planning commission that first apportioned the land for development in the mid-1990s. “It was never anticipated that every major business entity would end up in the area.”
But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt.
And that was before Big Tech rolled in. Just four years ago Amazon didn’t even have one facility in the region; now, with five fulfillment centers, it’s the county’s largest employer. Growth, once arithmetic, became exponential. Plans were made to build a new facility, this one bigger than the original Intermodal, with room for some 35 million additional square feet of industrial space.
It's astounding, but not surprising, that this would happen. And more than just a cautionary story about getting more than you bargained for, it should remind people that voting in local elections matters a lot.
Crains' Springfield, Ill., correspondent provides a vignette showing why Bruce Rauner couldn't get anything done in his one and only term as Illinois governor. A bill the governor supports got lost in the shuffle between the Illinois House and Senate, prompting him to send a nasty letter to the press before sending it to Senate president John Cullerton. Why didn't the governor just use his legislative liaison office? Rich Miller explains:
[T]he governor's office employs a large number of people who get paid to lobby legislators. If this issue was so all-important to Rauner, then why not have one of his liaisons contact Bush in the months before the veto session began?
I made similar remarks on my blog, and [Rauner adisor Mischa] Fisher reached out to say it was not the "role of the executive branch to shepherd legislation back and forth between the two chambers."
Um, yes, it is. "Why even have legislative liaisons if you're not going to use them?" I asked. "To communicate the governor's position on legislation as it moves through the two chambers," Fisher replied.
Did he not realize that this is exactly what I was talking about? There was zero communication with the Senate until the final hours of the veto session. Fisher replied that "making sure it wasn't lost is what the governor's letter is intending to do."
J.B. Pritzker beat Rauner by half a million votes last month and will be sworn in January 14th. Rauner will "return to private industry," in the parlance of politics. Pritzker, one hopes, will be able to get a bill passed before the end of his first term.