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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: Cheers to those pushing for 16th District candidate forum

THUMBS UP TO… pressing the issue. Members of Action for a Better Tomorrow Sauk Valley, a political advocacy group, traveled from Dixon to Ottawa last week to visit the district office of U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Channahon Republican seeking re-election against a challenge from Rockford Democrat Sara Dady. The group brought with it more than 700 signatures endorsing a letter inviting Kinzinger and Dady to take part in a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 30, at the Post House Community Center in Dixon. It would be only the second joint public appearance for the candidates following a mid-May on-air debate at Ottawa radio station WCMY-AM.

ABT has two things working in its favor in pushing for this session: Wisely choosing a date when Kinzinger is already supposed to be working in the 16th Congressional district instead of on Capitol Hill, and holding itself out as committed to having a neutral moderator present questions. The latter is a crucial distinction, as Kinzinger has resisted public events that could easily be overrun by vocal left-leaning critics. While we encourage all citizens to use their political voice, we also feel neutral settings with minimal conflict are ideal for presenting undecided voters complete and fair access to the positions and demeanor of their potential Congressional representative.

THUMBS DOWN TO… the end of an alternative. It hasn’t been that long since hundreds of people turned out for local tea party functions, but participation dropped off sharply of late, with monthly meetings now pulling in just a few dozen. Still, it was surprising to hear last week that La Salle County Tea Party co-founder Art Havenhill has pulled the plug on the group. He said he was unable to find a successor to take over after he and his wife leave Seneca for another state.

We’re not endorsing or attacking the tea party’s political views in this blurb, but the group definitely earned its reputation as a crusader for voter education and participation, two things very much in line with the editorial board’s priorities. The party worked hard to invite and promote speakers and candidates, at times giving a platform to those who could find no other, while also being open to hearing from people its members were unlikely to support at the polls. The marketplace of ideas should be open to everyone, and we acknowledge the power of movements that give voters access to voices and choices.

THUMBS UP TO… low test scores. Usually the greater the percentage the better, but last week’s news release from the La Salle County Health Department gave encouraging results about local HIV testing. In an announcement timed to coincide with National HIV Testing Day, the county health department announced it has conducted 83 tests so far in 2018 and identified no new cases, the same zero percent outcome achieved with 175 tests administered in 2017.

According to Leslie Dougherty, one county resident tested positive for HIV in 2017 in another county, but the last time a local test turned out that way was one of the 149 taken in 2016. There have been 19 HIV non-AIDS cases diagnosed since 2010 and seven AIDS cases in La Salle County, and a total of 37 people living with HIV non-AIDS and 35 people living with AIDS as of data compiled Dec. 31. These figures include residents in the Sheridan prison. Those low figures are a testament to many efforts aimed at curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, and we salute the public and private health workers who have contributed to the broad success of such campaigns.

THUMBS DOWN TO… lingering debt. Lest anyone get too optimistic about things in Springfield, what with our novel “balanced” budget and all, last week’s Associated Press report about the state of nursing home care in Illinois delivered a sobering dose of reality. According to the AP, state officials are so far behind on determining Medicaid eligibility for 15,000 nursing home residents that privately run facilities are fronting $300 million in care. A federal judge ordered the state to the pay the Medicaid cost of care for those who have waited more than 45 days for a determination of their eligibility.

How did the state respond? The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services asked a private company to step in and help catch up at a cost of up to $14.4 million. According to the AP, it would utilize a computer system whose glitch-laden rollout last fall included improperly canceling federal food assistance for 40,000 needy families. We’d like to run a list of all the things going well under state government management, just as soon as someone can come up with a few items.

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