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Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010 01:26 pm

Letters to the Editor 11/18/10


How quickly we forget.

In the wake of scandal and corruption at the highest levels of government, Illinois lawmakers passed a law in 2009 bolstering the Freedom of Information Act – a move designed to give everyday people access to important government information.

This year, however, lawmakers are having second thoughts and are trying to whittle away at this newly arrived accountability era by making it more difficult for the public to root out mismanagement, waste and corruption.

There’s no more glaring example of legislative backsliding than HB 5154, a measure passed by both the House and Senate last spring that flies in the face of reformers’ efforts to make Illinois government more transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

If the measure passes, the public will no longer have access to government employee performance reviews. This proposed law prevents government watchdog groups like the Better Government Association and the ACLU, along with investigative news teams, from accessing vital records that indicate whether Illinois is demanding the highest level of performance from its public servants.

Access to information about how our government spends our money is vital to uncovering waste and misconduct. Arguments to conceal performance evaluations hinge on fears that making those evaluations public will discourage managers from giving honest evaluations, or that the evaluation process will be used as a method of public humiliation to retaliate against unwanted employees. But these reasons only highlight the dysfunction of our personnel system, and do not speak to the legitimacy of the peoples’ right to access information about their government.

If the government gets to pick and choose, taxpayers will never know what’s really going on behind the curtain. Exempting performance evaluations from the sunlight of transparency does not serve the public good.

Gov. Quinn had the chance to veto the bill entirely, putting the public’s right to know how its tax dollars are spent first, but he did not. Instead, he used a legislative maneuver that sends the bill, with an amendment, back to the General Assembly. No amendment could make this bill work for the public good.

We urge lawmakers to vote no on HB 5154 as it makes its way back through the General Assembly during the veto session.

Emily Miller
Policy and government affairs
Better Government Association

The issue of the Taylorville Energy Center is being pushed up to the Illinois General Assembly, by the Tenaska corporation and a handful of local proponents desperate to shore up their community’s economy [see “‘Clean’ coal developers resist cap on electric rates,” Nov. 11].

Who could blame them? Who could be against jobs or school improvements? Most are well-intentioned individuals who see themselves upholding, rather than betraying, the public trust. Still, the politics are being played out in the smallest of jurisdictions while the potential biological impact looms beyond all city, county and state boundaries.

As a resident of Taylorville, I am deeply concerned about Tenaska’s proposed Taylorville Energy Center. I do not feel that it is appropriate that Tenaska will be seeking approval of their facility plans during the fall veto session. I feel that it is unacceptable for Tenaska to seek approval from our state legislators prior to the release of even the first draft of the Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement.

We need to be exceptionally sensitive to the environmental concerns surrounding this facility. I understand that this is not a traditional coal burning plant and that most of the chemicals are extracted during the gasification process, preventing them from being released through the smokestack. However, we have not received answers about the disposition of the chemicals separated from the carbon during the gasification process (sulfur and mercury, for example). Will these chemicals be landfilled on-site, landfilled off-site, sold in a raw state, or receive further processing on-site or nearby?

From illinoistimes.com.

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