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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 03:56 am

Letters to the Editor 2/23/12

Tax cigarettes, moving history, open primary

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TAX CIGARETTES

State officials are proposing a $2 billion cut to Illinois’ Medicaid program. We agree with Illinois Hospital Association president Maryjane Wurth that a cut of this magnitude will have a profound negative impact on health care services for the poor and disabled. The collateral damage to people in fragile health would be unimaginable. Left untreated, some of these conditions will only worsen.

It is time for officials on every side of this issue to put dogma and politics aside and to admit that Illinois cannot just cut its way out of this budget disaster. Raising additional revenue must be considered and one of the most viable and expedient options is raising the state’s cigarette tax. While a lot of controversy surrounds many of the other taxes and fees, time and time again polling has shown that the public sees an increase in the cigarette tax as the most acceptable revenue option we have.

Raising the state cigarette tax is an easy way to address multiple problems. For instance, a $1 tax increase on cigarettes can raise an estimated $300-$400 million in annual revenue for the state. And it would motivate almost 60,000 current smokers in the state quit the habit, preventing more than 50,000 smoking-related deaths here. This would lower the cost of health care services for tobacco-related health problems and help shore up Medicaid.
An increase in the cigarette tax is the state’s best “low-hanging fruit” option.

Kathleen Grady
American Heart Association Illinois Chicago



MOVING HISTORY

Historic preservationists wince whenever it’s suggested to save a threatened historic house by moving it from its original setting [see “There goes the neighborhood: Finding a new home for historic houses,” by James Krohe Jr., Feb. 16]. It’s always viewed as a last resort, since conventional preservation thinking declares that moving it from its original environment essentially robs the building of its cultural context, a factor that contributes to the historic significance of a property.

On the other hand, the original context of an historic building may have changed drastically: for example, all but one of a row of historic houses in a block may have disappeared, leaving that lone building not only threatened, but surrounded by parking lots rather than other houses. Moving that lone survivor to a setting more like its original one not only saves the building, but restores it to something like its original setting.

Krohe suggests that the National Park Service, which proposes to construct new buildings in historic style to serve as maintenance facilities in the Lincoln Home area, instead move some of the hundred or so Lincoln-era houses in Springfield to empty lots within that area. To accomplish those moves, some waivers from Department of the Interior regulations may be needed.

As developer and keeper of the inventory of such buildings in the city, I’d be glad to review with anyone interested which of the Lincoln-era buildings would be most suitable for such a move.

Jerry Jacobson
Save Old Springfield



OPEN PRIMARY

Springfield Alderman Sam Cahnman is running in the March 20 Democratic primary for state representative in the new District 96. Cahnman is running to pass the Open Primary so that no Illinois voter need enter his or her political preference into the public record to vote. The current system is the antithesis of the secret ballot.

The opposition to this fundamental reform is shown by a glossy mailing to District 96 households in mid-February. This piece, best described as blood-curdling, consisted entirely of personal attacks on Sam Cahnman. There was no mention of any issues, especially not the Open Primary.

Sam Cahnman’s primary opponents are Sue Scherer and Winston Taylor. The Feb. 1 Decatur Herald and Review said “Scherer has the support of Illinois Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan, D-Chicago...Democrats also bankrolled $17,750 for polling on behalf of her campaign.” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said “I hope some people who might be (Scherer’s) opponent in the fall won’t make the case this is an effort to buy an election....” Winston Taylor has been a legislative liaison for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Capital Development Board.

The record shows Sam Cahnman is the only independent candidate and the only hope for the Open Primary.

Douglas K. Turner
Springfield

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