Thursday, May 5, 2016 12:22 am
Letters to the Editor 5/5/16
RAIL RELOCATION PROBLEMS
Here are some of the problems with the agreement between the city and the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding relocating rail traffic off the Third Street tracks. Mayor Langfelder and the city council should have held out for a better agreement instead of voting passage on April 26.
The administration rushed the council to a vote with Mayor Langfelder initially giving the council only 24 hours to review the complicated agreement and then extending the time to eight days, less than the normal two weeks.
The railroads are not parties to the agreement and gave no commitments to the city to ever consolidate freight traffic onto 10th Street tracks. The city lost leverage with the railroads by making its agreement only with IDOT, thus allowing the railroads to later shift their terms and conditions at will.
The state has not appropriated funds to honor IDOT’s commitments, but IDOT’s proffer of funding in the agreement undercuts the prospects for gaining additional federal funds.
The city relied upon the advice of Hanson Engineering and its verbal representations that “the railroads are on board,” even though Hanson Engineering has different interests than the city and is being paid millions for 10th Street bridge work regardless of railroad relocation success. The city itself had little contact with the railroads in formulating the final agreement.
The city lost leverage and agreed to close five crossings on the Third Street tracks, including Jackson Street, which city planners had hoped to use as a corridor to link the Lincoln Home district to the State Capitol. The agreement offers the unlikely hope that the state would reopen these crossings in 2026 if trains fail to relocate.
The agreement falsely promotes itself as a timeline to completion by 2026 because it leaves out major elements. It neither funds the costly Norfolk and Southern rail yard relocation south of Cook Street, a prerequisite to freight consolidation, nor discusses the hugely expensive Union Pacific “flyover” south of Stanford which Union Pacific may want as a precondition to relocating its freight.
In summary, the agreement is incomplete, defective and fatally flawed. It may in fact doom the prospects of ever moving trains off the Third Street tracks.
Alderman, Ward 7
MORE MONEY TO SCHOOLS
I was thrilled to have Gov. Bruce Rauner visit Auburn High School this week to talk about his commitment to education funding. Giving our youngsters the tools they need to succeed in the classroom is critical to their future. However, I’m concerned that the state of Illinois isn’t adequately meeting those needs.
It’s time to send more money to our school systems. It’s time we give all Illinois children access to high quality educational options. By supporting these young scholars, we are laying a stronger foundation for the future of our state.
Unfortunately, more school districts are expected to deficit-spend this year. That is, unless the General Assembly in Springfield works together to fully fund General State Aid (GSA), which would end proration and provide our school district’s the financial relief they need.
Simply put, education is the most important thing we can do as a society. That is why I support Gov. Rauner’s proposal to fully fund PK-12 at the General State Aid foundation level for the first time in seven years – a record investment in our schools and an increase in funding for early childhood education by $75 million – nearly a 25 percent increase.
I also support the legislation the governor has advocated that will save local districts money like mandate relief, workers’ compensation reforms and local control of collective bargaining. This combination of more resources and more flexibility will give school districts like ours the ability to manage our resources for our communities and our children.
The time has come to get to work and act quickly to pass the governor’s proposed PK-12 education funding bill. The uncertainty local school districts are experiencing should not be allowed to continue. They should have the ability to plan for the next school year, not worry about whether their doors are going to open.
Mayor Barb Stamer