Letters to the Editor 4/11/19
NEW SMEAA MEMBER RESPONDS
Jill Steiner made a number of excellent points with regard to the elected board that oversees the Bank of Springfield Center. In particular, she asks why we even have an elected board? We have an elected board because when it was created by the state legislature in 1978, SMEAA was empowered to raise revenue through the sale of revenue bonds. Since these are ultimately public funds, the board that governs the center is elected.
Now of course, there are other ways to do this. The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority that oversees Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox Park) has an appointed board; three by the governor, three by the mayor, with the board chairman agreed to by both. Appointed or elected, take your pick – but there should be public participation because of the use of public funds.
As for the length of the meetings, most of the actual work is done by the professional staff, who then present recommendations to the board for a final decision. This is quite common for many elected bodies. I would hope there would not be anything of such controversy that it would require a long meeting. Part of the reason the meetings are held during the noon hour is that board members do not receive any compensation, so there are no evening meetings.
Illinois has more locally elected governing bodies than any other state – 6,963, to be exact. While this creates a unique set of problems, it does bring many government functions closer to the voters.
The benefits of having an elected body need to be weighed against the costs of operating the elections. Ironically, the two SMEAA districts up for election this time around covered more territory and population than two or three city wards combined. In order to run, the candidates must cover a lot of territory and raise the funds to engage a large number of voters with a very low turnout, being a down ballot race in an off-year municipal election.
Why would anybody run for this office? In my case, I actually enjoy campaigning and being engaged in the local political process.
SENIORS HURT BY MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
I researched Social Security benefits for the state of Illinois in 2018, trying to get a handle on how the minimum wage hike will affect senior citizens. The average Social Security check was $1,434.34 per month. There were 1,559,889 seniors in Illinois on Social Security in 2018. Based on a 40-hour work week, there are 2,080 work hours per year. This gives an equivalent wage of $8.28 per hour, not too much different than our current minimum wage.
There is no way Social Security can keep up with the minimum wage increases depicted by the new law using the CPI-U utilized to increase Social Security checks annually for inflation. So, it appears to me that we are throwing our senior citizens under the bus.
Simple economics means the cost of goods will increase to compensate for increased costs. Salaries of current workers making more than minimum wage will have to be bumped up to compensate for this minimum wage hike.
The major benefactor will be the government. It will receive more revenue from personal income tax and sales tax. The poor will remain at the bottom of the income scale and retirees will lose significant buying power. Senior citizens will have to be on state aid and/or work if they are able. As a state, do we want to have our senior citizens in their 80s and 90s working just to exist?
I could be wrong, but retirees may be forced to leave the state to survive. Those that are solely on Social Security already have to make decisions as to buying their medications or food. Perhaps there needs to be an extra deduction on tax returns or some other means to alleviate this undue hardship on our seniors.