Eye On Illinois: What’s the ‘most serious issue facing our state’?

Is your town dangerous? Do you let your kids ride their bikes to school? Can you walk your dog at night? Are there break-ins on your block, or hold-ups at your nearest gas station?

Is your police department or sheriff’s office fully staffed? Is the county jail overcrowded? How busy is the courthouse? Is your state’s attorney’s office prosecuting criminal charges or negotiating plea deals? Does the public defender’s office have sufficient resources?

Depending on your ZIP code, line of work and media consumption habits, you might never seriously consider any of these questions. But that removal doesn’t mean problems don’t exist somewhere else – just as your ability to spend $100 at the grocery store doesn’t mean nobody will go hungry tonight – and if you care about society then crime is a concern even if it’s not in your front yard.

That’s the reasoning underneath the surface of things like Wednesday’s press release titled, “Republican Senators unveil legislation to target violent crime.”

Five GOP senators – Chapin Rose, Mahomet; John Curran, Downers Grove; Jill Tracy, Quincy; Steve McClure, Springfield; and Brian Stewart, – rolled out a 15-bill package headlined by a plan to appropriate $100 million to create a Fund the Police grant so the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board can give money to municipalities and universities for hiring police officers, buying equipment and training officers to prevent gang violence, motor vehicle theft, carjacking or sale of contraband, with inclusions for mental health, overtime pay and incentives for hiring and retention.

The release prudently mentioned Champaign and Decatur three paragraphs before Chicago, but it also quotes McClure’s assertion that “the most serious issue facing our state is violent crime,” which is not a universally accepted position, even among those generally opposed to the elected majority.

It’s fairly easy to find likely Republican voters who are as much or more concerned about their property tax bill, the ballooning cost of public pension obligations, economic and regulatory conditions considered unfair to business owners and a declining population.

The senators understand this, and they know their crime package isn’t going anywhere legislatively because the majority Democrats won’t budge, especially since some components actively undercut criminal justice reform passed against protest earlier this year that isn’t fully implemented.

It’s possible Democrats could isolate some of Republicans’ better ideas and bake them into their own reform proposal, the timing of which will surely be correlated to maximum polling place effect heading into the 2022 election cycle.

Disagreement about how to solve problems can be healthy. Convincing everyone which problems to tackle is a different challenge. Illinois is far from perfect but you, the voter, get to decide which issue is your chief concern.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.