Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: A tale of two cities: Google and the Thompson Center

A bit more than five miles separate the Union Stockyards Gate on Chicago’s Exchange Avenue from the Loop’s James R. Thompson Center.

A bit more than 50 years separates the closure of what once was the world’s largest meat processing complex at midnight July 30, 1971, and Wednesday’s announcement that Google will occupy the entirety of the 17-story postmodern marvel, using all 1.2 million square feet of office space, while the state moves offices of 50 government agencies a few blocks away.

The last day of the stockyards was the culmination of nearly five decades of decline from the peak of business in 1924. The first governor to try to sell the Thompson Center was Rod Blagojevich, early in his first term in 2003, not yet 20 years after it opened.

The differences between private meatpacking conglomerates and a nine-figure public boondoggle are as vast as those distinguishing the tens of thousands of Depression-era slaughterhouse workers and the tech sector employees soon to enter the Thompson center’s iconic atrium.

But together these facilities are part of the story of an always evolving city, the economic center of a state and region that could again be entirely different by midnight on July 30, 2071.

THE COST RAMIFICATIONS OF DETENTION: Refusing to let people accused of violent crimes buy their way out of pretrial detention is a signature accomplishment of Gov. JB Pritzker and Democrats in the General Assembly.

It’s also not cheap. County officials throughout Illinois this spring discussed the anticipated implementation of the end of cash bail. In addition to losing revenue from the current system, under which governments collect millions from those facing criminal charges and jail those who can’t pay, the new rules will require more work in evaluating threats and flight risks.

Whether that means counties keep more people in or let more people out, there are cost ramifications on the detention and monitoring sides. It’s also fair to predict time and expense dealing with litigation from criminal defense attorneys who challenge prosecutorial recommendations and judicial decisions under the new guidelines. There will perhaps be an increase in the number of proceedings for people accused of violating the terms of their temporary release.

Without canvassing all 102 counties, it’s safe to say hurdles will be higher in jurisdictions that haven’t been able to plan ahead financially as well as those experiencing conflict between law enforcement, state’s attorney’s offices and judicial staff. County boards under Republican control are more likely to seize on the political football nature of the change, which has been an issue in statewide campaigns since at least January 2021.

Your county board members should be discussing this change. If not, ask them why.

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

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

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