July 17, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Is COGFA’s role on prison plans merely ceremonial?

It’s hard to argue with people who say Illinois government is too large.

It’s easier to quibble with the pro-consolidation crowd over which layers are redundant or antiquated, but every so often a story sheds new light on the issue such that almost everyone can land on the same page.

Consider recent Capitol News Illinois coverage of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability as it relates to Gov. JB Pritzker’s intent to demolish and reconstruct two state prisons: Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln and Stateville in Crest Hill.

“Without a quorum, the 12-member panel was unable to take an official vote on the matter within the timeline specified under law for reviewing facility closures,” according to CNI. “But COGFA’s Democratic co-chair, state Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, had told reporters the previous evening that even if absences were not an issue, the Pritzker administration’s current plans for Stateville and Logan are so vague that ‘We don’t really know what we’re voting on.’

“After the meeting Friday, Koehler told reporters the fact that COGFA failed to vote ‘doesn’t really change anything’ – the governor’s office can move forward with a closure regardless. The vote from the bipartisan panel would merely have been a recommendation; some governors have still gone ahead with closures even after the panel has voted to reject those plans.”

As a legislative panel, COGFA does far more than prison recommendations, but this situation makes it fair to question the purpose of assigning it a role that might be little more than political theater. What good are checks and balances if the scale is pre-weighted for a given outcome?

ON THIS DAY: The legend of Chicago’s greatest basketball player cannot be told without an account of his high school coach cutting him from the varsity squad as a sophomore for being too short. But Michael Jordan grew up in North Carolina. George Mikan, the game’s first superstar, didn’t even make the freshman team at Joliet Catholic – because he was too tall.

Mikan, born 100 years ago today in Joliet, eventually learned how to make the most of his 82-inch frame. Legendary DePaul coach Ray Meyer recruited and then developed Mikan into a dominant force on both sides of the floor. He started his pro career with the Chicago American Gears of the National Basketball League. When that franchise folded, he ended up a Minneapolis Laker.

It’s no shock Mikan was in the inaugural basketball hall of fame class, among many other career honors. Pro and college basketball have changed in innumerable ways since Mikan’s midcentury dominance, but sports historians agree the transformation began with the big man who literally elevated the game. For more, visit the NBA’s legends profile at tinyurl.com/NBAmikan.

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

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 sholland@shawmedia.com.