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Graham Peck: Douglas had big impact on slavery pre-Civil War

April 23 marks the 201st birthday of Stephen A. Douglas, most famous for his debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858 but more significant historically for the broader role he played in American politics during the 1850s, one of the most portentous decades in the nation’s …

Reeder: An overdue rejection of a really bad law

The Illinois Supreme Court hit the erase button last month on the state’s eavesdropping law. It was a smart decision on a very bad law. Millions of Illinoisans carry cellphones that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice to record just about anything. It’s …

Earl Thomas: Addressing the reading crisis of black boys

Recently, the Black Star Project published that only 10 percent of eighth-grade black boys in America are proficient in reading, and the figure was 9 percent for black boys living in Chicago. Even more shocking is that there is no large-scale plan by cities or …

McGrath: Beware, you’re entering Florida

As thousands of students from Illinois colleges head south on spring break, a larger number may opt for places other than Florida, traditionally the No. 1 destination for beaches and beer. That’s because Florida’s recent worldwide notoriety for gun violence may give pause to kids …

Russia protects strategic interests in Crimea

While examining the Ukraine crisis, I would prefer that nation-states act in the global interest and not in their national interest. Yet it is essential to note that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s desire to prevent the loss of Crimea within his sphere of influence …

Illinois’ tax burden driving away the affluent

One of my favorite books is John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” In that epic tome, farmers from across Oklahoma load up all of their earthy goods on to Model Ts and flee the Dust Bowl for California in the midst of the Great Depression. …

Higher tax not much help for state’s finances

In 2011, the state of Illinois began snatching away an extra week’s worth of our pay. At the time, we were assured of two things — the income tax increase from 3 percent to 5 percent was necessary, and it would be temporary, with a …

Reeder: Here’s hoping proposed pop tax goes flat

The latest taxation plan in Springfield is more than a bit hard to swallow. State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, has introduced legislation that would allow the state to start taxing soda pop at a rate of 1 cent per ounce. That would jack up the …

Shapiro: Political leadership is harder than it looks

In a Jan. 5 column, I explained why the so-called political “mess” in Washington, D.C., actually demonstrated the success of James Madison’s structural antidote to factionalism. Narrow-minded partisanship necessarily fails in a country the size of America, eventually giving way to political compromise and moderation. …

Reeder: State’s silly stance causes store to close

Susan Clause is no quitter. For 16 years, she and her husband, Stephen Briggs, have owned and operated a teacher supply store, Ergadoo, in Springfield. They love their business and it’s making money, but they are shutting it down this week. Why? They say the …

McGrath: Valentine’s Day: Lessons in friendship

Remember passing out Valentine’s Day cards to all the kids in class? I always tried to find one with the laughing face of a cartoon dog to give to Bob Remiasz, who was also my next-door neighbor. That’s because Bob had been my daily companion …

Reeder: Monsters not only in a child’s imagination

The phone call came the other day as I drove to work. A tired, sad voice said, “Scott, there’s going to be another murder trial.” My shoulders sagged. My 3-year-old daughter fidgeted in the back seat. And my mind suddenly was remembering a night of …

Shaw: Sometimes government gets it right

One of the questions I fielded most often when I joined the Better Government Association in 2009 was this one: Why don’t you highlight more examples of good government — public officials and agencies that deliver services honestly, transparently and efficiently? My answer was: We …

Reeder: Beware of ‘progressive’ income tax for Illinois

Hang on to your pocketbooks, the politicians are getting restless. They want more of your money. Never mind that the Illinois Legislature jacked up your state income tax with a temporary increase from 3 percent to 5 percent three years ago. At least the bulk …

Shaw: A campaign to trim Illinois’ government fat

It’s “show time” again in Springfield, and what a difference a couple of months can make. The unexpected success of the fall veto session and the politics of an election year offer genuine hope for a productive 2014. In December, lawmakers passed a major pension …

McGrath: Writing from memory sometimes is easy

A reader asked how I could remember dialogue from 50 years ago, referring to a column from August about a long-ago family vacation on Saddle Lake in Michigan in which I included quotations from two friends. Hers was an excellent question because, obviously, I did …