Sunday, May 12, 2013

Credibility and Reason: A Suggestion for the Tribune Editorial Board

Response by Representative Lou Lang to Tribune’s Call to Ignore Unconstitutional Aspects of “Pension Reform”
“It's about time that the Chicago Tribune's editorial board stop treating the Illinois Constitution like yesterday's newspaper.
For years the editorial page has loudly bellowed for and against Illinois pension proposals and petulantly insulted and denigrated lawmakers who dare to defy the editorial page's blithe disregard for the state Constitution.
The latest example was a May 6 editorial's shrill assault on 53 members of the Illinois House of Representatives who voted against a pension reform proposal sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, charging that by exercising their function of office to vote "no" on a bill, they are "The do-nothing caucus."
Unlike members of the Tribune editorial board, each member of the Illinois General Assembly swears an oath to uphold the Constitution of Illinois. That solemn obligation demands responsible behavior on the part of lawmakers when it comes to drafting and voting on legislation.
As a lawyer and a 25-year veteran of the Illinois House, I have had more than a few occasions to draft laws and vote on bills, and the first question that gets raised on any piece of legislation is: Is it constitutional?
There are more than a few lawyers in the legislature. And it may surprise you, but lawyers do occasionally disagree. There has been intense and endless debate and discussion among lawyer-lawmakers and lawmakers who are not lawyers in legislative caucuses, town halls, committee hearings, floor debate and private meetings with constituents on pension reform policy.
At the heart of these public and private debates — unlike, apparently, in the Tribune editorial boardroom — has been the constitutionality of any given policy proposal. Lawmakers, at least, have worked to understand the financial, human and constitutional impact of each proposal. We must. It's our job. It's our constitutional obligation.
To assert that lawmakers who voted against Senate Bill 1 are part of a "do-nothing caucus" is as outrageous as it is ignorant of the constitutional dimension of the legislation, and ignorant of lawmakers' mandate to consider the Illinois Constitution when voting on legislation. Some would consider the plain words of our Constitution at least as important as our critical need to reform Illinois' pension system.
Editorial Board Score?
The assertion that lawmakers who chose to vote "no" on the Madigan bill have somehow avoided their duty or have inserted themselves into the pockets of organized labor is slanderous and insulting to the integrity of 53 members of the House who believe we need a pension bill that is fair, credible and constitutional. We may have wide disagreement on these issues, but that hardly rises to the level of "do nothing."
While the Tribune editorial board may elect to write nonsense while ignoring the Illinois Constitution and to insult the integrity of legislators, lawmakers are elected to do the hard work of voting for bills they consider constitutionally worthy.
Unless the Tribune reverts to its rich tradition of responsible, respectful and thoughtful journalism, its influence on Illinois public policy will continue to erode further and its opinions will be as useful as yesterday's news.”
Reprinted by permission of Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, deputy majority leader of the Illinois House.


  1. An amazing piece! Rep. Lang deserves a lot of praise for his courage in standing up to his boss!

  2. Good for you, Rep. Lang! Although it hasn't been sold yet, I'm afraid the Tribune has already shown its allegiance to the Koch Brothers and their attempts to destroy democracy in the name of conservative politics, spelled G-R-E-E-D.

  3. I am an NIU employee as well as a conservative who says, "You go, Guy!!!" This was exceedingly well-reasoned and well written. Thank you, Rep. Lang.

  4. Thank you Representative Lang for standing up for the rule of law. And thank you for standing up for the importance of the oath a legislator takes to uphold the Illinois Constitution. Without the rule of law, no citizen would be secure. The state would be functioning in chaos.

  5. Rep. Lang,

    Thank you for the courage you have shown in writing this response in regard's to the Tribune's support in trashing parts of the Illinois Constitution. Your comments makes it very clear that we can not pick and choose only those parts of our Illinois Constitution which meet our own special needs or in this case the needs of politicians and the Chicago Tribune. By ignoring the rule of law and the Illinois Constitution, the message being conveyed to the citizens of this state is that the rule of law and the Illinois Constitution is no longer of value in guaranteeing the protection of the rights of all Illinois citizens.

    I think as a reader of the Chicago Tribune over these several years, the Chicago Tribune has lost credibility in using the highest standards of journalism in its coverage of the news. Coverage of the pensions is a good example.

    So thanks again for the comments. It is encouraging to know that we still have some elected officials who are guided by high moral values and by their oath to defend and protect the state's constitution.

  6. The citizens of Chicago deserve a newspaper worthy of respect. Unfortunately, we are saddled with the Tribune. As you know, Rep Lang, the agenda of the editorial board vis-a-vis pensions is no secret. So I am grateful that you took the board to task for its "shrill assault" on those representatives who stood up to Mr. Madigan. Thank you. Merle Taber

  7. It amazes me that a legislator who swears to uphold the constitution was insulted by the Tribune for doing so while those legislators who ignored it and played games with the lives of retirees were praised.
    If there had been a few more legislators who upheld their oaths of office to uphold the constitution, the revenue problem disguised as a pension problem would have been properly addressed.
    Thank you, Representative Lang.
    Ken Previti

    1. The Chicago Sun Times editorial board did the same thing. They applauded all the legislators who voted for the previous Madigan pension legislation. They even named all the legislators who supported Madigsn.

  8. Thanks to Rep. Lang. It is time someone stood up to Michael Madigan. I always believed The Chicago Tribune to be a totally conservative, bigoted newspaper. I stopped getting it a long time ago. I can't believe they, too, have knuckled under to the King of Illinois.

  9. Thank you Rep. Lang for your courageous words.

  10. If I lived in your district, Representative Lang, or you lived in mine, you'd have my vote. And if no true Democrat opposes Quinn, I'll quite possibly be voting Republican for the first time. Thank you, Representative Lang!

  11. Representative Lang, your response to the Chicago Tribune is an example of exemplary citizenship! Excellent!