Build Lucas Museum here — next to parkland

SHARE Build Lucas Museum here — next to parkland

This file artist rendering released Sept. 17, 2015, by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the proposed museum in Chicago. (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP, File)

Reportedly George Lucas is eyeing a museum site on remote Treasure Island in the East Bay

between Oakland and San Francisco [City Beat, Sun-Times, May 16].

So what makes that location, historically a barren U.S. Navy base, bereft of other amenities, preferable to, say, the old Michael Reese Hospital site one minute’s driving time farther south on

Lake Shore Drive from the parkland sites he coveted?

SEND LETTERS TO: Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

If this is anything more than a ploy in the ongoing game of “I’ll take it elsewhere if I don’t

get my way!”, chalk it up to a billionaire’s petulance, notwithstanding his generosity in putting

up more than $700 million of his own money to build it.

Yes, it would lure tourists, but at a price of caving to commercial interests that Chicagoans have been unwilling to pay ever since development on park land was first prohibited. It’s already a travesty that the Obama Library is to be built on parkland, thanks to some slick political maneuvering enabling it.

Build it here, Mr. Lucas. We’d love to have it. Adjacent to, but not on, park land, which is our local treasure.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Time to take action

Families across Illinois have big dreams for their children, and those dreams depend on a quality education. Sadly, under our current school funding system, students in poorer areas simply don’t get the resources they need to thrive. Some districts in Illinois spend as little as $6,000 per student while others are spending nearly $30,000 per student. Worse still, while it costs more to educate students living in poverty, the state of Illinois spends less on poor students. In fact, year after year Illinois earns the dubious distinction of having the most inequitable education funding system in the nation.

To be clear, this doesn’t just impact a large city like Chicago — it also impacts suburban, rural and downstate schools in Democratic and Republican areas alike. This is a statewide crisis, and the time has come for us to take action.

The good news is that last week, the Better Funding for Better Schools Act (Senate Bill 231) passed out of the Illinois Senate with a bipartisan vote and is moving on to the Illinois House. I applaud the 31 senators who voted yes to fix our badly broken funding formula. SB231 presents a rare opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats in Springfield to work together to support every child in Illinois. Fair funding and quality schools for our most vulnerable children is not and should not be a partisan issue. The bill is the result of years of research and conversation among education stakeholders and elected officials across the state, and it reflects the core principles that should drive school funding reform — ensuring equity and driving the resources to students with the greatest need. Indeed, the central purpose of state education dollars is to level the playing field and ensure all students are equipped to succeed after graduation.

The Better Funding for Better Schools Act creates a real opportunity for Illinois to turn the page on unfair funding and invest in quality education for all students.

The time for action is now. While school funding is a complex issue, after years of study, testimony, and discussion, we know the current system is failing our students, and we know that SB231 offers a comprehensive solution that reflects not only national research and best practice, but stakeholder priorities and input. Better Funding for Better Schools treats all districts the same (no more special deals), and drives dollars to students who need them most. We know what needs to be done, we just need the will to do it.

We encourage the Illinois House to join the Senate and pass SB231 now to create an equitable funding system for every child who calls Illinois home. There is simply no piece of legislation more critical to our students’ and state’s future.

John Edwardson, board chair, Advance Illinois

Harsh reality

Lost among the plethora of news coverage of the small percentage of Chicago cops that have been accused of abuse, is the harsh reality of what is really driving the murder rate in Chicago.

When a mother sends her 13-year-old child out on the streets armed with a knife to use in a fight with another girl, what chance does the child have? When a cycle of violence and stupidity is passed down from one generation to the next, what chance does a child have? When poverty and joblessness force people to be away from a home and the kids are left to be raised by the streets, what chance does a child have?

Sadly, the answer is slim to none. Everyone is to blame. Parents, politicians, activists, and whole communities must come together to address the scourge or it will not be addressed at all. But a mom giving her teen daughter a murder weapon and pushing her out the door should be more of a wake-up call to the Black Lives Matter movement than any rogue cop.

Scot Sinclair, Third Lake

Simple reforms

Millions of individuals have criminal records in Illinois. As of 2012, there were more than 6.2 million criminal records for individual offenders on file with the Illinois State Police. Many of these records will show up on background checks when these individuals seek employment. Consequently, these individuals may be denied job opportunities that could help them turn their lives around.

While background checks do help identify individuals who may be unsuitable for the workplace, these assessments fail to distinguish between permanent criminal records and records that can be expunged or sealed. Qualified individuals with expungeable or sealable records would have increased employability if companies updated their hiring policies to reflect this distinction.

The expungement and sealing processes balance the need for public safety with the goal of promoting second chances for people who want to be productive members of society. In Illinois, individuals who have been arrested but never convicted of a crime can apply for expungement, and there are several misdemeanor or low-level felony records that qualify to be sealed. Expunged or sealed records do not appear on basic criminal background checks.

Between 2000 and 2014, there were 229,856 adult expungement and sealing petitions filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Court granted petitions in almost 80 percent of the total number of petitions filed (183,083 cases). The individuals who received this relief have overcome a major hurdle in their job searches.

To raise awareness about expungement and sealing processes, the clerk of court hosts annual expungement summits where qualified individuals may meet with volunteer attorneys and begin the application process. This year’s summit will take place June 4, 2016 at Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois.

It would beneficial if employment screening processes recognize which criminal records are expungeable or sealable. Employers could then make contingent offers of employment to individuals who may qualify for expungement or sealing of their records. The individuals would be required to apply immediately for relief in order to obtain permanent employment. Additionally, the General Assembly should pass a law that exempts employers from negligent hiring claims in cases where they employ individuals with expungeable or sealable criminal records.

Simple reforms that take expungeable and sealable records under consideration can help companies hire the best qualified applicants and, at the same time, promote second chances for individuals who urgently need employment.

Dorothy Brown,

Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

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