Pritzker de­clares “red alert” in south sub­urbs, ad­mits “mis­take” in Metro East ap­proach.

Build­ings burn while a Black man shot by po­lice lies par­a­lyzed

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@suntimes.com | @mitchtrout

Gov. J.B. Pritzker de­clared a “red alert” Tues­day for Will and Kanka­kee coun­ties while is­su­ing his coro­n­avirus crack­down on the re­gion due to ris­ing COVID-19 test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rates.

And as three state sen­a­tors from the far south sub­ur­ban re­gion slammed what they viewed as an “in­con­sis­tent” state re­sponse, the Demo­cratic gover­nor ac­knowl­edged the lighter re­stric­tions he im­posed a week ear­lier on the sim­i­larly resur­gent down­state Metro East re­gion were a “mis­take.”

“This is a red alert for ev­ery­one who works and lives here, and it de­mands a re­newed ef­fort to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Pritzker said at a news con­fer­ence in Joliet, the seat of Will County.

In­door din­ing and bar ser­vice is banned in Will and Kanka­kee coun­ties be­gin­ning Wed­nes­day, a state “mit­i­ga­tion” ef­fort that’s the re­sult of the re­gion re­port­ing three con­sec­u­tive days with an av­er­age test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate of 8% or higher. Ex­perts use that num­ber to gauge how rapidly the virus is spread­ing.

The Metro East re­gion crossed that thresh­old last week, but lo­cal health of­fi­cials ar­gued against a full in­door din­ing ban, ac­cord­ing to Pritzker. The gover­nor’s health team obliged, in­stead im­pos­ing tighter ca­pac­ity lim­its and short­en­ing hours of oper­a­tion.

“Let me just say it was a mis­take, in my view, ul­ti­mately, to make the ad­just­ment that we made in Re­gion 4 [Metro East],” Pritzker said. “We wanted to lis­ten to them and try to fol­low the sug­ges­tion that they had made . . . . I will read­ily ad­mit that that was not a good idea, and that it ap­pears now that we want to put those mit­i­ga­tions ex­actly in place as we had orig­i­nally in­tended.”

For now, the ini­tial, more le­nient Metro East mit­i­ga­tions are in ef­fect for an­other week, as that re­gion has soared to 9.8% pos­i­tiv­ity.

The south sub­ur­ban re­stric­tions will last for at least two weeks. They’ll be rolled back if the re­gion dips be­low 6.5% — or tight­ened even fur­ther if it’s still over 8%. Will and Kanka­kee are up to 8.4%.

As in Metro East, party buses are banned, and most venues, in­clud­ing casi­nos, have to close by 11 p.m., with ca­pac­i­ties lim­ited to 25%. That doesn’t ap­ply to schools.

Be­fore the gover­nor’s mit­i­ga­tion mea culpa, two Repub­li­can state sen­a­tors had claimed Pritzker “de­cided to place par­ti­san pol­i­tics above sci­ence” with the dis­parate mit­i­ga­tions in the south sub­ur­ban re­gion ver­sus Metro East.

“Why the dou­ble stan­dard? Be­cause Demo­crat elected of­fi­cials from that re­gion pres­sured the gover­nor to change this stance,” GOP state Sens. Sue Rezin and John Cur­ran said in a joint state­ment. Their dis­tricts both in­clude parts of Will County. “Back­room po­lit­i­cal deals should not be how pub­lic health de­ci­sions are made. The same rules should ap­ply to all re­gions, and they should be based on sci­ence, not pol­i­tics.”

Crit­i­cism came from within the gover­nor’s own party, too.

“These in­con­sis­ten­cies in pub­lic pol­icy be­tween sim­i­larly po­si­tioned in­sti­tu­tions place our lo­cal busi­nesses and their em­ploy­ees at a dis­ad­van­tage,” state Sen. Michael Hast­ings, D-Frank­fort, said in an open let­ter to Pritzker. “It is one thing to suf­fer through an ini­tial pan­demic shut­down this spring. A sec­ond shut­down — with no guar­an­teed re­open­ing pe­riod will be dev­as­tat­ing, and some will never re­cover.”

Pritzker said “this is not a po­lit­i­cal choice on my part. I’m not sit­ting around com­ing up with, you know, ‘this num­ber makes the most sense.’ This is truly a re­liance upon the doc­tors and their view of the data that’s com­ing out of each re­gion.”

The statewide test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate ac­tu­ally inched down­ward, to 4.1%, as the Illi­nois De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health an­nounced 1,680 more peo­ple were con­firmed to be car­ry­ing the virus among the lat­est 40,859 tested.

Health of­fi­cials also said COVID-19 killed 29 more Illi­noisans, in­clud­ing a Win­nebago County woman in her 20s. That raises the state death toll to 7,917, among more than 223,000 who have been in­fected since March.

Chicago’s test­ing pos­i­tiv­ity rate in­creased slightly to 5.4%, as the city up­dated its travel quar­an­tine list to re­move Ari­zona and North Carolina. Trav­el­ers ar­riv­ing to Chicago are still or­dered to self-iso­late for two weeks af­ter vis­it­ing any of 19 states con­sid­ered hot spots, now in­clud­ing South Dakota.

As of Mon­day night, 1,549 Illi­nois coro­n­avirus pa­tients were hos­pi­tal­ized.

Mem­bers and sup­port­ers of Iron­work­ers Shop Lo­cal 853 staged a small protest Tues­day out­side a Bedford Park com­pany, com­plain­ing its owner failed to honor a con­tract he agreed to in prin­ci­ple and then fired work­ers in a ruse to bust the union.

They were con­fronted by the owner, John Kot of All Steel Iron Works, who would not ad­dress the sub­stance of their com­plaint but ac­cused the union of be­ing in­ter­ested in dues and of try­ing to con­trol his com­pany. “You guys are im­pos­ing your will on me,” Kot said an­grily, call­ing one pro­tester a so­cial­ist.

Union lead­ers said Kot agreed to ten­ta­tive terms of a three-year con­tract then would not sign the fi­nal ver­sion. In­stead, he laid off mem­bers of the iron­work­ers union in Jan­uary, say­ing he was clos­ing the plant. Remzi Jaos, busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Lo­cal 853, said the Bedford Park site has re­mained open with nonunion hires and is ship­ping prod­ucts to con­struc­tion sites through­out the re­gion.

“I have never seen an em­ployer so dis­re­spect­ful to­ward his work­ers,” said Jaos, who has 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in la­bor ne­go­ti­a­tions. “This guy is com­pletely off the rails.” He said the dis­pute in­volves 10 work­ers who voted to union­ize in 2019.

Jaos said the union has filed griev­ances with the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board, in­clud­ing a charge of fail­ure to bar­gain in good faith, but that the cases have yet to be heard by the fed­eral agency. “He’s ba­si­cally try­ing to bust the union,” Jaos said.

Reached by the Sun-Times be­fore the union rally, Kot de­clined to com­ment.

He told the pro­test­ers the union con­tract pro­vided work­ers lower com­pen­sa­tion than he was pay­ing. Jaos said that wasn’t the case and that the deal pro­vided work­ers health in­sur­ance and pen­sion ben­e­fits for the first time.

The Rev. C.J. Hawk­ing, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the pro-la­bor group Arise Chicago, called Kot’s ac­tions “com­pletely im­moral and de­spi­ca­ble.” Mike Barkowski, a for­mer worker at All Steel who said he was laid off af­ter five years, com­mented, “What he’s do­ing right now is not right.”

Dur­ing an an­gry ex­change about his al­leged fail­ure to live up to a con­tract, Kot told a pro­tester, “You’re gonna have to take that up with your state rep­re­sen­ta­tive.’’ Arise Chicago streamed the en­counter on Face­book.

Two im­ages are seared in our minds: A Black man shot by the Kenosha Po­lice ly­ing on the edge of death or paral­y­sis in a Mil­wau­kee hospi­tal.

Build­ings in Kenosha burn­ing in the night.

The two im­ages are ir­refutably linked, cause and ef­fect im­pos­si­ble to deny, as much as we de­plore the ar­son and vi­o­lence. We are out­raged by the con­fla­gra­tion, but ev­ery bit or more by the spark — an­other dis­turbingly ques­tion­able po­lice shoot­ing of a Black man — that set it off.

We say this be­cause we woke up on Tues­day morn­ing, scanned our Twit­ter feed and were struck by a dis­con­nect. Dozens of peo­ple who ex­pressed fury about the dam­age done to busi­nesses and ve­hi­cles in Kenosha, shar­ing our own view, seemed to have lit­tle to say — cer­tainly noth­ing ap­proach­ing the same level of con­cern — about the shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake.

Need to know more

This ed­i­to­rial page’s own re­sponse to the cri­sis in Kenosha must be­gin with the many ques­tions sur­round­ing that shoot­ing.

What hap­pened be­tween Blake and the po­lice be­fore the brief part of the en­counter that was caught on a cell­phone video that’s since gone vi­ral? What threats or warn­ings were made? Did Blake, who had been charged in July with third­de­gree sex­ual as­sault, have a knife, as some have claimed? If so, where is that knife?

Why were the Kenosha po­lice not wear­ing body cam­eras, which might have recorded the full story of the en­counter?

Clearly, a full and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the shoot­ing can­not hap­pen soon enough, a point we wish Kenosha of­fi­cials had stressed them­selves at any point on Mon­day. In­stead, they es­sen­tially went silent as their town burned again that night.

The video it­self raises other ques­tions, the most ba­sic of which goes like this: Why did the po­lice shoot a man in the back, seven or eight times, who was get­ting into his own car, where his three kids were in the back seat, whether or not there was a knife?

And then there’s this ter­ri­ble ques­tion that must al­ways be asked, whether the per­son in­jured or killed is Laquan McDon­ald, Ge­orge Floyd or Ja­cob Blake:

Would the po­lice have re­acted in just the same way had the sus­pect been white?

Delu­sional think­ing

It’s of­ten said, most re­cently by speak­ers at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion this week, that racism is re­ally not much of a prob­lem in Amer­ica any­more, and po­lice of­fi­cers who cross a line are the few bad ap­ples.

How many more Black men must be­come vic­tims of ex­ces­sive po­lice force — shot, kneed or choked to death — be­fore that delu­sional think­ing is put to rest?

The sad truth is that too many po­lice of­fi­cers in the United States — in big cities like Chicago and smaller towns like Kenosha — are not suf­fi­ciently screened, trained and mon­i­tored to guard against the kind of racial bias, of­ten un­rec­og­nized, that leads to the dis­crim­i­na­tory treat­ment of Black and Brown peo­ple.

The sad truth, as well, is that we ask the po­lice to do too much. We asked them to han­dle un­ruly kids in school, men­tally ill peo­ple sleep­ing un­der viaducts, emo­tion­ally dis­traught teens threat­en­ing sui­cide, hun­gry peo­ple who steal to eat and an­gry cou­ples who could use a mar­riage coun­selor in­stead of a cop.

We send them into the streets with guns and body ar­mor, but not with the body cam­eras that might pro­tect them, as much as any­body else, from false and scur­rilous nar­ra­tives. Body­cams, which Kenosha had balked at buy­ing be­cause of the price, should be stan­dard equip­ment for ev­ery law en­force­ment of­fi­cer in the United States, sub­si­dized by the Jus­tice De­part­ment.

No de­fend­ing vi­o­lence

There is no de­fend­ing the vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion we have wit­nessed in Kenosha this week, and we sup­port Wis­con­sin Gov. Tony Evers’ de­ci­sion to send in the Na­tional Guard. Those who set fires, de­stroy prop­erty and loot should be ar­rested, jailed and charged with felonies. Many of them, we sus­pect, don’t live in Kenosha — a town of just 100,000 res­i­dents, about 11% of whom are African Amer­i­can.

But no­body should con­fuse the provo­ca­teurs of vi­o­lence with the many other pro­test­ers — un­doubt­edly the great ma­jor­ity — who are demon­strat­ing peace­ably, if in right­eous and fright­ful anger, for greater racial jus­tice. That is the Amer­i­can way.

Af­ter the shoot­ing of Laquan McDon­ald, the cen­ter of na­tional protests against po­lice vi­o­lence was Chicago. Af­ter the killing of Ge­orge Floyd, it was Min­ne­ap­o­lis. Now it’s Kenosha, Wis­con­sin.

Who’s next? Where next? Peace and jus­tice go hand in hand.

If Don­ald Trump’s sis­ter is right that he “has no prin­ci­ples,” he does at least have a few en­dur­ing in­stincts. Per­haps the most per­sis­tent is his con­vic­tion that Amer­i­can great­ness is threat­ened by vol­un­tary eco­nomic ex­change, the most pow­er­ful engine of peace and pros­per­ity in hu­man his­tory.

Each of us has a fun­da­men­tal right to the fruits of our la­bor, which in­cludes the right to ex­change the money we earn for prod­ucts and ser­vices. When gov­ern­ments re­spect that right, mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial trans­ac­tions re­place in­ter­ac­tions that forcibly trans­fer re­sources from losers to win­ners. The value of those vol­un­tary trans­ac­tions does not de­pend on where buy­ers and sell­ers hap­pen to be lo­cated.

Trump’s re­jec­tion of those prin­ci­ples per­vades the sec­ond-term agenda he un­veiled this week. He prom­ises not only to “cre­ate 10 mil­lion new jobs in 10 months” — which it­self be­trays a ba­sic mis­un­der­stand­ing of the pres­i­dent’s pow­ers and the way a mar­ket econ­omy works — but also to “keep jobs in Amer­ica” through “Made in Amer­ica” tax cred­its and “fair trade deals that pro­tect Amer­i­can jobs.”

Even keep­ing jobs in Amer­ica is not enough to sat­isfy Trump, who also wants to dic­tate who can fill those jobs. He would use im­mi­gra­tion law to “pro­hibit Amer­i­can com­pa­nies from re­plac­ing United States cit­i­zens with lower-cost for­eign work­ers.”

Notwith­stand­ing his re­jec­tion of the “so­cial­ism” he as­cribes to the Democrats, Trump be­lieves the gov­ern­ment must ma­nip­u­late the econ­omy, which means over­rid­ing the choices Amer­i­cans oth­er­wise would make, to en­sure his pre­ferred out­comes, down to de­tails as mun­dane as the lo­ca­tion of air con­di­tioner and wash­ing ma­chine fac­to­ries.

In Trump’s mind, trade is not a right to be re­spected but a process to be man­aged by politi­cians.

Ig­nor­ing the prin­ci­ple of com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage as well as the self-ev­i­dent ben­e­fits of trans­ac­tions that both par­ties freely choose, Trump be­lieves Amer­i­cans should not be us­ing oil, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals or med­i­cal sup­plies pro­duced in other coun­tries. To “end our re­liance on China” and “bring back 1 mil­lion man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs,” he would pro­vide tax ben­e­fits to com­pa­nies that “bring back jobs from China” and deny fed­eral con­tracts to busi­nesses that “out­source to China.”

Trump’s ob­ses­sion with stop­ping Amer­i­cans from buy­ing Chi­nese goods is at odds not only with his party’s for­mer sup­port of free trade but also with its avowed re­sis­tance to tax in­creases. Tak­ing into ac­count re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs as well as the taxes Trump im­posed di­rectly, his trade war with China is cost­ing Amer­i­can con­sumers an es­ti­mated $57 bil­lion a year, on top of the costs borne by U.S. farm­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers caught in the cross­fire.

In con­trast with his po­si­tions on, say, abor­tion or gun rights, Trump’s beef against free trade is long­stand­ing and seem­ingly sin­cere. No mat­ter what pointy-headed econ­o­mists say, he knows in his gut that money spent on for­eign goods is wasted, and that some­thing ne­far­i­ous is go­ing on when­ever im­ports from a par­tic­u­lar coun­try hap­pen to ex­ceed ex­ports.

“You only have to look at our trade deficit to see that we are be­ing taken to the clean­ers by our trad­ing part­ners,” Trump wrote two decades ago in a book that likened peace­ful eco­nomic ex­change to war­fare.

When Trump ran for pres­i­dent in 2016, the Repub­li­can plat­form like­wise be­moaned “mas­sive trade deficits,” even while pay­ing lip ser­vice to “open mar­kets.” This year, the party de­cided to forgo a plat­form, say­ing it stands for what­ever Trump has in mind.

What­ever that is, we can be pretty sure it will ig­nore a wise warn­ing from the 2016 GOP plat­form.

“We are the party of a grow­ing econ­omy that gives ev­ery­one a chance in life, an op­por­tu­nity to learn, work, and re­al­ize the pros­per­ity free­dom makes pos­si­ble,” the Repub­li­cans said then. “Gov­ern­ment can­not cre­ate pros­per­ity, though gov­ern­ment can limit or de­stroy it.”

FILE

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

AN­THONY VAZQUEZ/SUN-TIMES PHO­TOS

John Kot, owner of All Steel Iron Works in Bedford Park, ar­gues with pro­test­ers Tues­day who ac­cused him of un­justly lay­ing off work­ers to bust their union.

Mike Barkowski says he was laid off from All Steel Iron Works af­ter five years.

SCOTT OL­SON/GETTY IM­AGES

A flag flies in front of a De­part­ment of Correction­s build­ing in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, that was set ablaze Mon­day.

SU­SAN WALSH/AP FILES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump shakes hands with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in June 2019.

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