Just visit local Facebook pages, and you’ll see people throwing potshots at Kankakee. Many of the insults come from people in towns such as Bourbonnais and Bradley, their comments oozing of superiority.
So, it’s understandable Kankakee residents are on guard about possible bias against the city.
Our recent headlines about Yisel Guadalupe Perez Varela, now 19, who is in jail on drug charges, angered some readers. Our most recent headline was “More time in jail for KHS grad.”
Kankakee resident Andrea Jackson wrote a letter to the editor criticizing the headline. Others expressed similar misgivings.
“As a proud member of this community, I find it quite disturbing the bias shown against KHS [Kankakee High School]. Most people arrested in this area are grads from all the area schools,” Jackson wrote in her letter. “This is the second article about this young lady where the main title includes ‘KHS grad.’”
We referred to Varela’s high school because that fact was probably her most distinguishing feature. She graduated just two months before her arrest. The headline wasn’t meant as a dig at Kankakee High.
The reason we’re covering this relatively minor drug case is some unusual facts. For starters, Varela’s then-boyfriend wrote long messages on Facebook taking blame for the crime, yet police have not charged him.
According to police, Varela opened a package containing 2 pounds of methamphetamine and 7 pounds of marijuana. This is a delivery her boyfriend claims to have arranged.
Varela has been sitting in jail for more than a year, even though she is accused of a nonviolent crime and has no criminal record. It’s because she and her family cannot come up with the $50,000 for her release.
Varela’s next hearing is in early September. If her sentence ends up being for the time she already served in jail, one must wonder if she would have been locked up so long if she were wealthier. This is hard to determine because statistics on outcomes of cases are hard to come by. If they were available, we would have a greater idea about how our justice system is working.
In last week’s column, I questioned the reasoning behind a bill in the state legislature that proposes splitting off Chicago from the rest of the state. The proponents argued Chicago has controlled the state government for far too long.
But this makes little sense. Chicago makes up just 21 percent of the state’s population. How can 21 percent prevail repeatedly over the 79 percent? The only way is the big city must have enough legislative allies in the proposed Everything-But-Chicago State.
Some Facebook commenters seemingly missed the point.
“Cook County votes the same as the city of Chicago,” one man wrote. “Of course, one city isn’t going to control the state, but Cook County sure does. Cook County makes up one-half of the population of Illinois.”
You might have a case if you’re talking about Cook County, but the bill refers to Chicago, not Cook County. And the assertion Cook County makes up one-half of the state is wrong. The actual percentage is 41.
Previous versions of the legislation included all of Cook County, but not this one.
Much in life is guided by money. If all of Cook County’s wealthy suburbs were included in the separated state, that would be a big loss monetarily for everyone else — perhaps the reason only Chicago is cut out.
On Facebook, some readers took us to task last week for focusing on the Kankakee County Democratic Party’s controversial post comparing Ku Klux Klan hoods to Make America Great Again caps, while giving little attention to a state GOP comment calling four congresswomen of color the “Jihad Squad.”
As a newspaper, our top goal is covering Kankakee County, USA. And that’s why most of our coverage was of the Democratic controversy, although we noted the Republican issue as well.