Mac on Sports
Godfrey Leaves Warrensburg for Raiders
By J. Thomas McNamara
Scott Godfrey is leaving Warrensburg-Latham after five seasons as its football head coach.
Godfrey has accepted the Bloomington head coaching position pending board approval there Feb.28.
He has coached the Cardinals to back-to-back playoff appearances the last year two years, including the quarterfinals two years ago when his alma mater St. Teresa ousted them.
I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Mac on Sports
Graham New Panthers Grid Coach
By J. Thomas McNamara
Curtis Graham, who has coached two years at St. Louis Normandy high school and who comes out of the powerful East St. Louis Flyers football program, is the new Eisenhower football head coach after the school board approved him at tonight's meeting.
Graham left the East St. Louis program in 2016 to take over the Normandy football program that had not won a game since 2014 and won in his first season there.
A 1993 East St. Louis graduate, Graham played for legendary coach Bob Shannon. He returned to his alma mater and coached the lower levels for Darren Sunkett from 2008 through 2015. Graham won a state title as a player in 1991 and was on staff in 2008 when the Flyers won again. He said in his nine seasons with the East St. Louis freshmen team the Flyers were undefeated five times.
With that in mind, Graham's first order of business is to change a program's culture. At Normandy, he put up pictures in the locker room of players he's coached that are off at college, playing football and chasing degrees. It's his way of selling his program that he knows what he's doing and he can help them reach their goals.
"You want to go to college you have to put in work," Graham said. "Now, they know what they can do with work."
Graham succeeds Drew Wagers, who resigned at the end of the 2017 season and whose Panthers had a disappointing season after back-to-back playoff seasons, including the quarterfinal round in 2016.
About Graham's appointment and the committee's recommendation, Eisenhower Athletic Director Steve Thompson said, "From the initial phases of the search, it was evident that Coach Graham had the qualities that we were looking for. He possesses great work ethic and determination.
"That is evident in the number of years he served as an assistant coach at East St. Louis before finally getting a shot to take over his own program at Normandy," wrote Thompson after Graham had been approved by the board tonight (Tuesday). "His knowledge and enthusiasm, combined with his discipline, is evident the moment you speak with Coach Graham.
"There is also instant credibility, just looking at the ring on his finger. As coaches, we all know just how hard it truly is to earn a state championship. Coach Graham knows firsthand just how much work goes into successful football programs. We are excited to bring him and to see where he can take our football program," concluded Thompson about the Panthers new football head coach.
There will be a 12 noon Friday "Meet and Greet" session with the new Panthers head coach in the Eisenhower auditorium.
Lori Kerans Is Retiring As Millikin Women’s Basketball Coach
By J. Thomas McNamara
Tribune Sports Editor
Lori Kerans is retiring from the only position she's ever had since graduating from the university that educated her and allowed her to play the game of college basketball for the Millikin Big Blue women. She retires knowing she leaves the legacy of being the first woman to ever coach and play in the NCAA tournament.
After 32 years of coaching the Big Blue women, Kerans decided it is time to hang up her whistle and stop roaming courtsides throughout the Midwest as a member of one of the toughest Division III women's conferences in all of basketball.
She's excited about the new opportunity the university and President Dr. Patrick White is giving her to work with alumni and the Decatur community in continuing the Millikin brand within the city, Macon County and all of Central Illinois. She stressed this was her decision and she was excited to make at this stage in her life, admitting she started thinking about retiring back in November before this season even started.
But she isn't walking off into the sunset as she will continue to be highly visible in the community and at Millikin alumni events in her new role of serving as a university Goodwill Ambassador if you will.
"For 32 years, Lori Kerans has been the embodiment of what we value at Millikin University. The impact she has made in Decatur and Macon County, and her passion to help students succeed on the court and in the classroom has made a lasting mark on the Millikin community," said Millikin President Dr. Patrick White.
"In addition to her achievements on the basketball court, many students have had the privilege to learn from her teachings throughout her coaching career, and she will continue to make a positive difference in people's lives in the local community and beyond. We look forward to her new role at Millikin," concluded President White's comments on Kerans' retirement as the lady Big Blue basketball coach.
Athletic Director Dr. Craig White opined, "Coach Kerans has meant a great deal to Big Blue athletics during her 32 years of coaching. She and the women's basketball program have had many great accomplishments over the years, including winning Millikin's only national championship. I understand and support her decision to take on a new position.."
Check out this week's print edition of the Decatur Tribune where we will have a lot more on the retirement of Coach Lori Kerans
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Senator Rose Files Bill To Make Some Tinted Vehicle Windows Illegal
State Senator Chapin Rose (51st District) called to let me know that he had filed SB2554 which “amends the Illinois Vehicle Code. It removes the non-medical exceptions to the provision requiring that no window treatment or tinting shall be applied to the windows that are immediately adjacent to each side of the driver.”
Translation: Unless there is a medical reason for those windows to be tinted, if the bill becomes law, it will be illegal to have the vehicle windows tinted that are “immediately adjacent to each side of the driver.”
I have been harping for years about the dangers to law enforcement officers who approach such vehicles and do not have the ability to see through heavily tinted windows.
The driver of the vehicle could have a gun pointed at the head of the officer and the officer would not even know it.
It’s also dangerous for pedestrians to try to look at a driver’s face to see if he or she sees them, before walking across an intersection. I’ve experienced that many time when walking downtown. I have the “Walk” light but I’m not sure a driver making a right turn is going to stop because I can’t see inside the car to see if he sees me.
Unless a person has a medical clearance because of a need for tinted windows, I can only conclude a vehicle owner has the heavy window tint because something is going on in the vehicle that he doesn’t want the public to see. (That statement should bring some angry mail.)
City councilman Pat McDaniel has also been an advocate of making tinted vehicle windows illegal.
Rose told me, “Maybe your name and Councilman McDaniel’s name should be listed as co-sponsors of the bill.”
I don’t know if the bill will meet with success but why in the world would any elected member of the Illinois General Assembly vote against it and continue putting law enforcement officials, and pedestrians at risk?
• LAST WEEK’s column about the possible legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois brought several reactions.
Jim Schultz sent me an email stating: “The legalization of recreational marijuana is a sin that would come back to haunt us; I even question the justification of medical marijuana; or at least the way it is marketed. I would challenge the Tribune to publish definitive statements regarding this issue from our current representatives to Springfield; and all of those who are running for those offices. It is a game changer for me.”
That’s not a bad idea. I think our elected representatives and those running for those offices in the Illinois General Assembly should tell us how they will vote if it is called for a vote.
• CITY Councilman Pat Mc-Daniel called me after my regular appearance on Byers & Co. Thursday morning and said those who believe that he will automatically vote to keep funding for the Decatur Municipal Band the same because of his allegiance to supporting the band, are wrong.
Presently, the council is considering whether to modify or eliminate its funding for several organizations, including the Decatur Celebration, CONO, Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Decatur Municipal Band.
McDaniel told me that, not only will he consider modifying or cutting the band the same as all the other organizations listed, the band wasn’t even on the list until he said it should be along with the rest of them.
“It wouldn’t even be on the list unless I had pointed out it should receive the same scrutiny as all the others,” he said.
The city council will likely have a study session at its next meeting Feb. 20 on the city’s contributions to each organization.
Considering how much the funding means to each organization, I would expect the council meeting to attract a sizeable number of speakers and other citizens to lend support to their particular organization.
The city council is currently trying to find ways to save money because of the deficit budget it approved.
• EARLY VOTING -- Macon County Clerk Steve Bean reported last week that, on the first day of early voting, 63 voters cast their ballots in Macon County.
Bean also reported that 52 voters cast Democratic ballots and 12 cast Republican ballots.
Bean also wanted to remind people that early voting continues with his office open Monday through Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM including county holidays.
Whether it is early voting or voting when the polls open on Primary Election day, March 20th, make sure you make a special effort to cast your ballot for the candidates of your choice.
Personally, I prefer to vote on election day because a lot can happen in a campaign between the time a person votes early and five or six weeks later on election day...but that’s just me.
• IT SEEMS the campaign pace is starting to pick up a little with fundraisers, a few forums and some advertising in some of the media.
The “letters to the editor” are starting to trickle in and will increase each week between now and March 20.
This year’s campaigns for all of the offices really got off to a slow start, despite the fact that there will be a new person elected in the 101st District (Rep. Mitchell is retiring), a new person will be elected to take over Macon County Clerk’s Steve Bean’s position (Steve is also retiring) and we’ll have a new sheriff regardless of which candidate wins.
But, we have to get through the primary on March 20 (that will be here before you know it) and then move on to the General Election.
‘Sin Tax’ Revenue From Legalizing Marijuana Is Why Some Illinois Lawmakers Are Working To Get Approval
More “sin tax” may be on the way!
Last year, Illinois State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) introduced legislation in both General Assembly chambers to legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults in the state.
According to reports at the time, Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353 would legalize the possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana and allow facilities to sell marijuana products for adults over 21 and tax those sales "in a manner similar to alcohol."
Steans also said the taxes collected from legal marijuana sales would help plug holes in the state budget.
If you believe the taxes collected from legalizing marijuana is going to plug any hole in the state’s woeful financial crisis, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you and some oceanfront property in Arizona, as well.
As both houses in the General Assembly move closer to a vote that could result in additional “sin tax” revenue, this scenario is being played out in cities and states across the country
Desperate government bodies are attempting to grab revenue from any source -- even to approving something that is harmful to many of their residents.
Who would have ever thought that we would have video gambling in places all over Decatur to the extent that we do today?
It seems to me that places of video gambling (the more socially-acceptable word is “gaming”) are everywhere I look.
Some of the business owners who have embraced video gambling contend that, without it, they would have to close their doors, because they would not be generating enough revenue.
Of course, video gambling, which was approved a few years ago by the majority of the city council, is generating a substantial sum of revenue for the City of Decatur coffers, too -- and has now become an important and permanent part of the city’s budget.
Now, we have some local officials who want to find a way to help those with a gambling addiction, which includes video gambling.
Hmm. Isn’t that about like inviting overeaters anonymous members to your home for a meeting to discuss how they can handle the temptation of eating too much -- and loading the dining room table with every fat-filled form of food in existence?
• DANGEROUS -- Narconon recently released an item which contained “Specific Damages Associated with Marijuana Use”.
Here, in part, is what Narconon has found in looking at the dangers of marijuana use:
“Dangers in the immediate effects of marijuana include distortions of time and space perceptions and impaired coordination, all of which may be contributing to the increased risk of traffic accidents recently discovered.
“Particularly important for students to know about is the creation of difficulty thinking or problem solving and impairment of memory and learning. These difficulties can last for as long as four weeks after drug use.
“Chronic marijuana use and higher dosages are found to correlate to greater incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia. This point is particularly significant due to the increases in drug potency over the last two decades. While the average potency has risen from 3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol - the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana) a couple of decades ago to 9% now, there are some samples of weed that measure as high as 25%. These premium strains are normally grown hydroponically, are often smuggled in from Canada and demand a higher price than commercial-grade marijuana from Mexico.
“Heavy abusers of marijuana were found to suffer damage to social life, work or career status and cognitive ability. Schoolwork and the achievement of goals were also found to suffer.
“But proponents of legalization, decriminalization or medicalization of marijuana do not make this clear to America’s young people so they can make informed choices. By ranking marijuana in with medical treatments, the clear implication is that the drug is harmless.”
• ADDICTION -- City Councilman Patrick McDaniel has issued a statement regarding help for gambling addicts in Decatur: “As far as the City of Decatur, either funding city gambling addiction clinics or financially supporting other such local clinics/organizations the financial responsibly for that job should be with the state government not city governments.
“State-funded and private Illinois organizations are already available for those citizens who believe they have a gambling problem and where they can go to get help with that problem.”
• GOOD MOVE -- City Manager Tim Gleason presented several preliminary options in ideas to save money to the city council Monday evening.
I like the way he has so many options on the table for council to consider -- and a few, such as moving the city offices to the top floor of the library building to save money, are bold.
The city paid $420,000 in rent to the civic center last year and it owns the public library building where there would be no rent.
Gleason is looking at every conceiveable way to save money.
As far as the city’s contributions to several local organizations, I think the first requirement of consideration would be a detailed financial statement from each organization to verify the need -- and not just general figures that don’t give an accurate view of the need for city support.
The city has already received reports from about all of the groups..
Also, those organizations that generate a lot of revenue for the city would not be the ones to defund.
That doesn’t make any sense -- at least in my opinion.
Keep the money generators to maintain the revenue that is far more than what the city contributes.
Sheriff’s Race Is Unusual Due To Circumstances, Three High-Ranking Candidates Involved
The race for Macon County Sheriff is unusual because three high ranking members of the office are seeking election: Lt. Antonio Brown, Lt. Jon Butts and Lt. Jim Root.
I can’t remember a time when three high-ranking members in the sheriff’s office were involved in seeking the top job.
Usually, the race is between an incumbent sheriff and a challenger -- if there is a challenger.
Former Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider stepped down from the office in September and Howard Buffett, former undersheriff, was named as sheriff to serve until a new sheriff is elected in the November General Election.
Usually, when the sheriff retires from office early, the person appointed to fill his shoes has the advantage of serving in office before the next election which gives him an advantage over any challenger.
That didn’t happen when Schneider retired from office. He selected Buffett to fill the remainder of his term and Buffett has no interest in running for election to the office.
That means none of the three high-ranking candidates has the advantage of already serving as sheriff.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Buffett is using his time serving in office in making needed improvements in physical aspects of the office and there’s not much doubt that the candidate who is elected sheriff will inherit the result of a lot of those positive changes that needed to be made in the office.
Jim Root is the only Republican candidate so he has already won his right to advance to the General Election in November, where he will face the winner of the Democratic Primary on March 20 between Brown and Butts.
• FUNDS -- Let’s face it, it’s expensive to run for office, especially high profile offices like sheriff.
When the candidates’ D-2 Quarterly Reports were filed recently, Root had $3,793.66 in funds available at the close of the reporting period.
That’s not a lot, considering the office, but, as I mentioned, he also doesn’t have an opponent in the March 20 Primary so, unlike the two Democratic candidates, he doesn’t have to spend as much at this stage of the election cycle.
Antonio Brown raised $17,565.00 during the last quarter, which ended Dec. 31, 2017, and closed the year with $19,185.62 in funds available.
Jon Butts raised a little less than half that amount during the quarter ($8,008.07) and had $4,109.92 in funds available at the end of the quarter.
Obviously, with less than two months before the Primary, Brown’s campaign is in the best shape in terms of money to spend on advertising in the home stretch between now and March 20.
However, there are other factors to consider in this race.
When he left office, Sheriff Schneider, indicated that he would not endorse one of the three candidates over the others, so, at least publicly, the former sheriff will not say which candidate will get his vote.
Unless something changes, I don’t see Sheriff Buffett making a public endorsement, although he’s had, and will have, over a year leading the department to observe the abilities of each candidate while he is sheriff -- and of course, he’s known the three men during the years he has served the department as undersheriff and in other capacities.
I believe the community is fortunate to have three qualified, experienced candidates running for the office, which will shrink to two following the Primary Election.
The winner of the Democratic Primary and the General Election will be the one that people know through personal experiences with them -- and convincing arguments about why they should be elected to the sheriff’s office.
The differences between the three candidates are going to be hard for the voting public to determine and that’s why this election will be more about the candidate as a person instead of an experienced member of the sheriff’s office.
I expect a very positive campaign from the three candidates between now and March 20.
People are tired of negative campaigns (I know I am), plus, in the case of the race for sheriff, it would be out of character for the three candidates to be anything other than positive -- running on their experience, qualifications and reputation in Macon County and beyond.
The real question in this campaign is not which candidate is fit to be sheriff, because they all are, but which candidate is the “best fit”.
• KUDOS -- Illini Township Precinct Committeeman Bob Kimmons sent me the following note: “Kudos, and many thanks to the Illini Township Republicans who may have turned a new record in our county's get-out-to-vote campaign.
“In the Nov., 2016, General Election, not only did 276 of the 285 Registered Republicans (97%) vote but an impressive 56% turned out in the last primary.
“With another primary coming up March 20th, you’re reminded that early voting starts on February 8th. Illini Township Republicans have set the bar pretty high. Let’s see if any other precinct can come close.”
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY. Visit our website at decaturtribune.net or decaturtribune.com
Central Park Fountain in Downtown Decatur