Decatur’s Overwhelming Need Is For Good Jobs

Dear Mr. Osborne,
I am grateful to the citizens of Decatur for allowing me the privilege of serving on the city council. I wish to acknowledge the dedicated service of retiring councilmen Larry Foster and Patrick Laegler.
The overwhelming need of our community is the need for good jobs. Yet, the dominant solution to our budget problems has been to cut, cut and cut. But the longer we delay maintenance, repair and replacement the more expensive the work becomes. We should consider grandma's wisdom: "A stitch in time saves nine."
Recent labor department statistics about Decatur reveal a loss of 600 jobs in construction and professional services; and over 1,500 people have left town. For 8 years recession and austerity have plagued our city. The time has come to abandon conventional wisdom. Instead our leaders must enact bold and innovative plans. Change deserves a chance.
As a councilman I have three jobs to: 1. inform 2. legislate and 3. oversee. I will need a lot of help from my neighbors and friends to get these jobs done. I invite your prayers, advice and counsel.
Finally, this is what I believe: the test for America and for our town is not which side will prevail - conservative or liberal, business or workers. The test is can we come together?  Thank you.

Bill Faber

Keeping An Eagle Eye On Surveillance

Dear Editor:
Recently in the news, was the issue of law enforcement officers wearing body cameras. Any warrantless surveillance cameras and/or audio used in neighborhoods, at red lights, in vehicles, or on persons by law enforcement is an egregious violation of the fourth amendment.
It shifts the burden of proof from innocent until proven guilty - so precious to the right of due process - to the idea that the individual is guilty, until he passes the camera's eye without incident, that is, if the camera is functioning properly and its evidence isn't corrupted in any way.
Meanwhile, in this Orwellian theory, the criminal moves to where the camera's eye isn't, and law abiding citizens have information on them taped, collected, and stored, a direct infringement on their rights. No matter how well intentioned or in the name of being transparent an elected official would have to deny his oath of office to raise fees, tax, accept gifts or donation, or apply for grants - to implement these surveillance programs.
Adding to budget woes would be equipment maintenance, updating, replacement, and storage of information and data collected on citizens which no one seems to know for how long. Another possible budget concern might be litigation for invasion of privacy. There is video already showing up on You Tube from FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests of law enforcement. For instance, imagine an officer wearing a camera while responding to a call at your home after you hear a noise in the middle of the night, video of the lay out of your home, perhaps a child's crib, valuables, or a gun cabinet, etc. collected incidentally as data, turning up for all to view on You Tube including someone who may plan a future home invasion.
Please call the city mayor, council, and chief of police and insist the older police vehicles, as well as the new vehicles recently approved by the council, not contain video or audio, also exclude the police body cameras that could come by the end of the year.
Follow with a call to the Macon County Board chairman and members, tell them not to budget for vehicle and/or body video/audio and their information storage at the Sheriff's Department. Let the sheriff know your concerns.
Finish by reminding your state senator and representative of their oath of office, ask them not to mandate, codify or budget for the above mentioned items even if it appears to help in a few cases, the long term ramifications to society and the rule of law must necessarily be devastating, if this isn't stopped.
America is exceptional because we adhere to the rule of law that protects us from these intrusions of governmental over reach. Other nations that didn't have these foundations and safeguards have ceased to be great or are long forgotten.
Many in our nation's history have paid dearly for our rights. Let's honor and respect the sacrifices of our soldiers and veterans and do everything we can to preserve and retain those freedoms.

Sherry Procarione

Teachers Should Be Role Model For Students

Hi Paul:  
I wanted you to know that I just read your article about a former teacher of yours, a “Miss Screamer”, and as a lifelong school teacher, I appreciated your story.  
The reason that I related to your story is that when I was in First Grade at Roach School, I had a sadistic teacher who summarily humiliated students in her class (including me) for minor infractions of her rules and I never got over it.
My only purpose in becoming a career school teacher later in my life, was to change schools and teachers from places kids were mistreated and hated to go, to a place where kids wanted to go, felt secure, were happy, and benefited from their experience; I failed miserably in my quest, of course, but I really tried and I never regretted my decision.
Because, I spent a lifetime enjoying learning with students and being respected by students as their equal and friend; that was my approach to teaching, and it worked for me.  I never had a ‘bad’ student that I couldn’t respect.
You said your mother’s idea of you falling from your chair as a result of ‘Miss Screamer’s’ yelling didn’t work, but I think it might have had more effect on ‘Screamer’ than you thought. 
In any event, I’m proud of you for your reaction to the teacher’s misconduct; your teacher needed to be advised that she is required to treat students with respect, because students deserve the same respect entitled every other human being, and that is what teachers are supposed to be teaching you students, with her acting as a role model.
Probably, that is what your caring mother had in mind!

Richard Blankenburg, Ed.D., 
San Diego, CA

Letters Above Posted 4/21/15

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Earlier Letters Are Below

Memories Of Attending 1945 State Basketball Tournament 

Dear Editor:
Memories and more memories!
In 1945 my father went to Decatur High at 7:00 a.m. for the drawing for tickets to the state basketball tournament at Huff Gym in Champaign. Dad came away with two tickets for the entire tournament.
He then got me excused from school for the tournament dates (Roosevelt Jr. High) and away we went to Champaign.
At that time the tournament consisted of 16 teams all played at one site with 8 games the first day. There was only one division that consisted of all of the Illinois Schools large and small. This would give Illinois a true complete basketball champion.
We were seated in the upper level just over a doorway below. I remember the excitement at the end of the Galesburg game just like it was yesterday. My father became so excited that he almost fell over the railing but a man sitting next to him grabbed him by the belt and saved him from what would have probably been a serious injury.
Is it not interesting that now 70 years later that I was able to be at the games for my new home town, Brimfield, as they became the new division "One A" State Basketball Champion.
I still have the ticket stubs from the 1945 games.
What great memories!

Ken Cochennour
Brimfield, IL

Discouraged With Much Of Today’s Television Programming

To the Editor:
We read your article, Paul, on March 6th about "Remember Basic Television Programming!" 
It was a delight and amusing to know you are also discouraged with the TV programming and all the long and many commercials of today. Maybe there are others also? 
We watch a lot of PBS, too, because of the trashy programs they call entertainment. Even the so-called "comedy" shows are trashy!
I hate to think what another 10 years will bring.

Jerry and Nancy Wade

Capistrano Has Its Swallows; Central Illinois
Has Its Grosbeaks And Buntings  

Dear Editor:
Every year southern Californians celebrate, with ringing bells, the return of the swallows at the San Juan Capistrano mission on or about St. Joseph’s Day, March 19th.  
A similar event welcomes the return of the vultures (often referred to as “buzzards”) at Hinckley, Ohio, on or about March 15th.  The celebratory return of these migratory birds is a welcome sign of spring.  
Central Illinoisans used to herald the arrival of robins each spring; however, that is no longer possible because robins that nest much farther north now spend the winter months here in central Illinois (this is  the “south” for them) and it’s difficult to distinguish a northern winter resident from a truly spring arrival.  But, the annual return of other familiar migrants such as the bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird and grackle, can still be used as good indicators of spring.
The spring season for migratory birds occurs over a four month period every year from late February through early June.  Throughout the season dozens of species, ranging from waterfowl to herons, hawks and shorebirds to gulls, and hummingbirds to a large variety on songbirds, return to or pass through Illinois to their nesting grounds.  Some, such as the swallows of Capistrano and the “buzzards” at Hinckley have become famous for their annual return within a day or two of a “specific” date.  Here in central Illinois diligent birders can often predict within a matter of two or three days when each species will first be detected; as an example, the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds typically arrive about April 15th (so, that’s the date hummingbird enthusiasts are encouraged to place their feeders out to attract these birds). 
Two very colorful species that often appear at central Illinois feeders in late April and early May are the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting.  Both have a fondness for seeds and since seeds are rather scarce at the time they return to central Illinois, they quickly respond to the handouts (especially sunflower seeds) readily available at feeders.  The males of these two species are easily recognized and widely reported each spring; the females, however, are not so easily distinguishable and are often passed off as sparrows or finches.  
Because the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting are so colorful, prominent and popular at feeders, the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Land Association of Bird Banders (LLABB) is pleased to announce that those two species have been selected as Central Illinois’ annual poster birds and would appreciate community participation in reporting them.  For this designation, the definition of “central Illinois” has been limited to Sangamon and its adjacent counties (Macon, Christian, Montgomery, Macoupin, Morgan, Cass, Menard and Logan).  
LLABB looks forward to hearing from anyone observing either or both species at their feeders.  Reports, including the first day of observation and the maximum number observed at one time (dated photos along with the name of the photographer would be most helpful), should be sent by email to LLABBaves@gmail.com or to LLABB, P.O. Box 13442, Springfield, IL  62791.  At the end of the season, a compilation of all reports received will be prepared and made available to everyone requesting it.  
Thank you for your participation.

Vernon Kleen, President
Lincoln Land Association 
of Bird Banders

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Letters Above Posted April 14, 2015

‘Scrapbook’ Rekindles Memories Of Being ‘Car Hop’

Dear Editor:
    The recent article about local cruisin' rekindled memories.  During April 1944, due to relaxed labor laws during the war, Perry Bullock, owner and operator of the Steak and Shake at 22nd & Cantrell, hired me, at age 15, as a "car hop".
As noted, eventually he  dropped the franchise name and operated as Perry's. In 1944 that location didn't operate during the winter season so when I started to work he was opening for the summer season, which ended near the end of October.
   There wasn't much cruising during that period due to gasoline and tire rationing, plus new autos weren't available.  You had to preserve your existing car.
   I've always enjoyed working with numbers so I think that was the reason I remember menus and prices from that era.  I earned $2.10 plus tips for an 8 hour shift.  We also received a 70-cent food allowance.  That doesn't  appear to be much of an allowance, but when you learn steak burgers were 14c, cheeseburgers 17c, toasted cheese 12c, fries 12c, shakes 14c, malts 17c, etc. you realize it was an ample sum.
   You didn't always receive a tip but if you did, ten cents was a normal amount.  You were in "hog heaven" whenever there was a larger tip.
   In retrospect I feel very fortunate to have worked at a steady job during my early years.  It's too bad that currently there aren't more employment opportunities for today's teens.

   Clint Whitrock

You Can Do Something About Excessive Cable Bill

Dear Editor 
I read with great interest on your excessive cable bill. I too grew tired of the ever escalating bill and did something about it which you can too. 
We now stream TV. I have an antenna which allows me to view at least 6 over the air digital local stations. With some work you can get more and this cost me $30. I have basic internet service (sadly with Comcast) which I got back down to discounted price by cancelling and standing my ground. 
I bought my own modem to save the $10 a month they charge for theirs. We stream Netflix and Hulu plus at a cost of $7.99 each per month. and get other apps via our smart TV and blue ray player.  Total cost is under $50 per month, for internet, local channels, and two different streaming content services that offer tons of choices. 
A new choice for the sports fan called SLING TV is available for $20 a month. Add this all together and even with that you would still cut your bill in half and have most everything you want to see and more.  
Of course, Comcast will try to raise your internet to $66.95 a month at home when cancelling TV.  However if you stand up you can get it under $29.99 a month without modem costs. It’s a long process but even if they inflate your internet rates and you choose the lazy way to not fight for their discounted internet rate you still can cut 30% or more off your cable bill. Of course you do need a wireless network in your home but most everyone today either has a SMART TV or SMART enabled devices such as DVD players, gaming systems etc. And there are other choices for internet to compare prices on depending where you are in the city such as ATT and Frontier. Cut the chord! 
PS our city council had a hand in letting these rates escalate. All new TVs come with digital converters. However Comcast convinced city leaders we had to have boxes and you would get one free. Now residents pay for each and every box as well as tons of other fees and charges. 
Dan Calhoun 

Don’t Cut Funds For Illinois Supportive Living Communities 

Dear Mr. Osborne,
As one of Illinois Supportive Living (SL) communities, we strongly oppose Governor Rauner’s proposed Medicaid budget cuts to our program. The Governor’s budget proposal for State Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) contains an 8.85% rate cut to supportive living communities while also proposing to raise the qualification to become Medicaid eligible, which will make it more difficult for people to get the housing with healthcare and other services in supportive living. We understand measures are necessary to deal with a fiscal budget crisis, but it doesn’t make sense to cut rates on a program that is actually saving the state money and generating Federal-matching funds!
The average length of stay for a SL resident is 27 months, which is about a $60,000 per person SAVINGS compared to nursing home costs. Making these savings even more impressive is the fact that SL operators are paid at 52 percent of nursing home rates.
In Decatur or Macon County alone, there are 3 SL communities that serve low-income seniors and persons with disabilities. The Supportive Living program in Illinois has established itself as the best affordable assisted living program in the country. If these cuts take place, not only will it undermine what has been achieved on behalf of the vulnerable people we serve, but potential residents may be turned away and many of our current residents will be diverted to nursing homes or other less appropriate settings, which will add a further burden to the state’s fiscal woes.
Bottom line – our program is a proven success and it’s imperative that Illinois protect what is working during this fiscal crisis.

Amy Noonan
Marketing Director
Eagle Ridge of Decatur

Former Macon County Confederate Surrendered
at Appomattox Court House 

Dear Editor:
150 years ago this month, Ephraim Harkrader, a Macon County, Illinois farmer and former Confederate soldier, surrendered with General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, marking the end of the American Civil War.
Private Henry Ephraim “Eph” Harkrader was born on October 1, 1834, in Wythe County, Virginia.  He was the son of David Harkrader and Mary M. “Polly” Umberger.  On Oct. 2, 1864, Ephraim Harkrader was conscripted (drafted) into the Confederate army and assigned Company E, 1st Virginia Battalion of Infantry. 
The 1st Virginia Battalion was the Provost Guard of the Confederate Army and responsible for maintaining order in the besieged cities of Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. Ephraim served with this battalion until paroled at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. He moved to Emery, near Maroa, Macon County, Illinois before 1870 where he resided with his older brother Isaac A. Harkrader.  
Although a bachelor, in 1875, Ephraim was appointed guardian of his deceased brother, James H. Harkrader's, seven children. He sued their former court appointed guardian, Dr. Aaron Snavely, for monies from his brother's estate. The case was ultimately decided in the Harkrader’s favor by the Virginia Supreme Court. 
On August 25, 1882, despondent after his brother refused to lend him money to purchase a farm in Macon, Ephraim Harkrader committed suicide by taking 4 ounces of laudanum (a sedative) and shooting himself in the head with a pistol.
He is buried in the Maroa Township Cemetery, Maroa, Macon Co., Illinois.  According to his tombstone he was aged 47 years, 10 months, and 24 days. 

Page  Johnson
Fairfax, Virginia                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Get Litter Out Of Yards And Public Streets, Catch Basins

Dear Editor;
  This is another letter (in addition to the letter of Terry Howley on Feb.3rd and of Denny Grace on Feb.17th) concerning the unwanted litter being tossed onto property throughout the city. 
  The Prairie Shopper is being tossed onto any residential property that does not subscribe to the Decatur Herald and Review. This rolled up bundle of advertisements is flung from moving cars and they land where they may.  They often end up in the street gutters and are washed into storm sewer basins where they clog the grates. 
As a non-subscriber to the newspaper my house is targeted for this litter and as a frequent walker around my neighborhood I have seen piles of these papers accumulating in the yards and drives of vacant houses as well as papers ran over in driveways and smashed in the street. 
Often they burst open, either on impact or after being run over. At that point they blow around the neighborhood until they land in a bush or a fence line.
  I have made several calls and have sent numerous e-mails over the past few months to the Decatur Herald and Review in an effort to “opt-out” of this ridiculous practice and would not recommend this as an option unless you have a lot of time and a lot of patience.
  After several failed attempts to “opt-out” I contacted Jill Davis (Co-Chair of the Beautify Decatur Coalition) and she agreed that this needless litter was contrary to what her group was trying to do and she in turn contacted city staff and a council member.
  I would suggest this approach as yet another possible way to get some of this litter out of our private yards and drives as well as our public streets and catch basins.    

Ed Nicbols

Letters Above Posted 4/8/15

Letters Are Printed With The Most Recent Submissions First

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Looking southwest from the editor's office in the Millikin Court Bldg. downtown

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