I received the following email the other day from someone I know: “Hello, “I'm writing this with great grievance. I'm presently in Manila Philippines with my family for a short vacation and we're stuck and it really was unannounced. We were attacked by four armed robbers on our way back to the hotel where we lodged. We were robbed and completely embarrassed. “All our cash, credit cards and cellphone were stolen. We've reported the incident to the embassy and the police but to my dismay they seem not bothered. Their response was just too casual. “Our flight leaves in a few hours but we've got to settle our bills before we're allowed to leave. “Now I am freaked out. “Please, I need you to loan me some money. I promise to refund you as soon as I'm back home. All I need is $1,950. “Please let me know what you can do? Write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me.”
I WOULD guess that I’ve received 50 or more such messages in recent years allegedly from people I know. According to their emails, each one of them has been robbed and beaten at gunpoint while vacationing in some foreign country. The thieves robbed them of all of their possessions and they didn’t have any financial means to get home. Apparently, if I am on your email address list, you stand a good chance of being robbed and beaten on your next trip out of the country!
I FORWARDED the plea for help I received to “Holly” (I won’t reveal her full name) to inform her that someone was using her name and email address list to solicit money. She responded: “Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I have changed passwords etc. “This may be worth mentioning to your readers, of which I am one. “We were in Laramie, Wyoming, last week. We were using the computers in the lobby at the hotel for the first few days. “I decided to use my laptop in my room. Both of my Yahoo accounts were hacked. “My husband did not use the laptop in the room and he did not get hacked. I believe the hotel’s computers have more security than you have in the rooms.”
IF YOU received a plea for money from Holly last week, rest assured she and her family are not in the Philippines, haven’t been beaten and robbed and do not need an emergency $1,950 to fly home. Unfortunately, some people have been “scammed” through such emails, or through telephone calls from “relatives” needing money to get out of a terrible situation. Some elderly people, who are often extremely trusting, have been called by “grandchildren” in crisis asking for emergency money. Grandparents don’t want to deny their grandchildren any help they need and some are scammed because of that trust and love.
IF I have the time to deal with it, the next time I receive a request for a loan for “emergency funds” of $1,950 from someone using the name of a person I know, I’ll respond that I will be happy to loan them the money -- and attach a standard loan application for them to fill out. I’ll encourage them to hurry and not to forget to list three credit references and sign the document in the four designated places.
OF COURSE, the all-time best response to an “emergency help needed” plea came from the Decatur Tribune’s Sparky Squirrel, who, when he received an emergency request for help wrote back and offered to immediately send a bag of peanuts to help the friend out. “Since you have written to a squirrel’s email address with your emergency help request, I know you have to be a squirrel, too, which means you are a member of my family and will appreciate the nuts,” he wrote. Sparky didn’t even receive a thank you card for his generous offer.
Some 'City Hall Insider' Items...
Pouring Concrete Sidewalks
Downtown Draws ‘Incidents’
There’s a lot of concrete that’s been poured downtown during the last year as part of the City’s Streetscape Enhancement program. I was walking next to a freshly-poured sidewalk on North Park Street a few days ago when I pretended that I was going to step into the wet concrete. The nearby construction worker looked up and smiled as in “you didn’t fool me”. I asked him if he had a lot of people pretending that they were going to step in the fresh concrete. He said he did, but was also surprised at how many people actually stepped in the fresh concrete. He also said that a guy rode his bicycle into freshly-poured concrete and sank both wheels before anyone could stop him! I guess the warning about watching where you step as new sidewalks are being poured should also include “Watch where you ride”. I don’t think any bicycle has a gear that enables the rider to pick up speed while pedaling through concrete. By the way, I think riding a bicycle on a downtown sidewalk is against a city ordinance -- whether that sidewalk has wet or dry concrete.
Former Controversial Christ Is The Answer
Crusade To Return To Decatur With Revival I don’t usually include upcoming revivals in this column, but one that is coming to Decatur is more than the usual news item on the church page. I received notice a few days ago that the big Christ Is The Answer Revival/Reunion will be held in Decatur Friday, July 26 through Saturday, Aug. 10. That’s about a month later than originally planned when I wrote about it in our January 16th edition. Evangelist Bill Lowery spearheaded the “Christ Is The Answer” crusades in Decatur over 40 years ago and he told me earlier this year that he is bringing it back. I covered the tent revivals in Decatur for this newspaper many years ago when several of the “Jesus People” (as they were called back then) were arrested for witnessing in front of some businesses like K-mart on Pershing Road, the massage parlor and Adult Book Store on North Main Street. “It was in 1972 that we set up the tent north of the Staley viaduct,” Lowery told me. “We are going to raise the big top again and will activate the Jesus Plan street witnessing program hopefully with the cooperation of the local churches and pastors in the city.” “We are so looking forward to this gathering and outreach,” said Lowery. Lowery indicated to me last week that he has received a “fair response” from contacts he has made to involve the local church community. I think involvement of some local churches and a different plan than the one 40 years ago, will make the reunion/revival less controversial. Interestingly, this year’s Decatur Celebration on the streets of downtown Decatur will be held the first weekend in August when the Christ Is The Answer Crusade will be here.
Civil War Statue Is Not Going Anywhere
The Civil War Statue located in the west side of Central Park will not be moved to the south side of the park during the upgrades that are taking place -- mainly because of the expense. There was also the possibility that it could be damaged in moving it. By the way, a big chip was knocked out of its base recently when a backhoe hit the statue during the park enhancement work.
Gov. Brings Money To Park District
Gov. Pat Quinn was in our fair city Saturday afternoon. As reported elsewere in this edition, he was here to announce an investment of $400,000 in the Decatur Park District “for the Phase I redevelopment of Nelson Park. Project components include the renovation of parts of a large pavilion and a small pavilion, development of a fitness trail with exercise stations, a mountain biking trail, fishing pier, restoration of ten acres with native prairie plants and habitat improvement, a bioswale to reduce soil erosion and interpretive signage.” Our park district was one of several throughout the state that will receive $15.3 million from the state’s “investment”. I’ve known (and liked) Pat Quinn since the days when both of us were finding our career paths and certainly have always been treated fairly by him. I’m pleased that our park district is one of the recipients. What I can’t figure out is how the State of Illinois, which is beyond broke, can still constantly distribute millions of dollars for projects when it can’t come close to living up to its present commitments.
‘Lights Out’ Not A Good Thing
I arrived at the Millikin Court building before daylight one morning last week and couldn’t help but notice that four of the new decorative lights on the South Water Street side of our building were burned out. Shouldn’t those bulbs last longer than that? I really like the new street lights and hope there won’t be a lot of maintenance to them in the years ahead. The lights aren’t suppose to use much electricity. I guess they won’t use much if they are off. By the way, the lights were still out when I arrived early this morning (Wednesday).
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
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Reflections On The Impact Of A Mother's Example
Sunday is Mother’s Day and there will be a lot of attention focused on our mothers -- both living and dead. My mom passed away in 1991 and, this year I find myself thinking about her impact on my life even more than in the past. Betty Osborne’s example and the faith she instilled in me at a very early age are with me today -- inseparable from the influence in childhood that spawned who I am as an adult. I was a kid in an era when most moms were homemakers and did not have a job outside of the home. The traditional family roles meant dad was the “breadwinner” and mom was the “homemaker”. Mom always believed in my brother and myself and made us feel that we could do anything we set our minds to do. She also taught us, by example, about helping the poor and disadvantaged at a time when she and my dad didn’t have much of their own. As a child I saw her fill the family car with people who had little or nothing and drive them to downtown Decatur to shop -- and then she shared what little money she had with them so they could buy something for themselves and enjoy the day. Mom was never honored publicly for the unselfish work she did for others, because, hardly anyone knew what she was doing -- except me. I was observing it all as a kid and her actions molded a lot of the perspective of my life. There isn’t any honor that I have received over the years, either as a newspaper editor, private citizen or mayor, that would have happened without mom’s positive influence on my life in my childhood years. Mom had a way of looking at life’s struggles in a positive way and would never outwardly show that she was disappointed in what life would sometimes throw at us. When some people would tear down others, she would defend others and not tolerate gossip about someone. It wasn’t allowed in our home. She always tried to see the other person’s point of view and the reason they acted in a way that was hard to understand. Mom was never too busy to sit down and listen to me or my brother. Sometimes, when I was a kid, I would move the chest of drawers out from the wall in my room and stand behind it on a box to practice public speaking to the one audience member who sat before me and listened -- mom. Of course, she always thought the speeches were great! She never acted like she got tired of listening or told me to go out and play and leave her alone. I’ve given plenty of speeches in my life to a lot of groups, large and small, but the best audience I ever had, was the “audience of mom” when I was a kid. IF SOMEONE would come into our home and compliment mom on a curtain or a throw rug that she had purchased, she would ask them “do you want it?” They would sometimes leave with a curtain, rug or some other item because she gave it to them. She was happy because it made them happy. Mom was like that. She often told me that God put us here to help others. Forgiving people was a way of life for her. She often said, “If no one ever did anything wrong to us, we’d never have a reason to forgive them,” as if the person who wronged us gave us an “opportunity” to do the right thing. Over the years, both as a newspaper editor and serving in public office, there have been a lot of hurtful things said and done to me but “getting even” has never been an option -- thanks to mom’s example. Mom would always tell me to ask myself what Jesus did to those who hurt him - and that’s what I should do when someone hurt me. No one gets through life without the help of many people along the way and I’m no exception -- and neither are you. The longer I live the more I appreciate the great parents I had and the special influence of my mom. This Mother’s Day remember mom for all she means to you. For those of us whose moms have passed on, we can honor them everyday by remembering what they taught us by their lives and we can let those lessons be seen in us by those we meet. That’s why moms will always be with us.
Posted 5/10/13 From print edition of the Decatur Tribune
Here And There On The City Beat...
Cat Layoffs Another Blow To Local Economy
Caterpillar’s announcement on Friday that 300 more of its employees at the Decatur plant will be laid off is another sock in the chops to the local economy. Including the layoff of 460 employees that was announced last month, that’s 20% of the Decatur plant’s 4,000 strong workforce. While I appreciate Cat’s willingness to help the laid-off employees find jobs, our city already has the highest unemployment rate in the state and jobs are few and far between. I know a lot of the Cat workers and my heart goes out to them as they deal with the depressing news.
Reorganized For Change
The Decatur Board of Education seated its newly-elected members during a reorganization meeting last week.
New members are Barry Buttz, Alida Graham, T. J. Jackson and Fred Spannaus. The new board president is Brian Hodges and Sherri Perkins is vice president. Dan Oakes is the seventh member of the board. Hodges, Perkins and Oakes are the remaining members of the old board because they were not up for election. I’ve known Brian Hodges since he was a high school coach so you know how long that’s been. He’ll do a great job as board president and his influence on the board took a giant leap after the April 9th election. There is no question that, in looking at the overall composition of the board, changes will be coming in Decatur School District #61 and voters have given the board the backing to make changes. It will be interesting to watch.
U. S. Rep. Davis Won’t Face Gill
Dr. David Gill, (a Democrat) won’t be running again (at least not the next time) for the 13th Congressional Seat presently held by Republican Rod-ney Davis. Gill had several unsuccessful attempts at winning the seat, the latest being against Davis and some wondered if he would give it another shot.
Last week, it was announced that Gill had been appointed to a $127,800-per-year job as an assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He indicated that Gov. Pat Quinn had sought him out for the position. Some speculate that Gill was offered the job to keep him from running against Davis again, feeling there are some stronger candidates to run against him. One of those possible candidates, former Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis made it official yesterday (Tuesday) that she IS running to represent the 13th Congressional District. The race is already heating up and we’re many months away from the next election.
Timing Is Everything
Last month, Craig Coil, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County addressed the breakfast meeting of the Metro Decatur Chamber of Commerce and gave some optimistic words about the city’s future. A few days later, Caterpillar announ-ced it was going to lay off 460 workers at the Decatur plant. Last Wednesday, Mayor Mike McElroy delivered an upbeat State of the City message during the Chamber’s Business Expo at the civic center and two days later Caterpillar announced it was laying off 300 more workers. Maybe we should have a 60-day moratorium on all speeches about Decatur’s economy! (Written with “tongue-in-cheek”, of course.) I’m sure both men knew (or should have known) about the layoff announcements that were coming and were thankful that CAT issued the news releases after they spoke instead of a day or two before.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY. Also, check out “Osborne Online” at www.decaturtribune.com or www.decaturtribune.net
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Supt. Davis Made Smart Strategic Move
In Announcing Her Retirement
Last week, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Decatur Public Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Gloria J. Davis, announced her retirement effective June 30, 2014. Davis made a smart strategic move in making the announcement and I’ll explain why later in today’s column. As I wrote in this column from the beginning of the school board race, the election results would be more the result of how voters felt about Davis, and what she’s done in the school district, than about the candidates’ views. The results of the April 9th election showed Barry Buttz and Alida Graham finishing one-two in the election with Fred Spannaus and T. J. Jackson completing the wins for the four seats up for election. Buttz and Graham were the most outspoken critics of the way Davis was operating as superintendent. Spannaus and Jackson were not as adamant against Davis but they were and are in the “thoughtful change” category. The only incumbent who decided to run for re-election was school board president Dan Winter, and he was defeated, finishing seventh in ten names listed on the ballot. Even though her name was not on the ballot, the results of the election highlighted a growing number of people who wanted change to come to the Decatur School District, beginning with Davis. The writing was on the wall. The news release that was sent to the media following the resignation of Davis stated: “Davis has been with Decatur Public Schools since July 1, 2006. During her tenure the district has seen an increase in Advanced Placement class offerings, a coordinated curriculum based on National Common Core Standards, centralized registration, a renewed focus on district discipline based on Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and two 21st century state-of-the-art renovated high schools being constructed. “Superintendent Davis credits the hard work and effort of her fellow central office administration, building principals, entire District staff and Board of Education members, past and present, for embracing the challenges that the district faced over the last seven years. “‘I desire and pray that the District and the entire community of Decatur will continue to take pride in itself and the accomplishments we have completed together. Our children are counting on us to do what is right for their future,’ said Supt. Davis. “Davis will continue leading the district and its many initiatives until June 30, 2014 which will complete her career of almost 44 years dedicated to working in public education. When reflecting on the decision to retire, Supt. Davis said, ‘I will end this chapter of my career the same way I began – It is and will always be, “All About The Children!”.
Why Retirement Announcement Was Smart Strategic Move
When a school superintendent loses the support of a majority of the board it makes life extremely difficult for anyone in the position. The DPS environment wasn’t that great before the April election and following the results of the election, was about to get a whole lot worse. Following the April 9th election WSOY’s Brian Byers asked me on Byers & Co. if I thought Davis would stay. My response was “Why would she want to stay?” She had displayed signs of want-ing to move on a couple of times by being a finalist for superintendent positions in other out-of-state school districts, and quite frankly, that’s the nature of the profession so that wasn’t that unusual. Only a few weeks after the April 9th election Davis became pro-active, announcing her retirement, but setting the date as after the next school year. It was smart as it silenced her critics (except for some who wanted her gone NOW) because Davis said she was leaving and they could no longer demand she leave. The move also put her in a better position to deal with the new board, because board decisions now will not be influenced as much about whether Davis is going or staying. It also gives Davis the opportunity over the next school year to determine if there is another position somewhere else that she would be interested in pursuing -- while she still has her position in Decatur. Plus, her retirement from the Decatur position looks much better than possibly being publicly forced out of the position. Of course, had she been named the choice in the recent out-of-state position that she sought, she would have started that job in the fall and would not have stayed here to see the high school renovations through, as she indicated she was doing with the delayed retirement. Her decision was also of benefit to the school board that can now spend its time finding a new superintendent on the basis that the present one (Davis) has announced her retirement. That makes this district more appealing to potential applicants. Overall, the retirement announcement benefitted both Davis and the new board in several ways -- and considering the smoother transition from one superintendent to another, it was also of benefit to the students, teachers and administrators. I’d call that a smart strategy.
* * * * Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
What Terrorists Overlook When They Attack America
Like most of you I watched the events unfold in Boston and Watertown, Mass, last week with many emotions flowing. Explosive devices set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday injured more than 180 people and took the lives of three spectators. Although I didn’t personally know any of the victims or their families, I felt like I knew them. Martin Richard, 8, was the first to be killed in the blast, He was waiting to hug his father as he crossed the finish line. His sister lost her leg in the blast and their mother was badly injured. Krystle Campbell, 29, who was at the marathon to encourage a friend, was the second person to be killed. Her heartbroken father described her as “the most lovable girl...very caring and loving...and daddy’s little girl.” Lu Lingzi, 23, who attended the marathon with a friend, was the third person to be killed. She was a Chinese student who was pursuing a graduate degree in Mathematics and Statistics at Boston University. She told friends that she was living her dream in America. Martin, Krystle and Lu became members of the nation’s family, along with all of those injured -- several needing amputation of limbs. Who would do something so horrific to innocent men, women and children? There's not any doubt that two ethnic Chechen brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were the terrorists responsible for the attack. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a fierce gun battle with Boston police and other units Thursday night after he and his brother had killed a young MIT police officer and seriously wounded another lawman. The brothers had hurled homemade explosives at police during the car chase and a gun battle. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was badly wounded in the gun battle that took his brother’s life, was captured the following evening in Watertown, Mass., four or five blocks from where he had escaped the gun battle. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is 19 years old, is expected to recover from his wounds and, obviously, authorities have a lot of questions to ask him about the bombings. Both brothers had been in the United States for a decade and they had the opportunity and talent to build meaningful lives and contribute to society in a positive way. Instead, they helped evil raise its ugly head to kill, maim and strike at the heart of America -- and they seemingly enjoyed the results. When will terrorists learn that killing innocent Americans does not snuff out this nation’s resolve, but strengthens it? Unfortunately, there are many like the Tsarnaev brothers who want to cause us pain simply because we are Americans. With all of our faults, America is a nation with a big heart full of compassion and we witnessed that time and time again in the heroics of our people during the past week. The Boston Massacre didn’t shake my faith in America’s future, but reaffirmed it. What I saw happen last week in Boston was a city and nation come together for all of the right reasons. The Tsarnaev brothers were not the first, or will be the last, to misjudge the character and heart of America. Every time they commit a cowardly act to divide us, we come together. That’s what America is about -- standing together despite our differences. That’s what terrorists fail to understand. Despite our disagreements, in times of trouble, America still is one nation -- under God.
Keep Local Partisan And Non-Partisan Offices Separate
Public offices such as mayor, city council, Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners, Decatur School Board and Richland Community College are non-partisan -- meaning those running for the office should not represent any political party or agenda. In fact, one of the major reasons the council/manager form of government was adopted by the City of Decatur a half century ago, was to keep “politics” out of the city council. We don’t elect people to the city council based on their party affiliation, because, most of the time that is not even known. Also, you never see “Vote Democrat” or “Vote Republican” on any of the campaign signs for non-partisan office. During the years I served as mayor, to my fellow council members’ credit, I don’t recall any conversations I had, publicly or privately, with any of them, where we talked specifics about either political party. Except for a few of the members, I didn’t know what political party, if any, the members were part of in their personal lives and I never asked and they never asked me. That’s the way it was meant to be for those who were elected to serve. Certainly, there have been city council members in the past who have won election to partisan offices including former State Rep. John Dunn (D), former State Rep. Mike Tate (R), State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R), Senator Penny Severns (D) and most recent, Rep. Adam Brown (R) to name some who come to mind, and there was no doubt about their “politics” when they ran for those offices. Years ago, Decatur mayor James Rupp ran for the state senate when he was mayor and won. Ironically, Rupp would later lose his senate seat years later to Severns. Our present mayor, Mike McElroy, ran as a Republican in his campaign to be elected state senator last year -- an election that was won by Democrat Andy Manar. It’s a little tricky in running for a partisan office while serving in a non-partisan office, but probably no more difficult as being the editor of a newspaper while serving as mayor and keeping the two positions separate -- and I know a lot from first-hand experience about those duel roles. McElroy was my close ally as a councilman when I served as mayor, and during those years, I never knew whether he was a Democrat or Republican, because the subject never came up. The decisions we made were not based on Democrat or Republican party politics, but what was best for the community. Actually, when McElroy ran for the state senate seat as a Republican, I was a little surprised because I would have guessed he was a Democrat. Non-partisan elected officeholders traditionally do not endorse political candidates of either party. I cringed a little when, through no fault of McElroy’s, during the latter stages of his senatorial campaign, several news reporters were referring to him as the Repub-lican Mayor of Decatur. McElroy was a Republican candidate for the state senate, but he was not the Republican mayor, because that’s a non-partisan office. He was the simply Mayor of Decatur, but I think some out-of-town reporters didn’t see any difference in the politics of the office he was seeking from the one in which he was serving. They may not have known much about the council/manager form of government in Decatur. That wasn’t McElroy’s fault. Actually, I don’t think most people pay much attention to what was and is non-partisan and partisan. We had 20% of the registered voters turn out in the recent municipal election, and it’s a stretch to argue they were paying much attention to party politics or anything else connected to public office. Some of the candidates in non-partisan offices in the Consolidated Election held April 9th, had signs in the windows of the Democratic headquarters at Main and North streets. One non-partisan candidate told me that he drove by the headquarters building a lot to make sure his sign wasn’t in the window, not that he didn’t want the votes of Democrats, but he was running in a non-partisan race. Whether it is the Democrat or Republican parties, I think we have to be careful that we don’t blur the line between partisan and non-partisan elections in the future. With overlapping campaigns, sometimes that’s hard to do, but, as much as possible we need to keep non-partisan and partisan offices separate in the election process.
No 'Tar And Feathers' For Decatur City Council
There seems to be some lingering resentment on the part of some citizens over the city council’s recent decision to double water rates over the next three years. Whether that will play out in the next municipal election is difficult to assess at this point. The mayor and three city council members will be up for election in 2015 and, based on rumblings I’m picking up, the campaign may be a lot more interesting than this year’s race. I’ve heard from several people who are ticked off about the water rate increase decision and the fact they felt few choices for council members were available in the recent election. The fact that three of the incumbents who were re-elected voted for the increase a week before the election has also caused some irritation. One of this week’s “Letters to the Editor” advocates “tar and feathering” the mayor and council members and running them out of town! That’s kind of drastic, plus illegal, and I assume those words were written because the writer was upset, not with the intent to actually do it. Another letter on page 3 encourages local citizens to support the mayor and council’s decision on water options. As far as “tarred and feathered”, it reminds me of a story that Abraham Lincoln told: "You have heard the story haven't you, about the man as he was ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered, somebody asked him how he liked it, and his reply was if it was not for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk." I’m sure there won’t be any “tar and feathering” of our mayor and city council. I’m also sure they would say “except for the honor of the thing,” they would much rather walk.
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Items Above Posted 4/24/12
Huge Increase In Decatur’s Water Rates Forces
Mt. Zion Board To Double Rates The ripple effect from the Decatur City Council’s recent decision to more than double water rates is starting to be felt as the Mount Zion Village Board has approved raising its water rates more than 100% over the next several years. Mt. Zion is already paying double the rate as Decatur customers because it is a non-residential customer and the present amount it pays will more than double again when the increase is fully implemented. The rate increase will be effective June 1. Mt. Zion has no choice but to raise its rate. There is no viable option for the village apart from buying its water from Decatur and charging its customers a rate based on Decatur’s rate.
Garman Retires, Receives Praise From Gulf Shores Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem
Former Decatur City Manager Steve Garman was praised by the mayor and mayor pro-tem of Gulf Shores, Alabama, when he retired recently after four years as city administrator. According to a report in Alabama Live, Mayor Robert Craft said: “I think he (Garman) came here from Illinois with a one-term goal in mind. He mentioned that early on. So it wasn’t a great surprise to me that he has decided to go ahead and implement whatever plan he has for retirement.” Craft said Garman’s previous experience as a city manager in Pensacola and Decatur helped the city weather the Great Recession. “We had to deal with that,” Craft said of the recession, “and then its impacts on our budget and on our staffing requirements and the whole function and culture of the city. He was very helpful in his experience of making those decisions before.” Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Doughty said it was a successful 4 years with Garman as city administrator. “We knew when we hired him that he would be retiring in the not too distant future,” Doughty said, “but he had the expertise at the time to help us through some of those situations so we were glad to be able to get him for whatever length of time we could have him.” Best wishes to Steve Garman and congratulations on the job he did in Gulf Shores in some difficult times. It sounds like his work and expertise were appreciated.
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Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Memories Of Annette, ‘Tall Paul’ And A Different Era
Annette Funicello died from complications related to multiple sclerosis last week. She was 70. Tens of millions of us have fond memories of growing up watching “The Mickey Mouse Club” on those old black and white television sets. Annette was our favorite Mouseketeer and represented a wholesome perspective that characterized that generation. It was the late 1950s, the Korean War was over and the Vietnam conflict was in the future. “Ike” was in the White House and the nation seemed at peace with itself. Most television programs reflected wholesome values and the stars we adored projected positive images -- none more than Annette. All the boys loved Annette. When she recorded a big hit called “Tall Paul” in 1959, students and even the teachers at my school called me “Tall Paul”. Probably the same was true with every kid named “Paul” in schools across the nation. Somewhere, I still have a 45 rpm record of that song and know every word of the lyrics. Annette projected an image of a girl that would have acted the same had she walked the hallways of our school. When her “Mouseketeer” days were over she continued her career staring in such movies as “The Shaggy Dog” and “Babes in Toyland”. She became a teen idol and starred in a series of “Beach Party” movies that preserved her wholesome image. Later, as she focused more attention on raising her family her movie career faded. She became a spokesperson for Skippy Peanut Butter in television commercials. She never seemed to change in her attitude towards life. Annette was diagnosed with MS more than 20 years ago. Nine years ago she lost her ability to walk and four years ago, she lost her ability to speak. She drifted downward into an MS coma for years. She was taken off life support and passed away last week. Annette was a super teen star in an era when being “wholesome” was enough to get the attention and affection of a whole generation growing up with her. She was popular because of that image and not in spite of it. I realize that Annette was a teen star in a different era where values were not ridiculed, but respected. She never had a wardrobe malfunction, shaved her head, slept with countless men for publicity or did those things that showed a lack of respect for herself and others. Her songs were not from the gutter because that was not who she was. She was one of the last of the very popular teen idols who promoted an image that kids wanted to emulate. Are we a better nation today because many popular songs glorify drug use, casual sex and laugh in the face of what was once called decent? Sure, the lyrics of songs like “Tall Paul” were hokey by today’s standards. (“Chalk on the sidewalk, writing on the wall. Everybody knows it, I love Paul.”) Yet, the simplicity of such lyrics, take me back to a less stressful, more gentle time when there wasn’t much blur in the line between good and bad. It’s sad that MS made so much of Annette’s life a painful struggle, but she never lost her positive attitude or wanted special attention because she had once been a star. Rest in peace, Annette. “Tall Paul” will not forget your example and there’s special memories in reciting M-I-C-K-E-Y
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Some Suggestions For Those Who 'Act Ugly'
Back when I was a kid I never realized how wise my mother was. She had ways to resolve differences between people that I don’t see used much today. For instance, when we would go on a vacation in the middle of the summer, it usually meant dad trying to break the world’s record on how many miles a family could travel by car in a two-week span. Dad was totally focused on driving and taking “strawberry short cuts” (as he called them) over unmarked roads. Mom would always be the “co-pilot” in the front seat, trying to keep peace between my brother Sam and myself. We always occupied the back seat. My space was in the seat behind my dad. Sam’s was the other side and many an argument took place when one of us would enfringe across the “38th parallel” that marked our personal space. Back then, our car had no air conditioning, no radio (you had to pay extra for a car radio), no guidance sysem, electronic games or anything that could make the trip more pleasant. The best entertainment we had was reading the Burma Shave signs when they popped up in the fields along the road. All day long in a hot car was a real test for keeping the family sane and might be more effective in getting terrorists to talk than waterboarding. “MOM, he’s got his toe on my side of the seat!” one of us would yell. Mom would respond calmly that, unless the toe was moved back, the culprit would lose part of his space and the “38th parallel” would be moved. “Mom, he’s making ugly faces at me!” one of us would yell. “He started it,” would be the defense strategy. Mom would then turn around and order us to make “ugly faces” at each other until she said we could stop. Making ugly faces wasn’t nearly as much fun if we were forced to do it. Actually, I was always surprised at that tactic mom used, because she once told us there was a boy whose face froze during the time he was making an “ugly face” and he had to look like that for the rest of his life. As a kid, when I would see someone who looked kind of ugly to me, I assumed he was that way because his face froze when he was making an “ugly face” at someone. If we would misbehave her admotion would always be “Don’t act ugly”, to which my brother would usually respond: “He (me) is not acting!” Now that I’m older and reflect on many of the statements of my mother, and her ability to mediate “situations” in places like a hot ‘51 Chevy traveling the highways and byways of our nation, I have a lot of appreciation for the wisdom of moms and dads of my era as a child. There wasn’t a lot of “how to” material available on raising children or parents receiving counseling in the course of raising families back then. There was only some homespun correction methods to use. Sometimes I wonder if a few of the old-time remedies for kids’ disputes and yelling could work in modern day situations. Today, whenever there is a heated disagreement in Congress, the Illinois General Assembly or a local council or township meeting, maybe the speaker or chairman should say: “If you are going to act ugly, then all of you make ugly faces at each other until I tell you to stop!” If you think that would be ridiculous or appropriate only for five-year-old children, well, if you’ve watched most politicians in action lately, it would be a move towards maturity. There’s simply too many of them who are “acting ugly”.
Taking A Look At Tuesday's Election Results
In last week’s City Hall Insider column I wrote that all of the incumbents running in four major local races I had been following would be re-elected, with the only vulnerable candidate being Dan Winter in the Decatur School Board race. All incumbents won -- but Winter was even more vulnerable than I had anticipated. He ran 7th in the field of ten -- a sure sign that voters wanted change in the school district. Winners in the District 61 School Board race were (in order of finish) Barry Buttz (5,268 votes), Alida Graham (4,697 votes), Fred Spannaus (3,340 votes) and T. J. Jackson (3,271 votes). Interestingly, the candidate who finished fifth was Billy Roberts (2,379 votes) who had been linked with Buttz and Graham during the campaign of change -- another indication that voters wanted change in the district. Incumbent Dan Winter had 1,906 votes and didn’t come close to winning re-election. Buttz and Graham had been the most outspoken for serious change during the campaign with Spannaus and Jackson seen more as voices of moderate change. The results of the school board election sent a big message from the voters to the remaining board members and Supt. Gloria Davis. The message was they don’t like the direction the school district is headed. There wasn’t any surprise in the Decatur City Council election results where incumbents Jerry Dawson had 5,710 votes, Patrick McDaniel had 5,323 votes and Julie Moore-Wolfe had 5,225 to finish 1-2-3 for the three seats up for election -- even after voting to more than double water rates last week. Challenger Derrick Thaxton, Sr. finished a distant fourth with 2,632 votes and Craig Wilson, whose name was on the ballot even though he indicated that he was no longer running, garnered 1,434 votes and finished last. In the Decatur Park District Board of Commissions race, incumbent Board President Chris Riley, won, to no one’s surprise, with 4,205 votes. Chris Harrison won the other seat up for election with 3,480 votes. Tony Clark finished third with 3,113 votes and John Davis had 2,858 votes. For the Richland Board of Trustees, incumbent Board President Dale Colee led the balloting with 10,847 votes. David Cooprider finished second with 8,947 votes to win the two seats that were open. Josh Rohrscheib came from virtually being a political unknown to make a race out of it garnering 8,339 votes. Republican P. Duane Potter will no longer be the Decatur Township Supervisor as Democrat Lisa M. Stanley won that race with a 2,877 to 2,235 margin. Another race of interest was for Decatur Township Assessor. Democrat Vicki Sheets won that race with 2,155 votes with Republican Mark Younker finishing second with 1,622 and Independent Incumbent Tom Greanias finishing third with 1,254 votes. All of the above results are unofficial, but expected voter turnout was low and when the official tally is made it should reflect that about one out of every four registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.
Caterpillar's Layoff Of 460 Employees Is
Body Blow To Local Economy
Friday’s announcement that 460 employees at the Decatur Caterpillar plant would lose their jobs was a body blow to the local economy. There is no way to spin the announcement in a positive direction except to point out the number could have been higher. CAT is a major local employer and has been making some adjustments through temporary layoffs, shortening work weeks and shutting down some production lines. There’s not anything temporary about the 460 employees who are being laid off. CAT has also been making adjustments at other plants so Decatur has not been singled out, but with an unemployment rate of 14%, it’s going to really hurt to lose those 460 jobs. Not only is it painful for the laid off workers (which represent about 11% of the CAT workforce in Decatur), the entire area suffers because of the loss of revenue that has circulated through the community from those employees’ paychecks. The job cuts will go into effect in 60 days. CAT’s Decatur plant has been highly successful due to the mining equipment manufactured here which seemed to have unlimited potential and represented some good economic news for our city. Now, the global mining industry demand for the equipment is down and propects are bleak about a major comeback soon. Although it is important for a community like ours to have diversity in its employers there is no question that major industries have been the foundation of our employment strength over the years. Caterpillar had a plant here during World War II (which became the Firestone facility when Caterpillar left) and, over a half century ago Caterpillar returned to Decatur with a new plant which has expanded a lot over the decades. My father and my brother worked at Caterpillar for years and my father retired from the Decatur facility as supervisor of planning. I worked there for a very brief time right out of school -- about long enough to get a notice that many of us were being laid off because of a national steel strike. There are many families in Decatur and the smaller communities around Central Illinois who have members who worked at CAT or are still working there. CAT is linked to Decatur not only by what it manufactures, but by the thousands and thousands of people who have worked there since the mid-1950s when it opened the new plant here. I’ve mentioned all of this because, CAT is so interwoven with the economic success of Decatur that, as it goes, so does the morale and perspective of many who live here. Sometimes, we have a tendency to forget that Caterpillar sells its equipment in a global economy -- and what’s happening in the world reflects directly on the company and those who work at the Decatur plant. Let’s hope for some better news about the economy -- and Caterpillar -- in the days and months ahead. State Representative Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) was the only rep. or senator that I heard from immediately following CAT’s announcement, which I found a little odd, considering the impact CAT has in this area. Mitchell released the following statement: “These layoffs are another sad chapter in Decatur’s manufacturing decline. While I understand Caterpillar’s decision was based largely on a weakening mining industry, these layoffs will only add to the terrible unemployment situation locally. “Just last week, we learned that Decatur had the highest unemployment rate in the state for the month of February. Over 2,300 jobs have been lost in the past year and now another 460 people will be looking for work. Clearly, the powers-that-be in Springfield have failed our working families. Again I say our manufacturing downturn is a crisis that must be addressed by the Governor and General Assembly.”
Memories Of Another Election Ten Years AgoIt was an April Fools Day that I will never forget. Ten years ago, this past Monday, I was elected to my first term as Mayor of Decatur. I suppose there are better days to win election to public office than April Fools Day, but, in
2003 that’s when the election was held. It seems like only yesterday. I've written a lot about next Tuesday’s election in recent months and there’s a lot of ‘“City
Hall Insider” in this week's print edition. However, the past week, my mind has gone back to that April Fools Day in 2003, and I’ve
relived some of the memories of that day and night because it really was a special time for me
when the community I love elected me to be their mayor. Probably, what stimulated my thoughts even more was an old Osborne for Mayor campaign
button that one of our readers found in an antique store recently and sent a copy of it to me. It brought back memories of a year -long campaign, three opponents in the primary election
and family, friends and countless other supporters who spent a lot of time helping me win
the election. One of the things I remember the most about the results of that night, is that I never really
had any time to celebrate -- because it was Tuesday night and I had to finish that week’s edition
of the Decatur Tribune by getting it ready to go to press, complete with the election results. I cannot think of that night without feeling a little guilty that I wasn’t able to spend more
time with family, friends and others gathered at the victory celebration at Carolyn’s Cafe on
Main Street to enjoy the moment and thank them for all of their hard work. It wasn’t long after doing some interviews with the media, getting some congratulatory pats
on the back and thanking everyone, that I had to walk back to the newspaper and wear my
editor’s hat and get the Trib ready. The same routine had happened on the Tuesday night I won the primary election several
weeks earlier -- since the Trib had to be finished and go to press. After a few interviews and thanking my supporters at the courthouse, I started walking
back to newspaper to finish that edition. Phil Jacobs, a photographer for the Herald & Review, asked if he could go back to the
Tribune with me and shoot a photo of me typing the story about the election results. So, there was Phil, from the daily newspaper shooting photos of me as I was typing the
story about the election results for the Decatur Tribune! Also I've included the photo with this article that was shot during an interview with WSOY’s
Brian Byers at the Chamber’s Business Expo at the civic center the following morning. I had worked all night to get the newspaper to press and had just enough time to get home,
shower, change clothes and give the “State of the City” speech at the Expo. That kind of routine would happen a lot over the years that I served in both positions but
the newspaper never came out late and I managed to meet about all of my mayoral obligations. When long, often hotly-contested city council meetings were over, I always had to head
back to the newspaper to work on that week’s edition. It required seven days a week over the years that I served in both positions. There were
no vacations -- just some brief breaks for family activities and church. I don’t want to add up all of the hours I worked at both positions, but I remember when
I returned to the private sector, spending 60 to 70 hours a week publishing this newspaper
seemed like a part-time job! Looking back to that April 1st ten years ago and the subsequent years and re-election as
mayor, I still consider it a great honor (and a lot of work) to have been elected mayor that day
but, if I knew then what I know now ... well, I would have made the same commitment. I loved
serving as mayor and working hard to do good things for the community. As far as the stress and crazy work schedule that about destroyed my health, I wasn’t
surprised. After all, I was elected on April Fools Day!
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Decatur's 'Other Lake' That Disappeared Forever
A couple of weeks ago, during a meeting on the proposed water enhancement plan in the conference room at the civic center, Mayor Mike McElroy asked me how close we had come to building a second lake several years ago when I was mayor. He was my closest ally on the council during those years and knew that a lot of hard work had been put into building a second lake on the north side of Decatur. “Very close,” I answered. Land had been optioned where the lake could be built, major companies and private citizens with necessary expertise, had joined in to help guide the project towards reality. All of the planets were, as they say, lined up to finally make the second lake a reality after decades of study and the conclusion that it was the best option to enhance the city’s water storage capacity. In addition, it was also going to deal with Lake Decatur sediment disposal because maintaining the lake was also critical in the plan. As a bonus, there would be residential and commercial development, plus green space around the lake -- all of which would generate revenue for the City of Decatur which is always good for the taxpayers. The basic plan called for building the second lake and dredging Lake Decatur. The second lake was never meant to replace Lake Decatur, but supplement the water it contained. What killed the project, more than anything, was not the proposed lake concept, but what would be developed around it and who would build it. Some also worried about who was going to make money out of the project instead of whether it would be good for Decatur. Others wanted to fight over what school districts would get a chunk of the revenue and the “want my piece of the pie” arguments went on and on. Some turned thumbs down on the project because they didn’t like someone who was supporting it. After many years of hard work, by so many, the second lake project was killed off by “community politics”. I never worked harder on a project and it was my greatest disappointment as mayor because I knew how great it was going to be for our community. I think what bothered me the most when the project was killed off, was I knew it was Decatur’s last chance to built it.It was an opportunity lost forever along with the economic ripple effect that could have benefitted everybody in our city and beyond. The frustration I felt was in realizing there would be no more opportunities for a second lake and the “ripple” economic impact on our community. We could fight battles on other projects, such as how to get more police space or downtown redevelopment and have setbacks, but there would always be another day to do battle on those projects -- and we’ve seen those battles won the past few years. Not so with the lake. That was Decatur’s final shot at the best of all water options and, quite frankly, the long effort, and the reason it died, took a lot out of me. Now, several years later, the city council is looking at a plan that contains several options, including dredging Lake Decatur. As I mentioned in the “City Hall Insider” column last week, the proposed plan looks pretty solid, but it is now the best option only because the second lake project “dried up” due to extreme short-sightedness. I applaud City Manager Ryan McCrady, the mayor and city council for moving ahead with a water plan after a near “act of God” (three droughts in six years) called for emergency action. The city council is going to approve the proposal even though it is going to double the bills of water customers over the next three years. They really have no choice. It doesn't make me bitter to think back on those days when a golden opportunity slipped away, but it does make me sad to think about what could have happened to improve our quality of life -- didn’t happen, and why. As we work to become a “world class community” we must make more “world class” decisions in the months and years ahead. We must be pro-active, not reactive about our future. Otherwise we will be paying more and more for less and less.
City Council Expected To Approve Water Plan,
Huge Rate Hike To Customers
Unless something changes things the city council is expected to approve a plan for massive water system improvements which will more than double the amount commercial and residential water customers will pay for water usage over the next three years. That increase follows a 50% jump in water rates which the city council approved five years ago. There is no doubt that three droughts in the past six years have ignited a fire under the council and city staff to make sure Decatur is prepared to adequately deal with any drought in the coming years. Actually, there are two issues rolled into one when the city council votes on this proposal. There is (1) the proposed plan to resolve the water storage and system maintenance problem and (2) raising the water customers’ rates to pay for it. I really haven’t heard any criticism about enhancing the city’s water supply and system. The majority of people believe something needs to be done and those I have talked with who didn’t think too much about it a few years ago, seem more apt to understand the problem after two more droughts. During the drought of 2007, many thought it would not happen again for many years -- and we survived that one. I don’t think anyone expected there to be two more drought years within the five years following the first drought. The case has been made to the city council and the public that something needs to be done -- and it needs to start immediately.
Spread The Rate Increase?
Any misgivings about the plan by the city council seem to be in the implementation of the size of the rate increase over the next three years and its impact on residents who are least able to pay. A few council members have asked about spreading the rate increase over more than three years, but City Manager Ryan McCrady said that would delay some of the work that needs to be started immediately. There is no question that, if we are going to retain the jobs of major industries, or attract any business that uses lots of water in the future, we must have a stable supply that can withstand droughts. I was mayor, and co-chair of the Greater Decatur Water Commission, when the first drought hit in 2007. We were taking steps to resolve the problem and came close to doing so back then (See my “Viewpoint” on page 3) but it didn’t happen. The City of Decatur had received a warning from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency that we faced a water capacity problem. Back in 2005, the minutes of the city council meeting reflected that Springfield was going to construct a second lake “although that community does not have as great a need as Decatur because of our grain processing facilities.” On Sept. 19, 2005, Jim Shafter, legal counsel with Archer Daniels Midland Company, stood before us (council) and stated that “water is a lifeline for ADM and there is an urgent need for water.” All studies over the decades pointed to a second lake or reservoir as the solution -- along with continued dredging of Lake Decatur.
Council Members Heard The Details Earlier
Although the public first heard the details of the water system enhancement proposal during a study session at the last regular council meeting a few weeks ago, I can assure you it was not the first time the city council had heard the details. Private meetings with one or two council members at a time is a fairly standard policy for most councils. Those meetings are legal and do not violate the Open Meetings Act. Not only does it give council members a big heads up and a chance to ask questions while an official meeting is not taking place, it also gives the city manager and staff the opportunity to gauge the support, or lack of support, for a major proposal. I would speculate, based on my experiences in office, that if the city manager and mayor didn’t think the votes were there to pass this proposal, it would not be presented in an official public council meeting. The city manager and mayor organize the agenda, and, back when I was one half of that two-some, I can assure you that any such major proposal would not make it to the agenda if I felt it would be defeated. Usually, more work was done on it to make it more acceptable to the council in order to get it passed. The difficult part came (and comes) when a mayor and city manager do not know for sure what the council will do. Also, some council members will change their minds within minutes of a vote. The present city council seems to be easier to read than some of the past and if there was a real danger this proposal would be defeated, I can assure you some fine tuning would take place. That’s why I believe the support is there to approve the proposal.
Financial Impact On Many Water Customers Is The Downside
You don’t have to be a water expert to know the aggressive hike in water rates to our customers is a real downer. I was mayor when we implemented the last rate hike in 2008. The raise amounted to about 50% and it was like pulling teeth to get it passed -- especially when a group called ChangeDecatur was jumping all over the recommendation for the raise in rates proposed by City Manager Steve Garman because of the system running deficits. What most people didn’t know at the time was the amount of the raise in rates wasn’t Garman’s idea, but City Councilman Pat Laegeler (who is still on the council) because he didn’t believe what Garman had proposed was enough. There were all kinds of accusations about raising the rates, from landlords and many others who wrote letters to the editor (even to my own newspaper) protesting the move. Finally, the city council, after a lot of discussion, approved a 15% raise each year for three years. I asked present City Manager Ryan McGrady why, after raising the water rates 50% just five years ago, that it was necessary to double them over the next three years -- that amounts to three times what water customers were paying back in 2008. He indicated the cost of operating the system has gone up substantially from five years ago because the price of about everything the city uses continues to go up. I do know there’s been layoffs in the department due to the bad economy and also, when John Smith retired as head of that department, he was not replaced, due to the financial crunch. The city manager and Keith Alexander (Director of Water Management) filled the important position left by Smith. So, it’s not a question of the department spending money like -- well, water -- that resulted in the proposed increase. The water department has been playing catch up for the last several years, plus added costs that will be incurred in the new proposed options can only be paid through increasing the rates. There is no money to use from some other department and the water fund needs to support itself. Will Water Fund Money Be Transferred To Another Account?
The revenues generated by the water department must stay in that department. They cannot be transferred into another department or another account to make up for a future shortfall. The water funds have a certain “sanctity” to them. You don’t mess around with the water funds. However, it hasn’t been that long ago that the “Looking for Lincoln” fund that was built through a percentage of the hotel/motel tax, had accumulated a million dollars, although the balance dropped after money was spent on some Lincoln projects. When the City really needed the money to cover another expense, the remainder of the “Looking for Lincoln” fund was drained and used for another purpose -- so a promise regarding those funds was not kept. When I asked McCrady what was to prevent funds accumulated for water enhancement projects, ending up being withdrawn for some future financial need where the money is spent elsewhere. McCrady told me that was very unlikely to happen. He said the “Looking For Lincoln” funds had not been designated to pay for a specific project and that was a difference between it and the water fund. He said it would be very difficult for the city council to make that move. Investors’ money would have to stay in the fund. I think that is all the more reason to hold this council and future councils accountable that the increase in rates will only be used on the water system. That will include a lot of individual council decisions in the future in the bidding process, etc.
Why Are We Going To Need An Additional 15 MGD Per Day By 2030?
The proposed water plan report to the city council indicates that an additional 8 million gallons of water per day are presently needed to survive a major drought lasting 10 months. “By 2030 our community will need an additional 15 MGB per day,” the memorandum stated. I asked McCrady about the substantial increase in water needs for 2030, when Decatur’s population has been shrinking and there’s presently no new industry making a move to come here. McCrady told me the projection was not his, or city staff’s, but came from an agency whose purpose is to study the water needs of a community. That projection in the report I found a little puzzling considering the aforementioned factors -- but I assume they know a lot more about projecting future water needs than I do.
No Grants, Government Help Available For The Project
McCrady told me that, at the present time, the City will move ahead without any meaningful financial assistance from the state or federal government. (Of course, the state and federal governments don’t have any money and seeking such help could delay moving ahead on the water project for years.) He also said that, if grants and government help surface in the future that would reduce the cost to the water customers and some adjustment could be made. Considering everything, I don’t think I will be holding my breath in anticipation of state or federal help.
Double The Rate For Non-Decatur Residents
While Decatur water users are going to be hit with a doubling of their water rates over the next three years, non-Decatur residents and businesses, such as Mount Zion water customers, will be hit even harder. They are already paying double the rate that Decatur residents pay and the double rate should double again.
Some Final Thoughts...
As I mentioned in this column last week, the proposed water system enhancement plan seems pretty solid. Considering it is more of a long-term “emergency plan” generated by a three-drought wake-up call, there’s a combination of viable options to deal with a nagging long-term problem. Sometimes, a community has to be hit hard before it really gets serious on correcting a problem. I think everyone got the message after the third drought. As I mentioned in my “Viewpoint” column, the mayor, council, city manager and staff are to be commended for assembling a plan for the future regarding our water needs. It’s too bad the big increase in water rates cannot be spread out over a longer period of time -- four or five years instead of three -- or there could be some relief offered to those who are already dealing with financial survival on a day-to-day basis. I personally know of many people who are struggling to make ends meet now and the rate increase will make it even more of a burden for them. McCrady indicated the three-year rate hike is essential and it would delay projects if spread out over five years and if adjustments were made on the rates for those less able to pay the increase, others would have to be charged more. I’m sure there will be some expressions of concern from council members about the negative impact on those in the community, but the bottom line is they will vote for the plan and the money to pay for it through higher rates to water customers. I don’t see that they have much choice. Dealing with our water needs is critical to our future -- but this project, while well thought out, comes with some real economic pain for those who are already hurting in our community. No one can feel good about that aspect of the plan.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
I Never Thought I'd Live To See The Day...
Our world has changed a lot during my lifetime. That’s to be expected. Many of the changes are good -- some not so good. When I reflect on the way we were 50 years ago, I never thought I would live to see the day... • When gasoline would be nearly $4.00 a gallon at the pump and rising.
• When the technology built into cars would make the cars smarter than the people driving them.
• When many people would use microwaves to cook most of what they eat instead of a stove.
• When our government would pay a lot of people more money not to work than to work -- and expect those same people to be motivated to look for a job.
• When soda fountains would be hard to find.
• When so many people would believe the Bible is no longer relevant in our society. • When an NFL quarterback (Joe Flacco) would be paid $20.1 million per year to play football for the next six years. (That’s over $1 million a game during a regular season.)
• When we would hear that a pope had resigned. • When people would be “outraged” by minor inconveniences and decide to sue.
• When female celebrities proudly show off their “baby bumps” even though they are unmarried, or married to a different person than the father of the baby.
• When the national news media would confuse solid journalism with entertainment.
• When city councils would stop opening their meetings with a prayer that ends “in Jesus name” because it could end up in a lawsuit against the city -- if someone objects.
• When no Decatur public high school would win a state basketball championship for over a half century -and counting.
• When protests would be staged against Christians who are business owners and believe in traditional marriage -- even though they have not demonstrated discrimination in hiring or serving those who don’t agree with them.
• When “tweets” would refer to communication between people instead of between birds.
• When half of the people gathered in a room would be talking on their phones to people not in the room instead of talking to the people who are there.
• When there would be no Steak ‘n Shake locations on North Main and East Eldorado streets.
• When “Twinkies” would no longer be available.
• When two men would be able to legally get married -- to each other.
• When this column would be written on a computer instead of a typewriter.
• When there would be so many television channels and so little worth viewing.
• When the President of the United States would have the authority to send drones to kill American suspects - on American soil.
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ADM Has Been Essential Partner In ‘Water’ As reported last week, the city council has approved amending its raw water agreement with Archer Daniels Midland. “The amendment will allow ADM to construct and operate additional wells, including two collector wells located 40 feet below Lake Decatur, which will greatly enhance the community’s water supply. This well water will be drawn from a source other than Lake Decatur that is not currently being utilized, lessening the amount of water needed from Lake Decatur.” There’s a lot more to the agreement and the story can be found online (decaturtribune.net) or on page 25 of last week’s edition. I can tell you from first-hand experience, ADM has always been a great partner with the City of Decatur when it comes to maintaining and securing new water resources. If it were not for ADM, who has shared those costs with Decatur for years, we would not be able to afford expanding our water resources without higher taxes.
It’s Mrs. Gotrocks All Over Again! Many years ago, when I was a kid, a woman in our neighborhood was famous for pretending to be wealthy but owing everybody in town. She also had the odd habit of dealing with the stress coming from all of the money she and her husband owed, by heading downtown on a shopping and spending spree. The woman confided to a few friends (that was a mistake) that going shopping didn’t help to deal with all of the money they owed, but shopping and spending made her “feel better” about herself and kept her from getting depressed for a few hours. The result of more shopping and spending was more debt owed and more reason to shop and spend to take her mind off of the couple’s increasing financial problems. Spending was a temporary distraction and didn’t do anything to solve the couple’s financial problems. Shopping and spending more only got them deeper in debt. That was a long time ago. The couple eventually lost everything, including their home, and moved away. I don’t know whatever happened to “Mrs. Gotrocks” as some of the people in the neighborhood jokingly called her. Unless she got help for her addiction along the way, I’m fairly certain that Mrs. Gotrocks continued to shop and spend the rest of her life. She just couldn’t help herself! I was thinking of Mrs. Gotrocks the past few weeks as news releases about more state projects, grants and additional spending came across my desk from high-ranking elected state officials proclaiming the “good news distractions” of state spending. Here’s a dose of reality. Illinois’ credit rating is so bad that Moody’s may have to add another level of lowest rating to its chart -- just for Illinois. When any rating is beyond terrible it could be referred to in the future as having an “ILL” rating -- as in sick! State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka issued the following statement last week: “Today my office has more than 161,980 unpaid bills totaling more than $6.5 billion – and the state’s total bill backlog reaches $9 billion. Our unfunded pension liability is $97 billion, and growing by $17 million each day. And the nation’s bond rating agencies have downgraded Illinois 12 times in the last four years – giving us the worst credit in the nation and costing taxpayers more whenever the state borrows. “This fiscal calamity hovers like a storm cloud over the state of Illinois. It will not lift until we take long-overdue steps to balance our books in the long run. We cannot afford tangents or distractions – we have to address our finances, and time is of the essence.” Like Mrs. Gotrocks, the majority of our elected state officials are addicts to spending. They don’t pay their bills and taxes are added not to handle the present debt, but to spend more. Until our elected officials start avoiding the use of “distractions” and “happy spending news releases” to gloss over our dire situation we will not solve our financial problems. Today, society is much more aware of “addictions” than it was decades ago and there is help for people like Mrs. Gotrocks. There is also help for the state’s spend and tax addiction -- but that would mean working together and curtailing spending. Don’t hold your breath expecting that to happen. When it comes to spending our money, our state leaders won’t seek treatment for the addiction.
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Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
When Will Parking Garage Come Down?
Downtown ‘Beast’ Stands Tall And Ugly
The striking contrast in the appearance of the emerging “new” downtown area to the condemned parking garage at Franklin and William streets is a reminder of “The Beauty And The Beast”. “The Beast”, of course, is the parking garage which occupies most of the one block area bounded by North Franklin, East William, North Park and State Street. (Actually, the garage hovers over what was once State Street before the garage was built there.) The garage has been in a state of disrepair for years and several years ago it was closed for good because it became a dangerous place for people to park their vehicles. The “new look” downtown is somewhat diminished in the area of the garage because it looks so bad. There was a time when talk of repairing the structure, instead of demolishing it, gave some hope the garage could be made useable and beautiful again -- but those days are long gone. There is only one fix for this blight of a garage -- and that’s to take it down. The question now is: when is it going to come down? Watching that process is frustrating because none of the projections that have been made about its demise have yet happened. I asked City Manager Ryan McCrady a few days ago about the status of the garage. McCrady told me: "The City is working with the current owners of the complex to schedule the demolition of the garage. Currently, the owners are seeking bids and navigating the difficult issues of relocating the HVAC systems and the close proximity of the neighboring structures. “The demolition should begin in the next couple of months." I hope McCrady is right in his prediction. Sidewalks are being replaced next to the garage as part of the downtown streetscape project and it seems to me that getting rid of that garage is important to that project continuing in that area. The ticklish problem in getting the garage down is that the City of Decatur doesn’t own it. It’s not a public parking garage. The cost of demolishing the structure will be no small sum, considering its size, proximity to the buildings around it and dealing with the HVAC systems that are located in the garage. The City is not exactly flush with money right now to do the demolition work and, if it is forced, to take it down, it will have to recoup the money from the owner. Although there are many underlying issues involved that have contributed to the garage still standing, it is important that downtown doesn’t have to spend another summer staring into the ugly “belly of the beast”. I don’t care how much renovation is done downtown, as long as that garage remains, the beast will attract the most attention. That’s because, the more beautiful the downtown area becomes, the uglier that garage appears.
Applying For A New Job Can Be Rough Road For
School Superintendents And City Managers
Applying for the job of superintendent of schools or city manager in another district or out-of-state community is not for the faint-hearted. In this day of social media and greater transparency (at least in everything but the federal government) about everyone has the opportunity to slam or praise the candidate where everybody can read it -- even if such comments are unsigned. The latest example is Decatur School District Supt. Gloria Davis, who is one of two finalists for the superintendent’s job in the Beaufort County (S.C.) School District (BCSD). Davis made the cut to three finalists and last Wednesday the BCSD board narrowed the list to two finalists, including Davis and Jeffrey Moss of Sanford, N.C. According to an article by Tom Barton in last Thursday’s Beaufort Gazette, the interim superintendent and senior staff members prefer Davis. “Davis...got their backing in a hand-written letter signed by interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm,” wrote Barton. “The letter was sent Tuesday to school board member Laura Bush, the board's secretary. Also signing the letter: district chief of operations Phyllis White, chief instructional officer Dereck Rhoads and student-services officer Gregory McCord.” I won’t get into the details, but now some people don’t want Davis because the interim superintendent recommends her (after being asked to make a recommendation) -- and they apparently don’t like the interim superintendent much. In other words, if she wants Davis, then some of those writing on blogs want the other finalist -- no reflection on Davis, of course, just the person who made the recommendation. The board chairman and some members were scheduled to visit Moss’ district Monday and yesterday (Tuesday) they were scheduled to visit the Decatur School District. A final decision should be made on whether the board wants Davis or Moss in the next week or two -- maybe sooner, depending on what happened in the visits to the home school districts this week. Checking the blogs in the Beaufort County area, it’s apparent that some of the traditional nasty bloggers from our area must be using their “talent” in South Carolina, or have relatives in that part of the country. There were a few good comments about Davis by people who thought she would be a good choice for the job, but far more blasting Davis and also verbally attacking anyone who liked her as a choice.
Financial Problems, Difficult issues Face Boards
In recent years, it seems that any superintendent or city manager in Decatur who tried to move on or up to another position has been “roughed up” because of a desire to sidetrack their careers. Maybe that’s because of the difficult financial issues facing most boards of education and city governments. Tough economic times foster a lot of passion for and against the person the board of education or the city council chooses for those positions -- and that’s true not only in Decatur, but across the nation. Any person who is a finalist for a superintendent’s job or the position of city manager had better be prepared to have every inch of their lives scrutinized in public -- and judged by the public through social media. Davis was brought to the Decatur School District to shake things up and bring positive change. You don’t make changes without shaking up people and developing enemies who do not want to change, or at least change in the direction that you are leading. Some of the blog comments that were undoubtedly read by the board members who make the decision on which applicant to chose indicated the writer/writers were from Decatur and would be more than happy to help Davis pack to move her away from Decatur. There’s not (or shouldn’t be) much credibility in anonymous postings about any candidate for a job. Considering some of the comments allegedly posted by citizens living in the Beaufort County area, Davis will probably feel right at home should she get the job. If the technology of today wasn’t available, they would be the same people writing anonymous letters or making crank phone calls with heavy breathing (or wheezing). Obviously, as a former mayor, I stay in touch with public officials in other communities and I can assure you that the pool of experienced, qualified people for jobs like superintendent and city manager is not growing. Those with experience are either retiring or accepting positions in the private sector where they don’t have to bare their soul for public criticism in order to get a job. Some of the younger applicants are staying in the public sector because there isn’t an opportunity for them in private business. The Days Of Endurance
The days of a Decatur School District Superintendent like Bob Oakes are long gone. Oakes moved up through the school district and when he was appointed superintendent in 1969 it was at a time when there was a lot of controversy over busing to achieve racial balance. He guided the district through the debate and served as superintendent until 1988 -- almost 20 years. Former City Manager Les Allen served in that position from 1972 until 1988 when he retired -- a total of 16 years. Both of these gentlemen started serving about the same time I became publisher of this newspaper and both were very accessible and professional in my contact with them over the years. Both ended their careers in Decatur and stayed here. Oakes passed away in 2010. It’s a different time in our community due to declining enrollment, a shrinking population and financial problems that are staggering to comprehend. When the city council made the decision to hire present City Manager Ryan McCrady he was not a city manager in his position in Sangamon County. There was no controversy surrounding decisions he had made and he had few, if any, enemies when Decatur started checking on him I remember, as editor, checking the Springfield Journal Register and some other publications in the area at the time and I could hardly find a mention of him. He didn’t have any heavy negative baggage and, from all indications, everyone he worked with in Sangamon County, hated to see him leave. McCrady has worked out so well as Decatur’s City Manager that the council recently agreed to a contract with raises over the next five years. As I mentioned at the time, if the school district or city council has someone who is really doing a great job, boards should go the extra mile to make sure that person stays -- because a solid record will attract job recruiters like magnets. Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Rep. Scherer Learning The Ropes, Setting Goals State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) came by my office to chat one morning last week and I learned a lot more about her work and goals as a freshman legislator representing most of our district. Scherer is not shy about admitting that there are a lot of things about the job that she has to learn and there is no shortage of questions for her to ask. As I mentioned to her, one advantage she has in being a new state representative is she can ask questions that veteran legislators might be hesitant to ask. She has a need to know. She is not reluctant to admit that, in some areas where she has been focusing her attention, she has been surprised at what she has learned because “I just didn’t know. I’ve been a teacher and some of the things I’ve been learning are new to me.” Scherer doesn’t have another job (like some legislators).She is a full-time legislator, works hard and spends a lot of time traveling around the 96th District getting to know the people and the issues. She was scheduled to meet with the mayor and city manager later in the day she met with me -- and it was not the first time. I’m pleased that she wants to work in concert with our city leaders to help address Decatur’s needs. To have a state representative and a state senator who are members of the majority party in Springfield will give us an opportunity we haven’t had for awhile -- to have a stronger voice in addressing the city’s future. I realize it is a tough economic time for the state, but that only makes it more important that we have voices that are heard in Springfield. Scherer seems to be aggressively pursuing goals that will bring jobs to Decatur and the district and we’ll be hearing more about specific goals as the information continues to be gathered, processed and brought into focus. I have talked with Scherer at some length in my office three or four times over the past several months and, I’ve noticed growing self-confidence in knowing the issues -- simply because she’s been talking and listening to so many people and district leaders. It’s much too early to grade her performance in office, but it’s apparent to me that she has a real desire to learn more and more how she can make a difference in our district. She is making the effort to learn and implement. She doesn’t believe she can change the world, but she can work with others to change this area. I’m sure she’s getting plenty of advice about what this district needs, and how to get it. I’m also sure our meetings will become more focused on specific needs and goals each time we talk.
Arrested Officer Forfeits His Badge
Integrity, Public Trust Are Core Values In Police Department
When it comes to police officers “integrity” and “public trust” are characteristics that cannot be compromised. That’s why Decatur Chief of Police Todd Walker called last week’s arrest of one of the department’s officers “disheartening”. Walker’s comment came following the arrest on Thursday of Matthew A. Knuckles, 44, an 18-year veteran of the department who was a detective assigned to the Department’s Street Crimes Unit. Knuckles was arrested for theft over $500 and official misconduct. Knuckles was booked into the Macon County Jail, but was released after posting necessary bail. He resigned from the Decatur Police Department on Friday. Chief Walker said that, even though the arrest of one of the Decatur Police Department’s own officers is disheartening, “whenever a police officer commits criminal misconduct, jeopardizes the agency’s integrity and violates the public trust, it will be dealt with by my administration swiftly.” James Chervin-ko, Deputy Chief of Police, indicated the investigation is be-ing conducted by command officers of the Criminal Investigations Division. The arrest was related to the theft of Decatur Police Department funds and falsification of official financial documents. Knuckles apparently confessed to committing the theft and creating false documents in an attempt to cover it up. More will be coming out about the arrest when the investigation is concluded. I’ve known Chief Walker for many years and he is a “no nonsense” police chief when it comes to protecting the integrity and public trust of the Decatur Police Department. He realizes that any misconduct by one officer reflects on the whole department and cannot be tolerated. I well remember the many times I was present, as mayor, for the swearing-in ceremonies of new police officers in the city council chambers. My comments to the new officers were more of a congratulatory nature on becoming police officers, but the police chiefs’ comments were always about the integrity and public trust that were represented by the badge. I’ve always had the highest regard for our police department, before, during and after the time I served as mayor because I know so many of the officers and chiefs who have served our community over the years. To see an officer have to forfeit his badge for misconduct is sad for the officer, the department and the community. However, it is also a reminder of the admonition given by the police chief when the officers are sworn-in as Decatur officers -- live up to the standard represented by the badge. Regardless of what happens to former officer Knuckles in our judicial system, giving up that badge may be the worst punishment -- and one that he will have to live with for the rest of his life.
Stranger Hands Me A Note In The Post Office Lobby I was standing at one of the tall tables in the downtown post office lobby sorting through my mail. Just as I finished, a guy walked up and gave me a slight, friendly nod. He stopped and briefly tried to explain, using gestures, that he couldn’t hear or speak. The man then handed me a note. The note was a request for me to give him two or three dollars for bus fare to get him where he wanted to go. Maybe the man had the worst second hand smoke scent on him in the history of mankind, or had just run out of a burning tobacco plant, but my thought was, that if he had the money to buy and smoke so many cigarettes, he could cut back on smoking and use that money for a ticket. After reading his note, I looked at him and nodded my head “no”. He took the note, smiled and moved on out of the lobby. (I saw the man outside a few minutes later and he was lighting up a cigarette.) Actually, hitting on people for “contributions” is not permitted in post office lobbies. When it comes to federal buildings people are not allowed to solicit us for money -- except, of course, the President and Congress, who don’t actually “solicit”, but take our money! I guess that’s different. With high unemployment in the Decatur area, there is no doubt that many people are suffering and they need help. Decatur is a very generous community, as witnessed by the annual WSOY food drives and other projects to help those in need. After years of experience encountering people on downtown streets who want money, I think I can safely conclude that almost all of the times I’ve been asked had nothing to do with high unemployment or personal family needs. Those encounters, to me, had more to do with feeding substance abuse. Last year, I wrote a few columns about several people who had approached me asking for money for a meal and, in each instance, I offered to go with them into the nearby Subway, or another restaurant, and buy their lunch, but I wouldn’t give them money. Sometimes, they just walked away. I was later told that a few tried to get refunds on the food I had purchased for them as soon as I left. One man even tried to sell his sandwich to patrons of the restaurant when he couldn’t get a refund on my money after I left! If you remember last year’s columns, one man told me that he preferred to have a KFC special. The downtown KFC was several blocks away from where we were standing and he said he would take the money over there by himself and get some “finger lickin’ good” chicken. I told him I was going to personally pay for his meal so we would go into the nearest restaurant. I would guess that, over the years, out of all the food I’ve purchased for the “hungry”, about nine out of ten wanted only money and not food or “personal help”. The one out of ten who did seem to need the food, appreciated the help. That’s about the same percentage of appreciation that Jesus found when he healed the ten lepers. Still, responding to need is not about being appreciated -- it’s about helping those who truly need help. When I got back to my office I found a list that was sent to me after my columns about helping people were printed last year. I have reproduced it on page 15 of this week's print edition of the Decatur Tribune. If people really need help, there are a lot of places in Decatur where help can be found -- whether it is a warm meal or a place to sleep, or help to get back on their feet. For those who ask us for money on the street, we can give them something far more important -- an opportunity to reclaim their lives. If they only want money to buy drugs, we do not help them by giving them what they say they need. Even if we buy them a meal, we are not helping them deal with their greater need -- only feeding its symptoms for the moment. “Help” is much more than money.
Remember: City Council Positions Are Non-Partisan
There was a “meet and greet” held for Derrick L. Thaxton, Sr., candidate for Decatur City Council at the Macon County Democratic Head-quarters in the 300 block of North Main Street, last night (Tuesday). Thaxton seems like a quality guy and certainly should be applauded for taking his campaign seriously in an effort to win one of three seats on council in April’s election. Just one suggestion that I would offer to Thaxton and those supporting him, is to remember the city council positions are non-partisan and it’s a good idea to stay away from places that would label him either Democrat or Republican in the race. Obviously, I don’t have anything against Thaxton, the Democrat or Republican parties, but fundraisers and public gatherings for non-partisan candidates should be in more “neutral” locations. In recent years I think some have forgotten one of the big reasons that Decatur became a council/manager form of government over 50 years ago was to keep politics out of city government.
State’s Condition Affects Rate Of Interest For Park District
Last week the Decatur Herald & Review printed a story that the Decatur Park District board of commissioners voted to sell $10 million in bonds for new capital projects. Reporter Allison Petty mentioned in the article that David Phillips, senior vice president of Speer Financial, Inc, said the low interest rate for the general obligation bond was because of the park district’s strong financial situation and good practices. However, Phillips also pointed out that the longer-term bond issue might have secured a lower rate if the park district was not in Illinois which has the lowest credit rating of all the states. The article and the comments are reminders that local taxing bodies that do a good job of managing their finances are penalized because they’re located in Illinois. The terrible financial problems that are confronting the State of Illinois filter down to local boards and councils -- in addition to businesses.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Some Thoughts On Supt. Gloria Davis Being A Finalist
For An Out-Of-State Position
As most of you know by now, Decatur School District Supt. of Schools Gloria Davis is one of three finalists being considered to lead the Beaufort County School District in South Carolina. Next week (Feb. 19th) Davis is scheduled for another interview and public forum before the board makes a decision on who gets the position. The other two finalists are Kathryn LeRoy, current director of high school programs for the 125,000-student Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla., and Jeffrey Moss, current superintendent of the 9,850-student Lee County Schools in Sanford, N.C. We learned that Davis was one of the finalists when the Beautfort County School District released the names last Thursday. According to information provided to the media by the school district, each finalist will have a second interview with the board, meet district employees and take part in a public forum that will be televised live on the Beaufort County Channel. The board expects to announce its choice by March 1st.
Reminder Of Earlier Move To Leave Decatur
Back in April, 2011. Davis was one of three finalists for the superintendent’s position in DeKalb County (GA) Schools. She withdrew from consideration indicating to the district that several factors played into her decision. She said the most important factor was that she wanted to finish the work that she started in Decatur Public Schools. Now, two years later, she appears to be ready to move on to another position. I thought Brian Byers of WSOY’s Byers & Co. had an excellent interview with her on Friday and I believe you can still go to the WSOYAM.com website and listen to it. Davis answered a lot of the questions about why she is considering the move. I doubt that she will withdraw her name before the board makes its choice this time. Her daughter lives in the area where she would move if she is selected, so there is the “family” factor in addition to the job itself.
What If She Is Not Selected?
Public knowledge that she is one of three finalists for the position in the Beaufort County School District will certainly now play into the school board race in Decatur with four positions open and ten candidates vying for the seats. Some of the candidates have not been complimentary about the job Davis is doing here. If she does not get the position, her role as superintendent of Decatur’s district will be tougher than it’s been to date. Regardless of the reasons given for wanting another job, detractors will paint it as Davis wanting to “get out Dodge” before a new school board is seated. Davis, in her interview with Byers, said that she didn’t go after the job in South Carolina, but a search firm contacted her and she initially wasn’t interested. I call such firms “head hunters” because part of their job is to match potential candidates with job openings and most will go after city managers, superintendents and others even though they have not been actively searching for another job. Obviously, Davis was convinced to give the Beaufort County School District position some consideration and she did. She indicated that she informed District 61’s board president that she was being considered for the job -- and then told the rest of the school board when it was going to be announced that she was a finalist. Most of you probably remember when former Decatur City Manager Steve Garman was a finalist for a position in another state a few years after he became the city manager in Decatur. I remember his detractors accusing him of disloyalty and not committing wholeheartedly to his Decatur position. I found it interesting that, some of the very people who tried their best to get rid of him, and made his life miserable, blasted him for looking for another job! I do know that, when I became mayor, head hunters were still coming after him with some very attractive job offers, but to my knowledge, he never seriously considered accepting any such offers until after he left the Decatur position -- and he landed a tremendous position in Gulf Shores. Garman was in Decatur for about nine years, which is a long time for a city manager. Gloria Davis was hired for the Decatur position in 2006, so she has been here about 7 years, which is also a fairly-long time for a school superintendent in a city this size. Davis mentioned during her interview with Byers that she was the second longest-serving superintendent in the district’s history. I would assume that Supt. Bob Oakes was the longest-serving, at least in fairly modern times. Before I was editor of this newspaper, it seems to me that Lester Grant was superintendent of the district for a lot of years -- and there may have been one in the very, very early years of the district who served longer.
My Interaction With Davis
Davis came to Decatur during the years I was mayor and our relationship was fairly good. I didn’t have a lot of contact with her since the school district is a separate taxing body and not controlled by the mayor or city council. I have noticed, especially the past few years, increasing discontent about her leadership from people who call or send me emails. The district’s deficit is a growing concern, along with the overall image of the district and the feeling that Davis has too much power over the board. Still, any person who is an agent of change is going to attract a lot of attention along with a lot of criticism. I certainly wish her the best in her quest to land the job in the Beaufort County School District. One interesting aspect of Decatur leaders, such as former City Manager Garman or present Supt. Gloria Davis, is that when they’ve applied for another job, they usually get it or are among the three finalists out of 150-200 applicants.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
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People, Places & Political Races Winston Taylor Must Pay State Board Of Elections $450 Before He Can Be On The Ballot
As reported last week, there’s been a lot of rumblings about Democrat Winston Taylor taking another shot at being elected state representative in the 96th District, which includes much of Decatur. Taylor was narrowly defeated by Sue Scherer in the Democrat Primary Election last year. Scherer advanced and won office in the General Election in November. Taylor has been telling several people that he is a definite yes to run again regardless of whether Scherer seeks re-election, which is pretty certain. One nagging detail of Taylor’s past attempt in the 96th District will have to be resolved or he will not be permitted on the ballot. He owes $450 to the Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) and unless he pays that fine, he will not be on the ballot regardless of complying in every other way. In a letter sent to all election authorities in the state, Sharon Steward, Director of SBE Division of Campaign Disclosure, indicated the Campaign Disclosure Act has changed, and has been in force for two years. Steward wrote: “An election authority is now barred from placing on the ballot the name of any candidate whose political committee has an unpaid civil penalty owed to the State Board of Elections. “10 ILCS 5/9-30. Ballot forfeiture. The State Board of Elections shall not certify the name of any person who has not paid a civil penalty imposed against his or her political committee under this Article to appear upon any ballot for any office in any election if the penalty is unpaid by the date required for certification. “The State Board of Elections shall generate a list of all candidates whose political committees have not paid any civil penalty assessed against them under this Article. Such list shall be transmitted to any election authority whose duty it is to place the name of any such candidate on the ballot. The election authority shall not place upon the ballot the name of any candidate appearing on this list for any office in any election while the penalty is unpaid, unless the candidate has requested a hearing and the Board has not disposed of the matter by the date of certification.” I have seen the Ballot Forfeiture list and the “Friends of Winston Taylor” committee name is on it and he owes $450.00 which must be paid before his name is dropped from the forfeiture list. He needs to get that taken care of or he will not be certified to be on the ballot.
Harrison Fundraiser Feb. 5
Decatur Park Board candidate Chris Harrison will be holding an election fundraiser at the Beach House Restaurant from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5. Individual tickets are $25, tickets for couples are $50 -- isn’t that the same as $25.00 each? You can also become a Lakefront Sponsor for $500 or a Parks Sponsor for $250 with the higher amounts getting you some extra perks. For more information or to RSVP, you can call 217/520-2085 or check out Facebook at “Elect Chris Harrison”. If you are interested you had better hurry. Deadline for RSVP is Feb. 1. Harrison is one of four candidates for two seats on the Decatur Park District Board. Present board member Chris Riley is running for re-election to a third six-year term. Last week, Riley was named Illinois Association of Park Districts’ “Commissioner of the Year” at its conference in Chicago, which sure doesn’t hurt is candidacy for re-election. Former judge John Davis is also running for one of the seats, as is Anthony (Tony) R. Clark, who was unsuccessful in running for the board in the last election. Considering all of the local races involved in the spring election, the race for the two park board seats is stirring up the most action so far. Riley has a “letter to the editor” on page 2 somewhat in response to a letter two weeks ago from Clark about his position. Clark’s letter was in response to comments made by Davis in a news item in this column a week or two before that. Davis and Harrison have been in my office recently (at different times) to talk about their candidacies and I found both men supportive of the direction the park board has been headed. I’ve known Judge Davis for a lot of years. I had not met Harrison until we talked about his candidacy. I’ve known Riley since he and one of my sons were best friends in grade school. I also worked with Riley when he was president of the park board (the job rotates among the commissioners) and I was mayor. As I mentioned in this column a month ago, I believe Riley will be re-elected and the other three candidates will battle for the other seat on the board. More to come later.
All Is Quiet On The City Council Front
This is going to be the most quiet campaign for the three seats on the Decatur City Council that I’ve seen in a lot of years -- and I’ve seen a few of those races really up close and personal -- twice as a mayoral candidate. Three seats are up for election and the present councilmembers filling those seats -- Jerry Dawson, Pat McDaniel and Julie Moore-Wolfe, are seeking re-election and I’m sure, unlike some hotly-contested races in the past -- this race is so low-key that citizens aren’t paying much attention. There are two challengers, Craig Wilson and Derrick Thaxton, Sr.. Thaxton held a news conference last week to officially announce his candidacy and indicated that he thought the present council had done a good job. Thaxton believes that issues which are important to the citizens of Decatur include: A sustainable water supply, the recent gun violence, the impact of changes at Lake Decatur on current dock owners, space needs of the Decatur Police Department, exploration of ways to fund Decatur’s pension obligations and working with business leaders to develop a plan to improve the business climate in Decatur. Ironically, the same day that Thaxton held his news conference, the city council gave the city manager the green light to proceed to the next step in leasing the former Zexel office building for police space -- one of Thaxton’s platform planks. Thaxton indicated at the news conference that, from what he had heard and read on the vacant Zexel office building it looks to be a good move. The other challenger, Craig Wilson, has not made any statements regarding a platform for his candidacy.
I enjoyed meeting and talking with local attorney and Richland Community College Board of Trustees candidate Josh Rohrscheib at the Tribune recently. It’s nice to see young candidates stepping up and wanting to run for office to serve the community. Rohrscheib has his work cut out for him because he has some tough opposition in this race. It would seem his odds would be good considering there are only three candidates for the two seats that are opening up -- but his opponents have great name recognition. As I wrote a month ago, RCC Board Incumbent Dale Colee of Forsyth is running for re-election to another six-year term and I don’t see him losing in this race. That leaves Decaturites Rohrscheib and David Cooprider to battle over the remaining board seat. Cooprider has a long history in education and winning county-wide elections as Macon-Piatt Regional Superintendent of Schools. Before that, he was assistant to the late Supt, Howard Brown, who later became RCC’s president. Cooprider has a lot of “connections” to education and RCC and is still a well-known name years after he left the superintendent’s office. Rohrscheib has a compelling story to tell voters about his family’s connection to RCC and what it, and the community, mean in their lives. He also has a great deal of enthusiasm and energy he is putting into this campaign. Win or lose, I have the feeling that he will be involved in the community for a long time.
* * * Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Posted 1/30/13 Pastor Wants To Take On City Hall Over Ordinance Enforcement Procedure Protocol Pastor Doug Rudow of the Spirit of Life Church in Decatur has sent out a letter to “those who would like to help change Decatur”. This is not the same “Change Decatur” that was so prominent in city council politics four years ago. Rudow wants to appeal to the city council to change back their procedure protocol on city ordinance polices. I was sent a copy of the letter from the pastor and here’s what it stated: “I am a pastor of a church in the Decatur area, I am open for suggestions on how I might go about appealing to the Decatur city council on changing back their procedure protocol on the city ordinance policies. “They used to give courtesy letters to the violators which would give them at least 3 days notice to remedy the problem before any type of fine was imposed. For the last two months they have been implementing fines to people without any consideration of the circumstances. “I am not trying to change the ordinances, just would like for them to be a little more considerate concerning our tax paying citizens. I witnessed people on fixed income and others being fined $150.00 plus hearing costs or $140.00 without any notice whatsoever. “Example #1: An elderly lady with rheumatoid arthritis, was charged for setting trash to the curb "in bags but not in cans" because her son from out of town came on Saturday to help clean the basement. She had him put the garbage next to the cans on the curb waiting for Tuesday's pick up day. Monday came, the city inspector cited her for having trash outside on the curb not in an approved container. The result: $150.00 fine plus $140.00 hearing costs for a total of $290.00 ...she left in tears. “Example #2: A middle aged woman who lives out of town, owns an empty lot somewhere in Decatur. Without her knowledge, someone parked a semi trailer on her lot illegally. City inspector comes by and cited her for parking on the grass. The fine was $290.00. She had called the police after receiving the letter from the City of Decatur. The police were not able to do anything about the semi since it was on her private property. It didn't matter to the city council hearing officers. She was cited for city ordinance violation. “Example #3: I personally own a rental property where a tenant just vacated the property and left all of his belongings, plus an automobile, without any warning or forwarding address. According to the renters’ personal property rights laws for Illinois, the landlord must attempt to contact the person to retrieve his property via certified letter before removing the contents to storage. While we were following the law, the city neighborhood inspector noticed the abandoned car on my property parked in the grass. Well guess what? $290.00 fine for having his car on my property while following the law to remove it properly. We appealed to the hearing officer to no avail. “In my opinion, they are extorting money from people. They use to send out letters to alert homeowners of the violation and give them at least 3 days to fix the problem. That courtesy has been removed. “I am not against the city having ordinances. But to unfairly issue these citations without the opportunity to fix the problem, it has turned into plain extortion of fixed income women and single mothers in our city. This should not be. People are trying to do what is right, but our city manager has changed the procedures to benefit the City instead of who they serve. “I plan on writing all involved, and the mayor, and city council, plus going to the paper, talk radio, and facebook to appeal to the voting public to bring pressure for change. I plan on attending all city council meetings every other Monday to voice my complaint to be on record. Each citizen gets 3 minutes to voice their opinion about city business. “My voice will be heard, plus I am asking for others to get involved with helping to right this atrocity in our community.” So, Pastor Rudow will apparently become a familiar face and voice at future council meetings protesting what he believes is injustice regarding ordinance enforcement protocol. Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
People, Places & Political Races
Rose Pays A Visit
It was nice to chat with our new 51st District Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) as he stopped by my office to talk about what he’s doing now that the swearing in ceremony is over and he is officially no longer a state representative but a senator. Rose was in the area most of last week as he was getting his Decatur office up and running. For now, he has an office close to Rep. Bill Mitchell in For-syth. He told me he thought he had another location on the north end of Decatur, but it didn’t work out. He did say that having an office close to Mitchell’s had some advantages -- like constituents who want to talk to both of them don’t have to spend a lot of time “traveling” between their offices. The addresses and other information regarding Sen. Rose's Decatur and Champaign office can be found in a post in "Politics" on this website. Rose told me he has spent a lot of time traveling around the district and meeting with mayors and others in focusing on the needs of the senate district. He seemed pretty optimistic that some positive work can be accomplished in Springfield in the months and years ahead. Rose is a likeable guy and has a reputation for being able to work with members of both parties to get some things done. Best wishes to him in his move to the senate. The new 51st Senate District includes all or parts of Piatt, Champaign, Dewitt, Douglas, Edgar, McLean, Moultrie, Shelby and Vermilion counties. Rose previously served 10 years in the House of Representatives in the 110th district, which covered Champaign, Edgar, Coles, Piatt and Douglas Counties.
The First And Only?
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) has delivered his first one-minute speech on the floor of the U.S. House, congratulating Taylorville High School Coach Carey McVickers for achieving his 500th career victory. That’s good, but really, he’s a politician -- what are the odds there will be a “second one minute speech”? (Just a little political humor.)
Good Move For Taxpayers
State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) announced last week that she has officially refused a legislative pension. The first-term legislator also called for reforms to future lawmakers’ pension benefits. Some people are grumbling that her move wasn’t any big deal because she already has a large pension from her 33 years as a school teacher, but I disagree. Many legislators I’ve known over the years would have taken both pensions in a heartbeat and squeezed every pension penny they could get out of the taxpayers. Scherer said: “As a candidate, I promised the people of this district that I would lead by example, and say no to this perk that legislators receive at the expense of working families,” Scherer said. “I will be working every day to restore fiscal responsibility to state government and stop the wasteful perks for politicians who have been in office forever.” Prior to being sworn in as state representative earlier this month, Scherer submitted paperwork to the state department of Central Management Services, permanently opting out of the General Assembly Retirement System. This decision is irrevocable. Good for you, Sue. I like the start you are making in your new job representing us. Scherer represents the 96th District, which contains portions of Christian, Macon and Sangamon counties.
Winston Taylor To Run Again
By the way, Winston Taylor, Scherer’s tough opponent in her primary election victory, is already making it known that he is going to be running against her in the 96th District Democratic Primary the next time around. Maybe he should wait to see what kind of a job she does before making that decision -- but that’s just my opinion for what it’s worth.
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Posted 1/23/13 Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
City Council Should Approve Moving Ahead With Former
Zexel Building For Decatur Police Department
Part of the front side of the former Zexel office building at 707 Southside Drive.
It appears the Decatur Police Department will finally have more space after a ten year wait and a lot of frustration. Following a study session the city council Tuesday evening, it is highly likely the members will advise the city manager to proceed in making the former Zexel Valeo office building at 707 Southside Drive the home of the Decatur Police Department. I can’t imagine the council not making that vote to move forward. Of course, the mayor and council members have discussed this site in closed session and have been aware of the details long before the story hit the news. The city council is permitted to discuss such matters out of the view of the public because public knowledge could complicate or destroy any kind of negotiations for lease or sale of property. However, any action such as that which will happen Tuesday night has to be made in the public forum. Tuesday night the council should agree in the informal action to move to the next step. There will have to be a formal vote at another meeting to officially move the project ahead and I assume that will come after more of the details are nailed down, which could come as early as next month. Unless there is an issue lurking out there we don’t know about, it’s safe to say the lingering additional space problem for the police department has been solved -- with no tax increase. I met in my office last week with City Manager Ryan McCrady, Police Chief Todd Walker and Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus. As a mayoral survivor of the years-long previous debates regarding more police space, I was relieved and excited about what I heard. Walker is also excited about all the potential the former Zexel office building has for his department. There are several elements already in the building including two vaults, a laboratory, a car lift and others that would have to be built into other facilities that have been considered in the past. Walker also likes all of the parking that is available, not only for officers’ private vehicles that they drive to and from their shifts, but for the public. Public parking at the present facility is at a premium and crossing busy Franklin Street to walk to and from the Law Enforcement Center is not the best arrangement. He also likes the advantage the remodeled facility will give in recruiting new officers, who are often lost to other communities because of Decatur’s crowded present facility. Walker also told me that local police officers are enthused about the additional space and location. It’s also a big boost to the morale of officers. The Move Would Satisfy Two Concerns
McCrady said that a poll taken last year resulted in the “vast majority” of the 350 respondents indicating they did not want a tax increase to pay for a new police facility. In his memorandum to the mayor and city council this week, McCrady wrote: “Several different locations and options have been considered including, but not limited to, a new building in downtown, renovation of existing buildings in and away from downtown, a new building in the Wabash Crossing neighborhood, conversion of Parking Garage C, and the expansion of the current location in the Law Enforcement Center (LEC). “Much time and effort has been spent determining the pros and cons along with the cost and viability of each of these options. A consistent challenge still remained: finding a solution that can meet the long-term facility needs of the DPD with a cost that can be funded without a corresponding increase in taxes or fees.” McCrady was certain, in our conversation, the former Zexel building meets the criteria. He also indicated that the building has plenty of room for expansion should the department need more space in the future. Billy Tyus, who suffered through all of the years of frustation as previous councils debated (sometimes hotly) what direction the city should go for additional police space also seemed pleased about moving ahead with the site selected -- especially since the move can be accomplished without taxes going up and that’s what citizens wanted.
Why Did It Take So Long To Reach This Point?
Since I was mayor during a lot of the years that more police department space was being looked into by the council, I think it is safe to say that I have a significant amount of inside knowledge of what went on in those debates and discussions, which sometimes weren’t too “friendly”. I believe the reasons for lack of a positive movement on more police space years ago no longer exist. The battle over whether the Dispatch Center would stay in the Law Enforcement Center or move to new or renovated space was a very sore point in discussions years ago. Since the Dispatch Center will remain where it is that debate is in the past. Chief Walker told me he has no problem with that arrangement -- plus we’ll save a lot of money in not moving it. Law Enforcement Center (LEC) income is no longer a factor. The City doesn’t own the LEC but leases space in the facility. There was concern that leaving the facility would deplete income and leave a major part of the facility empty. Macon County Board Chairman Jay Dunn told me several months ago that he can use the space that is left for other offices. That debate no longer exists. The fact the City doesn’t have the money to build new and won’t go to the taxpayers for more revenue to do it is also in the rear-view mirror. Economic conditions narrowed the choices and eliminated building new. Generally, in the past, there was an aversion of leasing space for the police from a company in the private sector. Now, that’s about the only option in these tough economic times. There’s no question (at least in my mind) that a few council members in the past tried to micro-manage possible designs even down to where rest rooms should be located. That’s a nightmare for any public body. The conflicts between some on council and former City Manager Steve Garman didn’t help things. Such conflicts between a city manager, a mayor or council usually result in not much positive being done on major projects. Now, all of the above roadblocks that hindered securing additional space are in the past -- or so it appears.
It’s A Good Move
One of the major goals I had during the years I served as mayor was to find more space for the police department and I believe that was a goal of all the council members over the past ten years. The department is a tremendous asset to our community and the men and women who work there have deserved better facilities for a long time. This appears to me to be the best option for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned and many more and, as a bonus -- the building will be on the tax rolls, unlike if the City owned it. If, for any reason, this option is rejected somewhere down the road because of something that is unforeseen now, it would be a crushing blow to our department -- because there will not be another opportunity that satisfies so many of the requirements needed for the space. It’s a good fit. Kudos to City Manager Ryan McCrady and Police Chief Todd Walker for working hard to bring about a viable solution to a lingering problem. Kudos also to Mayor McElroy and the city council who have worked in concert with McCrady to bring this option this far. It will not happen unless the city council takes another step and informally instructs the city manager to move ahead in securing the site. What Goes Around...
Years ago, when a past city council gave City Manager Steve Garman the green light to find solutions to the space problem for the police department, he came back with several options involving empty buildings that could be used including the Millikin Court building where our newspaper offices are now located. His suggestion was to lease space and the move could be accomplished without increasing taxes because it would not substantially increase the amount of money over what the City was paying for space in the Law Enforcement Center. That evolved into months and years of debate over building new and all of the issues I pointed out earlier in this column. Another problem is that a few of the members indicated to me they were not going to support leasing anything from developer Tony Romano -- mainly because he was a non-union contractor. (He even offered to hire union employees to remodel the building but it didn’t make any difference.) Romano told me back then that he wasn’t going to wait around forever for the council to make up its mind and he moved ahead with remodeling the Millikin Court building to attract others and has made a showplace out of the structure and filled it with tenants. In a touch of irony, if the deal for the former Zexel office goes through as expected, Romano will be involved in the lease process -- and the amount the City will have to pay to lease it will not require a tax increase. I think I heard that kind of arrangement mentioned before -- back at the very beginning in our search for more space.
Skeeter Davis Brought A Message In Her Limousine
The previous post about the “Jesus People” street witnessing and “Christ is the Answer” crusades in our city 40 years ago, stirred a lot of memories for me. It doesn’t seem that long ago the community was buzzing about the presence of the group -- and a lot of the attention being paid to them wasn’t very positive, to put it mildly. Obviously, I was a much younger editor of the Decatur Tribune at the time and I grabbed on to the story and followed the group extensively, including their witnessing in front of the adult book store, the notorious massage parlor on North Main Street (where some of the patrons were apparently being rubbed the wrong way) and telling people entering or leaving Kmart that Jesus loved them. I was also in court when several of them were arrested as a result of their witnessing at various places.
One of the most interesting aspects of their Decatur crusades was when Skeeter Davis, a major Grand Old Opry star and familiar recording artist at the time, hooked up with the group while they were here. Although most younger people may not be familiar with Davis, she not only had decades of hits, she wrote over 70 songs that were recorded by such stars as Pat Boone, Ann Margret and many other big names of her era.
Davis’ biggest hit came in 1963, when she met major success with her country pop crossover hit "The End of the World". The single sold over one million copies (a huge number in that era) and she was awarded a gold record. She was a frequent guest on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and was one of the first guests to appear on the Midnight Special -- an extremely popular show. By any professional standard that could be applied to her career, she had a lifetime of success. Everybody loved “Skeeter”, a nickname given to her by a family member when she was a kid.
What brought Skeeter Davis to Decatur to the Christ is the Answer crusade was that she believed in the message the Jesus People was spreading and their right to witness in public. Davis expressed that belief during a performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 1973, which did not sit well with many of her followers and especially the Opry. Davis was critical of Nashville police for arresting some Jesus People at a local mall and she got the boot from the Opry. She also lost several bookings during that period. She paid a heavy price for speaking her views in that mecca of Christ-ian conservatism. I interviewed Davis a couple of times while she was in Decatur in support of Evangelist Bill Lowery and the “Jesus People”. I found her to be an extremely caring and compassionate person who had a strong faith that was often in conflict with what the entertainment field demanded of stars, including some of the places they wanted them to perform. The first interview was in her long limousine which was parked in the middle of all the semi-trucks, tents and campers at the crusade site on Route 36 East. When Lowery opened the back door of the limo to introduce me to Davis, she didn’t look like a star, but like someone who was ready to go out and work in the garden. The limousine served as her “home” while she was in Decatur. She didn’t have a chauffer. I think she, or someone from the group, had driven it here because that was the only transportation she had to get here.
So, I did the interview in the limo and it was somewhat like a therapy/witnessing session as she talked a lot of her feelings about the group, her banishment from the Opry and many of the things in her life that had brought her to that point. She also testified to her faith and I found the interview quite insightful into why a successful star would give up a lot to defend “Jesus People” and their right to witness in public. She was an extremely genuine person that talked with me that day -- and one with a bedrock of Christian faith from her childhood. I wrote about that interview with Davis, as part of the coverage of the Decatur crusade.
After the crusade was over I never talked to Davis again to learn how her life was getting along, but I do know that a year after banning her, Davis was reinstated to the Grand Old Opry and she performed there and in other countries where she remained popular for a lot of years. Each year, for many years, I would receive a Christmas card from her with a short note wishing the best for me and my family and the Decatur Tribune. Davis passed away from breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 72. I don’t know everything Davis went through in her life after her visit to Decatur, but I do know she impressed me with a willingness to sacrifice her career for her religious beliefs. When the “Christ Is The Answer” crusade reunites for a revival in Decatur in June there will be some people to interview who were there 40 years ago. I’m reasonably sure there won’t be any interviews in a limo but the memory of Skeeter Davis will be there.
Evangelist Bill Lowery
Bill Lowery today.
Forty Years After Controversial Witnessing, Arrests
Christ Is The Answer Crusade
To Return To Streets Of Decatur The man’s voice at the other end of the telephone conversation was familiar, even though I hadn’t talked to him in decades. It was Evangelist Bill Lowery, who had spearheaded the “Christ Is The Answer” crusades in Decatur 40 years ago. Lowery told me the crusade is coming back to Decatur with a 40th reunion revival that’s going to be held June 15-30 at a site yet to be selected. “It was in 1972 that we set up the tent north of the Staley viaduct,” said Lowery. “We are going to raise the big top again and will activate the Jesus Plan street witnessing program hopefully with the cooperation of the local churches and pastors in the city.” That’s a different approach than in 1972 when the crusade, complete with semi-trucks and equipment, entered the city and immediately offended a lot of people by telling them that “Jesus loves you.” Lowery’s group grew out of the grassroots of the Jesus People movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Christ is the Answer Crusades was led by Lowery and his wife Sara. From 1972 to 1992 the ministry traveled from city to city throughoutthe United States utilizing semi-trucks, buses, camper trucks, and cars. When they arrived in Decatur, the traveling evangelistic group was less than 100 strong and they made an immediate impact. Whether it was good or bad depended on the person you talked to about it. Although the revival gathering place was a huge big top-style tent, those involved in the ministry did “street witnessing” and several were arrested for approaching people with their message in front of Kmart on Pershing Road and some other places. They also witnessed in front of the massage parlor on North Main Street and the Adult Book Store downtown, which obviously wasn’t good for business for either establishment and the authorities were called. Apparently, the majority of customers entering those businesess did not want to be identified or have people tell them that “Jesus Loves You” while they were going inside to look at porn and preferred a sexual message instead of a religious one. There was a lot of negative talk about the group during the times they came to Decatur and set-up their tent. A couple of locations included some undeveloped land on Route 36 East, about a half mile west of Airport Road, and in the 200 block of East Pershing Road, across from where Brettwood Village is located. They didn’t get much support from the established Christian community or local churches. In fact, they were often referred to as “Jesus Freaks” or “Hippie Christians” or people who needed a good bath -- although I never witnessed any particular problems with cleanliness when I reported on the group’s activities in this newspaper. One local minister told me that Decatur didn’t need any “Hippie Jesus” message. The fact is the crusades, despite the controversy, were having some success in Decatur. Many people who responded to the message 40 years ago are still followers of Christ. Some are active in local congregations. Part of the planned revival will include reuniting with those who made their commitment during those meetings in that tent long ago and it changed their lives. Lowery has always been a believer in “spreading the message” in the “highways and byways” of the world. Obviously, he was a lot younger during those Decatur crusades that were so controversial in the 1970s. Lowery, who grew up in Weldon, is 70 now and with the years has come a different approach he calls the “Jesus Plan”. “When we brought the crusades to Decatur years ago, most of the people with us came from other places and Decatur residents didn’t know them,” he said. Through the new plan, Lowery says all of the 150 churches in Decatur are going to receive a letter asking for their involvement in this crusade. Although he would accept more people volunteering, he is asking for one person from each church to help do street witnessing, such as standing at major intersections in the community carrying Bibles and telling people that Jesus loves them. In his letter to local pastors, which was in the process of being mailed out when we talked late last week, Lowery explains the plan. Following is, in part, the explanation that is in the letter: “While no one congregation today, could field 200 people a day (for an extended period of time) each congregation COULD field, 1 person, that combined with the representative from the other congregations, creates a labor force that will make a significant impact within the whole community! By placing one representative from each congregation, on all 4 conners, of every major intersection of the city, (the simple act of just standing there, from 10am to 3pm, with a Bible) as a visible wittness, for a twelve (12) day period, significant impact within the community can be made! “The short term goal is to ‘start’ spiritual conversation within the community, conversation concerning the claims of Christ and the role and purpose of the ‘local church’! This will prayerfully lead to long term results, with many finding Christ and subsequently their place in one of the many local congregations.” Lowery told me that he will be scheduling a meeting with local pastors in the near future in order to talk further about the plan and how it will impact on the Decatur community. He said more information about the meeting will be issued as the event draws closer. Lowery said that he was in a large community with a lot of churches recently and when he was checking out at one of the major box stores, he thanked the cashier and told her that “Jesus loves you.” He also said, “I know you probably hear that a lot” considering the number of churches in the community.” She replied that he was the first one who ever said that to her. Lowery is clean-shaven these days -- at least his photo on the Christ Is The Answer website shows him looking much different than when he was crusading in Central Illinois decades ago. He admits that, looking back, he should have involved the local churches a lot more, but it was a different time back then. This time, his goal is to bring the churches together to “preach the Gospel” through street witnessing and a tent revival. More than 40 years have passed. The message will be the same, but the way it is presented will be different. How many pastors or churches will want to be a part of the revival is a big question that must be answered in the planning of this event. For those who think someone standing on a street corner with a Bible and telling people that “Jesus Loves You” is inappropriate, Lowery says that people don’t seem to have a problem with rental places, loan companies and other businesses having employees stand at the corner of intersections in costumes and doing dances, in order to attract customers to their businesses. “Why would someone have a problem with a person standing on a street corner with a Bible?” he asked. Decatur has changed a lot over the past 40 years. Will the people here be more or less receptive to Lowery and his Christ Is The Answer crusade and the message they will be bringing? We’ll know the answer to that question in June.
Refinancing Bonds Saves City Taxpayers Some ‘Big Bucks’ It was announced last week that a recent bond refinancing by the City of Decatur will save city taxpayers $2.34 million dollars in principal and interest payments over the next 13 years. The bond refinancing took place on last week Tuesday with the savings amounting to $300,000 more than the level of savings originally estimated by the City. In a release issued by Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus, it stated that “the total bond refinancing savings, when combined with that from a refinancing in late December 2012, will garner more than $3.65 million in total savings for the City over the next thirteen years, an annual savings in excess of a quarter million dollars per year. “Similar to mortgage financing, bond refinancing replaces older more expensive debt with newer less expensive debt, thereby saving money through lower cost to repay the debt. Between the two bond refundings, approximately $6 million of the $25 million debt reissue was placed locally with the assistance of The Brechnitz Group out of Decatur. “The city regularly monitors financial markets to identify opportunities for savings, a practice that resulted in the most recent opportunities to refinance. The City last year received word that it’s Aa2 bond rating had been reaffirmed by Moody’s Investor Services in part due to its budgetary management and for demonstrating ‘very strong creditworthiness relative to other US municipal or tax-exempt issuers or issues.’ “A bond rating is similar to a person’s individual credit rating and the better it is the less the city — and more importantly, taxpayers — pay in interest rates to fund important development projects.” The refinancing is one of those things the City of Decatur does that is often under the radar because it’s not like promoting a major project or something that draws controversy.
Just When I Thought I Had Heard It All... I’ve read a lot of news stories during the decades that I’ve been editor of the Decatur Tribune, but there was one coming out of the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in Baltimore, Maryland, that definitely put it in the “Just When I Thought I Had Heard It All Department”. A federal employee of that office was formally reprimanded a few weeks ago for “excessive workplace flatulence”. The reprimand was given to him in the form of a five-page letter that included a log of representative dates and times when he was recorded “releasing the awful and unpleasant odor” in his Baltimore office. The reprimand letter accused him of “conduct unbecoming a federal officer,” and he was also informed that his “uncontrollable flatulence” had created an “intolerable” and “hostile” environment for coworkers, several of whom had lodged complaints with supervisors. The male worker, 38, responded that he had some kind of medical condition but the SSA manager didn’t believe him stating that “nothing that you have submitted has indicated that you would have uncontrollable flatulence. It is my belief that you can control this condition.” Apparently, the reprimanded employee had been spoken to about his flatulence several times over a period of several months and advised the “problem” was the reason none of his co-workers were willing to assist him with his work. ANOTHER supervisor spoke to the employee and asked if he could “make it to the restroom before releasing the awful and unpleasant odor.” That supervisor said the employee told her that he would turn her fan on when it happened, but she replied that “turning on the fan would cause the smell to spread and worsen the air quality in the module.” The reprimand letter stated “The following dates show the time of your flatulence.” What followed was a log listing 17 separate dates (and 60 specific times) on which the employee passed gas. For example, the man’s Sept. 19 output included nine instances of flatulence, beginning at 9:45 AM and concluding at 4:30 PM. “The man was also accused of launching a trio of attacks on September 11th.” I’m not sure of the significance of the 9/11 gas release attacks. Maybe he intended them to be a reminder of the horrific terrorist attacks on our nation that happened on that date. From the information in the story, it is going to take a lot to fire him for his “inappropriate conduct”. He sure is making life miserable for the other people working in the office. I don’t know if this is an isolated problem or employees in other places experience it and just don’t report someone attacking their senses. Probably, people are too embarrassed to complain to their supervisors about it. Maybe wearing a haz-mat suit to the office would drop a hint. Now that this story has been “released” it may give others who have been sickened by the problem the courage to speak out. Maybe, in addition to “no smoking” ordinances, there could also be “no flatulence” in public places laws. Public flatulence supporters could have areas outside of workplaces to use designated (with appropriate signage) as “flatulence areas”. Probably designated smoking and flatulence areas should be separated by some distance -- because smokers lighting up their cigarettes near a flatulence area could cause a major explosion! The fact that this problem is finally coming out of the closet is both repulsive and liberating. As far as the Baltimore SSA employee’s reprimand, I don’t think we’ve heard, or smelled, the last of him. Based on his history, I’m sure he’ll fight the reprimand and raise a big stink over it!
Some Final Thoughts To End Another Year It's hard to believe that we’ve come to the end of another year. Where does the time go? It seems that the older I get, the faster the months and years fly by. I was discussing the subject with Brian Byers of WSOY’s Byers & Co., the other day and Brian told me the reason the years get shorter the older you get, is because each year represents a smaller percentage of your life. As an example of Brian’s theory, when I was ten years old, a year was 10% of my life. (A year did seem like a long time back then -- especially the school year.) If I live to be 100 years old (my dad made it to 92), a year will be 1% of my life. If I’m still editing this newspaper at 100 years of age (think of the “Scrapbook” material I will have from personal experience) the weekly deadline, which comes fast enough now, will seem to arrive every five minutes instead of once every seven days! I also heard a more graphic explanation of why time goes by so fast as we get older. The comparison is made with a roll of toilet paper -- the closer you get to the end the faster it unrolls! I guess life, for many people, is kind of like that. It’s a standard joke in our family (especially with our military son) that all of my sons will retire before I do -- and they hope I can get time off from the newspaper to attend their retirement parties. My answer is that they need to make sure the party is held after that week’s edition goes to press. (I’m joking, but don’t tell them.) This past year, several of my friends have retired and some acquaintances have passed away. Some were younger -- most were older. My life has been blessed with family and friends I love very much and career choices that have always been challenging, but deeply satisfying -- especially in what they do for others. Obviously, I’ve always been very “hands on” when it comes to publishing this newspaper and deeply involved in every aspect of it. In many ways, the newspaper has become an extension of what I am and the way I see our community. With next week’s edition I will be starting my 44th year as editor and publisher of this newspaper (you can’t accuse me of being a job hopper). A lot has changed in our lives, the community and nation during those years. There has also been a lot of changes in the way we publish the newspaper each week. We’ve traveled from the old rat-infested building on East Wood Street in 1969-70, with crude, beat-up equipment, to up-to-date technology and modern offices and facilities that produce the newspaper week-after-week in a way I never imagined when I started. Thanks to God, family, friends, staff members and countless subscribers and businesses who have supported this newspaper over the years. As I reflect on the past year and look forward to another one, I realize how blessed I am, and have been over the years, to publish this newspaper in such a great community. Thank you for all of your support and devotion to the Trib over the years -- and I hope that will continue as we move towards 2013. May God richly bless our community, our nation and especially YOU in the new year, just as He has blessed me in so many ways.
Congressman-Elect Davis Staying In Touch
It was nice of Congressman-elect Rodney Davis to stop by the Decatur Tribune to chat recently. Davis continues to focus a lot of attention on Decatur and Macon County and indicated that he will be checking in with us in the future -- as he often did while running to get elected to the office. One of the reasons Davis won the election over Dr. David Gill is that he saw, from the beginning, that Decatur and Macon County would play important roles in his election. He was right -- and he is not going to forget us. It’s going to be great having one Congressman representing us, instead of three, as has been the case. Sometimes, when your county is divided into three separate districts, you don’t get the attention that you need -- although we’ve had some good Congressmen over the years under the old system. Ray LaHood spent a lot of time in Decatur and, as mayor, I had more contact with and help from LaHood than the others combined. Helen Albert, who will run Congressman Davis’ District Office in Decatur, was also with him in his recent visit to the Trib. Helen was an obvious choice for the job. She ran the local office for (in the order they served) Senators Duane Noland, Frank Watson and Kyle McCarter over the years and, although the Davis job will be at the Congressional level, she will continue to serve us, and the new Congressman, with the same quality service. I have no doubt about that. By the way, Congressman Davis’ district office will be located in the beautiful building directly west of the Macon Coun-ty Courthouse. (For old-timers in Decatur, it is the former Security Savings & Loan Building) A lot of work has been done on that building and some remodeling will take place to make the office even more accessible to the public. The office should be open and ready to help consituents, by the middle of January. It’s a good location because it has plenty of parking. An additional bonus is that Helen will finally have an office with windows after working in the office on the lower level of One Main Place for a lot of years.
The Parking Space Reappears!
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how the parking space numbering in one row of the municipal parking garage south of the library was misnumbered (parking space 101 was left out, as in 100, 102, etc) and threw off, by one, all of the other numbers to the end of the row. Well, the numbers were repainted a day or two after the item appeared in this column and all of the numbers and spaces are now consecutive. Thank you. What do you think the odds are that a number would be left out of a row of parking spaces that runs the length of the garage? And, what do you think the odds are that, out of the hundreds of spaces in municipal parking garages, the space omitted was one of several leased by the year by the Decatur Tribune, who has an editor that was sure to notice it and write about it in the newspaper? The odds were, maybe, 1 in 101.
Rough pencil sketch of Central Park proposed changes in May, 2003.
Proposed Central Park Changes In Rough Sketch In 2003
When I was looking back through my files for material involving the four-part “Scrapbook” series on Central Park that I recently printed in the Trib, I came across a rough sketch (pictured above) of changes that were being considered for the area that Massie Massie & Associates had drawn after I was elected mayor in 2003. As you can tell by the 5/7/03 date at the bottom of the sketch, redoing Central Park was an immediate priority (as in the same week I took office) because so much of it was looking so bad -- especially the Transfer House, bandstage and seating area. Nearly ten years later, Central Park is undergoing massive changes and will be quite different by the time the work is finished next year. It’s improvement is part of the transformation of the downtown area. Several months ago, I printed the color proposed designs later made which gave a little clearer picture of what was intended back then.
Although today’s enhancement of the park is far more extensive than what we started with in the initial sketch, I found it interesting that a few aspects are the same. The oval sidewalk layout running through the park was proposed ten years ago and it made the final design of today’s enhancements. There was no plan to move the Civil War statue to the south side of the park or the Vietnam Memorial to the north side of the park which are parts of the current plan. However, the plans included a lot of terracing, especially on the east end where the Transfer House was located. I like the work being done in Central Park and, the final plans approved by the present city council are much more extensive than what were proposed a decade ago. Kudos to all involved for moving ahead with something that needed to be done for a long time. It’s a big mess, now but it will look great when it is finished.
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Posted 12/20/12 Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Some Observations On City Manager's Raise
The Decatur City Council approved a new five-year contract amendment for City Manager Ryan McCrady. Good or bad move? There’s no question in my mind that McCrady deserves the annual salary and benefit adjustments. The council packet reveals that a comparison of city manager salaries in Champaign, Peoria, Bloomington and Normal showed the average compensation package for those cities for the same position to be $174,606. It’s been no big secret that recent city managers in Decatur have not been compensated in the same way they are in other communities. As of December 1, 2012, McCrady will receive a salary of $146,003.00 and will receive a 5% raise and a 5% increase in car allowance for each of the following four years. As I recall, during the four years he has been here, McCrady has received only one raise. That should help close the gap between the city manager’s compensation and other comparable cities. Since McCrady started his work as city manager three or four months after the completion of my mayoral service, I didn’t work with him in an official capacity. However, as someone who worked closely with both a long-time previous city manager and the interim city manager before McCrady, I certainly have an appreciation for what is involved in the job and how well he does it. McCrady came during a difficult economic time when the nation was in an economic downturn (and we still haven’t come out of it) and had to guide the city council through some choppy economic waters. The city council has not been a rubber stamp (as a few people indicate) but the members have demonstrated a lot of confidence in McCrady’s abilities. There is not much public discord between the city manager, mayor and city council. That makes for an excellent environment for a city manager -- and one which any city manager would appreciate. I can tell you from first-hand experience there is not a lot of really good, experienced available city managers floating around these days which makes McCrady a solid candidate for a position in another community with a higher compensation package. The city council did the right thing with the five-year extension and the appropriate raises to firmly say “we like the job you are doing and we want you to stay as our city manager”. Besides, I know that McCrady and his family like Decatur and the council’s actions regarding his compensation package will only add to his desire to stay right here. Although McCrady couldn’t have been successful without the council approving his direction, there is no question he should receive a lot of the credit for where the City of Decatur stands today. This is a solid combination between the elected members of the city council and the city manager. I like McCrady as a person and as a professional and believe he is someone we don’t want to lose. I really can’t imagine much, if any, negative discussion regarding his future with the city. After all, you want to keep a city manager happy that is doing a good job and making you look good.
City Manager Evaluation, Agreement Sessions Can Sometimes Be Intense
Obviously, I wasn’t in the closed session where the city council met to discuss Ryan McCrady’s performance and compensation, but I was in several city manager evaluation closed sessions when I was mayor so I know what happens in such sessions -- because I chaired them. The only people allowed in the meeting are the mayor and six city council members and they discuss his performance and any compensation or agreement changes they want to make. I well remember one closed session where one of the council members thought he was going to be able to fire the city manager, and even alerted the media to be standing by because the city manager was going to be fired. I received several calls during the day from the local news media asking what was going to happen at the closed session and I told all of them that it was going to be an evaluation session and not anything more. Although what was said inside the meeting remains “closed” there was no firing of the city manager or anything close to it -- just a routine evaluation although I use the word “routine” loosely. When the session was over a couple members of the news media were waiting for the “Big News” but there was no “Big News”. It is the responsibility of the mayor to tell the city manager about his evaluation results by the council. I couldn’t help but think that, had the council taken an unusual step and fired the city manager that night, the news media would have had the story before I would even had the chance to reach him and tell him about it. Mayor Mike McElroy and Councilman Pat Laegeler are the only two members left on council who served with me at the time. Although I haven’t asked them about it, I’m sure they are finding the present city manager’s evaluation sessions less dramatic and stressful than they once were. Since it is the mayor who talks to the city manager about the council’s evaluation and/or compensation, I’m sure when McElroy notified McCrady about what the council decided, it was a very enjoyable conversation to have -- for both men.
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Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
‘Who Knows What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?’
When I was a kid, there was a radio program that always started with a man’s voice asking: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” It always made a slight chill run up my young spine when I heard it start the popular radio drama. The man’s voice would then answer “The Shadow knows.”
I’ve thought a lot about that question since the news hit Friday about the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother in the face and then went to the school where he killed six adults and 20 children before killing himself. The massacre was so shocking that veteran police officers and other responders came out of the dreadful crime scene visibly shaken with tears in their eyes. Grief counselors had to be provided for many of them because of what they saw inside that building.
President Obama, in a rare display of public emotion, wiped tears from his eyes as he made a statement to the nation about the slaughter of the little children and the adults who tried to protect them from harm. Veteran news reporters, who routinely cover death and destruction, were emotionally moved by this story in a way I’ve never seen. Some almost lost their on-camera composure and a few broke down in tears in trying to report the tragic story. It seemed that all of America, and beyond, mourned the deaths of the caring adults and sweet children. BY THE time you read this column, countless reports about the murders will have been aired, along with many opinions on why it happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will have been debates, which will continue, about gun control issues, greater security measures for schools and signs to look for in someone who is mentally unstable and could be capable of committing such atrocities on children and adults.
While evil manifested itself in that Connecticut school building Friday morning, so did goodness. We’ve also been touched by the heroic actions of the principal, teachers and school personnel who put themselves in the killer’s way to protect the children -- and six gave their lives in heroic efforts. It was a battle between good and evil -- a young man who wanted to kill children against those who wanted to save children. It was a confrontation between a heart filled with hate and hearts filled with love for the innocent students. Adam Lanza went to that school to kill as many children as he could, knowing that he would also be killed -- either by police bullets or by his own gun. He had enough bullets to kill everyone and would have done so. That’s pure evil incarnate!
The longer I live the more I believe the real battles of life are between forces of good and evil and that conflict starts in the heart of man. That’s why the real solutions to life’s problems are not political, but spiritual. Certainly, mental health issues rise to the top of needed attention in this particular tragedy -- and many others. However, there is no policy or legislation, regardless of how well-intentioned, that can effectively deal with what’s inside a person’s heart who would commit such violence. Legislative measures can only attempt to discourage or control evil actions, not cure them.
I believe the message of Christmas is one of hope, not despair. The “good news” of Christ’s birth is that God loves us and was willing to send His Son to give us the power to overcome evil with good in our lives -- both here and into eternity. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” We found out at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday--when we saw the devastation in human life left in its wake. I believe that, without faith in God, we don’t have a prayer to overcome evil in an unstable world.
* * * Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Drive-By Pumpkin Attack Could Create Big Issue
There was a “drive-by pumpkin attack” on a woman in Stockton, California, recently. The woman was taking a leisurely walk late one night when, according to the police, she was hit in the chest with a pumpkin that someone hurled at her from a speeding car. Police labeled the incident as a “drive-by assault”. The woman had to be transported to the hospital due to severe pain in her chest, but she is going to be okay. It is not my intent to lessen the seriousness of this attack but the news conjured up all sorts of comparisons about “drive-by shootings” and “drive-by hurlings”. As jumpy as some people are these days, I hope the attack doesn’t start a movement to take pumpkins out of the hands of everyone who has not been the subject of a background check. I hope there is not a demand that all farmers and people who raise gardens to bring their pumpkins to police headquarters and turn them in to the authorities to keep them off the streets, doorsteps, windows and holiday table settings. After all, a pumpkin was used as a weapon and could have killed the Stockton woman. I want to remind anyone with such a ridiculous idea that “pumpkins don’t hurt people -- pumpkin hurlers hurt people”! I strongly believe that “when pumpkins are banned, only pumpkin hurlers will have pumpkins”. There is no question in my mind that the majority of people in this country possess pumpkins for the right reasons -- to carve, decorate and to eat during one season of the year. But, as long as there are a few “pumpkin hurlers” at large it means decent, pumpkin moderates, will be “pumpkinized” for wanting to protect their right to possess pumpkins for “piefully purposes”. I’m optimistic that we can stop this rash of hurlings (well, there’s been one) and not go off the deep end and “carve up” our Constitutional right to patronize the pumpkin patch. Still, I’m realistic enough to worry about the “slippery slope” if we allow pumpkins to be burdened with regulations and background checks. What’s next -- tomatoes, watermelons and cantalope? Who knows when all sorts of fruits and vegetables will become weapons that need to be registered with Homeland Security? Once that door is opened, who knows what may be hurled through it? The reality is that more people are killed each year in this nation by drunk drivers than by guns, pumpkins, knives, rocks or anything else. I don’t see anyone standing up and wanting to ban vehicles or a person’s right to drink? If someone wants to inflict harm or death on another, whether it is premeditated or spur-of-the-moment, he can find a wide assortment of weapons in the normal household, its garden or the shelves of supermarkets. I hope the day arrives when we can beat our swords into plowshares and our pumpkins into pie. The basic truth of the matter is that what a man carries in his hand is not the problem -- it’s what he carries in his heart.
Oops! Someone Had A Problem With Consecutive Numbers
The municipal parking garage on the southeast corner of Franklin & Main recently had a lot of work done on it. It looks pretty nice but when the numbers were put back on the parking spaces, someone must have lost count. The numbers went 97, 98, 99, 100, 102. What happened to 101? Number 101 wasn't in the space after 100, but it was 102 and threw off all of the numbers on the parking spaces all the way to the east end of the garage. For those “misnumbered” spaces, something was painted over the last digit(s) in each space and I assume they will be repainted with the correct number. Maybe parking space 101 is where they park the “stealth bomber”. How did I discover the error? Wouldn’t you know that, out of that entire parking lot, the row that was misnumbered included the spaces of some of the employees of this newspaper. How Would That Be Possible In City Council Race?
I couldn’t help but chuckle after reading someone’s blog entry who was upset with the city council and wrote that all of the incumbents up for election should be voted out of office in April’s election. Hmmmm. Let’s see...there are three incumbents running for three open seats on council, and they have two challengers. There aren’t enough challengers (2) to fill the three seats up for election. That means it would be impossible to “vote out” all three of the incumbents -- because, at least one of them will be re-elected. I guess math wasn’t the writer’s strong subject in school. Probably such comments would be more effective if the writers would take time to study what’s going on. Of course, there’s always the option of a “write-in” campaign by other challengers. That’s not going to happen.
More On Forsyth's $50,000 Contribution To Golf Tournament
Last week’s item in this column in which I expressed the feeling the City of Decatur should not give $50,000 to match the Village of Forsyth’s $50,000 in support of the annual Symetra Tour event, drew quite-a-bit of response. As I’m writing this, there wasn’t anyone who wrote or commented to me about it, who was in favor of it. The event is held at the Hickory Point Golf Course and has been successful over the years -- although the past few years, it’s been more difficult to find the financial support needed to keep it going. Village of Forsyth Trustee Bob Rasho told me the village was looking for ways to use the hotel/motel tax fund that had accumulated to a sizeable amount over the years. I think that was the major reason the trustees decided to contribute to it. Rasho said that, since the Village of Forsyth, unlike the City of Decatur, is not a home rule community, the funds accumulated cannot be transferred to another account to be used for other purposes. The City of Decatur pretty much drained its hotel/motel tax fund (which built up primarily to use for “Looking for Lincoln” projects) in order to deal with the impact of the recession not long after I left office. Rasho was right. The City of Decatur, as a home rule community, can, and did, transfer those funds to be used for more immediate needs. Rasho also told me the Village of Forsyth has stopped collecting the tax for that purpose because they haven’t used much of what they accumulated. In some ways, the recipient of the tax (the Village of Forsyth) can be compared to a person who wins the lottery. There is no end to the number of people and organizations that approach a community with ideas on how that money can help them.
Macon County Board Goes Republican But Re-Elects Democratic Chair
Congratulations to Macon County Board Chairman Democrat Jay Dunn who was re-elected to the post last week by a 12-9 vote, despite the board having a majority of Republican members. The Nov. 6th election put the Republicans in the majority by a 11-10 margin, which meant Dunn needed at least one of the Republicans to vote for a Democrat in order for him to keep his chairmanship. Dunn got two: Republicans David Williams and Greg Matting-ley, which means, even though it was the first time in a lot of years that Republicans grabbed the board majority, a Democrat was elected chair. Effective Dec. 14, Williams will be chair of the Transportation Committee and Mattingley will be chair of the Justice Committee. Were the two chair appointments the rewards for voting for Dunn? Dunn said he made no promises for their votes and the two were appointed because they were qualified. There probably won’t be any “Season’s Greetings” cards from the Republican Party sent to Williams and Mattingley this year. After all, the Republican Party in area races didn’t have a whole lot to cheer about this year, but grabbing the majority on the county board was a bright spot -- and they still didn’t get the chairman’s job. Getting away from the “party politics” of the board, I think Chairman Jay Dunn has done a pretty solid job in the position. Under his leadership the county’s finances are looking better -- and that’s evidenced by a recently approved budget that is “in the black”. That’s not easy to do in these difficult times. Jay Dunn and I have always gotten along okay. Although he wasn’t the board chairman when I served as mayor, he was a solid member of the county board and I always found him open-minded to new ideas and ways of doing things. We met at different times at meetings between the city and county regarding common interests and I always found him to be reasonable in his comments. He has his faults, like all of us, but you can’t argue with the direction that county government has been moving under his leadership as chair. Still, it is easy to understand how Republicans feel betrayed by Williams and Mattingley. Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
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‘When Are You Going To Get Rid Of That...?'
There's a verse that has been printed in every print edition of this newspaper since I became editor and publisher in 1969. It’s located on page 2 at the top of the identification box at the bottom of column one. It’s Psalm 33:12, which reads: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” It’s printed as part of the “Opinion Page” and has remained there over the decades because I believed it the day I placed it in the first edition and I believe it even more today.
Back when I purchased this newspaper, I hit the streets going to every business to solicit advertising to keep the Tribune going. I was appalled in those early days at how that psalm seemed to upset a few potential advertisers. I remember a business owner who was leafing through the pages as I was talking with him about the Tribune and he went back to page 2 and read “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
I remember how his face went sour with disapproval and he asked if I thought it was wise to “put something like that” in the Tribune. I answered that it was on the opinion page and that was the opinion of the editor and publisher. He didn’t change his sour look when he heard my explanation, and I remember the look and what he said next as if the incident happened yesterday. “I suppose it is alright, if you like that kind of thing,” he said. I felt the psalm spoke to the beliefs of the new young editor (me) and it was more than “that kind of thing” to me.
The businessman didn’t ask me to remove it, but he never advertised with the Tribune. It would be unfair to write that he refused to advertise with the this newspaper because he saw the psalm printed there. Not buying any advertising in this newspaper could have been due to lack of advertising dollars, a belief the Trib wouldn’t last very long -- and other factors. I’m just writing about the man’s reaction back then because of how he looked and what he said.
There's another reason I bring the subject up in this edition. I received an email earlier today which asked: “When are you going to get rid of that ridiculous bible verse on page 2?” The message came from someone who preferred to remain anonymous.
The only reason I’m giving the writer any space today is there seems to be a growing intolerance for people who recognize God, and specifically Jesus Christ, as the strength in their lives and the life of a nation. Maybe that’s because of the radical actions and statements of a few professed religious people who seem to have forgotten what faith in God is about.
I'm not forcing anyone to believe what I believe, but I am not ashamed of affirming what I believe in what I do and how I feel about America. However, the editorial pages of this general circulation newspaper are always open for letters from all beliefs. It seems to me that fundamental faith in God and Christ is a strength this nation needs now more than ever. So, to answer the question posed: “When are you going to get rid of that ridiculous bible verse on page 2?” let me respond by paraphrasing another popular statement: “The verse will be there until they pry my cold, dead fingers off of this keyboard.”
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
City Council's Property Tax Levy Could Increase Rate
During this week’s city council meeting the mayor and council members approved the same property tax levy as last year, but the tax rate will probably go up due to the anticipated decrease in property values. The city’s property tax rate is set to collect the funds for the dollar amount levy, which the council approved at $11,751,637. In a “worst-case scenario” the rate would go up if property values in Decatur decline by as much as 4 percent -- which is anticipated. The rate of $1.29 per $100 of equalized assessed valuation would have to be raised to $1.34. Are you starting to get that “glazed look” in your eyes that usually accompanies explanations about property values, levies, rates and equalized assessed valuation (EAV)? Another way to explain it is, after the city council approved the dollar amount levy, if there is no change in property values, we will pay about the same as last year. If property values decrease, then we will pay a higher percentage to make up the dollar levy because our property is worth less. That’s how, in simple terms, we can end up paying a higher tax rate although the city’s tax levy is the same in dollars approved. The taxpayer rub is, if our property is worth less, shouldn’t we be paying less in taxes? After all, we pay more in taxes when our property values go up. The only way that could happen would be if the dollar amount levy was reduced -- and that’s not going to happen. In fact, because of pension considerations, it is likely to increase in the years ahead -- as property values decrease. What really makes the whole process tricky is that funds that are going to be needed for the next year won’t really be approved by the city council members until the next budget months from now. Essentially, the city manager and his staff are trying to anticipate how much money will be needed and set a levy months before the next budget is presented to the city council. Since they don’t have the gift of prophecy, or have a crystal ball, there is no way to know exactly how much money will be needed beyond an “educated guess” based on previous years and projected needs. A very important point to remember is that a city can approve a higher property tax rate in anticipation of a “worst case scenario” and then can reduce the rate if the “worst case scenario” doesn’t happen. However, once the tax rate is set, it cannot be increased. The problem Decatur is now facing is how much are property values going to decrease, not only in the upcoming year, but in the following years? If our property continues to decrease in value, how long should we be expected to pay the same, or more, in real estate taxes through a higher rate each year? That’s the reason it is critical that there is economic growth and improved property values in the city’s future. Without those factors, the tax burden on everyone will continue to increase and, in the case of property taxes, the tax rate will have to be increased every year. That is not an attractive scenario for the community and certainly is not positive in attracting jobs and people to the city. During the years I served as mayor I remember the debate between those of us serving on the council at the time came down to dollar amount versus tax rate. Those who wanted genuine tax relief for Decatur taxpayers argued that it was only possible by reducing the dollar amount of the levy and adjusting the tax rate down to reflect the savings. The bottom line of such debates, when it comes to the property tax levy is that, even though taxpayers’ property value is less, adjusting the rate up to raise the same dollar amount translates into a property tax increase. That’s because you are paying the same amount, or more, in tax to the City but what you own is worth less.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
City Of Decatur Should Not Spend $50,000
For Prize Money In Annual Golf Tournament
The Symetra Tour, an annual women’s golf tournament played at the Hickory Point Golf Course is asking the City of Decatur for financial help in continuing the tournament. The tour develops players for the LPGA and has been presented for 28 years. Most recently it was called the Tate & Lyle Players Championship but that company’s commitment to the tournament has ended and funds from somewhere else are needed for prize money. The Village of Forsyth has already agreed to give $50,000, or half of the prize money needed. Now, the City of Decatur, as I understand it, is being asked to kick in the other $50,000. It’s my opinion, for what its wort, the City should not be spending $50,000 for prize money on a golf tournament -- even one that has been successful for nearly 30 years. That’s not the role of city government, plus the tournament is technically not even played in Decatur. The Village of Forsyth has been looking for something to spend its accumulated hotel/motel tax on, and that’s where the funds are coming fund. In fact, Forsyth has enough money in that fund to sponsor the event all by itself for the next few years. There was a time when the City of Decatur had nearly a million dollars in its hotel/motel tax funds and the idea was to invest it in projects like “Looking for Lincoln” in order to bring tourism dollars to Decatur. That was the case during the time I served as mayor and, if I remember correctly, some of the funds were spent on the African-American Civil War monument in the 300 block of North Water. However, the bulk of the funds, when the City started experiencing financial problems, got transferred to the General Fund, in order to help with staying ahead of the impact of the recession. The percentage of hotel/motel tax funds that once accumulated for “Looking for Lincoln” projects is no longer set aside for such projects. Even when we had a sizeable amount of the hotel/motel funds available they were not used to sponsor events. In fact, contributions to popular events, such as the Decatur Celebration, have been on the small side -- something like $5,000 and the City has also provided safety services to help keep the Celebration safe, which is held downtown one weekend each summer. As mayor, I can remember many promoters coming to the City and asking me for major contributions to keep their events going. One time, Fred Puglia, founder and director of the Decatur Celebration, wanted the City to give the lion’s share of the cost of operating the festival because some of the major sponsors were no longer contributing -- either because the businesses shut down, or moved to other communities, or they felt they had contributed enough over the past quarter century. I don’t remember that any council member, the city manager, or myself being supportive of becoming sponsors of events that required large contributions of taxpayers’ money. By the way, the Decatur Celebration has survived and is on pretty solid financial footing at this point. It moved forward with new ideas, a new director and forward-looking board members who turned it around.
Symetra Tour Is Great Event, But...
I believe the Symetra Tour is a great event for our area, and I applaud all who have worked so hard to make it happen for so long. The last few years have been difficult to keep the tournament going and, fortunately, Tate & Lyle stepped in to give a helping hand for awhile. The tournament started charging admission fees which didn’t help in attracting spectators. The recession has certainly been a part of hurting a lot of events because many companies pull back sponsorships during lean financial times. I also believe that the City of Decatur should not contribute sizeable amounts of taxpayers’ money to major events in the area. Once that door is opened, the requests will never stop. That’s why I held that opinion, along with the council I served with, and still hold that opinion today. It really is a slipperly slope -- even in good, properous times. For several years, the Decatur Park District has felt the City should share some of the tax generated by the events it brings to the City. After all, the events generate revenue for the City because of the people they bring to Decatur. That’s sounds reasonable, but... I really didn’t think it was a good idea when I was approached about by a few park district commissioners when I was mayor and I still don’t think it is a good idea. That’s because the City of Decatur already provides a lot of the basic safety services, roads, etc., that make such events possible. Besides, where does the sharing of tax revenue stop? What about all of the events held at Millikin, or Richland, or in the Decatur Public Schools which bring people to Decatur? Should other government bodies, institutions or organizations share in the tax revenue generated for the City by the events they bring to Decatur, too? That’s another real slippery slope and I believe such sharing and donations are not good uses of taxpayers’ funds -- and would eventually force the City to increase taxes to make up the difference because of the shared revenue from its coffers. Especially, since city coffers don’t have much revenue as it is. But, as always, that’s just my opinion as someone who once had to make those decisions.
Posted 12/5/12 Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
Davis, Scherer Say Thanks, Lumber Co. Closes,
City Council Race Set
Our newly-elected Congressman Rodney Davis (R-13th District) has been spending some time in Decatur thanking everyone for their support. I talked with Davis briefly at last week’s Community Thanksgiving Luncheon at the civic center, which was appropriate because he was really “thankful” to win, when many other Republicans on the state and national level lost. By the way, I thought the food at the luncheon, which is presented by the Greater Decatur Chamber of Com-merce, was extra good this year. (Maybe I was extra hungry.) Davis was also on WSOY’s Byers & Co. Monday morning and spoke at St. Teresa High School later in the a.m. I’m sure he maximized his time in Decatur and made the rounds to shake hands with a lot of people in Macon County. The voters in Macon County played an important role in his victory. He knew they would when he was running and his feeling was confirmed election day. He was spending a lot of time in our city leading up to the time when he was selected to run by the chairmen of the counties in the district - and he told me he felt Decatur and Macon County were critical in winning the race. Scherer To Hold Open House To Thank Volunteers, Others
I received an invitation to attend State Representative-Elect Sue Scherer’s Open House to be held in a few days. Scherer, a Democrat, won the seat in the newly-created 96th House District earlier this month. The district includes most of Decatur. Since the gathering is by invitation I won’t reveal any other details except she wants to use the occasion to thank volunteers and others associated with her victory. “It is such an honor and so humbling to be elected as our new state representative,” wrote Sue to those receiving the invitation. I’m sure it is an exciting time for Sue, her family, friends and volunteers. Best wishes to her as she represents our community in Springfield.
Long-Time Decatur Business Closes Its Doors
I was so sorry to learn that Sims Lumber Company at 2320 North Oakland in Decatur has closed its doors for good. The firm was a family-owned building material supply company and was founded in 1950 by J. Everett Sims. The Peck family acquired the company in 1978. The company was owned and operated by Jimmy Peck, who purchased it from his father in 2002. Eleven employees worked at the lumber company. I called the lumber company Monday and was told that, although the lumber company is closed the rental company is in business. When you call the Sims Lumber Co. number at (217) 877-5700 you will get the rental company.
Three Incumbents, Two Challengers In City Council Race
Monday at 5:00 p.m. was the deadline for filing petitions to run for three four-year city council terms up for election in April. Those who filed to run during the week before the deadline were incumbents Jerry Dawson, Patrick McDaniel and Julie Moore-Wolfe. They will be challenged by Derrick L. Thaxton Sr. and Craig Wilson.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
McDaniel Will Be First Name On The Ballot
In City Council Election
City Councilman Patrick McDaniel will be the first name on the ballot in April’s city council election. City Clerk Linda Swartz started accepting petitions for three four-year city council seats up for election at 8:00 Monday morning and McDaniel was the only one to file. Councilman Jerry Dawson filed later in the day so he will be the second name on the ballot. As indicated in an earlier column, Councilwoman Julie Moore-Wolfe is expected to also file and may have done so by now That means all three incumbents are running for re-election. Several have taken out petitions to run for city council and they will have until the close of business on Monday (Nov. 26) to file their petitions. Is there an advantage in being first on the ballot? It certainly doesn’t hurt a candidate to lead the list of names and that’s why challengers should be there at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of filing to try and get the top spot. What happens if more than one candidate shows up at 8:00 a.m. on the first day of filing? Well, they go outside in front of the civic center and wrestle to see who gets to be first! Okay, so I’m kidding. If more than one candidate shows up at 8:00 a.m., there is a lottery held on another day to draw the names of all of the candidates who were there at 8:00 a.m. and determine ballot order. Since McDaniel was the lone filer at 8:00 a.m., there will be no lottery and his name will be first on the ballot. If a challenger was serious about running for a council seat, why didn’t he or she show up at 8:00 a.m. and have a shot at being first on the ballot? It could have been that any challenger wanted to see if all of the incumbents are running before making a decision to run. Since the three incumbents have good name recognition, being first on the ballot probably doesn’t mean as much as it would if some open seats were available. When I ran for mayor the first time I was elected, I had opponents file the same time I did -- at 8:00 a.m. on the first filing day including an incumbent city council member. So, we had to go back for the lottery draw to determine the order the names would appear on the ballot. City Councilwoman Betsy Stockard’s name was drawn first and I believe my name was drawn third. The primary election was to reduce the mayoral race to the two candidates who received the most votes. Four mayoral candidates were enough to cause a primary election. That number has now been increased. Back then, a primary election for city council seats was necessary if more than six candidates were running for three seats. Today, a city council primary is necessary if more than 12 candidates file. The increase in number of candidates allowed before there is a primary election makes a primary election for mayor and city council almost a procedure of the past. This year, with three city council seats open and three incumbents running for the seats, it’s hard to see that 10 challengers will be running against the 3 incumbents for a total of 13 candidates to force a primary. Regardless of where a person’s name is drawn in the lottery, the general election ballot’s candidate name order is determined by how the candidate finish in the primary. Since there will be no primary, McDaniel and Dawson will be the first names on the ballot because of filing order. My opponent in the General Election in 2003 was Dave Butts and, as an interesting sidenote, the fourth mayoral candidate in that primary was Pat McDaniel, who would 8 years later go on to win a city council seat and now is running for re-election for a four-year term. It’s a small world when it comes to city government.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.
‘Sniffing Out’ My Dropped Car Keys
After stopping at the downtown post office for the mail, I got inside my car and dropped my car keys. I heard them go down between the seat and the center console. I tried to reach between the seat and console to retrieve them, but my hand wouldn’t fit. I also tried to adjust the seat so I would have more room to reach down -- but it didn’t improve the situation. I figured I might be able to scrape out the keys by using a snow scraper with a long handle that I had in the back seat. That didn’t work.
By now, I had worked for ten minutes, without success, trying to retrieve the keys. I got down on my knees outside the car so that I could feel under the seat with my hand, but I didn’t feel any keys. It was about this time that I noticed a guy sitting in his car across the street watching what I was doing -- probably wondering if he should call the police.
I thought, maybe I could get a better look at the space between the seat, if I got in the back seat to view it from behind. That should really have caused the man in his car across the street to open his eyes wider, when he saw me get out of the driver’s side door and climb into the back seat of the car. I couldn’t see any better from behind than I could from the front.
Fortunately, I had two snow scrapers in the back seat and I wedged both of them between the seat and console to create a little space. I didn’t hear any keys drop, so I reached my hand into the space and then got my hand caught! I was finally able to pull out my hand (it was bruised purple for a few days) and decided to try one last attempt to retrieve the keys. I knew they were in there somewhere.
So, I got out of the car and returned to the back seat while the guy across the street was still watching. I figured, if I could get my head down low enough, I could look under the seat and see if the keys were lodged in the springs. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to look under your car seat from inside the car -- but it’s not easy. The human body is not suppose to bend the way you have to bend to get your head on the floorboard.
I could have gotten on my knees outside of the car and looked under the seat, but I had done that once already and didn’t see any keys. Besides, I was parked on a busy street and I didn’t want to end up as someone’s hood ornament. So, I did what I had to do. I got my head down on the floorboard of the back seat with my legs and feet way up on the back seat. I can only imagine what the guy in the car across the street was thinking as he watched.
With the side of my face against the floorboard I could see my keys wedged on the track that moves the seat forward and back. I was able to knock them loose with a snow scraper and get them in my hand. The whole process had taken 20-25 minutes. When I got upright and was back in the front seat the guy across the street was still watching from his car.
I drove off as if I did that sort of thing all the time. I was surprised, especially after getting my head on the floorboard, that the guy in the car didn’t come across the street and ask what I was doing. I had the perfect answer. “What am I doing? I’m training to become a member of the Decatur Police Department’s canine unit to sniff drugs out of cars.” Thankfully, I again had my keys-- along with my sense of humor.
Civic War Monument In Central Park
Has Time Capsule Inside
I had an old friend call me the other day and ask if I remembered that a time capsule had been buried in Central Park when the new bandstage was built in 1976. The subject came up because of the demolition of the bandstage, and about everything else in that end of the park, the past few weeks. He thought there was a time capsule buried close to the bandstage. With all of the demolition and digging that has taken place, if there was a capsule near the bandstage it would have been uncovered by now. However, there is a time capsule inside the bottom of the Civil War monument located on the west side of the park, not far from the bandstage. That statue is the only part of that section of the park that hasn’t been reduced to rubble or excavated. I wasn’t there when the monument was originally dedicated in 1904 (regardless of what some think) but I was there in 1976 when the time capsule was placed in the monument base. Somewhere I have photos of the special occasion but I have not been successful in locating them. I’ll keep looking and when I find them, I’ll do a “Scrapbook” story about the monument and its move to its present location. I talked with the City of Decatur’s Public Works Director Rick Marley about the capsule and he indicated that his research did not find a second time capsule in the park -- just the one that is located in the Civil War monument. Obviously, with that part of the park completely dug up, they would have found it by now. Marley did confirm the presence of a time capsule in the base of the Civil War statue, not only from newspaper reports at the time, but the City was able to get a tiny camera through a bolt hole in the statue’s base and saw the capsule inside. As part of Central Park’s new design and construction work, the Civil War monument will be moved to the south side of the park. Will the time capsule be opened when the move is made? Marley indicated that present plans call for the statue and it’s base to be moved as one unit, meaning the time capsule would remain inside during the move. The move will be the second one for the statue. Back in 1976, in order to accommodate the new bandstage, the statue was moved from its site east of its present location, to where it now stands, so that seating for the bandstage could be accommodated. Maybe the south side of the park is the most appropriate place for it to be since the Grand Army of the Republic was formed in an upper room in one of the buildings across the street and a little east on South Park Street. Central Park is going to look a lot different (especially the west end) than it has looked in a long time when the project is completed. As the photo at the top of the page indicates, the removal of the bandstage and seating area is going to make the park appear to be much larger with more grass. The park has already been extended on the west side (Water Street) and will also be extended on the east side (Franklin Street) when that part of the construction is finished. One thing is for certain: it will still be home to that impressive Civil War monument that has stood in Central Park for over a century. It remains the “senior structure” in terms of being located in the park. The Transfer House was moved to the park from Lincoln Square in 1962. The new fountain was constructed in 2002.
Thoughts On Reporting Elections Past And Present
• I remember covering election day after I became publisher of the print edition of this newspaper many years ago -- and, back then, it was routine to work all night putting the results together in time for the newspaper to be printed early Wednesday morning. It was actually a lot of fun and I always knew I would be working until the sun came up the next morning. The advances in technology, the internet explosion with all of the media websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and a lot more electronic coverage that didn’t exist when I first started as editor, have made the role in election vote statistics in our print newspaper edition less critical than in past years.
• I remember one election, many years ago, when I worked especially hard to get all of the vote totals in the Tribune that week and the press was almost rolling before I got finished. That was a lot of pressure because the totals had to be gathered and updated without computers and all of the tools we have today. I was really exhausted when it was finished. I remember wondering after the Trib hit the street that day if anyone really cared about how hard we worked to get them the results. A few days later, I received a postcard (that was before anyone had email, or even heard of it) from a reader in Decatur who wrote: “The election coverage looks great. It’s apparent you had to work all night on it.” Sometimes, a single, positive comment from someone can so make your day that decades later you still quote it.
• I also have a bittersweet memory of covering the election of 1970 and just finishing up when my wife started having labor pains. We drove to the hospital and our daughter Kimberly Kay Osborne was born on Nov. 4th -- early the next morning. When Kimberly grew up I had planned to joke with her about her arrival just after the election results were ready for the Tribune. Kimberly passed away the following year, and I cannot think of an election day without being reminded of that election night so long ago.
• We were still compiling election day results to print in the next day’s Tribune when I was elected to my first term as mayor in 2003. There wasn’t much time to celebrate victory for either the primary election or general election wins. After attending the victory party at Carolyn’s Cafe (where the Downtown Cafe is now located), and talking with reporters from the other news media, I had to head back to the newspaper and get the election day stories in the Trib before we went to press. Phil Jacobs, a photographer from the Herald & Review came to our newspaper office and shot a photo of me working on the newspaper that would carry the election results. The Herald & Review used it in their next edition. It was kind of a strange connection: the other newspaper shooting a photo of the winner to run with its story and the winner was the editor of this newspaper working on our election edition! I’m not sure that’s ever happened before anywhere -- especially in a city the size of Decatur.
In Other Miscellaneous Election Items...
• John Harvey of Oakley wrote to me a few days ago stating: “I am glad that this election is finished. If you pay much attention to the campaign ads, you wonder how the candidates succeeded in staying out of jail this long, with all of the crimes against common sense and humanity their opponents uncover. “Another thing I have to wonder about is, how come there are no prosecutions based upon these revealed misdeeds? Sure seems strange to me.”
• Along the same line as John’s letter let me address the rumor that is making the rounds and write that it is not true that several candidates have now scheduled appointments for surgery to deal with what can only be called “Pinocchio nose”. For several it’s probably going to require major surgery--or so the rumor goes.
• I understand some families in Chicago have reunions on election day because family members who passed away years ago, always return to vote -- at least that’s what I heard.
• This is the first election I've ever seen where a sitting Illinois governor was used in negative campaigning by both parties! I found it strange and amusing that Governor Pat Quinn, our state's Democrat governor, was pictured in background of commercials against Republican Mike McElroy and Democrat Andy Manar in the 48th State Senate District campaign. It's not very flattering when commercials from your own party use your photo to connect you in giving a reason as to why the member of the other party shouldn't be elected. It's been a strange time in Springfield. Pat Quinn didn't get any respect from either party in this campaign!
• If I was asked to characterize the campaign of 2012, I would use Mark Twain’s quote from over a century ago: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”
Posted From 11/7/12 edition of the print edition of the Decatur Tribune.