KUDOS to the Macon County Fair Association, and anyone else responsible, for the huge schedule of events at this year’s county fair June 4-9. Although its been 163 years since the first Macon County Fair was held, there were a few of those years when it wasn’t held, and, it appeared not that long ago that the fair was going to disappear forever! Well, it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but the fair that was on its last legs and a shell of its former self, is back with a big bang this year and I gladly had to devote an entire page (page 13 in print edition) just to list the schedule! The county fair is a lot different than it was when it began 163 years ago (in case you are wondering I wasn’t at the first fair) and much of that is because of the disapperance of so many family farms and the entertainment technology of today. I hope those who want to see the county fair continue in the years ahead, visit the fair during this year’s run to enjoy and show support. This fair has the feel of the fairs I attended over the years and I certainly wish it the best in continuing what has been an important part of our summer.
• DENNIS SHACKELFORD, who was the Republican candidate running against Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) in the 96th District, in 2012, stopped by my office last week to say “hello”. Dennis, who lives in Rochester, was a strong candidate in the race but the 96th District belongs to the Democrats and any Republican who runs in that district will feel the mighty power of House Speaker Mike Madigan in protecting that turf. It also didn’t help Shackelford to get such weak support from the Illinois Republican Party, who apparently felt a Republican couldn’t win that seat. Shackelford had excellent credentials as a candidate and was the strongest candidate the Republicans have had in running against Scherer. When I asked Dennis if he had given any thought about running for office again, he replied “never say never” and that he enjoyed the 18 months of campaigning in the 96th District — except, of course, the result on election night. Plus, he is now retired from his business and is much too young not to seriously consider running again — if not for the 96th, another office. I have a feeling we may hear more from him in the future.
• THERE REALLY wasn’t a lot of publicity about the retirement of Dr. Dana Ray from the city council, after serving some 10 years plus, as I recall. Her replacement, Rodney Sky Walker took her place via the recent election and was sworn in a few weeks ago. Dr. Ray did not run for re-election this time. I certainly want to thank her for her service as a member of the city council. She is among the best I’ve seen on the council over the years. She was deliberate, thoughtful and voted the way she felt benefitted the people of the community.
• I THINK the guest editorial from Phil Zeni in the print edition of the Tribune this week is very positive about Decatur, even though he is leaving us to relocate in Memphis. Phil is one of the people I met at WDZ when I first started the “Thoughts For Today” program a lifetime ago — maybe even longer, and we’ve stayed connected via the Tribune over the years and when he would come home to visit. As his editorial indicates he has spent most of his life away from Decatur, but he got his start, and re-start, in our fair city. Phil has been highly successful in his career and I certainly wish Phil and his wife the best as they leaves Decatur again. He has already sent their new address so they won’t miss an edition of the Tribune when he arrives in Memphis.
• I ENJOYED sitting down with City Manager Scot Wrighton at the Tribune a couple of times recently to discuss the city council’s separate night study sessions and some other issues. Wrighton said the study sessions will continue to be held on either the second, fourth, or fifth Monday night (when there is a fifth Monday night in a month) and the regular council meetings will continue to be held on the first and third Monday nights of the month. As I mentioned recently in this column, I think holding a city council study session on a separate night from the regular council meetings is a positive move. We’ll watch for positive results. The city council does not vote on agenda items at a study session — it is meant to gain input from members, citizens and others — and give the city manager and his staff an indication of what direction they should go with a study session item. The separate night will be much more productive than cramming the study session in at the end of regular council meetings. Wrighton indicated to me that it’s important to discuss and get direction on the issues that were studied in the first session — and will be studied in future study sessions.
Monday night’s study session was held at MacArthur High School and was devoted entirely to restarting the city’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. In his memo to council, Wrighton wrote: “The city government can be most effective by deploying a variety of tools, programs and incentives to aid neighborhood revitalization—strategies that neighborhood associations, private companies, governments, not-for-profits and others can then select and implement.
“Even though much implementation will be at the hands of others, the city government will still need to select the strategies it believes will be the most effective, and most likely to achieve the desired outcomes.”
A lot of material was provided for council to consider. Holding the study session at MacArthur and away from the city council chambers was a good idea. Citizens are sometimes reluctant to go before council in the “official” setting of the council chamber than they are in a more relaxed neutral setting like a school. Did the city manager and his staff get a sense of direction on how to move forward as a result of the study session? We will find out in the days ahead.
• I CAN’T remember ever wearing my overcoat to the office in the middle of May, but I have this year, due to the very cool temperatures, especially in the morning. A few evenings, when the temp shot up to high 70s and low 80s, I felt a little silly wearing the coat, but most mornings it has been too cool to go without one. This edition is dated May 15th and most farmers have been unable to get into their fields because of all the rain we’ve had for weeks — and then it takes another week or more after the rain stops for it to be dry enough to get into the fields. If I remember correctly, May 15th is usually the date that yields start dropping for crops planted after that date.
• GREAT JOB! Letter Carrier Chris Bragg informed me that 31,766 pounds of food were collected during last Saturday’s annual food drive by the letter carriers. This is a very giving community.
Listen to Paul Osborne on the “City Hall Insider” hour each Thursday morning on WSOY’s “Byers & Co.” program, as they discuss what’s happening in city government and beyond.