CITY BEAT: PLENTY OF JOBS AVAILABLE IN AREA, BUT FEW APPLICANTS
A local woman reportedly went to a Walmart Pharmacy recently to pick up her prescription and was told the pharmacy was closed — due to a lack of help. She had to call her doctor’s office and change her pharmacy to Walgreen’s in order to get her medicine. Hopefully, by the time you read this column the situation at Walmart has changed and the pharmacy has re-opened. It would be a good idea to call before making a trip to the pharmacy.
What this woman experienced in going to pick up her prescription is happening at some area stores, supermarkets and restaurants in Decatur and Central Illinois — and in much of the nation. As I wrote in my “Viewpoint” column last week, job openings are not being filled because many potential applicants have decided not to work as long as government assistance programs and stimulus checks keep coming to them. Supermarkets, retail stores and restaurants seem to be the hardest hit with “applicant no shows” and their service to customers is suffering as a result. A Tribune employee told me that her recent lunch at a popular pizza restaurant was accompanied with a long wait after ordering because one server was taking care of all the diners in the restaurant.
As favorite places are reopening big time to the public, finding employees to provide the pre-pandemic service to customers is a big problem for more than a few. As mentioned last week in my column, one established restaurant closed its doors for no other reason than it couldn’t find people to hire to fill needed positions.
• A NEWS RELEASE recently sent to our newspaper indicates that “As local diners enthusiastically return to their favorite restaurants, Texas Roadhouse is staffing up. Monday, June 7, Texas Roadhouse locations in Springfield and Decatur will host the first-ever hiring event to fill more than 40 full and part-time positions.
The information continues: “Texas Roadhouse offers rewarding and fun career opportunities – complete with competitive pay, based on experience. The restaurant believes in putting people-first and promotes from within. The company encourages ‘Roadies’ to love what they do today and prepare for tomorrow through extensive training and unlimited opportunities for advancement. In 2020, Texas Roadhouse spent more than $20 million in Covid Pay, Covid relief, and bonuses for employees.”
• I’VE SEEN more “Help Wanted” signs in the windows of local businesses than I’ve ever seen in all of my years of being editor of this newspaper. Businesses are begging people to come and apply for jobs that they have open. I’ve also seen more “Help Wanted” ads in area newspaper than I’ve ever seen before — and many of the positions that are open are for company engineers and other professional positions that are far beyond entry level positions. We have the jobs in Decatur and Macon County. Despite high unemployment in our are, getting people to apply for those jobs is a major problem.
• ONE AREA where a lack of applicants is of serious concern in many communities, including Deca-tur, is in law enforcement. WSOY’s Brian Byers pointed out last week on Byers & Co. that, in Decatur where there are 22 openings for police officers, normally the number of applicants would be 1,000. Now, the number is around 100! That’s a 90% drop and, although used as an example of the difficulty in hiring new officers, those stats can be found in most law enforcement agencies across the nation.
Respect for the police has fallen so low in some communities that it has killed the desire of many to be police officers. Our police officers have difficulty getting cooperation from eyewitnesses and people gathered in an area when the police respond to a call are treated disrespectfully, called unflattering names and even have objects thrown at them! I’ve always had a lot of respect and appreciation for the job our police and sheriff’s department law enforcement officers do, and their job, which is often dangerous and never easy, has been made a lot more difficult by the attitude of those who disrespect them. agencies across the United States are struggling to recruit and hire police officers. Though agency-specific needs exist depending on size or locale, the difficulty with recruitment is a significant problem that is broadly affecting the field of law enforcement—it is not simply a result of poor agency management or localized failures.
• WHILE I’m on the subject of law enforcement you probably know by now that we have a winner in the 2018 Macon County Sheriff’s race — Republican Jim Root! A 36-page order from Champaign County Circuit Court Judge Anna M. Benjamin released before the weekend determined Root won the election by 16 votes over Democrat Tony Brown who was initially declared the winner in 2018 and sworn into office where he has served for the past 2 1/2 years. It seems like it has taken forever to get an official verdict on the candidate who actually won the election, but I guess after 2 1/2 years we know… Well, maybe… Since the judge’s order was handed down, Brown may be appealing the decision so it is not really over yet. If Root emerges the winner after the appeal and decides to run for re-election, he will have to face Howard Buffett in the Republican Primary which is less than a year away. If Brown runs again, it won’t be an easy path for him either — at least from what we know at this point with Buffett’s emergence as a candidate. Stay tuned.
• FACE-TO-FACE — On Saturday the Illinois House of Representatives approved House Resolution 226 calling upon the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) to reopen their public-access public employment offices to provide face-to-face help to residents who urgently need assistance with processing their unemployment claims. According to State Representative Dan Caulkins, “After months of pleading with Governor Pritzker and the Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, we took the extreme measure of passing House Resolution 226. The Secretary of State’s local offices have been open for almost a year. There is no logical reason for keeping IDES’ local offices closed.” IDES public-access employment offices have been closed since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, local IDES offices still remain closed. House Resolution 226 co-sponsored by Rep. Caulkins seeks to change that, by urging IDES to reopen their offices immediately.
• LOCAL banks are starting to open their lobbies for customers. A drive-through teller at Busey Bank told me last week that the lobby doors are unlocked and those who want to transact business inside the bank as they did before the pandemic shut down, or curtailed, their services can now go back to the “normal” way they handled their business. Count me as one who is happy about it.
• SPLASH COVE — The opening of Splash Cove last week was the beginning of a lot of good times for the residents in our community and those living in other Central Illinois towns and villages. It is a powerful attraction that helps make our city a “destination” for many visitors — with a ripple impact in terms of revenue that spreads throughout the community. When I was looking up a little history of the development, I came across an invitation from the Decatur Park District that was sent in early fall of 2019. It…well…I’ll let you read it: “The Decatur Park District invites media for a first look of the construction site of Splash Cove, the new aquatics center in Historic Nelson Park adjacent to Overlook Adventure Park scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15 (2019).
“The walk-thru will highlight the variety of attractions that have been erected so far including water sides, rock wall, zip line, diving boards, kids play area, concession and bath houses. Meeting location is at the entrance of the facility, inside the construction site.”
It was an exciting time then, but it has faced such delays (primarily due to COVID-19) and it has taken over a year-and-a-half to complete it. From all of the comments I’ve heard so far, the complex greatly exceeds what most people were expecting when it was finished! It’s a shame that Memorial Day Weekend could not have been warmer for its first big days but there will be plenty of days ahead for families to enjoy the major attraction. When I drove by Splash Cove Sunday afternoon I saw a huge number of cars in the parking lot as the temperature was a little warmer on Sunday than it was the previous day. Considering everything that has been added to our community to enhance the “destination” goal, I don’t want to hear anyone complain that “there’s nothing to do in Decatur.”
There’s plenty to do, see and experience in Decatur for the whole family. Thanks to all who made the Overview Park and Splash Cove a reality. It’s been a long time coming, but the wait was worth it! This is a very impressive asset to our community.
• KEEP YOUR PROMISE! — Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy has released the following statement in response to Democratic legislators in the House and Senate passing a new state legislative map they drew themselves: “Illinois Democrat legislators conducted an embarrassing and nontransparent process to create the exact type of map Governor JB Pritzker pledged to veto. The Governor now has a choice. He can either keep his word to veto a partisan map drawn by politicians or turn his back on the people of Illinois. Pritzker can do the right thing or outright break his promise. Pritzker was asked in 2018 by Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller whether he would veto a map in “any way drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies?” The Governor responded, saying, “Yes, I will pledge to veto.”
State Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) released the following statement after Democrats rammed their legislative maps through on party-line votes: “Illinois spent billions of dollars over the past year to make sure that we counted every person in the state through the census. And the supermajority Democrats just passed a map that didn’t even wait to get the census data to insure every last citizen of Illinois was counted. School funding, public safety funding, road repairs – all of it comes from the districts that are drawn. So why don’t they want to make sure that every school kid is counted? That local communities are safe? That our roads are repaired? Because they are more worried about saving and protecting their own districts and to guarantee that their vice-like grip on this state continues – than they are about the actual people of Illinois! They have walked away from the people of Illinois and refused to pass a FAIR map – using an independent commission, drawn by a computer – not a politician – a computer that doesn’t know where the incumbents live – making it impossible to protect themselves from the voters!” “Now they’ve done just that, and their flawed, broken, partisan map lies at the feet of Governor JB Pritzker awaiting his signature. As a candidate, Pritzker promised the voters that he would veto a partisan map. Now is the time when the people of Illinois will find out whether he cares more about them, or if he only cares about protecting the power of his Democratic allies in the General Assembly who control Illinois. The choice is yours Governor.”
• LAST WEEK I mentioned in this column about the Macon County Fair making its return this year as we come out of the pandemic. The fair is now underway (June 2-6) and as I look over all of the events and activities that are highlighted on the event’s website, which can be found at www.maconcountyfair.com, I’m amazed at everything that’s happening. It’s the 165th edition (no, I wasn’t there for the first one) and from all indications the fair is in the best shape that its been in a while. Thanks to the efforts of the fair board and so many others, the Macon County Fair will continue to make history at the fairgrounds on the northwest edge of Decatur.
• KFC on Pershing Road opened again recently. They are presently offering drive-through service only — at least at the time this is being written.
• ROUTE 51 South coming into Decatur continues to deteriorate to the point that, if you value your vehicle you have to be concerned about possible damage to it because of the road’s condition. I know that it is scheduled for repair and resurfacing, but, in what decade is that going to take place? A lot of the country roads are in far better shape than this major artery in and out of Decatur!
• IT SEEMS to me that this past weekend’s Memorial Day services carried an even deeper meaning for those who took the time to honor the men and women who gave their lives in this nation’s wars and conflicts. Maybe it was partially because of the inability to do much last year, or the recent shooting death of police officer Chris Oberheim, or a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices made for our communities and nation, but there was a definite deeper strumming on the heartstrings of love and appreciation. There’s been so much division, bitterness and hatred in the news the past few years, but this Memorial Day was a reminder of what so many gave up to the benefit of others. That’s really what America has always been about and I think those feelings of being the “United” States of America touched the souls of so many of us this Memorial Day. Hopefully, that perspective will continue every day as we move forward as a community and nation.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning beginning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider portion of his program. I always enjoy our discussion on the news and issues that impact our community and nation. With everything going on in our community, and nation, these days, there is always plenty to talk about. Stay safe everyone. We are not out of the woods yet in battling COVID-19 but we are getting close enough to see the sun shining through the tree tops and the “clearing” is not far ahead.