Understanding Illinois: Let’s Bring Back Gov. Jim Edgar

•April 26, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The state many of us hold dear is being wrecked by elected officials of both parties. I say, let’s sweep them all off the table and bring popular, effective former governor Jim Edgar out of retirement.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is into his third year without ever having proposed a credible balanced budget, with nothing on the horizon.

Rauner has also talked about the need for a big infrastructure program as well as education finance reforms, both badly needed. Yet he has never proposed anything for either. Budget, infrastructure, education—that’s pretty much what state government is all about.

And the collateral wreckage is incalculable. Higher education is imploding, non-profit social service agencies are undergoing a die-off, business investment is tanking because of fiscal instability and uncertainty, and people across Illinois are in a deep funk about their state, which probably encourages flight.

It is surprising that after a successful career doing deals in the private sector, Rauner is an abysmal failure at deal-making in Springfield. Read More

Letter to the Editor 4-26-2017

Solar Companies Soliciting Area Land Owners

Dear Editor,

Many landowners have received solicitations from solar companies, including Cypress Creek Renewables.

The lease agreements that accompany these solicitations represent long-term obligations for landowners and tenants; usually at least 20 years. Consequently, these leases must be taken seriously. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Illinois Population—So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Ya’

•April 19, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The modern American is restless. He moves around, toward good things like jobs, opportunity, warmth, family members, safety. It has been thus since our founding.

What, if anything, can or should be done about the movement of people out of Illinois?

Illinois has been losing white people on a net basis since the 1970s, maybe earlier, since the home air conditioner made the South livable.

This loss has been papered over by the “natural increase” (births over deaths) within our state. This gave us small population increases, until recently.

According to recent Census Bureau estimates, Illinois (12.8 million residents) has lost population annually for the past three years, 38,000 in 2016, more than any state in the nation. Even the metropolitan Chicago area, with its supposedly ever burgeoning suburbs, lost population this past year.

What’s going on? Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: The Great Iron Horse-Icon of Early American Travel

•April 19, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

This was the iconic name for the old steam locomotive. When they first came on the scene of American history, horses still powered nearly all machinery and were the primary mode of transportation. “The Great Iron Horse,” and the steel rail could move more passengers and freight over long distances at higher speeds than a twenty-mule team. The steam engine became as much of an icon in the early days of America and the unsettled west as the horse and cowboy.

In previous articles, I’ve written about the romance of railroading as it pertained to the various jobs performed by both men and women in the daily operation of a railroad. However, the trains themselves contributed much to this nostalgia. In the not too distant past, trains had identities and personality, if you will. When streamliners were eloquent, schedules were frequent, and fares were less expensive than for airliners, America traveled coast-to-coast and border-to-border on passenger trains. The names of those trains became as familiar as the names of family members. Some will remember, The Panama Limited and The City of New Orleans, two famous trains operated by the Illinois Central Railroad. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Justice Stark County Style: A Lesson in the Legal System

•April 12, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

There are saving graces in rural venues like Stark County, Illinois (pop. 5,900, 1,000th that of Cook County).

I am filling in at the courthouse for my ace reporter (my only reporter, for that matter), who is recovering from surgery.

Here is the scene at the stately Greek Revival courthouse, where Lincoln and Douglas spoke on back-to-back days in 1858:

A former federal prosecutor, Judge Thomas Keith presides, looking like your favorite uncle, twinkly blue eyes and a broad face looking for every opportunity to break out into a warm smile.

To Keith’s right is circuit court clerk Julie Kenney. Her dark brown hair and matching eyes contribute to a professional presence. She handles the paperwork for the judge. Read More

Understanding Illinois: A Proposal to Eliminate Poverty for Millions

•April 5, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This proposal for “American Service Credits” is driven by two premises. First, the well-to-do who pay most of our income taxes hate to see their money go to people who don’t do anything for it.

Second, most people want to do something constructive with their lives, but may not know how in a world where stunning advances in artificial intelligence are eliminating much traditional human work.

American Service Credits would be a locally administered, federally funded program of credits redeemable in money, in return for approved services rendered to others, to one’s community and even to one’s self.

Services would be reimbursed at the local minimum wage up to a maximum of, say, $25,000 for the individual and maybe $40,000 for a couple.

Persons eligible for the credits would be the unemployed and underemployed. Those having some paid work would be able to earn credits, but only up to a total of $25,000 in total per person income.

Credits that might supplant compensated work would not be approved for activity. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

•March 29, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it gets worse. I’m talking about the Illinois state budget, of course.

Actually, there are two state budgets, the operating budget and the separate capital, or infrastructure, budget. Let’s talk about the latter, which is also in woeful shape.

In normal times, the operating budget pays the year-to-year expenses for schools, universities, health care providers, pensions, and the running of state agencies.

These are not normal times, however. There are absolutely no dollars going to state colleges and universities, for example, and our unpaid bills now amount to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Illinois. Read More

Bee Colonies are Preparing for the Nectar Flow

•March 29, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

EDITOR’S NOTE: The May 22 edition of the News Progress contained the wrong Jerry Ginther column. Below is the correct version.

In the next few weeks farmers and gardeners will begin preparing the soil for planting, and with the vernal equinox behind us beekeepers will begin preparing their bee colonies for the anticipated nectar flow.

Noticeably, the hours of daylight have begun to lengthen even if warmer weather and other signs of spring are not evident. Those may be delayed for a few weeks. Vernal equinox actually means that on March 20 we experienced equal hours of daylight and darkness, 12 hours each. The day is designated as the first day of the spring, but as you’ve probably noticed, spring-like weather doesn’t always arrive on that day.

Preparing the bees and the hives for the spring and summer nectar flows is a labor-intensive project for the beekeeper. In regions of our country known for severe winters, many beekeepers wrap their hives with insulating material to protect them from harsh winds and help prevent heat loss from within.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: A Simple Pill To Say Goodbye

•March 8, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The topic for the week is only a little less depressing than the Illinois budget impasse—the end of life.

My hometown friend Archie, 90, has been a widower for decades. One of his two daughters lives a million miles away; the other passed away some years ago.

I sometimes bump into Archie at the nearby McDonald’s at lunch, alone, chewing absent-mindedly on a hamburger, looking forlornly out the window.

To add injury to insult, at present Archie is suffering a bedeviling case of eczema over much of his body.

“I’m ready to go,” Archie tells me. The bleakness in his voice pitiful, as Archie had for many decades a good, successful life as a small-town merchant, active in his community.

But even if he really wants to go, as it appears he does, how does he do so? The available options are gruesome, it seems. Read More

Letters to the Editor 3-8-2015

Concerned About Equality Among Extracurricular Activities

Dear Editor,

I completely agree that we should be proud of the rich history of our show choirs, our girls’ basketball teams, our state champion swimmer, and our track champions, amongst others.

I am bothered, however, that people still believe that show choir should be treated differently and get special attention.

In this school year alone we had a golfer advance to state, our cross country team advance to sectionals, and our scholastic bowl team went undefeated in regular season and conference tournament play.

I seriously doubt that we had any school administrators on hand for those events, and I don’t think anybody raised an issue with it. I think the show choir is a great activity for many of our students, but it is not the only activity that matters.  Read More