A Fifty Year Old Crash Still Haunts Me Today

•October 28, 2015•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

In the world of Oh Brother it sometimes takes decades before I finally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand.

That is why my trip to hometown Harrisburg, Ill. for my 45th high school reunion was so important.

There were about 65 out of a class of 180 attending and another 20 on the “never going to come again” list.

So, after so long, I wondered what those who remember me at all, will remember about me. Because I remember odd stuff about many of these classmates whom I had known since elementary school.

Like our class president Kent Davenport- I remember him as the kid who lost a tooth in Mrs. Richmond’s first grade class at McKinley. He’s an attorney now, and we talked about why, as planners of the senior party back in 1970, we didn’t both end up in jail, but I still picture him with that missing front tooth.

Cindy Clore was there, and she and I go back to the sixth grade. She went to Dorrisville School but just lived a block from me.

I was sweet on Cindy back then so I was anxious to meet her again at our class reunion. Goofy me didn’t remember why we broke up when we did, so I went to the reunion thinking she would have fond memories. Read More

Rauner Budget Strategy Flawed When No One Wins

•October 28, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Bruce Rauner has cast the budget stalemate as a kind of Armageddon—the decisive battle between good and evil. His problem is that no matter how things turn out, the battle between him and the Democrats in the legislature won’t be decisive.

The walls won’t come tumbling down (to mix biblical metaphors) on the Democrats, who hold big majorities in the legislature, in one fell swoop.

Democrats know that Rauner’s strategy of demanding big changes from them or he won’t sign a tax increase is a flawed and hollow threat.

The governor will, unfortunately, have to support a tax increase, back toward the five percent rate for individuals that obtained until January of this year, or he and the Dems cannot balance a budget. Already, it looks as if the state will fail to make an upcoming pension payment, which is what got us into this mess in the first place.

There are two major problems, one of which cannot be overcome, so far as I can see, and the other with which we as a society don’t know yet how to grapple.

First, the funding to replenish the state’s public employee pension funds each year takes $8 billion off the top of a $35 billion state general funds budget. If we didn’t have that burden, our budget situation would be hunky-dory and wouldn’t take much or any tax increase.

But the state high court has said the state must meet this obligation. Read More

Understanding Illinois: O where, O where can Illinois Store its Nuclear Waste?

Nowlan•October 21, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The Economist magazine reported recently that Illinois is home to more radioactive, spent nuclear fuel than any state in the nation.

Should that concern us? Why else would this highly respected magazine have carried a story about it?

The problem is that the 9,000 tons of radioactive nuclear waste stored, supposedly temporarily, at reactor sites across our state has no place to go.

The nuclear industry and its ardent opponents agree on this much, if nothing else—all that waste should be moved to a permanent site. Ultimately this site will likely be somewhere in a sparsely populated location in the West, where some of the waste will continue to be lethally radioactive for at least 10,000 years!

I asked representatives of Exelon, our state’s nuclear energy generator, as well as skeptics and opponents of nuclear power what level of concern Prairie State residents should have for their safety on this matter: none, little, some, a great deal?.

I could have written the scripts in advance.

Pam Cowan, director of spent nuclear fuel at Exelon, said there is absolutely nothing to worry about. David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists said we should have “little to some” concern, and David Kraft of Chicago, a longtime nuclear power opponent, weighed in that we should have “a great deal of concern.” Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: Those Beautiful Cars of the Fifties

Ginther•October 21, 2015•

By Jerry L Ginther
NP Columnist

When you saw a ‘57 Chevy coming down the street, even a block away, you knew it was not a ’56 Ford Crown Victoria. Can you remember when cars were easily identifiable at first sight? Proprietary attributes such as front grills, rear tail fins, hood ornaments and chrome trim made them easily recognizable from a considerable distance. The make of the car and the year it was manufactured was unmistakable even to those who knew little about cars otherwise.

When I was a youngster there were several pre WWII autos still on the road, too. Looking back I’m amazed by the fact that some Ford cars had V-8 engines in them before 1940. Those engines were known as flathead V-8s, because the intake and exhaust valves were in the block. Later, in the 50s, the valves were located in the engine head but were referred to as “overhead” valves. Somewhere back in the good old days, I’m told that Lincoln cars were equipped with V-12 engines and overdrive. For a full sized car, I’m thinking that those old Lincolns had to be the fastest vehicles on the highway. Do you remember the song, “Hot Rod Lincoln?” If you’re less than 40 years old, you have probably never heard the term “overdrive” either.

The interior of those pre WWII types sported gadgets that the present generation has likely never seen. Starter pedals were located on the floor next to the accelerator. Actually, they were just a steel rod protruding through the floorboard with a rubber boot around it. One had to push the rod with the right foot to engage the starter. The headlight dimmer switch was also located on the floor, but on the driver’s side of the clutch and brake pedals. This configuration continued for many more years. As technology progressed, the starter switch was improved to a push button on the dashboard. In those older vehicles the ignition switch had to be turned on with a key before the starter was engaged either by the foot switch or the push button. The key was not used to start the engine, only to shut it off. Read More

Nowlan Could Use Some Help From Readers [or, Have we given up?]

Nowlan•October 14, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Shortly before this week’s deadline my column fell apart, so in its stead (out of mild desperation; can desperation be mild?) I offer below snapshots of important topics with which I am grappling, thus far without success.

Am I on the right path with these topics and very preliminary thoughts? What suggestions might you have for both substance and policy suggestions?

I can be reached at jnowlan3@gmail.com.

The unraveling of the American family. According to Washington policy wonk Isabel Sawhill, 72 percent of black children live in single-parent families, up from 22 percent half a century ago. Half the children in my white rural county were born to unmarried women last year.

Surprising to me in this day of easy availability of birth control options, Sawhill reports that as many as 60 percent of those births were unplanned, and children resulting from unplanned births are less likely later to graduate from college and earn a middle-class income.

As for young males, 20 percent of those with low skills (high school only) are unemployed, and many more are simply dropping out of the workforce, apparently for good.

I could wax on with these kinds of statistics, and they would confirm my point that there is unproductive turmoil among many if not most young, unskilled adults. Read More

Moultrie-Douglas Farm Bureau Update

•October 14, 2015•

By Tyler Harvey
Douglas-Moultrie Farm Bureau Manager

As many of you are well aware, the 2015 harvest is well underway for the year. With the weather we have had over the last few weeks, farmers have tirelessly been working to get the crops out before the weather breaks. Not only farmers, but truck drivers, erg service companies such as South Central FS, and all other helpers have been working nonstop this harvest. Even after the corn and soybeans are harvested, there is still much work to be done. Fall tillage will be continuing, application of anhydrous ammonia, and fertilizer and lime spreading will also be continuing. As of Sunday, October 4, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has the Illinois corn crop at 55% harvested. This is slightly above the five year average of 47% for Illinois. The condition of the corn has been rated at 53% good or excellent. Soybeans harvested for the state are well above the five year average of 31% harvested. As of October 4, 49% of the soybean crop has been harvested in Illinois. 60% of the soybean crop has been rated at either good or excellent.

The Moultrie County Farm Bureau and Country Financial representatives delivered harvest treat bags to farmers and local county elevators on October 1. More than 200 goodie bags were distributed to give all out there working day in and day out a break and some snacks while they work the long hours of harvest.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Chicago Mess May Trigger State Budget Pact

Nowlan•October 7, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I am going out on a limb to predict that Chicago’s fiscal plight, arguably even worse than that of the state, will force Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Mike Madigan into serious bargaining to ink a state budget. Somebody or something has to bring them together.

This past week I “ran my traps” of savvy lawmakers and lobbyists to find out what was going on in the budget stalemate. To quote Edward G. Robinson, who played gangsters in old black-and-white movies, “Nobody knows nuttin’.”

Even leading political pundit Rich Miller has thrown up his hands in frustration at the lack of information coming out of the hermetically sealed Rauner Administration.

My sources, to a man (and woman), see no end to the budget impasse, one saying that it will only end when the state runs out of money in March or April.

Another close observer opined that Madigan wants to wait until he sees what his caucus will look like after the filing deadline for reelection in December.

Further, if Madigan holds out until January, he will need only a simple majority, rather than a three-fifths vote until then, to enact a tax increase and budget reductions, the latter even more painful to many of his members than extracting more from taxpayers. Read More

Preventing Unwanted Surprises from Affecting Benefits

•October 7, 2015•

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security District Manager in Decatur, IL

Most people love surprises, but many dislike change. It’s just the opposite with Social Security. If you receive benefits, we want to hear about your changes.

Keeping us informed minimizes the chance that we learn about something later that could negatively affect your benefits. That’s the surprise no one wants because it creates overpayments that you must repay, disrupts payments, and can even jeopardize your entitlement to Social Security benefits.

Here is a reminder of some of the most common forms of information Social Security needs from you.

Your address and direct deposit information. We need to know your current mailing address and phone number so we can reach you if needed. This is especially important if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since where you live can change the amount of your SSI benefits.

When your direct deposit information is not current, it can cause headaches with missing or delayed payments. You can update your address or direct deposit information when you register for a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Remarkable Schultz Family of Effingham

Nowlan•September 30, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The seven children of John and Frances Schultz of Teutopolis-Effingham in south-central Illinois are remarkable missionaries of entrepreneurialism.

Now in their 50s or just beyond, the four girls and three boys are all well-educated, successful, and committed to the Effingham area, where all but one live.

Each has at least two college degrees, including engineering, law and MBA sheepskins from Harvard, Northwestern, the University of Illinois and other top schools.

Without exception, each has started and/or owned his or her own prospering businesses.

These include a national industrial site development company (Jack), a medical equipment outsourcing company with national reach (Ann), a private equity firm (Jim), and a building company (Bob), among others successes.

And the Schultz family gives back to its community, as driving forces and board chairs or members of three foundations and too-many-to-mention civic and do-good causes.

Are there any lessons we can learn from this brood? I think so.

First, they had a great start. Patriarch John, now deceased, operated a successful seed business and invested wisely from tiny Teutopolis (or German Town; theirs is German territory). Read More

A Long Winding Road to the Animal House

MikeBrothers•September 30, 2015•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

This column is rooted on the number of stupid human tricks I have done. The beauty is I never lack for suitable, or maybe unsuitable, stuff to write about.

Seemingly, an innocent request from daughter-in-law Crystal prompted another incident.

A few weeks ago Crystal sends me a photograph of this cute little zoo for stuffed animals with the question: “could you build this?”

Here we can begin to see why the fundamental reason many of my stupid human tricks end with me striking myself in the forehead with an open palm declaring: “Oh Brother!” along with a few expletives.

I don’t know if it’s hereditary or just plain stubbornness, but I have always been convinced that I can build just about anything. And most of the time I will get the project finished; it just may stray from its original design.

Armed with nothing but determination and a photograph on my phone about the size of a postage stamp I was ready. I gladly took on the task of building a zoo to contain twins Lyla and Landon’s jungle of stuffed animals.

I have seen these kids’ toy room; you can’t miss it when you walk into the door at son Trevor’s house - the room to the right is covered with toys, stuffed animals and books.

Many of them have places they belong, but with a couple of two-year olds the most likely place for any toy is on the floor. So the idea of a zoo for the stuffed animals became a special challenge-it had to be kid friendly and fun.

Friendly and fun was the goal now to start the project. I had some balusters left from an earlier porch rebuild, which I thought would make perfect bars for the zoo. Read More