Understanding Illinois: Third Time’s a Charm, Says Reform Backers

Nowlan•September 23, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This column runs the risk of being boring (“So what’s new?” readers wonder) because we have been here before. But the topic of redistricting reform is important. It represents the one fundamental thing you can do to refresh Illinois politics, say its backers.

In Illinois, members of the state legislature draw their own districts, and as a result in the last election, 97 percent of incumbents who ran for re-election won; most ran without opposition.

Surprised? We call it a process in which legislators select their voters rather than vice versa.

In California, in contrast, a scrupulously independent commission draws the lines, without regard to political party or incumbency. As a result, in 2014, half the members elected to the legislature there were new.

Illinois civic leaders have embarked on a “third time’s a charm” effort to create in our state a system similar to that in California.

In 2010, the League of Women Voters mounted an under-powered effort to do this, yet failed. In 2013-14, a coalition of civic groups tried again, yet the effort came up short again, primarily because of a botched petition drive.

Now, a broad coalition that includes the League, the Farm Bureau, AARP, the Latino Institute, former governor Jim Edgar, and some deep-pocket contributors is at it again, and I predict the well-organized and well-funded effort will succeed in getting the issue on the ballot next year. Read More

Why Illinois Needs to Pass a Budget

•September 23, 2015•

By Ariana Cherry
NP Columnist

People and organizations in Illinois are hurting in more ways than one. Families and individuals who depended on government benefits have had to take a serious cut on the financial assistance that they receive. The Ameren PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) has become non-existent. The LIHEAP program had no summer assistance and will be running a month behind for the 2016 season.

Many people will be far behind or shut off possibly come the Oct 1 date. Although, come October 1, LIHEAP will be available only to seniors and disabled on the first round. Round two, in November, the program will add households with children under six years of age. Then in December, the general public will be able apply. Those who have state regulated utilities might be able to coast by some, as the winter moratorium will take place beginning December 1 and last through March 1. Although residents who have local utilities could be disconnected by the time they can apply in December.

Into its third month of the new fiscal year, Illinois still has not passed a budget, hurting many state funded agencies and organizations, one being the LIHEAP program. Everything has been pushed back a month, and low income families are having to tighten their belts even more. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The American Way of Dying Unsustainable

•September 16, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

A few days ago I turned 74. The milestone reminded me of the provocative article a year ago in the Atlantic Monthly by Ezekiel Emanuel (da’ mayor’s brother), who made the case for dying around age 75.

If I adopt Emanuel’s persuasive argument, my time is drawing nigh.

An oncologist and health economics professor, Emanuel observes that after 75 most people trundle down an often sharp decline, even as they live many more years. Creativity in most of us is shot by then, and many are among the walking wounded, either physically or mentally or both.

Emanuel, 58, doesn’t plan to pull the trigger, figuratively or literally, at 75, and he opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, he says. Instead, he will simply at that point let life take its course, without the medical interventions that are standard, and ever more frequent, in our old age.

No more colonoscopies when he turns 65, for example (I’m having one next week; ugh), and no more prostate exams. At 75, no cancer treatments, should they become pertinent.

While death is a loss, Emanuel says that living too long is also a loss. It profoundly changes who we are, and for the worse. Read More

Four Seasons Gardening Program Offers Fall Series

•September 16, 2015•

Submitted by U of I Extension

The fall series of University of Illinois Extension’s Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship and backyard food production, gets underway this month. The first session of the series is titled, Practical Weed Control. The program is offered at 1:30 p.m. September 22 in both the Coles County Extension Office, located at 707 Windsor Road, Suite A, Charleston, and the Moultrie-Douglas Extension Office, located at 122 South Walnut Street in Arthur.

This session is also available for home participation by pre-registering at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hmrs/4seasons/ Read More

Road Oil and Sand: Growing Up in Sullivan

Ginther•September 9, 2015•

by Jerry Ginther
NP Guest Columnist

Scrubbing road oil from the sides of our cars and those old white walled tires was an annual, summertime job in our small, central Illinois town of Sullivan. Try as we may we could never avoid the inevitable; the day the road oil would come to our particular street or would be applied to a street on which we must drive. Everyone searched for new routes to get as close to their destinations as possible without having to drive on the black, stinky goop, only to discover their plan had been defeated. The city crews had cut off their escape route by beating them to the other road they had contrived to use.

On those hot, summer days the city and township crews were laying the oil on thick and covering it with a thin layer of sand. The sand, of course, was next to useless in keeping the oil off of anything, especially after a few cars had passed over it. However, we did learn a couple of minor, mitigating procedures. If we drove very slowly over the oiled surface, the tires didn’t throw the oil quite as high, and we could drive with the right two wheels on the shoulder where possible. The latter option wasn’t always available but utilized where practicable.

It seems that the older kids in the family were summoned to the task of road oil removal. As an incentive, we were told that the sooner we got at the chore the easier the removal would be. Maybe, but I don’t recall that we were allowed the option of testing that theory. My theory was a little different. Adults just wanted it off sooner rather than later. Detergents, kerosene, gasoline and other home remedies were employed for the project, but I don’t remember any of them really making the scrubbing process much easier. It was never a wipe on wipe off operation.  Read More

Nobody is Looking Down the Road in Illinois-Still Hoping for a Vision

Nowlan•September 9, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The state of Illinois typically lurches from year to year, focusing on its annual budget, never looking to the horizon. At present, operating without a formal budget as Gov. Rauner and Speaker Madigan wage their war of political attrition, the state is operating month to month, even day to day, as the courts step in to tell Comptroller Leslie Munger which bills to pay and when.

Given our grim budgetary situation and sullied state reputation, we almost desperately need to do some long-term thinking about Illinois, or we may crash. We don’t know where we are going.

I still recall from a 1970s book the lament of then North Carolina governor Terry Sanford that there is no one in the governor’s office whose only job is to gaze out the window and brood about the problems of the future.

More recently, former governor Jim Edgar told a group of up-and-coming Illinois leaders that, “Once you come into the governor’s office, there is no time for ‘the vision thing.’”

To put a point on Edgar’s remark, I remember when I was helping with the transition of new governor Jim Thompson into office in 1976, his chief of staff came into my office late one afternoon. He slumped in a chair and sighed that he had 400 telephone message slips(!) on his desk from mostly influential people who wanted something or to tell Thompson how he should run things. Read More

A Different Chapter-Same Life

MikeBrothersOh Brother…

•September 2, 2015•

by Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

It seems like a hundred years ago when I sat down at the old Underwood manual typewriter at the Harrisburg Daily Register and cranked out my first story as a reporter.

Here I am some three decades later sitting down to a MacBook to crank out another story.

This is a different chapter of the same life.

A life where the road less traveled brought me out of southern Illinois to the great prairie to tend a batch of community newspapers for about 15 years.

Then I took a break from the newspaper business, learning during that time that the newspaper business hadn’t left me.

Once ink flows through a person’s veins they can never be the same.

There is something about the unpredictable nature of the news business that keeps it exciting. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Picking Up the Slack in Illinois

Nowlan•September 2, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Some readers might think this column a tad eccentric. I like to call it “thinking outside the box.”

I propose a plan for Illinois to dramatically increase volunteerism for the state’s educational and social services, as a way of picking up some of the slack that results from state budget cuts.

Here’s the situation. Illinois will be figuratively toting an anvil on its back for the coming decades, represented by the $110 billion, or probably more, in unfunded pension liabilities.

To right the situation, which the state high court has ruled must be done, will require about $7 billion off the top of each year’s state budget. That is equal to almost two percentage points in the rate of the individual income tax. The rate now stands at 3.75 percent but will later in the year, I predict, go up to about 4.75 percent to balance the budget for the coming year.

As a result of budget shortfalls over recent years, there have been cutbacks in funding for social services and a woeful failure to meet what the state’s own experts say is the minimal amount of funding necessary to provide an adequate education. Read More

Creating Safety Plans

•August 26, 2015•

by Althea Pendergast
Executive Director HOPE of East Central Ill.

A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that includes ways to remain safe, whether you are in an abusive relationship, planning to leave, or have left that relationship.

If you are currently living with your abuser, think of safe places in your home to escape to if an argument occurs. Avoid rooms with no exits or rooms where weapons might be available. Stay out of the bathroom and kitchen areas, if possible. If an argument occurs, try to move to those safer areas of your home. Try to avoid rooms that your children are in, as your partner may hurt them as well. Teach your children how to get help. Develop a code word to use with your children, alerting them that they need to call for help or leave the house. Instruct your children not to get involved in the violence and teach them to call 911. Plan your emergency exits and share those emergency exit plans with your children. If you are being physically assaulted, curl into a ball to protect your head and your face. Memorize your safety plan and ask your local domestic violence program to assist and your children in developing your safety plan.
Read More

Lethality and Accountability of Domestic Violence

•August 19, 2015•

by Mary Hughes
Moultrie County Dove Inc., Outreach Coordinator

Studies consistently report victims are at a 75% higher risk of serious injuries and/or death once the victim has decided to end a relationship and/or while they are trying to leave.   The abuser believes he no longer has the power to get the victim back and under his control.  This is the most dangerous time for the victim and her children.   Although no one can accurately predict when or if a batterer will kill or escalate violence to a life threatening level, there are many indicators that can serve as warning signs that a batterer may be reaching that level.  It is important to note that while these indicators are a valuable assessment tool, the presence or absence of one or more indicators cannot definitively predict the behavior of a batterer.

The most important indication of life-threatening violence is the victim’s perception of her danger.  If the woman is very afraid and says she will be killed or may be killed, then the possibility of life-threatening violence is present.  National experts on domestic violence state that battered women are usually the best evaluators of the potential for lethal violence because they generally have more information about the batterer than anyone other than the batterer himself.  At the present time it appears that the best approach to screening for life-threatening violence is a combination of the women’s perspective and the domestic violence advocate’s assessment.

As long as the perception exists that the victims’ reluctance is the problem, efforts will be focused around what the victim should and should not do.  The question frequently asked is “How can we get victims to cooperate better?”  But that is the wrong question to ask since it is not likely to lead to greater perpetrator accountability or victim safety.  The questions most likely to lead to effective, long term solutions are:  “What can be done to hold perpetrators accountable? And who is in the best position to do that?” Read More