Growing Up In Sullivan: The Walk Home After the Halloween Movie

Ginther•October 19, 2016•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

The full moon was already high in the night sky as we exited the movie theater on the town square. Many of the kids had rides waiting for them, but I did not. I had walked to the theater in the evening twilight and knew I would have to walk home alone. The walk home for me was fairly long, probably a dozen or more city blocks, and only a couple of those were in the downtown area where the streets were well lighted. Once I crossed the main highway, there would be only a dim streetlight on each corner.

The era was the late 1950s, and folks in the small town of Sullivan, Ill. were not particularly concerned for their safety on the streets after dark. Otherwise, I would not have been allowed to go to the late night show. There was just no automobile at our house; it was walk or miss the fun.

As I started down the dark street with the lights of town behind me, I became more aware of the full moon and the poor visibility between the streetlights. The moonlight was just bright enough to cast some eerie, deep shadows along the streets, making every tree and bush a black formidable form to approach. Read More

Understanding Illinois: State of Democracy in Illinois Uneven at Best

Nowlan•October 19, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

My sample election ballot offers me slim pickings in terms of votes I can cast that might make a difference. We can do better.

The presidential camps long ago conceded Illinois to Hillary. As you have probably noticed, there is little active campaigning in our state.

As most readers know, ours is not a popular election for president. Instead, it is a contest in which most states cast all their electoral votes based on the winner of the state’s overall popular vote. (Electors are apportioned to states somewhat proportionate to population.)

Thus the candidates ignore states where the popular vote outcome is, based on intensive polling, a foregone conclusion. The candidates instead focus their time and money on so-called “battleground states” such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and a few others where the outcome can go either way. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Electioneering Not Much Changed Since Roman Republic

Nowlan•October 12, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

In 64 BC, Quintus T. Cicero gave the following advice to his more famous brother, during Cicero’s successful campaign for consul of the Roman Republic that year:

Exploit the weaknesses of your opponents (he had two), flatter voters shamelessly, promise them anything, and give people hope. He undoubtedly added, though it is not recorded: Spend buckets of money, as they did back then.

There are four resources available to any campaign: money, people, time and skill. All are limited, though money appears almost limitless in Illinois legislative campaigns this year.

Abraham Lincoln said the job of a campaign is to “canvas your district, identify your voters and get them to the polls.”

Nothing much has changed, except the technology and the money spent.

In Lincoln’s 1858 campaign for the US Senate, campaigning was conducted largely in person and by local party organizations. Read More

Letter to the Editor 10-5-2016

DSPs: A Casualty of the State of Illinois Budget Crisis

Their full title is Direct Support Professional, and their work is challenging, rewarding, necessary and underappreciated. The Moultrie County Beacon currently employs 86 trained and certified DSP’s who provide supports ranging from daily personal care (eating, grooming and dressing) to teaching essential skills and attending to complex medical needs for adults with developmental disabilities. DSP’s complete 153 hours of classroom and on-the-job training, criminal background checks and pre-employment and ongoing drug testing. Read More

Reading Your Local Paper is ‘Way to Know’ Your Community

•October 5, 2016•

By Layne Bruce
NNW Guest Columnist

Several years ago cyberspace was frenzied over many popular websites going dark for 24 hours to protest a federal bill meant to crack down on video piracy.

The Stop Online Piracy Act – or SOPA – was a controversial and perhaps misguided effort championed by the Motion Picture Association of America to end illegal online sharing of copyrighted material, primarily movies and music.

To protest SOPA and its potential threats to the First Amendment, Wikipedia, Google, Reddit and – heaven forbid – I Can Haz Cheezburger, among many others, all shut down for a 24-hour period to show the web-surfing world what it would be like without its daily fix of photos of cats riding in baby strollers.

SOPA was eventually defeated, but a strong, valid point was made. We had come to rely on those websites for information and entertainment. Their value to internet users was unquestioned. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Federal Courts Manage Much of Illinois Government

Nowlan•October 5, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This is another in a periodic series of columns on “politics and policy in Illinois.”

I tell my students that policy advocates appeal to any level or branch of government that might be responsive, including the courts.
The Illinois state judiciary has not, however, generally inserted itself into state government policy and management.

As John Marshall Law School professor Ann Lousin observes, “The Illinois Supreme Court has a good sensitivity about the separation of powers.”

“The Illinois Supreme Court is not, for example, going to touch school funding because the legislature won’t touch it,” Lousin notes, to illustrate. “The court avoids making decisions where the branch cannot enforce relief.”

On the other hand, policy advocates in Illinois have been highly successful in the federal district courts, which have approved 80 “consent decrees” since the 1970s, according to a recent count by the governor’s office. Read More

Schools Are So Much Different Now

MikeBrothers•October 5, 2016•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Schools are so much different now.

Maybe that’s because times are so much different now.

For Oh Brother recollections of those early days of elementary school are still imbedded in what little memory I have left.
When I started attending McKinley School in 1957, most schools were located in neighborhoods where our exposure to the real world was limited to the few blocks that surrounded it.

We lived within two blocks of the Dorrisville School District border.

Although inside the city of Harrisburg, Dorrisville was really its own community and had a school that went from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

Uptown Dorrisville had Tuttle’s Market and Arnold’s Market, two laundromats and Katie’s Cafe with a Ford garage on the corner.
Dorrisville was the home of most of the public housing which gave the school a concentration of children most of the other neighborhood schools such as McKinley didn’t have. Read More

Insurance Premiums Will Be Up Next Year

TrudyLieberman-Photo•September 28, 2016•

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

Recently I got a note from a reader of these columns who lives in Warren, Ohio. He had seen conflicting reports about next year’s insurance premiums. The man was skeptical of an article he had read, which reported that insurance premiums are cheaper than they were in 2010, and that the Affordable Care Act will cost $2.6 trillion less than estimated. Somehow that didn’t compute with what he had read about premiums going up.

He was right to be skeptical, and his comments are important because they zoom right in on the spin that’s been circulated by various interest groups that want to portray Obamacare’s upcoming fourth-year enrollment season as a gloom-and-doom disaster in the making or the federal government’s not-to-worry scenario insisting health insurance really is affordable.

There’s been much media speculation about high premium rates, and for the most part, the press has favored the not-to-worry scenario. Media have passed that message along with comments such as this from Anne Filipic, the head of Enroll America, a group that signs up people for Obamacare, who argued high premiums are a predictable course correction and a “one-time resetting.” Or this from Kathryn Martin, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who told reporters, “Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay. The vast majority would continue to have affordable options.”  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Chicago: A tale of two or more cities

Nowlan•September 28, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I took the #20 Chicago CTA bus recently, starting from a canyon of towering office and residential buildings in the central Loop, exuding wealth.

The bus traveled along Madison Street straight west to the depleted Austin neighborhood on the far edge of the city, 60 blocks away but within the long shadow of the Sears Tower, still visible.

I was going to meet my friend Berto Aguayo, a former Latino gang member who went straight, recently graduated from college, probably headed to law school and city politics.

Berto is working for an anti-violence, non-profit group based in the Austin, where violence is part of the routine.

The bus ride was instructive. The prosperous professional class has pushed far west to Western Avenue, 24 blocks west of the Loop. Old brick buildings have been rehabbed into condos, iron balconies newly attached to each unit. Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Nuclear Options” for Political Reform in Illinois

•September 21, 2016•

NowlanBy Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

In the wake of the recent embarrassingly political, 4-3 partisan decision by the Illinois Supreme Court Democratic majority to reject a proposed voter initiative to reduce legislative district gerrymandering, savvy political observer Rich Miller has suggested the “nuclear option” of a voter initiative that would simply abolish the Illinois House altogether!

The idea is not so outlandish as one might think at first blush.

First, such a voter initiative would be constitutional, that is, it would meet the state high court’s wrong-headed requirement that initiatives be both “structural and procedural.”

Second, many democratic governments operate quite nicely with unicameral legislative bodies. Readers probably know that Nebraska has a one-house legislature, which they call the senate. [And that state appears to have avoided the dysfunction for which Illinois has become noted.]

Costa Rica is probably the healthiest democratic society in the Americas south of the U.S., other than maybe Uruguay. When I was that sunny clime some years ago, I visited their unicameral “assembly.” And the 30 states of Mexico also operate with unicameral legislatures. Read More