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

Letters to the editor: 3-1-2017

Dear Sullivan Board of Education:

As I am sure you are aware, on Friday, February 10 at about 3:20 p.m. a bus carrying our boys’ basketball team, cheerleaders, and coaches was involved in an accident at the Bruce-Findlay Road. This was a traumatic afternoon and evening for all on the bus and our school district. I was notified of the accident at 3:28 p.m. and immediately left for the accident scene. Shortly after my departure, I received a call from your superintendent, Mr. Brad Tuttle. Mr. Tuttle informed me that he was en route to the accident scene and that Sullivan School District was taking a bus there.

Upon my arrival, Mr. Tuttle greeted me and told me he would be around for awhile if there was anything I needed him to do. Having a fellow superintendent on scene so quickly was certainly reassuring to me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Mr. Tuttle being there to assist our kids and coaches. I wanted you to know how much I appreciate Mt. Tuttle’s response and for providing a bus where our students could go to stay warm.

While the accident was extremely unfortunate, it gives us chance to see the best that people have to offer. The first responders were incredible and took fantastic care of our kids. The City of Sullivan certainly put its best foot forward and was represented exceptionally well by the first responders and Mr. Tuttle. Please accept our sincere thanks.

Bill Fritcher,
Supt. Teutopolis Community Unit District #50


Do Legalities Disguise Real Reasons for Opposition

Dear Editor,

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6   Could it be that ignorance kills its host?

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), died Saturday 2/18 at the age of 69.  When she was 22, unemployed and pregnant in 1969, she sought to have an abortion in Texas where it was illegal. She claimed she was raped. Her case went to the Supreme Court, and the famous 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade determined that throughout the land, abortion would be legal.

Since that time, a number of discoveries have enlightened the world concerning the truth about this case. First, Norma lied. She was not raped. Second, because of medical advances and fetal studies, it has been determined that fetuses feel pain from 20 weeks on and experience a number of functions which scientists consider uniquely human. Third, courts around the country consider violence against a pregnant woman, which results in the loss of a fetus, murder. Fourth, McCorvey herself became a very strong proponent of fetal rights and has spoken around the U.S. against abortion. But the Supreme Court has spoken.

But has the Supreme court ever erred? In 1857 the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, on the famous Dred Scott decision, determined that slaves are property and could not be considered citizens. That decision was overturned with legislation in 1868 by the passage of the 14th amendment. Perhaps the Supreme Court can make mistakes.

Legalities often disguise the real reasons we oppose a practice. The real reason for slavery was keeping power over another’s life for personal pleasure. The real reason for abortion is the same.

Al Rennert
Lovington, IL


Concerns Over Proposed Property Tax Abatement

Dear Editor,

It was with much bemusement and concern that I read your February 22, 2017 front page article “Sullivan School Board Proposes Property Tax Abatement”

This is a non-binding resolution that carries no weight and means nothing. Well meaning, but not worth the taxpayer funded paper it was written on. There will always be an “emergency” or “crisis” for a taxing body to keep floating bonds so that this one percent will never go away. Please note that you will see the word “CRISIS” used by the administration and school district throughout the campaign. In 2017 everything is “CRISIS”.

Also the Sullivan Superintendent states, and I quote: “A one percent county school facility tax COULD generate up to one million dollars revenue a year for the district.”

I would like to also quote the same superintendent from a three page letter he sent home to Sullivan parents just 18 months ago, dated September 2014. “We expect the penny increase (or 1%) in the county sales tax will annually generate approximately $425,000 for our district”

Now my bachelors’ degree from EIU is in Political Science but my math skills tell me that $425,000 is a long way from $1,000,000; I’d say bout $575,000 off. I’m not sure if the school administration is using Al Gore’s “fuzzy math” or “new math” or perhaps this is our best example of “common core math”?

Ask yourself: In the past 18 months has a Super WalMart been built here? In the past 18 months has a new outlet mall been built here? In the last 18 months has a new interstate with exit ramps been built here that will generate an additional $575,000?


In another article from the front page of your January 11, 2017 the paper printed “Supt. Brad Tuttle emphasized the board could cut property taxes..” Please note the reoccurring use of the buzz work “COULD”. Let me put it this way: I plan on winning the $400 million-dollar power ball and I “COULD” share it with all of you.

Let’s be clear about this tax question. A sales tax is a REGRESSIVE tax. It impacts poor and the senior citizen of our county the most.

A new tax or revenue stream for a taxing body is like a new source of drugs to an addict. Once hooked, you can’t ever get them off the stuff.

We can support our great school system and its amazing faculty and still oppose this sales tax.

These are not mutually exclusive.

Vote NO …. again on April 4.

Brad Graven
Sullivan High School Alumni

Understanding Illinois: Fiscal Follies Continue as Illinois Suffers

•March 1, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Gov. Rauner recently released his third budget, and it’s just as phony as his previous two efforts as well as those of his Democratic predecessors Blagojevich and Quinn.

To summarize, Illinois continues to spend about $7 billion a year more than it takes in, on a general funds budget of $32 billion in revenue. Everyone from New York bond ratings agencies to scribblers out here like me say this cannot continue, but it does.

The damage is mostly beneath the surface, yet devastating.

Our high school graduates flee the state in droves for college across our borders, because of uncertainty over financial aid and the future of our colleges.

Neighboring states gleefully offer our students “scholarships” that make going to Iowa City or Madison less expensive than in Illinois. Their universities, hurting for students, can do this because the marginal cost to them of an additional student is less than what they charge.

Once our students leave, they are less likely to return. Read More

Understanding Illinois: We Need A New Major Political Party

•February 22, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Talking politics over coffee with a former student this past week, the two of us came up with the same thought: We need a new major political party.

Dauntingly difficult, but not impossible.

The Democratic Party is adrift, at best. Its base of African-Americans, government unions and a thin sliver of intellectual liberals doesn’t add up to enough to win national elections.

On the other side, there hasn’t been a place in the GOP for old Eisenhower Republicans like me, who believe in public works, public education and public universities, for many years.

The free-trading, budget-balancing Establishment GOPers have been thrown over by small government Tea Partiers, and all is now confounded by the big spending, big debt populism of President Trump. Who knows where lies the heart of the party, or if it has a heart? Read More

How Our Railroad System has Changed: Folklore-Mostly Steam Engine Era


•February 22, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

Volumes have been written on this topic, not to mention hundreds of ballads. To appreciate the latter, one only needs to remember a few of the old songs praising the brave engineers of steam engine days. Who hasn’t heard the words to “Casey Jones”, “The Wreck of Old 97” and “The Wabash Cannonball” just to mention a few. The engine man was the hero of the rails, and train wrecks were the subjects of much folklore.

The sentiments of crackling caldrons and hobos around a fire in a train yard tugs at our hearts. Some nights the sound of a lonesome train whistle in the distance brings on such heartbreaking loneliness to a fellow pining for a lost love that he wonders if he will survive until the dawn. Oh, if railroad engineers only knew the role they have played in the lives of lonely, hearbroken lovers. The fireman shoveled the coal, the engineer kept his hand on the throttle, his eye on the rail and America moved forward to the age of diesel locomotives.

The rest of the story – Operations - Men who Worked On The Train. Read More