Understanding Illinois: Transportation Infrastructure Needs Investment Now

NowlanAugust 20, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

We cannot let investment in our strong transportation infrastructure go the way of state pensions, putting it off until tomorrow—until it’s too late.

Our transportation system is the jewel in the state’s somewhat tarnished crown.

We have 2,300 miles of interstate highways, more than any states but California and Texas. Six interstates radiate into Chicagoland and three into metro-East St. Louis. Read More

Summer Winding Down, Farm Bureau Staying Busy


HarveyAugust 13, 2014

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

It seems like only yesterday that the summer was upon us and the return of school was a distant thought. I hope everyone has had an enjoyable summer and got to experience a fair, festival, or caught up on that “to-do” list.

As you read this, the Illinois State Fair will be winding down for the year. If you have never experienced the State Fair, it is something to see. There is so much going on, day and night, that it is sometimes overwhelming but still worth it. To me, the fair is the close of summer and also the last time I will get my fair food for another long year. The Illinois State Fair goes on until Aug. 17 so you still have time to make it. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Where Have All the Monarchs Gone?

NowlanAugust 13, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

The official insect of our state is endangered, at least here in Illinois. The numbers of the glorious monarch butterfly have declined sharply in recent years throughout the Midwest and at the overwintering sites in central Mexico.

Should we care? What can be done about it, if anything?

Twenty years ago, when I walked the Rock Island Trail northwest of Peoria, I would come upon profusions of the orange butterflies with their striking black and white markings.

Yet this past weekend, on a prairie walk at Jubilee College in Peoria County, my associates and I saw but one monarch, and we all noted how scarce they had become.

A subtropical species, the monarch butterfly ventures north from Mexico each spring in search of its larval (caterpillar stage) host, the milkweed. Two or three generations of the insect later, the monarch arrives in the Midwest. Read More

More Chinese Food Safety Questions

Bill Bailey, WIUAugust 13, 2014

by William C Bailey
School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University

Over the past number of years, I have discussed food safety issues in China several times. One column discussed contaminated pet food, imported from China, while another column centered on contaminated infant formula that was manufactured and sold in China. The most recent Chinese food scare has a local spin – two Illinois firms are involved, one that produced the questionable products and the other that unknowingly sold them. The two firms, with headquarters 45 miles apart, are working together to solve a problem from half way around the world.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Common Core is Here in Illinois

NowlanAugust 6, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

After five years in the works, the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for American education are here.

Near the end of the 2014-2015 school year, students in Illinois and 40 other states will be tested according to new learning standards. The standards are about what K-12 students should know in English and mathematics at the end of each grade.

By eighth grade, for example, students will be able to do linear algebra and linear functions.

Based on talking with teachers in my locale, I sense that some are confident while others are deeply worried about how things will go in this first year of testing to what most observers consider more rigorous standards. Read More

August Slowdown Lets You Enjoy Your Garden

KimForColumnAugust 6, 2014

by Kim Riedel
Master Gardner

It’s August already? Where has all the time gone? Time seems to be going faster and faster especially when I keep myself busy.

July was a great month in the garden and has really kept me running. Even though the berries have been coming to an end, the peppers were producing, tomatoes were coming in, and the plums have been picked. The thought of moving my aquaponic system out to my garden has crossed my mind, and I am in the process of planning it out; it will be nice to be able to watch the growth of my plants in the system from the sunroom. 

There were some sweet potatoes that started sprouting on my counter so I took them out to one of my raised beds and planted them with the hope that I will get additional sweet potatoes.  Read More

Medicare is Here to Stay

July 30, 2014

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security Dist. Manager Decatur

Medicare went into effect 48 years ago on July 1, 1966. Earlier that same year, Medicare workers went door to door trying to get seniors to sign up. Medicare was not the cornerstone then that it is today, and people did not know whether it was going to work for the long haul.

Now, nearly half a century later, Medicare remains one of the most popular government programs in the nation. 

We can’t see the future, but one thing’s for sure: Medicare is here to stay. Medicare provides health insurance to more than 50 million Americans. Forty-two million are people age 65 and older and the other eight million are younger and have disabilities. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Four-Year Degrees From Two-Year Colleges?

NowlanJuly 30, 2014

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

For the past decade, College of DuPage (COD) president Bob Breuder has been pushing state lawmakers to allow two-year community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in technology-oriented fields.

Breuder makes a good case. Expect another push in the next session of the state legislature.

Since Joliet (IL) Junior College became the first such college in the nation in 1901, Illinois has been a leader in the community college movement.

When I was a legislator in the late 1960s, public two-year colleges had dotted the mushrooming suburbs and major downstate cities, covering the whole state.

Today there are 39 community college districts and 48 campuses, enrolling 42 percent of all higher education students in the state.

The two-year colleges have advantages over the older, more traditional colleges and universities. First, many located in population-dense markets, while small colleges often constructed their “Old Main” a century earlier in frontier towns that never blossomed. Read More

Retirement, A Big Decision

July 23, 2014

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security Dist. Manager Decatur

If you believe in going all the way or not going at all, there’s a day to celebrate your extreme ways. July 26 is All or Nothing Day. Not a day for the undecided, All or Nothing Day is dedicated to the idea of making decisions and plunging in. Whether it’s overcoming an agonizing fear, trying something you’ve always wanted to try, or making a big decision and seeing it through, All or Nothing Day is your chance to make it happen.

Read More