Understanding Illinois: Rauner Doesn’t Seem to Know What He’s Doing

Nowlan•January 20, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I have covered much of this ground earlier, yet the dysfunctional state of our state is so dire that I feel compelled to rant yet again, to add my ever-so-faint voice to the chorus calling for action on the stalled state budget.

There is now widespread speculation that the budget impasse won’t be addressed until the November elections are in lawmakers’ rear-view mirrors, more than 18 months after the fiasco began. This is sickening irresponsibility.

The strategy of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is to hold out support for a tax increase until Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan caves to the governor’s “turn-around agenda.”

The strategy apparently rests on the premise that the speaker needs a budget to provide funding for the poor and dispossessed, who comprise much of Madigan’s political base.

The flaws in this strategy are, first, that every close observer knows Rauner will have to support a tax increase regardless, as there is no other way to balance the state’s budget. So where is the leverage in his threat?

Second, Madigan cares less for the poor than for his power as speaker, so he will wait until the cows come home before knuckling under to the first-term governor.

[Nor does the larger public care much. I chatted recently with Eddie Webster in Connie’s Country Kitchen, just down main street from my home office in Toulon.

[“Jim,” observed Eddie, a good citizen farmer, “I see we haven’t had a state budget since last summer, yet I haven’t seen how it affects me. What’s the big deal?” Read More

Letter to the Editor: 1-20-2016

Thanks, Deb

Sometimes life puts us in a situation that makes us feel lost and in need of special help. She tells me it happens often when you become a senior citizen.

If you ever need extra help with insurance coverage or need some reliable advice about nursing homes and the coverage that you qualify for in our area, we have this help exclusively in our hometown of Sullivan. Read More

A Forty Three Year Old Chill and I Just Can’t Shake It…

Oh Brother...

•January 20, 2016•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

I don’t think I will ever get warm again.

So when the first hit of cold weather arrives I start adding layers of clothes until eventually I’m like the little brother in The Christmas Story who has so many clothes on he can’t put his arms down.

Some may call it thin-blooded, but I personally want to blame my inability to deal with cold weather on an Oh Brother incident from my teenage years.

When I started going to the community college near my home town, I gave up my hot rod Chevelle and bought a 1959 Volkswagen from my cousin.

It was quit a shock to go from something that could get you somewhere quicker than necessary to something that may never get you there at all.

This was the fear one cold January night when a group of us were sitting around Fuzzie’s Cue and Grill and decided to take a ride to Golconda on the coldest night of the year.

The genius move was me volunteering to drive. Golconda was a river town, and we had met some kids from college and figured we would find them hanging out. Not the best plan on a cold night. Read More

Growing up in Sullivan: Cornbread Bottom and Reedy Schoolhouse

Ginther•January 13, 2016•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

If you were raised in Sullivan, you will probably remember some bottomland not far to the west of Kirksville, often referred to as Cornbread Bottom; that is if you were born no later than say, 1970.  That is the year the gates of the new dam were closed and the flooding of the land acquired for the lake began.  If you were born later than that, it’s likely that this bottomland was flooded by Lake Shelbyville before you were old enough to have any memories of the area.  Nevertheless, it is likely that you may have heard your elders speak of this fertile valley along the Kaskaskia River. Personally, my memories center around folks I knew who lived there and the fact that I lived not far from the rim of that bottom for a short time. During my freshman year, I lived on a road that ran west out of Kirksville; I don’t recall that it had a name or a number. However, somewhere about a half mile, maybe a mile, to the west there was a “T” intersection.  At that intersection a road going south originated. If one turned to the south at that intersection and continued to the next intersection, one came upon an old building known as Reedy Schoolhouse.  (More about Reedy later)

Continuing on to the west, the road out of Kirksville would eventually bring you to the east rim of the bottomland. Down in the bottom was a farm owned by the elder Jim Pierce, who was a longtime friend of the family and a place where I spent many weekends and summer days during my grade school years. The Kaskaskia River either bordered or ran through the farm providing a boy of my age plenty of fishing, and the timber covered river banks, and pastureland afforded squirrel hunting and unlimited exploring.

For a short time, I lived at the “T” intersection mentioned above. The school bus picked up my sister and me every morning and turned around at this point on the road. Living near this particular intersection is significant for yet another reason at that time. I mentioned in a preceeding  paragraph that I would elaborate more on the schoolhouse. Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Workers’ Comp” at Center of State Budget Impasse

Nowlan•January 13, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Whenever talk comes up of compromises necessary to end the lamentable Illinois budget impasse, business-friendly changes in workers’ compensation law are mentioned first.

What is “workers’ comp,” as it is called; why is it important, and should we change it?

A century ago during the Progressive Era, business, workers and insurance companies came together to support laws, soon adopted by all the states, to provide that workers would be compensated on a “no fault” basis for injuries incurred on the job.

Arbitrators employed by each state would determine the severity of each injury and the amount of medical costs and lost wages to be compensated. Employees gave up the right to sue their employer as part of the bargain, and employers were required to buy insurance to cover their claims.

Business benefited by avoiding the possibility of huge jury awards in favor of injured workers. Workers gained from the likelihood of more timely compensation than from a prolonged lawsuit, and insurers wrote more business.

Work is dangerous, some tasks more so than others, so employers engaged in hazardous work such as mining pay more for their insurance than do businesses that employ white collar workers. A company that incurs numerous injury claims see its insurance costs go up, so there are incentives to make the workplace safe.

Workers’ comp (WC) insurance is a major business cost, at about $2 per $100 of workers’ wages nationally in 2014, though much less than health care costs for business, at about $12.52 per $100, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read More

Letter to the Editor – Be Responsible in Wyman Park

•January 13, 2016•

Dear Editor,

“I walk to, and around, Wyman Park quite often. One of my pet peeves is having to dodge the dog poop on sidewalks and the road inside the park. I have to look down so I don’t step in it.

Is there a city ordinance to address this problem? If there isn’t, there should be.

I don’t understand the laziness of some dog owners. It is so simple to bring a plastic bag (or two) along on your walk. We all shop for food and have bags at home. Just pick up the poop with the bag, invert the bag so you don’t have to touch it, then throw it in the trash can!

“Please be a responsible citizen and consider others.”

Sincerely
M. Camp

Understanding Illinois: The Year Illinois Skipped Higher Education

Nowlan•January 6, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This may be the year, unprecedented, that Illinois simply skips funding for its colleges and universities as well as for students on state scholarships. As a broken-down professor, I hope I am wrong, as the consequences will be severe.

Yet there is little outcry. Higher education is, I fear, out of favor.

We must create a broad-based blue ribbon commission to look ahead and advise our colleges and universities as to what is in store for them in terms of state support.

Don’t snicker. In the 1950s, a blue ribbon task force called the Illinois Commission on Higher Education provided a blueprint for the state that ultimately gave us a tiered system of public higher education that has been admired across the country.

In this present budget year (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016), most of the state’s functions are being funded by court orders, even though the legislature and governor have never agreed upon a budget.

Higher education is the one major function of state government that has not been covered by the courts. Thus, there is no money from the state for operating the colleges and universities, nor for paying the tuition scholarships for 130,000 students (out of about 900,000 total students in all Illinois colleges and universities). Read More

Understanding Illinois: Cheatham’s Hill a Monument to Our Enduring Union

Nowlan•December 30, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The Illinois Monument at the Kennesaw Mountain Civil War battlefield north of Atlanta is a rather nondescript vertical block of marble.

The monument stands atop Cheatham’s Hill, which the soldiers of the 85th and 125th Illinois Regiments almost but never quite reached on June 26, 1864. The marker commemorates the courage and cohesiveness of the men who came within 30 feet of the almost impregnable Confederate earthen parapets above the sharp rise.

Each holiday season I visit my sister’s family, who live near the park, outside Marietta, Ga. And each year I am drawn back to Cheatham’s Hill.

I stand at the top of the hill, looking down from the dug earthen defenses, still evident. I wonder in awe how men could have marched in formation up the hill, sure to absorb a crippling fusillade from rifles stuck through the slits of space between the earth works and the braced logs atop.

The open, grassy line of march up the hill is the shape of a football field, though maybe half again as wide and deep. Loblolly pine frame the battlefield, tall, mute sentinels to the carnage of that day. The Union lost 397 killed and wounded at just this one hill, rather insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

Before entering the battle that day, Union Colonel Daniel McCook recited for his men McCauley’s popular, “Horatius, the Captain of the gate; Death will cometh sooner or late, and how can man better die than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his father’s grave and the temples of the gods.”

A Reb soldier wrote in his diary later that, “The ground was piled up with one solid mass of dead and wounded Yankees.” Ignited by the rifle and cannon bursts, grassfires threatened the Yankee wounded on the hillside. Read More

Letter to the Editor: 12-30-2015

•December 30, 2015•

Dear Editor,

After my wife died in early August, I was heartbroken and very lonely. I remember that before she died she told me I should consider moving into an assisted unit home. So in late August, I did as she suggested and moved into Courtyard Estates. This was the best decision I had ever made, other than marrying my wife.

I no longer have to pay for utilities, car insurance, garbage, food or extras. I no longer have to do my laundry. I no long have to clean the house. I no longer have to prepare meals or do grocery shopping. I no longer have to pay to heat or cool my apartment. I no longer have to haul my trash down to the dumpster. I am treated like royalty by all who work at Courtyard Estates.

The housekeepers even make my bed or do any dishes I may have because all my meals are served in the dining room, so there are none to do except for a coffee cup, glass and dog’s food dish.  Read More

A Christmas Tree Hunt Ends in a Grave

MikeBrothersOh brother...

•December 30, 2015•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Long ago in a far away place called Harrisburg, Oh Brother learned the meaning of stupid human tricks.

Like any fairly intelligent male I choose to ignore learning from my mistakes and continue trying to find grander ways to do stupid things.

In the beginning there was an innocence. I was in the third grade, and since this was before motor driven vehicles were very popular, I walked to and from school - uphill both ways.

So it made sense that such a long walk might require an occasional break on the way home from school.

It just so happened Pendell Wenrod lived only a couple of blocks from school so Steve Waite and I took our on-the-way-home break there.

Homework was slight as we were coming on Christmas break so this Friday we had our hands free and our spirits ready for adventure.

That’s when we ran into Pendell’s neighbor John Ruble. John was a year older and started talking about how he was going out to the woods and cut a Christmas tree for his mom.

This was exactly the kind of adventure a group of eight year olds was ready for so we volunteered to go along to help John carry the tree.

John grabbed a hand saw, and we were off to Liberty, a little way west, as John put it. It was after school on a Friday and about 4 p.m. before we started the journey.  Read More