Understanding Illinois: What’s Brewing Under the State Capitol Dome?

NowlanMay 6, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

As the physical symbol of a state that contributed A. Lincoln, 285,000 soldiers (35,000 died) and immense provender for the triumphant Union cause, the Illinois Capitol was built to generate “shock and awe” among visitors, as state archivist David Joens puts it.
And it does to this day. Started in 1867 and completed two decades later, the capitol’s dome rises 361 feet, higher than the U.S. Capitol. The inner dome soars 233 feet above the first floor.
Visitors risk vertigo as they crane their necks upward toward the 9,000 pieces of stained glass that are embedded in the captivating, illuminated dome, which is capped by a five-foot rendition of the state seal.
But for those who are plying their trade of state politics and government during the present hectic legislative session, there is no time to admire the fancywork. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Why Can’t They Be Like Me?

NowlanApril 29, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

I travel the state a lot. On Amtrak, from western Illinois into Chicago’s Loop, I pass from left-behind rural towns and through new middle-class housing tracts on the suburban fringe.
Next come older, wealthy suburbs like Hinsdale and farther on the mostly Hispanic towns like Cicero and Berwyn. After that it is the mean streets of poor, black and Hispanic Chicago before reaching the golden, gleaming city center on the lake.
These varied worlds don’t communicate much with one another. Few in tony Hinsdale have in their world view the poor, often violent black neighborhoods not far to the east.
When I was a child after World War II, there were more vibrant farm market towns and small cities and fewer suburbs than today. Read More

Growing Up in Sullivan: Life After the Wars

GintherApril 29, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

My grandparents on both sides were born 20 to 30 years after the Civil War. They lived through two world wars, the Great Depression and the Korean War. The one thing they talked about the most was surviving the Depression years. My parents were both born shortly after the turn of the century; my dad in 1904 and mother in 1910. They, too, remembered the struggle of those infamous years. Their accounts of those hard times helped me appreciate how those struggles affected their lives going forward. The lessons they learned about thrift and survival they continued to practice and teach to their children and grandchildren even when times were much improved.
One of those improvements came about in the early 1950’s. As a first or second grader, I remember watching as the city crews cut deep trenches in Milton and McClellan Streets and laid the gas mains. Another trench was dug from the new gas main on McClellan St. to the west side of Grandma’s house where a gas meter was installed. Then, new appliances began to appear in the old house. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Is America Becoming the Dependent Society?

NowlanApril 22, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside
Columnist

I am invited to give talks to Lions, Rotary, women’s and other clubs, generally about Illinois and, particularly, its budget problems.
In recent talks, during the question period, several listeners have observed that we could save taxpayer money if we took the “undeserving” off the welfare rolls.
Then the audience members illustrated with anecdotes of local cases they “know” of people who are abusing our several welfare programs.
Anecdotes certainly don’t prove a case, but they do illustrate alarming trends in the growth of dependency of Americans on our government.
For example, one audience member, who rented properties, told of a woman, “smart and capable,” with four children, who received substantially more than $2,000 a month in rental payments ($882), food stamps ($775), heating, phone and other benefits. Read More

Why Strengthening the Freedom of Information Act is So Important

GuestColumnApril 22, 2015

By Caroline H. Little
President and CEO
Newspaper Association of America

President Obama has routinely promised greater transparency within the federal government. Now, Congress is making strides towards achieving this critical goal.
The House of Representatives and Senate are currently considering nearly identical bills to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides the general public, including journalists, with access to federal government records.
This legislation has received broad support across media organizations, including the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a coalition of which the Newspaper Association of America is a member. And here’s why:
Openness rather than secrecy would be the “default” key within the government. Read More

LTE: 4.22.15

Concern About Proposed Zoo

I no longer live in Moultrie County, however I do own farm land and am concerned about the proposed zoo in Moultrie County. I came to Sullivan on April 9 to attend the county board meeting as they were voting to change the zoning to allow a zoo in Moultrie County. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Spring Ushers in Busy Times

HarveyApril 15, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

With spring right around the corner, it has been a busy time for both the Moultrie and Douglas County Farm Bureaus. The Moultrie County Farm Bureau attended their District 11 meeting March 12 in Decatur. Rae Payne, Senior Director of Business and Regulatory Affairs for the Illinois Farm Bureau, was the guest speaker for the evening. The meeting was well attended by all the counties that comprise District 11 which include Moultrie, Macon, Piatt, Dewitt, Christian, and Shelby counties. Members from the Douglas County Farm Bureau attended their District 12 meeting Monday, March 16 in Arthur. Guest speakers for the program included Lauren Lurkins, Director of Natural and Environmental Resources for the Illinois Farm Bureau, Jennifer Tirey, Executive Director for the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices (CBMP), Dr. Howard Brown, Director of Nutrient Management and Environmental Stewardship for GROWMARK, and Dan Schaefer, Director of Nutrient Stewardship, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. This meeting was also well attended by all the counties that comprise District 12 which include Douglas, Edgar, Vermilion, and Champaign counties. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Body Cameras Put All On Best Behavior

NowlanApril 15, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Recent high-profile police shootings have put local law enforcement across the country under scrutiny. Will body cameras on police provide, as some experts think, a high-tech tool to improve behavior by both police and suspects, and thus de-escalate tensions over time?
The Economist, a highly respected United Kingdom weekly, offers trenchant analysis of American society by thoughtful outsiders. In December, the magazine excoriated U.S. policing for excessive use of force.
The publication noted that police in the U.S. shot and killed at least 458 people last year. In contrast, English “bobbies” felled no one in the period.
The Economist admitted that many American police operate in a violent world. Forty-six policemen were shot dead in the past year, and 52,000 were assaulted.
Policing has changed dramatically since I was a youngster in the 1950s.
In my rural county of Stark, for example, we then had simply a sheriff and his deputy; the deputy lived in the jail, and his wife cooked for the inmates. Read More

Growing Up in Sullivan: Textbook Characters

GintherApril 8, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

We had a special, fictional character in one of our science textbooks in the Sullivan grade schools. I’m not sure now in which grade that particular textbook was used, but the character’s name was Cowboy Hal. Hal taught us the graduation in degrees on the Fahrenheit thermometer and the temperature at which water would boil at sea level. He introduced us to the power of the steam created when water was boiled and how it was used to power steam engines on ships and train locomotives. Other lessons included the polarization of magnets; how like poles resisted while opposite poles attracted. Cowboy Hal knew the names of all the constellations and where to look for them in the night sky; what a guy! I can still find the Big and Little Dippers, and the North Star. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Rural Folks Sing the Blues in Illinois

NowlanApril 8, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Almost three out of four small town and rural residents across Illinois (73 percent) think overall economic prospects for families in the state will be worse in the next five years. This is according to a poll reported on recently by a rural research unit at Western Illinois University.
The same poll of 1,450 respondents found that almost half (49.5 percent) consider Illinois a poor place to live, versus only 26 percent who think it a good place.
And almost half (47 percent) think their quality of life has become worse in the past five years, with only 11 percent feeling it has become better.
Talk about singing the blues. Read More