Understanding Illinois: The Fiscal Mess in Chicago

Nowlan•July 8, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

We are in the lull before the storm in Springfield, as politicos watch intently—and rather helplessly—as the longstanding alpha male (Speaker Mike Madigan) is challenged for dominance of the pride by newcomer Gov. Bruce Rauner.
When the tussle is over, be assured that state taxes will have gone back up toward recent levels. The big question is whether the governor will achieve much or any of his business-friendly “turnaround agenda.”
Meanwhile, Chicago’s major local governments are struggling with fiscal messes that may be even worse than those in Springfield.
The problems facing Chicago, its public schools and the surrounding county of Cook mirror those of the state of Illinois—inexcusable myopia by careerist elected officials in putting off today’s budget problems until tomorrow, which has arrived. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Where Have All the Lions Gone?

NowlanJuly 1, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

My home office is in what decades ago was the dressing room for the Toulon Independent Order of Odd Fellows, adjacent to the old IOOF lodge hall (members wore gowns and regalia to lodge).
With a lineage that goes back to the guilds in 16th Century England, the Odd Fellows (which did not mean “odd” as we think of it), now mostly defunct, comprised a fraternal organization such as the Masons, and later in the U.S., more of a service club.
I am active in my local Lions Club, [another club] that does good works for our community.
But our numbers have dwindled precipitously. From a hundred members when chartered in 1948, we now gather but a handful for our monthly meetings, mostly old duffers like me.
Where have all the Lions gone, and does it really matter?
As early as the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America was a nation of joiners, “forever forming associations.” Read More

June Rains Aid in Growth of Produce and Weeds

KimForColumnJuly 1, 2015

by Kim Riedel
N•P Columnist

This past month has kept me very busy with all the rain that we have had. Not only are the weeds racing to outgrow my garden plants by three times, the rain has also been trying to take over my basement and shop. The rain has been a full time job trying to stay on top of let alone everything else going on in my life. Although the rain has put me behind in some of the outdoor jobs that need to be done and loaded me up with a lot of unnecessary work that I really didn’t need, it has been great for the garden (a little over- doing it at times) and the plants have really grown.
In particular, June was wonderful with all the black raspberries. It made my day to go down along the outside of my fence and pick a tray full of berries. What a way to start the day. Lots of them went into our freezer to enjoy later in the year, though just as many were eaten fresh, in smoothies, and with ice cream! It has been a bit slower with the gold and purple raspberries, and the red ones were so fragile they crumbled as they were carefully coaxed off their stem...but they were all so good that many of them were eaten before even leaving the garden. Read More

Thinking About Health: If You Knew How Many Calories in That Sandwich, Would You Still Eat It?

TrudyLieberman-PhotoJune 24, 2015

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

Not long ago my husband showed up with a sandwich for lunch that he bought at a local supermarket. I thought it was going to be our usual: turkey and provolone with lettuce on a hard roll, always plenty for both of us.  At $6.50, how could you go wrong?
This time the sandwich was different. It now cost $9.50 and was piled high with turkey and cheese on a roll that was much bigger than what we were used to. In short, it was awful—enough meat and cheese for four people on squishy bread that tasted more like a morning sweet roll. But the bigger serving probably looked like a good deal to a lot of people who thought only about size relative to cost and nothing about size or cost relative to calories.
After surgery on the sandwich, the two of us ate some of it and saved slices of the meat and cheese for later. My guess is most buyers would have eaten the whole thing believing they were getting great value for the money.  Maybe they were, but they were also getting at least half the calories most of them needed for the day. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Why Can’t Ill. Be More Like Minnesota?

June 24, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

When I was a graduate student in the 1960s, my professors pointed to Minnesota as a model state—corruption free, collaborative, with values of what’s good for the community trumping what’s in it for me.
These memories from days long past were prompted by a recent column from Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune about how Minnesota has its act together, while Illinois struggles, to say the least.
Zorn noted that Minnesota in 2011 upped its highest income tax rate to 9.85 percent for those earning over $250,000 (the rate in Illinois is a flat 3.75 percent). Nevertheless, in 2014 conservative Forbes magazine ranked Minnesota ninth best for business while it put Illinois at 40th.
On all indicators I could put my hands on, our northern neighbor ranked ahead of Illinois. For example, a 2014 ranking of quality of life factors such as health, public safety and income put Minnesota in second place (after New Hampshire) while Illinois was smack dab in the middle among the states.
Social media site Wallet Hub recently looked at 26 metrics such as emotional health and sports participation and came up with a “happiness index.” Minnesota came in second, after Utah, while the Prairie State was again right in the middle, at 25th. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Animal Fat May Be Good For You

NowlanJune 17, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

A crusty dairy farmer friend recently barged into my office and unceremoniously plopped a thick book on my desk. He then harrumphed: “Now you can go out and eat a big steak and have lots of real cream on your strawberry shortcake!”
The 500-page book is The Big Fat Surprise (2014) by Nina Teicholz, an accomplished writer who studied biology at Stanford and Yale and has a graduate degree from Oxford University.
This is not your run of the mill, breezy diet book. It has 335 footnotes and lists almost 1,000 scientific books and articles in the bibliography.
After eight years of research, Teicholz concludes that the low fat, low cholesterol diet, almost deified since the 1950s, was based on inadequate science, which never proved that saturated fat and high cholesterol cause heart disease.
Among those who have apparently changed their perspectives on saturated fats and health is Ronald Krauss, MD, PhD, a giant among nutrition scientists. Krauss concludes, in Teicholz’ words, that eating saturated fat is healthier than eating carbohydrates.
In other words, says Teicholz, “Cheese is probably healthier than bread. And eggs and bacon better than oatmeal.” Read More

LTE: 6.17.15

A Helpful Community

Over the past 6 months (and many years of research), three cousins started planning a family reunion that we weren’t sure could be done. When I first started contacting the community of Sullivan, we had no idea we would receive all the help that would be given for us to coordinate the 187th Waggoner Family Reunion that was held on May 9 and 10. We started with the American Legion who put up with my many phone calls-then the Chamber who helped with phone numbers. We then sought the Moultrie County Genealogical Society who gave us their time for a full day to allow our families to come and view our Waggoner history at their building and have kept those records available on a daily basis. The Parks Department helped in setting up a location for taking our historic family photo (weather being a concern) and the Elementary School offered their auditorium in case of bad weather. The high school also made arrangements for us to use the track field grandstands for an outdoor picture. Read More

Moultrie County Annual Farm Bureau Meeting July 16

HarveyJune 17, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

As of Sunday, June 14, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) had Illinois corn condition rated at 57% good with 19% of the corn crop excellent. Soybeans are at 90% planted as of this week with a condition rating of 58% good and 12% excellent.
Driving between Tuscola and Sullivan and looking at various crops, the 2015 crop is off to a great start. We have been fortunate thus far not to have the amount of water that has fallen in Vermilion County and other places around the area. NASS has an updated crop report come out every Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. I expect the crop percentages for good and excellent to increase with the overall weather we are having at this time. Illinois, Iowa and Indiana are all reporting similar percentages for both corn and soybean condition. It is still early in the year, but it is off to a decent start. Read More

Other Railroad Stories: A Night to Remember

GintherJune 10, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

The aroma of brewing coffee hung in the morning air as many of us viewed the incredible sight before us. It was a cold winter morning in January 1969, although slightly above freezing, as we surveyed the wreckage of a head on collision between two trains. The crash had occurred in the early morning hours that same day at Indian Oaks just a short distance north of Kankakee, Ill. at a junction point where three tracks converged into two. The aroma was the result of a box car carrying coffee being demolished and its contents strewn over the melting snow and standing water puddles.
This train wreck happened about 46 years ago, and I still remember how the visual and olfactory inputs at the scene presented a striking contrast. The smell of morning coffee and the devastation before us just didn’t go together. At that point in time all of the deceased had yet to be recovered. Read More

Understanding Illinois: New Sheriff in Town, but Old Sheriff Hasn’t Left

NowlanJune 10, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest

Based on a couple of days nosing around the state capitol at the end of the regular session of the legislature, which adjourned with a whimper May 31, I sense that Illinois is in for several years of rancorous political conflict. There is a new sheriff in town (Gov. Bruce Rauner), but the old one hasn’t left (House Speaker Mike Madigan).
Maybe a more apt simile is that of the dueling popes of Avignon and Rome, battling for years for papal supremacy around the end of the 14th Century.
After all, there won’t be a single gunfight to the death between Republican Rauner and Madigan, but instead a protracted “Battle for the future of Illinois,” as Rauner terms it, which appears likely to go on for years.
The combatants come from different worlds. Rauner is a businessman from the rarefied high-finance atmosphere of buying and selling companies; he is used to being king of the hill.
Madigan and his protégé, state senate president John Cullerton, are professional politicians, for whom politics is also a business. They have pretty much run the state legislature since the 1980s.
Rauner wants to take them down. Read More