Some Thoughts as You Begin the Gardening Season

KimForColumnApril 1, 2015

by Kim Riedel
NP Columnist

It seems as if winter has dragged on and on this year while I have been anxiously waiting for spring to arrive. Over the last couple of months, I have spent time outside pruning back fruit trees, berries, and grape vines hoping for a great harvest this coming year! I have gone through all sorts of seed catalogues dreaming of the different varieties of produce to try out in my garden, and after much thought, I came up with over 50 different varieties of tomatoes to test and over 30 different varieties of peppers (from sweet peppers to scorching hot).
I have been trying over the years to incorporate color throughout my garden in all seasons. This past month I have been so excited as I see some of the signs of spring—yellow, purple, and striped crocuses, my oxalis blooming, and buds of leaves starting along the fence, in the raised beds, and in all corners of my garden. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Is High School Football Worth the Risk?

NowlanApril 1, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Talented linebacker Chris Borland called it quits this past week after just one year in the NFL. “I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Borland told ESPN, referring to multiple concussions he has sustained. Several other NFL players have also retired this past year for similar reasons.
In Illinois, a class action law firm in Chicago has filed suit this year against the Illinois High School Association. The suit contends that the IHSA has failed in its responsibilities to provide adequate safety oversight for the 557 member high schools and their 47,000 football players.
The IHSA responds that if the suit is successful in requiring more and expensive medical oversight during practices and games, the death knell will probably be sounded for many small high school football programs. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Opportunity Costs of Health Care

NowlanMarch 25, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

When I was a boy in the 1950s, health care was simple. If you got sick, you went to the family doctor. If you were really sick, you went to the local hospital and stayed until you got better or died. If you could afford it, you might go to Mayo’s for the latest in care. Most costs came out of a family’s pocketbook.
Today, especially as one ages, health care involves a cavalcade of trips to specialists, hands full of daily pills and robotic-driven surgeries to exorcise diseased growths. As relatively little of the costs now come directly out of our pockets, we insist on the latest and best care and technologies, and right away.
As a result, health care costs have gone through the roof and are expected to keep climbing.
According to the Center for American Progress, health care spending in the U.S., adjusted for inflation, increased by 818 percent between 1960 and 2010 while wages were going up just 16 percent. Per capita spending on health care is about $8,000 per year.
Economist William Baumol contends that we can afford the high costs of health care because of productivity increases elsewhere that bring the costs of other goods and services down. Read More

The Romance of Railroading: Folklore Continued

GintherMarch 25, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

As stated in my first article, the conductor is the boss.
Every member of the train and engine crew is subordinate to him, and the engine crew is under the direction of the brakemen/trainmen. The engineer is strictly a power operator and moves the train only when instructed to do so by a trainman or the conductor. The fireman, when they were used, was under the supervision of the engineman. Post steam engine era the fireman’s position was used to train future engineers or fulfill a union contract.
When the train picked up or set out cars at stations along the line, the conductor handled the business end of each transaction with the station agent. This business mostly amounted to the exchange of the waybills for cars left and those added to his train. A waybill contains a description of the car’s lading, weight, and destination and one must accompany each car in the train’s consist. It also contains the name of the shipper, point of origin, and the consignee. The conductor is responsible to know the total number of cars, whether they are loaded or empty and the total tonnage of his train. This information had to be provided by the conductor to agents or telegraph operators at predetermined stations along the line. Those operators would telegraph that information to the train dispatcher. Without this knowledge, the dispatcher would be unable to plan meeting places between opposing trains. At sidings used for the meeting and passing of trains, one of them would have to fit between the switches of the siding. Read More

LTE: 3.18.15

Enjoying “Romance of Railroading”

I’m pleased to see Jerry Ginther has written an additional article about the railroad (per his facebook post). Until his first article I wasn’t aware of the “ins and outs” of railroading. However, I did find the information quite interesting. How many of us just sit and watch those huge trains go by in a blur? Now, I find myself reflecting on some of the information I learned by reading the first of Mr. Ginther’s accounting of his railroad career. Read More

Public Notices Must Stay in the Sun

sw15-zacharyBy Jim Zachary

March 18, 2015
As we recognize Sunshine Week, the public’s right to know is under assault throughout the United States.
State lawmakers are whittling away at Sunshine Laws in multiple ways, not the least of which is the effort to remove requirements to publish public notices in the place where communities are most likely to find important information they want and need to know — in the local newspaper.
Efforts to allow local governments the option of placing required public notices on government websites, or on third party sites that bury the information is poor, ill-advised legislation that should be viewed as a threat to and further erosion of government transparency. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Child Care Agency Under Fire, Again

NowlanMarch 11, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Ida Mae and I were classmates in our rural high school, decades ago. Ida Mae often came to school in worn, dirty clothes, but she was attractive underneath it all. I liked her, though we came from different sides of the track and didn’t mix much.

Many years later I received a long, wrenching letter from Ida Mae, in which she spilled her guts about her high school years.

She was horribly abused by her stepfather, she wrote. Life was absolutely wretched. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Farm Tour Later this Month

HarveyMarch 11, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

On a county level, the Moultrie County Farm Bureau has been very busy with various meetings around the state. The annual Governmental Affairs and Leadership Conference was held February 25 and 26 in Springfield. This annual statewide conference is a great way for attendees to meet with their local legislators in Springfield. There are numerous workshops to attend on topics ranging from government, farmland assessment, the Farm Bill, and other topics of interest. Read More

LTE: 3.4.15

Zoo in Moultrie County is Wrong

Dear Editor,
We are currently faced with a proposed zoo being established on prime farmland, an idea that is unthinkable. Whether one embraces the concept, and sees no problem, or is totally opposed for numerous reasons- that is his right. What no one has the right to do is to force his view upon others. Through this method of “silent manipulation”, there is total disregard of others and their rights.
I am reminded of the citizen outcry, in opposition, to the proposed Ameren tower route through our community. The difference being that people were made aware and had opportunity to express their views. I challenge each one of you to follow the advice of the unknown author who cautions us by saying,”Slow down and think things through before you make any life changing decisions.” Read More

Understanding Illinois: Changing Faces Challenge Illinois

NowlanMarch 4, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

A regular reader of this space suggested that I write a column about the changing demographics of our state and of what it means for our future.
Since my childhood half a century ago, there have been dramatic changes in who we are and where we live in Illinois.
My rural home county of Stark in central Illinois has, for example, lost population every decade since 1880, from almost 12,000 then to fewer than 6,000 today. Most of the hundreds of vibrant downstate market towns of my youth have shrunk to a bank, maybe a struggling grocery store, a Casey’s “general store,” and not much more. Read More