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.”

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

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

It's been 118 years since Virginia O'Hanlon sought the truth about Santa from the New York Sun.

In over a century, the lives of children — and their parents—have increased in complexity by a factor of ten.

Man landed on the moon, communism rose and fell, countries changed names and borders, Elvis begat Jagger, who in turn led to "gangsta rap". The kidnap and murder of children, which made world headlines for the Lindbergh family, now touches the lives of hundreds of families annually. Children begin learning at ages two and three about "stranger danger," AIDS and sexual abuse.

The age of innocence is gone.

But that doesn't mean that Virginia O'Hanlon's innocent question to an anonymous editor is irrelevant in today's world. Far from it.

Today, more than ever, we all need to be reminded of the good that dwells in even the meanest spirit, of the hope that fires our most ambitious dreams. That, yes, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives in all our hearts.

So here, as a Christmas gift to us all, is Francis Pharcellus Church's editorial response to Virginia, first printed in The New York Sun on Sept. 21, 1897. Merry Christmas. Read More

Leaving No Child Left Behind Shifts to Every Student Succeeds

MikeBrothers•December 16, 2015•

By Mike Brothers

Every Student Succeeds is the new federal education act that promises to leave No Child Left Behind, behind.

Using a barrage of federally imposed testing No Child Left Behind tried to improve education by forcing rules from the Department of Education on local school districts.

Every Student Succeeds leaves the U.S. Dept. of Education out and moves those decisions to the state and local level.

Testing will still be a part of the way education progress is monitored, but the states may choose the testing methods.

Grades 3-8 still will take annual tests with one testing required in high school.

nochildThe testing, along with other factors, such as graduation rates, school climate and teacher engagement, determine a school district’s ranking.

The state, and not the federal government, will be required to intervene where schools score in the bottom five percent with less than a 2/3 graduation rate.

Every Student Succeeds also changes the funding formula. Programs such as the $500 million School Improvement Grant are folded into a $1.6 billion federal block grant administered through Title 1.

In the past Title 1 had helped fund technology with Sullivan using Title 1 funds to purchase ibooks for students. That funding option is still included in the new Education Act. Read More

Keep Dreaming of a White Christmas

•December 16, 2015•

Who will have a white Christmas in Illinois this year? Historically, northern Illinoisans are most like to see snow fly on Christmas Day, according to Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois.

A “white Christmas” is defined as having at least one inch of snow on the ground on December 25. It should come as no surprise that the highest odds are in northern Illinois. In general, the odds are about 40-60 percent in the northern third of Illinois, 20-40 percent in central Illinois, and 0-20 percent in southern Illinois.

There can be large differences between nearby sites, however. Snowfall is notoriously difficult to measure with blowing, drifting, and melting. Two nearby sites may have different results due to exposure to the sun and the wind as well as the dedication of the observer to report on Christmas Day. Read More

Learning an Important Lesson on How Not to Handle a Bully

MikeBrothers•December 9, 2015•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

While at the Sullivan School board meeting this week Student Council President Austin Minnigerode reported on the success of anti-bullying efforts at Sullivan High School.

It made me think about the whole bullying thing and what it was like when I was growing up.

In the south there were a lot of larger families, so bullying was kept in check by older siblings many times in grade school.

I remember in first grade this one guy was getting picked on by a fourth grader every day at lunch.

He was getting shoved around and his lunch money taken from him on a regular basis.

Until his older sister in the sixth grade found out who the bully was. The sister had done her homework and knew exactly how the bully went home from school every day.

So she waited for him. Needless to say the fourth grade bully was never able to look my friend in the eye after that.

It was a self-correcting society in our small town, but high school came along and the old big brother, big sister protection concept went by the wayside, especially if you didn’t have any older brothers or sisters.

Steve Knight and I had been friends since junior high school. We would hang out after school occasionally as freshmen.

Steve was shorter and susceptible to an occasional barb about his height but he took it in a good natured manner. Read More