Preventing Unwanted Surprises from Affecting Benefits

•October 7, 2015•

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security District Manager in Decatur, IL

Most people love surprises, but many dislike change. It’s just the opposite with Social Security. If you receive benefits, we want to hear about your changes.

Keeping us informed minimizes the chance that we learn about something later that could negatively affect your benefits. That’s the surprise no one wants because it creates overpayments that you must repay, disrupts payments, and can even jeopardize your entitlement to Social Security benefits.

Here is a reminder of some of the most common forms of information Social Security needs from you.

Your address and direct deposit information. We need to know your current mailing address and phone number so we can reach you if needed. This is especially important if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since where you live can change the amount of your SSI benefits.

When your direct deposit information is not current, it can cause headaches with missing or delayed payments. You can update your address or direct deposit information when you register for a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: The Remarkable Schultz Family of Effingham

Nowlan•September 30, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The seven children of John and Frances Schultz of Teutopolis-Effingham in south-central Illinois are remarkable missionaries of entrepreneurialism.

Now in their 50s or just beyond, the four girls and three boys are all well-educated, successful, and committed to the Effingham area, where all but one live.

Each has at least two college degrees, including engineering, law and MBA sheepskins from Harvard, Northwestern, the University of Illinois and other top schools.

Without exception, each has started and/or owned his or her own prospering businesses.

These include a national industrial site development company (Jack), a medical equipment outsourcing company with national reach (Ann), a private equity firm (Jim), and a building company (Bob), among others successes.

And the Schultz family gives back to its community, as driving forces and board chairs or members of three foundations and too-many-to-mention civic and do-good causes.

Are there any lessons we can learn from this brood? I think so.

First, they had a great start. Patriarch John, now deceased, operated a successful seed business and invested wisely from tiny Teutopolis (or German Town; theirs is German territory). Read More

A Long Winding Road to the Animal House

MikeBrothers•September 30, 2015•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

This column is rooted on the number of stupid human tricks I have done. The beauty is I never lack for suitable, or maybe unsuitable, stuff to write about.

Seemingly, an innocent request from daughter-in-law Crystal prompted another incident.

A few weeks ago Crystal sends me a photograph of this cute little zoo for stuffed animals with the question: “could you build this?”

Here we can begin to see why the fundamental reason many of my stupid human tricks end with me striking myself in the forehead with an open palm declaring: “Oh Brother!” along with a few expletives.

I don’t know if it’s hereditary or just plain stubbornness, but I have always been convinced that I can build just about anything. And most of the time I will get the project finished; it just may stray from its original design.

Armed with nothing but determination and a photograph on my phone about the size of a postage stamp I was ready. I gladly took on the task of building a zoo to contain twins Lyla and Landon’s jungle of stuffed animals.

I have seen these kids’ toy room; you can’t miss it when you walk into the door at son Trevor’s house - the room to the right is covered with toys, stuffed animals and books.

Many of them have places they belong, but with a couple of two-year olds the most likely place for any toy is on the floor. So the idea of a zoo for the stuffed animals became a special challenge-it had to be kid friendly and fun.

Friendly and fun was the goal now to start the project. I had some balusters left from an earlier porch rebuild, which I thought would make perfect bars for the zoo. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Third Time’s a Charm, Says Reform Backers

Nowlan•September 23, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This column runs the risk of being boring (“So what’s new?” readers wonder) because we have been here before. But the topic of redistricting reform is important. It represents the one fundamental thing you can do to refresh Illinois politics, say its backers.

In Illinois, members of the state legislature draw their own districts, and as a result in the last election, 97 percent of incumbents who ran for re-election won; most ran without opposition.

Surprised? We call it a process in which legislators select their voters rather than vice versa.

In California, in contrast, a scrupulously independent commission draws the lines, without regard to political party or incumbency. As a result, in 2014, half the members elected to the legislature there were new.

Illinois civic leaders have embarked on a “third time’s a charm” effort to create in our state a system similar to that in California.

In 2010, the League of Women Voters mounted an under-powered effort to do this, yet failed. In 2013-14, a coalition of civic groups tried again, yet the effort came up short again, primarily because of a botched petition drive.

Now, a broad coalition that includes the League, the Farm Bureau, AARP, the Latino Institute, former governor Jim Edgar, and some deep-pocket contributors is at it again, and I predict the well-organized and well-funded effort will succeed in getting the issue on the ballot next year. Read More

Why Illinois Needs to Pass a Budget

•September 23, 2015•

By Ariana Cherry
NP Columnist

People and organizations in Illinois are hurting in more ways than one. Families and individuals who depended on government benefits have had to take a serious cut on the financial assistance that they receive. The Ameren PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) has become non-existent. The LIHEAP program had no summer assistance and will be running a month behind for the 2016 season.

Many people will be far behind or shut off possibly come the Oct 1 date. Although, come October 1, LIHEAP will be available only to seniors and disabled on the first round. Round two, in November, the program will add households with children under six years of age. Then in December, the general public will be able apply. Those who have state regulated utilities might be able to coast by some, as the winter moratorium will take place beginning December 1 and last through March 1. Although residents who have local utilities could be disconnected by the time they can apply in December.

Into its third month of the new fiscal year, Illinois still has not passed a budget, hurting many state funded agencies and organizations, one being the LIHEAP program. Everything has been pushed back a month, and low income families are having to tighten their belts even more. Read More

Understanding Illinois: The American Way of Dying Unsustainable

•September 16, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

A few days ago I turned 74. The milestone reminded me of the provocative article a year ago in the Atlantic Monthly by Ezekiel Emanuel (da’ mayor’s brother), who made the case for dying around age 75.

If I adopt Emanuel’s persuasive argument, my time is drawing nigh.

An oncologist and health economics professor, Emanuel observes that after 75 most people trundle down an often sharp decline, even as they live many more years. Creativity in most of us is shot by then, and many are among the walking wounded, either physically or mentally or both.

Emanuel, 58, doesn’t plan to pull the trigger, figuratively or literally, at 75, and he opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, he says. Instead, he will simply at that point let life take its course, without the medical interventions that are standard, and ever more frequent, in our old age.

No more colonoscopies when he turns 65, for example (I’m having one next week; ugh), and no more prostate exams. At 75, no cancer treatments, should they become pertinent.

While death is a loss, Emanuel says that living too long is also a loss. It profoundly changes who we are, and for the worse. Read More

Four Seasons Gardening Program Offers Fall Series

•September 16, 2015•

Submitted by U of I Extension

The fall series of University of Illinois Extension’s Four Seasons Gardening program, which focuses on environmental stewardship and backyard food production, gets underway this month. The first session of the series is titled, Practical Weed Control. The program is offered at 1:30 p.m. September 22 in both the Coles County Extension Office, located at 707 Windsor Road, Suite A, Charleston, and the Moultrie-Douglas Extension Office, located at 122 South Walnut Street in Arthur.

This session is also available for home participation by pre-registering at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hmrs/4seasons/ Read More

Road Oil and Sand: Growing Up in Sullivan

Ginther•September 9, 2015•

by Jerry Ginther
NP Guest Columnist

Scrubbing road oil from the sides of our cars and those old white walled tires was an annual, summertime job in our small, central Illinois town of Sullivan. Try as we may we could never avoid the inevitable; the day the road oil would come to our particular street or would be applied to a street on which we must drive. Everyone searched for new routes to get as close to their destinations as possible without having to drive on the black, stinky goop, only to discover their plan had been defeated. The city crews had cut off their escape route by beating them to the other road they had contrived to use.

On those hot, summer days the city and township crews were laying the oil on thick and covering it with a thin layer of sand. The sand, of course, was next to useless in keeping the oil off of anything, especially after a few cars had passed over it. However, we did learn a couple of minor, mitigating procedures. If we drove very slowly over the oiled surface, the tires didn’t throw the oil quite as high, and we could drive with the right two wheels on the shoulder where possible. The latter option wasn’t always available but utilized where practicable.

It seems that the older kids in the family were summoned to the task of road oil removal. As an incentive, we were told that the sooner we got at the chore the easier the removal would be. Maybe, but I don’t recall that we were allowed the option of testing that theory. My theory was a little different. Adults just wanted it off sooner rather than later. Detergents, kerosene, gasoline and other home remedies were employed for the project, but I don’t remember any of them really making the scrubbing process much easier. It was never a wipe on wipe off operation.  Read More

Nobody is Looking Down the Road in Illinois-Still Hoping for a Vision

Nowlan•September 9, 2015•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

The state of Illinois typically lurches from year to year, focusing on its annual budget, never looking to the horizon. At present, operating without a formal budget as Gov. Rauner and Speaker Madigan wage their war of political attrition, the state is operating month to month, even day to day, as the courts step in to tell Comptroller Leslie Munger which bills to pay and when.

Given our grim budgetary situation and sullied state reputation, we almost desperately need to do some long-term thinking about Illinois, or we may crash. We don’t know where we are going.

I still recall from a 1970s book the lament of then North Carolina governor Terry Sanford that there is no one in the governor’s office whose only job is to gaze out the window and brood about the problems of the future.

More recently, former governor Jim Edgar told a group of up-and-coming Illinois leaders that, “Once you come into the governor’s office, there is no time for ‘the vision thing.’”

To put a point on Edgar’s remark, I remember when I was helping with the transition of new governor Jim Thompson into office in 1976, his chief of staff came into my office late one afternoon. He slumped in a chair and sighed that he had 400 telephone message slips(!) on his desk from mostly influential people who wanted something or to tell Thompson how he should run things. Read More

A Different Chapter-Same Life

MikeBrothersOh Brother…

•September 2, 2015•

by Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

It seems like a hundred years ago when I sat down at the old Underwood manual typewriter at the Harrisburg Daily Register and cranked out my first story as a reporter.

Here I am some three decades later sitting down to a MacBook to crank out another story.

This is a different chapter of the same life.

A life where the road less traveled brought me out of southern Illinois to the great prairie to tend a batch of community newspapers for about 15 years.

Then I took a break from the newspaper business, learning during that time that the newspaper business hadn’t left me.

Once ink flows through a person’s veins they can never be the same.

There is something about the unpredictable nature of the news business that keeps it exciting. Read More