Springfield Ball Charter School students Darion Miller (center) and Zoe Chase (right) share their TECH Day presentation with State Rep. Sue Scherer recently.
Work On Parking Garage
Demolition Is Progressing
Raoul ‘Legislator Of The Year’
State Senator Andy Manar, right, (D-Bunker Hill) congratulates his colleague, State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th), who was recognized this week as the 2013 Vince Demuzio Legislator of the Year. The Demuzio Award is presented by the Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies.
Decatur's Generous Heart Seen Again In Helping OK Victims
Whenever there is a need, area residents respond with their hearts and wallets. I was on my regular 7:00 a.m. Thursday slot on Byers & Co. over WSOY today, but it was not a typical City Hall Insider appearance. WSOY, along with other members of the media, are involved in raising funds to help victims of the terrible tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma on Monday. I don't know how anyone could view the video and still photos coming from Moore without being touched by what they see and hear. As most of us already know, the Decatur area has a big heart to help those in need. I am always inspired by the compassion and genuine goodness of the people of Decatur when they are called upon to respond to need. We have the highest unemployment rate in Illinois, but that doesn't seem to stop our residents from giving. That compassion and care for others is what makes this nation so great. As was mentioned a long, long time ago, "America is great because America is good." Our goodness is not found in the politicians or parties that attempt to make us good -- the good is found in the average American citizen and that's what is so easy to see in Decatur and America's response to the Oklahoma tragedy.
Decatur’s Unemployment Rate Is Painful To Read
We have a lot of people out of work in our city. The Decatur Metropolitan area’s unemployment rate was 12.5% in March. (Stats for April not released.) Our unemployment rate is a full 3 percentage points above the state level and 5 percentage points above the national rate. Decatur has an extremely high unemployment rate and future reports are going to reflect the nearly 800 employees being cut at the Caterpillar Deca-tur plant. The unemployment rate in Illinois dropped from 9.5% in March to 9.3% for April. according to preliminary data released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Here’s the confusing part of the report: “There were 2,000 fewer jobs over the month yet 40,300 more jobs than one year ago.” Say what? We had 40,300 more jobs than a year ago, yet one year ago we had 8.8% unemployment -- a lower percentage of people not working. The explanation: “The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and seeking employment. A person who exhausts benefits, or is ineligible, still will be reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.” What all of that means is, there were a lot of people unemployed this time last year that haven’t found a job, so they have been dropped from the unemployment statistics -- they no longer count, which is a sad way to write it.
Good Crowd At ‘The Wall
That Heals’ Ceremony
I walked over to “The Wall That Heals Traveling Exhibit” in the parking lot of the library Saturday. A special program was held in the morning as part of the exhibit that coincided with the Vietnam exhibit that runs through May inside the library. (The last day for the traveling exhibit was Sunday, so that part of it is over.) I did hear some grumbling by a few of the people I talked with about the lack of elected officials at the ceremony. Except for City Councilman Pat McDaniel, who was the guest speaker, no other public official was seen -- which is surprising. Surely, other public officials were there and just not seen -- but I’ve never heard of a politician not wanting to be seen at such events. I believe “The Wall That Heals” is worthy of being supported by all because the healing from that war continues and those who gave their lives for our community and nation need to be remembered -- and honored. The Vietnam War was the one that was the focus when I was a young man and many from my generation fought in that war. The parents of 2nd Lt. Thomas Joseph Cooney, one of those killed from Macon County, lived next door to us when we lived in The Elms. My brother and his wife were good friends with the parents of PFC Michael E. Baum, another young man who gave his life in that conflict -- and his mother attends our church. As many of you know, Baum Elementary School in Decatur was named in honor of him.
Ripple Effect In Bad Economy
The ripple effect of our area’s bad economy continues to be felt, not only by employees in major industries, but in our small business community. After 29 years of operation, the Decatur storefront of P & M Communications at 2235 West Mound Road closed Saturday. Owner Bob Metz, said that, because of the economic conditions in general, and specifically in the Decatur area over the past year, they cannot maintain two storefronts going forward. They are consolidating everything to their Lincoln store location. (Article on page 31 of print edition.) We are always concerned, as we should be, when major companies like Caterpillar lay off employees, but the impact of high unemployment hits hard in businesses that depend on a strong local economy.
People, Places & Political Races
Former Miss America (2003) Erika Harold, who was under consideration last year to be the 13th Congressional District’s Republican County Chairmen’s choice to run against Democrat Dr. David Gill, may have her sights set on that, or another political office. Congress-man Rodney Davis was selected instead of Harold by the county chairmen and he won election against Gill, seemingly leaving Harold out in the cold. According to State Journal Register columnist Bernard Schoenburg, Harold, who is an Urbana native, has moved back to Urbana from Chicago, where she practiced law. Look for Harold, who is a graduate of Harvard Law School, to make a run at some political office -- and there are several options for her. I’m sure I will be writing a lot about Erika Harold as we move into the 2014 campaign season.
Best Wishes To Bert
Best wishes to Robert “Bert” Gray who resigned a few weeks ago as executive director of Macon County CASA to work as development director of Northern Public Radio in DeKalb. Before assuming the CASA reins in 2011, Bert was executive director of the Decatur Area Arts Council. I talked to Bert as our paths crossed on the sidewalk in front of Millikin Court recently and he praised Decatur saying his regret in accepting the new job is leaving “so many wonderful people” he met in our city. Bert’s a talented guy and I wish him well.
Devastation In Oklahoma
I believe all of us have been touched by seeing the aftermath of the monster tornadoes that ripped through Oklahoma, especially the one on Monday afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
It's A Giant Frisbee!
Some interesting caption for this item might not be too hard to create. One of our readers brought this really big mushroom that he found to the Tribune office recently. He discovered it and four others like it (one was even bigger) in Macon County (He wouldn’t say where). After having his photo shot with the mushroom he called back and said he didn’t want to be identified (that’s why you only see his hands). He also said he had learned that kind of mushroom was poisonous. Yikes! He may have to enter the mushroom victim witness program. There's some interesting captions that I can think of for this photo like "This thing has swallowed my right hand and is working up my arm" or "This is what I use to wipe down my car after I wash it" or, "I just found a prehistoric frisbee".
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