Daily dose: Local history, state borrowing, Civil War in Illinois and Missouri, Julian Simon, today's column

Daily dose: Local history, state borrowing, Civil War in Illinois and Missouri, Julian Simon, today's column

Local history

In 1910, a mass meeting of East University Avenue property owners was held last night to discuss a new pavement for the thoroughfare. The Illinois Traction Company says it is willing to pave the street 22 feet wide if it is given double track privileges. Said A.S. Weeks, “I’ll wage that Alderman Armstrong never read the ordinance whereby the city gave to the company a 50-year franchise. The ordinance was prepared by the traction company to suit themselves and jammed it through the council. The property owners of Champaign never had a word to say.”

In 1960, start of construction on the north-south Interstate Route 57 west of Champaign is included in the 1961 Illinois highway construction program announced by Gov. William Stratton. The program calls for construction of 5.4 miles of the highway from about Illinois 120 to the Monticello Road. It also provides money for the purchase of right of way from Pesotum north to U.S. 136 west of Rantoul.

Editorialists don't like Quinn borrowing plan

From the Chicago Sun-Times ...

"Borrowing a bit to get through a rough patch is understandable.

"Even borrowing a lot, or “strategic borrowing” as the governor’s office calls it, can make sense.

"But borrowing $15 billion, as Gov. Quinn is considering, is out of bounds.

"The General Assembly should reject this outlandish idea when it reconvenes next week.

"Faced with debts owed to schools, nursing homes and other state contractors that could reach $8 billion, along with an additional $8 billion owed to the state pension systems this year and next, the governor’s office is toying with borrowing about $15 billion.

"This, mind you, is to pay for basic government operations. Nothing extra, no long-term investments. Just to keep the lights on.

"The only good thing about Quinn’s borrowing plan is that it’s part of a comprehensive financial package, which the state desperately needs. The state’s total deficit could reach $16 billion this year.

"That package includes cost-saving reforms to Medicaid and the state’s workers compensation system, along with increases in the income tax and gas and cigarette taxes. We’d tack on more aggressive cost-cutting and charge state retirees for health care that they now get for free. All these proposals potentially could come up in Springfield next week."


More on borrowing plan

From the State Journal-Register and AP ...

"House Revenue and Finance Chairman John Bradley, a Marion Democrat, said Quinn’s people have floated a large-scale borrowing idea.

“'It’s a moving target,' Bradley said. 'Everything’s on the table right now. Everything’s being considered.'

"Borrowing would make sense if the state gets a favorable interest rate and can consolidate debt, similar to what consumers would do to clean up their money situation, Bradley said.

"Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, said he could support some level of borrowing, but he would first need to see how the state plans to repay the money.

“'We need to see a plan first,' Poe said. 'We can’t shoot from the hip and say, ‘This is going to work or this is not going to work.’ We have to have it in a whole plan. What scares me is they are going to try to ram this through in a few days of the last session.'

"Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, also expressed concern with how the state would pay back its borrowing.

“'Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about (the governor’s proposal) and if there’s a plan to pay it back,' Bomke said Tuesday night. 'That certainly would enter into whether I could support it or not.

“'I’ve consistently been concerned about continued borrowing without any mechanism to pay it back.'

"Governments take out loans routinely on construction projects that have longevity, but borrowing to pay ongoing operating expenses is typically ill-advised.

"Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said such a loan would need a much shorter term than a bond for a highway or bridge so that carrying costs are less.

"Mautino said it would have to be accompanied by a dedicated pot of money to pay it back, such as an income tax increase. Quinn’s proposed 1 percent hike wouldn’t be enough, he said."


Civil War's 150th anniversary approaches

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ...

The United States came apart 150 winters ago. South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, followed quickly by Mississippi and Florida. Four more states bolted to the new Confederacy before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated.
Illinois, the new president's home state, was unified for the Union. Not so Missouri, a slave state with a secession-minded governor and a fragile unionist majority.
In the terrible House Divided of Lincoln's prophecy, Missouri was the shattered family room. As many as 30,000 civilians died in nasty partisan fights and guerilla raids.
The state counts 1,162 sites of battles and skirmishes, third behind only Virginia and Tennessee.
The starkly different stories unfold in the two states' preparations for commemorating the coming sesquicentennial (150th) of the Civil War. Illinois honors Lincoln and union. Missouri will portray its divisions with exhibits in blue and gray and re-enactments across bloodied soil. Even today, differences in sentiment endure.
"It's still almost impossible to find consensus on the meaning of the Civil War," said Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. "I've had people come up to me after presentations and correct me, telling me it was the 'War of Northern Aggression.' This state was an intense battleground, and in some ways we're divided still."
The History Museum is one of many institutions participating in a national wave of commemorations. There will be exhibits, re-enactments, learned symposiums and solemn memorials, and it will go on for four years.
"This is a great chance to talk about who we are and why," Archibald said. "After all, history should be good for something."


Remember Julian Simon at the UI?

Simon was a professor of economics and of business administration at the UI from 1969 to 1983

From The New York Times ...

"Five years ago, Matthew R. Simmons and I bet $5,000. It was a wager about the future of energy supplies — a Malthusian pessimist versus a Cornucopian optimist — and now the day of reckoning is nigh: Jan. 1, 2011.

"The bet was occasioned by a cover article in August 2005 in The New York Times Magazine titled “The Breaking Point.” It featured predictions of soaring oil prices from Mr. Simmons, who was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the head of a Houston investment bank specializing in the energy industry, and the author of “Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.”

"I called Mr. Simmons to discuss a bet. To his credit — and unlike some other Malthusians — he was eager to back his predictions with cash. He expected the price of oil, then about $65 a barrel, to more than triple in the next five years, even after adjusting for inflation. He offered to bet $5,000 that the average price of oil over the course of 2010 would be at least $200 a barrel in 2005 dollars.

"I took him up on it, not because I knew much about Saudi oil production or the other “peak oil” arguments that global production was headed downward. I was just following a rule learned from a mentor and a friend, the economist Julian L. Simon.

"As the leader of the Cornucopians, the optimists who believed there would always be abundant supplies of energy and other resources, Julian figured that betting was the best way to make his argument. Optimism, he found, didn’t make for cover stories and front-page headlines."


From today's N-G column ...

"The most likely outcome for Johnson is that his strong Republican district becomes even more Republican, as mapmakers try to consolidate as much Republican turf as possible into seven or eight areas, making the other 10 or 11 congressional districts in Illinois as Democratic as possible.
"In Johnson’s case, that can be done by giving him northern Macon County and/or all of Logan County (now in Schock’s district); or the parts of McLean County and Livingston County not now in his district plus Woodford County; or the most Republican parts of Kankakee County.
No matter what, Johnson’s big district -- at 10,122 square miles, already the second largest in Illinois -- becomes even bigger. But the conventional wisdom is that Johnson’s district is safe. "

Johnson staff changes.  With the new Congress comes significant changes in Johnson’s district and Washington, D.C., staff. Gone are chief of staff Jerry Clarke (replaced by Shelden) and legislative assistant Bobby Frederick, who is going to work for Schilling.
Back in Illinois, district manager Jeremy Cirks, scheduler Kevin Smith and projects and grants coordinator Brian Kelly are all going to work for newly elected Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield.
Shelden has already begun interviews for replacements.

Andy Martin. Political gadfly Andy Martin -- whom Champaign-Urbana townies know better as Anthony Martin-Trigona -- says he’ll announce his candidacy for president today in New Hampshire.
Martin, an admitted “birther”  Republican, apparently will make Obama’s birth records a focus of his campaign.

Read the rest in today's News-Gazette.


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