Daily Dose: Local history on heroic porter 100 years ago, Sunday's column with Olympian Drive and more, David Eggers time at the UI, UI prof on nuclear disaster, Sen. Martin Sandoval
In 1911, if Coach Gill at the University of Illinois could have seen the sprinting done this morning by Andrew Gatewood, the colored porter at Hoover’s barbershop, he would have turned green with envy. Gatewood was enjoying the spring breeze at the corner of Main and Walnut streets when he heard the cry “runaway.” The team drawing the Ceylon Tea Company’s wagon came galloping south on Walnut. Gatewood went straight at the wagon, climbed in and pulled the fractious animals to a halt. There were many exclamations of admiration from the bystanders.
In 1961, as an alternative to a proposed Illinois higher education “superboard,” Sen. Everett Peters, R-St. Joseph, would create a 15-member commission that would review all state universities’ plans for new activities, departments and branches. The commission would make recommendations to the governor and Legislature.
The long, long saga of Olympian Drive isn't over yet, even though the Champaign County Board finally last week chose an alignment for the North Lincoln Avenue portion of the project that eventually will link the Olympian/Interstate 57 interchange in Champaign with the Lincoln/I-74 interchange in Urbana.
Although officials hope the estimated $19 million project can be completed by 2015, its prolonged and controversial history should serve as a warning against optimism.
First, the county and the cities of Urbana and Champaign have to approve an agreement that establishes who is responsible for what, such as which agency contracts for professional services such as engineering.
Then someone will have to negotiate land purchase agreements with the five or so property owners along the new Lincoln Avenue alignment.
If those negotiations stall, the county will have to make use of eminent domain, its power to take private property for a public use while providing just compensation.
Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said she believes the county won't have to use eminent domain.
"Usually there's a meeting of the minds," she said. "These people get paid for the land, and some of the objectors have sold land under different circumstances so I don't think they should have a problem selling it now."
County board member Tom Betz was a bit less optimistic.
"Condemnations are a totally different issue than a vote on a green or purple route," said Betz, who is an attorney. "I think they need to start negotiating with the property owners very soon to get this thing started. I don't think you can stop this (project). But if people decided they wanted to go to court and fight this, they might be able to stall it long enough on the judicial docket to play with that (construction) money. You've got a relatively short period of time."
If the process gets stretched out to the maximum, he said, it would include a jury trial and all the time-consuming procedures that go with that.
Frerichs makes the field
The Illinois Republican Party has its own version of a March Madness bracket, called Illinois Madness, that ridicules the top 64 Democrats in the state.
State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, made the cut.
The GOPers call their game the "Biggest Tax and Spend Democrat in Illinois Tournament" and it features everyone from President Obama and Gov. Pat Quinn to a few Chicago aldermen and the Cook County treasurer. There's even a "play-in game" featuring the Wisconsin Democrats versus the Indiana Democrats.
Frerichs' first-round opponent is Sen. John Mulroe of Chicago, who was only appointed to his Senate seat last August.
If Frerichs advances to the next round, he faces near-certain defeat; his opponent is House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Frerichs' response to the Republican website: "The irony is that while the GOP gets left out of the dance and comes up with these gimmicks, my first-round opponent — who's a CPA — and I are working on finding efficiencies to support needed state services in these tough times."
The GOP bracket is at http://www.weareillinois.org/connect/newsDetail.aspx?newsID=11378
UPDATE: Sen. Frerichs advanced to the second round against Speaker Madigan but then was defeated. He's out.
It's not only spring break for the University of Illinois and public schools in Champaign and Urbana, but governmental bodies are taking the week off, too.
There are no meetings of the Champaign County Board or the Urbana or Champaign city councils, the Illinois General Assembly is taking a one-week break, and Congress is out of session, too.
Johnson and NPR
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson last week voted to cut federal funding for National Public Radio.
"This issue has generated much debate and much misinformation but the decision is very simple: We need to cut spending," he said. "We need to cut spending regardless of what one thinks about the political slant of National Public Radio, regardless of admissions by NPR's own executives, and regardless of how they treated commentator Juan Williams.
"Our nation is in a crisis of debt and deficits. Shelling out the taxpayers' dollars for public radio is a luxury we can't afford. This subsidy began under the Lyndon Johnson administration and grew from the argument that publicly funded broadcasting was needed to provide news and information to areas that were rural and/or otherwise underserved. That argument is no longer valid, if it ever was.
"We are bombarded continuously with more information that can be absorbed through our TV sets, radios, computers and phones.
"All of these other private outlets survive or fail based on their ability to draw listeners and advertising. That public radio somehow deserves taxpayer support to survive seems fundamentally unfair to all the rest."
Edgar oral histories
The eight years that Jim Edgar served as Illinois governor are being recognized in an oral history project at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum's "Illinois Statecraft" program.
Edgar, who served as governor from 1991 to 1999, is now a distinguished fellow with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.
Oral history interviews are at www.alplm.org/oral_history/statecraft/governor_Edgar/gov_Edgar.html.
More than 30 individuals provided more than 230 hours of interviews for the project. By the time it is completed, listeners will hear from such people as Edgar, press secretary Mike Lawrence, Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra, budget directors Steve Schnorf and Joan Walters, gubernatorial election opponents Neil Hartigan and Dawn Clark Netsch, and legislative leaders Phil Rock and James "Pate" Philip.
Further, the eight years Edgar served as governor will be the focus of a conference to be held Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16, at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
Edgar and key staff members from his administration are expected to participate. Call 558-8934 to register for the conference.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Eggers' dorm room at UI
From The New York Times ...
Mr. Metcalf-Kelly said that if his generation were asked to pick a dorm room to sleep in based on literary merit, many would head for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Dave Eggers slept. “I think Eggers’s ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’ had the impact on our generation that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ had on its generation,” he said.
“Eggers went to my high school,” said Mr. Teubner, the Ursinus senior, who graduated from Lake Forest High near Chicago.
About the Japanese nuclear disaster
From The New York Times ...
Michael Schlesinger, a climate scientist and engineer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, sent this comment after reading my Dot Earth post rounding up reader views on next steps for nuclear power in the wake of Japan’s extraordinary nuclear emergency.
His full comment is below. I’ve added a comment on the plant failures from Timothy Dixon, a professor in the geology department at the University of South Florida who holds a different view, asserting that the tsunami risk should long ago have been incorporated into worst-case planning scenarios for the reactors in the region.
My Dot Earth post on “Complexity and its Discontents” following the Gulf oil gusher explores these issues, as well.
The out-of-control status of the 6 Fukushima nuclear reactors and their stored spent fuel rods is a textbook example of “Don’t Know Squared – It’s What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know” that can bring down any system designed by humanity. In the present case, the reactor behaved as designed to scram (= emergency shutdown) during an earthquake. But the cooling system for both the reactor cores and the onsite-stored spent fuel rods was not designed to withstand a “once-in-a-millennium” tsunami.
While we can and will learn from this disaster, there will still – and always – be “Don’t-Know-Squared Events” that can and will occur that will render any human-constructed system less than foolproof. This is the primary lesson that must be learned from Fukushima: We humans cannot foresee, and thus cannot protect against, all the awful events that can and will impact our best world-class-designed systems. Accordingly, we should not construct any additional nuclear reactors until and unless we devise a way to render the spent fuel therefrom harmless = not be more radioactive than the world Mother Nature has created in which we live. This is such a tall order that it may not be possible for humanity to accomplish it.”
Sen. Sandoval's side job a conflict of interest?
From the Chicago Sun-Times ...
But back to Sen. Sandoval.
“I’ve asked [the state ethics officer] for an ethics clearance,” he told me, explaining that he wants that before he would accept the Chamber of Commerce job.
Doesn’t the senator already have a paid gig with the town of Cicero?
He does. It’s a consulting contract to be a liaison with Latino media.
What does Cicero pay him?
“Unfair question,” Sandoval said.
Hanania, the Cicero spokesman, checked and said Sandoval gets $4,200 a month — fifty grand a year.
Call me old-fashioned, but if a state lawmaker has a paid job from one of the towns he represents, and that job is to massage the media, which reports on politicians including him, and then he considers taking a $30,000-a-year job with the Cicero Chamber of Commerce, working for local businesses that historically have had problems with town officials, isn’t that a cluster of conflicts?
“I don’t think there is a conflict,” Sandoval said.
“I don’t see a conflict,” Hanania said.