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State should support enhancing FutureGen proposal

Perhaps it is much ado about nothing, but the FutureGen site evaluation report – the recent document that assessed the four proposed sites for what is being called the world's cleanest coal-fueled power plant – mentions how the state of Texas "has agreed to assume title to and liability for the CO2 produced" by the plant at the two Texas sites.

Illinois, at the time, had not agreed to assume liability at its two sites at Tuscola and Mattoon.


Nothing but the finest

Danville's Public Safety Director Carl Alexander is driving a fancy set of wheels these days, courtesy of an involuntary contribution to the city by former Danville High School and NBA basketball player Keon Clark.

Clark, who has had periodic problems with the law and is wasting his prodigious athletic talents, was arrested in September 2005 in connection with suspected driving under the influence. A police search of his car turned up a firearm, for which Clark had no state identification card, and small amounts of marijuana and cocaine.


Topinka opens important debate on budget priorities

A recent report by the National Council of State Legislatures noted that only five states spent more last year than they took in; Illinois was one of them.

State Comptroller Dan Hynes, a Democrat, reported earlier this summer in his Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that in fiscal year 2005, Illinois had a $3.1 billion operating deficit which, despite an improving economy, was $600 million greater than the deficit the year before.


Vashti McCollum, 1912-2006

It is difficult to imagine the influence that one young woman from Champaign had on public education in the United States in 1948. For it was in that postwar era that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Mrs. Vashti McCollum and decreed that the old Champaign School District 71 could no longer offer religious instruction during the school day. The effect was felt not only in Champaign but also in thousands of other schools across the country with similar programs.

"The Supreme Court," The News-Gazette editorialized a few days after the March 8, 1948, decision, "has committed the United States to a course of hostility to religion." It's an argument that has been made about many similar issues, but without much success, for the last 60 years.


Housing boom shows community's health

Most Champaign-Urbana-Savoy residents are vaguely aware that there seems to be a lot of housing construction under way on the fringes of the cities.

But a recent News-Gazette article provided an amazing description of the extent of the ongoing development. There are at least 14 subdivisions under way on all sides of the metropolitan area and consisting of houses that cost as much as $1 million.


State should reject Christie petition if hospital proves claim

Illinois has a certificate of need program in its Health Facilities Planning Act that is designed to restrain health care costs by preventing the construction of unnecessary, duplicative health care facilities. This is the central issue in the local debate between Christie Clinic, which has filed an application with the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to build a $4.95 million ambulatory surgery treatment center, and Provena Covenant Medical Center, which is opposing Christie's petition. A public hearing on the Christie application will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Douglass Branch Library, 504 E. Grove St., Champaign.

Covenant contends the outpatient surgery center duplicates existing services and would skim off more remunerative procedures now performed at its hospital. Covenant claims its loss could amount to 52 percent of its surgical volume, 72 percent of its outpatient surgical volume and as much as $8 million in annual revenue.


U.S. News rankings much ado about little

Every year, U.S. News & World Report magazine engages in the rather pretentious process of ranking the nation's institutions of higher education.

It's a very effective promotional tool that attracts a lot of attention.


Report finds education essential to new jobs in Illinois

There's mostly good news in a new study of job prospects in Illinois and in East Central Illinois.

It projects that Illinois will gain 575,000 jobs between 2002 and 2012, a growth rate of nearly 10 percent. In the six-county East Central Illinois region (Champaign, Vermilion, Iroquois, Ford, Douglas and Piatt counties), the increase is projected at a more modest 7.4 percent.


Wrong priorities at Legal Services Corp.

Why is it that some people working in the public sector feel entitled to live lavishly, as if they're producing big profits for a private business? Public-sector employees are entitled to be paid a reasonable sum, but taxpayers also should expect economy, efficiency and a level of frugality in government.

The latest disclosure of government waste is especially galling because it involves money that should be going to support legal services for the poor. The Associated Press found that the Legal Services Corp. (which isn't a private corporation, but a nonprofit agency funded by the government) has built a distressing record of waste and abuse in recent years. The agency is supposed to provide legal help in civil matters for poor Americans.


Best wishes to Roger Ebert

One of Champaign-Urbana's favorite sons, film critic Roger Ebert, is having a tough time of it as he tries to recover from the recurrence of salivary gland cancer.

Doctors removed cancer in his right jaw area, including a section of his jaw bone, on June 16. The jaw was successfully rebuilt but Ebert suffered a setback on July 1, as he was preparing to leave Northwest Memorial Hospital in Chicago. A blood vessel burst, apparently due to radiation treatments that Ebert had in the same area three years ago.