If the Ryan Katcher story was to have an ending, it wasn't going to be a happy one.
The circumstances of his November 2000 disappearance, for the most part, precluded the possibility that he voluntarily disappeared, suggesting instead that he had been a victim of a tragic accident or foul play. The conclusion after Katcher's truck, with his body inside, was pulled last week from 40 to 50 feet of water in Clear Pond at Kickapoo State Park near Danville is that the University of Illinois sophomore from Oakwood died from drowning after driving into the lake.
There might be a little populism and a little politics in state Rep. Bill Black's suggestion that Gov. Rod Blagojevich call a legislative special session to consider rolling back taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. But Black also is right to note that this also is a matter of economic justice: if the state is going to provide a gas tax break to United Airlines, why can't it afford one for consumers?
We'll point out again that not only are Illinois motorists paying 95 cents more for a gallon of gas today than they were last year, but also that the state is reaping a tax windfall from that price increase. That is unfair because not only does Illinois levy a per-gallon motor fuel tax, but it also places a sales tax on motor fuel.
Finally, some good news on the energy front. For now.
Barring a major late-summer heat wave or more hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, natural gas prices in the United States are looking good three months ahead of the start of the winter heating season.
The next 14 months are going to be long ones for officials in Tuscola, Mattoon and Springfield. That's how long the FutureGen Industrial Alliance is giving itself to decide whether to build the nation's first coal-fueled, zero-emissions power plant. Tuscola and Mattoon are finalists for the project, as are two sites in Texas.
The immediate benefits to East Central Illinois of winning the FutureGen sweepstakes are obvious: a billion-dollar investment in the area, an estimated 1,000 construction jobs, about 150 permanent jobs beginning in 2012, millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements to support the project, scientists and researchers visiting the plant from all over the world.
If you needed any further proof that sports – professional and collegiate – is a very big business, consider that the top ticket to see the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls this coming season will be $2,500 per seat per game.
That's $102,500 for a season ticket for a single bench seat – a seat located on the playing floor between the visiting team's bench and the scorer's table. It's a bundle of money, enough to buy a modest house or to pay for a full year of education for 19 Chicago Public School students.
What does it tell Illinoisans when their governor deceives state legislators and the public – not once but twice in consecutive years – about the contents of the state budget?
Gov. Rod Blagojevich has again lied to the Legislature about what is in the state budget. After telling lawmakers that there was no money in this year's spending plan for stem cell research, he acted last week – a day after President Bush vetoed any federally financed expansion of embryonic stem cell research – to convert a $5 million administrative line item in the Department of Healthcare and Family Services budget to a line item for stem cell research. Last summer, he announced after the Legislature had left town that he had hidden $10 million in the budget for the controversial research.
Fundraisers for the Champaign Public Library are off to a flying start as they enter the public phase of their campaign to raise $3 million for the construction of a new library.
Library director Marsha Grove announced last week that a number of major donors made pledges totaling $2.5 million in "leadership" gifts, leaving the remaining $500,000 to be raised by the end of the year.
When former Gov. George Ryan became a target of corruption charges, another former governor, Jim Thompson, stepped forward to handle his defense. That was no surprise because they are longtime political allies, with Ryan serving two terms as lieutenant governor in Thompson's administration.
It was, however, slightly more surprising when Thompson announced that a team of Winston & Strawn lawyers would not only represent Ryan but do so for free. After all, Ryan isn't indigent. He has a six-figure pension.
You may recall that more five years ago, during the winter of 2000 and the summer of 2001, hundreds of people in Champaign-Urbana were up in arms over a plan that would have given Illinois Power Co. greater leeway in trimming and removing vegetation near the utility's power lines.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Urbana City Council will approval the creation of a police review board.
The idea has been under consideration since last fall, when Mayor Laurel Prussing appointed a task force headed by former Alderwoman Esther Patt to study the issue. While Mayor Prussing has said the council will not rush to approval, she has made it equally clear that she expects an ordinance creating the review board to pass soon and a panel to be in place within a matter of months.