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Democrats <> some, anyway <> come away with state pork

If it wasn't so sad, it would be kind of a hoot. That is, all this negotiating between Democratic state legislators and the governor's office over so-called "memorandums of understanding (MOUs)." These documents, proudly posted on the Illinois House Democrats Web site, are proof of the legal bribery the Blagojevich administration practiced in order to get Democratic votes for the $56 billion state budget the Legislature passed last month.

That unbalanced budget – with more going out than is coming in – is enough of a joke. But now come these ridiculous MOUs, written in stilted legalese. Here's an example of one that ships more than $150,000 to Chicago's 13th Ward, home of House Speaker Michael Madigan:


Taxpayers victims innatural disasters

A report by the Government Accountability Office estimates that as much as $1.4 billion in assistance funds was paid fraudulently to the victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and that some of the squandered money went to pay for tickets to professional football games, a Caribbean vacation and even a divorce.

Now, really, is anyone surprised?


Pillars of bar, community

It's no small feat to practice law for decades, and, in the process, win the respect and admiration of your peers.

That's why the Champaign County Bar Association has decided to bestow special recognition on a group of eight local lawyers it calls "Pillars of the Bar." Each of the men honored distinguished himself not only in the practice of law but in service to the community as well. Some, despite their age (the youngest is 74), continue to practice law.


Aging population shows need for economic development

There were a lot of positive numbers in the report that First Busey Corporation Vice Chairman Ed Scharlau gave to Ford County residents last week. The county's population, which has been falling for most of the last century (it was 15,489 in 1930 but 14,241 in 2000), has grown a fraction in the last four years. Housing starts are up. The number of businesses is up. Retail sales are up.

Even employment in Ford County, thanks especially to work force gains at Baltimore Air Coil, M&W Gear/Alamo and Gibson Area Hospital, has increased by more than 400 positions, Scharlau said.


Mark this special day

Today is the first day of summer. More importantly, it's the longest day of the year.

That, of course, doesn't mean that the day will be an hour, a minute or even a second longer. It just means that we'll have a bit more daylight today than we had yesterday, or than we'll have tomorrow.


Township property tax hike may be hard sell

Even in the best of times, we're no fans of township government.

Relics of a bygone era, townships are largely invisible and unaccountable to voters, unnecessarily expensive and so numerous (there are 30 townships in Champaign County alone) as to defy understanding. The only reason their duties, like property assessment, maintenance of rural roads and welfare payments, were not assumed long ago by county government is that the elected officials who run them have a vested interest in their continuation.


New avenue of attack in state police case

Figuring that the Illinois State Police have no intention of complying with a legislative mandate, retired Lt. Michale Callahan has gone back to court in pursuit of an order for the dismissal of two superiors found to have violated his civil rights.

But while Illinois law indicates that the state is required to dismiss Lt. Col. Diane Carper and Capt. Steve Fermon, it's by no means clear that Callahan has the legal standing to obtain a court order (a writ of mandamus) to that effect. Nonetheless, Callahan's filing and the resulting publicity should serve notice to the upper command of the Illinois State Police that there are risks in trying to ignore this controversy.


Williams promotion makes sense

It appears that there will be no outside search for a replacement for Urbana school Superintendent Gene Amberg. The Urbana school board is leaning heavily toward hiring Preston Williams, the district's deputy superintendent, as Amberg's replacement. It could act as soon as Tuesday night's board meeting.

Although that hasn't been the norm in hiring school superintendents locally (Amberg came to Urbana 14 years ago from Missouri and Champaign Superintendent Arthur Culver was brought in from Texas), it may be justified in Williams' case. A majority of school board members say that he is everything Urbana could hope for in a school superintendent.


All Kids program long on hype, short on details

The state of Illinois, you may have noticed, is running television ads, sending out mass mailings and feverishly promoting the new All Kids health insurance program (pitched on the state Web site as "Governor Blagojevich's Healthcare for All Kids"). In fact, the state has signed contracts for more than $3.2 million worth of All Kids promotion.

And what is there to show for all of this breathless activity, which the Blagojevich campaign machine hopes to make a centerpiece of his re-election effort?


Taxpayers victims in disasters

A report by the Government Accountability Office estimates that as much as $1.4 billion in assistance funds was paid fraudulently to the victims of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and that some of the squandered money went to pay for tickets to professional football games, a Caribbean vacation and even a divorce.

Now, really, is anyone surprised?