Tom's Mailbag Dec. 21, 2013
On Fridays, veteran columnist Tom Kacich answers your questions.
Good afternoon. This is the first edition of Tom's Mailbag, and it appears to be full of good questions from friendly folks, including many that are sports-related. It might be a good time to remind people that I am neither an athlete nor a fan of successful teams (with some exceptions).
Let's get this show on the road ...
With the Peoria schools once again in the Big 12, how about some history on the Big 12 Conference?
My depth of knowledge on the Big 12 is limited although I do remember writing many years ago that I was shocked to learn that at one time Streator High School was in the Big 12. Champaign and Streator are more than 2 hours apart, probably a lot more if you're riding a school bus.
Charter members of the Big 12 were Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Bloomington, Streator, Peoria Central, Peoria Manual, Pekin, Lincoln, Stephen Decatur, Mattoon and Springfield High.
Streator, Pekin and the two Peoria schools dropped out in 1958. Others that have left the conference over the years include Rantoul, Lincoln and Stephen Decatur (which closed) and Mattoon.
Will the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup this season?
I certainly hope so and I will be doing my part from now on. Since my record at Blues games over the last three years is 1-3 -- although the Blues are 59-17-8 at home over those last three years -- I will be staying away from the Scottrade Center for a while.
That 1-3 record is either my fault or that of my wife, who is more of a Blackhawks fan.
I feel very good about the Blues' chances, as long as the goaltenders, Alexander Steen and the top defensemen stay healthy.
What is it like to be a Blues fan in a family of real Blackhawks fans, and to always be inferior to them?
I love my family members, even those who weren't Blackhawks fans when the Blackhawks were lousy 10 years ago but are big supporters now. As long at you guys don't jump on the Cardinals' bandwagon, I will continue to love and support you.
And don't forget that there are at least two loyal Blues fans in the fam.
Handicap the 103rd House District race, please.
Money generally is important but not as important in this race because it is a geographically small area. Organization will matter a lot.
So even though it's a hard-D district, Republican Kristin Williamson has a shot. She's unopposed in the primary so she won't be spending money, nor will she be getting beat up like the Democratic contenders (Carol Ammons and Sam Rosenberg) might.
Williamson is young, energetic and a good speaker, and she has a lot of friends in both parties.
Rosenberg already has picked up significant financial and union support in the Democratic race, but Ammons has better name recogntion. We'll know better in a couple months how that race will shake out. I'm looking forward to any and all debates in that one.
My son turns 26 next year and will have to get his own health insurance. He currently makes $15,000 to $20,000 a year delivering pizza. Can you tell me what his insurance rate wil be under the Affordable Care Act? Is it true he cannot be denied insurance?
I ran this one through the getcoveredillinois.gov website and also by Julie Pryde, the always-helpful administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
First, your son may qualify for Medicaid.
Second, if not, he'll definitely qualify for a health care subsidy. He should go to the website and fill out the questions to learn his eligibility.
In any case he cannot be turned away for coverage.
Remember when Bob and I played Little League and won the Twin City championship? At what point in competitive sports is it OK to start applying strategy in order to win?
I think almost anytime is fine to use strategy to win as long as you're not hurting the other team or embarrassing them. I think it's OK to intentionally walk a player in a Little League or foul a poor free-throw shooter or let a lousy shooter fire away.
What's not OK is trying to fouling someone to hurt him or her.
One caveat: it's always OK to humiliate Northwestern.
What is the weather ike this time of the year in Croatia?
Ah, the blessed homeland! In beautiful Split, the highs are in the 50s, lows in the 40s and it seldom rains. Great golf weather, I'd say.
Which Chicago baseball team will have better record in 2014?
Based on their current rosters I'd go grudgingly with the White Sox. But not by much. They lost three more games than the Cubs last season, but I think the Cubs have one more bad year ahead before the big turnaround. The Sox may be slightly better next year, even with Adam Dunn and Ken Harrelson.
Since 2000 the Sox have won 1,176 games, the Cubs have won 1,080. The trend still favors the Sox.
If you want good baseball in Illinois, go to Danville Stadium. The Dans were 41-19 last year. Opening Night is May 27. Danville Stadium is the garden spot of East Central Illinois
When will you announce for mayor of Urbana?
Too much work. I think I want to be mayor of Toronto. That looks like a fun job.
I was disappointed with your article Dec. 19 on Gifford. I see it as something that will only further traumatize those in our town by making statements or assumptions that those remaining in Gifford will have to carry the tax burden as a result of those allegedly leaving Gifford.
I'm sorry that you were disappointed, but the truth is that Gifford's leaders are concerned about the loss of population. Much to their credit they already are planning for the possibility that things may be tough for a while.
Efforts already are under way to rebuild -- we covered that in a story a few days earlier -- and the village board is brainstorming ideas to begin the rebuild, including bringing in consultants and other professional help.
Gifford is a tough, united community. I have no doubts that it wil be back.
But it's tough to dismiss the notion that some people are moving out when there are For Sale signs on lots around town.
Ok, thanks for the questions.
Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating Christmas.
And let me recommend a visit to Victor Johnson's stunning Christmas lights display in Paxton.
Here's another look at Heather Coit's video of the 140,000-light spectacular ..