Tom's Mailbag Jan. 10, 2014

Tom's Mailbag Jan. 10, 2014

Each week, veteran columnist Tom Kacich empties his mailbag:

The mailbag was so full this week that I couldn’t get to all of the questions, in particular one about video gambling; it is going to require a lot more research. Sadly there wasn’t one question about the mighty St. Louis Blues, the hockey team with the best goal differential in the NHL (160 scored versus 97 allowed), and now has as many points as the sainted Chicago Blackhawks, although the Hawks have played three more games. Hey sports fans, this is not looking like a great year for the home teams (unless you like the NBA Indiana Pacers). If you’re unlike my wife and like to watch good hockey, check out the mighty Blues. And thanks for the questions.


Will Champaign-Urbana ever get a White Castle or Portillos?

I doubt it. If it didn’t happen in the go-go 2000s, it’s probably not going to happen now. I emailed both Portillo’s and White Castle, but only Portillo’s responded. “We do not have plans to expand to Champaign at this time,” wrote Shelley Kurcz of Portillo’s corporate office in Oak Brook. The restaurant chain has units in Chicago, the suburbs, Indiana and Arizona. The nearest Portillo’s appears to be one in New Lenox, on Lincoln Highway. It’s about 108 miles from downtown Champaign. Depending on where you live the nearest White Castle is in either Terre Haute, Ind. (86 miles from downtown Champaign) or Bradley, Ill. ((82 miles).


Where do I go to get my concealed carry permit for Illinois?

All the information you need (including Frequently Asked Questions) and application forms is at the Illinois State Police web site (


Could you explain the relationship of per student spending and academic achievement for the Champaign and Urbana school districts? 

I’m not sure there is any relationship, but the most recent state report cards say that the Urbana school district spent $7,293 per pupil and Champaign spent $6,589. The state average is $6,974. If you want to count ACT scores as a measure of achievement, Champaign’s composite is slightly higher than Urbana’s, 20.0 to 19.6. The state average is 20.3. Urbana does have a significantly greater low income population, however: 68.4 percent of all students in Urbana versus 57.1 percent of all students in Champaign (state average is 49.9 percent). Low-income students are defined as students coming from families receiving public aid; living in institutions for neglected or delinquent children; are supported in foster homes with public funds; or who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches.


I live in the west side of Thomasboro. Volo several months ago offered broadband service. It appears Volo has hit a “snag” with the CN Railroad regarding a permit to allow VOLO to bury an underground cable underneath the CN tracks. I am currently with Mediacom, and really looking forward to “cutting the cable.” Perhaps Volo can shed some light on what’s going on. 

Indeed, Volo Broadband’s Peter Folk said that two-thirds of Thomasboro — mostly those living east of the CN tracks — are wired. The problem with the CN has been worked out, he said, and the rest of Thomasboro will be hooked up later this year, probably beginning in March when the weather improves. Folk also said the company will be adding video services later this year. Call Volo at 367-VOLO for more information, he said. 


Isn’t UC2B just another example of government waste/pork being done under the guise of economic development? I mean, there is and was no shortage of private companies willing to provide high-speed internet to residents. I’ve had fast cable internet at my house since 1996. This boondoggle will be looking for local government funding for a very long time to come. And Mayor Don “Big Government is Good” Gerard will foolishly believe that he is actually doing something to foster economic development.

WOW. Can you think of a bigger waste of money than this? Why not just buy the entire city a new laptop and 20 years of Comcast. You would still save money.

Time will tell who’s right, but my money is on the UCB2 folks. People were saying the same thing 100 years ago — it’s a boondoggle — when Champaign and Urbana were debating whether to go with “fire autos” instead of horse-drawn fire wagons. People who know a lot more about this stuff than I do say there is no comparison in terms of speed and reliability between the Big Broadband service and either Comcast or AT&T service. The sooner UC2B service gets built out to the entire community, the sooner C-U can capitalize on it and use it to attract more businesses and entrepreneurs.

Also, while Gerard supports UC2B he wasn’t on the city council when it committed to the project that was built mostly with federal money. And it wasn’t only Champaign that pitched in the local share. Also included were the University of Illinois, city of Urbana, Champaign and Urbana school districts, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District, Lincoln Trails Library System and Champaign Telephone Co. 


Do you believe finally relieving the albatross of the Alfonso Soriano contract will prove to be good ju-ju for the Cubs? Or will the closing of the Billy Goat Tavern pretty much seal the curse for another century? Also, what impact will Eric Hinske have as new first base coach?

Man, I have so given up on the Cubs that I didn’t know Eric Hinske is their news first base coach. I took a look at their projected starting lineup for this year and the highest 2013 batting average among this collection of Jerry Morales lookalikes is .278. Ugh. Personally I think the Cubs’ curse goes back to their short-sighted decision in 1969 to give up on the great Adolfo Phillips, the Panamanian speedster. Leo Durocher destroyed Phillips.


Are there really alligators in Lee County, Fla.?

Absolutely. And one of my golfing buddies dared to put his foot into the mouth of one of them recently. Fortunately it was a lawn ornament, not a real gator. But we saw a number of alligators in a variety of settings. We have blizzards; Florida has gators. The latter scares me more than the former.


Why is The News-Gazette so conservative?

Conservative? You should see some of the unprintable letters and notes that we get, accusing us of being left-wing nuts. I kid you not. But a conservative editorial page is part of the newspaper’s heritage, going back to when it was run by D.W. Stevick and later, of course, his daughter, Marajen. They were conservative and, for the most part, this is still a conservative area. Champaign-Urbana certainly has become more liberal, more supportive of Democrats, but the larger East Central Illinois area is still among the most conservative — if not the most conservative parts — of Illinois. 


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sweet caroline wrote on January 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Tom, in this picture you look like a little old lady wearing a babushka.

sweet caroline wrote on January 10, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Tom, in this picture you look like a little old lady wearing a babushka.

Political Observer wrote on January 11, 2014 at 4:01 am

If any readers are wondering why there were 2 not-particularly-well-thought-out attack questions about the UC2B project submitted to Tom K's mailbag this week, the answer is fairly simple:

Patrick Wade wrote another one of his attack pieces on UC2B earlier this week, and there were two messages embedded within his article to encourage angry readers to express their hatred for UC2B in the form of questions provided for Tom Kacich's Mailbag to answer.

The first message occurred right after the first paragraph of the article, and said:

"What's your take? Vent to columnist Tom Kacich here."

Hmmm...Nothing subtle about that one, is there?  You can see by their use of the word "Vent," that the Noose-Garotte rodeo clowns were trying hard to herd the tea-party-branded cattle into the "O'Kacich Corral," so that the question roundup would be accompanied by the loud, lonesome sounds of plaintive, angry "Moo"ing, in this case directed at the hated big broadbant project, UC2B.

The second message occurred at the end of the article, and said:

"What next?

Longtime columnist Tom Kacich has an opinion. Ask him about it by clicking on Tom's Mailbag."

If you haven't already seen it, here's a link to the discussion thread and the attack piece on UC2B:

Political Observer wrote on January 11, 2014 at 4:01 am

P.S.  In the first UC2B question that was submitted above, you really have to love it when the reader writes:

"I mean, there is and was no shortage of private companies willing to provide high-speed internet to residents. I’ve had fast cable internet at my house since 1996."

That the reader question equates the UC2B big broadband service with the "fast cable internet" that was around back in 1996 (!!!) shows that the News-Gazette really needs to provide more background material to their articles, so that their readers understand the context in which the issues are being discussed.