Tom's mailbag May 2, 2014

Tom's mailbag May 2, 2014

It’s been a busy week, but not for the mailbag. Is this already the beginning of the summer respite?


Danville Dans baseball

“When do the Danville Dans start the season?  When is the first home game?  When is the first weekend home game?”


The Dans, a member of the Prospect League (a summer baseball league with college players from around the country), open the season at home on Tuesday, May 27, against the Terre Haute Rex. The first weekend games are Friday June 6 and Saturday June 7 (which also is a fireworks night) at beautiful Danville Stadium,

The Dans’ home season runs until Thursday, July 31, so it’s essentially a two-month season with 30 home games. Tickets to games are $6 for adults and $3 for children, but there are almost always discounts (such as two-buck Tuesdays and Meijer nights when you can get two tickets for the price of one) or ticket books (30 tickets for $90).

I talked to managing partner Jeanie Cooke earlier this week and she was her usually effervescent and enthusiastic self. Among this year’s changes, she said, is a “Clash at the Border” competition with the Terre Haute team, located just 58 miles away. The team that wins the most out of the 10 games between the teams this year will be awarded a trophy named for baseball innovator Branch Rickey. 

Rickey, when general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, brought the Danville Dodgers minor league team to Vermilion County. His connection to Terre Haute goes back much further; in 1903 Rickey, then 22, signed a contract to play for a Terre Haute minor league team.

This year’s home schedule also includes one game each with the teams in the Prospect League’s East Division, which includes teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. New to the league this year is the Champion City Kings, of Springfield, Ohio.  The Kings are the former Slippery Rock (Pa). Sliders.


Proposed Champaign high site

“Tom, I’ve read recently that the (Champaign school district) purchase of land on the north edge of town is a done deal — signed and sealed.  However, the county tax assessor’s website does not show a recent sale, nor does the GIS webmap website.  Has the purchase closed?  And if not, why would Unit 4 continue with the purchase, given the possibility of the Spalding (Park) site?”


Champaign school district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said the school board voted to pay $3.2 million for two 40-acre parcels on Interstate Drive in north Champaign as the site of the new Champaign High School. But the sale hasn’t closed, thus it’s not reported on any website.

More questions about Champaign schools? Submit them here


Country Fair Drive improvements

Another reader called to ask whether the city of Champaign has any plans to rehabilitate Country Fair Drive on the west side of the city between Springfield Avenue and the University Avenue exit off of Interstate 72.

Acting City Engineer Dave Clark said the short stretch of two-lane road isn’t on the city’s 10-year capital improvement plan, although he acknowledged it has “a lot of problems,” including no curbs or sidewalks, poor drainage and an inadequate surface.


On the Darius Paul arrest and Stephen Bardo response

“Any speculation based on emotion rather than critical thinking is going to produce this type of silly controversy. It seems unlikely, at this time in our society, that an officer would detain a man without any suspicion or reason, other than his hatred for their particular race. However, that is not to say that officers of all races, who are not unlike the rest of us, are free from presuppositions, which may cloud good judgment.  Stephen Bardo clearly has his own.  

“I would agree with John Groce when he highlights the silliness of Mr. Bardo condemning the University of Illinois on the account of ‘overt’ racism, all the while sending his own black son into the belly of the beast. Do I think that race relations are improving?  No, I think they are getting worse, and I think the prime culprit is emotionalism rather than clear thinking, which is rarely exciting nor achieved at the speed of light.   

“I think that Mr. Paul was breaking team and civic laws and knew it, and his running all but seals his guilt. I think to make an assumption that he ran because he was scared is very likely true. He was scared of the consequences of getting caught and it would be pure foolishness to think differently. Does that make him a monster?  No, it makes him human, and like us all, prone to mistakes and evil behavior. A good topic for another time. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to vent, I feel much better.”


As an older, white guy I know I’m not treated the same as a 20-year-old black man, or even a 20-year-old white man. I know, for example, that my sons were treated differently than I was when they would drive the same car I did with the license plate light that was burned out. They’d be pulled over; I wouldn’t. 

So I’m not going to pretend that I know what it’s like to be a black person in Champaign-Urbana, Chicago or anywhere else.

And I’m not going to criticize Bardo for his comments. He’s right that there’s racism here; I suspect there’s still racism everywhere. 

But I firmly disagree — and this was likely some emotional overstatement on his part — that Champaign-Urbana “is stuck in the ‘60s.” I doubt Stephen Bardo knows the history of race relations in this community. I’m stunned to read how awful it was here for African-Americans in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, including segregated schools, swimming pools, barber shops and more. 

I agree with the writer above that “emotionalism” is a culprit in a lot of these controversies. In this era of Twitter, Facebook and instant comments on newspaper stories, sometimes the best course of action is inaction. You don’t have to have an opinion on every incident/controversy, and it’s a good policy to hold your opinion until you know all the facts. It’s worth noting that we still don’t know all the facts on the Darius Paul arrest.


Reaction to the possibility that Urbana Police would be equipped with Tasers:

“Tasers have been known to kill and permanently disable. Mental illness is a label for someone who has been abused and whose behavior is not ‘normal.’ People need to be talked-down, not Tasered down. Teach our police to deal better with people in emotional crises, so that Tasering truly is a last resort.”


I think that final sentence of your remarks is the position of Urbana Police Chief Pat Connolly, who recently began the push to equip his officers with Tasers. It was only after several incidents where police found that other strategies often don’t work with irrational, mentally unbalanced people — some of whom are intent on hurting themselves — that Connolly began his effort. I think he’s proposing limited instances when they can be used, as well as accountability and a full review of all Taser-related cases.


More on the Run or Dye run

This came from the publicist for the Run or Dye event that was to have been held in Champaign next weekend. It was a topic in last week’s mailbag.


“One week ago, Run or Dye rescheduled its Champaign race to take place in Rantoul on October 11. The event had originally been scheduled for May 10 in Champaign, but complications in the permitting process necessitated the change.

“Since then, the company has had a chance to review the timeline of events closely to determine what exactly happened in the permitting process to require the rescheduling of the Champaign event. 

“‘We should have responded more decisively when, in March, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign first made us aware of a requirement that the run must be sponsored by a school club or organization in order to use streets bordering campus,’ said Jake Ackerman, CEO of Viral Events, the company that produces Run or Dye. ‘All the problems can be traced back to that moment. Hindsight being what it is, we now know what we should have done to resolve the issues before they escalated.’

“In addition, Ackerman met with key city officials to discuss and reflect on the situation.

“‘We recognize that there was room for improvement in terms of our level of communication with the city and especially the participants,’ Ackerman said.  ‘We are very sorry for the frustration and confusion that caused.  Together with the city, we have taken steps to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.’

“Run or Dye also announced that it would be partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters for their upcoming event in Rantoul.  “We’re pleased to be working with such a respected organization that provides children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally-supported one-to-one relationships that change lives for the better,” Ackerman said.

“In their meeting, the City of Champaign and Run or Dye expressed their mutual commitment to the partnership, despite this year’s postponement.

“‘Both of us are committed long-term to the relationship,’ Ackerman said.” 


Thanks for the mail. Now I’ve got to work on Sunday’s News-Gazette column and to buy a gift for my wife, whose birthday is today. 


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trysomethingnew wrote on May 02, 2014 at 4:05 pm

That's whats great about being a white man, you have no idea what it is like for a black man.  To say that he was simply breaking the law, is a sham and everyone knows.  Champaign Police are and always will be guilty of racial profiling.  I have proof that the profile cars based on beliving there is a "black occupent" and then when it is reveleased to be a white occupant, they are let go, after the car is surrounded by police officers??? I wish white people could go undercover for one day as a black person.  You would be shocked by how you are treated by the police and the same citizens commenting on these forums! 

wayner63 wrote on May 07, 2014 at 8:05 am

Country Fair Drive between Springfield Ave. and University Ave. certainly needs to be rebuilt.  Actually, all the way from John St. north to University Ave. is in poor condition. It's disappointing to hear that it's not on the 10 year plan of work.