Tom's mailbag May 16, 2014

Tom's mailbag May 16, 2014

“You call that a mailbag?” said Jim Rossow, the executive editor of The News-Gazette who, unlike former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, allegedly does not have a tattoo celebrating his position in newspaper management.

At least Rossow claims he doesn’t have a large “NG” inked on his back, like the “T” that Abramson supposedly had embossed on hers.

“What have you been doing all week? Three pieces of correspondence. That’s all?”

I stammered, “I’ll do better next week, kind sir. May I have some more gruel?

Questions for Tom? Submit them here


Abandoned Urbana hotel site

“I saw in the classified section of The News-Gazette that the city of Urbana is soliciting proposals to finally demolish the former Hanford Inn property at Route 45 and I-74. How about getting some comment from someone with the city of Urbana on that one?”


The old Park Inn/Hanford Inn site, which has been vacant since October 2010, should be demolished by the end of the year, said Libby Tyler, Urbana’s community development director. There have been some periodic problems with vandalism at the location, she said.

The city likely will pay for the demolition with a combination of private funds and city redevelopment funds, possibly tax increment finance district money since the property is in a TIF district, said Tyler.

“Our hope would be to transfer the property to a responsible private party who can demolish the building and position the site for redevelopment,” she said. “This site has great access and visibility and sits at a rare undeveloped quadrant of a major interchange for I-74.  It would make a great commercial location for a big box-type store or for additional car sales.

The property is owned by MRK Management, LLC, Tyler said.

“Because the property has been essentially abandoned and property taxes have not been paid since 2008, the city is seeking a judicial deed for ownership so that the site can be cleaned up and transferred to a responsible entity,” she said.


Urbana’s legal costs

“This issue with the mayor and lawyers, I keep wondering what are the qualifications of the ones on staff and why they don’t just hire someone who can handle most of the issues involved.”


Urbana’s had so many city attorneys and assistants in recent years that even if they had the expertise in this particular area, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the case.


Another question for the county clerk

“I have some questions about Champaign County’s high school election judge program. 

“Is it true that Gordy Hulten hires both the Republican and the Democratic high school judges for the program?  I would assume that most of the applicants wouldn’t

have any previous voting records, since they’re high school students, so one of the things I’m trying to figure out is exactly how Mr. Hulten would know which high

school students should be selected to serve as Democrats and which ones should be selected to serve as Republicans.

(Back in the days when county party chairmen used to have the primary responsibility for hiring their party’s election judges, they could always look to see if a particular candidate had a consistent primary voting record for their party or not, but I guess that’s pretty much out the window, whenever one’s dealing with the question of hiring high school students.)

Also, do you have any numbers on the breakdown for party affiliation vs. experience level of the judges?


Hulten responds:

“High School judges are usually identified by their respective schools, and the students themselves signs an oath identifying their own party affiliation, in accordance with state law.  At a time where it’s increasingly difficult to find enough election judges for many elections, we are grateful for the willingness of high school students of both parties to perform this important service.”


That’s all for this week, Mr. Rossow. I’ll try to do better next time.



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