Tom's Mailbag June 13, 2014

Tom's Mailbag June 13, 2014

Welcome back to the mailbag. We received lots of suggestions for restaurants that people would like to see in Champaign-Urbana. I suspect the existing restaurateurs wouldn’t be as eager to see these places come to town. 

We also received questions and comments about the Champaign mayoral race, the cost of school resource officers, driving while listening, the News-Gazette editorial board, apartment occupancy rates and James Kilgore.


Restaurant chain, chain, chain

“We’ll ask it again: What restaurant would you like to see in C-U?”

“Something akin to Baker’s Square or Village Inn. Specifically, a place with a variety of pies, supplementing sandwiches and other light offerings at lunch and dinner  We lost the Baker’s Square near Market Place mall a few years ago when that chain collapsed, and the niche was never filled. The best approximation we currently have is Perkins, but their pie offerings are limited. A friend recently had to drive all the way to Kankakee to buy a pecan pie for a holiday meal. Yes, we used to have Pieful Delight on Springfield Avenue, Champaign, but it seemed more interested in proselytizing its religion than providing delicious pies. For now, there seems to be no place in town to go for lunch and Apple pie, Cherry pie, Pecan pie, French Silk pie, Coconut Cream pie, etc.  Baker’s Square is sorely missed!” 

“Portillo’s or Gino’s East Pizzeria”

“I would like to see a Bernardi’s restaurant in C-U. I’ve been trying for years to get them to come to the C-U area. They have restaurants in Washington, Dunlap and Pontiac, Ill. I have been attending their restaurants for 65 years, excellent Italian food and priced reasonably.”

“Long John Silvers, Culver’s in southeast Urbana or on the Cunningham corridor to Urbana.”

“I’d really like to have a CiCi’s Pizza and a Beef O’Brady’s in this area.”

“I would LOVE to see Joe’s Crab Shack or Portillo’s come to Champaign!”

“Joe’s Crab Shack, Avanti’s Italian, please.”

“I would like to see C-U get a Joe’s Crab Shack!!!!”

“Pagliai’s pizza and or Filipo’s pizza, I’d love to see a Sonic in Urbana by Farm & Fleet.  

“I would like to see GOLDEN CORRAL OR SHAKEY’S PIZZA return to CU!!”

“What restaurants do I want to see open in C-U? That’s easy, I want a Dave & Busters and a Red Robin. Put that Red Robin on Town Center Boulevard and tear down that failed balloon place. Put the D&B on the corner of Church and Country Fair Drive.”

“Bring Cheddars back and bring Golden Corral to town.”

“Waffle House”

Here’s what I was able to find out from various chains:

— Pete Nicol, the chief operating officer of Peoria-based Avanti’s wrote, “We do intend to start franchising in the next several years and do have interest in the Champaign area, but no current plans.”

— The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s website says that the Danville, Champaign-Urbana and Bloomington-Normal markets are available to a franchisee.

— In January I wrote to Portillo’s. “We do not have plans to expand to Champaign at this time,” wrote Shelley Kurcz of Portillo’s corporate office in Oak Brook. 

Al Kurtz for mayor?

“Can you do us all a favor and quash a persistent, vile, and ugly rumor being spread by local Republicans: that they have recruited Alan Kurtz to run for Champaign mayor.

“I don’t doubt that the local GOP is desperate for a non-republican challenger to Mayor Don Gerard. But I find it very hard to believe that after running his primary campaign on a message that Democrats shouldn’t challenge Democratic incumbents for retribution, Kurtz would turn around and challenge the incumbent Democratic mayor just for retribution because he endorsed and campaign for Kurtz’s primary opponent.

“That’s just too crazy to be believable, but the rumor persists.”

I asked Kurtz, the Democratic Champaign County Board chair who lost in his party’s primary election in March, about the rumor.

His response: “I have no comment on that.”

When I noted that that didn’t sound like a denial he said, “I have no comment on that.”

Kyle Harrison, head of the Champaign County Republican Party, responded. “As you know Champaign City Council is a non-partisan seat. With that said there are several good Republicans who intend on running for mayor. I personally have not been part of any discussions that involved Al as running for mayor. That would be news to me.”

If Kurtz jumps in, he’d be at least the fifth candidate for mayor in the election next spring. A fifth candidate also would force a primary election6.

And candidate number 6?

Council member Will Kyles could make it 6.

Says Kyles: "I am interested in running to be the next mayor of our great city. As you know, from past interactions, I will make a final decision after much thought, prayer and consultation."

Driving while listening

“It used to be illegal to drive a car while wearing headphones.  Has this ‘rule of the road’ changed?  I don’t know if I am noticing it more or if it occurring more often, but I see drivers with headphones, both the in-ear iPod-type and the larger over the ear type.  It doesn’t appear to be a specific segment of driver either as I have seen soccer moms, Fed-Ex delivery drivers, students, etc.  Thanks in advance for your response.  I enjoy your Mailbag column.”

I’m not a police officer or a lawyer but I think you are correct that it is illegal to drive in Illinois while wearing headphones. There are exceptions, cited below, but it appears that headphones are out. But driving with a single earpiece appears to be OK.

Here’s the appropriate Illinois Vehicle Code section:

(625 ILCS 5/12-610) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 12-610)

    Sec. 12-610. Headset receivers.

    (a) Except as provided under Section 11-1403.3, no driver of a motor vehicle on the highways of this State shall wear headset receivers while driving.

    (b) This Section does not prohibit the use of a headset type receiving equipment used exclusively for safety or traffic engineering studies, by law enforcement personnel on duty, or emergency medical services and fire service personnel.

    (c) This Section does not prohibit the use of any single sided headset type receiving and transmitting equipment designed to be used in or on one ear which is used exclusively for providing two-way radio vocal communications by an individual in possession of a current and valid novice class or higher amateur radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission and an amateur radio operator special registration plate issued under Section 3-607 of this Code.

    (d) This Section does not prohibit the use of a single-sided headset or earpiece with a cellular or other mobile telephone.

(Source: P.A. 92-152, eff. 7-25-01.)


School resource officer costs

“The article regarding the (school resource officers) in the schools states that the cost for two officers that would be paid by the school system would be just over $291,000.  

That is over $145,000 per officer. The article described how there were a number of items that contributed to this final cost number.

“QUESTION: What are the items that are included in this cost and what are the amounts for each of these items?”

According to the proposed intergovernmental agreement between the school district and the city, the cost breakdown for the two school resource officers is:

salary                $155,119

benefits              $123,397

clothing allowance      $1,400

biannual physical         $550

vest replacement          $350

radio replacement         $930

vehicle replacement     $4,823

fuel and maintenance    $4,500

computer replacement      $700

totals                $291,769

News-Gazette editorial board

“Who comprises the editorial board at The News-Gazette? I wasn’t able to find that information easily on the N-G’s website. Back in the day, the N-G editorials were published with a byline by the author, but that practice stopped at some point in the ‘90s I think.

“Also, how many woman, minorities, and people under the age of 55 are on the editorial board? I have an assumption that the answer is zero, but may be wrong. If I’m right, don’t you think that making the editorial board more reflective of the community the N-G covers, particularly in the cities of Champaign and Urbana, would be beneficial both to readers and the publishers?”

Here’s your answer, from The News-Gazette editorial board ...

“We have three editorial board members: Publisher John Foreman, Managing Editor for Administration Dan Corkery and Opinions Editor Jim Dey. Their names appear on the masthead of each day’s Opinions page, and contact information for both Corkery and Dey appears in the upper right portion of that page.

“You are right that our website does not specifically state any of that. We’ll put that on our to-do list.

“And you are also correct that for a relatively brief period in the 1990s we published bylined editorials. 

“All three of us are white males — in excess of 55 years of earthly existence. Collectively, they boast more than a century of background on local issues.  And we all have thick skin, an occupational requirement, so feel free to comment on our gender, age and paleness.

“Please note that The News-Gazette editorial board does NOT have a history of being an all-boys club. In the not-too-distant past, our executive and editorial page editors were women (Susan Miller and Rosemary Garhart, respectively). More importantly, our publisher, Mrs. Marajen Stevick Chinigo, was a woman and a rather independent-minded one at that.

“Clearly, there are advantages to be drawn from diversity. But that said, an editorial board is not a representative body.  It is charged with challenging a community, not reflecting it.  Regardless, it would be near impossible to field a group matching Champaign-Urbana’s population and charge it with crafting a consensus on issues.

“Because it’s not possible to be representative of the entire community, we give our readers ample opportunities to express their own views, through letters to the editor and guest commentaries. Regular readers of our editorial pages recognize that we give wide latitude to opinions of all stripes and especially to those who disagree with us. We give readers the last word.”

Kilgore solution

“Excellent solution to Kilgore problem by Darrin Hofer of Loda, IL: ‘Let him teach at a state prison.’

Happy Father's Day

Finally, Happy Father’s Day to all dads, especially my own who is still enjoying life and looking forward to good times at the age of 86.

I’ve included in the mailbag today a photo of my dad taken in 1938 when he was just a 10- or 11-year-old kid on the west side of Chicago. I saw this photo for the first time last weekend, when I went to spend some quality, pre-Father’s Day time with him. 

It’s amazing how much of his personality is contained in one 76-year-old photograph: his smile (he is seldom gloomy), his Monark Silver King bicycle (which he still has), his love of bicycles (he rode his age when he turned 75), the 48-star American flag he attached to the bike (he’s a patriotic guy) and his stylish attire.

Plus, what a great street scene of life in gritty Chicago: the old streetlamps, the water tank atop the building in the background, the vintage trucks and autos parked on the street, the storage shed or garage or whatever it is added to the back of the apartment building, the clothesline on the apartment building’s second floor, the patches of grass or weeds in the parkway, the waifish stick of a girl (probably an undernourished, Depression-era baby) walking behind him.

Happy Father’s Day, Pops, and thanks for showing me this great photograph.


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alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm
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You can find several flavors of pie at Merry Ann's.  Holiday dinner worthy might be a bit of a stretch, but hell, they're still pretty good.

sweet caroline wrote on June 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

It's Darren Hofer, not Darrin Harper.  And he's right.

Kilgore solution

“Excellent solution to Kilgore problem by Darrin Harper of Loda, IL: ‘Let him teach at a state prison.’

UrbanaJake wrote on June 14, 2014 at 3:06 am

Mr. Kilgore already taught in a state prison, while an inmate in California. I read about it in article published in a recent UI Press "Radical Teacher" article by, ta-da, Mr. Kilgore, a.k.a. Charles Pape and a.k.a. John Pape. Taxpayer supported non-sense.  Kilgore is STILL working at UI making $25 per hour, every hour as a  research scholar.  Guess he's got the clout thing down. Just ask his wife and boss.

UrbanaJake wrote on June 15, 2014 at 12:06 am

The editorial board can only hire those that apply for the job.  What is the racial make-up of job applicants?