Tom's Mailbag Aug. 2, 2014

Tom's Mailbag Aug. 2, 2014

Welcome to August. I’m guessing it will be warmer in central Illinois this month than it was in July. You can almost be certain that it will be hot on Aug. 30 when Illinois opens its football season against Youngstown State (11 a.m. start).

Mailbag questions and comments this week about the much-maligned Clinton landfill, whether pot-bellied pigs are legal in Champaign (no), Jimmy John Liautaud, the end of dispatching at the Pesotum State Police post, those mysterious crosswalk figures in downtown Champaign, the Callis/Davis congressional race, a construction project in west Champaign and that big Champaign Central High School project and its property tax implications.

(Wanna ask one for yourself? Do it here and he'll get to you next week)

Clinton Landfill political contributions

Has anyone connected with the Clinton Landfill, including Area Disposal and Peoria Disposal (as they’re all one and the same company) ever made a political contribution to Governor Pat Quinn, or to any of the other elected state officials?

Your suspicions are somewhat correct — the owners of the company are politically active — but they haven’t given any money to Pat Quinn.

In fact, Chris Coulter, a vice president at Coulter Companies Inc., the parent company of Peoria Disposal, Area Disposal and Clinton Landfill Inc., has given $250 to Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

The Coulters have given thousands of dollars to Peoria area politicians, most of them Republicans. 

Royal Coulter, the CEO of the company, has given $16,750 to local politicians, including the Illinois House Republican Campaign Committee; Rep. David Leitch, a Republican; Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria; Jim Ardis, the Republican mayor of Peoria; the Peoria County Republican Central Committee; the Tazewell County Republican Central Committee; former Gov. George Ryan; and U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock. 

Coulter Companies Inc. gave to former Sen. Dale Risinger, R-Peoria; Leitch, Illinois treasurer Dan Rutherford, a Republican; Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake; state Sens. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington and Darin LaHood, R-Peoria; and a few other GOP state representatives.

It also gave to Democrat Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, Rep. Jehan Gordon of Peoria and former state Rep. Tom Holbrook of Belleville, who was chairman of the House Environment & Energy Committee.

Peoria Disposal gave more than $40,000 to a number of senators, representatives, associations and political parties.

New Clinton development

“What do you make of Quinn announcing last night (Thursday) that MGP (manufactured gas plant) waste will not be allowed at Clinton now? Seems like a key development but I have relied on your stories to tell me how important these decisions really are. Big fan.”

Thanks for your comment and question. We’ll have more on this in Saturday’s News-Gazette but I think the consensus is that this is another incremental step toward limiting what is disposed of at the landfill. The real goal, some landfill opponents say, is a broad limitation on what goes into the chemical waste unit at the landfill. And that’s a real issue of local control — as in the DeWitt County Board.

  Quinn, Rauner and the landfill

“Very happy to see Gov. Pat Quinn take action to stop PCBs from being placed above the Mahomet Aquifer at the Clinton landfill. I was a little disappointed to see state Sen. Chapin Rose criticize Gov. Quinn because it didn’t happen sooner. I know this is election season, but when someone hears a bipartisan call to action the first thing you do shouldn’t be  

to criticize them. But my question is, and correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t Bruce Rauner not said a word about what he would do to protect the Mahomet Aquifer? Maybe instead of criticizing Gov. Quinn, Sen. Rose should be criticizing his own party’s nominee — or at least pressing him to tell the voters here his stance on this important issue.”

I believe you are correct that Rauner has not taken a position on the Mahomet Aquifer. One reason is that he hasn’t been asked. But a Rauner spokesman this week released a statement criticizing Quinn for his inaction. 

“Once again, Pat Quinn failed to lead on an issue that is important to hundreds of thousands of Central Illinois residents.  In 2010, his Environmental Protection Agency approved the Clinton Landfill permit. For years local residents have expressed concern about PCBs in their water, yet, only now that it’s an election year is he showing interest in doing something about the safety of their water supply.”

The spokesman also said that Rauner opposes disposing of PCBs in the landfill and said that the Illinois EPA never should have authorized their disposal at Clinton.

But you are right that we haven’t heard Rauner talk about the Clinton landfill, nor do we know his position on what kinds of wastes should be accepted at Clinton. For that matter we don’t know Quinn’s full position either.

Pot-bellied pigs in Champaign?

“Is there an ordinance against keeping pot-bellied pigs in the city of Champaign?”

It appears that pot-bellied pigs, no matter how cute, are banned in Champaign. 

So are a lot of other animals, including lions, tigers, bears and margay.

Here’s Chapter 7, Section 5 of the Champaign Municipal Code: 

“(a) Except as otherwise expressly provided for in this chapter or in the Municipal Code of Champaign, 1985 as amended, no person shall keep, harbor or allow to be kept within the city limits any live rooster, turkey, geese, duck or any other poultry or byproduct birds, goats, sheep, swine, cattle, horses, or any type of hoof stock, any type of farm animal including the pygmy or miniature variety; any lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, bear, hyena, wolf, wolf-hybrid, poisonous reptile, or other animal normally wild and dangerous to human life. It is no defense to a violation of this section that the owner or keeper of the animal has attempted to domesticate the animal.”

“(b) Animals maintained at the Prairie Farm Exhibit at Centennial Park by the Champaign Park District shall not be regulated by the provisions of this chapter.

“(c) Animals maintained by a zoological park, humane society, federally licensed exhibit, veterinary hospital, or educational institutions shall not be regulated by the provisions of this chapter.

“(d) Hens shall be permitted according to the standards set forth in Section 7-19.”

No more dispatching out of Pesotum post

“Why hasn’t there been any coverage of the State Police Pesotum dispatch center getting shut down and moved to Pontiac?”

WDWS Michael Kiser had a story about the cost-cutting move about three weeks ago. The State Police started consolidating their dispatching operations in 2012, and this year are shutting down operations at the Pesotum, Ashkum and Metamora posts and centralizing them in Pontiac. 

Here’s his story ...

The Pesotum dispatch center closed at 7 a.m. Monday and is now at Pontiac. All seven telecommunicators at Pesotum have moved to Pontiac, said State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond. The consolidation program will reduce the number of dispatch centers around the state from 20 to four, she said. But no jobs are being eliminated, she said.

“One of the things were able to do now is utilize better technology, and streamline everything into one location,” she said. “We’ll be able to use technology that can pinpoint locations, officers, etc. We’ll have the same level of public service but with better technology.”

It’s unclear if the move will save money, she said.

“I don’t know that we’re at the point where we can have that benchmark yet,” she said. “No one was terminated. We weren’t consolidating to eliminate positions. We were consolidating to gain greater efficiency.”

Police response times will improve, she said. And this is not the beginning of a plan to consolidate State Police posts, according to Bond.

“It’s simply a way to improve technology and streamline the operations,” she said. 

About Jimmy John’s contribution to military charity

Jimmy John Liautaud, founder and CEO of the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop chain, continues to elicit strong reactions, whether it's for donating $1 million to a group that provides scholarships and assistance to children and spouses of military members who are killed or disabled, paving the public street in front of his Champaign home, threatening to take his business out of Illinois or for his infamous African hunting safaris (photos and reaction to which are all over the Internet). 

Here’s some responses to this week’s announcement of his $1 million donation to the Folds of Honor Foundation in Owasso, Okla ...

“I have never been OK with his hunting choice, but I guess there are worse things, I think he is making a valiant effort to make people happy, or find a nice way of saying thanks.  He also pays for UMS students to go on a trip to Chi-town in a nice Charter Bus.  I can say I dislike him less.  If that’s better.  Thank You Jimmy for helping with our troops.  I do appreciate that.  God Bless.”


“I will NEVER frequent his establishment. He is playing on the sympathies of the people by making donations to the veterans children and wives, drawing attention away from his senseless slaughter of animals. He’s a sorry excuse for a human being.”

What’s up at Staley & Springfield?

What’s being built on the corner of Springfield and Staley (in Champaign)?

As News-Gazette ace reporter Don Dodson wrote last Sunday, the 4-acre site is proposed as the home of Applewood Villas, a 52-bed assisted/independent living facility. Cost of the project is estimated at $4.5 million. It is being developed by Rick Hallbeck of Hallbeck Homes.

Left over from last week: the crosswalk mystery men

“What’s up with the small thermoplastic “figures/men” on the pavement in Champaign? They’re small and on the roadway. They appeared around the time of the marathon but are not on marathon routes (just a coincidence?). There is one at the southwest corner of University Avenue and Neil Street. Very strange.”

It is not a city of Champaign project, said Kris Koester of the ChampaignPublic Works department. But he Googled the term “robot street stickers” and found a 2008 Washington Post story about the little guys who are continuously run over by motorists ...


Case closed. Maybe.

Callis/Davis race

“A while back I had written in to ask if you thought the national Democrats were really committed to winning in the 13th Congressional District with challenger former Judge Ann Callis against incumbent Congressman Rodney Davis. You said you would have to wait and see if the DCCC actually spends money here. I just wanted to follow up to see if you had noticed that the  

DCCC has opened a Callis for Congress office in Champaign on Green Street and hired four full-time grassroots field organizers for C-U, including Scott Redenbaugh, the president of the Champaign County Young Democrats. Do you think this is a good, early sign that this will be a top targeted race for Democrats and the DCCC?”

I have no doubt that the Davis/Callis race is, for now, a top-tier race for the DCCC. They recruited Callis, they helped her in the primary and they’re helping her now. But if she falters or the DCCC decides that its hopes of regaining the House are nil, they could just as easily pull out of this race. 

All the experts in D.C. who opine on these things say the 13th District is either a “toss-up” or it “leans Republican.” That says to me that it’s Davis’ to lose. 

If the Democrats are to make gains anywhere it has to be in Champaign County, where big organizational mistakes were made in 2012 — so big that it cost them the election of David Gill as congressman. 

The Dems will have to break tradition in a nonpresidential election year and get a big turnout in Champaign-Urbana this time. They’re counting on Callis and state representative candidate Carol Ammons to generate a lot of excitement, and that larger than normal turnout.

Would you vote for Champaign high school bond issue?


and ...

“I did not vote for the current school board, nor will I vote for the next. However it was wrong to go ahead and purchase property and then now force the taxpayers to pay for a new school. There is a lot of empty and lower-cost property available in town. I have no doubt that the Champaign County Board of Realtors is upset about this. They will now have to somehow find a way to build and sell houses in northern Champaign. Realistic proposals should have been presented to the community with other options.  

“Also the true operational cost of the new school has not been made public. How much of an increase in taxes will be required to operate all the new technology and services? This is like the US Air Force and Congress. First we build an air base with housing and shops and golf courses. Then we go back and ask for money for the planes and then money to train and operate it.”

Regarding the increase in property taxes, the Champaign school district said earlier this week that the tax rate would increase by 51 or 52 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, putting it at around $4.83 per $100 of assessed valuation. That is far from the highest tax rate in the area. 

In Rantoul the combined rate for grade and middle school district ($4.55) and high school district ($2.81) is $7.36.

Urbana District 116’s rate is $5.76 this year. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley is $5.47. Paxton Buckley-Loda is $5.30. The Heritage district in southeastern Champaign County is $5.03. The Oakwood district in Vermilion and Champaign counties is $5.17. 

The Champaign County Association of Realtors has not taken a position on the issue and it may not, said Linda Green, the association executive.

“Right now there’s just talk about a tax increase and of course they don’t want the public to be overburdened with it, but that doesn’t mean we’d be for or against it as a voluntary trade association,” she said. “We’ll be watching it just like everyone else.”

Favorite pizza places

The first votes are in:

“Top 3 pizza joints: Papa Dels, Rosatis and Jets! Runner-up: Filippos (Mahomet and Monticello).


“Fillipo’s Monticello, Papa Dels and Monical’s

Send more votes, please.

Thanks for the great variety of questions. Keep it up, folks.

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