Tom's Mailbag Feb. 6, 2015

Tom's Mailbag Feb. 6, 2015

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Busy week in Mailbag World Headquarters, with questions about a Champaign pacifist who was sent to prison 50 years ago this week, Carle’s tax status, baseball in Champaign, the condition of North Broadway Avenue in Urbana, Dodds Park, the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in Champaign County and the debate over Democratic/Democrat.

Anti-war activist Gene Keyes

“The area history feature in the Monday News-Gazette mentioned Gene Keyes, a pacifist from Champaign and his 1965 three-year prison sentence for failure to report for military service. Did Gene Keyes serve the entire three-year sentence? Gene Keyes was active in national and local peace and disarmament demonstrations for many years. Wasn’t his father a University of Illinois professor of urban and regional planning? I think the Keyes family were members of the Society of Friends in Champaign-Urbana. Gene Keyes certainly was willing to take the consequences for his religious and political beliefs and not go into hiding or support violence as a form of protest. His decision offers an obvious contrast to the choices made by some from that era of protest and dissent.”

You are correct in your recollections. Scott Keyes, Gene’s father, was a professor of urban and regional planning at the UI, and the family was members of the Society of Friends. 

Gene Keyes, now 73 years old and living in Nova Scotia, said he served one year of his three-year sentence in 1965. He pleaded guilty to the charge of failure to report for military service.

He went to prison another time, he recalled.

“There was another five months (in prison) when a couple of friends and I signed a pact that we would all go to prison together if one of us got arrested,” he said. “The first guy was arrested in St. Louis and we converged on St. Louis and demonstrated in the courtrooms and we were found guilty too of contempt and so that was a six-month sentence in 1964.”

He served his sentences at federal prisons in El Reno, Okla., and in Springfield, Mo., he said.

And yes, Keyes acknowledged he didn’t shrink from facing the consequences of avoiding the draft.

“Very much so. I didn’t go to Canada to dodge the draft. I just decided to face it head-on and to clog the prisons,” he said.

Keyes also believes he was one of the first in the Vietnam era to destroy his draft card, a moment captured by a News-Gazette photographer. 

“On Christmas Eve 1963 at the Champaign draft board I lit a candle with my draft card. It was one of the earliest draft card burnings in the Vietnam era. A couple of years later there were quite a few more,” he said.

Keyes, who said he has no regrets about any of his pacifist activities — including swimming out to Polaris nuclear submarines off the coast at New London, Conn. — is retired but active.

On You Tube Keyes has posted a film about a 1960 protest at the New London protests, which occurred before he was an active participant. It’s at

Keyes said he signs online protest petitions, works on his web site (, writes papers on strategic non-violent protest and promotes what he calls a Cahill-Keyes world map that “has a better resemblance to a globe.”

And although Keyes has lived in Canada since 1973, he is still a U.S. citizen and said he voted for Barack Obama for president.

“One groans about the kinds of things IS (the so-called Islamic State) is doing but one also groans about Obama being so drone-happy. I voted for Obama but I knew that he wasn’t exactly a pacifist,” Keyes said. “But worse yet in his latest budget he wants to spend almost a trillion dollars on revamping nuclear weapons from A to zed. So there’s still a lot of work ahead of us.

“I still try to keep up with these things, but in a sense I’m an extinct volcano as far as action in the streets goes.”

Keyes went to Harvard University but dropped out in February 1961, and devoted his time to pacifist causes. He went back to school in 1969, at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale (where he studied under visionary Buckminster Fuller), and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, then got a PhD in international politics at York University in Toronto.

He moved to Canada in 1973 when his ex-wife got a job there, and hasn’t left. He said he hasn’t been to Champaign since his father’s death in 1992.

North Broadway Avenue in Urbana

“When will Urbana do something about repairing the bricks on North Broadway? The road buckled up really bad last winter and no repairs have been made.  It’s too bad that they have such a bad road leading to the beautiful new aquatic center.”

This is a timely question. On Monday night, according to Urbana Public Works Director Bill Gray, the city council will discuss repairing North Broadway.

Although keeping the brick pavement was one option considered, the city staff has recommended removing the brick pavement and replacing it with concrete.

“Because of limited funding availability and the significant backlog of street maintenance, it is recommended that the least costly (alternative) the reconstruction of Broadway Avenue from Stebbins Drive to Oakland Avenue as a concrete pavement be approved,” the staff memo to the city council says.

Also, said Gray, “the sidewalk along the west side of the street will be widened to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists and all the various special events that involve hundreds of participants throughout the year. The estimated project cost is $500,000.”

Democratic Party vs. Democrat Party

“When did the Democratic Party become the Democrat Party? Isn’t it the Democratic Party and people who belong are Democrats?”

They’re called the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Party of Illinois and the Champaign County Democrats.

But according to this 2010 story on National Public Radio — — the origin of “Democrat Party” goes back to at least 1955 when “Leonard Hall, a former Republican chairman, began referring to the ‘Democrat’ rather than the ‘Democratic’ party.

“Hall dropped the ‘ic ‘ because, he said, ‘I think their claims that they represent the great mass of the people, and we don’t, is just a lot of bunk.’”

And I have heard Rush Limbaugh — yes, I admit to listening to his self-promotion on occasion — call it the “Democrat Party.”

The late language expert William Safire traced an early usage of “Democrat Party” to Harold Stassen, who ran Wendell Willkie’s 1940 presidential campaign against Franklin Roosevelt. A party run by political bosses, Stassen told Safire in 1984, “should not be called a ‘Democratic Party.’ It should be called the ‘Democrat party.’”

So yes, it is Democratic Party and its members are Democrats.

MRAP approval

“It seems that Sheriff Dan Walsh and Urbana Police Chief Pat Connolly are suddenly doing a public relations campaign on the value of the MRAP they acquired through the 1033 program. Prior to acquiring the MRAP, did either official consult or inform the county board or Urbana City Council of their intent to get the MRAP, have a policy in place for its use, or solicit the public’s opinion?”

The sheriff does not have to get approval from the county board before undertaking a project or an initiative. That’s what is cool about being the sheriff; he really is the boss.

“The Sheriff did not consult the county board. The Sheriff is a Constitutional Officer elected by the citizens to run the Office of Sheriff and to make these kinds of decisions,” wrote Walsh. “The operators did have training in its safe handling before actual deployment. The Chiefs (and Sheriff) have met with the METRO team leaders to give guidance to the usage of the new armored vehicle. Its acquisition and operations by METRO and the paramedics was a joint agreement of all six participating law enforcement agencies.”

Carle’s non-profit status

“Re Carle Medical Center. How much profit is too much profit to still be considered a non-profit? And what happens to that money for a non-profit? Is it invested? What are Carle’s financial holdings?  How much in interest and dividends annually?”

“The simple answer,” said John Colombo, interim dean at the University of Illinois College of Law and an expert on tax law, “is that a ‘nonprofit’ can make as much profit as it wants. There is no magic line of ‘profit’ (e.g. revenue over expenses, or net revenue) that turns a nonprofit into a for-profit.”

That’s why, according to the Carle Foundation’s Form 990 to the Internal Revenue Service for 2012, it listed revenue of $218.4 million and expenses of $196.9 million. 

Colombo said that “nonprofit” is simply a state organizational law concept, and that the organization cannot have shareholders who own the profits or the assets of the nonprofit.

“Note that this definition does not prohibit a nonprofit from making a profit,” he said. “Indeed, many nonprofits (particularly nonprofit hospitals and universities — I’ll

bet Harvard had a nice profit last year, too!) make very substantial profits, like Carle. The term ‘nonprofit’ doesn’t mean the organization can’t make very large

profits; it only means that those profits cannot be distributed to private shareholders or owners — they are ‘locked in’ to the underlying organization, and must be spent on the organization’s activities.”

The real issue with Carle, Colombo said. “isn’t whether it is a nonprofit organization — it is clearly a ‘nonprofit’ as that term is defined under state law, because Carle does not have shareholders or other equity owners entitled to get the profits generated by Carle’s operations.

“Instead, the question is whether Carle should be considered a ‘charity.’”

The concept of “charitable,” he said, “dates back to the Elizabethan Statute of Charitable Uses passed by the English Parliament in 1601, and in general means that the organization’s primary purpose is something that benefits the general public (we sometimes call charities “public benefit” organizations).”

Colombo said he has “long argued that nonprofit hospitals are no more ‘charitable’ than General Motors or Microsoft Corporation. The modern nonprofit hospital is simply a business that occasionally makes charitable gifts (e.g., free care for the poor), just like Microsoft is a business that annually makes large charitable donations to organizations (both nationally and in the Seattle area). 

“Carle’s “primary purpose” is to sell health care services for a fee, not to provide ‘charitable’ services to the general public.  The fact that it does provide some

charitable services to some people no more makes it a ‘charity’ than Microsoft’s gifts of computers and computer software and cash to organizations in Redmond, WA, makes Microsoft a charity. Contrast the way Carle operates to the way The Salvation Army operates, and I think you’ll see what I mean.”

Newt Dodds’ role at Dodds Park

“My question is what power does someone like (former park board member) Newt Dodds have over what happens there? Same goes for others with Champaign parks in their honor. Do they have any say or have a vote?”

Here’s what park board president Joe Petry had to say: “Throughout its history, the Champaign Park District has, on occasion, honored those who have made outstanding contributions to the park district through the naming of parks and or facilities. In 1969, the park district acquired land around the future Parkland College site to develop as one of its signature parks.   

“In 1972, this park was named in honor of Pick Dodds for his many years of service on the park district board, having served on the board from 1930 to 1971.  

“To your specific question, individuals not currently serving on the Champaign Park District board have the same ability as any other resident for providing input or offering opinions.  While the Park District Board is very sensitive to the legacy of those individuals for whom parks are named, the individuals or their descendants retain no control over the ‘named’ park or facilities.  The park commissioners have a fiduciary responsibility to the residents of Champaign as caretakers of our parks and programs.  As a result, the park board makes decisions based on those principals as well as long-range planning, needs assessments and public requests.

“The park board meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month and during these meetings, there is a portion of time set aside for public comment.  Also, the commissioners have park district e-mail addresses which are available for residents to voice their opinions (see As president of the board, I can assure you that the commissioners are open for any discussion and enjoy receiving communication from their constituents.” 

Baseball in Champaign

“A Hot Stove League question for a cold February day: in 2011, Champaign Mayor Don Gerard raised the possibility of building a stadium in the city with the intention of attracting a minor league baseball team. An exploratory committee later was formed to look into the feasibility of the proposal. Was there any active follow-up by the mayor or others on the committee’s report? And considering all the time that has passed, is this a dead issue?”

The mayor said that in November he hosted representatives of Big Top Baseball, which has teams in four cities in the collegiate Northwoods League, and that they liked Champaign. But facilities are an issue.

“It’s just a matter of finding a way to make it work,” Gerard said. 

Big Top Baseball owns the Madison Mallards, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, Kenosha Kingfish and Green Bay Bullfrogs in the Northwoods League, an 18-team syndicate — not unlike the wood-bat Prospect League that the Danville Dans belong to — that features college players from around the country who play in a late May to early August season. 

“We ran the flag up to see if there was any interest and there was,” Gerard said. “They said they would love to be in Champaign. It’s just a matter of making it work.”

Life cycle of top stories on web site

“I’m curious yellow ... what is the N-G’s algorithm for the life cycle of story links under ‘Most Viewed News’ and ‘Most Commented News?’”

Both are a seven-day rolling compilation, according to News-Gazette Publisher John Reed. 

About taking down the Honorary Lou Henson Court street sign

“NO, no, no, do not remove under penalty of Lou’s fans who love this man.”

— Rev. Lillard Luttrell

Thanks for the questions. And remember these words of Illinois football coach Tim Beckman to stunned sports writers: “So I’m gonna put it on you. What are they reading, K? Social media is big nowadays. What are you saying?”

Doesn’t that remind you of a late, great motivational speaker, University of Illinois football coach Ray Eliot? 

Nah, me neither.

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loopillini wrote on February 06, 2015 at 3:02 pm the mayor responded: “They said they would love to be in Champaign. It’s just a matter of making it work.” Well what would it take to make it work?

rsp wrote on February 06, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Like all sports teams, if we build the stadium, they'll come...

nick wrote on February 06, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Great work on the Gene Keyes question. Gene Keyes is the brother of Ralph Keyes, an accomplished writer and teacher. Ralph Keyes wrote a short essay published in the Antioch Review about his progressive family. It's called ''The People's Cowboy'' and offers a nice perspective on that era.

Westsider wrote on February 06, 2015 at 4:02 pm

One other point that might be relevant is the fact that "democratic" is an adjective describing the noun "party". Adding the "ic" turns the noun "democrat" into an adjective. So it's not just about political preference, it's about correct grammar. You'd think the writers and editors at a newspaper might be aware of this.

Lostinspace wrote on February 06, 2015 at 7:02 pm

I'm sure members of the Republic Party would agree.

enoughalready wrote on February 08, 2015 at 11:02 am

So Mr. Colombo, what would happen if non profit hospitals were not "charitable" and lost their tax exemptions?  They would convert to for-profit status since there would no longer be a benefit to maintaining non profit status. Then they limit appointments for Medicaid and Medicare, and immediately restrict their free care programs.  After all, they have to make money for their new owners.  In this community alone, tens of thousands would be shut out of the healthcare system and left to fend for themselves.  Then, local taxes would go up signficantly so gov'mint could build their own clinics and hospitals.  How much would taxes go up in order for gov'mint to provide the services that local hospitals are providing?  It's a trade off.  Either way tax payers will pay. And given gov'mint's track record of being able to manage anything (see Nursing Home, County), I prefer to leave healthcare in the hands of people who know what they are doing.  

Comparing Carle to the Salvation Army is a red herring.  Compare Carle to UI...both provide free services to those who qualify for it.  And both charge everyone else for their services.  And both avoid taxes because they are providing a valuable service (education and healthcare) that our country said is worth it.