Missing energy assistance funds raise questions

Last month state officials announced that a state and federally funded energy assistance program abruptly was being removed from the control of the Urban League of Champaign County. The Urban League had run the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for more than 25 years.

UI examining racist posts on Facebook site

The University of Illinois plans to investigate racist threats posted on a Web site and made against an American Indian student.

The threats were posted last semester and appeared as part of a discussion group on the social networking site Facebook. The page, called "If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist," focused on the debate surrounding Chief Illiniwek. More than 100 students joined the group.

A reminder that clout matters

There's a lot of money to be made managing employee retirement money for the state of Illinois.

So when a Chicago investment firm learned it would be dropped as an investment option for poor performance, its chief executive officer promised a fight. But how does one wage a successful battle to retain a valuable account in a numbers-driven field like financial performance? Either you do the job or you don't, right?

Why <I>do </I>we have a county auditor?

If you're wondering what special qualifications one needs to be the auditor of Champaign County, the answer is: none.

"The qualifications and oath of office shall be the same as apply to other county offices," says Illinois law. That means an auditor needn't have any background in finance or accounting or economics. It means that the auditor doesn't have to know anything more about business or law or auditing than the man on the street.

College athletics arms race

Spending in college athletics has been compared, not without reason, to the nuclear arms race, with the various parties involved striving to match or exceed one another in an almost mindless way.

And that was before the University of Alabama decided it needed to offer its new football coach, Nick Saban, an eight-year, $32 million contract to persuade him to leave the National Football League's Miami Dolphins. What will the critics say now?

Dear Legislature, thanks for nothing

In 1996, the Illinois General Assembly passed what it called the Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law. But for residential electric customers in Illinois, the only "choice" is to move.

If you want rates lower than the approximately $1,136 a year that the typical Ameren Corp. customer now will pay, you'll have to move out of state or into a community with a municipally owned utility, a place like Rantoul, Farmer City or Springfield. Even then, there is no choice, just lower rates.

Congress should end earmarks

President Bush is facing a challenge that he hasn't faced in his previous six years in office, a Democratic Congress.

Democrats intend to assert their new authority, and Bush, who has veto authority, intends to protect his turf.

Danville moves to become stronger by razing buildings

Danville has a problem common to many traditionally industrial cities where big employers have left the community, removing jobs and people. What a few decades ago was a city of 50,000 people has become a city of 35,000 people, leaving thousands of older homes vacant and uncared for. Add to that a city code enforcement department that was gutted by budget cuts, with too few people watching too many properties, and many of those homes were allowed to fall into disrepair.

The results are dilapidated homes ideal for criminal activity, potential fire hazards, declining property and neighborhood values that foster a diminishing sense of pride.

We may not know the cause, but warm winters have benefits

None of those Christmas songs seem relevant right now. The weather outside is hardly frightful, unless you are frightened at the thought of global warming.

Looking out our window, it is far from a winter wonderland. The kids are pleading, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow," but to no avail. And Frosty the Snowman? He's nothing but a memory.

Just what are rules governing execution?

Since nothing is immune to second-guessing, perhaps no one should be surprised that the Monday-morning quarterbacks are keeping themselves busy these days with oxymoronic criticism of the hanging of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

They claim it was not conducted in a dignified manner.

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