Orchard Downs project has great potential for community

A public forum this evening will give Champaign-Urbana residents an opportunity to offer creative ideas for the redevelopment of the Orchard Downs area in south Urbana. Home to housing for married students and international students at the University of Illinois for more than 50 years, Orchard Downs likely will undergo a major visual and demographic shift in the next five years.

The aging and cramped housing at Orchard Downs is slated to be razed and replaced with an intergenerational community containing sustainable and environmentally sensitive housing and retail and office space. The diverse neighborhood could include everything from single-family homes and retiree housing to multifamily units or even more modern graduate student housing.

Obesity driving up gas usage

If you need another reason for making that New Year's resolution to lose some weight – again – here it is: dropping the pounds might save you money at the gas pump.

Turns out, those people who say Americans are "gas hogs" may not be far from the truth, some numbers crunching by University of Illinois researchers indicates.

For attorney general: Lisa Madigan

It's easy to endorse a political candidate with whom you agree on major issues, but it's a lot more difficult to recognize that even when you differ, you still recognize a candidate as superior. And that's where we find ourselves in supporting Lisa Madigan for another term as Illinois attorney general.

We opposed Madigan, a Democrat, when she ran in 2002, and we find ourselves on opposite sides on some significant issues, including her proposal that tax-exempt hospitals in Illinois set aside at least 8 percent of their annual operating costs for charity care and that the state's move to a deregulated electricity market be scuttled.

For state comptroller: Dan Hynes

Illinois government would be a lot better off if we had people like Comptroller Dan Hynes – competent, fiscally prudent, honest and accountable – at every layer of government.

The state would balance its budget and not resort to gimmicks and trickery to make it appear that the budget was in order. It would pay its bills on time. It would save money for a rainy day. It would plan ahead and not mortgage the future to pay for overspending today. And it would enact reasonable ethics reforms that would make citizens proud.

For state treasurer: Christine Radogno

Voters should be suspicious when the chairman of the Democratic Party in Illinois refuses to endorse the Democratic candidate for state treasurer and further asserts that the candidate may have "connections to the mob."

That's not a good thing. And while Democratic chairman Michael Madigan may have ulterior motives – this could all be about an elaborate power play between Madigan and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, who is backing treasurer candidate Alexi Giannoulias – there have been serious allegations about Giannoulias' family bank and loans it made to a man convicted of federal bookmaking charges and of promoting a prostitution ring.

Police seek help solving computer thefts

Police are repeating warnings to protect laptop computers and asking for help in solving some residential burglaries.

Champaign police crime analyst Gary Spear said there again has been a rash of computer thefts, mostly involving laptops, but also desktop computers in a few cases.

For governor: Judy Baar Topinka

In running for re-election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is so desperate to dress up his meager list of accomplishments that he even mentions proposals that were shot down by the Legislature, other state officials or the courts.

He boasts of eliminating Illinois' budget deficit even though state Comptroller Dan Hynes says the state is still spending more money than it is taking in. He mentions a discount prescription drug program that the state auditor general declared to be not only remarkably ineffective but a violation of federal law. He talks about a stem cell research program that he snuck into the state budget even after lawmakers indicated that they were uncomfortable with the initiative.

Try a little accountability

Perhaps it's just a myth or a mirage but we're told that in west central Illinois, two candidates for the Legislature have agreed to end a blizzard of negative campaign advertisements after one got a little too personal.

State Rep. Mike Smith, D-Canton, and Republican challenger Daryl Dagit of Pekin said they will personally review all advertising to ensure that there are no more harsh attacks. Dagit ran a television ad with two photos of his opponent – one more than 10 years old and another with a more recent and more weighty Mike Smith – with a voice-over that said, "Mike Smith went to Springfield to change things ... (it) looks like Springfield changed Mike Smith."

Another abuse in legislative scholarship program

Ah, Illinois, a state where even the reformers need reforming.

The latest evidence is the disclosure that one of the biggest populists in the state Legislature, Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, has awarded two of those notoriously abused "legislative scholarships" to the daughter of his biggest individual campaign donor.

County board should approve nursing home study

It's not as if the administrator of the Champaign County Nursing Home hasn't advanced his own ideas for cutting costs and increasing revenue at the money-losing facility. Andrew Buffenbarger has offered a number of suggestions this year, but county board members didn't act. So now he's asking the board to undertake an approximately $20,000 study of the nursing home, to be performed by a management consultant.

The board had better say yes this time or the nursing home will be in an even bigger financial hole than it already is. The board is scheduled to act on the proposal tonight.