Champaign's cautious budget

During a time of limited revenue growth, the Champaign city budget for the year beginning July 1 rightly shows spending restraint.

The proposed fiscal year 2009 budget for the city of Champaign appears to be a good plan for period of limited economic growth. It calls for general fund spending of $66.8 million (up from an anticipated $66.6 million in spending this year) with revenue of $66.3 million. The $500,000 difference would be made up using savings and one-time funds. It still would allow for a $7.3 million fund balance, which represents 17 percent of expenditures. That's considered an adequate reserve in case of emergencies.

Another try for Paul Vallas?

Paul Vallas has been gone from Illinois for several years, but he indicated last week that he might be persuaded to run again for governor in 2010. It's a sign that the end of the nightmarish Blagojevich administration is in sight.

Paul Vallas' speech to the City Club of Chicago last week was one of those painful reminders of what could have been. He noted that Illinois has a Democratic governor and a Democratic House and Senate. "You would think that would give you the opportunity to really get things done," Vallas said. "There's been a lot of opportunities that have been squandered."

Needed: A challenge to Jones

Improving Illinois government will require more than just unseating Rod Blagojevich as governor. The arrogant Senate President Emil Jones must go too.

Last Thursday's disgusting display at the Illinois Statehouse – a Senate vote to deny citizens the right to vote on adding a recall provision to the Illinois Constitution, plus Senate President Emil Jones' outrageous insistence that he and other lawmakers deserve more money ("I need a pay raise. I need a pay raise," he told reporters) – is another sign of the need for big changes in Illinois government.

Tock teens have the looks that make cameras start clicking

Jeff and Kathy Tock are proud of their tall, attractive children, but Mahomet residents say they were all a little surprised when a Chicago modeling agency launched their careers into high gear.

Suddenly, the Tocks' three youngest children started showing up in national ads and even on a magazine cover, coached by their oldest daughter, Erika, who will graduate from the University of Illinois in May with a degree in music.

Wright not deserving of Obama's confidence

After saying he could not and would not disown the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has done just that.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright must have never heard the old adage that "when you're in a hole, stop digging." If he has, the retired minister and spiritual mentor to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama ignored it.

Campus murder site spared wrecking ball

A campus classroom building where a mass murder took place won't be sacrificed to symbolism.

There's no debating that a horrible event took place Feb. 14 in Cole Hall on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb – the mass shooting of students in a lecture room by University of Illinois graduate student Steven Kazmierczak.

No reason to raise officials' pay

No right-thinking official could support a proposal to raise the pay for legislators, constitutional officers and others at this time.

The Illinois Compensation Review Board has recommended that state legislators and other officials get a nice pay raise. Lawmakers' annual base pay would increase from about $65,000 to nearly $73,000, approximately 12 percent more. The governor's salary would rise to $192,773, about a 13 percent increase.

That bothersome First Amendment

It's Law Day, a day set aside to honor the principles of liberty, justice and equality that our government stands for – principles that ironically are under attack today in our community.

If only we didn't have that pesky First Amendment the United States of America sure would be a better, more civil place.

Film festival produces big hit

Every year at this time, Champaign-Urbana, excluding the weather, becomes a little like Hollywood.

The 10th annual Roger Ebert Film Festival was another big hit. It didn't miss a thing, except, unfortunately, its namesake Roger Ebert.

Obama judgment questionable in friendship with Rezko

The plot to fire a federal prosecutor should be, but probably won't be, an eye-opener for Illinois U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been awfully busy campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. But he should take time from his busy schedule to catch up on the news in Chicago, particularly the story about how connected pols like his friend Antoin "Tony" Rezko plotted to engineer the firing of hard-charging U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.