Parkland board should be upfront

It's unfortunate that Robert Exley's tenure as president of Parkland College in Champaign was so brief. Exley was hired less than a year ago as the community college's fourth chief executive, but earlier this week the Parkland board voted to accept what it called Exley's resignation.

Exley, 51, had a difficult time during his short term as president, including a heart attack and bypass surgery. It's clear that the decision to terminate Exley's three-year contract was the right one, both for Parkland and for Exley. Parkland needs a vigorous president to lead the institution as it looks forward and embraces new technologies like Web-based learning and expanded curriculums important to the people of East Central Illinois. And Exley needed the opportunity to make a full recovery from his health problems.

Exciting time for women's basketball at UI

Jolette Law, a longtime assistant basketball coach for the Rutgers University women's basketball team, was in no hurry to take a head job. She was waiting for the right time and the right school.

Law finally found it last week when she was introduced as the new head women's coach at the University of Illinois. She'll replace Theresa Grentz, who resigned in April. During her time at lllinois, Grentz showed fans of women's basketball just how much fun the game could be, but she was unable to sustain her early success.

Motorists show little sign of cutting back on gasoline use

Congratulations, you lived to see some history on Wednesday at least in Champaign-Urbana. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached $3.207. (Danville consumers were paying only $3.137 a gallon, the lowest price in the state, according to the AAA, and 5 cents less than that city's all-time high set in September 2005).

How about some more bad news? Wednesday's record will be broken later this week, perhaps as early as today. Gasoline prices aren't likely to drop anytime soon.

State pension funds an irresistible target

Here's some friendly advice for any member of the Illinois House and Senate, but particularly for local state Reps. Chapin Rose, Bill Black and Naomi Jakobsson and state Sen. Mike Frerichs.

The next time an elected official, a lobbyist or some other political buddy asks for your support of a so-called technical change to the law governing state pension systems, run screaming from the room. If Rose, Jakobsson, Black and Frerichs engage in that simple maneuver, it could spare them the future embarrassment of unwittingly participating in a taxpayer ripoff to benefit scheming politicians or their hanger-on pals.

Last call for comments on Orchard Downs plans

Local residents get their last chance Wednesday night to comment on two competing plans for the redevelopment of the 160-acre Orchard Downs property in south Urbana. A public meeting on the proposals advanced by Devonshire Development of Champaign and a partnership between Fox Development, the Atkins Group and Vermilion Development will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 S. Lincoln Ave., U.

Later this year, the University of Illinois is expected to choose a developer and a plan for the use of the UI-owned land. Most of the property now is used for graduate student housing, although the 700-plus units are at least 40 years old and in need of modernization.

Cultural differences may affect brain's wiring

On Denise Park's office wall is a lovely Asian painting, kind of a market scene in what looks to be a village square.

The piece is colorful and filled with interesting aspects. What it lacks is a central object or subject that grabs the attention right off, a feature so common in Western art, from still life bowls of fruit to the farm couple in "American Gothic."

Beware last-minute tax hike deals in Springfield

It's hard to believe that a state where revenues are up more than a billion dollars so far this year could be in financial trouble, but that's where Illinois finds itself.

The problem, of course, is twofold: for years the state has spent beyond its means and it hasn't paid its bills on time. That's why, according to an audit released earlier this year, the state's general fund is $2.3 billion in the red. The state's backlog of unpaid bills was more than $2 billion.

Legislators' Las Vegas junket big mistake

With the current session scheduled to expire on May 31, state legislators have a lot on their plates.

Most important are tax and budget issues. But there's also the matter of whether to allow AT&T to provide video services in competition with cable television companies.

Smoking issue back before city council

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Rod Blagojevich can and probably will sign legislation to outlaw public smoking in Illinois.

Blagojevich's anticipated action will put an end to a long-running debate among local partisans about the wisdom of a decision by members of the Urbana and Champaign city councils to ban public smoking locally, except for the little matter of what's to happen between now and Jan. 1. That's when the statewide ban would take effect.

A stinging defeat for Gov. Blagojevich

In one of the more bizarre political moves in the history of Illinois state government, Gov. Rod Blagojevich Thursday urged lawmakers to do the opposite of what he had urged them to do on Wednesday. He urged them to vote against the gross receipts tax that a day earlier he had implored them to approve.

"Considering that this meaningful dialogue was initiated just 24 hours ago, it would be premature to conclude the discussion today and ask members to make a decision before they have an opportunity to get answers to their questions and offer their ideas," Blagojevich said in a statement. "So we are asking all members to vote 'no' to send a clear message that this issue is too important for a rush to judgment on a non-binding resolution."