Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

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A bit of everything in this week's mailbag: whether there was local resistance 65 years ago to polio vaccines, the number of University of Illinois students actually on campus this fall, Broadway shows at the State Farm Center, more fast food in Campustown, labor shortages affect Illinois football games, construction on University Avenue, another movie starlet from central Illinois and what do you call that unusual color of Urbana fire trucks? 

Broadway Series

"Will the Broadway series of musicals return to the State Farm arena? We were contacted by Peoria for 2021 for their series of four programs."

"We are still actively working on booking shows, including Broadway titles, for this spring," said Brad Swanson, director of marketing for the State Farm Center.

Urbana fire trucks

"What color are Urbana fire trucks?"

The deep, dark red is known by all of the apparatus manufacturers as "Urbana Red," said Urbana Fire Chief Chuck Lauss.

Polio vaccine resistance

"Was there any resistance locally to the polio vaccine?"

Thank you for the question. It appears there was some resistance but nowhere close to the level we're seeing today in the wake of the development of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Here's an Associated Press story showing how popular the Salk vaccine was among Illinois politicians in April 1955.

"A bill sought by Gov. William Stratton to buy a million dollars worth of Salk polio vaccine for free distribution to Illinois children was submitted Tuesday in the House and Senate.

"Both branches pushed the bill along without referring it to the usual committee hearings. The emergency measure may be enacted into law within a week or two."

It became law in about 10 days.

But during debate one opponent, Rep. W.J. Murphy, a Round Lake Republican, said the legislation was "a completely unnecessary expenditure of money" and that it "smacks awful close to socialized medicine."

Still, the vote in the House was 143-3 for the emergency appropriation.

By the end of 1955 thousands of Champaign-Urbana youngsters had received their second doses of the Salk vaccine. If there was any opposition it wasn't reported in newspaper articles or in letters to the editor.

Here's a Dec. 2, 1955, story from the old Urbana Daily Courier:

"Nine Champaign-Urbana doctors , assisted by around 30 nurses, efficiently shot nearly 1,300 Champaign Unit 4 and Holy Cross School children with Salk polio vaccine in a mass innoculation program Friday morning in the Champaign Junior High School gymnasium," the newspaper reported.

"Protest from children were at a surprising minimum, according to Dr. Joseph Seagle, who headed the group, possibly because they had all gone through it before in the spring.

"Parent-teacher association members helped teachers get youngsters in line and ready."

There were about 150 fewer children getting the second dose than had received the first round, the Courier said.

Sights and Sounds for Monday

The center section of the crowd hold up Block I cards during Illini Sights and Sounds at Memorial Stadium in Champaign on Thursday, August 19, 2021.

UI students in town

"How many of the students enrolled at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are actually on campus versus virtual? How about the big gains in graduate students online. I'll bet it's largely online but it would be interesting to be wrong."

Meghan Hazen, registrar in the University of Illinois office of admissions and records, said that she and Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions, pulled the number of students in fully online and off-campus programs in fall 2021 and fall 2020 to compare.

"In fall 2020," she said. "there were 27 undergraduates in online/off-campus programs. There were 7,883 graduate students in online/off-campus programs. In fall 2021, we have 50 undergrads and 9,575 grad students in online/off-campus programs."

The UI-Urbana-Champaign reported earlier this week that it had a record enrollment of 56,299 this fall, including 34,559 undergraduates and 20,567 graduate students.

Based on those numbers I'd estimate there are about 46,500 students on the Urbana campus this fall.

Another silent screen star

"Thanks for your response on silent film star Ethel Clayton. I have another question about a different actress from that era - Jacqueline Logan. She was born in Texas, died in Florida, but is buried in Decatur, IL. How did she end up our state?"

Jacqueline Logan's parents were originally from Decatur, and she was buried in the family plot in Greenwood Cemetery, said Rebecca Damptz, head of archives and special collections at the Decatur Public Library.

She sent a 1923 story from the Decatur Herald that described Logan's tenuous connection to Decatur. Both of her parents — Charles Logan and Marian Ella Kelley — were from Decatur and her grandfather, J.W. Kelley, still lived there.

Jacqueline Logan, who had been a Ziegfield Follies girl and appeared in her first film in 1921 with Carole Lombard, was born in in Texas in 1902. She appeared in dozens of films between 1921 and 1931, after which she had a short career as a writer and director.

She died in Melbourne, Fla., in 1983.

PTI recruits

"How many recruits to become police officers does the Police Training Institute train per year?"

"There's still good people out there who want to serve their communities," said Michael Schlosser, director of the Police Training Institute on the University of Illinois campus.

In fact the 14-week session that will begin Monday is the largest in several years, he said.

In the last few years PTI has had classes of 207 (2018), 203 (2019) and 200 (2021). This year's class (three sessions) will be about 267, Schlosser said, filling a growing need in Illinois for police officers.

More than 100 will be in the group that begins its formal training on Monday.

"And we have more people than ever preenrolled in our classes in 2022," he said. "It looks like we could have about 100 in each of the three sessions."

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University Avenue woes

"How much longer will we have to live without dedicated left turn lanes on University in Urbana? Their lack is causing havoc during busy times of the day. I don't know how many times I've seen one car in the left lane that wants to go straight but can't on the left signal, followed by one car that wants to turn left but can't because of the opposing traffic on the green light, followed by a few 'go straighters' who have to wait for the next cycle of the light."

"Last week, the contractor, Open Road Paving, removed the surface of the road and began preparing to place a new lift of hot mix asphalt surface," said Kensil Garnett, Region 3 engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "They are scheduled to place and complete the surface mix next week weather dependent. Once complete, temporary pavement markings will be placed throughout the area to delineate the center bi-directional turn lane."

I-74 speed limits

"On I-74 in the construction zones between Mahomet and Urbana, what are the speed limits? As I drive through each morning, I cannot tell if the speed limits are in the process of being reset back to the higher limits. Some signs still say minimum 45 mph, with the work minimum covered. Some say construction zone, 55 mph. Others the original 60 mph, immediately preceded and followed by a 60 mph sign. Driving very close to the posted speed limit at each sign and in the right lane, I've been honked at, swerved around, and flicked off multiple times in the last two weeks. I'm surely not the only one with this experience."

Let 'em honk, swerve and flick you off. You're right to proceed cautiously.

"As construction on the interchange project begins, we are working with the contractor to make sure all signage is correct," said Garnett. "There are several day and night operations that are occurring.

"The work zone speed limit is 55 mph for both interstate corridors and will remain throughout the duration of the project unless there is a lane closure during the evening hours which will require the speed limit to be reduced to 45 mph in the vicinity of the work."

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Old Pizza Hut shop

"It looks like there has been some recent activity at the old Pizza Hut in Campustown on Green Street. Does the CU-Public Health District or the Champaign Building Safety know what is going to go in at that location?"

Champaign's building safety division is reviewing plans for  Raising Cane's restaurant at 411 E. Green St., said Randy Smith, building safety supervisor.

Raising Cane's is a 25-year-old fast food chain restaurant specializing in chicken fingers. The nearest Raising Cane's is in Lafayette, Ind., although there are more than a dozen shops in the Chicago area.

Springfield Avenue site

"Any there plans for the Korean restaurant and old Rock's bar on Springfield Avenue?"

No plans are under review or permitted for the 25 E. Springfield Avenue location, said Smith.

The property is owned by a Chicago real estate management firm.

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Prospect & Church

"The intersection of Prospect and Church seems to have a troubled history. This is where the motorcycle accident that killed a police officer occurred a couple weeks ago. In my nearly 30 years of driving I have seen many accidents here.

"While traveling west on Church I have witnessed many cars turning right on red to go north on Prospect. The no turn on red sign is set far back across the intersection and is obscured by tree branches. It is difficult to see and it's location is not in an obvious place, in my opinion. Could someone be asked to evaluate this and at least trim the tree to make the sign visible?"

"Thank you for your question. The tree in question is a private tree since it is behind the brick retaining wall," explained Kris Koester, spokesman for Champaign's Public Works Department. "Neighborhood Services Department has opened a code compliance case to get the property owner to rectify the overhanging tree.

"In regards to the 'No Turn on Red' sign, it does not prohibit turning on red. It is for foot traffic between the Pavilion and the Pavilion Foundation School. It states 'No Turn on Red when Pedestrians are Present.' If there are no pedestrians present, turning on red would be a legal maneuver.

"Lastly this intersection is an Illinois Department of Transportation intersection. As part of the Prospect Avenue reconstruction project recently announced, they are reviewing crash history and other design inputs which will likely result in changes once the project gets underway."

Bicycle lane or not?

"As part of the MCORE redesign of streets, Daniel Street just west of Wright Street received the beginnings of a westbound contraflow bike lane. The lane was left unfinished while the large tower at Sixth and Daniel was under construction. Now the tower is built and Daniel Street has opened up, but the contraflow bike lane was never continued through to Sixth. Instead, this stretch of street has car parking spaces. What gives, and how does anyone on the design team think this is safe?"

"The city of Champaign is working with the building developer on the restriping plan. This will be complete soon," said Koester.

ISR Dining Hall overlook

The remodeled Illinois Street Residence Hall dining area features an upstairs with a wide array of restaurant options and an open downstairs lobby area.

Public dining at Illinois Street Residence Hall

"Are there any times when the general public is permitted to eat at the new dining facilities at Illinois Street Residence Hall?"

"ISR Dining hall is open to the public any time that the dining hall is open," said Melissa Schumacher, assistant director dietitian for dining services in University Housing at the University of Illinois.

Here's a link to dining hours.

"Our Green Street entrance is the best way for the general public to access the dining hall. Please note, we accept credit/debit or Illini Cash in addition to our meal plans (we do not accept cash or check)," she said.

Here is the dining rate for university faculty, staff and students using Illini Cash or credit cards, including applicable tax:

Breakfast: $9.90

Lunch: $12.57

Dinner: $16.34

Late Dinner: $12.57

Once you pay this rate, Schumacher said, it is all you care to eat.

Children are welcome, too. Children under age 5 (accompanied by an adult) may eat for free.

Police at volleyball games

"There didn't appear to be a police presence at the volleyball tournament in Huff Hall Sept. 3 and 4 which is contrary to past years. Is this part of Josh Whitman's protest against law enforcement?"

"We are using State Farm Center security personnel at home volleyball matches at Huff," said Kent Brown, associate director of athletics at the University of Illinois. "Our event coordinator on site has direct contact with the UIPD if they are needed."

Problem leaving Memorial Stadium

"Why did the UI close the entry/exit gate straight east from the northeast corner of Memorial Stadium? This is very inconvenient to the half of us football fans who park east of the stadium. After the game we were forced to wait about 10 minutes behind rope barriers as the team exits the stadium, whereas before we could rapidly exit straight east. This also increases crowding and is the opposite of social distancing which the UI supposedly supports."

"After looking at foot traffic flow from past seasons, and with a severe labor shortage, the decision was made to close this portal as the number of people using it was far less than any of the other five portal entrances," said Brown. "After receiving some feedback following the first two home games and, again, reviewing foot traffic, we will open that portal for exiting after the game, but it will remain closed for entrance. We appreciate your support at the games and hope you enjoy being back at Memorial Stadium!"

COVID religious exemptions

"How is the UI handling false religious exemption claims for the COVID vaccine? I know several people who work for the UI who openly brag about getting out of the vaccine by falsely claiming religious exemption, that of which the UI has immediately granted. It seems extremely unethical that civil servants of all people are circumventing a vaccine mandate to keep themselves and those they serve safe."

"The university follows the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which states that 'the employer should ordinarily assume that an employee's request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief. If, however, an employee requests religious accommodation, and an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, observance, or practice, the employer would be justified in seeking additional supporting information,'" said Robin Kaler, spokeswoman for the UI's Urbana campus.

Discipline for the unvaccinated at the UI

"What is university discipline policy for those who aren't compliant with vaccine mandate? All I keep seeing is that discipline will be involved, but no steps before dismissal."

"As we have communicated, compliance with our policies are enforceable through our standard discipline processes, which vary by employee group and bargaining unit representation," said Kaler.

McDonald's permit

"Do you know what is going on at the McDonald's on Duncan and Kirby in Champaign? Looks like they are building something."

The store obtained a building permit Aug. 31 for a new sign.

Golf carts and COVID

"With the far more virulent Delta variant of COVID, what if any is the guidance from the CUPHD or the CDC about riding in golf carts? A full 18-hole round takes a while and that seems like a lot of potential exposure."

"I do not find any guidance or precautions to protect against COVID while riding in golf carts," said Sarah Michaels, director of environmental health for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

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