Friday, November 18, 2011

Taking Back Peoria.....One vote at a time.

Actually, we need 7,050 of them. Votes that is. According to City Attorney Randall Ray speaking in the article appearing on November 18th in the Journal Star, that's what it will take to force the city council to place a referendum on the ballot to decide if cumulative voting should stay in force, or if we citizens have the right to choose to elect the people who represent us directly. One person, one vote.

I personally think some pretty shady politics are in play when the city council wants to maintain the status quo. They are perfectly aware that no change will be the equivalent of allowing voter apathy to grow. In the Journal Star editorial on November 18th, the estimated current voter turnout is about 20% per election. If that continues, then we can be assured that the City Council will continue to operate as it does now: doing what the minority of citizens think is correct rather than responding to the needs of the community.

According to the minutes of the Peoria City Council meeting this Tuesday last, several Peorians spoke in favor of the 10 and 8 district plans. They even spoke as representatives of various Neighborhood associations, saying their neighborhoods felt there was a need to a change. Whether they favored the 8 member council with 2 at-large positions or the 10 member council with no at-large members, they agreed that cumulative voting should be abandoned for what it is, an utter and dismal failure.


Petition to the City Council of Peoria on behalf of the citizens of Peoria

We, the undersigned citizens and voters of Peoria, formally request that the following referendum be placed on the ballot for the upcoming election in March of 2012:

Shall the citizens and voters of the City of Peoria have the option to consider dividing our city council districts into 10 council districts, each with their own councilperson and no at-large councilpersons, thus eliminating cumulative voting as it currently exists while keeping a City Manager form of government?


There you go, the head of a petition to copy to as many signature lines as you need, and as many copies as you need to make. In the heading of each line, you will need to put a place for Printed Name, Address, Phone Number, and Signature. If enough signatures and petitions are presented to the council, they have no choice but to act in favor of the petition.

Here is an opportunity for the citizens of Peoria to act responsibly and let the city council know not only are we dissatisfied with their current decision, but we are dissatisfied as well with their lack of responsibility in managing the city of Peoria.

I want to acknowledge the help and advice of Mr. Don Cummings in preparing the wording of the petition, as well as the indirect consultation of Randall Ray and Chuck Weaver.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Affirmative Action is Alive and Well and Living in Peoria

Affirmative action was the result of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964, and enacted into law by President Lyndon Johnson. On September 24th, 1965, he enacted Executive Order 11246 which stated that all government contractors would take “affirmative action” toward the consideration of minority employees. In 1967, the order was amended to include discrimination by gender.

Up until 1997, the Affirmative Action policies were considered the “law of the land”. Less qualified candidates gained admission to colleges, were placed in jobs where better suited candidates were available, were promoted over their more senior co workers, and in general caused the nation to recede in its ability to move forward. Since many candidates for both employment and higher education were clearly unqualified, the claim was made that the tests and requirements for those circumstances were themselves “discriminatory”, based on the quality of an individual's education and social status. This resulted in standards being lowered so that minority candidates could participate.

Affirmative action did more to solidify and establish racism than any prior attempt to equalize the opportunities for all Americans. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 1,002 registered “hate” organizations in the United States, and these are only those organizations who openly admit to their beliefs.

Today, Affirmative Action is alive and well in the City of Peoria. It is called cumulative voting, and it is a front invented to assure people of color that there is some equity provided by allowing voters to cast multiple votes for a single candidate in the “at-large” elections. In fact, according to an article appearing in the Journal Star on November 13th, only one candidate of color has been elected to an “at-large” council seat since the inception of cumulative voting in 1991.

While this councilman, W. Eric Turner, may have been elected based on that system, his subsequent reelection has been the result of his obvious hard work and political abilities, not cumulative voting. The other candidate who benefits from cumulative voting is Gary Sandberg, often described as a thorn in the mayor's side.

Tuesday, the city council heard arguments concerning redistricting. Since I was not able to attend, I am relying here on the minutes of the council meeting, available to anyone at the Peoria City website.

Had the city council chosen to ask voters to move to a 10 district council in order to both relieve the representative burden now borne by 5 districts, the question would be moot. Mayor Ardis, Riggenbach, Spain, and Gulley voted for the 10 district plan. Akeson, Weaver, Irving, Spears, Turner, and Van Auken voted against the plan. Significantly, Sandberg was once again absent.

Had the city council chosen to ask voters to move to an 8 district council with 2 At-Large members without cumulative voting, the question would be moot. Mayor Ardis, Riggenbach, and Van Auken voted to support such a measure. The remainder of the council did not.

The end result of these two actions? We continue to have 5 districts which will be reapportioned to fit within the requirements of representation, and we will continue electing 5 At-Large representatives with cumulative voting. And cumulative voting is Affirmative Action.

According to the representatives who spoke at the meeting, the cumulative voting does not accomplish what it was intended to accomplish. So are we then saying we will accept the insanity of our current system and hope for different results?

The argument of dividing the city into 10 smaller districts had the most merit in my opinion, since this would allow smaller segments of the population to elect representation from their own districts. And at least 3 of those districts would have been areas where minorities are the predominant residents. Now that may or may not make a difference, since the number of minority voters in Peoria elections continues to be low. But since the candidates from a primarily minority area are likely to be minorities themselves, at least the voters who did participate would have the opportunity of being represented by a member of their community.

Even the 8 district plan would have to include at least 3 areas where minority population was larger. And while this would not solve the problem of participation, the above argument holds true. Since residency in your district is a requirement, 3 out of 8 members would be representatives of minority areas. And 4 out of 10 is twice as good as 2 out of 10. (I am assuming that of the two At-Large representatives, Councilman Turner would keep his job. Hoping, actually.)

But this all so many words and not enough action. Since the purpose of all this discussion is to determine how to better serve the citizens of Peoria, why not throw all this effort into educating people about the importance of participation? Why not let people know that, regardless of your race, religion, ethnicity, or social status, you DO make a difference in our community?

We have spent several generations trying to achieve “Equality” in this nation, and have come up instead with a plan that denigrates the inherent ability of every human being to rise above their circumstance and achieve true independence. We have raised generations of people to believe they cannot survive without government assistance, they have no opportunity beyond their poverty, and there is no real help aside from handouts and empty promises. We have created our own underclass, and we insist on allowing them to flourish and grow.

True equality is when you stop thinking of yourself as a victim and start trying to make your life better. Poverty is not a racial condition, nor is despair. The current economic setbacks have affected everyone in this nation with the exception of the very wealthy, the “1%” the Occupy protestors are complaining about. The rest of us, regardless of color or faith or gender, are in the same boat. We are the 99%, and we are all worried, and rightfully so, about the future of the nation, of this state, and of the City of Peoria.

Continuing to follow the same path like lambs to the slaughter is an unacceptable solution to the problem. The city council needs to choose a proposition that allows for more equity and less pandering to the Powers That Be. The citizens of the city of Peoria need to let their representatives know, by email, letters, and phone calls, that this current decision is unacceptable. We need to change the way we elect our representatives. We need to educate our citizens. We need to change.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Budget Hearing, Plaudits, and Assorted Proclamations

Another regular session of the council tonight and the business agenda seems pretty ordinary. But appearances can be deceiving.

Let me back up a little bit. I left work about 5 til 6 tonight, turned on the radio and caught the beginning of Outside the Horseshoe on WCBU. An interesting discussion on the current system of electing At-Large Council members. Supposedly set up to include more minority candidates and opportunities for African Americans to serve on the council. Not that I disagree with that concept, in principal. But did I miss something, or did the rest of you? Didn't we settle all this around 1965 or so? Personally, I would like to see people elected on the merits of their qualifications, not on the basis of their color. You know this slippery slope everyone likes to point to? Well, here we are attempting to slant the odds in favor of one group or another, at the expense of sound leadership. And we wonder why we have corrupt or incompetent leaders. Oh well, back to the Council.

I arrived about 6:20, the council is already reciting the pledge of allegiance. Standing room only in the chambers, due to the large number of proclamation recipients. I'm standing in the hall outside the rear door to the chamber having walked the four flights of stairs due to an inoperative elevator [Reminder to self to get back in shape]. The Salvation Army is the first group to be recognized on their 125th Anniversary. They clear the room, and I manage to get in to grab a chair. Next Proclamation, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Jim Magee speaks briefly and passionately about the devastation of lung cancer in Peoria county. Seems we lead the state in cases, even greater in number than Cook County. The disease has no respect for race, religion, or age, apparently, but Mr. Magee does leave us with a message of hope, saying the treatments and prevention measures are working.

John Sharp is at the Press Table. No sign of Billy or C.J.

Next is the proclamation for Community Foundation Week, and Mayor Ardis introduces Mark Roberts, the founder, CEO, President, and apparently chief cook and bottle washer of the Peoria Community Fund, a not-for-profit foundation that supplies support for other not-for-profit organizations. He speaks to the $8,000,000 in local funds provided to various organizations in 2011, praises contributors for their help, and asks they keep giving to help others.

Last Proclamation is the 2011 Citizens Academy Graduation. 37 people are recognized, about 32 of them in attendance in blue polo shirts with the Citizens Academy logo on the chest. Steve Fairbanks and Jenny Fulton preside, and the Mayor gets a photo op.

The room clears as the council prepares to get down to business. Now an interesting side note, apparently these last folks attended the Citizens Leadership Academy to be more involved in their community, yet when the opportunity to participate as citizens and offer comments about the actions the council are about to take, they leave. Hmmmmm. In the words of the King of Siam, "'Tis a Puzzlement."

Minutes for the previous two meetings are approved, and on to the first item of business - the Public Hearing regarding the 2012 City of Peoria Budget. Mayor Ardis invites members of the community to address the council regarding the proposed budget.

Speaker #1 is Lorraine Bryson, a member of the Tri-County Urban League speaking on behalf of Social Service Agencies. There are many people in the chambers wearing a cut out of a child on their chests, apparently supporters there to represent their agencies. Bryson is concerned that the proposed budget will reallocate CDGB funds to Public Safety efforts instead of these agencies. She speaks passionately as to the services being provided by these agencies, services that include aide for low income families and abused children, elderly, and homeless people. Basically she is arguing, convincingly, that their actions are preventative in nature, and help to reduce the need for enforcement. She believes that the reduction in funds will have long terms effects on the community. She also notes that a reduction in funds from the City will also affect the various agencies ability to receive grants, particularly those who require matching funds. Lorraine concludes by stating the 2010 funds have been used to support more than 1,500 children, provide after school programs for children at risk, provided for at least 1,000 special needs children, and have even been used to help first offenders to rejoin the community and leave the criminal lifestyle.

Speaker #2 is Roberta Parks, a representative of the Peoria Chamber of Commerce, who praises the City Council on making the tough cuts that need to be made in order to keep the city strong. Now, if I give a less than accurate account, you have to know that this woman talks at the speed of a locomotive and apparently loves to hear the sound of her own voice. She provides a list of reasons they like the budget, which include the reorganizing of staff structure, the consolidation of departments [the word synergy is used], staff layoffs, reduction of services due to a floundering economy [not her words, but essentially what she said], early retirement of 200 or so employees, shared services [county and city], outsourcing of some services, reinvestment in infrastructure, no significant tax increases, and pension reforms.

Last, but certainly not least, is Savino Sierra, our often ignored and somewhat maligned citizen observer. He objects to the cuts in the budget, saying that not only will it result in a loss of leadership and services, but also in morale in the city. He says he has more to say, and will continue to attend meetings to speak to his concerns. God bless Savino Sierra.

The room clears again as the consent agenda is read aloud. Items A, B, C, E, F, H, I, K, and N are approved without comment unanimously. Item G is pulled from the agenda by Beth Akeson, Items D, L, and M are pulled by Sandberg.

Item D pertains to amending the budget for 2011 to authorize the payment of $109,986.00 to the Springdale Cemetery Management Authority. Gary begins to speak and loudly announces the people he wanted to hear what he had to say were leaving the chamber (Lorraine Bryson and her constituents) and asked them to stay to hear this motion. Gary begins by reviewing the history, well known to most of us, of the Springdale Cemetery fiasco that has led to an increasing budget deficit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since the City of Peoria entered into an agreement with the County and the Peoria Park District to maintain and manage the facility, the deficit grows annually. The 2010 deficit was $359,000.00. Sandberg is making the case that because of this obligation, the money to support other programs is not there. Councilman Spears points out that while we own the cemetery, we apparently have little or no control over the budget. He wonders if the council can put a cap on the spending. City Manager Urich we may submit a request to the managing board to request a reduction in budget. Spears answers and says that means NO, we cannot control their spending. Urich admits that the managing board has an open checkbook to administrate the cemetery. Spears points out it will never pay for itself. Urich says, Valid point. I could continue to give you a blow by blow, but the end result is Ardis jumps in and establishes that cemeteries are by their nature a losing proposition, that many volunteers are participating in the maintenance and restoration of Springdale, and there are a lot of issues that are not being considered. Motion is called and passed unanimously.

Item G is an ordinance to vacate Iowa Street from Grant Street in order to further the use of that area to the expansion of the Komatsu company (not stated that way, but the proposal is to further the commercial goals of Komatsu, which is in keeping with the Peoria mandate to provide jobs). Beth Akeson asks that Mr. Ordaz is allowed to speak. He is representing both the Detweiller Marina Association and the Averyville Township Association. His main objection is not to the action itself, but that this was proposed and about to be passed without so much as a by your leave to either of these groups, both of which will be affected by the ordinance and subsequent development. He feels the management of Komatsu and the City should meet with these groups and other affected groups to gather impact on activities or provisions for Quid Pro Quo concessions to the community in the form of bike paths, parks, etc. There is a long discussion concerning the motion, Beth and her supporters are asking for a deferral of four weeks to give all parties a chance to determine the impact. Weaver and others are concerned that the delay might have a negative effect on the business. Mayor Ardis assures him it will not. Gulley does not see the reason for delay and does not think the delay will alter the outcome. He asks the council to vote against the delay. Akeson again asks for support for the delay. Ardis calls the question, the delay is granted with Gulley being the only NO vote.

Items L & M are pertaining to the Police and Firemen's Pension Board Reports. Sandberg has pulled these two items because he believes we are not getting enough return on the investments being made with these funds, and feels we should reevaluate our strategy there. After a lot of meaningless discussion, the decision is made not to change anything, despite Sandberg's concerns. Both motions pass unanimously.

Okay, so here is where I get to make a few comments about the proceedings. As to the budget, I believe Ms. Bryson made some valid points about supporting programs that are preventative in nature. I am certain that the police would agree if they were to give it some thought. If these agencies can care for abuse victims and keep them from perpetuating the chain of abuse, they are worth their weight in gold. I think the city needs to weigh their options carefully. God knows we do need some additional public safety presence in the area, but how about we explore the funds being used by other agencies to see if they can be trimmed. Regardless of what the Chamber of Commerce thinks. Frankly, I am not sure why Ms. Parks even spoke. She had no input other that to tell the council what a great job they did in eliminating jobs, reducing pensions, and reducing public services while allowing other non-essential projects to move forward. And Savino Sierra is absolutely correct. A large reduction in services, the elimination of jobs, and the cutting back of pensions will have a negative effect on morale in this city. Such a reduction will lead to more problems, not fewer problems, and cause additional problems for an already over tasked police force.

As to the other events, I'll let you figure them out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Occupy notes

Sort of strange that some people are willing to argue the opportunities are still there. Occupy is challenging the way people think, but so many people are so afraid of the alternative. Talked to a fellow salesman who thinks the Occupy movement is just a fad, that they are a bunch of malcontents looking for a hand out.

Maybe they are. Maybe they have been taught to expect one. After all, the welfare system is a hand out, not an incentive to grow personally or professionally. We have generations (generations?) of people raised in the welfare system, so many generations there are some who cannot envision life without welfare. They have lived in government supplied housing, eaten government supplied food, have their lights and gas and water and trash paid with government monies. And when they attempt to get away from the Welfare system, they are immediately taxed or fined or placed in a position where their attempt is chastized or punished.

Strange, isn't it? We scream and yell and object to welfare, and yet we perpetuate it.

A History of Slavery
once they used chains
and distance
or occupation
troops assigned to guard the enslaved
or isolation
reservations to keep them in line
but over the years
they learned
to use pockets
and possessions
and hid the slavery
in a miasma
of obligation
and patriotism
and freedom
Slavery is alive and well
and practiced openly
within the guise of freedom
fredericksmith

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A few random thoughts about Occupy

So the people of the nation are finally sick and tired of the lack of government action for the people. Hmmmm. Nothing new, really, if you think about it. In the 60's we had sit-ins to protest all sorts of things on college campuses and other places. The anti-abortion folks have staged sit-ins at various clinics over the years. Usually, after the first day or so, the police get involved and the people causing the disruption of businesses or services are usually hauled away in paddy wagons and booked on misdemeanor charges. Sometimes it gets out of hand and the police overreact, and the people overreact, and someone gets hurt.

But here is where it gets interesting. These people are not going away. Why? Because most of them have no where to go! These are the huddled masses, but now they are huddled on the streets and in the public parks and in your face for the world to see. Many of them cannot get work, cannot get help, cannot get adequate medical treatment or health care. Most of them are like most of us. Scared.

And that is the long and the short of it. We are all scared. What will happen next? Our President, hell, our entire legislative and executive branch, is doing nothing to remedy the problem. All that HOPE was an empty promise that has failed to bring us any closer to a solution. I'm not blaming the Dems or the Reps for the current problems. The Dems just happen to be in charge at the moment, and we are an election away from changing that. But one thing is certain. The Status Quo must go.

We are the 99%, the disenfranchised, the abandoned, the citizens who were promised the American Dream. We are the voters, the taxpayers, the parents, the children, the soldiers and sailors and marines and guardians who were told we were fighting to preserve a way of life that is no longer accessible to us. We are the 99% who have no hope of ever achieving the prosperity our parents achieved. We have grown up in a world promising justice and prosperity and hope, and have only apathy and poverty and despair.

We are the 99%. We are the reason the 1% have the wealth and power. Our blood and sweat and labors have created it. And our anger and discontent can take it away. Look around you. Your police and firefighters and emergency personnel are the 99%. Your soldiers and sailors and marines and guardsmen are the 99%. Your average citizens are the 99%. Your factory workers, your government employees, your teachers, your administrators are the 99%. If we choose to stop what we are doing, the 1 % will have NOTHING!

Just a few random thoughts. Take them as you will. But if you take them seriously and are one of the 99%, I can tell you how to get the attention of the world. For a single day, STOP! Bring the money machine to an immediate and screeching halt.

Like I said, just a few random thoughts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back to the Council Chambers

Live blogging is not my thing, so I apologize to the readers who have to wait for me to compose my thoughts. I like to take notes and think about what was actually said before writing about it, which is why I blog instead of report.

I got in to the chambers tonight just as they were finishing the Pledge of Allegiance, then took a seat toward the rear of the chamber. All the old faces were there, including John Sharp and Billy Dennis, and surprisingly no Gary Sandberg. Hmmm. At first I thought he might be slouched back in his chair, but when I realized we had gone at least 15 minutes and he hadn't voiced an opinion, I knew he was absent.

So this session was devoted to the budget decisions surrounding the new and improved Marriott project. Mayor Ardis opened the meeting by letting the City Manager Urich present a summary of the current financials. On it's face, the plan looks sound, and it looks like Urich did a great job of carefully planning the finances to allow the city to get a square deal. According to one of his statements, the developer, Matthews, has deferred his fee until the property starts to see a profit. He has also, according to Urich, promised to guarantee the city's investment personally. So does this mean the developer will create an escrow account for $29 million dollars? Hmmm. Would love to see it, wouldn't you?

Anyway, there were a few interesting points made. Part of the plan involves using funds from the Southtown TIF transferred to the Downtown TIF at some point in the project, which Barbara Van Auken was quick to question until the City Manager assured her it was legal. At the end of the summary, Mayor Ardis opened the floor for public comment.

Mr. Matthews, the developer, came up the podium and praised the board for their wisdom and fortitude and support of the project, and pledged his devotion to creating a perfect addition to the city. Next, a Mr. J. Baumgartner from Caterpillar came up to praise the council for their decision to Build the Block and to create a hotel where their international guests would feel they could have a 4 star experience. [guess they are tired of sending their global visitors across the river as well]. I had to throw my two cents in and reminded them that, even if they build the hotel, they need to make sure there are reasons for people to stay in it. I urged them to hold SMG accountable for the lack of events being staged in our Civic Center, for the loss of events that used to bring the revenue and the visitors to Peoria. Finally, Bob Marx of the Peoria Convention and Visitor Bureau got up and gave more praise to the council concerning their pursuit of this project.

On to Item #1 of the agenda, the "Approval of the Design Concepts for the Amended and Restated Redevelopment Agreement by and among the City of Peoria and EM Properties, Ltd. and Pere Marquette Hotel, LLC, and Pere Marquette TIF, Inc." Ryan Spain opened the discussion by questioning the choice of materials being used by the contractors especially on the first floor, the floor adjacent to pedestrian traffic. Now, he was using phrases like how pedestrians would interact with the materials, but the gist of it was his concern about damage and graffiti, and frankly, that is a legitimate concern. Many of the Man Made materials used in cheap construction today are unattractive, to say the least, but some other concerns exist as well. Beth Akeson also voiced her concerns with a show and tell of Brick versus artificial brick, or limestone versus Styrofoam coated with a sprayed on dry concrete material. Her legitimate concern was that the materials used would not stand up to the weather and wear of time. Councilman Gully remarked that while he would prefer Brick and Limestone over lesser materials, the cost of such a project would well exceed the budgeted amounts. Mayor Ardis asked for further comments, and hearing none, called for a vote. The motion passed with Weaver and Akeson voting no.

Item #2 was the ordinance approving the overall project. This means the rehabilitation of the Pere Marquette to a full service Marriott hotel, the construction of a Marriott Courtyard, the construction of a parking deck, and the construction of an elevated connector to the Peoria Civic Center. Councilperson Akeson voiced her concerns that the proposed cost of the projects did not seem sufficient to cover all these items, particularly since the cost of the 466 space parking deck and the cost of the elevated (all weather) connector to the Civic Center would exceed the $6.34 million dollars allotted for them. She cited an unnamed source who advised her the elevated connector would cost between $8,000.00 and $10,000.00 a foot to build. She also restated her concern about the city's ability to govern the way in which the construction was done, and that there was no real scrutiny of the plans, the methods, or even the qualifications of the contractors doing the work. There were some additional comments, Gulley going off topic about the $7 million dollar portion of the loan, Riggenbach praising Urich for getting a higher rate of return on the reinvestment of the city's Post Employment Benefits Obligation Funds (currently drawing 0.6%, under the reinvestment of these funds in the project, they would draw 7%....hey, you don't have to be a banker to see that one, Tim), and Irving taking Urich to task to cover all the bases for the council and the chamber in detail. I have to commend Dan Irving for doing that, although it was certainly a dog and pony show for the constituency, he let all of us know that Urich has his ducks in a row. Mayor Ardis once again called for the vote, and once again it passed with Weaver and Akeson voting no.

Items 3, 4, and 5 (a&b) passed in the same way with very little comment.

So now we come to the blog portion of this little post. I have to say that I am still a bit leery of the whole idea. Yes, it would be nice to have a 4 star facility in Peoria to accommodate Caterpillar's "Global Visitors", and yes, such a facility could be an asset to drawing convention business to the area. But what is going to attract them to Peoria in the first place? The Civic Center has been a losing proposition for many years, and the recent additions to the facility aren't helping to pay for it. We have this great venue for sports events, theater events, and exceptional facilities for expos and lifestyle shows, but we lack the events to fill it. Year after year, we lose business to the cities who acted to get their business rolling, and may I remind you there is no Marriott in Bloomington. Granted there are scores of loyal Bradley Basketball fans, Riverman Fans, and some die hard Peoria Opera and Symphony fans who will attend events in the theater and the arena, but they just aren't enough to justify the expense. Spectacor Management Corporation was hired by the city to fill that facility with events to create revenue and they aren't doing their job, Worse still, we are losing events and sports to Bloomington that ought to be here. Perhaps the city should be in the business of creating revenue, instead of building empires.

Monday, October 31, 2011

US wrong on the denial of a Palestinian State

This has got to be the perfect example of the US backing the wrong horse....again!

The Palestinians have endured enough, and we need to recognize they are not going away anytime in the near future. Palestine has a right to exist, and we need to help them find a way to make that happen.

The US has a long record of backing the wrong people when the decisions are crucial. Our foreign policy supports one side against another in a bid for what is right for us, not what is right for them. There are many examples. The Shah of Iran was a blaring mistake that cost us dearly. Our failure to maintain and help the people of Afghanistan to build a viable government has resulted in a terrorist state that has cost the lives of thousand of American soldiers. Our continued failure to recognize the nation of Cuba as a legitimate state perpetuates poverty and isolation in that nation. And of course, our failure to help Ho Chi Min in his bid for a separate and independent Vietnam cost hundreds of thousand of American lives, not to mention the lives of so many other soldiers of other nations, including Vietnam. This is a reprehensible pattern of disregard for the growth of humanity.

Terrorists are not satanic worshipers who are hell bent on the destruction of the human race for their own means. They are fueled by a legitimate hatred of our policies that lead to the desolation and decimation of their cultures and beliefs. Terrorists are not the result of some deep rooted DNA flaw, but of our own flagrant disregard for their rights to independent existence. Who creates these terrorists? We do.

The Occupy movement has taken root around the world. Why? Because the "99%" are tired of the way the "1%" are handling things. And the "99%" are not going away, any more than the Palestinians. We need to elect leaders who are true leaders, men and women who will work to find a common solution to these problems, not merely go with what the "1%" want to do. We need to purge the White House, the Senate, the Congress and any other legislative body of the incumbents who seek to lead without our approval. We need to take charge of our own destiny, and let the people of the United States and the world choose their destiny instead of having it chosen for them. We need to act, and we need to act with our votes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The World is Changing

There's only one question. Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? You really don't want to be on the wrong side this time. And you DO have to choose. Think about it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome

Okay, this is not a local topic...or is it?

How many veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are now in Central Illinois? Quite a few, according to the articles in the Peoria Journal Star and other local sources.

Now, it seems interesting to me that, while there are many sites dedicated to the topic of Depleted Uranium and its possible effects on returning veterans, let alone the rather gruesome sites relating to birth defects in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, there is no actual US Government agency that will acknowledge the possibility of DU as the source of "Gulf War Syndrome". When querying the Veterans Administration on their website, you are directed to a crisis hotline and told that there has been more than $213 million dollars spent in researching the cause of this debilitating and sometimes fatal disease.

You can take a lot of time researching the topic. I've spent about 24 actual hours in front of the computer at various sites trying to make sense of the information, and I can tell you there are a lot of opinions out there. But one thing is blatantly clear: it appears the US Government will be taking the same stance with "Gulf War Syndrome" as they did with Agent Orange. It is much easier to simply let the veterans affected die of the disease than to spend the time and money it does not have to correct the problem. That in itself is abhorrent, but the real problem of denying the possible effects of DU on our troops is much more so.

You see, many of the veterans who served in these areas are on their 2nd or 3rd tour. So not only have they been exposed to DU in the form of airborne particles that have infiltrated their bodies, but they will be further exposed to DU a 2nd and 3rd time in the course of their service, without proper warning or information. Of course, the government insists that there is insufficient evidence that DU exposure could cause these effects, or be responsible for the massive genetic damage being experienced as birth defects in the Middle East. But according to a 2008 study, there are grounds for considering DU as deadly as any weapon ever used.

"Now two researchers have a new theory that they say explains how depleted uranium could cause genetic damage. Chris Busby of the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science (IPNSS) in Braunschweig, Germany, and the University of Ulster, UK, and Ewald Schnug, director of the IPNSS, claim that uranium atoms in the body could act as "radiation antennas". They argue that uranium atoms could be capturing photons of background gamma radiation and then re-emitting their energy as fast-moving electrons that act on the surrounding tissue in the same way as beta radiation. This "phantom radiation" could be over 1000 times more damaging than the alpha particles released by depleted uranium's slow nuclear decay, according to their preliminary calculations.

Their theory invokes a well-known process called the photoelectric effect. This is the main mechanism by which gamma photons with energies of about 100 kiloelectronvolts (keV) or less are blocked by matter: the photon transfers its energy to an electron in the atom's electron cloud, which is ejected into the surroundings.

An atom's ability to stop photons by this mechanism depends on the fourth power of its atomic number - the number of protons in its nucleus - so heavy elements are far better at intercepting gamma radiation and X-rays than light elements. This means that uranium could be especially effective at capturing photons and kicking out damaging photoelectrons: with an atomic number of 92, uranium blocks low-energy gamma photons over 450 times as effectively as the lighter element calcium, for instance.

Busby and Schnug say that previous risk models have ignored this well-established physical effect. They claim that depleted uranium could be kicking out photoelectrons in the body's most vulnerable spots. Various studies have shown that dissolved uranium - ingested in food or water, for example - is liable to attach to DNA strands within cells, because uranium binds strongly to DNA phosphate. "Photoelectrons from uranium are therefore likely to be emitted precisely where they will cause most damage to genetic material," says Busby." Here is the source for this information.

So, to my understanding, there is a distinct possibility that the ingested or inhaled DU particles can act to amplify and intensify the natural radiation we all absorb every day. If this is so, the effects of this intensified radiation would be catastrophic to the human body, causing intense pain, disruption of normal body functions, corruption of organs, and cancer.

It is clear from my research to date that A The Government is going to do little or nothing until the Congress is forced to act to correct the problem, and B That is not going to happen without massive and repeated outcry from Citizens like yourself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Solyndra the perfect example of why Government should not be involved in private enterprise.

This one goes under the category of gross stupidity. So the current administration in Washington okays half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds to set up as company they KNEW was doomed from the get go. I'm certain a few head will role in the Department of Energy after all the political dust has cleared, but the problem is the philosophy that got us here. The United States Government, or any government (Like Peoria, hint hint hint) has no business getting involved in the funding of any private industry. Period. Not solar panel companies, not hotels, not restaurants, not even museums that are partially sponsored by private corporations to tout their product. Not even if that product is an important part of our economy. Not even if that business is a major supporter of local charities. The consider that to be good corporate citizenship. They see that as public relations. The only business government should be involved in is regulation and administration. That is their purpose. Not to become empire builders, but to encourage others to invest in the City or Country by providing a level playing field for all to profit. If the Obama Administration knew the Chinese would enter the market and flood it with cheap knock off solar panels, they had two obvious choices to make. #1) Tell the Solyundra folks to build cheaper panels or not to try. #2) Level the playing field by raising tariffs on imported goods to make the importers costs near to ours. This is a massive failing of the US policy concerning trade in general. Many of our import laws allowed cheap goods to flood our nation after the second world war in order to help the conquered nations to rebuild their economy. When you allow cheap imports to flood your market, you force the American companies to cut costs in order to compete. Now that may sound like a great thing, but you have to realize where management cuts first....jobs. They don't want to cheapen the quality of their product, so they decide they can be competitive by reducing their work force, thereby maintaining profits to their investors while continuing to produce their product at a slower scale. Next, of course, comes the reduction of quality. This occurs when they realize that by cutting the work force, they have reduced their ability to produce a quality product on the same scale as before they reduced the work force. It is a slippery slope that leads to the current economic situation. Heads will role, fingers will point, and the end result is that the American taxpayer will suffer again. Sort of like this debacle with the Marriott Hotel people. Unless this project is immediately halted and handed back to the investors, the end result will be the same. Taxpayers will get screwed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On the Civic Center

Yes, I know, I've been off the radar for a while. Been busy trying to make the car thing work, but that is a topic for another blog. Lately there has a been a bit of a ruckus about the Civic Center and its propensity to lose money. As if this were something new. Hardly. CJ Summers did a rather extensive article last May in the Peoria Chronicle detailing the losses of the Civic Center, so there is no need to repeat it here. But the problem is not the Civic Center. How could it be, it's just a building. The problem is management and a lack of impetus to perform. The problem is SMG, Spectacor Management Group, a company founded in 1977 that manages many venues throughout the country, but can't seem to make the multimillion dollar Civic Center here in Peoria work. Could it be that this massive organization can afford to blow off the local needs as long as they continue to get their annual fees from our city fathers? Or could it be that they actually expect us to attend the events that are provided so that we can all contribute to the local economy and perhaps (God Forbid) make a profit? One thing for certain, the Civic Center expansion was ill timed. Embassy Suites in East Peoria, US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, and other competing venues seem to be attracting more and more of the money that was intended to come to Peoria. Why? Are they any closer to an airport than we are? No, we have an airport. Are they any easier to get to than we are? No, the 155 bypass made it as easy to get to Peoria as Bloomington from the south. So that leads me to believe that the problem is that SMG is not willing to adjust their rates to attract the acts we need to fill that arena, theater, and convention center with the events and performances that would attract those dollars to Peoria. One of the biggest draws for any arena in the area is Reba McIntire, who will be performing again this year in Bloomington. And there are many other concerts and events coming to Bloomington that should be in Peoria, IF SMG was willing to get competitive and go after them. Since the City Council has decided that we just can't afford to throw $37 million into a project that will apparently not do what we need it to, how about they keep the ball rolling and decide we can no longer afford to have SMG in charge of the Civic Center if it fails to fill it with attractions that will bring money to the economy?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Well, it has been a while,

And there are several reasons I have not posted. Mostly because my work has been occupying most of my time as late. Some other things have occurred in my personal life that have required my attention, but suffice it to say that they are private matters that are in the past now.

I'll be adding some comments later, but I do want to get one comment out. I have officially resigned from the campaign for Matt Woodmancy for Congress. Matt and I have come to an impasse in the campaign and in strategy that, after several weeks, we are unable to resolve. I still wish Matt every success and believe he will make a good candidate, but am unable to support the current direction he wishes to take his campaign.

More later.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflections on the Race Case that wasn't...and the aftermath...

At times I have been corrected on my occasional rantings by other bloggers, so it comes as no surprise to anyone that I have decided to publish my own comments on the events as I see them, or rather, as I have seen and thought about them.

Last week, Paul Wilkinson, in my opinion, seriously damaged his credibility by filing what can only be deemed a false report of black youths "terrorizing" the neighborhood at West Thrush and Sheridan. From all reports, his claim was so exaggerated that it bears little resemblance to the facts reported by the other neighbors. The sad fact of the matter is that C. J. Summers, usually a very careful journalist, was sucked into his fantasy (nightmare?) and repeated the story, which was then rocketed across the nation in the infamous Drudge Report. While the reporting was untrue and unsubstantiated, it did accomplish several things.

First, it brought a plethora of attention to an otherwise local blog that now stands to make substantial funds from advertising dollars, should C. J. choose to pursue it (and in this economy, who wouldn't?). Second, it took everyone's attention off of several national issues, such as Medicare, the Economy, and some of President Obama's more lucid statements (as well as a few not so lucid statements). Last, it set race relations back a few months...or years.

Opinion writing is just that. Opinions. When I write this blog about council meetings or other events, I try to be accurate about what has gone on before I start spouting my personal opinion. I believe that to be responsible. If I misquote or miss a fact, I say so and apologize, so as not to unfairly criticize or be just downright rude.

But I have never crossed the "Sky is falling" line. Chicken Little will never be my sole source for any information I present here.

Too bad others don't feel the same way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm back...and so is the council.....

First the good news....Tonight the city council of Peoria honored a group of students who will represent our fair city in Germany later this year. The group, a percussion group called Pulses of Hope, a branch of the ELITE Program, is one more offshoot of the well known youth advocate, Carl Cannon. Carl's many contributions to our community could only be described as impressive, and it is with great respect and pride that I can say I know the man, and admire his enthusiasm and passion for the children of our community. We are a better place for his efforts, and we are truly blessed to have him. Well done to the young men and women of Pulses of Hope, and well done, Mr. Cannon.

And now, the bad news. Once again bureaucracy wins out over common sense and fiscal responsibility.

In the form of Item G on the consent agenda, the awarding of the Exclusive Contract to Barracks and Chefs Catering for catering services to the great Peoria Money pit known as the Gateway Building. Surprisingly, it was Councilperson Van Auken who moved to remove this from the consent agenda and objected to the awarding of only two services, saying the original plan was to have four services instead. Guess one of her campaign contributors didn't get the bid. Anyway, the ensuing discussion brought out some interesting points, with Sandberg interjecting that the Gateway building was, indeed, a money pit that has failed to show a profit. He insisted that this latest move was simply doing the same thing and expecting different results (the definition of insanity). Gary favors an open bid process, which was also supported by Gulley, and Beth Akeson suggested that the building simply be rented to groups who would then provide or arrange for their own catering. There were several other suggestions, but when it came down to it, the measure passed with only one nay vote, Sandberg. Even the fiscal conservative Akeson went along with the ludicrous proposal, although the word Exclusive was removed from the proposal, leaving the door open for other caterers to get the contract as well. Frankly, Beth, I would have had more respect for you if you had stuck to your suggestion and voted no with Sandberg.

The remainder of the items went fairly smooth until item 8 came up, the improvement of West Ridge Road with ornamental street lamps. Four of the residents were granted time on the microphone (Tom Stafford, Cathy Kiley, Kevin Sibley, and a fourth speaker, I did not catch their name), and all four were opposed to the idea on the grounds of financial hardship (the city will assess the property owners for a portion of the improvements). A petition was cited which was circulated 4 years ago for the approval of this project, and it was pointed out that many of those residents no longer live in that area or on that street. Apparently 64 signatures were on that petition, and there has been a 60% turnover in the residents of the area since that time. There has to be some sort of obligation being met somewhere, since Councilman Riggenbach, in his fair and unbiased manner, pointed out that he had received 17 calls in favor of the motion and only 3 opposed. Interesting that, when the floor was given to the public, none of those in favor were there to speak. Long story short, the motion passed, with only Gulley objecting. You heard me, Gulley, not Sandberg. Had to be some heavy politicking somewhere.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. Barbara Van Auken wins the "WTF" award tonight for her support of the ludicrous idea to make the section of Loucks Avenue that runs from Sheridan to McClure a two way street to "enhance business accessibility". Really? Barbara, there aren't any businesses between Sheridan and McClure on Loucks. The neighborhood on those blocks are all residential. Furthermore, if you did turn the street two way, when you reached the end of Loucks, you would have to turn right. There are no provisions for creating a left turn lane onto McClure, so you would be turning back into the same area you were attempting to leave. I have absolutely no idea why anyone in their right mind would even think of such an idea. I travel that route daily, since I live off McClure on the East Bluff, and can tell you for a fact that this would do nothing to improve traffic, enhance business, or do anything else that might look like an improvement. One more way to waste taxpayer dollars, I guess.

Noticed also that Councilman Weaver ended up abstaining on several issues due to owning property in the affected areas. Chuck, is there any area of town where you don't own property?

Had to leave at 8 pm, so I didn't catch the rest of the show. I'll check C.J.'s remarks to see what I missed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Service at the Gateway Building


There was a sizable crowd gathered this morning at the Gateway Building on the riverfront to take part in the annual Memorial Day Program. Dr. Vroman and the Peoria Municipal Band gave us an excellent selection of music to set the mood, and Lee Wenger honored us with a few selections as well. The crowd was made up of all ages and services, from honored World War II and Korea and Vietnam Veterans to those of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other peacekeeping actions. Men and women, husbands and wives and families, all gathered on a beautiful spring day to honor the memory of those who have given their lives in defense of this nation.

No one was forgotten in the ceremony. From the memorial for those who died in the Civil War, to the veterans of World Wars I & II, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the others, including the War on Terrorism, the speakers made plain the fact that, while they were veterans, that they were here not to receive the accolades they so richly deserve for their service, but to honor the memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

Bugler Ronald Allgaier opened the official ceremonies with Assembly, a song heard many times in our lives by those who served. Rev. Curtis Rowden of the EP Community Church of God gave us our invocation. Robert Derrick, the President of the Peoria Memorial Association, welcomed the crowd, and then turned the ceremony over to Dr. Vroman and the Band to help honor the men and women in the audience who served. The patriotic arrangement included all five service songs (hope you didn't forget the Coast Guard) and members of the audience were asked to stand when their branch song was played. Needless to say, there were a lot of people standing, saluting, and applauding the veterans who stood.

A particularly sober moment came when Maria Kieser, a student from Brimfield High School, presented her essay, "Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility to Preserve It." This essay, sponsored by the Peoria chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, was uplifting and should put to rest the sometimes expressed sentiment that the next generation has no idea what the principles of this nation are. Her words drew a grand round of applause from the audience, and their effect was plain on the faces of the crowd.

The Gold Star Mothers, Daughters, and Sisters were introduced next, followed by other veterans on the dais, including Mayor Jim Ardis, Councilman Dan Irving and Councilman Eric Turner, and of course, the guest speaker, Lt. Col. Jon Bateman, US Army Reserve. Col. Bateman's speech was filled with references to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and again brought a somber and prideful feeling to the audience.

Next came the presentations of the wreaths, one wreath for each conflict or war where Americans have lost their lives.


As you can see on the right side of the photo, a total of eight wreaths were laid. Incidentally, the young men and women of the Pimetoui chapter of the US Navy Sea Cadets performed their duties with precision and honor. Their demeanor and obvious pride in serving was an inspiration to all Peorians.


Next the Peoria Band and Lee Wenger invited the audience to join in a rousing version of "God Bless America", and the American Legion Post #2 Rifle Squad, led by Sgt. Richard D. Hazen, fired the traditional 21 gun salute. The ceremony was concluded by the somber tones of Taps presented by Mr. Allgaier.

I guess there are times when opinions are expected in a blog, but this isn't one of them. I will simply say that today I am reminded once again of why I am proud to have served, proud of the men and women I have served with, and proud to be an American.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy on Civil Unions

Thirty-four years ago, a man named Harvey Milk was elected to serve the people of San Francisco. Thirty-three years ago, he was assassinated along with the Mayor of San Francisco. He was not assassinated for his politics, nor for his fervor, or even because he was about to pass some outrageous law.He was assassinated for being gay.
 
His final campaign manager wrote this about him “"What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us." Sadly, when he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet the torch he cared for all of us fell with him. I stand before you today, and I have imagined that same just and righteous world, I have picked up our fallen leaders torch, and I am setting out to make Harvey Milk’s dream a reality for all of us.
 
On January 31st, Governor Quinn signed a bill into law, which made civil unions possible. This month, while testifying before Congress, representatives of the United States Navy said the Navy will allow same-sex couples to wed in ceremonies on its bases officiated by Navy chaplains after the "Don’t ask don’t tell" policy is officially repealed, in spite of the “Defense of Marriage Act.
 
These are truly historic decisions, these were brave decisions made by brave men and women who acted in the best interests of all Americans, I am waiting for the United States Congress to act that way, and I am waiting for the President of the United States to act that way.
 
We cannot accept this bill as a total victory. We cannot accept anything short of equal rights, if we do; we deny ourselves the right to be acknowledged as full equals in the eyes of the law, the community, the military, the nation and indeed the world. The infamous Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books. The language is clear and offensive to all Americans who envision a nation where all citizens are truly free.
 
We cannot accept a society where one group of people is forced to live outside the boundaries of that society. We cannot accept a society that will not acknowledge the right of people to love who they choose, and to receive all the benefits accorded the same unions between heterosexual couples. We cannot accept this bill, as monumental as it is, as the end of the war for equality for all people, all citizens of the United States of America.
 
President Obama has stated he will not fund the Defense of Marriage Act, nor will he support any law that openly discriminates against any American. I say that is not enough. I say the Defense of Marriage Act must be repealed, that the government of the United States must stand for freedom of all Americans.
 
I say we must stand up and be counted, and let our government know it is time to end the prejudice and hate. In order for that to happen, we need a voice that will be heard on the Floor for of the House in the United Sates Congress, a voice that will not falter, a voice that will speak loudly and clearly in demanding the rights of all Americans be upheld."
 
As your representative in the United States Congress, my goal will be to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and to create legislation that prevents any state from inhibiting the rights of its citizens to love who we will, to live, as we will fully secure in the knowledge that we are free from harm and bias.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Civil Union Forum at the North Branch of the Peoria Library

You have got to hand it to the City of Peoria. When they do something right, they do it well. The new library is absolutely beautiful inside, and was a perfect place to hold the Civil Union Forum. About 60 people gathered to be informed on the legal and procedural impact of the law that will take effect on June 1st.

The event was hosted by the Peoria branch of the ACLU and President C. Paul Miller acted as emcee. Upon opening the event, he quickly acknowledged Matthew A. Woodmancy as a member of the audience, letting the attendees know that Matt is a candidate for the Democratic Congressional nomination for the 18th District here in Illinois. He then introduced the speakers for the evening, Karen Sheley, a staff counsel from the Chicago ACLU, Jacob Meister, the Founder and President of the Civil Rights Agenda, an advocacy group in the Chicago area for LGBT rights, and Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker.

Ms. Sheley spoke first, detailing the activities leading up to the historic legislation and speaking of the ACLU's 40 year history of defending the rights of the LGBT community. The gist of her talk was her continued advocacy for the right of LGBT persons to marry. Civil Unions, she pointed out, are a great leap forward in recognizing the rights of Gay and Lesbian partners to enjoy domestic protection under Illinois Law in areas of spousal privilege, tax benefits, and property rights, but can be challenged at the Federal level. The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, is the ultimate goal of the ACLU, so that Federal statutes will include all forms of marriage under their protection.

Mr. Jacob Meister, who also bears the distinction of being the first openly gay man to run for the United States Senate, spoke next. He addressed some of the legal ramifications of the new law and the protection it now affords Civil Union partners. Under the new law, joint tax returns may be filed for the state, as well as rights of inheritance protections. Also, the new law will provide statutory relief for persons who wish to end their civil union (divorce), and afford both members legal entitlements and protections as well. He briefly covered a wide range of topics, and also added his voice to that of Ms. Sheley's in stating the repeal of D.O.M.A. is the ultimate goal of his organization.

Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker assured members of the audience that his staff was prepared to handle the influx of persons seeking to obtain a civil union. His mood was cheerful and at times jovial, and he praised his staff for taking the time to be prepared for this new duty. He pointed out that the Civil Union law made no provision for any variance of age (persons can be married with parental permission as early as age 16, whereas civil unions can only be granted to persons 18 and older), and that he would withhold any announcement of civil union application at the request of the applicants. Otherwise, he stated, the application process will be very similar to the application for a marriage certificate.

A question and answer session followed where all three speakers took various questions from the audience. After the formal session was over, participants stayed and made themselves available for individual questions.

Also present at the event were Elaine Hopkins, author of Peoria Story, and Father Scott West of St. Luke's Church.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Springfield Pride Event

At noon today in Springfield, Matthew A. Woodmancy was among the many political and PRIDE volunteers present when the ribbon was cut on the first Springfield PRIDE event! Coinciding with the infamous assassination of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco Councilman who was assassinated for being GAY, The event marked the first of its kind in Springfield. Many LGBT activists and supporters were present, as well as many folks who wandered down from the Art Festival surrounding the Old Capitol Building. Held on Capital Street between 5th and 6th street, just two blocks south of Aaron Schock's office, the event marked the celebration of the world that Harvey Milk envisioned, and the continued battle to make that world a reality.
While Governor Quinn signed into law a bill permitting Civil Unions in the State of Illinois on January 31st, it is only a pacification that does not reach the full level of equality sought by the LGBT community. Until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, until LGBT couples and singles are afforded equal rights with all other people, we are not truly a free nation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy on Social Security

Saving Social Security


Social Security has been called the third rail of American Politics: if you touch it, you die.

That is exactly the kind of thinking that has led to Social Security reform falling not only between the cracks, but has so endangered the program that experts are telling us by as early as 2020, the program will no longer be able to sustain the millions of Americans who will be depending on it to survive.

The streak of not talking about Social Security ends now. We have a real problem in this country and now is the time for real solutions. Taxpayers pay 6.2% in Social Security taxes while their employers pay a matching amount. Self-employed workers pay it all themselves. But it caps at 12.4% and nobody pays any Social Security tax at all on any income over $108,600 a year. That means individuals pay a maximum of $6,733.20 and their employer pays the same amount. Once again the Republicans are protecting their power base of wealthy donors while leaving 98% of Americans out in the cold.

If we were to raise the tax on Social Security 2.2% and split that increase equally between taxpayer and employer, we would ensure that Social Security is there for the next 61 years. In 1998, a general tax increase of 2.2 percent was planned out to aid in social security, but in 2011 it still has yet to happen. The idea of a 2.2% solution is simple, but short-term, at best. With the current funds, Social Security can exist until 2032, and with the 2.2% it could last until 2072. So that isn’t the only step that needs to be taken.

A CEO, a major sports figure, or actually anyone making more than $108,600.00 a year gets a free ride on all income above that level. If that CEO makes $6 million dollars in a year, his Social Security contribution has been paid in the first week. The rest of their income is not taxed for Social Security. The average American will always be paying Social Security tax on 100% of their income while the richest among us will never pay more. Somehow they think their obligation to their employees ends at the failed pension plans and diminishing health plans that now permeate our society and threaten to destroy our economy. They are wrong.

America is a land of opportunity, a land where everyone deserves to receive a living income when they have reached the age where they can no longer work. I am not talking about a free ride for the poor or the rich, but a level playing field where the wealthy can still enjoy the fruits of their labor while allowing the average Americans to live out their lives in comfort, not poverty.

If we level the playing field and make everyone pay the same 6.2%, no matter of how much they make, we can save Social Security. Employer contributions would cap at 6.2% of $200,000.00, and the remaining income above $200,000.00 would be paid fully by the employee. In this way, we shift the burden of Social Security on all Americans, preserve the ability of employers to create jobs and pay decent living wages, and protect our senior citizens from poverty.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Leave it to the General to get involved with the right cause again.

You know, its a little discouraging for us to have a person in this town who always tries to do the right thing and is ignored for all his hard work. Yes, I am talking about General Parker, the man who has recently been an advocate for Father's Rights and is now fighting to let Banks know that constant foreclosures are part of the problem that is ruining our economy.

JP MORGAN PROTEST - Read all about it

General Parker is ignored because, once upon a time when he was a stupid kid (weren't we all) he did something really stupid (didn't we all) and got caught. Now that is the important part to remember, because not all of us got caught. But we all did stupid things.

You know, a lot of us go to church and like to pray about redemption. As a matter of fact, redemption is the major theme of Christianity. Without Christ, we cannot be redeemed, and yet with Christ, everyone is redeemed. But not, it appears, in the eyes of his brothers here on Earth.

General Parker is out there standing up for causes. Perhaps it is time we looked past the stupid part, and started paying attention to the righteous part. Seems to me, judging by his actions lately, we are missing the opportunity to learn a lot about redemption and the direction it can take a man.

Go get 'em, General.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Latest on the Steven Watkins Bill

UPDATE


It seems the Journal Star and local television doesn't want to report all the news.
Follow these links to see what is going on in Springfield with the Steven Watkins bill.

St. Louis Today

WAND TV Springfield



DEMONSTRATION FOR HOUSE BILL 1604 AT ILLINOIS STATE CAPITAL




Illinois Fathers Rally Against Child Visitation Interference



Location: Illinois State Capital Building, Springfield, Illinois


Release Date: May 8, 2011


SPRINGFIELD,IL, MAY 10, 2011/---IllinoisFathers.org, a non-custodial parents rights organization, along with the Alliance for Domestically Abused Men (ADAM International) and several other organizations plan to make their message heard on May 10th, 2011, at the "Third Annual Fatherless Day Rally" at the Illinois State Capitol Building in Springfield. More than three hundred bikers interested in family law reform are also expected to roar into Springfield for the rally.

The demonstration is designed to call attention to...and garner support for House Bill 1604. HB 1604 seeks to give children greater access to both parents after divorce or separation. HB 1604, known as the Steven Watkins Memorial Bill, in honor of Steven Watkins who was murdered at the home of his ex-wife's grandmother while trying to exercise his court-ordered visitation rights. The bill has strong bi-partisan support in the Illinois House and will be voted on in the Illinois Senate.

Rally Coordinator and Illinoisfathers.org spokesperson, General Parker says, "consistently, in our Illinois family law courts, children are unjustly separated from good parents for no good reason."

The rally is scheduled to start at 9:00 AM.

Visit www.illinoisfathers.org for more information.

Friday, May 6, 2011

East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Incorporated

In the Peoria City Ordinance No. 11,939 established on April 18, 1989, the Peoria City Council set forth a Special Services Area for the East Bluff of Peoria to add a special tax to the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Incorporated for the specific purpose of providing neighborhood services which "are in addition to those governmental services generally provided by the City of Peoria throughout said City." (paragraph f). Paragraph (g) goes on to state "That the Special Service District will provide the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services a portion of the resources required to continue their efforts to maintain the character and stability of this neighborhood." Paragraph (h) is where we now find a great disparity between what was and what is the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.
(h) That the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. has a proven track record in providing neighborhood services, including:
I) providing low interest loans (1/2% to 9%) through the administration of a $300,000 dollar revolving loan fund [The EBNHS, Inc. has provided no such loans to any East Bluff Residents in the last 3 years]
II) neighborhood paint-up program which provided paint for 215 homes in the East Bluff [no such program exists at this time]
III) Neighborhood landscaping efforts [no such efforts exist at this time]
IV) encouragement of home ownership through one half million dollars in low interest mortgages secured through IHDA [Again, to my knowledge, no such program is in existence, nor does the EBNHS, Inc. intend to conduct such services]
V) extended code enforcement efforts through an advocacy role with existing city code enforcement efforts [again, no such effort exists]
VI) neighborhood planning, through liaison with the city departments and committees [you guessed it, does not exist]

So if the EBNHS,Inc. is not providing any of these services, what exactly are they doing?

They are collecting tax dollars from the citizens of the East Bluff to purchase housing in the East Bluff (they own four units, including the house on Wisconsin used as their office/headquarters) for the stated purpose of "rehab for resale", but since the city has declared the East Bluff a "blighted" area, coupled with the increased crime and vandalism rate, the value of these properties has made it impossible to sell them, so the EBNHS, Inc., a Not For Profit Corporation, is now in the business of renting property.

According to their original articles of incorporation, filed March 5, 1986, the EBNHS,Inc. is to have no paid officers, members, or Directors (paragraph 4.b). Yet the proposed 2011 budget allows for a Salaries of $38,563.20 with a Fringe allowance of 12% for an additional $4,627.79, which comes to a total of $43,191.00. Seeing as there is only one Executive Director, in the person of Peggy Shadid-Joseph, I am assuming she is the recipient of that salary. Now since she also resides in the building owned by the EBNHS,Inc. on Wisconsin Avenue, I'd say the perks are going pretty good for a person who is apparently unable to fulfill her duties. The Website is not up to date, the paperwork is not filed correctly, and in some cases not at all, and her hours of operation apparently are at her discretion.

Since the City of Peoria has seen fit to designate our area as "Blighted", thus causing our property values to plummet, and since the City has also chosen to add an additional tax to our area through the designation of a TIF area, I'd say the EBNHS,Inc. is a superfluous entity that no longer needs to be in business, and certainly no longer needs to be funded by the citizens of the East Bluff. The stated purpose of the TIF is to rebuild the East Bluff through grants and low interest loans to the residents to improve their properties, and also to improve the local business and infrastructure through additional funds raised in the TIF. To continue to utilize the Special Service District to duplicate the efforts of the TIF is ludicrous.

Update on the Steven Watkins Bill

'Steven Watkins' HB 1604 DISSOLUTION-VISITATION ABUSE

This Bill needs to be STOPPED immediately, before it goes any further.
If anyone is willing, I suggest that "WE" organize the group and request a "HEARING" by May 23rd or at the lastest, the 1st week of June (before they go out on recess June 30, 2011) with the main sponsors of this Bill.
I have a very good relationship with serveral of the Bill Sponsors and would NOT have a problem getting them to set up a hearing for us, and/or allow us to testify during the House Judiciary-Civil Law Committee Hearings in Springfield.
Also, I can solicit the help of those who oppose this Bill (SOS Office contact), the ICADV and some other groups for help to expose this attack on Parents that are already under severe assualt by the "Family Courts."
They need to hear from our side at the level that counts.....the people who make up these damaging laws, without the proper information.
I will be free next week after........Monday, May 9, 2011 to work on this, if this is something the group would like to do. Let me know asap!
Toni


Steven Watkins' Bill passed by Illinois House Committee
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x407383137/Steven-Watkins-bill-passed-by-Illinois-House-committee

By ANDY BROWNFIELD
Posted Mar 02, 2011 @ 11:00 PM
Last update Mar 03, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

The “Steven Watkins Bill,” which would toughen the penalties for divorced parents, who violate visitation agreements, passed an Illinois House Committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 1604 would allow judges to jail scofflaw parents, increase fines against them and revoke their professional and drivers’ licenses.
It stems from the murder of Steven Watkins, who was slain when he went to pick up his daughter, Sidney for a court-ordered visit in Ashland.
Shirley Skinner, the grandmother of Jennifer Watkins, was convicted of killing Steven Watkins.
Watkins’ estranged wife, Jennifer, has since resisted efforts, including a court order, to allow Sidney to visit Steven Watkins’ parents.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for Jennifer Watkins’ arrest, although her whereabouts is unknown.
Proponents of the bill, including Steven Watkins’ mother Penny, said the measure is necessary to ensure noncustodial parents are granted their court-ordered visitation rights.
“He (Steven) had several times ran up against opposition from the mother of the child,” Penny Watkins testified before the House Judiciary-Civil Law Committee.
“She (Sidney) was sick, she didn’t feel good, she had wet her pants – several different excuses. Steven would go to the local police. … (They said), ‘We’ll go with you, but if the mother refuses to give you the child, that’s all we can do.’”
Supporters said the measure would bring visitation interference penalties in line with those for child support violations.
A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office opposed enforcing visitation orders by revoking drivers’ licenses.
The bill “would set a precedent to expanding our office to becoming an arm of the court to enforce any type of civil ruling.” said Nathan Maddox, inspector general with the Secretary of State.
Jim Covington, representing the Illinois State Bar Association, agreed.
“Visitation abuse is already a crime under our statutes,” Covington said.
Another group opposes the bill for a different reason.
“What happens more often than not is that battered women in particular get charged with and accused of visitation abuse when they’re really trying to protect their child,” said Vickie Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“We fully understand all of the dynamics in the Watkins case …, but we don’t think criminalizing visitation is the answer.”
Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217)-782-3095.


****************************************************************************

Seems that Ms. Smith would have us believe these cases are about protecting children from abusive parents. Now that is interesting, seeing as we are talking about cases that have already been adjudicated. In other words, we are talking about protecting the rights of the non-custodial parent after the divorce case has been heard. After the time for claims of spousal or child abuse to have been made. If the non-custodial parent was an abuser, it would have been brought up at trial and the abusive parent would have more than likely either been denied custody, visitation, or the visitation would have been ordered as supervised. The claim that this bill would protect abusive parents is ludicrous.
This bill would, if passed into law, make it a crime to knowingly interfere with the rights of a non-custodial parent to see his or her children.
The last time I looked, it takes very little for a Driver's License to be suspended. And unless the police are specifically targeting the individual, it is easy to drive on a suspended license. Just obey the law and don't give the officers a reason to stop you, and you can drive a car without a license. (I am not suggesting anyone do that, I am just pointing out that most police officers have much better things to do with their time than stop cars for no reason to check for a suspended license or lapsed insurance.)
We all know that most marriage dissolution's are not amicable. People get married for passion, and are usually divorced in the same manner. There are many cases where the custodial parent (usually, but not always, the mother) is so incensed and vengeful that the non-custodial parent is vilified to their child, and is prevented from seeing the parent. The child is fed a line of bull, told the non-custodial parent does not want or love them, and grows up with feelings of abandonment and resentment and self-loathing that will stunt their emotional and psychological growth. Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Aunts and Uncles, almost everyone runs to the cause, since the child is their blood. Basically, this becomes a "Hatfields and McCoys" syndrome that will often result in violence of some sort being perpetrated against one of the exes or the child.
The Steven Watkins bill does not seek to protect abusive parents or spouses. What it is about is protecting the rights of a non-custodial parent to continue to parent their child.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matthew A. Woodmancy



We live in a dream, an ideal, and a promise that declares that we are all the same, that even the poorest among us can become respected and rich. That no matter our background, our belief systems or family values or the God we pray to, we are united as one. The United States is the Promised Land for all of the Human Race. Should we allow our political differences to divide this great nation once again? Should we turn our backs on the sacrifice of those who died to ensure that our light of Liberty will brighten this small planet and banish the darkness of inequality and fear?
This nation is an experiment that has shone as the brightest beacon of hope for all mankind for two hundred and thirty four years. It is our duty to protect every American in every corner of this county to ensure that they have the ability to achieve the American dream that we all strive for. We are a diverse collection of back grounds, of languages, of Religions and states but we are one country, we stand together to face those that wish us harm.
It is our duty to bring the light into the darkness, to make the wrongs we see into rights. We can never falter in the most sacred trust, of being the guardians of the memories of those that came before us who died giving what President Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion. We, as Americans, are living examples of what a true greatness is.
The journey begun by Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, that was saved by Lincoln, that was made better and safer by Roosevelt and Kennedy, is the same journey we continue on today. We must ensure that when we pass the torch to the next generation, it is burning brighter than when it was passed to us. Giving equal rights to everyone, leveling the playing field for our children, changing how the criminal justice system handles drugs, making it easier for those that wish to enter this county legally to do so and ensuring that those who attempt to defraud our systems of trust are only the first of many steps that must be taken.
The tasks that lie before us are not impossible; they can be overcome by strength of will, by setting aside political and ideological differences. 18 years ago a new President proclaimed “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” Those words are still true today. We have made great strides since then; we must continue to change this great nation into the realization of the dream handed down to us by our founders, to keep it worthy of those lives that have been lost defending it.

Matthew A. Woodmancy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Peoria Inauguration

Well, not quite as auspicious as all that, perhaps, but for the 200 or so people who crowded into the council chambers to bid adieu to outbound members Montelongo and Jacobs, to congratulate the returning incumbents, Turner, Spain, and Sandberg, and to welcome the newest members, Weaver and Akeson, it must have felt like the podium was smack dab in the middle of D.C. From the moment I walked in, you could tell the air was charged with anticipation. Several occasional visitors to the council chambers we present for the ceremony, and while I will invariably forget to mention someone, I will mention "Mitch" Mitchell, president of the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association, Don Cummings, a resident of the East Bluff and prominent member of American Legion Post #2, as well as many friends and family of the newly elected council members. I sat with several of the East Bluff ladies, and noticed our old friend Savino Sierra was there as well.
The council convened and the business was handled in quick order. City Counsel Ray verified that all incoming council members were eligible to be seated, and this was verified by the City Treasurer. The consent agenda was quickly passed, and Savino was given the opportunity to speak, and did so eloquently and briefly, congratulating the winners, and making a special comment about how happy he was to see Councilman Jacobs recovering.
There was no executive session, and Mayor Ardis quickly moved on to the presentation of thanks and praises to the outgoing members, Montelongo and Jacobs. Montelongo received his parting gift from the council without remarks, and since Jacobs was unable to get to the podium, his son George Jr. accepted his gift for him. Upon the conclusion of Mayor Ardis' remarks concerning Councilman Jacobs' service, he received a standing ovation, the first of several to come.
Next, after a proclamation by Mayor Ardis for both Montelongo and Jacobs, Montelongo gave a speech, a humble and gracious speech, extolling the honor of service and his pleasure to serve the community. Standing ovation again.
Next the 6th grade son of Jacobs, Jake, read a speech prepared by his father, and you could see the pride and humility in Jacobs' eyes as the young boy eloquently and passionately delivered his father's words. Standing ovation.
Next the members of the council, in turn, beginning with W. Eric Turner and working clockwise around the horseshoe, gave their words of thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs, with the exception of Barbara Van Auken, who declined to speak for fear of becoming too emotional. After all had spoken, Mayor Ardis tendered his comments with passion for the service of these fine individuals. Having closed his comments, the meeting was adjourned.
While the room was reorganized, several people exited the chamber to tender their personal thanks to both Montelongo and Jacobs. I stepped out for a moment and greeted Chuck Weaver and several others, asked John Sharp how his shorthand was going (he also was armed with pad and pen for the event...there are a few of us old timers around), and headed back in to get my seat for the ceremonies.
Mary Haynes, the longest incumbent City Clerk in Peoria, presided over the swearing in. Her words were kind, soft, and enthralling. She spoke with sober tones to the At Large Council Members who were about to be sworn in, telling them that while they had been elected, the seats did not belong to them. They belong to the citizens of Peoria, and they are there to serve those people, and not themselves. The new Council Members were sworn in individually, in alphabetical order, and then seated around the horseshoe. Mayor Ardis convened the council, and asked that all stand while Pastor Cal from the Northwoods Church delivered an invocation. A special session convened and each member of the council was given the opportunity to welcome the returning members and the new officials to the horseshoe. At the close of those remarks, both Beth Akeson and Chuck Weaver gave short prepared speeches thanking the many people who helped them win their seats. Pastor Cal closed with a benediction and the meeting was adjourned.
In the hallway, treats and punch were served, people milled about and congratulated the council members. Smiles and handshakes all around. And people went off to their respective parties or homes.
Just another night in Peoria. But maybe a new beginning. I hope so, I know we could use one.

What will you choose?

I'm not much for blind faith. It took me a more than a year of reading scripture and contemplation to finally take the plunge (no pun intended) and be baptized as a Christian. I tend to look into things and not take them at face value. But when I find the value, I tend to support things adamantly, and persistently.

This does not mean I am always right. I have been wrong in the past, and will make mistakes in the future. But I have come to accept that as part of the Human Condition, a failing of our shared mortality. We, as a species, want to be right. And when we are wrong, we can do one of two things. We can admit the wrong and try to make it right, or we can go forward from that moment in the hopes we will eventually be right.

Tonight, we will install the elected At-Large Members of the City Council. We have elected them as our leaders, and we are now committed to hearing their voices and watching their actions, at least for another 4 years. We have elected two new members, in hopes their voices will be the voices of the people they represent, the voices of the people of Peoria.

Let us pray they are guided with wisdom, patience, and fortitude.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Moment of Hope. For all of us...



I could have picked "We are the World" or "The Times They Are A Changing", but my foolish, romantic heart wouldn't let me. I am still waiting for the day that has been promised every day since the the founders of this great nation set down the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The future begins today, if you allow it to. The inimitable Tom Peters once said, "Change can occur in a heartbeat, you need only make the decision to change. Maintaining that change takes a lifetime of commitment."
And where does the change occur? Within me.

God bless you, and God Bless America.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Children need both parents.....

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had met with General Parker, a well known youth advocate here in Peoria. His website, Illinois Fathers, is promoting the passage of HB 1604, the Steven Watkins Bill, to protect the rights of children and non-custodial fathers in the state of Illinois.

Despite the awakening in our society of the equality of parents when it comes to raising children, in matters of divorce the courts almost always award custody of the children to the mother. In some cases, this means the parents of the mother, the grandparents of the mother, and even aunts and uncles are able to place pressure on the mother to make it difficult or near impossible for the father to spend time with the children. It doesn't matter if the father is a positive role model and a hard working man who just wants to let his children know he loves them. The mother's family can usually manipulate the mother to make life impossible for the father.

Does this happen in every divorce? Thankfully, no. But it shouldn't happen in any divorce. Children need to know both parents love them, even if the parents no longer love one another. Despite their differences, parents should not seek to interfere with one another when it comes to their children, and should allow the children to be exposed to the positive father figure in their life.

I am going to include two documents with this article, and invite you all to write your Illinois congressmen and Senators to support this bill. The decision is yours, but this is an important piece of legislation that will not burden our court system, and may in fact prevent other problems from occurring.

3rd Annual Fatherless Day - May 10th, 2011


Regardless of your political or religious views, occupation, race or sex, we all can agree that children need both parents NOW more than ever.

EACH and EVERY DAY in our Illinois family law courts, children in the Land of Lincoln are unjustly separated from their good parents for no good reason. BUT together we can save our children from this dark situation by standing shoulder to shoulder at our State Capitol Building in Springfield on May 10th, 2011.

Join IllinoisFathers.org on May 10th, for our 3rd Annual Fatherless Day in Springfield where mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers and sisters will rally to celebrate parenthood and to support House Bill 1604. HB 1604 (the Steven Watkins Memorial Bill) seeks to give children greater access to BOTH of their parents after divorce or separation. HB 1604 has strong bipartisan support in the Illinois House and is on the verge of being voted on in the Illinois Senate.

If you are someone who is suffering from little to no contact with your children or if you believe that children need both parents, join us on May 10th in Springfield.

Bikers…contact www.illinoisfathers.org to get your patch and attend the rally with the many other bikers riding in on the Capitol. Bikers, meet at Hall's Harley Davidson at 2301 N. Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, IL at 9:00 a.m.

If you need help with transportation, or to donate transportation, please go to our website at www.illinoisfathers.org and contact our statewide transportation coordinator, Juan Carlos.

Together we can make a difference for ALL Illinois children.



Fatherless Day – Steven Watkins Rally 2011



Bikers meet @ Hall’s Harley Davidson
2301 N. Dirksen Pkwy.
Springfield, IL 62702

Bikers from around the state of Illinois will gather at Hall’s Harley Davidson at 9:00 a.m. We will then leave at 9:30 and ride together to the state Capitol Building located at 2nd and Capitol Streets.

With one biker, Steven Watkins, losing his life for visiting his daughter, it’s time for Family Law reform.

“IT’S NOW OR NEVER”
Keynote Speaker: Penny Watkins
Guest Speakers include: Rep Constance “Connie” Howard
Rep. Al Riley
Sen. John Mulroe
Sen. Mattie Hunter

For more info: http://www.illinoisfathers.org
or Contact Mr. Parker @ (309) 696-7930
general.parker@illinoisfathers.org


Sponsored by Illinois Fathers and the Justice for Steven Campaign

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guest Editorial - Matt Woodmancy on the Labor Memorial Ceremony

Yesterday, Frederick Smith and I took part in the Workers memorial. It was a somber, but hopeful event, honoring those who died while working at their jobs. It was also the 40th anniversary of the founding of OHSA, which has worked diligently to reduce the deaths of American workers due to unsafe conditions in the work place.

As we continue the struggle to make the United States the Promised Land envisioned by our founders, we cannot forget those who died while working to make America what she is today, and what she is to become.

The event was about the workers in America’s work force today as much as it was about the living. It is our duty to ensure that every work place is as safe as possible and that corporate greed does not get in the way of the value of human life. As the son of a mother who worked for nearly 20 years in a Peoria and Washington plastics factory, I heard first hand stories about dangers that America’s workers face. When the workers at that plastics factory wanted to unionize the owner threatened to shut the plant down.

Unions, despite what the Republicans and Tea Party advocates would have us believe, are needed to ensure that safety comes first, and all other concerns are secondary. Fred and I stood with members of many different unions, local Democrat party officials, and other citizens to pay our respects to those that lost their lives making the country we live in today possible. The almighty dollar is worthless compared to the life of a single American worker.

Matthew Woodmancy

Memorials and Meetings

I had the distinct pleasure to participate in the Labor Memorial March yesterday along with Matt Woodmancy. We gathered behind the Labor Temple (that big white building on the right side of the bridge as you're coming in on 74 from the East Peoria) around 4:30, milled around and talked with a few of the folks, and took in the atmosphere.
Around 5 pm, we joined in behind the single fire truck and marched to the sound of a lone bagpipe as the procession began. The streets were mostly empty, and what traffic there was held at bay by a lone police officer who moved ahead to the next intersection each time we needed him. We proceeded down Jefferson and turned right at Fulton, arriving at the Labor Memorial adjacent to the Police and Firefighter memorial near the courthouse.
Mike Everett, the President of the Labor Council, presided, introducing the speakers. I'd give you all the names, but frankly, this event was not about them. It was about remembering the thousands of workers who have died on the job. Each speaker had something to add, and in respectful and solemn silence, the mostly blue collar crowd stood reverently as they heard the names of fallen workers and fallen soldiers from the state of Illinois over the past year read aloud. At the end of the ceremony, the lone piper played Amazing Grace as members of the crowd were invited to place red carnations at the base of the memorial.
**********************************
We wandered over to the Pere Marquette and sat down with General Parker for a cup of coffee and some insight into Peoria politics. If you're never met General Parker, you've missed one of the most pleasant conversations you might have in Peoria, although I understand from the General there are several people in Peoria who might disagree. The former Mayoral candidate and youth advocate talked with Matt and I for about an hour, sharing his knowledge and experience concerning the political climate in Peoria. I walked away from that meeting with some great insights, as well as some information about the General's latest effort. On May 10th at 8:00 am in Springfield, his organization (Illinois Fathers) will sponsor Fatherless Day, and event in support of the Steven Watkins Bill (HB 1604) to protect the rights of non-custodial parents. You can find out more about this noble cause at IllinoisFathers.org. Like his many efforts before this, the General is advocating the preservation of the family for the welfare of the children. And somehow, Kevin Lyons thought this man would be unfit to serve on the School Board for District 150.