Lions 2015-16
 

Elburn Herald | Sugar Grove Herald

 
Trillium Sept2015
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From the Editor’s Desk - page 8

Editorial: A change in leadership; an affirmation of our foundational principles

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Anytime there is a change in leadership inside an organization, questions soon follow: How will the organization’s culture change? Will the group’s core philosophy evolve? Will the group continue to care about the same things they cared about before?

We at the Elburn Herald are entering into just such a transition—as of this edition, the new Elburn Herald Editor is Keith Beebe—and we can assure you that not only will the core mission, vision and values of the paper remain the same, Keith will add his talents and enthusiasm to ensure that the Elburn Herald will add even more to its community-service focus.

Keith is a textbook example of someone “working their way up from the bottom.” He began his tenure here as an unpaid intern in 2008, and we brought him on in a paid capacity the first moment we were able to do so. He immediately demonstrated that “special something” that cannot be taught; that care for the community and a desire to both pursue journalism in the right way and to constantly improve.

Over and over, Keith demonstrated his focus on constant improvement, and in doing so, inspired each of us to improve as well.

His natural leadership ability quickly moved him from freelance reporter to staff reporter, and then to Assistant Editor.

Keith had not even had the opportunity to fully settle into his new leadership role when he found himself in a situation in which he had to take on even more responsibilities. When former editor and current owner/publisher Ryan Wells went on a month-long medical leave in late May, Keith embraced the challenge of managing a newsroom while navigating the transition into his then-new role.

He juggled the responsibilities of being acting Editor so well during that time that it only makes sense that he continue in the role officially.

We are excited to give Keith this opportunity, simply because he has earned it.

And while it is understandable that the questions referenced above may exist, we know that they will be answered quickly in each and every issue, if they haven’t been already: The Elburn Herald’s philosophy of serving the Kaneland community through the pursuit of seeking and reporting the truth about the community and its members will only be strengthened by this change. The core philosophy of holding firm to the ideals of journalism—of being straightforward and honest, never sensationalizing a situation for a short-term boost in readership, never allowing the news product to take a side in a situation—will continue as always. And finally, the group, under Keith’s leadership, will always care more about serving the Kaneland communities than any other media outlet that exists.

The Elburn Herald has served the area for more than 100 years, and each owner, publisher and editor has ensured that everything they do serves that foundational set of principles. Going back to day one, in April 1908, each leader in the organization has acted as a steward of this set of mission, vision and values, and has passed that foundation along to each future set of leaders.

Keith has inherently understood those principles from his first day here as an unpaid intern, and he is focused on ensuring that the foundation continues to strengthen in the future.

Guest Editorial: Warmer weather equals more calls to the Poison Center

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The Illinois Poison Center is a non-profit health service that provides the people of Illinois with comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances via a free, confidential 24-hour hotline staffed by specially trained doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

Illinois—While there are many year-round hazards that result in calls to the Illinois Poison Center, the summer presents a unique array of potential exposure opportunities as people spend more time outdoors. During the summer season, calls to the Illinois Poison Center traditionally increase up to twenty percent.

“There are many factors that can explain this increase in calls: warmer temperatures, summer vacations, and families spending more time outside,” says Dr. Michael Wahl, Medical Director of the Illinois Poison Center. “It is important that individuals are extremely diligent during this time of year to ensure they remain safe and free from poison exposures.”

As the temperature outside continues to rise, it is critical that families are aware of the potential hazards the summer may bring. According to the experts at the Illinois Poison Center, there are five substances that elicit an increase in calls during this season:

Sunscreen: Most sunscreen exposures occur when a child accidentally swallows the substance or licks their hands after it’s been applied. Although sunscreen is minimally toxic, only adults should apply sunscreen to children. Be sure to keep containers sealed and out of the reach and sight of children.

Insect Repellents: A common type of insect repellent is DEET. It comes in various formulations: aerosol sprays, pump sprays, sticks, creams and lotions. When used properly, DEET products are safe and effective in preventing bug bites. However, there are case reports of serious toxicity including vomiting, fever, coma and seizures following chronic over-application or large acute ingestions of DEET products.

Pool Chemicals: The most common pool chemicals involved in accidental poisoning are those that contain chlorine. Chlorine fumes are a significant respiratory irritant. Always take caution when using these chemicals: open and use them in a well-ventilated area, wear eye and skin protection, and never sniff a chemical to see how potent it is or mix chemicals unless specifically directed by product labels.

Plants: Most leaves or berries (indoor and outdoor) are not significantly toxic if ingested. However, there are a few plants that can pose a serious risk if eaten by small children. Examples include: Yew berries (irregular heart rhythms, seizures), Foxglove or lily of the valley (irregular heart rhythms, slowing of the heart), and Pokeweed (vomiting, diarrhea, headache).

Bites and Stings: Most insect or spider bites result in minor local effects, but some (such as black widow and brown recluse spiders) can cause potentially serious injuries. Non-venomous snakebites are a nuisance, but venomous snake bites (such as massasauga and copperhead) can cause serious symptoms and often require hospital admission and an anti-venom treatment.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance (i.e. medication, household cleaners, beauty/automotive products, etc.), call the Illinois Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Experts are available 24 hours a day. For more information visit www.illinoispoisoncenter.org
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Editorial: Time for the Kaneland municipalities to get on the same page

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The Kaneland School Board and the Elburn Village Board last week completed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that governs the collection of land/cash and capital impact payments that will be paid to the School District as new development enters the village.

This is a vital step toward securing a known amount of incoming fees to help offset the cost of new development to the school prior to the potential passage of the Elburn Station development in Elburn. Absent an IGA, potential existed for land/cash and capital impact payments to be on the negotiating table as part of the final negotiations for the development that would significantly add to the size of the village.

With the fee schedule now in place and agreed to by both the Elburn Village Board and the Kaneland School Board, the fees are pre-determined, and also provide a measure of stability for both parties.

The stability exists because any future developers—as well as future board members—will know in advance what the fee schedule will be, eliminating it as a negotiating point and creating a “race to the bottom” as developers try to negotiate with multiple municipalities in an attempt to find the best deal. For the existing fee schedule to decrease, the Kaneland School Board would first have to enter into an IGA with another municipality that contains the lower fees, and then, in a separate action, approve of a revised IGA with Elburn.

In other words, Kaneland would have to agree to any fee schedule lower than the one currently in place, which gives the School District a say in the negotiations for future development. Absent an IGA, Kaneland had no official voice and could merely suggest to municipalities a fee structure that the district had no authority to put in place.

Prior to Jan. 1, 2012, Kaneland had a joint IGA with all of the municipalities inside the School District, but it fell apart when Sugar Grove declined to extend it.

Hopefully, the IGA signed by Elburn and Kaneland will lead the other Kaneland municipalities to also sign on, as well. We believe that creating a situation in which school impact fees are equal throughout the Kaneland School District is vital, because scenarios in which the Kaneland municipalities use school impact fees as a bargaining tool will merely harm all existing and future residents. It will simply create a race to the bottom, risking creating a scenario in which the financial challenges faced by the School District will continue well past the existing economic slump.

We urge each of the Kaneland municipalities to consider joining the existing IGA as soon as possible.

Guest Editorial: SG police responds to rumonrs of child abduction attempt

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by Investigator John Sizer,
Sugar Grove Police Department

Numerous emails are being circulated around the village and to the media regarding multiple child abduction attempts that are factually incorrect.

The Sugar Grove Police Department has not said there was a fourth attempt of child abduction.

The Sugar Grove Police are investigating three reports that are, as of this time, being classified as suspicious persons or vehicles. There was a fourth report taken by the Kane County Sheriff’s Department in Prestbury. At this time, it appears that this incident is not related to anything in Sugar Grove.

If there had been a confirmed attempt to abduct a child, the Sugar Grove Police Department would have put out a notification through the media and village email.

We do not believe that any of the incidents are related. We have four different vehicle descriptions and different descriptions of the drivers.

In the latest incident that occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Monday, June 25, four young girls reported a dark-colored van driving slowly as it passed them. The driver never exited the vehicle, stopped or said anything to the girls. This was not an attempted abduction. Two of the reported incidents occurred on the evening prior to garbage pickup. It is possible that these subjects were simply scavengers who will frequently drive slowly though the subdivisions in search of scrap that has been placed on the curb for pick up.

The police are taking these reports seriously and will follow up on all tips and leads. We want the citizens to continue to report incidents that they feel are suspicious; however, it is not helpful to pass on information that is inaccurate and creates undue concerns or fear.

We continue to urge all citizens to contact the Police Department if they have any public safety concerns. We will follow up on all reports.

Editorial: Taking a moment to reflect

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On June 13 through June 15, newspapers from throughout the state of Illinois gathered in Springfield for a three-day convention, as well as to announce the winners of their editorial and advertising contests.

While none of us do our jobs for industry accolades, it is nice to take a step back from the production grind and reflect on the work that we can be particularly proud ofduring the previous year.

The Elburn Herald had a number of first-place honors.

In the News Reporting—Single Story category, reporter Susan O’Neill won first place with a story titled “Residents respond,” a story focused on the termination of long-time Sugar Grove Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes.

“Covering discord in a board when a long-time librarian was fired and community members backed the librarian was handled well. These are tough stories when details of decisions are not forth coming,” the judges commented.

In the Feature Writing category, reporter Lynn Meredith earned first-place honors for her story titled “History Detectives: Where is the body buried?”

“The lead paragraph kept me reading this unusual story. This could have been a “dull” story, but isn’t,” the judges commented.

The staff of the Elburn Herald collectively earned first place in the Newspaper Design category.

“Nice, clean front page. Beautiful layout throughout. Well-organized throughout. Nice crisp photos (although page 1 on Sept. 8 could use a dominant photo),” read the judges comments.

Sports Editor Mike Slodki won first place in the Sports Section category.

“The writing set this particular entry above the others in this class—the stories have strong leads and supporting material. The pages also have strong lead photos that draw the readers’ attention,” the judges wrote.

In the Best Full-Page Ad category, Design Director Leslie Flint won first place for an advertisement featuring the Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center.

“Well-designed ad sells packages to Starved Rock Lodge and Convention Center in an appealing and eye-catching way,” read the judges’ comments.

Flint also won first place in the category that considers an overall body of work: Best Ad Designer.

“Head and shoulders above the other entries. Excellent typography selection; good use of space; great individuality. Very nice job!”
the judges said.

Flint earned several additional awards during the convention, as well. She won third place in the Single Page Design category, third place in General Advertising Excellence, and fourth in Best Full-Color Ad.

Meredith added an additional award with a third-place honor in the Business/Economic Reporting.

As a staff, the Elburn Herald also won third-place honors in the Best Annual Special Section category for its Back to School section, as well as for Best Niche Publication for its new Insight publication.

As stated above, these awards are a nice way to take a step back and reflect on the things that went well. Every edition, each member of the staff puts forth their best effort, and sometimes things come together well and smoothly, and sometimes it can be a struggle to put things together.

The drive behind all of what we do is to serve our community to the best of our ability, each and every day. So while it is nice to occasionally step back and be proud of the work that the industry recognizes, our true reward is based on the connection we make—every week—with our fellow community members.

Guest Editorial: This Father’s Day, teach your kids to manage finances

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By Jason Alderman, Visa senior director of Global Financial Education
As parents, we hope we’re doing a good job raising our children—teaching them right from wrong, instilling the desire to learn and demonstrating how to manage money responsibly. But what if they see us preaching one behavior while practicing another? What’s to stop them from following in our sometimes misguided footsteps?

As Father’s Day approaches, let me share a few things dads can do to teach their kids sound financial habits that will last them a lifetime—and point out a few bad behaviors you may not even be aware of.

Ask yourself:
• Do you avoid conversations about money with your kids because that’s how you were raised? Or because you don’t feel qualified to give advice?
• Do you pay your bills on time to prevent late fees and possible dings to your credit score?
• Do you balance your checkbook regularly to avoid overdrafts and bounced checks?
• Have you set up an emergency fund – and are you disciplined enough not to tap it for everyday expenses?
• Are you sometimes caught off-guard by bills you should anticipate?
• If your family is experiencing financial difficulties (layoff, foreclosure, massive bills), are you having age-appropriate, non-traumatic discussions about the need for everyone to make sacrifices?
• Do you complain about your job within their earshot or say you’d rather stay home with them but need to earn money? You could be setting them up to resent both work and money.
• If college is on the horizon, have you had frank discussions about how it will be financed? Have you started a college savings fund, explored student loan programs or discussed contributions they’ll be expected to make?
• When your kids constantly break or lose expensive items or run through their allowance early, do you repeatedly bail them out with no consequences?

Okay, that’s a lot of potentially negative outcomes. Let’s concentrate on a few positive actions you can take that will encourage responsible financial behavior in your kids.

Use allowances to teach your kids how to handle money wisely, not as a tool to reinforce good behavior. Track their discretionary (toys, candy) and non-discretionary (school supplies, clothes) expenses. Depending on their ages and maturity, decide which expenses they should be responsible for managing, and dedicate a reasonable amount for each category in their allowances.

A few other suggestions:
• Use allowances to teach important life lessons. For example, build in dedicated percentages they must set aside for savings, charity and investments—then involve them in choosing how the money is spent.
• When you use an ATM explain that it’s not free money, but rather has been earned and saved by you.
• To encourage saving during these times of low interest rates, offer to match their savings at 50 percent.
• Teach by example. If money is tight and you have to deny your kids non-necessary items, give up something of your own that they know you’ll miss.
• Open a 529 Qualified State Tuition Plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Account to start saving for your children’s education—and let them know about it well before you start discussing college choices.

Father’s Day is when children traditionally express love for their dads. Show how much you care in return by starting them out with a healthy, realistic attitude toward personal finances.

Guest Editorial: A letter to the Kaneland School District community

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by Dr. Jeff Schuler
Kaneland Superintendent of Schools

As we approach the end of another very successful school year, I wanted to take a few moments to thank everyone for helping us make significant progress this year toward our mission of graduating all Kaneland students college, career and community ready. This truly was a very successful school year marked by significant growth and accomplishment in each of the key areas of our Vision 2014 Strategic Plan.

The area of teaching and learning, clearly the focus of our strategic plan, saw monumental gains. In June, the Board of Education will review learning data from the EPAS testing sequence. EPAS is the series of assessments leading to ACT that measure college readiness. Student scores in 7th through 10th grade saw significant gains in the number of Kaneland students meeting college readiness benchmarks. Additionally, Kaneland students performing in the top two score ranges increased significantly while the number of students scoring in the lower ranges remains remarkably low. This distribution would suggest that Kaneland schools are working hard to advance learning for all students rather than only focus on how many students hit a single cut score.

Student achievement data at the elementary level points to a similar trend. Local reading and math achievement data shows large percentages of students performing at or above grade level. Through the model of flexible grouping there has been an increase in instruction at each student’s learning level and increased collaboration among all staff. Students in need of intervention are receiving that support through targeted intervention programs, demonstrating an achievement distribution similar to that at the 6-12 level.

Other achievements in the Teaching and Learning area include revised core curriculum maps aligned to the Common Core Standards, new K-5 report cards aligned to the Common Core Standards, the purchase of new curriculum materials in targeted areas to support the newly aligned curriculum maps, a new Extended Day Kindergarten option shared and ready for 2012-13 implementation, a very successful 21st century skills technology pilot, a new eight-period schedule at Kaneland High School in place for 2012-2013 school year, higher participation levels in challenging Advanced Placement classes at Kaneland High School, and a coordinated effort to accelerate more students through a rigorous math sequence at Harter Middle School.

Next school year our school calendar will include three additional student attendance days, and the instructional day at the middle and high school has been extended by fifteen minutes. We will also provide staff and students with additional technology to support the 21st century instructional strategies identified through the pilot.

In the Support Services area of our strategic plan, we fully implemented a positive behavior support system at all elementary schools. Flexible grouping strategies were utilized to support core classroom instruction and more effectively differentiate instruction based on student needs. Our exceptional Response to Intervention Program was expanded to include and target some pilot interventions at Kaneland High School.

In the spring our College and Career Center opened at Kaneland High School, and will service students and families through the use of the Naviance Program.

Kaneland High School and Harter Middle School extra-curricular programs had exceptional years. Our students accomplished incredible feats on the stage, at our athletic venues, through our service clubs, at academic competitions, and in our performing arts programs.

Human Resource accomplishments include the establishment of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement in early spring, well in advance of the close of the current agreement. All Kaneland buildings were fully staffed prior to the start of the school year with appropriately certified and highly qualified professionals. Kaneland continued to offer a high quality professional development program for our staff through the effective use of institute days, school improvement days, and collaborative planning times. Collaborative professional learning time will be in place next school year at all three levels due to the new eight-period schedule at Kaneland High School.

Key accomplishments in the area of Staff and Community Relations include enhancements to our electronic communications efforts. Kaneland recently released a survey on this topic intended to provide feedback that will support the summer enhancements to Konnect, our website, and a mobile Konnect application planned for release in the fall.

Kaneland hosted many new parent evenings including a sixth grade step-up night, elementary parent curriculum preview night, substance abuse prevention night, ACT night, and extended day kindergarten night.

Next school year will be the first time we offer an extended day kindergarten program. We improved the online payment system, making it easier for parents to use the web store to make transactions.

Finally, this school year we released the document titled Six Keys to College Readiness to help parents and students monitor individual progress toward our goal of college and career readiness.

All of the accomplishments highlighted in this letter were accomplished with a balanced budget. Given the financial uncertainty of the State of Illinois, sound financial management is essential. Kaneland established a fund balance policy this year that has allowed us to weather the financial uncertainties without any short-term borrowing. For the third consecutive year, difficult financial decisions were made to reduce the budget to keep expenditures in line with revenues. Audit reports reflect sound financial and operational management.

There will continue to be financial challenges for all Illinois School Districts in the next couple of years. Kaneland will not be immune to those challenges, but is prepared to respond thanks to the agile management of our finances.

I would like to thank all stakeholders for the work you have done in support of our mission statement. Achieving the progress we have as a school district would not be possible without the support of a quality staff, motivated and capable students, strong leadership, and a very supportive community. The commitment to a quality education in Kaneland makes the achievement of our goals possible.

As we near graduation, please take a moment to congratulate the Kaneland Class of 2012. We thank you for helping to make us everything that we are as a school district and wish you well in everything that you will become as graduates of Kaneland High School. I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer.

Editorial: Sugar Grove opened Pandora’s Box, and here are the results

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The proposed Shodeen development in Elburn, referred to as Elburn Station, hit a roadblock Monday, and to be honest, that might not be a bad thing.

Elburn Station is a proposed transit-oriented development that would add more than 2,000 residential units, as well as commercial properties, in an area ranging near the Elburn train coach yard, spanning from Route 38 to Keslinger Road.

For a community the size of Elburn, this is a massive development that could nearly double the size of the village once it is complete.

The plan ground to a temporary halt on Monday when the issue of school impact fees came up for a vote—or, well, actually the lack of a vote. Village Board member Ken Anderson moved to accept an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Kaneland School District that would have put in place a fee schedule to pre-determine a fee amount paid per individual property, to be paid to the School District to offset the costs of adding school children to the district.

No one else on the Village Board seconded Anderson’s motion, so the measure died on the floor, and no agreement is currently in place.

The reason this may not be a bad thing is that it has brought to light—with a real-world example—something we warned the community about back in November 2011: that the lack of a Kaneland-wide Intergovernmental Agreement that sets equal school impact fees among all of the villages in the district will cause massive problems in the future.

Well, the future is here, and the problems have begun.

These problems only exist because developers can now use extra negotiating leverage to lower school impact fees by playing one municipality off of another.

Village Board member Bill Grabarek unknowingly stated the exact problem during Monday’s meeting when he expressed his concern with the IGA as it existed at the time of the failed vote.

“I don’t want to see a failed development because it’s cheaper to build in Sugar Grove,” Grabarek said.

Due to that fear, fees designed to offset the cost of educating new students as they move into the district are now on the negotiating table, and the ability to educate Kaneland’s children become just one of many points of debate as developers strive to increase their profit margin and villages strive to broaden their tax base. Yet, whether a child lives in Maple Park or Sugar Grove, Elburn or Kaneville, the cost to educate them in the Kaneland School District remains the same.

The risk of the fear articulated by Grabarek—that a developer would choose a neighboring village because it is cheaper to build there—would not exist if all of the municipalities inside the Kaneland School District had a district-wide IGA that sets the same schedule of impact fees.

The rationale for having a uniform set of impact fees throughout the district was laid out by Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler, also in November 2011. One bullet point from his document stated, “A Kaneland education costs the same for all students, regardless of where they reside. Deviation from Dahlstrom’s tables by any municipality impacts the School District’s ability to provide an appropriate education to all its students.”

So why was there focus placed on a district-wide IGA in November; why did we write about its importance on Nov. 18, 2011?

That is the time in which the village of Sugar Grove announced that it intended to not extend the existing district-wide IGA past Jan. 1, 2012.

For years, all of the municipalities inside the Kaneland School District had agreed to the same fee schedule in order to avoid this very problem. As the end of 2011 approached, and the time came to renew and extend the IGA, Sugar Grove elected not to do so.

That decision opened the Pandora’s Box that, in our decision, should be closed before a development of the size of Elburn Station is approved by any municipality within the Kaneland School District.

If that Pandora’s Box remains open, this issue will continue to come up, over and over again, as developers see a way to pit villages against each other. Ultimately, we will all witness a race to the bottom in terms of school impact fees. What this means is, of course, that existing residents will then be forced to subsidize the educational costs created by new construction.

Elburn Village Attorney Bob Britz on Monday urged village officials to finalize the IGA with Kaneland before passing an annexation agreement with Shodeen.

At a minimum, we strongly urge the Elburn Village Board to take that advice.

Yet, we urge all of the village boards in the Kaneland School District, as well as the School Board, to go one step further—rebuild the district-wide IGA and do whatever it takes to bring Sugar Grove back to the table. Without this action, the problems hinted at Monday will repeat regularly throughout the district, and the negative impacts will be felt for decades to come.

Guest Editorial: State launches ‘Start Seeing Motorcycles’ campaign

in From the Editor's Desk by

Josh Kauffman
Guy Tridgell
Illinois Department of Transportation

With motorcycle riding season officially under way, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Illinois State Police, Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), and A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education (ABATE) teamed up to kick off the “Start Seeing Motorcycles” campaign across the state and urge all motorists to share the road. Governor Pat Quinn also demonstrated his strong support for motorcycle safety and issued a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle Awareness Month in Illinois.

“As the weather improves and riding increases in popularity, more motorcyclists are hitting the roads,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “With that in mind, passenger cars and trucks need to be attentive and make sure they ‘share the road.’ A motorcycle is one of the smallest vehicles on our roads, therefore every driver needs to proactively look for them before changing lanes or merging with traffic.”

Now throughout the rest of the riding season, motorists will be reminded to “Start Seeing Motorcycles” in an effort to help keep motorcyclists safe. Changing the driving habits of motorists and motorcyclists alike will help decrease the number of motorcycle fatalities and injuries in crashes. Motorcyclists are reminded to make sure that they are visible to motorists, and that they strictly follow the rules of the road.

IDOT also reminded motorcyclists of their responsibilities as well. They should obey traffic rules, be alert to other drivers, never ride while impaired or distracted, and always wear a DOT-approved helmet and other brightly colored protective gear.

“Whether you are traveling in a vehicle or riding on a motorcycle, safety should be the number-one priority,” said Illinois State Police Commander Scott Abbott. “As we prepare for the spring and summer months, motorists are reminded to watch for motorcycle traffic and obey all traffic laws, especially those pertaining to speed and lane changes,” he added.

“May is Motorcycle Awareness Month,” said Carleen Grant, coordinator for A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois. “A.B.A.T.E. strives each year to educate both motorists and motorcyclists to be aware, not only during the month of May, but all year. Motorcycles are everywhere. 144 motorcycle fatalities across the state last year is tragic. To lose even one life is unacceptable. Through A.B.A.T.E.’s comprehensive Safety and Awareness program, we hope to help bring those statistics down. Remember, it only takes a moment to “Look Twice To Save A Life’”.

Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 16 percent of total fatalities within Illinois in 2011. Statistics show a motorcyclist is more vulnerable than a passenger vehicle occupant in the event of a crash. Research from DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are about 39 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in traffic crashes.

IDOT offers the following tips for drivers in an effort to help keep motorcyclists safe on Illinois roadways.

• Remember, a motorcycle is a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges of any other motor vehicle
• Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width—never try to share a lane
• Perform a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or exiting a lane of traffic, and at intersections
• Always use your signal well before changing lanes or merging with traffic
• Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle—motorcycle signals frequently do not auto-cancel and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before proceeding
• Increase your following distance—three or four seconds—when behind a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency
• Never tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop quicker than cars
• Never drive while distracted

Motorcyclists can increase their safety by:
• Participating in a free IDOT motorcycle training class
• Making sure they are properly licensed
• Avoiding riding in poor weather conditions
• Wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-approved helmet
• Using turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if the rider thinks no one will see it
• Using reflective tape and stickers to increase conspicuity
• Positioning themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers
• Never driving while impaired

IDOT also offers free Cycle Rider Safety Training courses statewide for motorcycle riders to acquire additional safety knowledge and training. Approximately 21,000 riders are expected to receive training this year. For more information about class schedules of the Cycle Rider Training program, “Start Seeing Motorcycles” campaign or safety tips, please visit www.startseeingmotorcycles.org.

Editorial: ‘Be excellent to each other’

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For years following the 9/11 tragedy, high-level government officials continued to remind the public to “stay vigilant” whenever they were asked what the general public can or should do while going about their daily lives.

I am sure that many of you heard someone else—or even yourself—wonder what that actually meant. Was it just a serious-sounding phrase to make the public feel like they could contribute, or was there an actual behavior expected of us?

Years later, we as a public are still trying to “stay vigilant,” and we would like to use two recent examples of this concept as a way to explain that “staying vigilant” does not always mean be on the look out for the next terrorist attack, and it does mean that sometimes, what you point out while “staying vigilant” might turn out to be nothing. Either way, vigilance (defined as “Keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties”) is something members of close-knit communities have always done and should always continue to do.

Last week, Elburn Herald Assistant Editor Keith Beebe wrote a story about Sugar Grove resident and Village Board member Mari Johnson. She was aware that she had an elderly neighbor who was in poor health and lived alone. Because of that awareness, she noticed that she hadn’t seen him in several days, as well as noticing that his home began to seem vacant.

She had a feeling something was wrong, and ultimately checked his mailbox to see if anyone had been gathering his mail. It was full, so she tried her neighbor’s front door. The door was open, so Johnson and her husband entered and found her neighbor on the floor in the middle of the kitchen, unconscious.

She called the paramedics, and he was taken to the hospital. Ultimately, Johnson learned that doctors believe he may have been on his floor for up to two days, and would not have survived if he had not been found soon.

That is “staying vigilant”; that is looking out for one another; that is the perfect definition of what it means to be part of a community.

The other example occurred Wednesday, and while the situation ultimately turned into nothing, it is still a good example of “staying vigilant.” On Wednesday morning, someone noticed a grey box near the parking lot of the Kane County Judicial Center. That person notified a Judicial Center security officer, and from there the police response took over. Because officers were unable to determine what the box was or what was inside it, they notified the bomb squad. At the same time, they routed traffic away from the area—while all Judicial Center activities remained on schedule—and a safe perimeter was formed.

Ultimately, the bomb squad was able to open the box, and it was full of regular, everyday things—a DVD, a video game, a calculator.

So while nothing came of that act of vigilance other than an opportunity for law enforcement to effectively practice their response, this is a good example of “staying vigilant.”

There is an understandable inner voice that says “I’m sure it’s nothing” when people are faced with the choice of reporting something that seems not right. However, the concept of vigilance means that people should listen to the other inner voice, the one Mari Johnson and the the individual who reported the box at the Judicial Center heard, the one that says, “Something feels wrong, and I should not ignore it.”

Sometimes it turns out to be a simple grey box with a DVD and a video game inside of it. But sometimes it might turn out to be a neighbor whose only chance of survival is that someone else listens to that inner voice and takes action.

Even if it is not a potential life-or-death situation, acts of vigilance are, in actuality, acts of caring for each other by looking out for each other. We may not all be able to donate significant sums of money or tons of nonexistent free time, but we can all care for one another—we can all “stay vigilant.”

Guest Editorial: Trying to make a difference every day

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by Kevin O’Boyle
CASA Kane County volunteer

When I retired in February of 2010, I thought about one of my favorite videos that my company would show to new management featuring Lou Holtz. At the end of the video, Lou said that the bottom line was at the end of the day everyone had to ask themselves, “Did I make a difference today?”

During my last year at work, everyone would ask me what my plans were when I retired, and I would respond, I am not sure but I just want to be able to make a difference. I feel very blessed to have found an organization like CASA Kane County, where all of us are helping to make a difference in the lives of children.

The first child assigned to me in my role as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) has had a huge impact on me, and I would like to share a small part of his story. When Kyle, age 10, was assigned to me, he had been admitted to the hospital and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Cognitive Disorder. When I read his history and the abuse he had suffered, it was no surprise to me that he was diagnosed with these disorders. CASA Kane County provides excellent training, but I didn’t know how I could help him since I did not have any training to help me deal with these specific disorders. I decided that when I met Kyle, I would just do the best I could.

Kyle was released from the hospital before I had a chance to visit him, and he was sent to a group home. When I planned my first visit, I did not know what to expect. What I found was an articulate and intelligent child who enjoyed creative and artistic activities. I also found that since Kyle was not allowed any contact with his family, for a variety of reasons that he had no control over, he had an immense desire for a relationship with others, especially his CASA.

Over the past two years, I have developed a great relationship with Kyle. A lasting memory of mine is when I visited him on Thanksgiving. One of the kids in the group home was sitting while the other kids were playing basketball. I went over and introduced myself, and he said, “I know who you are, you are Kevin, Kyle’s CASA, and he talks about you all the time.” He then looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Could you be my CASA?”

When I had Thanksgiving dinner with my family later that day, I shared that story with my family. I can honestly say it was the most meaningful Thanksgiving I have ever had. That is what is so great about being a CASA. We get as much, or more, out of the experience than the children we are helping.

As for Kyle, I am happy to report that he is doing great. The group home staff said that since Kyle had improved so much in all areas, they were recommending that he was ready to be placed with a foster family. Kyle moved in with a wonderful foster family in the middle of November.

What a difference a year can make if the child has hope for their future. That is what CASA’s do—we give children hope for their future. As one of our CASA volunteers said, “It is about helping a child replace a life of hurt with one of hope.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last year, CASA Kane County served 512 children who had been either abused or neglected. The organization’s goal is to always have a CASA volunteer for every abused and neglected child. CASA Kane County attends many civic events, and its volunteers speak at several local churches. Many people approach our volunteers afterwards and say that they appreciate the great work that we do, but they don’t think they could do it. If you ask any CASA volunteer, they will tell you they also had concerns in the beginning, but now that they have made the decision to serve as a CASA volunteer, it has been one of the best decisions they have ever made. It is truly a life changing experience.

If you or anyone you know would like to help make a difference in the life of a child, please contact CASA Kane County at (630) 232-4484. You can also get more information about CASA Kane County by visiting their web page at www.casakanecounty.org.

Guest Editorial: Building on the values of No Child Left Behind

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by Eric Smith
Eric Smith is a fellow in Education Policy at the George W. Bush Institute

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

Yet the law is still making the news, as several states are applying for waivers from the law. Some school officials have found it difficult to meet the law’s standards requiring that every student—even those that are poor or in minority groups—make progress each year.

NCLB might need some tinkering. As the discussion about reauthorization continues, it’s vital for students and the future of this country that the core principles of accountability, transparency and equality be preserved.

The George W. Bush Institute recently released 10 “principles” that serve as guidance for state accountability. These principles show how to build on the foundation established by NCLB and then further improve the key areas of standards, student groups, parental choice, and college and career readiness.

Over the last decade, the United States has witnessed a dramatic improvement in student performance—especially among previously underserved students at the lowest socioeconomic rungs. Those gains were in large part the result of strong accountability systems, which forced states and school districts to pay more attention to underserved students.

Indeed, one key principle of a strong accountability system is that schools need to be measured against concrete goals to reduce the achievement gap between student groups.

To meet those goals, schools need information in the form of annual tests, and they need that information broken down across various groups, like English Language Learners and African-American students. This data shows where disparities exist.

Another key principle of a meaningful accountability system is that data needs to be published, publicly available, and in a format that non-experts—i.e., parents—can understand the results.

Parents and educators need to know not just how the average student in a school performs, but how the most disadvantaged students are being educated. As accountability has taken hold, we have seen how important it is to measure the performance of traditional subgroups. We are also learning that another critical angle is reviewing the performance of the lowest performing students, referred to as a “super-subgroup” in some states. No school should be rated as high-performing if it doesn’t show gains in the performance of all subgroups.

The nation’s emphasis on public accountability has led to a significant improvement in core students skills. For instance, research from Northwestern University shows that the legislation is responsible for raising math achievement by six to nine months for fourth-graders, and four to 12 months for eighth-graders.

These gains help us ensure that every student graduates from high school ready to do college-level work or start a satisfying career.

Disadvantaged children have seen the greatest gains. African-American children increased their National Assessment of Education Progress scores by 21 points in mathematics between 2000-2011. That’s two grade levels of improvement.

The Brookings Institute has looked at the effect of accountability and concluded these systems have had a “positive effect” on elementary student performance and that much of the gains are “concentrated among traditionally disadvantaged populations.”

Brookings also found that when schools are more accountable to those they serve, students become more engaged in their own education. Specifically, researchers noted marked increases in teacher-reported measures of student engagement, which includes things like attendance rates, timeliness and intellectual interest.

Another essential principle of strong accountability systems is state intervention when schools don’t see achievement rates rise. And the most intensive interventions should occur in schools whose students don’t reach grade-level standards.

In that vein, school choice is an important option for students. Every single student deserves a quality education. It is simply not acceptable for a parent to be forced to keep their child in a failing school in the hope that the local teachers and administrators will eventually clean up their act.

States generally want to be creative, and federal legislation isn’t standing in their way of doing that. Officials are empowered to employ tools beyond the standard choice policy of vouchers, including innovative reforms like allowing students in low-performing schools to get connected with high-quality educators online.

The George W. Bush Institute’s principles call on states to build on the current foundation, apply the lessons learned, and provide parents with an even broader array of choices if their child is trapped in a persistently low performing school.

Recently, President Obama declared that “the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”

That’s exactly right. But that doesn’t require abandoning the core principles of accountability, transparency and equality.

Guest Editorial: Equal Pay Day

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by Nancy Dietrich
There’s no doubt that women have made great strides the past 50 years.

“Help wanted—male/Help wanted—female” ads are a thing of the past. Women can get a mortgage without having a male co-signer. More women are seeking higher degrees in nontraditional fields like medicine and law than ever before. However, we still have work to do before we can say women have reached equality. One of the most visible discrepancies between men and women is in wages. On average, women must work more than three months longer to make the same wages as men. Equal Pay Day, the date when women’s wages catch up to men’s from the year before, is being observed April 17.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make. Many reasons have been cited for this disparity, including women’s career choices and women taking time out of their careers to raise children. However, research by the American Association of University Women shows that just one year out of college (when most women have not yet had children), women in the U.S. working full time are already earning only 80 percent as much as their male colleagues. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics also show that women make less money in almost every occupation tracked, meaning that even in traditionally female occupations, women still make less money than men. So, one can’t explain the discrepancies solely on women’s choices.

Double standards still exist regarding appropriate behavior by women and men in the workplace, which contributes to lower wages and fewer promotional opportunities for women. Research by Hannah Riley Bowles, associate professor at Harvard, revealed that when women asked their bosses for a raise, it was typically looked at negatively; yet being assertive about asking for more money is continually cited as one of the things women need to do to reduce the wage gap. Research discussed in the book “Delusions of Gender,” by Cordelia Fine, also shows a “Catch-22″ situation: If women behave in an assertive fashion on the job, they’re considered too aggressive. Yet, if women don’t show qualities like confidence or ambition, they are seen to not have the right qualities for a leadership position.

In other examples of gender bias cited in Delusions of Gender, a study asked 100 university psychologists to rate the resumes of “Dr. Karen Miller” and “Dr. Brian Miller,” fictional applicants for a tenure track university position. Although the resumes were identical except for the name, Brian was perceived to have better qualifications for the position than Karen, by both male and female evaluators. Similarly, another researcher noted that in a study with men who had sex changes (from women to men), many immediately enjoyed greater respect and recognition, including one man who heard a colleague praising his boss for “getting rid of Susan” and hiring this new man, who he thought was much more competent. These internal, often unconscious, biases serve to keep the glass ceiling for women firmly in place.

So what can we do about it? Here’s how to help Equal Pay Day become a thing of the past:

1. Vote. Support legislators who support equal pay for equal work policies.

2. Support salary transparency, including lifting the “gag rule” that exists in many companies (the gag rule means employees are not allowed to disclose their wages to other employees). Making all salaries public would go even further to discourage wage discrimination.

3. Women: Negotiate your salary, starting from your first job. You’ll be a pioneer, meaning there may be some negative fallout at first. But as more women negotiate, it will become seen as part of the normal hiring process.

4. We need to be more aware of our own attitudes about appropriate gender roles, and confront bias when we see it. For example, if you perceive a woman as being too aggressive, ask yourself, “If this were a man, would I consider this behavior too aggressive?” As noted above, internal bias with which we’re socialized can penalize women (and in different situations, men), so we need to become aware of and change this within ourselves.

Let’s work together to make Equal Pay Day the same day for women—as it is for men.

Dietrich is co-president of the Champaign-Urbana branch of American Association of University Women, and is a member of the AAUW Voices Project. She lives in Urbana, Ill.

Editorial: The downtown deadline approaches

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If nothing changes, on April 15 at 12:01 a.m., the parking lot in downtown Elburn will close.

It is owned by the Community Congregational Church in Elburn, and has been used for general public purposes for years. Employees of the downtown businesses often use it, residents of the apartments above some of the businesses use it, customers to downtown businesses use it, and many of them are not even aware that it is owned and maintained not by the village of Elburn, but rather, by the church on the other side of Shannon Street.

Last year, the church made the decision to sell the property, and while there have not been any takers as of yet, the church recently made the decision to close the lot to public use. Originally, the church intended to close the lot in March, but elected to extend the closure by one month while the village and the downtown businesses attempted to determine a path forward to try and keep the lot open.

That month is almost up, and while a specific path forward has yet to be determined, there are steps that have been taken that could lead to that path. However, before much more of significance can occur, an appraisal of the property must be conducted to determine if the church’s current asking price of $250,000 is in line with, or near, an independent assessment of the property. On Monday, the village formally decided to move forward with that appraisal.

For years, the Community Congregational Church has been gracious enough to keep the lot open for general public use. Having nearby, convenient parking has been vital to the survival of those downtown businesses that remain after the economic mega-dip that occurred in 2008, and it remains vital as the downtown business district has begun to show signs of recovery.

The entire community—and specifically the downtown business district—owes the Community Congregational Church a debt of gratitude for the support they have provided over the years. At the same time, we ask that the church make the difficult decision to continue that support by extending their closure deadline a little bit further—to allow for the appraisal to be completed and the potential paths forward to be fully explored.

Guest editorial: Rest in peace?

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State agency encourages citizens to protect historic grave markers
by David Blanchette, Dawn Cobb
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

Spring has sprung and that often leads people to clean closets, tidy up their yards, and tackle projects like clearing their land of debris. Too often that debris might be old, broken grave markers.

Small family cemeteries, typically in rural areas of Illinois, are the final resting places of people from the 19th and early 20th centuries. As land values increase and more land is sought for agriculture or development use, these small burial grounds can sometimes be looked upon as obstacles, especially if the current property owner has no connection to those buried there.

Grave markers represent the last physical identity of the person buried there. When a grave marker is moved, the grave site becomes invisible on the landscape and the cemetery eventually becomes forgotten. When these forgotten cemeteries are re-discovered through construction or agriculture, for example, they become a problem for the landowner or developer because state law obligates them to either repair the damage and preserve the graves, or work with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) to have the remains removed by professional archaeologists and skeletal analysts. Preserving the graves in place is less costly than disturbing a cemetery.

The IHPA reminds people that removing any part of a cemetery without state permission is a violation of the Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act. However, with a permit issued by the agency and some initial guidance, these small family cemeteries can be preserved and still accommodate land use in the surrounding area.

The IHPA’s cemetery webpage at www.illinoishistory.gov/cemetery is a good place to learn more about cemetery preservation. It includes a free download of the Illinois Historic Cemetery Preservation Handbook: A Guide to Basic Preservation. This handbook details the steps involved with researching a cemetery, from locating it on a map or the landscape to identifying different types of markers. It also helps readers develop a preservation plan. In addition, the IHPA has teamed with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to present lectures and workshops on cemetery preservation. Presenters talk about the history of cemeteries in Illinois and how to understand what you see in them when you visit, and provide basic and advanced cemetery preservation training.

It only takes a few dedicated volunteers to start the process. People of all ages can contribute, whether clearing vegetation from the cemetery or cleaning markers to maintaining the ground. Most of the work can be accomplished using basic and affordable supplies and good old fashioned elbow grease, and local civic groups like the Boy or Girl Scouts can provide service hours.

The IHPA reminds those interested in taking on such a project that cemeteries located on private property can be accessed only by permission. If you must cross another person’s land to get to the cemetery, you must also ask their permission. Landowners may be willing to allow access to a cemetery if they are asked first and fully understand the intent, be it for genealogical research or cemetery preservation.

Editorial: Time to look in the mirror, Mr. Valente

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Last week, we published a story in which a Kaneland School Board discussion turned into a debate, and then into a conflict, and ultimately devolved into a shouting match.

The original issue was an agenda item to reassign an existing district employee to a new position within the district.

By the end of that discussion, School Board member Tony Valente had accused another board member of being in the administration’s “back pocket,” repeatedly tried to talk over an active board vote by repeating the phrase “point of order,” and attempted to shout down a fellow board member.

Being a board member of just about anything is difficult, especially a Kaneland School Board member. It is a volunteer position. You are responsible for overseeing an entire school district’s functions while overseeing a shrinking budget, and you must take into account the various needs of differing groups of constituents—which sometimes are in opposition to each other. All of this juggling must occur while sitting on a board with six other individuals who are also attempting to perform that same juggling act.

When you add that to the likelihood of personality clashes—which exist when you put any group of any size together—the potential for conflict is always there.

Conflict in and of itself is neither a good nor a bad thing—it all depends on how it is resolved and how those in the conflict conduct themselves.

Unfortunately, during the March 12 board meeting, Valente’s conduct was so unprofessional that it left the overall conflict unresolved and risked undermining any legitimate points he may have been trying to make.

Should the district take a look at its current hiring practices and procedures to evaluate if they need to be updated? Possibly, but the way to accomplish that is not to state your opinion and then get aggressive, condescending and increasingly loud as others expression their opinions.

This is not the first time Valente’s behavior during board meetings has been cringe-inducing, but this is the first time that Valente’s pattern of public behavior has turned into this much of a public conflict-turned-shouting match.

It is absolutely a board member’s right to question the way things are done and to challenge the district administration, as well as the rest of the School Board. Yet, with that right comes a responsibility, and that responsibility is to conduct oneself with a measure of professional conduct and mutual respect.

It is our view that Valente disrespected the board, the administration and ultimately himself. If this was a one-time occurrence, it would be easier to look past for everyone involved—fellow board members and observers. The fact that this has become a pattern of behavior is, in our view, why Valente was called out during the board meeting and why we are using this space to call him out as well.

We urge Valente to reconsider his behavior. If he truly believes that the questions he wants to ask deserve legitimate answers, he should pose them in a legitimate way. Verbally attacking fellow board members and shouting down those who disagree with him is counter-productive, and if he cannot conduct himself like an adult, he should step down and let someone who can actually work with other people take his place.

Sunshine Week: Accountability requires openness

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by David Porter
The timing was apropos when Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a binding opinion regarding the disclosure of invoices between attorneys and the public bodies they represent. The opinion is dated March 12, which marked the beginning of National Sunshine Week.

Sunshine Week draws awareness to laws such as the Freedom of Information Act, Open Meetings Act and Reporter’s Privilege Act. While Madigan’s opinion is a ray of sunshine, we can’t ignore the storm warnings as a few legislators continue to chip away at the public’s access to public records. In Illinois, there are about 50 FOIA and OMA bills pending including “shell” bills, which are essentially placeholders that can be amended later.

The state’s FOIA declares that transparency is public policy in Illinois and that “all records in the custody or possession of a public body are presumed to be open to inspection and copying. Any public body that asserts that a record is exempt from disclosure has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that it is exempt.” Yet, within days of being enacted two years ago, the Act was modified to create additional exemptions.

The recent opinion from Madigan’s office is that invoices for attorney services to public bodies are not automatically exempt under the attorney/client privilege. While invoices may contain privileged information, that information can be redacted and all other information must be disclosed under FOIA.

Specifically, Madigan stated that “a general description of the nature of services the billing attorney performed, the attorneys’ initials, the time spent on the tasks described and the rate and dollar amount charged” are not privileged and cannot be withheld.

Some of this may seem like mumble jumble and only of concern to reporters who want access to everything, but it might surprise you to know that the vast majority of FOIA requests are filed by the general public. In 2010, the attorney general’s office handled more than 5,200 FOIA complaints. Of those, 91 percent were filed by the general public or other non-media entities such as government officials.

The only way to keep government honest and accountable is to keep it open. That’s why governmental records are called “public documents,” not “secret archives.”

David Porter is director of communications and marketing for the Illinois Press Association, which represents the interests of nearly 500 newspapers in Illinois.

Editorial: What does it mean to be a hometown newspaper?

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What does it mean to be a hometown newspaper?

It means many things, but the overriding aspect of the term is “service.” As a hometown newspaper, it is our responsibility to serve our communities by helping strengthen the many connections that exist in our communities—the connections between residents and each other, their local governments and schools, as well as businesses and the various organizations that exist.

The responsibility of serving our communities means more than simply changing what a portion of our newspaper looks like for a brief period of time and calling ourselves a locally focused paper.

Rather, it means a long-term commitment of time and effort, a true desire to serve our communities, a relentless focus on attending as many of the meetings, events and activities in order to get to truly know as many of the people and organizations in our communities as humanly possible.

Our mission is to serve as community stewards, providing quality, truly local coverage of the communities that make up the Kaneland School District—Elburn, Sugar Grove, Maple Park and Kaneville—and do so in a manner that demonstrates how media companies can succeed as a business while also holding onto the ethical ideals of objective journalism. We strive to accomplish this mission by not only trying to provide as much local content as we can, but to also do so in a way that is accurate in both fact and context, without sensationalizing and without reporting pure speculation.

Our vision is to be a newspaper that serves to help strengthen the bonds that exist within and among our communities—whether they are person to person, person to organization, or organization to organization. We strive to realize this vision through our reporting, through our involvement in our communities, and through the way we conduct our business.

Our values dictate that we strive to never lose sight of the ideals of true journalism and ethical business practices. We seek and report the truth, and sometimes that makes people look good and sometimes that makes people look not so good, but how someone looks is based on the facts and not on our spin.

We strive to meet these challenges every single day, and there are times when we come up short, and no matter what, we are never satisfied. We always want to do better because we always can do better.

It is that combination of desires for a deeper connection with our communities plus constant improvement to better serve our communities that makes a newspaper a true hometown newspaper.

It is an honor to serve the Kaneland communities as their hometown newspaper, and we are proud to have served our communities since 1908.

We look forward to growing and changing with you in the years and decades ahead.

Editorial: An appeal for communication, time

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If nothing changes, the parking lot in downtown Elburn at the corner of Main (Route 47) and Shannon streets will close March 15.

This has caused significant concern—rightfully so—among the downtown businesses, ourselves included. It is our view that a community’s downtown serves as the backbone of that community, and anything that makes it more difficult for consumers to access downtown businesses will reduce the success of those businesses—putting some in jeopardy.

The economy is struggling to recover from the massive dip experienced a few years ago, and while there remain several empty storefronts in downtown Elburn, local customer traffic and need for parking is actually increasing. This is a sign that the local economy is starting to improve, but that improvement will take a major step back if easy access to the downtown is denied. Additionally, reduced consumer access to the downtown will make it more difficult for those remaining empty storefronts to fill up.

These challenges will make it worse for everyone in Elburn, including the village government, because reductions in local business translates to reductions in village revenue, which in turn translates to additional pressure placed on Elburn homeowners to make up the difference in the form of increasing property taxes.

Yet, all of that being said, the parking lot is private property, owned by the Community Congregational Church. The church has every right to close access to its own property. If the church’s financial situation means that the property is for sale and needs to be closed until a sale is made, that is the church’s right, and it would be hard to find a reasonable person who would reach a significantly different conclusion if they were on the church’s board of directors.

One possible solution is for the village of Elburn to purchase the lot, take over its maintenance, and retain the property’s use for general parking. However, that is not a currently viable option because the village is facing its own budget crunch.

A group of downtown business owners gathered together and attended Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting to address this issue, and the village’s financial situation was made clear by Village President David Anderson: “We don’t have the money, and that’s it,” Anderson said when asked if the village had any interest in purchasing the property.

As Monday’s discussion continued—sometimes heated and sometimes calmly—potential for alternative solutions was found. Village Administrator Erin Willrett offered to facilitate discussions between the downtown businesses and the church, and village trustee Jeff Walter expressed a desire to see the village take the lead and helping find a solution—and the rest of the Village Board echoed those sentiments as the discussion wore on.

We believe that all three entities share an interest in finding a solution to this issue. The church has financial needs that need to be met, the village needs a continuation of the growth in downtown business, and the current downtown businesses need a continuation of being able to have convenient access for their customers.

We ask that the village remain engaged in the situation, and we thank Willrett for her willingness to facilitate discussions between the various entities. We ask the village to determine if there are available funds, or funding vehicles, in the form of grants or other programs designed for economic development or municipal downtown improvement. We ask that our fellow downtown businesses continue to communicate, remain open to the various possibilities that may arise, and explore what amount of funding that they would be willing to contribute—because it is likely that whatever potential solution arises will require financial contributions from the downtown businesses themselves. Finally, we ask the board of the Community Congregational Church to determine if there is any possible way to allow the downtown parking lot to remain open during the hopefully short period of time it may take to find a solution that fulfills the needs of all the interested parties.

Editorial: Let’s follow the Mallard Point example

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At the end of January, we devoted this space to echoing the sentiments of many residents and leaders in the area by publicly urging Sugar Grove officials to return to the negotiating table to find a resolution for the years’ long search for a way to end the drainage problems in the Mallard Point and Rolling Oaks subdivisions.

At the time, the multi-part negotiations that involved the village, Rob Roy Drainage District II, homeowners in the area of a proposed drain tile, Kane County (acting as mediators and as partial funders) and the affected homeowners broke down when the village announced it was walking away from the negotiating table.

Based on Assistant Editor Keith Beebe’s story on page 1A in this week’s edition of the Elburn Herald, those negotiations did ultimately continue; as everyone involved had hoped they would. While there are still documents to be signed and it is by no means a final agreement, it is clear that communications continued among the various parties, and a final deal is much closer today than it was then.

So, just as we back then questioned Sugar Grove’s decision to walk away from the table, today we must praise their decision to return to it. From an outside perspective, it appears it is a combination of their willingness to listen and continue to communicate, as well as the other parties’ willingness to continue trying to reach an agreement, that led to the brink of a solution to a problem that has been troubling residents for decades.

We hope their collective example is followed by a similar group of wide-ranging interests in Elburn. Last week, we reported that the Community Congregational Church announced that it plans to close its parking lot, in downtown Elburn, to public use, citing maintenance costs that are cost-prohibitive. In their announcement, a church representative said they had approached the village of Elburn and the Elburn Chamber of Commerce to see if either entity had the interest and the means to purchase the property. Because neither entity was able to pursue the lot’s purchase, the church said it would close the lot Thursday, March 15.

This is a lot that has been used by the public for years, and for many of the downtown businesses, is essential for their success. Elburn’s downtown is struggling, and losing easy customer access would just make those struggles more difficult to overcome.

Any roadblock you put between the public and a local business—even if it is just a degree of inconvenience—reduces that business’s ability to maximize their revenue. And in today’s struggles, anything that makes it more difficult to conduct business can actually put that business in jeopardy.

So, just as we urged the village of Sugar Grove to return to the negotiating table with the Mallard Point drainage issue, we urge the Community Congregational Church to hold off on their final decision to close the lot. Too many businesses rely on the ease of access it provides, and there is too much potential lost revenue at stake to not entertain ideas beyond simply offering it for sale to either the village or the chamber.

Give the various interested parties some time to explore solutions, come to the negotiating table with us all, and like Sugar Grove and the Mallard Point drainage issue, ongoing communication will bring a solution closer, while no communication accomplishes nothing.

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