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Editorial/Opinion - page 39

Guest editorial: Cooking the goose: Illinois pension crisis (part two of a two-part series)

in From the Editor's Desk by

by State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-25)
I love teachers, respect state employees, appreciate local public employee unions’ accommodations, but fear that state worker union leadership is driving us off the cliff.

Victor Gotbaum, head of the New York based District 37 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, summarized the dilemma nicely 36 years ago; “We (state employee union members) have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

Pat Quinn proved this statement in Illinois when he took his taxpayer-paid budget director to meet with the state employee unions in August 2010 (three months before the election), promised them that he would not layoff anyone, agreed to protect 12.25 percent raises over a 20-month period, received their endorsement, got millions in campaign contribution commitments, secured hundreds of volunteer-campaign workers, and won the governor’s race by less than 20,000 votes (less than 1 percent of total).

In the final analysis, if Illinois voters don’t check the single-minded political and fiscal influence of state public employee union leadership, it will be the bankers who will first drive up the cost of riskier, deficit-driven borrowing (already 2.5 percent higher in Illinois than the national norm) and eventually cut us off. This will come after enough employers-with-jobs, seniors-with-assets, and regular families simply leave our state because of ever-escalating property, income and sales tax increases.

It is merely stating the obvious that every dollar paid to a public employee must come from a local, state or federal taxpayer. This certainly does not make any public employee “bad,” and of course these folks pay their taxes, too. However, there is an important difference of perspective on taxation between people who pay 25 to 30 percent of their earnings for income, sales and property taxes and receive 100 percent of their pay from a government agency and those who do not.

No public employee needs to get angry or scared by what I’m saying, because nothing is going to change in Illinois as long as downtown Chicago politicians are in direct control of the Governor’s Office (Quinn), the House (Madigan), the Senate (Cullerton), and as long as the powerful state unions continue to favor one party over the other so completely. But, we should still be able to talk about the challenges facing all of us.

Government is the last monopoly. The biggest chunk of government spending is salaries, pensions and healthcare for current and retired workers. Unless these expenses are under control, government spending is out-of-control. If you wonder why your property value is going down but property taxes are going up, it’s because government spending is inexorably going up.

Some folks argue that public employees in Illinois have a guaranteed right to pensions, cost-of-living increases, healthcare benefits, etc. because of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. However, these same people usually don’t mention all of the increases to these benefits that occurred after that constitution was ratified. Here are only a few of many …

• Pension maximum raised from 60 to 75 percent (1971); that increase didn’t take long
• Annual cost-of-living increase raised 33 percent from 1.5 percent to 2 percent (1971)
• 85 sick days (1/2 year service) allowed for early retirement (1972)
• Cost-of-living increase raised 50 percent more from 2 percent to 3 percent (1978)
• Sick-leave credit doubled from 85 days to 170 (1984)
• Retiree healthcare premiums 75 percent subsidy (1991)

My point is, if some are going to insist on keeping the 1970 commitment (which I certainly understand), then let’s be sure to keep the entire commitment at the levels when the commitment was originally made. This would have a dramatic effect on reducing our staggering unfunded liabilities.

According to Barron’s Financial News, private employment today is 2 percent and millions of jobs below where it stood 10 years ago —a job loss over a 10-year period that is unprecedented since these statistics were first tallied in 1890. Despite more than $800 billion (more than 25 times the annual budget of Illinois) in “stimulus” spending and trillions more in national debt, we have regained just 1.8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession and its aftermath, or about one in five.

Yet, in Illinois the governor, ruling majorities, and their local enablers have raised taxes by 67 percent on individuals (where will any of us find an extra $1,200 to send Springfield next April?) and 46 percent on employers. The corporate income tax has brought in approximately $300 million, but Quinn has already doled out $250 million to a favorite few big companies which he hopes won’t bail out. In Motorola Mobility’s case, they can lay off 800 people out of their 3,300 and still receive $110 million of your money in a tax incentive.

It is government spending and tax policies like these that are cooking the goose laying the golden eggs to pay for Illinois government spending.

Guest Editorial: ‘We’re Number One’: Illinois pension crisis, part 1

in From the Editor's Desk by

by Chris Lauzen
State Senator (R-25)

I begin every conversation with a public employee or teacher who calls to advise “no changes” to their pension plans “Teachers g – o – o- o -d, majority of politicians b – a – a – a – d!”

In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, there is a scene where saboteurs are plotting to overthrow the king and one says, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers … ” When I read that sentiment as a schoolboy, I felt sorry for my friends who hoped to practice law. Now, as an adult, the current sentiment is to substitute “politicians” for lawyers.

Nineteen years ago, when you first sent me to Springfield, it was a big surprise to learn that a state government did not have to follow the same rules that every small business must follow regarding the proper funding of its pension obligations. If a small business owner did not deposit the correct amount, the first penalty was to lose the tax deductibility of those payments. If it happened a second time, the owner could be prosecuted and sent to jail.

Why don’t these serious rules apply to government?

It took three years for me, Steve Rauschenberger, Peter Fitzgerald, Pat O’Malley and Dave Syverson, the “Fab Five”, to gather support in the Illinois Senate and House to pass a fifty-year “mortgage” to pay back the unfunded liability that had accumulated before we got there.

We thought that we were clever boys by writing into the law that these annual payments for 50 years would have “continuing appropriations” status, i.e. the highest payment priority next to state bond payments before even payroll and other operating expenses. And, we fashioned an eight-year “ramp-up” of gradually higher payments each year, so that future General Assemblies had plenty of time to plan and gather fiscal momentum.

In 2004, Rod Blagojevich, his ruling majorities of downtown Chicago politicians, and their local enablers tore through that continuing appropriations mortgage like it was tissue paper and raided the pensions for the first time in a dozen years. Now in 2011, we face an unfunded liability for pensions and retiree healthcare that is many times more than all of the outstanding state bond debt that has been borrowed since Illinois became a state.

When friends who are teachers or rank-and-file government workers call to ask me, “Chris, you have always worked to protect taxpayers and fulfill commitments made under the pension plan, how can you be in favor of reform?”

The simple but painful answer is “The state pensions are bankrupt under at least two classic definitions of bankruptcy.” First, the pension and retiree healthcare liabilities exceed the assets put aside to pay them by more than $100 billion using very optimistic actuarial assumptions. Second, even if this governor and the majorities that have ruled Illinois for more than nine years wanted to pay back what has been shortchanged, they couldn’t. Without charging interest on the “mortgage” to repay these unfunded liabilities, it would take more than $350 million each month times 12 months each year for 30 years.

To put the amount of $350,000,000 into perspective, it is my impression that this is how much we all pay in taxes to fund community social service grants across the entire state for the whole year. To pay pensions is where your 67 percent income tax increase this year and forever is going to go.

Complaining and doing nothing about it will not solve the state pension insolvency. My suggestions were put into legislation and submitted for debate in January 2010.

First, we should eliminate future pension benefits for members of the General Assembly. It is a privilege to go to Springfield and represent our neighbors’ views on legislation … then we’re supposed to come home. We should not be compensated as if this were a “career.” When people say “That will never pass,” I point out that I successfully gathered support for a 5 percent cut in pay for state politicians two years ago and we over-rode Pat Quinn’s veto to make it stick.

Second, we need “Cap and Age” reforms for current state employees and teachers. Cap the runaway pension benefit amounts at $106,000 per year. These excessive benefits earn rank-and-file workers and teachers the wrath of their neighbors because people assume that “everyone gets those exorbitant amounts.” And, state workers and teachers must be asked to work until at least the early retirement age under Social Security of 62, rather than the current 55 years old. Seven more years paying in and seven fewer years taking out has an enormous impact on the actuarial projections.

Without these reforms, taxpayers will be milked and pensioners will face default on payments 10 to 15 years from now, when they are older and more vulnerable.

Next: The wider perspective on what’s happening in the state budget.

Guest Editorial: Kane Elder Death Review Team expands

in From the Editor's Desk by

by Christopher Nelson
Public Information Officer
Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office

As the population of residents over age 60 grows in Illinois—and in the United States—so has the opportunity for the abuse and neglect of seniors.

In response to the growing population of citizens 60 and older, evidence of abuse and neglect of seniors and the belief that collaborative oversight to appropriately protect vulnerable seniors was systemically lacking, Kane County in 2007 launched the Elder Fatality Review Team, a local interagency group designed to ensure that suspicious deaths of the elderly would be thoroughly examined and evaluated.

In reviewing the deaths, the team sought to determine if the deceased was the victim of abuse or neglect prior to death, and if abuse or neglect played a role in their death. If so, the panel determined what remedies should have taken place and how to ensure that those remedies are not overlooked in future cases, whether locally, statewide or both.

Based on its success and a need to involve more agencies, the team will expand to DeKalb and Kendall counties, and change its name to the Tri-County EFRT. As a result of its work the last four years, the Kane EFRT saw an opportunity to expand to DeKalb and Kendall counties because many of the cases it has examined crossed into those jurisdictions.

“The Elder Fatality Review Team has been very beneficial for various agencies to better evaluate whether a senior was the victim of abuse or neglect prior to death, whether abuse or neglect was a factor in their death, what the signs were of the presence of abuse or neglect, what could have been done to prevent it, and in some cases helping to evaluate the appropriateness of criminal charges,” Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said. “However, the EFRT isn’t as much about determining criminal action as it is about ensuring that agencies are collaborating to share information so that suspicious deaths are thoroughly evaluated, systemic changes are made and in the long run seniors receive proper care and treatment.”

Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis said, “We have an obligation to do what we can to protect our seniors. As our population ages, we must work to reduce the risk of victimizing an entire generation of Americans. I welcome the Elder Fatality Review Team to Kendall County, and I believe that its work will help implement positive changes in our efforts to bring those who harm our seniors to justice.”

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell said, “DeKalb County is privileged to join forces with Kane and Kendall counties to create the Tri-County Elder Fatality Review Team. This united commitment allows our counties to pool precious resources and expertise to develop strategies focused on the prevention and investigation of elder abuse. Our goal is nothing less than the utmost protection and safety of our senior citizens throughout the region.”

The Kane EFRT, which includes representatives from government and nonprofit social service agencies, was created to address systemic deficiencies in the identification and prevention of elder abuse and neglect. A case came to light within the coroner’s and state’s attorney’s offices regarding an elderly widow who died. After her body was cremated, information surfaced that the woman had been victimized by a family member, and that the woman had a history with an elder abuse agency. Those facts led some to question whether the woman could have been the victim of abuse or neglect, and even whether her death involved criminal activity. However, because no process existed at the time for various health and elder agencies to work collaboratively, her abuse was not known until after her death.

That lack of a tangible evaluation process meant that a viable means to improve the system also was lacking. Although certain agencies did have an evaluation process, an inability to share information with each other was identified as a barrier.

The case of Jane, as she is referred to by those familiar with her case, became a rallying cry to seek changes that would allow multiple agencies to share information in such a means that when abuse and neglect is found, the remedy is a more cohesive and collaborative response.

That launched the Kane County EFRT and its mission, which is to identify whether systems that have the purpose or responsibility to assist or protect elder vulnerable adults were sufficient for the particular circumstances or whether such systems require adjustment or improvement.

The team reviews suspicious deaths of persons age 60 and older who reside in domestic living situations, such as with family, caregiver or board and care home. Suspicious deaths may include deaths that resulted from blunt-force trauma or an undetermined manner. Death reviews also may take place as requested by an attending physician or referral from a health-care provider or law-enforcement agency in a case that involved suspected abuse, neglect, self-neglect or financial exploitation.

“Society, appropriately, has systems in place to identify and report child abuse and domestic abuse,” said Linda Voirin, Seniors and Persons with Disabilities Victim Advocate for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office. “But we are lacking an interagency approach to tackle elder abuse. We are working hard to change that.

“Our intent is not to be intrusive, and confidentiality is key. We would like to see seniors aging in place, and aging in peace,” Voirin said.

Ultimately it is the desire of the cooperative entities that by carefully examining these fatalities and implementing necessary system changes, the resulting outcome will lead to improvement in the response to elder victims of abuse and prevent similar outcomes in the future.

Letter: JoJo the Clown hopes you join her this summer

in Letters to the Editor by

JoJo the Clown is making plans for the 4th of July bike parade. Everyone is welcome to join in. If you have a bike, come ride with JoJo, but if you have a tractor or an antique car or are a dog walker or have a golf cart like JoJo’s ( but no one has a golf cart like JoJo’s “Clown Victoria”), come join the parade. Bikes can be decorated or not.

Parade line up will start at the front parking lot at John Shields School. Be there at 12:30 p.m., and will will start lining up; the parade starts with the pledge at 1 p.m. The fire and police departments will be there. The legion color guard will be leading us. The Park District will be handing out freeze pops after the parade. JoJo says “Be there or be square!” She also hopes everyone will come enjoy the fun.

JoJo missed the first French Market because she was sick, but her friend Calico Rose was there and she said it was great and so much fun. JoJo will be at the French Market the first Saturday of the month. So look for JoJo and friends in July, August, September and October.

The nice people who organize the Corn Boil have asked JoJo to lead the Corn Boil opening parade, so come to the opening parade on Friday, July 29. JoJo will be at the Corn Boil in the Between Friends Food Pantry tent. The Food Pantry have asked JoJo to help them.

They are always in need of toilet paper all the time. So JoJo is asking all the kids that come for face painting and balloons to sponsor a roll of Toilet Paper for the Food Pantry. So if you see the words “toilet paper,” think of JoJo and bring a roll of toilet paper for the Food Pantry.

JoJo will be seeing you all through the summer.

Love ya all,
JoJo

(aka Karen McCannon)
Sugar Grove

Letter: Sugar Grove 2011 Community Golf Outing cancelled

in Letters to the Editor by

It is with tremendous disappointment that I must inform you that the Chamber Board of Directors has been forced to cancel this year’s Community Golf Outing, which was scheduled to be held on Friday, June 24, at Bliss Creek Golf Course. Due to a lack of both sponsorships and participants, proceeding with the outing became economically unfeasible, making it necessary to cancel this year’s event.

We did discuss simply moving the outing to an alternative date later in the summer or fall, but decided that the adverse effect the economy has clearly had on both sponsorships and attendance would not likely change this calendar year. We nonetheless truly appreciate all support of the chamber and all interest in participating, and very much hope to see everyone at next year’s outing, which we hope will be better than ever.

On behalf of the entire Chamber Board, please accept our sincerest apologies for the cancellation and any inconvenience it may have caused.

Steven B. Ekker
President
Sugar Grove Chamber
of Commerce & Industry

Letter: Thank you, Leaders of Troop 7

in Letters to the Editor by

A centennial celebration began in 2010 that most of you may not have realized. The Boy Scouts of America celebrated 100 years of organization and dedication to the young men of America.

I would like to recognize the adult leaders of Elburn’s Troop 7 for the outstanding service they provide to more than 25 boys in the community on an annual basis. For 87 years strong, Troop 7 has thrived, and cultivated many successful young men. Not that long ago, I was among those boys who regularly met at Elburn’s Congregational Church with the troop. It was there, and at a variety of High Adventure camps with my fellow scouts, that I learned some of the most valuable lessons of my life.

The men and women who volunteered as my leaders then, exactly as they do now, helped shape who I am today by being living examples of the Scout Law: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” I’ve ingrained these words into my own work as an adult, and I can’t help but wonder, what might my life have been without scouting?

Scouting teaches boys about the value of heritage, as well as leadership skills. Boys are motivated by achievement, moving up the many different ranks from Tenderfoot, to Star, to Eagle; every one of them earned. Their character is tested on a weekly basis, and more often than not, that Scout Law comes into play when it’s time to make a decision. And the impact on a scout’s potential in life is greatly enhanced, not only by the work they’ve put forth to earn merit badges, but by the experiences they have and learn when guided by their adult leaders.

Elburn Troop 7 has been one of Fox Valley’s best at graduating boys to the rank of Eagle. In 2008, only 2 percent of all the boys in Scouting rose to the rank of Eagle. In the six years that I was a member of Troop 7, nine of my fellow scouts earned that highest rank. If you interviewed those nine, I guarantee you that each would say their Eagle Award would not have been earned without the presence, dedication and thrust of the leaders. Not only do the former and current leaders of our troop sacrifice an evening a week to the boys of the Elburn community, but also their own personal vacation days, as well as sometimes hundreds to thousands of dollars in personal finances, in order to help fund trips, food and expenses for Eagle project materials that aren’t donated.

If you have a son who is entering fifth grade, and you are looking for new ways to challenge, thrill, and teach him how to not only be responsible and respectful, but motivated and a “go getter,” then I offer the Boys Scouts of America, and Troop 7’s services to you.

Get your son (and yourself) involved in scouting. The bond your family will share through the experiences is indescribable. I thank God that my own dad was one of the leaders of Troop 7. Without his example and push, I’d not be the adult I am today.

Elburn’s scouting heritage is alive and well, thanks to the amazing men and women who have stepped up to lead. Everyone’s invited to Troop 7’s annual pancake breakfast on the Saturday morning of Elburn Days at Lion’s Park. Come meet the young men, and their leaders, who are shaping the next leaders of America. I applaud their service to Elburn and our country.

Chad Clarey
Batavia teacher
Kaneland coach
Troop 7 Eagle Scout (’89)

Letter: In appreciation of the Elburn and Countryside Community Center

in Letters to the Editor by

I want to thank Pat Leyden, Bill Brauer, Kathy Johnson, Dan Hannemann and Clara Stonecipher, the Board of Directors of the Elburn and Countryside Community Center, for their support over the 11-and-a-half years that I have served as the administrative assistant.

I have seen a lot of changes over the years and have seen the hard work and dedication that the volunteer board has given to the Elburn community. In leaving this position, my one hope is to make the Elburn and surrounding area aware of what the Community Center is and what it stands for.

Some of you know how the story goes, for those of you who don’t here it is: Built in 1928, this building was officially opened in 1929 as the Elburn High School. In later years it was used as an elementary school.

In 1985, the Kaneland School District closed down the school. This building was then sold to a private citizen of Elburn. He then turned around and organized a group of citizens to form a nonprofit community center. The mortgage was eventually taken over by the nonprofit corporation. This community center does not receive any tax dollars; it is not supported financially by any taxing body. It is strictly operating on donations and money received from the rental of office space, classes, meetings and activities.

Over the years, I have heard comments such as, “Wow, this is a really cool building;” “this reminds me of the school I went to as a kid;” “why don’t you have air conditioning;” “this building is so old;” “thank you for letting my kids play in the gym;” “why don’t you have a pool?;” “why do the classes cost so much?”; “the park district where I came from was much cheaper;” “this place works great for my business;” “I’ve never been in here before;” “I didn’t know you had all these activities going on.”

Whatever your feeling or experience with the center, the bottom line is that a lot of people have worked for a lot of years to give you, your children and your grandchildren a place to go to learn martial arts, piano, flute, dance, art, basketball, baseball, soccer, a preschool to attend, and a place for pre-teens to meet and have fun. It has also provided the community a place for adults, with men’s basketball, Jazzercise, Zumba and senior exercise classes. Other activities that have taken place here have been plays, concerts (American English), magic shows, fund raisers, dance recitals, music recitals, Christmas events, summer camps, and now Bingo. The board has strived to continue to provide a place for businesses and groups to offer services for the community, such as the Elburn Food Pantry. It seems to me that this old building is misunderstood and still has a lot to offer.

My goal is to get the community excited and more people involved in the center. It has been loyal to this community for many, many years. Over the years it has met many challenges, but with the help of many people, it has been able to overcome them.

I would like to challenge more of the community to get involved. The board is embarking on a new endeavor: the installation of a geothermal system. This is a great opportunity to not only help lower the costs to heat and cool the building, but it is (also) the ultimate in renewable energy. This project will be exciting and educational. Donations will be a great part of getting this done.

Because there is no park district, let’s use this “old” building to the best of its ability. It can and should be able to meet some of the needs of Elburn and the surrounding countryside. If you have never been in the building, I invite you to come and take a look.

Once again, I would like to thank the board for their support. I would like to personally thank Mike Stoffa, Fred Swift, Chuck Cermak, Ray Van Eycke and Mike Morong for being there when I needed emergency maintenance help. I will miss a lot of things about this building, most of all I will miss all the faces, young and old, that have passed through my office over the years.

Laurie Studdard
Administrative Assistant
Elburn and Countryside Community Center

Editorial: IPA honors reflect our commitment to community

in From the Editor's Desk by

Once a year, newspapers from throughout the state submit their best advertisements and special sections to be judged by their peers at the annual Illinois Press Association contest.

The awards banquet occurred earlier this month, and we are proud to say that we came away with a significant amount of recognition for the quality of our ad design and the special sections we offer throughout the year.

We are most proud of our first-place award in General Advertising Excellence, because the category takes into account our overall performance; sort of a big-picture look at the quality of our design. Here is what the judges said: “Nice, clean designs. They have a modern feel to them, as does the paper as a whole. Good flow, keeps eyes moving. Beautiful.”

We also won first-place honors for Best Annual Special Section for our Elburn Days 2010 section.

“Tremendous advertiser support. Nice layout—easy-to-find information, informative stories. Good use of color throughout section,” the judges said.

While we are proud of those words as a group, we are most proud of our Design Director, Leslie Flint, who single-handedly designed every one of our ads—not to mention designing and/or overseeing our weekly paper and all special sections—throughout the year. Her work on an individual basis was noticed at the awards ceremony as well, as she brought home a second-place price in the Best Ad Designer category.

“No matter the size or look of her ads, Leslie designs what works best within those parameters. Clean copy and simple designs pack a punch,” the judges said.

She also won second-place honors for Best Full Color Ad (Shady Hill Gardens), Best Classified Section, and Best Niche Publication (TriCity Insight).

She added third-place recognition for Best Small Ad (Sweet Dream Desserts), and an Honorable Mention for Best Ad Less Than a Full Page (Ream’s Elburn Market).

As a group, we also earned an Honorable Mention for Best Community Focus Special Section, for Kaneland Guide 2010. As a local, community paper focused on the communities within the Kaneland School District, being recognized for those efforts means much to us.

“Great school coverage, statistics, photos and information. Overall look is pretty pleasing to the eye. Great use of color,” the judges said.

While it is a good feeling to be recognized for our efforts made to serve our readers throughout the year, that is not why we do what we do. We do not put extra effort into our Elburn Days section to win an award, and Leslie does not make sure each client’s ad exceeds their expectations in the hopes that her peers will recognize that during that one-day banquet each year.

We do it to give our readers the best, most attractive content we can each and every week, and she does it so that each of our advertising clients can be proud of their individual ad as well as the product in which their ad is placed.

In other words, we do it to serve you, and the state recognition is the icing on the cake that is appreciated, but not central, to the motivation to do our jobs to the best of our abilities.

Letter: Elburn Chamber contributes to Kaneland Students

in Letters to the Editor by

On May 26, at the Kaneland High School awards night, I was granted the honor of presenting two Elburn Chamber of Commerce scholarships of $1,000 each to students who identified areas of concern to the Kaneland community and proposed viable solutions for addressing them.

Scholarship winner Grant Alef will attend the University of Minnesota and major in engineering, and scholarship winner Brock Feece will attend Millikin University and major in music education.

The Elburn Chamber of Commerce raises money each year through a Winter Dinner complete with silent auctions and raffles for the sole purpose of providing these scholarships. There is no fund generating interest. The dinner is open to the public, but it is mostly attended by chamber members themselves who dig into their own pockets for the auctions.

Even though these last few years have been rough on small businesses, the chamber has made it one of its highest priorities to contribute to the education of students. It has been said that human beings are often at their best when things are worst, and yet, I am always delightfully surprised to see it—and in this case, to be part of it.

Gary Augustine
Elburn Chamber of Commerce

Letter: Another Memorial Day has come and gone

in Letters to the Editor by

We try each year to get our word out about the importance of this day, remembering our veterans that are gone, and also supporting the veterans that are here and in need of aid. Our poppy drive was sanctioned by our Chamber of Commerce—thank you for your support.

We had collection cans at various businesses around the area: Sugar Grove Library, Genoa’s Pizza, Sugar Grove Cleaners, Calamity Jane’s, Sugar Grove Veterinary Clinic, BP Gas Station and, of course, our Legion Hall. People were very generous, especially during our breakfast. One hundred percent of our poppy donations go to our Veterans Hospital. Thank you to all who donated, and we will see you next year.

Our Memorial Day breakfast was a huge hit and also could not have been done without the cooperation of a long list of volunteers. We hope that the public enjoyed our celebration as much as we did. We hope that we are able to do it again next year.

This year, we were also privileged to have the company of the Sugar Grove Fire Department, Sugar Grove Police and Kane County Sheriff to aid us in our parade honoring our fallen soldiers, as we did our cemetery tour this past Memorial Day. Our parade consisted of motorcycles bearing flags—one for each brand of the military—with our United States flag in the lead, followed by our POW flag. Following that was a train of cars carrying supporters. We traveled to two cemeteries, where the color guard presented our flags and memorial ceremonies were performed. We had a wonderful bugler at our first stop to play Taps, and a great turnout by the Boy Scouts.

Your support was greatly appreciated, and we hope to be able to enlist your aid next year.

Beth Johnson
Sugar Grove American Legion
Post #1271

Editorial: Proactive effort pays off

in From the Editor's Desk by

As word spread that the state legislature was considering eliminating Local Government Distributive Funds (LGDF)—the portion of income taxes collected by the state and returned to municipalities—Elburn Village President Dave Anderson joined a group of nearly 40 mayors and village presidents from throughout the state in Springfield.

They gathered to publicly urge the legislature to leave the LGDF alone, thereby protecting significant portions of municipal funds—for example, approximately 30 percent of Elburn’s budget each year.

The group spread the word to their respective communities, they contacted their respective representatives, and then they gathered in Springfield, organizing a press conference and spreading the message that damaging nearly every Illinois municipality to help ease the state’s bloated budget is not a legitimate decision.

While it is impossible to know the exact impact the group had on the situation, what is known is that the idea was never brought up on the state floor and no legislation was proposed.

It is also impossible to know if the idea would have gathered momentum and turned into legislation had the group not been proactive and taken their message to the public and to Springfield. Thankfully, there was a group of proactive community leaders from throughout the state to help ensure that we did not have to find out what may have happened.

The idea that the state would create significant shortfalls in each municipality’s budget to help pay for its own budget shortfall was idiotic, and we should thank those who took proactive steps to help ensure that such an extreme decision to cover up such an extreme state failure never saw the light of day.

Letter: A thank you for Memorial Day

in Letters to the Editor by

Thank you to the American Legion Auxiliary for working in the kitchen. Thank you to Carrie Petrie for reading “Flander’s Fields.” Thank you to Karen Howard for reading the list of the deceased soldiers. And thank you to Eric Turk, great-grandson of a former Elburn Legionarrie Charles James, and the Kaneland High School Band for playing. Thank you for all that came out to honor all veterans at the Memorial Day service.

Norbert Lund
Member
Elburn American Legion Post 630

Letter: Let the children play

in Letters to the Editor by

Regarding the complaints of people living in the Willow Street townhouses, I agree with Mr. Cushna. We live in the Willow Street townhouses, but not on the property mentioned. My husband walks our dogs in that area and enjoys sitting and watching the children play. We envy the people living near that area and being entertained by the voices and excitement of the children playing any game and reminding us of the days we enjoyed in years past.

Children—respect your neighbors. People, let’s start being kinder to one another. Life is short. Be nice.

Don and Jean Hed
Elburn

Letter: Fighting for tradition

in Letters to the Editor by

The other day, I received a disturbing e-mail. It stated that the Kaneland School District is canceling field day at the elementary schools as well as next year’s holiday concerts. I reread the e-mail several times. I honestly didn’t think I was reading it right. After a few phone calls, I was shocked to have these cancellations confirmed.

First, why would field day be canceled? It is held on school grounds and is run by teachers and a large group of volunteers. These are people who want to help the students have a memorable experience. It can’t possibly cost that much, if anything at all, to hold this event.

As for the holiday concert, why would the district take away a tradition from as far back as anyone can remember? What would the holidays be without a stage full of proud little people bursting out in song? Most of the audience is moved by a range of emotions from pride to tears to laughter, as well as pure joy.

These are moments that the students experience which will bring them a lifetime of memories.

I can still remember the field day that I won the 50-yard dash against a boy. I have memories of our spring concert singing a montage of the Beatles music, followed by a roar of cheers along with a standing ovation. I remember the holiday concert where I was chosen along with two other children to sing a few solo lines from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” These are just a few of my awesome memories.

The fact is, I remember the great teachers I had as well as the not-so-great teachers. I don’t remember exactly how I learned the foundation of math or reading that gave me the skills to continue my education. What I do clearly remember are the moments during these extra events that gave me such a feeling of pride, helped build my confidence, as well as gave me the memories to share with my own kids as they go through the same events I did. You aren’t taking away programs, these are traditions that are being erased from the children’s lives that could give them memories to last their lifetime.

The district has already taken away Lorado Taft, which is an amazing growing, team-building and learning experience which develops unbreakable bonds of friendship and teaches kids to learn and grow through an experience of great independence.

The district has cut most of the hands-on learning through field trips. It’s difficult to re-create these situations in a classroom setting.

The district took away the fifth grade band. Most kids would have never picked up an instrument if it wasn’t for this, now lost, opportunity. Some of the students would have continued to learn music based on the experience they were given through the school. What a loss.

And then field day, once at Lions Park, now scaled back to a few hours on school’s property; another confidence builder for all abilities and levels of skill, as well as a fantastic way for the students to develop social skills with other students, parents and teachers.

Will we need to rely on the Internet and social networking to develop these very important skills? Interacting with human beings is on the way toward becoming extinct. I think the district has completely missed the big picture. The kids are losing touch by interacting through technology and misunderstanding how to be social.

The students will disconnect and suffer in the long run. How will they learn to interact with other people if we don’t give them the opportunity? Give them the tools they need to shine and build their own self-confidence. These aren’t just programs, they are character builders.

Please contact Kaneland School District No. 302 Business Office if you agree with this letter and the statements I have made. It is so important that we be the voice for the students. They need us to speak for them.

Thank you for your time.

Michelle Conklin
Maple Park

Letter: Wage war on terrorists effectively

in Letters to the Editor by

My prayer is that President Obama will use the termination of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to pivot U.S. strategy in order to fight the war on terrorism effectively.

I had the privilege recently to watch the commissioning of Army, Marine and Naval Officers upon their graduation from college. To see the grave enthusiasm of these brave young men and women and to share the pride and concern of their parents was a sobering inspiration. These new officers and their parents represent the most genuine patriotism of our country.

Their courage, commitment and sacrifice should not be squandered on ineffective strategy. We cannot reason with terrorists who think that they will be rewarded in heaven for killing innocent men, women and children in order to advance their twisted, violent political agenda.

We cannot reshape thousands of years old primitive tribal cultures of Afghanistan, Yemen, or even Libya with the blood of our most courageous children. Most of them are barbarians who place little value on individual lives.

We need to combine maximum investment in stealthy accumulation of human intelligence, combine it with the most sophisticated surveillance technologies deployed in these wilderness regions, then apply special strike forces to surgically remove terrorists who have no other purpose in life and death than to kill peaceful people with whom they politically disagree.

Use the event of delayed execution of justice on Osama bin Laden to remove our ground troops from the incredibly punishing patrols in regions where the Afghan president threatens us that he will join the Taliban and where Pakistanis take our foreign aid but helped to hide bin Laden. Pinpoint our strikes against terrorists where they plot, train and arm themselves spread out around the world.

As journalist Steve Huntley says, if nearly 10 years of nation building at the cost of thousands of U.S. casualties and billions of dollars hasn’t put it on the path to modern nationhood, how will the sacrifice of more Americans lives and financial treasure do the job? Now is the time to change our strategy.

Chris Lauzen
State Senator (R-25)

Letter: Open Letter to Kane County legislators, community

in Letters to the Editor by

The members of the Kane County Mental Health Council, a voluntary collaboration of service providers, advocates, the health department, local mental health authorities and other organizations with a sincere interest in mental health in Kane County, would like you to be aware that the various versions of the state budget being negotiated in Springfield this month all include drastic cuts to community-based mental health services.

These cuts will result in reduction or termination of much-needed services to hundreds, if not thousands, of Kane County residents. Ultimate care for these individuals will become the responsibility of the local communities. If not at the already-strained community mental health centers, it will be in the local jails, hospitals and homeless shelters. While we understand the need for a balanced Illinois budget, it is neither good social policy nor good fiscal policy to do so by denying services to Kane County residents with mental illness.

The proposed budgets include disproportionally large cuts to community-based services, while funding for state-operated facilities is expected to rise. The Mental Health Council would oppose these cuts to community services. Funding for local services, which represent the real safety net for the community, always appears to be first in line for cuts, including in the area of services to children with severe emotional disturbances. Mental health services affect everyone’s quality of life, from the streets to the schools to the jails to your own neighborhood.

On behalf of the tens of thousands of Kane County residents who receive mental health services, the thousands of board members and community supporters of mental health providers and the hundreds of Kane County residents who work in the mental health community, many of whom vote regularly, we ask for:
• No disproportionate cuts to community mental health
• Prompt payment for services rendered
• Don’t balance the state’s budget on the mentally ill
• Don’t shift these costs to local taxpayers

Jerry J. Murphy
KCMH Council

Guest Editorial: Fermilab: A tradition of scientific excellence benefitting the nation

in From the Editor's Desk by

by U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14)
In March of this year, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located in my home district, announced the possible discovery of a new type of boson particle. The evidence from the Tevatron, if confirmed, could hint of a new physics. It is yet another chapter in Fermilab’s proud legacy of exploration at the most fundamental level of energy and matter.

This commitment to excellence and scientific understanding is not only something we’re proud of in Illinois’ 14th District, it’s something we must be proud of as a nation. High energy physics goes beyond parochial interests and local politics; these endeavors are inextricably linked to both our national success, and fundamentally, our national character.

Fermilab has a proud heritage including studies of quark scattering using hadron, muon, and neutrino beams, precise studies of matter-antimatter asymmetry, precision tests of the Standard Model, and of course the discovery of the bottom and top quarks. Together, with the rest of the national laboratories at Cornell, Jefferson Lab, Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and others, these institutions promote cross-disciplinary interactions between various academic fields, as well as between scientists and engineers, and they serve as an irreplaceable channel for the broader goal of developing our base of an advanced STEM workforce.

Data from just the Collider Detector experiment at Fermilab produces two dozen Ph.D. theses per year and a scientific paper every six days; the DZero (study of subatomic particles, including the Higgs Boson) experiment goes even further with three dozen Ph.D. theses from new data and 50 scientific papers per year. In total, Fermilab can produce more than 100 PhDs in a single year based solely on lab data.

Not only are these researchers directly beneficial to society through their own work, they’re also an invaluable component of improving general literacy in science and technology nationwide. Many Fermilab researchers teach at universities—I know several who teach at Northern Illinois University in my district, as well as the University of Chicago and other world-class institutions—and these universities in turn teach the rest of our nation’s teachers. If we hope to reverse the long decline in the quality of K-12 education in math and science that was the subject of the famous “Gathering Storm” report from the National Academies in 2007, this sort of faculty interaction is the seed-corn of scientific literacy.

These are results we ought to be proud of as a nation. The U.S. research system is unique. We’ve found an incredibly powerful combination, wedding education and research by incorporating universities, user facilities and Department of Energy resources. But this system is only as stable our commitment to it, which is why sustained and predictable research funding is crucial. The 2007 reorganization under America competes was a good first step, but Congress must redouble its efforts to provide a clear, predictable, long-term path mapping out the seriousness of our investment.

I’ve spoken frequently on the need to provide business owners and entrepreneurs relief from uncertainty caused by poor government planning; they can handle risk, but they cannot handle uncertainty. It’s no different for the physicists, students and engineers investing themselves in our scientific endeavor. They can handle the challenges of science and engineering, which is why we must not fail in providing them the long-term certainty they need to focus on those challenges.

The ups and downs of funding levels and program authorizations are a clear failure on the part of policymakers to provide this crucial programmatic and funding certainty. When this happens, scientists, students, industries and academic organizations are slowed and distracted. The interruption of investment in these crucial areas is disruptive and demoralizing for the community. It hits junior scientists who may lack the requisite experience to get funding in a hypercompetitive environment, and it hurts experienced scientists who may have to search for funding by shuffling between different universities.

With a pedigree spanning over half a century, it is self-evident that basic research drives our understanding of the universe; from that understanding the utility payoffs are incalculably high. These are new ideas and new innovations that spawn new products, services, companies, industries and affect human capabilities further down the line. Our fundamental understanding of electromagnetism has led directly to our ability to manipulate electrons in both the power grid and in microprocessors, in lasers and in diodes. Elementary particles and their interactions have given us electromagnetic power generation, circuit boards, microprocessors and everything in-between. Research and development in accelerator technology has produced a direct impact as that technology has been refined and distributed. Today, there are more than 17,000 particle accelerators in operation around the world; not just at research institutions, but also in private industry in hospitals and other locations.

Beyond the broader scale and scope of our fundamental discoveries, there’s no shortage of dividends on our investment: PET scans, superconducting wire, cancer treatments, grid computing, the Internet and industrial material treatments are a tiny fraction of the payoffs we’ve seen.

Advances in medical technology and health care treatments; broader economy-wide competitiveness and efficiency gains; and generations enriched with intellectual capital are examples of other benefits. Just within materials science, whether it’s treating plastics and turning them into films, implanting ions into silicon chips, or developing the components of artificial heart valves, we would not have this core understanding without investments made generations ago in accelerator technology and research physics.

As Americans, we strive not only for economic growth, prosperity and job creation, but also for exploration of the frontiers of both knowledge and geography, pushing ourselves against the boundaries of both our capabilities and understanding.

With growing competition from overseas and economic uncertainty here at home, it is more important than ever that we reinforce our national commitment to basic research. Our long-term success in both economic innovation, problem solving and inspiring future generations of Americans depends on it.

The utility offered to our country and to the world by expanding new physics beyond the standard model may be difficult to discern today, but the work being done by physicists and engineers at Fermilab and other centers around the country will undoubtedly produce those benefits. We may not know precisely what impact muon cooling, or high-field magnetic design, or high-intensity beams from proton accelerators may produce in the future, but I have no doubt that these projects at the forefront of the Intensity Frontier will enrich our lives for generations to come.

We need to have a serious budget debate in Washington, but we must recognize that not all federal spending is created equal. In the past 50 years, federal direct payments to individuals have more than tripled as a share of GDP, while our investments in science have flat lined, if not outright decreased. In the coming years, I know Fermilab will continue to distinguish itself in its neutrino studies just as it has in the past.

Basic research and high energy physics are embedded in our national DNA. They’re part of who we are: our jobs, our economy, our community, even our identity as a nation. Now, more than ever, we need to recommit ourselves in both government and at the grassroots to make robust and lasting investment in basic research.

Letter: I don’t understand Kaneland policy

in Letters to the Editor by

Wednesday, May 25, was the Kaneland High School Senior Athletic Awards Banquet. Unfortunately, the school did not plan to acknowledge all senior athletes invited—only those whose parents remembered to get their RSVPs in on time. Athletes whose parents forgot to get their RSVP’s in on time, like me, are just out of luck. I have been told we cannot attend the ceremony at all.

In trying to understand this policy, I’ve experienced the following, along with some questions.

I was told only the athlete’s whose parents RSVP for the banquet are given plaques by the school. Why aren’t all the senior athletes who met the criteria for being invited to the banquet, regardless of if they attend or not, given a plaque by the school for their athletic accomplishments? If cost is an issue, why not go with something cheaper?

Why were my calls/messages to the school athletic department, to see if I could still possibly sign up late, ignored and never responded to? I was told the athletic secretary was out sick all week. So does that mean no one checks messages then and tries to respond to them in somewhat of a timely manner? They just get ignored altogether?

I ended up stopping by the school on the third day of not getting a reply, in order to try to get an answer to my calls/messages—I was told no, we could not attend the banquet as we missed the RSVP deadline. In case anyone is curious, my first call was on the Tuesday after the Friday deadline, when I realized checking student announcements for the prior week, that I was late getting my RSVP in.

I was told the students were reminded the whole week before the deadline about getting this in. Yes, a very general reminder was announced at school to the students—the announcements are online for the week of May 9-13, if anyone wants to check. No names were listed as to who was late, so how would they know then who needed to follow up on this?

BTW, if your child has lunch during the time school announcements are made, they can not hear the announcements. My child is one who has lunch at this time. A school representative has at least acknowledged this is an issue at the school that they hear a lot of complaints on, and that the school knows it needs to address at some point.

It was implied to me by our athletic directory that this was the student’s fault for not getting the RSVP in on time. I disagree. The invite for the senior award banquet was mailed to the parents, and parents needed to send payment for their meal, along with sending in the RSVP, if they were attending. The parents should have gotten reminders on this, not just the students. This was my fault for not getting it in. I could explain the situation why, but really that isn’t the issue. I accept full responsibility for not getting it in on time.

But it does raise the question: Where were the reminders to the parents to get their RSVPs in on time?

I checked the parent newsletter on the website—there is a reference to the Senior Athletic Banquet—but no reminder to parents to get RSVP in, or that an RSVP is even required.

No notice is provided on the Kaneland High School home web page about any senior year-end activities, nor were any reminders listed of what is coming up/needs to be done by when, etc. If it’s there, it’s hidden well.

A sheet was sent home for “Senior: Year End Activities.” It mentions nothing about an RSVP to the Senior Banquet, just that an invite will be sent to those students who will be honored. It also states, “All students and family are encouraged to attend.”

Encouraged to attend—not from my experience. It’s been anything but encouraging.

The invite is brief, and the RSVP card that came with the invite is the size of a business card. There is no option for declining, so how would a student/family who had a conflicting school sports event know to send in a reply so that their student was able to receive a plaque? It was a business-card-size RSVP card that is easy to lose or accidentally toss, and there really wasn’t very clear on where the reply was supposed to be sent.

I tried to reach a compromise with the school, where my child would be allowed to attend the awards ceremony, walk across the stage, and at least be acknowledged for his accomplishments, with the understanding that no plaque would be presented and we wouldn’t take part in the meal (which is a buffet).

I was told no, we can not attend, as we didn’t get our RSVP in on time.

I have had friends offer us their tickets (which they weren’t going to use, but paid for) so we could attend the banquet and eat. Still, I have been told no, we cannot attend, as we didn’t get our RSVP in on time.

I admit I’m at a fault here, for not getting my RSVP in on time. But I also don’t feel like the school did a very good job either in trying to remind parents to get it in. I don’t like that they’ve blamed the students for not getting it in. I also don’t understand why the school is not willing to try to work something out, especially given how great a year in sports the school has had. The only reason I can figure out why they won’t try to work something out here is because of the plaque issue, and not everyone getting one. It makes the school look bad.

I’ve been told the school will look into possible changes for next year. I would hope so, but given I’ve heard this same issue talked about in previous years and nothing has changed, I really have my doubts.

All I can do at this point is make the issue known so that there is a greater chance it’ll get addressed for future years, and suggest some possible changes that might help.

The school has e-mail addresses for parents. It doesn’t cost anything to send an e-mail. Why couldn’t the parents have been reminded via e-mail that they still needed to get this RSVP in?

It would be nice if there was an option to sign up and have school announcements e-mailed to a parent or student, so that we didn’t have to try and find time to pull up the high school website and navigate to the appropriate web page to find out information our students have been told (but may or may not have heard).

It would be nice if major issues/changes for the day/week were updated and put in a flashing bulletin on the KHS home web page. Again, eliminate the need to navigate to the appropriate page to find the information, like game changes, game cancellations, items due, etc.

It would be nice if the school could figure out a way for parents/students to register for things, like this banquet, online. There are various venues available that provide this type of service, that are free.

Needless to say, we are not attending the banquet, as the school has made more than clear that we are not welcome to come under any circumstances. There are a handful of people, who know who they are, who have my gratitude and thanks in trying to help me get a change in place this year for all parents/students impacted by this same issue.

Lori Thorson
Sugar Grove

Letter: Poppy Days a huge success for veterans

in Letters to the Editor by

The members of the Daniel Simpson American Legion Auxiliary No. 630, Elburn, wish to thank the community for their generosity toward our Poppy Days on May 20 and 21. Your show of support for this important program is greatly appreciated.

We would also like to thank the many Legion and Auxiliary volunteers that put in hours on the streets. Legionnaires—Wiley Overley, Al Anderson, Jerry Lonigro, George Morris, Lloyd DaMask, Norbert Lund, Lou Swiderski, Dennis Richmond and Jim Elgar. Auxiliary members—Kay Swift, Robin Harley, Marleah Anderson, Pennie Griesmann and Carrie Petrie.

Many thanks go out to the area businesses that allowed us to be inside or outside of their buildings. Jewel/Osco, Mobil Gas, Elburn Kountry Kettle, Papa G’s, Ream’s Meat Market, Elburn Post Office, Blackberry Inn, Metra Station and Schmidts. Thank you for all courtesies extended to our volunteers.

All the proceeds of Poppy Days go towards veterans and their families. Elburn Auxiliary donated over $1,700 to veterans programs this past year. The Elburn unit hopes to continue to help with the needs of our veterans who have and are currently giving so much for our country. We hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day and took some time to reflect on the reason for the holiday … remembering our veterans.

Cara Bartel and Jan Herra
Poppy Chairmen
Daniel Simpson Unit No. 630, Elburn

Letter: State cuts target most vulnerable

in Letters to the Editor by

Illinois is planning devastating cuts to services for individuals with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities. These cuts target our most vulnerable citizens and are being sold as a way to balance Illinois’ estimated $13 billion deficit. The truth is these cuts are short sighted and will send us on a path of destruction.

Illinois ranks last in the nation for supporting citizens with disabilities in their home communities. Disability services that are the lifeline to more than 220,000 people with disabilities and their families have already experienced deep cuts and are hanging by a thread.

In addition to funding reductions, several critical programs are being eliminated, and it’s estimated that 3,052 direct care staff will be laid off as a result. At the same time, the budget calls for the hiring of 950 state employees and grants union employees an 8.25 percent wage increase.

The budget has the wrong priorities, and the process is flawed.

There are currently three budget proposals on the table: the governor’s, the House’s and the Senate’s.

The House’s estimate of revenues is about $1.1 billion lower than the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA), a bipartisan agency with a proven track record of making accurate revenue projections. Using CGFA’s reasonable estimate of revenues could save critical disability programs.

The Senate’s proposed budget disproportionately impacts individuals with disabilities by prioritizing programs that do not maximize taxpayer dollars.

The governor’s budget appropriates $30 million to state institutions and cuts community-based services by $76.3 million, even though numerous studies prove community services are safer, more effective and efficient. Four people can be served in a community setting for every one person in an institution. This is unconscionable. Furthermore, the proposed budgets do nothing to address the backlog in payments owed to disability service providers. Some have been forced to shut their doors, and others are on the brink of collapse because the state is six months behind in payments.

The disabled community cannot withstand additional cuts. The budgets deepen the gap to accessible disability services and does nothing to address the 21,000 people on the waiting list. None of the proposed budgets do anything for those who are desperately waiting for state services.

Most people would agree that services to help people with disabilities live life with independence, equality and dignity are the kind of programs that are worthy of taxpayer funds. That is what our society was built on. It is what our founding fathers had in mind when developing the system of government. We must provide assistance to help those who truly and desperately need it. It’s not a hand out; it’s common decency. Now it’s up to our lawmakers to make the right choices.

Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois

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