Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby Ruling

The Supreme Court just ruled 5-4 that Hobby Lobby, and other similarly closely held corporations, cannot be forced to abide by the Affordable Care Act's requirements to cover contraception for female employees. This concerns me because, like Citizens United, it reverses a long trend of the court saying that the rights citizens of the United States have do not apply to corporations.

The Affordable Care Act contains a provision exempting religious not-for-profit corporations from aspects of the act that might conflict with the religious organization's belief, primarily requirements to cover abortion and reproductive health. There is no such provision for for-profit organizations, which have generally lost when claiming religious exemptions from laws.

However, now Hobby Lobby has successfully used freedom of religion, til now retailed as a right of individuals,  as a rational for a non-religious for-profit corporation to opt out of a legal requirement.

The ruling did say it only applied to closely held corporations, such as Hobby Lobby, and does not apply to other areas of medical concern, such as blood transfusions, since apparently Hobby Lobby has a very specific view of what violates its religious beliefs.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Year Round Farmers Market

There is a lot of interest in a location for a year round farmer's market in Carbondale, beyond the one that operates at the high school. The photo below (taken by D. Gorton) shows about half the room at the June 3 meeting held to explore the possibility:

The problem is, of course, funding. The city will raise its sales tax by 1/2% on July 1 to help cover pensions, among other expenses. If the city must raise taxes in order to pay current bills, it certainly does not have the money to fund the construction of a year round market building. The city, however, could provide land for the construction of such a structure. There are several plots of land in downtown that currently sit empty that the city could make available for a market building. However, it will probably be up to a private group to raise the funds for its construction

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Administrative Creep

Following up on A Note to the Community, one problem that SIUC had, along with almost every other institution of higher education in the country is administrative creep.

Found this article on the Washington Monthly website, which summarizes the problem. The total spending by colleges and universities tripled between 1975 and 2005 to around $325 billion per year. However, faculty/student ratios remained fairly constant at about 15 or 16 to 1, one faculty member for every 15 students.

In 1975, the administrator/student ratio was 84 to 1, while the professional staffer (admissions officers, information technology specialists, etc.) to student ratio ran about 50 to 1. Jump forward to 2005 and the administrator/student ratio has dropped to 68 to 1 and the professional staff ratio has fallen to 21 to one. Granted, a lot of money has gone into improving and replacing college infrastructure, but twice as much money has gone into expanding administration as has gone into research and faculty.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

White Tail Deer

City Council will take up tonight whether to allow bowhunting of White-tailed deer on the city owned property bordering Cedar Lake. The United States Forest Service allows it on the south end of the lake but the city has refused to do so on the other three sides, despite repeated requests from  the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Since the article just presents reasons why hunting should be allowed, I gather there are few people coming out in opposition to it, which hopefully means that council will approve it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Note to the Community

Dr Jerry Becker of SIUC, emailed out the following late last week:

In Chancellor Rita Cheng's departing message to the SIUC community, as she leaves for her new position as head of Northern Arizona University, she wrote, "We have solidified our financial viability and are on the brink of turning around our enrollment decline." I am wondering what this means? I wonder what our summer enrollment figures are? Further, does what she writes mean that we are in such great financial shape that College of Education and Human Services [COEHS] faculty members are expected to accept half their salaries for teaching this summer?

In contrast, the COEHS Dean received a hefty salary increase from $152,964 to $184,644 per year ($15,387 per month), a 21%% increase. His new Associate Dean in the COEHS received a
$32,000 increase in salary. And the new Director of Teacher Education in the COEHS received a similarly large salary increase.

The members of the COEHS Dean's Council, that is, department chairs, receive at least eleven month's salary, and at least some (maybe all) receive the equivalent of one additional month of salary - that makes twelve months. [I know from a reading of the Minutes of the Dean's Council meetings received from a FOIA request that the members discussed ways to "get back" what seems to be a reduction in pay (12 months to 11 months), so as to enjoy a full 12 months salary, while at the same time discussing implementation of the half-pay summer salaries for faculty members.

I am not aware of any of these administrators taking any kind of 'cut' in salary as they have sanctioned for faculty members.
What can we make of this? What should we make of this?

And what does this mean? It appears that, concerning administration salaries, there apparently is a pile of money to draw on (financial viability? For whom?). But not for faculty members nor for students. For faculty members, well, they should teach for half salary. And for students and their parents, well, they should provide substantially more payment to the university in tuition and enormous fees (much of it for things of little or no interest to them).

Where is the justice in this system, for students and faculty?

I submit that, like one of our highly regarded university faculty members recently wrote, we are headed straight towards the destruction of our university. These actions fly in the face of faculty and students around whom the university is built. And it is not as though students do not see and understand what is going on - they do. And what are the implications for university enrollments - either in retaining for recruiting?

It is difficult to fathom the unconscionable decisions that have been/are being made by these administrators. Unconscionable! How, I wonder, can any of these administrators serve up and sanction the salary policy to faculty members as they do and, at the same time, walk off with enormous increases in salary for them selves? [Are these salary increases coming from the dollars garnered by the half-salary policy of faculty?]  I am not aware of any administrator, not one, giving anything up, in their own salary, while putting in place the new policy of summer teaching at half the salary, or even less, for faculty members.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Delish Open

Delish opened very quietly this week. Located in the Old Corner diner/Jewel of India building at the corner of W. College and S. Illinois, signs advertise a number of Tex-Mex offerings as well as "Breakfast All Day", which differentiates Delish from Harbaugh's and Mary Lou's, since both of those close mid afternoon.

I can see Delish becoming a favored student hangout, especially if it offers lat night hours as it has more space than most other gathering spots in the city and free wifi. That might become a problem as the Corner Diner became a student hangout during its last years. Students would order a cup of coffee and take up table space for hours without ordering anything else. A business cannot subsist solely on coffee orders, unless you are moving large numbers of cups in a short period of time, ala Starbucks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

710 Building Demolished

Construction crews leveled the old 710 Bookstore building today to make way for the new Carbondale Flats complex.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hotel/Motel Tax Revenues

Courtesy of the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau, the graph below tracks revenues generated by Carbondale's hotel/motel tax. Revenues generated by the tax increased a full 1% from FY 2013 to the just ended FY2014. Over the past three years, revenues generated by the tax have gone up just over $15,000>

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bicycles in Carbondale

One of the big problems with expanding bicycling in Carbondale is that, unlike automobiles, bicycles do not generate any direct revenue with with to fund improvements tailored to their use. Autos have to pay for licenses on an annual basis, gasoline, which has a hefty motor fuel tax added, and parking fees, which go back into repairing lots. Though bicycles in Carbondale are supposed to register and pay a nominal fee for this, most bicyclists do not. Unlike cars, bicycles do not generate any revenues to pay for making Carbondale a more"bike friendly" city.

Ergo, any resources provided by the city for bicyclists, such as bike racks, lanes or signage, have to come out of either the city's general fund or motor fuel fund and, while it is good to encourage more people to bicycle, the less money comes into city coffers to maintain roads and infrastructure.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ticket Quotas Outlawed

Joining Texas and California among other states, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill this weekend outlawing ticket quotas by any law enforcement unit from the state on down. Officers also cannot have the number of tickets they write considered as part of their evaluation, though traffic stops and interactions still can be.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Toxic Algae in Piles Fork Creek

Received a press release from Kevin Baity's office this evening:

The City of Carbondale is issuing a skin contact and toxicity alert for the water in Evergreen Reservoir and in Piles Fork Creek. At approximately 11am today, staff was alerted that the water in Piles Fork Creek was turning a bluish color in isolated areas. Investigations found the area of initial concern to be between Evergreen Reservoir on Pleasant Hill Road and South Wall Street near Grand Avenue.

Samples were immediately gathered and laboratory testing is currently being completed. Initial results indicate natural forming toxic algae may be present. Additional samples are being taken, prepared and testing will be completed next week by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

The public is advised and warned to keep yourself, your children and your pets out of Evergreen Reservoir and Piles Fork Creek and to avoid all contact with the water. The absence of the bluish color does not mean the water is clean as the algae is slow moving and may have already moved through the area or dissipated causing the water to return to a clear state. The algae deplete the oxygen level in the water thereby causing fish and other water living animals and organisms to die.

Human exposure to the water may result in skin rashes. Animals swimming in or drinking the water may become sick with potentially fatal consequences.

The drinking water supply for the City of Carbondale and its satellite water districts is safe and not affected as the supply comes from Cedar Lake and not Evergreen Reservoir.

Additional information will be passed along as laboratory testing is completed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014