Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Weekend

Friday and Saturday were about normal in terms of foot and vehicular traffic. Saturday afternoon and evening were about equal to a late weekday afternoon in terms of vehicular traffic and a bit heavier than normal in foot traffic.Restaurants that had added on staff on Saturday in anticipation of heavier than normal crowds were either sending them home or moving them to "on call" status.

Sunday both car and foot traffic in downtown was way up. Though it was easy to find seats at restaurants earlier in the evening, there were lines at both Reema's and Bombay Olive by 8 p.m. Rather surprisingly, service was very quick at the Dairy Queen.

Eclipse Comic Con drew about 1000 people on Saturday and between 500-1000 people on Sunday. Lots of cosplayers and people walking the floor but not a huge amount of merchandise being bought.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Roads Closed

Just a reminder that only 2 roads will close in Carbondale during Eclipse weekend and only part of those.  Washington between Main and Walnut will close for the Eclipsefest concerts and Hospital Drive between Illinois and University will close for the Marketplace. Incidentally, Hospital Drive is the short street that runs just north of the FirstMid Bank building and is so named because Memorial Hospital used to stand on the grounds where FirstMid is located:

The City of Carbondale would like to remind eclipse goers that all major roads in Carbondale will remain open during the eclipse.
Washington Street between Main and Walnut streets will be closed starting on Friday, August 18 at 7 a.m. due to preparations for Shadow Fest. The closure will remain in effect until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 22.
A portion of W. Hospital Drive between S. Illinois and S. University avenues will also be closed starting on Friday, August 18 at 7 a.m. due to preparations for the Eclipse Marketplace. The closure will remain in effect until Monday, August 21 at 9 p.m.
Route 13, U.S. Highway 51, Illinois Avenue and all other main thoroughfares are planned to be open throughout eclipse weekend.

Carbondale Makes Time

The Magazine that is. Time is billing the city as "The Solar Eclipse Crossroads of America".

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hwy 127 Roadwork

In another nod to the upcoming eclipse, IDOT has posted there will be work on Hwy 127 just north of Alto Pass but not starting until the end of the month. Apparently we don't want to risk slowing traffic through southern Illinois this weekend.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Street Closures

Despite rumors, the only street closing during Eclipse Weekend is Washington Street between Main and Walnut. Everything else remains open, unless something happens:

 The City of Carbondale would like to remind eclipse goers that all major roads in Carbondale will remain open during the eclipse.
Washington Street between Main and Walnut Streets will be closed August 19-21 for Shadow Fest.
Route 13, U.S. Highway 51, Illinois Avenue and all other main thoroughfares are planned to be open throughout eclipse weekend.

Pony Hiring

Sign on the long-closed Pony building is advertising someone is hiring managers, bartenders and waitstaff. No indication if they will be hiring dancers though or even if the business will re-open under the Pony name. I have heard it will move to more of a bar and grill with out the dancers.

Monday, August 14, 2017

School Funding

This week's State Week in Review is an interesting listen on the whys and wherefores of the recently vetoed school funding bill. One reason for the Legislature to hold off sending the bill to the Governor for his already announced veto was that, if negotiations had panned out between the two sides, the bill would have only needed an amendment to incorporate any negotiated changes, then the Governor could sign the amended bill. As it stands now, with the veto, there can be no changes to the bill.  If the House overrides his veto, the school funding bill goes into effect as written.

The discussion also points out that, although Gov. Rauner only mentions the funding for Chicago teacher pensions as his reason for vetoing the bill, his amendatory veto also made a lot of changes in the way payments to school systems are calculated. Currently, according to my understanding of the discussion, since they don't generate any funds for schools, TIF districts and property tax caps are not considered when calculating how "rich" a school district is for purposes of calculating state funding. Under Gov. Rauner's changes, the value of TIF districts and total property valuation in excess of caps would be considered when determining funding, meaning that even poor districts would now have access to much more valuation, at least on paper.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Streetscape ribbon cutting

There will be a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the streetscape project along S. Illinois next Friday, August 18 at 4:30 p.m. followed by an "official" cash mob. I am not sure how an official cash mob differs from an unofficial one but certainly the businesses along the strip will happily take people's money, especially after the drop in traffic that the streetscape work caused.  Might be an exaggeration but I heard figures of 80-90% drops in customer traffic along S. Illinois during the construction.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Highway 146

Looks as if the Illinois Department of Transportation is taking local eclipse traffic seriously. There is a small bridge on Highway 146 between Anna Jonesboro and Ware that was scheduled for repair starting at the end of July. Just before then, a new sign went up stating that the starting date for construction had moved back to the end of August. Given that hotel rooms are sold out in Cape Girardeau, I bet the IDOT expects a lot of traffic eclipse weekend from Cape to the Carbondale region.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Connect 2 Compete

Sat in on a presentation by Mediacom today and one of the topics discussed was the company's Connect 2 Compete program. Designed to help lower income families get home internet, qualifying families can participate in the program in Carbondale (or anywhere Mediacom services) for $9.95 per month (plus taxes and fees). Participants receive broadband access at up to 10 Mbps and a Wi-fi modem with no rental fees.

To participate in the program, as I said earlier, you have to have Mediacom internet service, which Carbondale does, have at least one student in grades K-12 living and home and have at least one child qualifying for the National School Lunch Program. Families cannot currently subscribe to Mediacom and have not been a customer in the past 90 days, nor have any outstanding bills with the company.  Broadband internet access for $120 a year sounds like a pretty good deal.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Gigabit Broad Band Coming

If you are free at 2 p.m. tomorrow, there is a discussion of the gigabit broadband (which sounds really good) coming to Carbondale:

The City of Carbondale is excited to announce the arrival of new broadband technology to benefit Carbondale residents.
Mediacom is expanding its network to deliver 1-Gigabit-per-second Internet speeds in Carbondale.
The public is invited to learn more about this new technology on Wednesday, August 9 at 2 p.m. in Room 116 of the Carbondale Civic Center.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eclipse Clean-Up

In case you have a hankering to help clean up downtown before the estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people descend on it, Keep Carbondale Beautiful is looking for volunteers for the weekend:

Eclipse Clean up #1 

Sponsored by Keep Carbondale Beautiful
Saturday August 12

Time: 9 am
Location: Town Square Pavilion 101 N Illinois
Contact Person and Phone: Sarah Heyer 618 525 5525
Volunteer Responsibilities: get street assignment and supplies; pick up litter
Additional Information: wear closed-toe shoes; bring water bottle; dress for weather

Eclipse Lodging

From what I am hearing, Carbondale has no motel rooms for rent, nor do any of the "collar" communities surrounding the city. The cloeses available motel rooms are located in Paducah and Effingham. SIUC is renting floor space in the Arena and primitive camping sites on local farms, essentially a 15' x15' plot, rent for up to $100 per person for 2 days, maximum 6 people per site.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Arbor District Clean Up

The Arbor District, that part of the city with tree names, will host a clean up and barbecue next Saturday

Greetings Arbor District neighbors and friends!

Next weekend, please come out to help clean-up the Arbor District ahead of the Eclipse.  Afterwards, we'll be having a Barbecue at the home of our newest Arbor District board member, Kate Poulos, to thank everyone for coming out.

Clean-up Starts at 10:00am Saturday - Saint Francis Xavier Church
Meet us Saturday, August 12 at 10:00am at Saint Francis Church in the Poplar Street parking lot, as we do each year.  Grab a bag, break into teams, and we'll choose your streets on the map. Bring your friends and neighbors!

The Arbor District is working in coordination with Keep Carbondale Beautiful who will be providing bags and gloves. You may want to bring your own durable gloves.

BBQ starts at NOON Saturday - 906 W Schwartz Street
Beverages, Brats and Dogs will be provided, but if possible, bring a side dish or dessert to share with your neighbors. Or if you're unable, please come as you are!  We'd love to see you.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Kroger Ribbon Cutting

After spending the summer remodeling and adding on pick up services as well as more in-store dining options, Kroger will have a ribbon cutting at 8 a.m. tomorrow to celebrate. Incidentally, supermarkets setting up operations like this is one reason for the decline of the mid-range restaurant. Fast food and fine dining aren't hurt from supermarket encroachment into their space but it is cutting into fast casual:

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce will hold a Ribbon Cutting at 8 a.m., Friday, Aug. 4 for the newly renovated Kroger at 501 E. Giant City Rd.

The Ribbon Cutting is part of the grocer’s Grand Re-opening following a $ 6.6 million renovation and remodeling.

Representatives of the Chamber, City and business will participate in the ceremony. The event is open to the public.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hollywood Lounge Reopening

The Hollywood Lounge, which closed for a couple of weeks when the city pulled its liquor license after a shooting, will reopen tonight with a higher admittance age than any other bar in town. You have to be 30 or older in order to get in. Guess they figure that it is the younger crowd that is more likely to carry a gun and also more likely to use it if they feel they have been insulted or get into an argument.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

City Eclipse Notice

About 20 days until the Great American Eclipse. According to Carbondale Tourism, all the hotels and motels in town are booked up, as is Touch of Nature and Schneider Hall on the SIUC campus. Local farms are now renting out 15' x 15' camping plots on their property for $100 per person, maximum of 6 people per tent. Bald Knob also rented out camping space and has sold out, with people coming in from 19 different states.  Here's the press release the city sent out yesterday:

With thousands expected in Carbondale for the eclipse, the City wants to remind businesses and residents to prepare ahead of time.
To avoid long lines and empty shelves, get your grocery shopping done a week or two in advance. Stock up on emergency supplies like batteries, flashlights and first aid kits.  Plan to pick up prescriptions early to avoid crowds.
Schedule your appointments at the beginning of the week. Traffic will begin picking up on Wednesday, August 16 for SIU move-in and will likely remain busy until the Tuesday after the eclipse.
If you have to drive during eclipse weekend, allow extra time to get to your destination. Traffic will be heavy, so plan accordingly.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dale's Burger Shack

Even with its grand opening a month away, according to this story, Dale's Burger Shack is doing very well. Even though competitor Fat Patties is recognized as one of the best burger places in the state, its downtown location hurts it significantly. Dale's Burger Shack's location in Murdale Shopping Center gives it access to both plenty of parking and two way traffic on Highway 13.

Fat Patties' downtown location, especially with the construction in downtown, has no readily accessible parking. Its most convenient parking is located behind the building and needs much bigger signage to call customer attention to it. In addition, it is located on a one way street, so that people heading south have to deal with the intersection of Hwy 51 and Mill Stree

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Work at the Pony

Looks as if there is some work being done at the long closed Pony nightclub. Both of the exterior signs have been covered and there are half a cozen contractor's trucks parked in the bulding's parking area.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dunkin Donuts Construction

Construction underway repairing the parking lot at the Carbondale Dunkin' Donuts. From the size of the culverts, it looks as if people may be able to walk through the new ones. Drive through supposed to open this weekend but reopening the inside is still aways in the future.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mary Lou's Grill

Mary Lou's Grill, a downtown mainstay since 1962, has see the same drop in sales that hit El Greco's and put out a similar post earlier this month. From their FB page on July 13:

As most of you know my husband Robert and I own Mary Lou's Grill in Carbondale. Due to many factors including the influx of many chain restaurants,the economy of our very unstable state and the massive taxes from our city and county --business at our restaurant and at many if not all Locally Owned restaurants is CRITICALLY down!!
We have been in business since 1962--one of the oldest family owned places. We have had to lay off some of our employees from 5 days a week to just 3. We have cut our Saturday staff in half. This is by far the most difficult year we have seen. All of our staff including our family are hard working people and appreciate the opportunity we have been given in Carbondale all these years.
But now are asking for your help--Please don't forget us!! I am speaking for all the LOCALLY OWNED AND OPERATED BUSINESSES in our town
Shop and eat at our businesses--and contact your city council and ask them to lower these taxes which are a big part of what is driving business out of Carbondale. Many of the restaurant owners have been at council meetings to plead our case but to no avail. We really need your help.
Thank you for your support!! God Bless!!

Apparently it worked as this was the post on the restaurant's FB page on July 14:

OVERWHELMED!! thank you for all the support!! if you came in today-sorry we were a little understaffed for the turnout--we will have more staff on Saturday as we always do. Biscuits and Gravy all day tomorrow.
Just wanted to make people aware of the situation for all our small locally owned businesses and we sure heard from a bunch of fine folks
We are going to do everything we can to survive this-- as we hope the rest of the small businesses will do so!!😃

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dunkin' Donuts Temporarily Closed

According to an email from the Chamber of Commerce, the east side Dunkin' donuts (You know, the one with the parking lot that collapsed last spring), has temporarily closed. They hope to have the drive through open again by the weekend and inside service "soon".

Sacramento Bee

Carbondale's eclipse preparations and activities made the Sacramento Bee.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Downtown Alcohol

The city wants to remind you that people will be allowed to carry alcohol in plastic containers in the downtown area during the weekend before the eclipse (you did know an eclipse is coming, right?) No coolers or outside drinks allowed, all alcohol consumed must be purchased from licensed establishments, so I guess no purchasing a 24 pack of Keystone from ABC Liquor Mart and sitting in the town square drinking them, though I wonder if you could buy a 24 pack of Keystone and then pour the beer into plastic cups. After all, It was purchased from a licensed liquor seller and is in a plastic container.

Going to be interesting seeing enforcement of this> I imagine the concert area on Washington will be fenced off, making crowd control easier, but the rest of downtown is a pretty good sized area.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Elks' Lodge

Looks as if the Elks Lodge is getting some much needed masonry work done on their building. At least there are Brad Cheatham Masonry signs outside the building.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Downtown Construction

Downtown construction in front of the Dairy Queen. According to the workers, they expect to finish this section of S. Illinois this week.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

El Greco 2

Downtown Carbondale's El Greco got a huge boost in sales yesterday after its social media post about declining sales. The problem for the restaurant is, will this keep up? It is one thing to stir up people and get them into your place of business for a one-off event but quite another thing to keep them coming in and eating.

Nationally, restaurant sales have dropped over the past few years, a combination of supermarkets offering prepared meal options, a shift to high end and low end restaurants, an increase in takeout and delivery (which reduces the likelihood of impulse purchases off the menu) and fewer people opting to eat out for lunch.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hollywood Lounge Liquor License Suspended

City manager Gary Williams, acting on the direction of the Mayor, suspended the liquor license of the Hollywood Lounge last Sunday. This was in reaction to a shooting that took place at the bar early Sunday morning:

On July 9 at 1:40 a.m., Carbondale Police Officers were in the area of the Hollywood Lounge when they heard and responded to a gunshot fired from inside the bar. Police officers entered the establishment and following an investigation, it is believed a victim received a non-life threatening injury from the gunfire inside the Hollywood Lounge. 
Later that Sunday morning, Mayor Mike Henry, acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Local Liquor Control Commission, directed the City Manager to take all reasonable and necessary actions to ensure that the public isn’t exposed to any further risk from actions that may occur at the Hollywood Lounge. 
Following advice from City staff and pursuant to Section 2-2-3 of the Carbondale Revised Code, Mayor Henry summarily suspended the liquor license for Hollywood Lounge.
“The City Council and I are committed to revitalizing Carbondale and it starts by ensuring that our City is safe for all residents. We’re not going to tolerate this type of violent act that occurred this weekend and certainly not from any of our liquor establishments,” added Mayor Henry.  
Police Chief Jeff Grubbs stated, “Our police officers are working diligently to quell violent acts in our community and we need to use all the resources we have to assist them in their efforts. That is why it is so refreshing to have a Mayor and City Council who are standing behind them and assisting them every step of the way.”
“This suspension is further proof that both the Council and City staff are working together, setting higher standards for our community,” said City Manager Gary Williams.
A hearing will be held before the Local Liquor Control Commission on Tuesday, July 18 regarding the status of the liquor license for the Hollywood Lounge.

El Greco

It appears, according to this post that has made the rounds on social media, that downtown Carbondale landmark restaurant El Greco has seen sales drop severely, among other reasons due to the construction along Hwy 51. As you may recall, El Greco closed several years ago, only to return under new ownership. Hopefully, they will see the surge of business that their announced closure then brought through the doors:

Ok folks How much do you  El Greco!? I am asking for your help. Come in this month and help us stay afloat! We are looking at not making payroll. We are down more than 50% from previous years. There is construction out front ( that has likely really hurt us) but you can still get to the parking lot behind El Greco from the front or back. Ethen is there and would love to see you!

It Appears We Have A Chancellor

From the SIUC Chancellor's website

Dr. Carlo Montemagno, a professor of engineering who founded and currently leads the interdisciplinary Ingenuity Lab based at the University of Alberta in Canada, will become the next chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale pending approval of the SIU Board of Trustees.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Chancellor Search

Why is it taking so long for the SIUC Board of Trustees to select a chancellor for the university? As far as I can tell, the BOT has tabled the search and since the interim chancellor's contract expired, we now have SIU's president assuming the Chancellor's duties as well. The BOT had 4 candidates who met the criteria they had set, two withdrew, so you make the selection from the other two. You don't keep dithering around hoping for someone else to apply. It is insulting to the two candidates and leaves the university in a holding partern, which it can ill afford currently.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Road Closures

Notice from the city about a couple of road closures on the east side of town, both in the Lewis Lane area:

Grand Avenue from Lewis Lane to Giant City Road will be closed to through traffic on Monday, July 10 for water main work. 
The closure will be in effect from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
Lewis Lane between Grand Avenue and E. College Street will also be closed starting at 7 a.m. This closure will remain in effect until further notice.

Free WiFi

Well, free in that city taxes will pay for it but downtown Carbondale will get public wifi late this summer, just about the time eclipse fever hits, at least that is what the city hopes. Downtown Carbondale had public wifi a decade ago but the system proved slow and unreliable so the city discontinued its operation without much fanfare.

The city is concerned about whether the new wifi system will stand up to the strain of the estimated 50,000 additional people coming to Carbondale for the eclipse. The system, as designed, will easily handle 1000 people or more on it at a time, whether it can stand the strain of 50,000 people accessing it is another matter.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Income Tax Rates

Illinois currently has a flat income tax rate of 3.75%, meaning the percentage does not go up as your income rises. Missouri, meanwhile, starts off at 5% and increases with your income. Kentucky also starts off at 5% and is progressive. Wisconsin, also progressive, starts off at 4%. Indiana, with a flat 3.23% is the only state bordering Illinois with a lower flat income tax rate than Illinois has. Iowa has a lower starting tax rate at only .36% but has the highest state income tax for its top earners at 8.98%

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

New Bar

According to the agenda for this week's LAB meeting, we have a new bar coming to town in the 200 block of  East Main. Not sure there is a demand for another bar or, more likely, a video gaming parlor but, as long as there is a license available.  Neither Social House nor Gold Diggers lasted too long in that block:

Roll Call
2. Approval of Minutes from May 24, 2017
3. Election of Officers
 4. Application for a Class B2 liquor license (on premises consumption of all alcoholic liquors) from Dan Terry, sole proprietor, d/b/a The Sand Piper at 213 East Main Street
 5. Citizens’ Comments
 6. Adjournment

Monday, July 3, 2017

Downtown Hilton Opening Date

Heard over the weekend that the new downtown Hilton will miss its planned opening date of early to mid-August and will instead open its doors the week afterward the Great American Eclipse passes overhead

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Family Dollar Closes

In case you don't get over to the west side of Carbondale that often, the Family Dollar at the corner of Oakland and Main quietly closed down. Sign on the door sends interested parties to the nearest store in Goreville.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sales Taxes Extended

Rather surprised at the very light turnout at tonight's city council meeting, especially since sales taxes, always a hot button issue, were on the agenda. The audience consisted of less than 6 people.  Members of the council stated several times that extending the taxes had been discussed a number so far this year and had even been figured into this year's budget. However, the half a dozen or so people I spoke with this week knew nothing about the proposed extensions and the Chamber of Commerce had not polled its members on the topic.

After some discussion, the council voted to eliminate the sunset clause for both taxes, meaning both will continue indefinitely unless council chooses to revisit them, which will likely only happen if enough residents of Carbondale contact them.. The vote was closer than I expected with Councilmen Loos and Grant, Councilwoman Harvey and Mayor Henry voting yes and Councilmen Doherty and Kang and Councilwoman Bradshaw voting no.

I was interested to learn that, due to the way the original ordinance had been written, the CCHS bond tax would not have sunseted. Instead, since the bonds had been paid off, the money from the tax would have continued to go into the general school funds until the ordinance was changed.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Council to Vote on Maintaining Sales Taxes

City council will vote on Tuesday to repeal the ordinance sunsetting the 1/4% sales tax enacted back in 1999 to fund bonds for construction of the Carbondale Community High School, as well as one enacted in 2014 to shore up city revenues against the potential loss of state revenue. The CCHS tax is scheduled to expire in October, the other on Jan. 1 of 2018. The repeal would eliminate the sunsetting in both instances.

This is wrong. These taxes were enacted for specific reasons and there has been little to no discussion regarding the need for them. Let the taxes expire and then make a case for enacting a new tax for the loss of revenue. If such a tax is needed, council should be able to make a strong case for it.

Here is the text of the proposed change in the ordinance:

On February 2, 1999, the Carbondale City Council approved Ordinance 99-06 which imposed an additional 1/4% home rule municipal retailers' occupation and service occupational tax.  The purpose of this additional tax was to provide additional revenue to fund the construction of the new Carbondale Community High School (CCHS). CCHS issued $16 million in bonds to finance the project and the City of Carbondale pledged the proceeds of the additional 1/4% home rule sales tax to provide annual debt service payments.  Annual debt service payments are approximately $800,000.  Ordinance 99-06 also directed the Carbondale City Council to "take action to repeal the 1/4% increase in the City's home rule sales tax" once the CCHS bond is retired in full.  The City of Carbondale will make the final debt service payment in October 2017.  Although Ordinance 99-06 directs Council to repeal the tax following the retirement of the CCHS bond, it is the opinion of Staff that a seated Council doesn't have the legal authority to direct a future Council to take specific action(s). As such, and to avoid any confusion, Staff recommends that if the City Council wants the 1/4% tax established in Ordinance 99-06 to continue, then affirmative action should be taken to confirm the continuation of the tax.  

On March 25, 2014, the Carbondale City Council approved Ordinance 2014-10 which imposed an additional 1/4% home rule sales tax.  This tax was imposed primarily to defend against the potential loss of shared State revenue that the Governor's office and legislature were considering at that time.  Ordinance 2014-10 contains a sunset provision which terminates the 1/4% tax automatically on January 1, 2018.  If the Council wants this tax to continue beyond the sunset date, then action to repeal the sunset provision should be taken. If not, then the tax will terminate on January 1. 

Currently, each 1/4% home rule sales tax generates approximately $1,023,000 annually that is used for general fund revenues. The FY18 budget was developed with the assumption that each of these home rule sales taxes and their associated revenues would continue.  As mentioned in previous City Council meetings, the loss of one of the 1/4% sales taxes would facilitate a budget shortfall of approximately $321,092 for FY18. Therefore, if revenue is reduced by this amount then additional cuts to personnel and/or services will need to be made to mitigate the loss of revenue or budget adjustments should be made to reflect that the City will produce a projected budget deficit for FY18.  The State of Illinois allows home rule communities to adjust their home rule sales tax rates in 1/4% increments.  Ordinances must be filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue by October 1 to begin implementation by January 1 or must be filed by April 1 to begin implementation by July 1.

Attached to this agenda item are 5-year budgets with 3 scenarios; one assumes that both home rule sales taxes continue, another assumes the loss of revenue from one of the 1/4% taxes, and the last assumes the loss of both sales taxes. Staff has spent considerable time analyzing the City budget and recommends that each of these taxes be continued if the City Council wants to maintain current service levels.  

Recommended Action:

It's recommended that the City Council Amend Title 7 of the Carbondale Revised Code to repeal the sunset provision in Ordinance 2014-10, maintaining the 1/4% home rule sales tax, and affirm and maintain the 1/4% home rule sales tax established in Ordinance 99-06. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Still companies looking at fracking in southern Illinois so would like to point out that, prior to fracking starting in the state, Oklahoma averaged 1-2 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater magnitude per year. Not bad.

In 2016, years after fracking started, Oklahoma had 623 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. Given that Southern Illinois has the New Madrid Seismic Zone directly south and the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone directly east, is it really that good of an idea to do something that will cause over 500 noticeable earthquakes per year right between two seismic zones?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Gander Mountain Still Closing

Gander Mountain, which opened with much fanfare in Marion in 2015, still has "Store Closing" and "Prices 30 to 60% Off" signs hanging in front of it. Sture taking its time for a store that announced its closing back in May

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Homegrown Stage Lineup Announced

So we have the cover bands playing the corner of Washington and Walnut the Saturday and Sunday before the eclipse and we have the local bands on the stage the day of the eclipse. Well, quite a few of them will perform during the merchant's mart in the First National parking lot the weekend of the 20 and 21 so there will be a lot of local music playing. Still find it bemusing that the Homegrown Stage performances didn't get announced until after the cover bands were announced following the fall through of the national acts on the 20 and 21.
From the press release:
The City of Carbondale and Carbondale Main Street are excited to be adding another day of music to Shadow Fest.
The Homegrown Stage will feature a variety of local bands on Monday, August 21.
The lineup will be as follows:
·        11 a.m.-noon, Hey Honey, Americana
·        Noon-1 p.m., Cave Futures, Indie Rock
·        1:30-2:30 p.m., Tawl Paul & Slappin Henry Blue, Blues
·        2:30-3:30 p.m., Porchfire, Country
·        3:30-4:30 p.m., Buzzard, Hard Rock
The stage will be located at the corner of Washington and Walnut Streets from 11a.m.-5 p.m. Admission to ALL of the concerts areFREE.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Help Brand Carbondale

The city is looking for resident input on developing a brand for Carbondale so is asking people what makes Carbondale special. I sat in on a forum a couple of months ago and the two things that stood out were SIUC and ease of access to the Shawnee National Forest and other outdoor sites. We are also moving towards becoming a more bike focused city and you cannot find a wider variety of music anywhere in the region. From the press release:

The City of Carbondale is working with North Star Destination Strategies Inc. to develop a community-wide brand for Carbondale. But, we need help from our residents to determine how to best communicate what makes our community so special.
The Community Survey will determine Carbondale’s strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities. All Carbondale residents are encouraged to participate.
“This branding project is critically important in moving our city forward,” said Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry. “We hope the majority of Carbondale residents will take the time to give us their input.”
To access the online survey, visit Printed surveys will also be available at City Hall (200 S. Illinois Avenue) during normal business hours. All surveys must be completed by Monday, July 10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Progressive Patio Tour

Coming next month:

Carbondale Main Street is hosting another Progressive Patio Tour on July 13, 2017 from 6 to 10pm. This will be a chance for the public to visit participating establishments and try popular items off of their menus.
There will be a $20 fee that will include transportation, free samples at each spot and brief histories on buildings and patios from business representatives as the tour goes along. Participants may also purchase cocktails and other menu items in addition to the free offerings. Stops will include Carbondale Community Arts’ Artspace 304, Global Gourmet and Sabor de Mel, all in downtown Carbondale. There will be a free after-party held at the brand new Traxx.  
The intent of the Progressive Patio Tour is to make more people aware of great spaces where then can relax in the spring, summer and fall seasons. This will also help these establishments showcase what they have to offer. For more information or to reserve your spot (there are only fifty- five bus seats available), call 618-529-8040 or email

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Eclipse Q&A

Carbondale Tourism and the City have posted answers to what some of the many questions that have been asked about the Eclipse and surrounding events over the past few months. A couple more questions I would like to see answered:

1. Will there be charging stations for various smart items available? Given the number of people expected to descend on the community and all of them with smart phones, some places to charge them would be a good idea.

2. If Monday's Local Stage Day has been in the planning for quite some time, why is there no information on it in either the FAQ or under local events?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sales Tax Talk

Today's Carbondale Times has a pretty lengthy article on the request by local restaurants to lower the recently approved  2% sales tax on food and beverages purchased within the city limits. Coupled with the 1% county wide sales tax that goes into effect July 1,  the sales tax on food and beverages within the city limits will reach 11.75%. Needless to say, local restaurants are not particularly thrilled about this and have blamed the increased taxes at least partially on softening sales.

Dairy Queen Hours

I see the downtown Dairy Queen has extended its hours until 11 pm on Thursday Friday and Saturday. The new hours start this week.  Still closing at 10 p.m. the rest of the week.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chicago It Up Not Opening

Chicago It Up, a Chicago style hot dog restaurant that has been advertised as opening in Murdale Shopping Center since 2015 apparently won't be opening up as the owner has skipped town and the installed equipment will be auctioned off to cover the unpaid rent. Meanwhile, if you have a taste for buying a hot dog from a cart, you can find Saluki Dogs ensconced at the intersection of Walnut and Illinois most week days.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Historic Park Advisory Committee

Did you know we have a Historic Park Advisory Committee? I sure didn't, but then I didn't even know we had a historic park. If you want to find out more, the next meeting is this Monday:

The Historic Park Advisory Committee, will be meeting on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 7:00 p.m., in the City Hall/Civic Center, Room 112, at 200 South Illinois Ave., Carbondale, IL 62901.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

SIUC Museum Closing

In case you missed it, not only did the SIUC Univeristy Museum lose accreditation last March but the university announced today that it will close indefinitely starting July 1, due to lack of funding coming from the state. With a lack of funding coming for the Women's Center threatening its future operation and other state funded programs coming under the knife, the lack of a state budget is sure going to do some long term damage to the state.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sidetracks Demolished

In case you missed the news today, Carbondale's iconic bar, Sidetracks, got demolished today to make way for downtown parking. Despite the way it sounds, there really wasn't much choice in the matter. The bar's lease expires in 2019 and the railroad, on whose right of way the Sidetracks building sat, had already said it would not renew the lease as the building sat too close to the tracks for safety.

So, Sidetracks gets help from the city to move across the street into new digs in the old Gatsby's building, the city gets some much needed downtown parking just in time for all of the expected visitors coming into town for the Great American Eclipse and the railroad has one less liability it has to worry about. Save for the fact that Carbondale has one less unique building, and there was no really feasible way to move the building, everybody comes out ahead.

Concert Updates

Received this press release from the city regarding ShadowFest. From what I understand, most, if not all of the bands are out of St. Louis so not the nationally known acts originally planned.  Given the number of bands playing in Carbondale, I wonder if any outreach has been made to them to at least open.

Six vibrant performances, two days of music and one FREE weekend of fun. The City of Carbondale and Carbondale Main Street are excited to announce the lineup for Shadow Fest.
The festival kicks off on Saturday, August 19 with performances by American Idiot, a tribute to Green Day; Big Love, a tribute to Fleetwood Mac; and Elevation, a tribute to U2.
On Sunday, August 20, it’s all about the 80s. Johnny Rock-ittThat 80s Band and Superjam will take to the stage for the ultimate 80s experience. Festival goers can expect to hear hits from Kiss, AC/DC, Journey, Madonna, Prince and more.
Concerts will be held along Washington Street, between Walnut and Main Streets, from 5-11 p.m. Admission to all of the concerts is free.
To learn more about the bands performing at Shadow Fest, visit the American Bands Entertainment website at

Monday, June 5, 2017

Eclipse Meetings

For those wanting to keep up with what the city and university have planned for the Carbondale Eclipse, there were be two open forums this month on on the 20th and the second on the 22nd. Given that we have a projected 50,000 additional people descending on town the weekend before SIUC starts, knowing what is going on might prove helpful

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Eclipse Music Festival

The city is going in a "different direction" for the proposed Eclipse Music Festival. No idea as to what that direction is though. Hopefully they are in contact with some of the event bookers for the local bars as well as whomever is in charge of booking acts for the Arena and Shryock Auditorium, as well as the Carbondale Music Coalition. Better to work with people who have already done what you want to do, rather than starting from scratch.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Eclipse Street Festival

Looks as if the planned $1 million Eclipse Street Festival has hit a snag as the promoters have not been able to arrange for the level of talent they had promised and have pulled out of the promotion. Maybe the city will contact the Carbondale Music Coalition regarding taking over the festival.

The problem with attracting "top tier" acts to Carbondale is the city's location. We can get them, but not at a desirable time for attendees. Much like Cape Girardeau, Carbondale is located roughly halfway between two major metropolitan centers, so a major act can play one weekend in Indianapolis, load up the bus(es) and head to St. Louis for the next weekend's set of shows. If the performer wants to pick up an extra paycheck, they can swing off the interstate for a weeknight performance in Springfield or Carbondale. According to the director of Cape's Show Me Center, this is how the Center books a lot of its big name shows as the performers are traveling from St. Louis to Memphis and stop for one night in Cape.

NASA Eclipse Numbers

NASA disagrees with the numbers projected by the Great American Eclipse website and has told the city that the organization expects roughly 50,000 people to descend on Carbondale during the time of the eclipse, so the city is making plans based on that figure rather than the much higher ones estimated by the GAE site.

One major concern will be parking. Currently, from what I understand, the city has arranged for parking and transport for roughly 3000 vehicles and assumes that most of the visitors to Carbondale will arrive via multi-passenger transport. This is fine if visitors arrived dozens at a time in tour buses but much more problematic if they come 4 to a passenger vehicle.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Eclipse Numbers 2

As Audrey pointed out in her comment, the folks behind the Great American Eclipse website have crunched some numbers and posted their estimates as to visitations to various spots along the path of eclipse totality. The site estimates Illinois should see somewhere between 93,000 and 372,000 people. If those numbers prove accurate, then Carbondale should receive the lion's share of visitors as we are the largest city in the path once it moves beyond the East St. Louis and the one putting in the most effort, as far as I can tell, to attract visitors to our location.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Scoopz Opening

Scoopz Ice Cream and More will host its grand opening tomorrow May 30th in the Grand Avenue Mall. Summer is a good time to open a new ice cream shop but since the shops at Grand Avenue mainly cater to students, most of which are gone for the summer, I don't know if the beginning of summer was the best time to open. Hope it works for them.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Eclipse Numbers

The problem, as I see it, in preparing for the eclipse is that we don't have any idea as to how many people might show up. Last I heard, we still had a few (highly priced) rooms available, although rooms have been sold out for miles around Carbondale for several month. Of course,t his also happens during SIUC's graduation weekend as well. I have heard numbers floated anywhere from 5000 or roughly graduation weekend, to 50,000 to 100,000.

Fact is, we don't know how many people will show up. Carbondale is in competition with communities across the nation hosting events for the Great American Eclipse.  We are listed along with 9 other communities  as top places to see the eclipse and, while we are closest to the spot of longest totality, communities further to the west are projected to have better weather. Longest totality won't mean much if we have heavy cloud cover that day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Government as Business

Been doing some reading on entrepreneurship and got to thinking about the whole idea that government should be run like a business. When you think about it, that is really a flawed concept since the two constructs are vastly different. Could Carbondale city government run more efficiently?Most likely but government and business differ significantly.

Consider.  I run a business here in the 'dale but my needs are quite different from the needs of Thai Taste half a block away from me or Wal-mart on the east side of town or Murdale True-Value on the west. Each of us focuses on our own organization's needs and take actions that we believe will enhance our operations. I do not take into consideration the impact of my actions on Wal-mart, just as I am sure, Wal-mart's management does not take into consideration the impact of its actions on me. As long as they remain within the law, business is free to take whatever action it wishes without regard or consideration for other businesses.

Carbondale city government does not have that freedom. It is charged with balancing the needs and desires of a large number of consistencies, many of which are at odds with each other. Consider Carbondale bars. In order to increase profits, the liquor store owner wants to sell as much alcohol, within the law, to as many people as possible. However, people consuming alcohol have their inhibitions lowered, causing them to act more recklessly, endangering themselves and others. City government is tasked with balancing the desire of the liquor store owner to increase profits, with the homeowner who does not want drunk people throwing up in their yard. Eliminating alcohol sales is Carbondale would be one way of accomplishing that, at the cost of a a good chunk of the business sector. Requiring home owners to maintain vigilance on their own property against trespassers. Government's job is to create a reasonable balance between the desires of the two groups.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gold Diggers

Not sure what hours Gold Diggers (located in the old Blue Martin/Social House location) is keeping, but it sure isn't the posted ones.  Posted hours are 5 p.m. to around 2 a.m. 7 days a week but the last few times I gone by there about 9 p.m. , the place has been locked up tight. Doesn't look as if the operation has shut down as everything still looks in place but no sign of life and no posts to the business' Facebook page since mid April.

Monday, May 22, 2017

City Council Meeting

I am a bit late commenting on last week's city council meeting but better late than ever, says I. Most of what took place was covered on the consent agenda. I came in too late to catch the first part of the meeting but there were a few interesting items on it.

$29,500 contract awarded to Rawson Excavating for demolishing the old Sidetracks building. The building sits what is today considered an unsafe distance from the railroad tracks, so the railroad declined to renew the lease, causing Sidetracks, now renamed Trax, to relocate to new digs in the old Gatsby's building. The demolished area will become more downtown parking.

Resolution authorizing the city manager to purchase materials, property, services etc. from Henry Printing. Yes, owned by our Mayor Henry. I assume this was discussed prior to my arrival at the meeting and figure they wanted to get an authorization by council on the record approving    potential purchases from the mayor's printing company.

$27,420 to CivicPlus to update the city website, which, below the front page, apparently hasn't been updated in about 20 years. Also roughly $5000 per year for website maintenance. No idea if this is an open ended contract or not.

Apparently the questions over the parking lot next to the Interfaith Center got answered as the contract for redoing it got awarded to Samron Midwest Contracting.

However the big discussion of the evening is the plan to provide roll out trash carts to all residents of the city. Any city resident who get trash pick up from the city will receive a standardized trash cart. These carts are designed to allow city waste trucks to latch onto and automatically dump them, rather than require a human to pick up the trash and throw it in the truck, speeding up trash pickup.Concerns regarding costs of the receptacles was expressed by some residents as larger families will generate more trash but may have problems paying the cost of the additional receptacle needed. Council agreed to address these concerns before bringing the ordinance up for a final vote

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rent College Pads

Been seeing a lot of these Rent College Pads signs around town. Apparently it is an online search engine for students looking for rentals in over 100 university towns across the nation. Info about the communities for each college is provided on the search page but is pretty sketchy and apparently not updated frequently. In case you are coming to Carbondale, be aware that Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse is not within walking distance of campus and Social House's location is now occupied by Gold Diggers

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chicken Coops

Did you know you can keep chickens within the city limits? The ordinance got passed a few years ago after several years of work and our city streets have not been taken over by raging flocks of poultry. If you would like to see some of the coops and get inspired to host your own flock, good news! There is a chicken coop tour coming up in June though I am not sure how beautiful they will be. I  had to clean out chicken coops in my misspent youth and they get messy:

Keep Carbondale Beautiful is planning a tour of “Chicken Coops of Carbondale”, set for Saturday, June 3rd from 2 to 5 p.m.  Chicken coopers are still being sought to participate.  The tour will run like previous garden tours:  The self-guided tour will begin at the  Old Train Depot/Carbondale Main Street (121 S Illinois Ave), where maps and tickets will be available for $5.  More information will follow.  Coop owners who are willing to show off their chickens are asked to contact Sarah Heyer at 618 525 5525.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

We're #2, We're #2 (and #3) (and #1)

Here is a link to the actual website that ranks Carbondale as the 2nd best small city in the US in which to start a business. Although we rank near the middle of the 1261 cities examined in the research in terms of business environment, our ranking in the top 20% in terms of costs of operating a business and especially our #3 ranking in "access to resources" pulled the city up. Incidentally , Carbondale comes in at #1 in the rankings in terms of low labor costs. Good if you are starting a business, not so much if you are working to support yourself.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Terri Bryant Call In

Listened in on a call in with Rep. Bryant, Rep. Price and Sen. Schimpf tonight. The two main points I took away from the discussion was that they believed that both sides need to compromise, that most of the problem is due to Mike Madigan and that we need to revive the coal industry (because it is cleaner now).

Compromise is fine, Madigan appeared to have no problem working with Republican governors in the past and, unless the price of natural gas skyrockets, we aren't seeing any revival of the coal industry soon.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Radio Shack Closing

The "Store Closing" banner hanging in front of the Murdale Radio Shack would indicate that the store has finally succumbed to the closing virus to which most of the rest of the chain has surrendered..


There has been talk for about a year regarding installing flower beds along the south end of the Town Square. Glad to see the project is moving out of the planning stage and into the installing stage.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Seat Belt Enforcement

Looks as if the Carbondale Police will be cracking down on seat belt scofflaws over the Memorial Day weekend.

As summer kicks off and travel increases, the City of Carbondale Police Department is partnering with the Illinois Department of Transportation to remind motorists to Click It or Ticket. The national seat-belt enforcement campaign will take place May 22 through June 4, concurrent with one of the busiest travel and holiday weekends of the year. Click It or Ticket enforces seat-belt and car-seat use to keep all motorists safe.

Hwy 127 Closed

IDOT has a notice up that High 127 is closed south of Alto Pass. There is a pretty back crack in the road there that needs repairing and and no quick way to detour around it. For the immediate future, traffic wanting to use 127 should detour down Highway 51 instead.

Friday, May 5, 2017

City Council Meeting

Attended the May 2 city council meeting, which had a very short agenda and was completed in about 45 minutes. It would have taken even less time except that various council members removed items from the consent agenda for individual consideration, meaning that the only thing approved when the consent agenda was approved was the minutes from the previous meeting.

The results for April's election were announced and Mayor Henry took special note that, of the registered voters in Carbondale, only 1848 turned out to vote for city council.

A separate resolution commended Lee Fronabarger, who lost his bid for a second term on council, for his six years of service, two appointed and 4 elected, as a councilman.

The final item considered separately was the proposal of the awarding of contracts for parking lots where the old Sidetracks' building stands and reconstructing the parking lot next to Gaia House. The reason it was pulled from the consent agenda was that Councilwoman Jessica Branshaw had concerns about the construction of the lot, as when it had been built, as a temporary lot a couple of decades ago, the construction had caused flooding in the basement of Gaia House when it rained during the construction. She, Hugh Muldoon and Charlie Howe, all spoke in favor of holding off on awarding the contract until potential flooding problems were address in the design of the new lot. Council agreed and postponed voting on the lot work until the next meeting .

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Coffee with a Cop

In case you want to discuss policing in the 'dale, the next Coffee with a Cop is scheduled for May 9 at 8 a.m. at Mary Lou's

On Tuesday May 9th, 2017 officers from the Carbondale Police Department and community members will come together in an informal, neutral space to discuss community issues, build relationships, and drink coffee

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lee Fronabarger Honored

City council passed a resolution at the May 2 meeting honoring Lee Fronabarger for his years of service on the council. Bet he would have rather had another  4 years. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dunkin' Donuts Parking Lot

Due to all the rain, the Dunkin' Donuts/Subway parking lot collapsed sometime early yesterday. No one injured as far as I know but both stores were closed for most of the day.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Carbondale Times and NIghtlfe Sold

Paddock Publications, a privately held publisher  located in Chicago, announced it had purchased the Carbondale Times, Weekend Times and Nightlife, as well as the commercial printing business of Thomas Publishing. Paddock assumed ownership of the papers yesterday.

This brings to 8 the total number of southern Illinois papers Paddock owns, as it purchased papers located in Eldorado, Harrisburg, DuQuoin, Benton and Marion last summer as well as 4 papers in communities located just south of Springfield.

The motto of the company, according to the website of its flagship publication, the Daily Herald, is "To fear God, tell the truth, and make money"

Thursday, April 27, 2017


It looks as if the new clothing store located at 201 West Walnut is called Autopsy. Either that, or that is the name of one of the brands of clothing it sells.  The shop has a signboard out in front with a list of clothing brands topped by "Autopsy", so would guess that is the store's name.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

City Council Meeting

Sat in on last night's city council meeting for about an hour. Despite the number of cars in the parking lot, not that many people attended the meeting. It looked like more of them were there for the reading meeting down the hall.

The Liquor Control Commission's part of the meeting was pretty uneventful, with Hangar 9 getting warned about an overcrowding incident earlier in the year. No fine and no court costs.

During the meeting proper, council on several things without much argument:

1. Created a Class F3 license allowing 3rd party vendors to sell liquor on SIUC property. The university has control over its own selling of alcohol but the city regulates 3rd party vendors. This new licence is designed to streamline procedures and give the city some imput into campus alcohol sales where warranted.

2.  Adopted the new design standards for downtown. It appears that due to some comments from businesses in downtown, inspectors will have greater leeway in enforcing standards in the "entertainment district" south of West Elm. North of Elm, the standards will be more strictly enforced. I did find out that if a building is destroyed by fire or storm, rebuilding the structure to its original design would not be allowed. The building would have to be rebuilt complying with the new standards. Incidentally, neither Evolve nor the downtown Hilton would meet the new design standards so it is a good thing they were completed/started before the standards were enacted.

3.  Authorized just over a million  to move utility lines to the rear of buildings and install new lighting along Illinois Avenue. Assuming the "perfection fallacy" doesn't kick in, the redesign should be "substantailly completed" by August 10, about 2 weeks before the Carbondale Eclipse. Given that students will hit town right about then and the city will see an additional 5000-50000  people in town in a week and a half, here's hoping downtown is still not under construction during the Eclipse.

I skipped out before the budget discussion but assume that passed as well.