Thursday, October 19, 2017

Commission Openings

Apparently since the city council cannot recruit enough people to sit on various commissions and boards from the city proper, the council voted to expand the region from which people can get recruited to a mile and a half outside the city limits. Maybe it's due to the fact that the city ignores most of the support boards it has established over the years and only pays attention to those that directly impact city operations, like planning and the LCC. I have sat on the Sustainability Commission since Joel Fritzler appointed me. I think my term expired several years ago but I never heard anything from the city regarding either reapplying or getting re-appointed so I just keep showing up for meetings. I will happily re-apply if I ever get a notice from the city one way or the other. If the city wants people to apply for seats on its boards and commissions, it needs to make potential recruits aware that it views the assorted commissions and boards as important and not afterthoughts.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Haunted Carbondale

It's that time of the year when we start paying attention to ghosties and ghoulies and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night so figured I would start with the city's two main cemeteries:  Oakland Cemetery and Woodlawn Cemetery.  As far as I know, there are no ghostly legends associated with Woodlawn Cemetery but there is the above ground sarcophagus located there, which has a number of stories circulating about why it sits there.

Oakland Cemetery is far more active with balls of light floating along the abandoned railbed along the north side of the cemetery and a mausoleum that reportedly unlocks by itself.

Just remember, these are cemeteries so treat them with respect and remember that you can legally only be in them during daylight hours.

Curbside Open

Although there are no hours posted, Curbside has reopened with hours from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. or so. Hopefully they will get the correct hours up on the door soon.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bike Path

Rather bemusing that we have a bike path running from the town square clear to campus and yet bicyclists continue to ride on the sidewalk on University and Illinois. Perhaps installing signage directing them to the path might get them off of the heavily trafficked roads through downtown.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

More on Signpost

While talking with a friend about the new signpost installed on the town square with signs for the Chamber of Commerce, Carbondale Main Street and Station Carbondale Museum, we both realized that the direction the signboards point mean they are only readily visible to someone driving east on Marion Street (the street heading away from the sign in the picture). Someone driving north on Illinois would not see them until the car pulled abreast of the sign, making it likely they would drive past the entrance to the lot. Hopefully, it is possible to turn the signs 90 degrees and maybe even add arrows to them to better direct people to the appropriate offices (and maybe even an additional sign pointing to the Carbondale Tourism office across the street). Just a thought.

Friday, October 13, 2017

DE and Chancellor's Plan

Apparently new Chancellor Carlo Montemagno got a bit annoyed with the DE for relegating his speech on his vision for the university to page 15 of  the Sept 27 issue. At any rate the reorganization plan made it to the front page of the Oct 4 issue so I would guess word got back to the DE editorial staff.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Signpost

Saw this signpost going up on the Town Square last week and took it for a piece of downtown artwork but this week signs appeared on it for Main Street, the Chamber of Commerce and Station Carbondale. Of course, people will still keep asking if they can purchase train tickets there, even though the Amtrak station moved 2 blocks south back in 1984

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Homecoming Windows

The window painting contest sponsored by the SIU Alumni Assoication was not really well publicized this year. Date to enter was last Thursday with photos and judging earlier this week, Monday I think. More notice and publicity in advance would probably generate a lot more participation next year, especially with the renewed focus, I hope, on the interrelationship between Carbondale and the University. It would really revitalize the whole community if SIUC could get attendance up to something approaching 1990s levels again.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Meet the Mayor AND Chancellor

Meet both the mayor and SIUC's new Chancellor next Monday at the SIUC Student Center's Starbucks from 11 a.m. to noon. Talk with them over coffee but I doubt if they are buying. From the city's press release:

The City of Carbondale and the Southern Illinois University Student Center will host “Meet the Mayor and Chancellor” on Monday, October 16.
SIU Chancellor Carlo Montemagno and Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry will be at the SIU Student Center Starbucks from 11 a.m.-noon.
This is an opportunity for students and members of the community to talk to the Mayor and Chancellor over coffee.

Friday, October 6, 2017

A&W Rootbeer

From the signage and repainting, it appears that the Long John Silver's out by Wal-mart is transitioning into a A&W Rootbeer fast food restaurant. No idea when the new location will open.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

New Business

Ribbon cutting for Manny's Spirits-Food-Gaming this Friday at 4:30. Is it just me or do we now have an awful lot of "gaming" parlours in Carbondale now? I know we have already seen one close (Gold Diggers). We should be reaching saturation point soon.

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce will hold a Ribbon Cutting at 4:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 6 for Manny's Spirits-Food-Gaming.

Manny's is located at 801 N. Giant City Road, and it attached to the Best Western Saluki Inn. The Ribbon Cutting is part of the establishment's grand opening celebration and will feature a reception and appetizers

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fire Department Open House

At the West Side building this Saturday:

The Carbondale Fire Department will host an Open House on Saturday, October 7 at Fire Station #2 (401 N. Glenview Drive) from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
This is an opportunity for the community to tour the fire station, meet firefighters, learn more about department services and ask questions.
There will also be activities for kids, including a special appearance by the Fire Department’s mascot Sparky.
The Fire Department will also be selling t-shirts during the Open House to raise awareness for breast cancer. T-shirts are $20 and are available in a variety of sizes.
The Open House will kick off National Fire Prevention Week October 8-14. This year’s theme is “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!”
If you have questions or would like more information, contact the Carbondale Fire Department Administrative Office at (618) 457-3234.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

City Council Meeting

City council meeting taking place next Tuesday. Here's the agenda:

2.1 Approval of the City Council Meeting Minutes of September 19, 2017 2.2 Approval of Warrant for the Period Ending: 09/11/2017 FY 2018 Warrant 1312 in the Amount of $1,386,970.69 2.3 Approval of the Purchase of Lights and Poles for the Drainways/Greenways Path from Springfield Electric of Carbondale Illinois in the amount of $30,004.35 2.4 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute an Engineering Agreement with Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen, Inc. (TWM) of Swansea, IL in the Amount of $125,300 for the Design of the Northwest Pedestrian and Bicycle Path (OS1704) 2.5 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute an Engineering Agreement with RJN Group in the Amount of $160,400 for Continued Work on the City's Sanitary Sewer Inflow and Infiltration Study (SA1301) 2.6 Approve an Obligation Retirement Resolution for the 2006 Street Improvement Program Bonds Payment of $450,000 from State Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Funds 2.7 Resolution to Approve the Name of City-Owned Property as Founders Park and to Place a Sign on Said Property 2.8 Approval of Consent Agenda Items 3. General Business of the City Council 3.1 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Submit an Application for TIGER Funding for a Multi-Modal Station 3.2 Discussion of Community Investment Project (CIP) priorities for the Local Improvement Fund Budget 4. Council Comments for the City Council 4.1 An opportunity for City Council members to offer general comments 5. Executive Session 5.1 Vote to Enter into Executive Session 5.2 Approval of Closed Meeting Minutes; Declaring if the Need for Confidentiality Still Exists in Whole or in Part for Closing Meeting Minutes; and Authorizing the Destruction of Audio Recordings for Closed Meetings Conducted More Than 18 Months Ago

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Curbside

Looks as if Curbside in the 200 block of West Main may be re-opening soon. The restaurant shuttered after losing its liquor license temporarily a few years back, planning to reopen when the license was re-instated. It never did and the place has remained dark for a couple of years.

However there have been signs of life and people inside for the past month and a new sign appeared on the door this week. No indication as to when the restaurant might open its doors though.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chancellor's Speech

In case you missed the Chancellor's speech yesterday on his vision for SIUC, you can read it here. Given how important the University is to Carbondale and southern Illinois, if you are a resident of the region, you really should 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Job Multiplier Effect

According to research by Enrico Moretti of UC-Berkley, Carbondale would do better to pursue high tech jobs rather than traditional manufacturing job. Each high tech job added to a community raises local employment by 5 jobs, whereas added a straight manufacturing job adds 1.6 jobs to the community. That is not to say don't go after manufacturing operations but it would appear developing Carbondale's high tech infrastructure would prove a better investment in generating jobs in the city, as well as giving graduating students a reason to remain here, rather than decamping for Houston or San Francisco or Atlanta.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Email Regarding Fire House Sale

The following email was sent out to people on the Arbor District email list. Posted with permission:

Here's a update on Tuesday night's rather infuriating Carbondale City Council meeting from Board VP Dave Johnson. 

Despite many objections from residents of the Arbor District and other citizens, the City Council voted 6-1 to sell the old Fire Station to John Deas and Allison Smith, who plan to turn it into a mixed use property with an Art Gallery, artists' workshops, and a beer tasting room. This means that the proposal by Josh Klarer and his father to build a restaurant with brew pub is off. 

The fundamental objection we raised to this was the failure by the City Council to elicit any input from any citizens of Carbondale, including immediate neighbors and the Arbor District. We in the Arbor District had long made it clear that we hoped to play a role in the decision about what to do about the property--but we weren't the only ones to speak up tonight. Some of the most eloquent testimony came, in fact, from a neighbor who doesn't belong to the district, but lives next door to the affected property. She made it very clear that no one from the council had contacted her about the decision--and she herself did far more to survey her neighbors than anyone from the city did, and discovered that none of them had heard anything about the proposal from the city until after the proposal to sell to Deas and Smith had been put on the council agenda. She, like many other speakers, both from within the Arbor District and without (including former council members Don Monty and Lee Fronaberger), called for the council to step back, let both sides make their case, and take input from all interested citizens. 

Some at the meeting spoke in favor of the Deas/Smith proposal—more, in fact, than explicitly spoke in favor of the Klarer proposal. Most I know in the neighborhood favor the Klarer proposal, but no one I know in the Arbor District thinks the art gallery project is a bad proposal in itself, or that Deas and Smith did anything wrong. Our fundamental point was about process. The city shouldn't make decisions about what to do about public property without consulting with the public.

Perhaps the most striking thing at the meeting is that no one on the city council, to my recollection, defended their failure to consult with neighbors about this proposal. The position of those on the council who voted against us, inasmuch as I understand it, was this. The process the city used was legal (which is debatable, but I don't claim to understand the nuances of Illinois' open meeting law); it may not be a good process, but it is our usual way of doing business (this may be true, but there are other precedents for more open processes); we authorized the city manager to make a deal; he made a deal, and we shouldn't walk away from it. And it would somehow be unfair to Deas and Smith to back out now. 

But Illinois open meetings law explicitly forbids the council from making decisions in closed session. So the council was completely free to step back and reconsider the process. The city could not legally make any binding promises to Deas and Smith before tonight's meeting, so the only harm Deas and Smith would have suffered would have been a week of thinking they had a tentative deal in place. And for all we know the final decision may have been in favor of Deas and Smith even had the process been restarted. 

Some on the city council clearly resented their decision being questioned in the press and social media. To my mind the council lost any right to complain about arguments in social media and the press when it failed to seek public discussion in other forms. This whole thing would not have been argued out on TV and the newspaper--or at least wouldn't have been argued there with the same vehemence--if the city had bothered to ask citizens what they thought in the first place. 

Mayor Henry at one point blew up and asked why the Arbor District felt it had the right to oppose something outside its borders. We lay claim to both sides of the streets around our perimeter, as a matter of fact, and have had dues paying members on the "outside" sides of the border streets. But the larger point is that the city did zero consultation with any citizens of Carbondale about this. This isn't just about the Arbor District. Henry's quick anger obviously reflected longtime enmity between him and some in the district. He later tried to apologize, but continued to mischaracterize the Arbor District's position: we were not insisting on having our way by getting Klarer's proposal approved, as we made very clear. We did strongly argue for citizen involvement in city decision making--as did many other citizens from outside our neighborhood.

Henry also said at one point that he would allow no discussion of any proposal other than the one under consideration (the Deas/Smith proposal), He later relented, and allowed both Klarers to speak about their proposal. Deas and Smith also spoke about their proposal. So the merits of the two plans were briefly discussed--but the debate was utterly irrelevant, as it turns out, as the Council had already made up its mind. It was a "Public Hearing" where the decision had already been made in private and nothing the council heard would change anything. 

My own snap analysis was that six members of the council chose to stick together--not to backtrack on the decision they'd implicitly made in closed session—rather than to admit they erred and retreat in the face of outcry from a pretty large number of Carbondalians. That is, they chose loyalty to the city council over loyalty to the people they are supposed to represent. 

The sole member of the city council to vote in opposition to the sale was Navreet Kang. He made the process argument, and also argued that the sale was financially irresponsible given that the Klarers offered more money and would bring in more tax revenue. To my mind he is to be commended for his vote. 

Members who voted to go forward with the decision made in closed session without any public input were Mayor Mike Henry, and council members Jessica Bradshaw, Brad Doherty, Tom Grant, Carolin Harvey, and Adam Loos. 

Dave Johnson, for the Arbor District

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Car Wash

New car wash going in just south of the intersection of Giant City Road and Hwy 13. Given that the Dirtbuster Carwashes just sold and the old car wash at the intersection of 13 and Sycamore has been demolished, I wonder if there is enough demand for another one in town. I can think of 4 in Carbondale offhand, the two Dirtbusters, on on East Walnut and one on the southside at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Hwy 51. Given that this new wash will only be about 4 blocks north of the eastside Dirtbusters, I cannot see demand for both washes in that area.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Carbondale Crime Rate

Despite its reputation as a high crime community, the crime rate in Carbondale has actually declined abut 25% over the last decade. The number of auto thefts held steady in the low 30s but every other crime tracked has seen slight to significant declines

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fire Station

The old fire station at the corner of Oakland and Walnut was due to get approved for sale at tonight's city council meeting. The city wanted $82,000 for it and that amount was offered by Joshua Klarer who wanted to open a restaurant and microbrewery in the location. However, unless something changes, the city has opted to accept a bid of $50000 from John Deas and Allison Smith who plan to open studio space and a tasting room at the location.

The city cited the residential nature of the neighborhood, which has hosted a fire station there for decades, and the difficulty of access to parking, only available from off Walnut Street, which doesn't seem to bother any of the restaurants located on South Illinois, also a one way street.

I have no problem with the "secrecy" with which the discussions were held, though more input from the community might have been helpful. As the mayor points out, such decisions should be made without undue influence and council members should vote in private. My major concern is that, in a time when sales tax revenues in the city are down, the city has opted to take a facility that, if the restaurant opened, would generate sales tax revenues, while artist studios will not. Given that, due to budget needs,  the city voted to extend a sales tax due to sunset this year, an extra $32,000 in city coffers might be helpful. Additionally, if the city might have to suit Klarer's needs, as stated in the article, why are those spaces not equally suitable for Deas and Smith's studio?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thai Taste Reopens

Thai Taste reopened for business last Saturday at lunch time after closing for 2 days while repairs were made from an accident wherein a car, doing a 180 after getting clipped on the rear end, smashed into the restaurant's north wall. Repairs to a smashed drainpipe were completed Friday and, while Tyvik still covers the hole in the wall, the restaurant reopeend with a clean bill of health Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

True Value Hardware Sold

To Cotton Hardware out of Columbia IL

An anchor of the Carbondale retail sector will soon be changing hands. George Sheffer, who, along with his wife Diane, has owned Murdale True Value for more than 35 years, has announced plans to sell the store to Cotton Hardware effective Dec. 1.

“We appreciate so much all of our customers and friends from Carbondale and throughout Southern Illinois, and especially all of our team members,” Sheffer said. “We have so much to be thankful for.”

Under his leadership, Murdale True Value has grown to one of the flagship stores in the True Value organization and is often used as an example for other stores to follow. The store has won numerous honors both nationally and locally, including being named the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year for 2016. Murdale True Value has been an active supporter of community and charitable causes including Southern Illinois Athletics, the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, St. Francis Animal Care and many others. Sheffer said that new ownership has expressed a desire for the store to continue community involvement.

“Cotton Hardware cares about their communities. They are very locally-focused,” he said.

Sheffer, who has owned Murdale True Value since 1985, added that current employees will continue with the store following the sale.

“Utmost in our thought process was our team members here – to make sure they continued to have good jobs and are able to support their families. Everything will be the same here,” he explained.

The Sheffers will continue through the ownership transition – a process expected to last two months. He added that he will remain in Carbondale.

“This is our home,” he said. “We will still be living in Carbondale and will remain active in the community.”

Columbia Illinois -based Cotton Hardware owns ten other retail locations. The Carbondale store will be the first to include a locksmith service, appliance department and rental.

The Cotton family stated, “We are looking forward to working with the great residents and businesses in the Southern Illinois Region. Giving back and supporting the local community has always been a cornerstone of our business model. It is our intention to continue the great service and support that you have come to expect for Murdale. We are truly blessed to be a part of your community.”

Sheffer said the coming months for him will be a time of reflection and appreciation to the community. 

“All of our great customers have made everything possible,” Sheffer said. “We will be forever grateful to all of them.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Trick or Treat Hours

Mayor announced hours for Trick or Treating in Carbondale this year. Happily, we are continuing to do trick or treating on actual Halloween rather than pushing it to the last Saturday in October as some places have done. Halloween belongs on October 31, not on a weekend night:

 Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry is excited to announce trick-or-treat hours for Halloween.
Kids can trick-or-treat throughout Carbondale on Tuesday, October 31 from 5-8 p.m.
Residents wishing to hand out candy to “trick-or-treaters” should light up their porches and driveways.
“Trick-or-treaters” are encouraged to wear reflective tape or clothing and have their parents check their candy for potentially harmful objects.
Mayor Henry and members of the City Council ask for the cooperation of all residents in making this a happy and safe occasion for our community.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Accident

Accident at the corner of Main and Illinois tonight about 7 p.m. From the video, it appears the car in the photo got clipped by another car heading north on Illinois, spun around and went through the wall of Thai Taste. At least one person in the hospital and Thai Taste has closed for the rest of the evening. Very hard to serve customers with a 15' hole in the wall.

We're Number 86, We're Number 86

Alarms.org compiled a ranking of the top 100 safest colleges and universities in the US and SIUC came in at #86. The ranking is based upon statistics gathered from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting and the National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges that made the list reported both low levels of crime both off and on campus. Take that, reputation of Carbondale as an unsafe city.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Turning The Corner

One of the terms I kept hearing people use during the after-eclipse forum was "turning the corner", as in the eclipse traffic helped downtown turn the corner towards revitalization. We shall see but SIUC's administration has used the same phrase to describe university enrollment and strategy for almost two decades now and the only result I have seen is the continuing decline in enrollment. While I was happy to see the traffic and emphasis on downtown prior to the eclipse, it looks still to early to say if downtown has "turned the corner" yet or not.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Drones in Carbondale

Attended a presentation on drones today and apparently it is illegal to fly a drone within 5 miles of an airport without authorization from the FCC, which means that almost all of Carbondale is off limits. Most of Carbondale, except for a small swath along the southeast edge by the Dunn Richmond Center, is within 5 miles of Southern Illinois Airport and therefore covered by the ban.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SIUC Down Again

Attendance for the fall semester dropped below 15000 students , although the administration, working to put a positive spin on it, pointed out that this class has a higher average GPA than last year's class and that SIUC was attracting more transfer students. That is all well and good, but the institution still has fewer students than last year and no amount of spin will change that. I hope, with the new chancellor, Carbondale will see some long term strategies put into place to turn around this decline. Maybe, instead of going after students from the collar states, the university should work harder to make it the first choice of seniors in the southern Illinois region?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Eclipse Session

The city will host another listening session for feedback about eclipse events and handling at the Civic Center on Sept. 13 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Some things I hope they incorporate sooner than 7 years from now:
1.  Annual welcome back concert for students the Saturday before SIUC open
2. More open container weekends, with significant police presence
3. Planning for the next eclipse starting NOW.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Eclipse Followup

Attended yesterday's forum/discussion/reflection on how Carbondale dealt with the eclipse and traffic generated by it. Overall people were pretty happy with it. Dairy Queen, Town Square Market, McDonalds, Longbranch, and P. K.'s all reported the best sales days in their history and other restaurants reported doing triple what they would over a typical weekend.

City staff and the police department received kudos for the smoothness of operations and the amount of personnel out on the street. Attendees attributed that presence to the ease with which the relaxed alcohol was enacted (only three arrests to my knowledge) and the little litter left on the ground, "less trash than after the Lights Fantastic parade" one person commented.

One regret commonly expressed was that there was not more outreach to students and co-operation with the university. It appeared to a number of people that student involvement with eclipse events stopped at Mill Street.

Some things people indicated they would like to see carry forward from eclipse weekend:

1.  More police on foot patrolling the downtown area. They are there, but often sitting in vehicles watching passerby.
2. More opportunities to relax liquor regulations, allowing people to leave a restaurant or bar with a cup of beer or glass of wine.
3. Some sort of "Welcome back" festival the weekend before classes start at SIUC, to encourage both students and locals to go downtown.

New Ice Cream Store

Looks as if Carbondale is getting a new shop for ice cream on Giant City road, likely in the retail complex that houses Moe's

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Eclipse Forum

There is a follow up discussion regarding the Carbondale Eclipse today at the Downtown Design Center (Old Train Depot) from 4 to 6 p.m. Looking to hear your experiences, feedback and suggestions as to how to prepare for the next one.

City Brand

Here is the new brand for the city that North Star Destination Strategies, the branding firm hired by the city, developed after months (since February) of research and discussion with city businesspeople, residents and members of the city government:

"For those wanting the progressiveness of a college town and the solidity of the Midwest, Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University and bordering the Shawnee National Forest, is where compassion is seen as strength and an inclusive and artistic community inspires engagement so you’re encouraged to both be yourself and express yourself."

You can see the presentation on it here. Busy at the moment but will have some more to say on the city brand later.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fire House

It appears the original price the city was asking for the fire house at the corner of Oakland and Walnut was $82,000 and the city had received a bid for that amount but decided to go with a lower $50,000 offer instead. Sale was supposed to take place at Tuesday night's council meeting but was pulled from the agenda and will be reconsidered at a later date:

 The Carbondale City Council, pursuant to Carbondale Revised Code 1-13-8, Sections C & E, will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, at 7:00pm in Room 108 of the Civic Center, 200 South Illinois Avenue, to consider the proposed sale and conveyance of certain real estate. The real estate proposed to be sold is described as follows: Parcels #15-20-279-012 and 15-20-279-011, commonly known as 300 South Oakland Avenue, City of Carbondale, Illinois, to be sold to John Deas and Alison Smith for $50,000.00, pursuant to Section E, the property will promote economic development. The real estate parcel is no longer used by the City and the sale will promote economic development and benefit the community at large. 20614975 8/18

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Medical Offices

Ribbon cutting on August 30 by the Chamber of Commerce to welcome Athletico Physical Therapy to the community. From the press release:

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce will hold a Ribbon Cutting at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 30 for Athletico.

Athletico Physical Therapy provides the highest quality orthopedic rehabilitation services to communities, employers and athletes in over 370 locations throughout nine states with more than 4000 employees.

The new Carbondale location is located at 900 E. Walnut St., near Heartland Women’s Health and Sunny Street Café.

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Street Bar

That's the name of the new bar going in where the late, lamented Pony sat on East Main. No idea as to the theme but I rather wonder if Club Traz is making a comeback. I saw a sign for Club Traz in the Street Bar parking lot last week and thought they were bringing back the even later Club Traz.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Free Alcohol Charge

No, you cannot promote giving away alcohol in the state of Illinois, which apparently a representative of Hollywood Lounge did back in May. From the agenda of the Liquor Control Commission for next Tuesday's meeting:

Charges were presented to the licensee, Hollywood Lounge, that on or about May 14, 2017, Thomas Michael Newell, agent of said licensee did knowingly promote “free alcohol” on social media in breach of Ill. Admin. Code tit. 11, § 100.280, a violation of Section 2-5-10 of the Carbondale Revised Code.

A hearing was held on August 3, 2017, regarding charges that the Hollywood Lounge staff did knowingly promote “free alcohol” on social media, which is a breach of Ill. Admin. Code tit. 11, § 100.280, and a violation of Section 2-5-10 of the Carbondale Revised Code. As a result of the hearing, the City Manager has made recommendations to the City Council.  The City Council can accept, dismiss, or modify the recommendations of the Hearing Officer.

SIUC Survey

New SIUC Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has posted a survey asking for feedback on where the university should be in 2025

Friday, August 25, 2017

Record Sales

According to what I have heard and read, Longbranch, P. K.'s , McDonald's and Town Square Market all had record sales during the Eclipse weekend. People were standing 4 deep on the sidewalk outside P. K.s Sunday evening and lines out the door at both Mary Lou's and Harbaugh's in the morning. No word on how profitable Harbaugh's evening openings proved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

50,000 People

The city estimates that the projected 50,000 people expected for the eclipse did show up. Things started off slowly on Friday and Saturday with sales about that of a typical weekend and some restaurants that had overstaffed sending personnel home. Traffic picked up markedly on Sunday and Monday with lines, albeit short ones, at most downtown restaurants.m Although vehicular traffic was back to normal on Tuesday, there were still a large number of tourists in town, pushing sales to above average levels. Happily, there were very few problems requiring police or hospitalization, with visits to the emergency room, according to what I have been told, lower over the weekend than on a typical one. From a press release sent out by the city.

The City of Carbondale estimates approximately 50,000 people came to Carbondale to see the total solar eclipse on August 21.
The Carbondale Eclipse Marketplace, Family Fun Zone and Shadow Fest all saw an increase in attendance throughout the weekend as more people arrived in town leading up to the eclipse.
“Thanks to long-term planning, we had a very successful event in Carbondale. We had people in attendance from all parts of the world. We’re looking forward to doing this again in seven years,” said Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry.
Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams said, “I’m extremely proud of City staff, volunteers and the community for working so well together to host a successful event. Our hard work has prepared us well for future events and 2024.”
The Carbondale Police Department had no reports of any significant incidents related to the eclipse.
“Our eclipse planning came together with the assistance of all of our regional, state and federal public safety partners who each played a vital role in the single largest event Carbondale has ever experienced.  For the last four days, they worked hard to make sure our residents and visitors alike had a great and safe experience.  I am very proud of all of them,” said Carbondale Police Chief Jeff Grubbs.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse Attendance

Driving up Hwy 127 yesterday, I saw around 250 cars parked at Alto Vineyard and about 150 -200 at Von Jakob Vineyard and Rendleman's Orchards. Plus from what I understand, there were another 700 or so up at Bald Knob, so a lot of Eclipse attendees scattered throughout the region

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%