Saturday, November 28, 2009

Purse Theft Invoice

The victim of a vehicle burglary last Sept at Evergreen Terrace posted this bill to the thief for her efforts.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Amtrak Down

Though Amtrak ridership is up overall in Illinois, to the tune of some 20%, Carbondale ridership is down about 5% since 2007. Though the officials quoted don't hazard a reason as to why, my guess would be the decline in SIUC attendance, as the students have always been the heaviest users of the rail.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


That's how much new SIUC chancellor Rita Cheng will pull down per year. This figure does not include the housing allowance, university provided car or retirement benefits. Hope she proves worth it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mayor Cole Interview

Got the opportunity to listen to the interview the Southern conducted with Mayor Cole on Nov. 17th before he presented his set of proposals to the city council. The first five minutes or so set up the scenario. Due to the reliance on a sales tax for funding city services, the city has no control over incoming revenues. City costs are going up, especially due to pension requirements, so that the city is short about $1.3 million per year.

At about the 5 minute mark, Mayor Cole lays out options A, B, C, D and F. Reinstating the property tax would generate about $1.3 million, while raising the sales tax would generate about $1 million, leaving about $300, 000 to be made up through job cuts. He points out that option D, privatizing refuse collection, is an option that many communities in the area have already adopted.

At the 13 minute mark, Cole starts discussing Option E, privatizing water and sewage. This would reduce pension liabilities by 65%, allow the city to play cash for the proposed fire and police stations, save approximately $2 million per year in debt service, and allow the city to cut sales taxes by 1/4%. Though city employees in the affect departments would lose their jobs, the city could negotiate with the buyer a requirement to hire all affected employees at similar wage and benefit level, though not with the same pension benefits and also negotiate a freeze on water rates for 1-2 years after the purchase, with any future rate increases having to go before the Illinois Commerce Commission. Water rates would probably rise after the freeze expires by 10-20% but the city already has to raise rates anyway, with a 5% increase this year and another 5% increase coming next year.

At the 26 minute mark, the mayor turns to option F: leaving all taxes alone, not selling the water system and balancing the budget through staff cuts. He estimates that of the 266 full time equivalent positions, 21 would have to be cut. Police and fire department employees are off the table, so that would require a 12.5% cut in other city staff.

At the 28 minute mark, he then comments that city council members are focused on a tax increase, while he is focused on not raising taxes. He believes there are lots of examples where Option E has worked to the benefit of the cities that have privatized their water but that opponents will find one bad example to rally around. He has been working about 6-8 weeks on developing Option E. The city manager and staff proposed option b, raising the property tax. something has to be done by the start of the 2011 fiscal year. If the property tax, it would need to be voted on within the next month, if the sales tax, by April. Privatization of the water system would take 3-6 months to do.

AT the 31 minute mark, one of the interviews comments that, as the mayor, he has no preference for any of the option. Mayor Cole comments he's in favor of option E, to avoid raising taxes or cutting services. It accomplished the goals of relieving debt, funding the safety centers and funding pensions. About 30 employees would be affected. Water quality would be maintained and the city would retain the rights to Cedar Lake. The city would likely guarantee a certain level of water provided to the new owner and sell them water needed over that level.

At the 38:30 minute mark, the mayor says that there isn't much left to privatize besides water and sewage. There are areas that could be cut but most of the cuts that could be made would be so small they wouldn't do anything to balance the budge. Since Cole was elected the city has eliminated 11 full time equivalency positions and there may be a few more positions that could be cut, but not without reducing services. He believes the city is at a good staffing level now as most of the departments are flat and pretty efficient. There aren't a lot of extraneous positions to be reduced. At the 43 minute mark, the Southern asks about council's reaction and he comments he hasn't told them yet, the Southern's editorial board is the first people to whom he has presented it. He then says there are probably two council members who will be opposed to it and that it will require a supermajority, 5 votes to approve the sale.

At the 45 minute mark, the conversation returns to pension obligations and savings from the sale.. With pensions, the city is paying for the equivalent of 2 people in every position. The option of not eliminating the sales tax after the privatization is also brought up and the mayor says that is also an option, which would leave an additional $2 million a year to spend on services. Privatization would also reduce workman's compensation payments by about $250,000. At the 52 minute mark, Mayor Cole comments that he wanted to have a chance to explain the proposal and have a chance to answer any questions, since he wouldn't be able to answer any tonight. When asked about the reaction he expects at the meeting, he comments that half the people will be in favor of the proposal, half will be opposed and the other half won't care. When all is said and done, people leave it up to the council to figure things out for them. People want to be safe in their homes at night, they want to have the services they need and they want to be able to pay their bills. There's an overwhelming resentment towards government right now and an overwhelming resistance toward taxes. People are looking for leadership and they're not willing to pay more in taxes. we have to be creative. It's not thinking outside of the box, the box is gone and there are no other alternatives. We all have to solve these problems. The armchair quarterbacks can gripe and complain but they aren't coming up with ideas. Option E is an alternative that doesn't involve taxes. We don't have to do it but we need to look at all options.

At the 57 minute mark, the property tax is brought back up and mention is made that it has to be voted on by the Dec. 17 council meeting so time is important. Trash collection privatization is brought up again and the mechanics of how it would work are discussed and the conversation ends with a return to the long term savings of the water privatization proposal.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Privatization Meeting

Got to the water privatization meeting about fifteen minutes before it ended so just got the tail end of stuff. Apparently at the height of things there were between 100 and 200 people there (counts were inaccurate though the crowd extended down the Longbranch hallway), including Councilpeople Haynes, Pohlmann and Fritzler. Even the cause of all the rukus, Mayor Cole, showed up for about an hour, acting fairly ingenuous, or so I was told. He came prepared with about 50 copies of the proposal he had ran first by the Southern Illinoisan's editorial board, then before the city council. He then listened quietly as the mike was opened for attendees to speak, most of whom spent their time at the mike bashing the Mayor and the privatization proposal. After awhile, I guess even Mayor Cole got tired of the continual attacks and told the crowd they could continue to bash him, but he wouldn't be listening anymore, at which point the event's organizers offered the Mayor a turn at the mike.

The Mayor told the crowd that they were getting worked up over nothing, this was just a proposal, and there was no chance it would even be passed, which is certainly an interesting to look at it given the amount of discussion given to the privatization option in the proposal. Options A,B, C, D, and F get a total of two pages while the privatization option gets three pages all to itself.

After the mayor spoke his piece, there was more discussion about why privatization was a BAD THING and a petition was passed around, which garnered some 200 signatures opposing the proposal. From what I gather, Councilpeople Fritzler and Pohlmann have said they oppose the proposal, Haynes and McDaniel are neutral, and Jack and Wissmann's views are uncertain.

I'm expecting a loooooong city council meeting on Dec 1 as I bet there will be a lot of citizen comments on the privatization proposal.

Letter from Jerry

Here's the latest email from our rep, Jerry Costello:

I wanted to update you on some matters of interest.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed health care reform legislation and now the U.S. Senate will be considering a separate health care reform bill that is likely to be very different from the House bill. If the Senate is able to get enough votes to pass a bill, then a conference committee will be appointed to work out the differences between the two bills. Therefore, I would suggest that you contact Senators Durbin and Burris to express your opinion on health care reform.

On another topic, you may be one of 128 people in our area who have a refund coming from the IRS. There is over $110,000 in undeliverable or unclaimed refunds, from tax year 2008, that were due to constituents of the 12th Congressional District. For more details, including the list of taxpayers who have not received their refund, please go to my website at

Please feel free to forward this message to friends and neighbors you think might be interested in this issue.


Jerry F. Costello
12th District of Illinois

Water Privitization

Glenda Greenhouse wants you to call city council members and tell them to vote no on privatization of C'dale water. Or for those of you who prefer email, councilman Joel Fritzler has kindly provided the council members non-city email addresses:

Besides the city email addresses for council members, you may have better luck contacting council members and getting quicker responses from them by using the following email addresses.

Corene McDaniel
Chris Wissmann

Joel Fritzler

Roland Burris

Senator Burris want's you to know he's revamped his website. Health care reform, or health insurance reform as it's now being positioned, issues are front and center on the site.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Privatizing Water Bad

There's going to be a meeting at the Longbranch Coffeehouse tomorrow night to discuss organizing protests about Mayor Cole's proposal to privatize C'dale's water:

"Please spread the word about this meeting and try to come to the meeting and bring friends! This coming Tuesday, 7-9PM at Longbranch Coffeehouse. Privatization of Carbondale's water would be TERRIBLE. These corporations that buy local water systems have a pattern of raising the prices sky high and also neglecting the infrastructure. There are plenty of testimonials from cities that did privatize their water and really wish they hadn't. Some have had to sue for years to get it back! We must convince the City Council members not to do this! Please come for the discussion and planning. See the flyer attached and spread the word!" Barb McKasson

My bet is that the Mayor gets everyone so stirred up with his water privatization proposal that one of the other proposals slides through with nary a hint of protest. As PeterG pointed out in comments, Mayor Cole has done an extremely good job of defining the conversation on his terms.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

National College Enrollment

SIUC's enrollment is down, while overall college and university enrollment is at an all time high. Even better, tuition rates nationally are up 4-7%, while attendance at 2 and 4 year colleges is up 2% from last year, with 41% of all 18 to 21 year olds enrolled at one or the other. The number of high school drop outs has dropped steadily from 1975 as well, meaning there are more high school graduates to recruit from, yet they're not coming to SIUC.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Unemployment Rates

As D. Gorton pointed out in a email earlier this week, surprisingly Jackson County has among the lowest unemployment rates of all counties in the state. We rank 99 out of 102. Our unemployment rate is 7.3%, while Brown County at 4.5%, is the lowest. Williamson County, our neighbor to the east (and home to the Hub of the Universe) ranks 59 with 9.6%, while Perry and Randolph Counties have rates of 11.9 and 9.4%, respectively. And Franklin County? #3 in the state, with an unemployment rate of 14.6%. At least they're no longer #1 like they were a year ago.

Yeah, sales tax collections are down and SIUC is having problems, but our economic underpinnings, at least measured by this metric, look good, especially compared to the rest of the state.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Planning Commission Meeting

Th Planning Commission meeting last night focused on the almost completed city Comprehensive Plan, presented by Mike Piersall and Chris Wallace to the commission and the sparse crowd of two. They pointed out that the current comprehensive plan was ignored by almost everyone and hadn't been updated since its unveiling in 1997. This new one is supposed to take into consideration the current state of the city and its potential development. I did note that this one is much more generalized than the 1997 version, which, for example, called for extending and linking West Mill with Chautauqua.

According to Wallace, what you see at the above link is about 90% completed, with work still needing to be done on Chapter 5, Economic Development. After that is completed, the finished plan will go before the Planning Commission for a vote in Jan. or Feb. If approved by the commission, it goes before the City Council for a vote to adopt in Feb. or March. From then on, all development within the city is supposd to be measured against the Plan, to see if said development is taking the city in the way we just spent a year determining we want to go. At least, that's what is supposed to happen. My bet is, we pay attention to the plan for about a year, then it gets put on a shelf and ignored until someone decides it's time to write another one.

Incidentally,t he other attendee at the meeting took a reference in the Plan to the city fostering entrepreneurship as an opportunity to launch into a lengthy complaint about how the city risked crushing the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens because it had enforced the code moving the non-complying mobile homes to places where they would be in compliance. My guess is, he was looking for an opportunity to complain again about the amendment and seized on that part of the plan as a hook on which to hang his complaint.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Coal Country Showing

From the Shawnee Group:

"Coal Country" Event

In Appalachia, miners and residents are locked in conflict. "Coal Country" is a documentary that tells of the dramatic struggle around the use of coal, which provides over half the electricity in America. Shawnee Group Sierra Club will be showing this movie on Thursday, November 19th, at 7:00 PM at the Carbondale Township meeting room at 217 East Main St. in Carbondale (across from Bank of Carbondale).

Steve Fesenmaier, film reviewer for the Charleston Gazette, says, " 'Coal Country' is the best film on mountaintop removal to date…the interviews with miners, one owner and opponents are touching and revealing. This film should win an Oscar…."

Appalachia contains the most biodiversity of any area in the United States. Are we willing to sacrifice these beautiful mountains and the lives of the people who live there? Is there a better way? What is the true cost of coal? Is there such a thing as "clean coal" or "cheap energy?' Through this film, we meet the people involved in the mountaintop removal conflict - all sides. We also witness the strip mining process and the beauty of the area.

We will hold a discussion after the movie and there will be an opportunity for letter writing if you are moved to do something about this issue. This is a very timely issue, because the U.S. EPA is currently in a decision process to determine whether or not pushing mountaintops into streams violates the Clean Water Act. Over 2000 miles of mountain streams have been buried so far in Appalachia because of mountaintop removal coal mining.

This event is free and open to the public. Parking is in the lot off of Monroe St. and Marion St. Look for the green building and enter through the back door off of the alley. The front door will be locked.

"Coal Country" is a documentary that tells of the dramatic struggle around the use of coal, which provides over half the electricity in America. Shawnee Group Sierra Club will be showing this movie on Thursday, November 19th, at 7:00 PM at the Carbondale Township meeting room at 217 East Main St. in Carbondale, IL. Discussion will follow. Refreshments and live music are included. Free to all.

Budget Proposals

Mayor Cole offered five proposals for solving the city's current financial shortfall at last night's city council meeting. The one that attracted the most attention is the proposal to privatize the city's water, sewer and refuse collection, since , according to the mayor's proposal, this would generate a one-time cash infusion of some $42 million. The other options proposed are as follows:

1. do nothing and hope the problem goes away. Always popular.

2. Re-instate the property tax. This is the proposal of the city staff and would generate about $1.3 million per year. Corine McDaniel was the only council person to speak out in favor of this one; rather she spoke out against the proposed sales tax increase (#3).

3. Increase the sales tax by .25 % to 8%. This would raise an estimated $1 million. The other $300,000 would come through the reduction of 6 city staff positions. Councilmen Jack, Wissmann and Haynes spoke in favor of this option, though probably not the staff reduction.

4. Increase the sales tax by .25% to 8% and privatize the city's refuse collection, instead of staff reductions. The privatization would raise about $300,000, thus keeping the six staff positions.

SIUC vs. EIU Crime Rates

In 2008, SIUC had four times as many aggravated assaults as did Eastern Illinois University, despite SIUC only having 3000 more students, and EIU only had 22 burglaries, compared with the 163 reported at SIUC.

Update: There are significant discrepancies with the rates cited in the EIU editorial and the statistics published by SIUC. I count 10 total reported instances of aggravated assault at SIUC in 2008, compared to 6 instances at EIU and 84 burglaries, compared to 43 at EIU. If you just look at on campus incidents only, there are 22 burglaries at EIUC, compared to 43 at SIUC and 6 instances of aggravated assault on campus at SIUC compared to 4 at EIU. D. Gorton has an email to the editor of the EIU paper asking for the source of his statistics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's Cheng

According to KITV Channel 4, Rita Cheng will be the next SIUC Chancellor.

Rental Inspection Figures

Haven't heard much about how the rental inspection program is going so sent a FOI request to City Clerk Janet Vaught to see the reports for Sept. since I thought there's be 30 or so. Got an email back from her asking if I really wanted to see them all. From the tone of the email, I got the feeling there woudl be more than just 30, so changed my question to ask for the number of inspections for the past three months and turns out I was right. Courtesy of Stephen Phillips, Inspector Supervisor, Building and Neighborhood Services:


Chili Supper

The Rotary Club will host its annual Chili Supper prior to the Lights Fantastic parade on Dec. 5th. Here's the email:

Dear Friends,

I've attached a flyer with the details about our Rotary Club of
Carbondale-Breakfast Annual Chili Supper which is held prior to every Lights
Fantastic Parade-this year, December 5. As usual we will be serving in the
Carbondale Civic Center. Three improvements this year-we have extended our
serving hours to from 4-7:00; we are offering three price ranges-adults
$5.00 or $6.00 at the door, Children 6-12 cost $4.00, and children under 6
pay $3.00; entrée choices have been expanded from chili to include hot dogs
and pizza.

Call me and I will deliver tickets to you, or pick them up at Old National
bank-downtown or Schnucks or Horace Mann-across from Eastgate.

I look forward to seeing you on the 5th,
Marcia Sinnott

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Last Game at McAndrew

Yesterday was the projected last game at McAndrew Stadium. About 240 past players showed up to join other fans to watch the game. I find it interesting that the news accounts don't mention the number of people who showed up, maybe because it was smaller than had been expected for the final game at McAndrew. From what I've heard, the athletic department was hoping for around 13,000, significantly more than the reported 11,500 that showed up.

Also, it's interesting that McAndrew stays up until the new staduim gets built. Maybe the new standium is less certain that it seems?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

President Poshards Salary

Had someone ask this week how much President Posahrd is making at SIUC. He was hired at $292,000 in January 2006. This year, his total compensation is around $392,000, up $8910 from 2008.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chancellor's Events Cancelled

Money is really getting tight at SIUC. According to this email from the chancellor's office, all events hosted by the office through the end of December are canceled:

TO: SIUC Faculty and Staff

In light of the President’s November 10 email message to SIUC Faculty and
Staff regarding the financial crisis facing the campus, all events that were
scheduled to be hosted by the Chancellor’s Office through the end of
December, are being cancelled. We will reassess the budget situation in
early January and will determine if further cancellations of events are

I am requesting each of the Vice Chancellors, Deans, and the Provost of the
School of Medicine to review events that their responsibility areas are
scheduled to host and follow my lead.

Thank you.

Samuel Goldman

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Thursday, November 12, 2009

SIUC Expenditures freeze

Here's the email President Poshard sent to faculty and staff on Tuesday about the halt on expenditures for the forseeable future:

TO: SIUC Faculty and Staff
> The Chancellors and I have been reviewing the economic conditions > of the state over the last few months. Due to the economic > downturn and resulting cash flow problems since July 1, 2009, the > State of Illinois has, as of November 1st, missed payments to > Southern Illinois University totaling $115 million. While we had > hoped the payments would materialize over the last four months, the > funding shortfall has only grown. Until payments are restored, it > is necessary to protect the salaries of our employees.
> Thus, effective immediately, and until further notice, most > expenditures not related to salaries ordinarily paid with state > funds or unrestricted local funds will be halted or slowed. Salary > and other required expenditures will be as authorized by Chancellor > Goldman or his designee(s). For the School of Medicine > (Springfield, Carbondale and affiliate sites), authorization for > salary and other required expenditures is delegated to the Dean and > Provost and his designee(s). Details regarding authorized expenses > will be forthcoming from the Chancellor/Provost/Vice Chancellors/ > Dean and Provost of the School of Medicine.
> Your assistance and understanding in limiting costs during this > time is most appreciated. I regret that these actions are > necessary, but I'm optimistic that we can work together to navigate > through these economic difficulties.
> Glenn Poshard
> President
> Southern Illinois University

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Entertainment in Carbondale

Interesting viewpoint by a longtime black Carbondale resident on the lack of venues for black entertainment in Carbondale. However, it's all about the dollars. Local bars and entertainment venues book groups like the Woodbox Gang and Hairbangers Ball because they bring in people who buy drinks.

Durbin and Callahan

Sen. Dick Durbin brought the story of SIUC baseball coach Dan Callahan's struggles to pay for his cancer treatment to the Senate floor yesterday. Treatments of the drug Avastin appear to help reduce Callahan's melanoma but at a cost of over $13,000 per dose. Callahan's doctors are wanting to administer a dose of the drug every three weeks. So far, treatment has run over $82,000 and Callahn's insurance company, WellPoint, has said it will no longer foot the bill for additional treatments.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Must Have Toy for Christmas

Yeah, it's early but apparently this is the must have toy for this Christmas. They are so hot that Toys 'r Us doesn't even have them in this week's flyer and won't be advertising them save via the website or work of mouth. Currently they are selling for about $20 and up on eBay

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fewer Books

Looks like the Illinois Centre Waldenbooks will be closing by the end of January, along with another 100+ Waldenbooks and Borders.

Property Tax

Councilman Joel Fritzler had a letter in the Southern earlier this week advocating for an increase in the C'dale sales tax to help balance the city's finances, as opposed to the proposed increase in the property tax that's floating around. In the letter he noted a link to a spreadsheet the state has posted comparing property taxes of various areas around the state. I took at look athe the spreadsheet and here are several of the aggregated property tax rates for communitities in our region:

Carbondale: 8.44
Harrisburg 9.6.33
Marion 6.699
Metropolis 7.4
Mt. Vernon 7.88
Murphysboro 9.169
Effingham 6.959
Charleston 8.89
Chester 7.24

While Carbondale is certainly not the highest in the area, property taxes here are significantly higher than Marion and it's probably not a good idea to raise them much higher if Carbondale want to remain competitive with Marion, given Marion's proximity to the interstate and relatively lax attitude towards zoning.

Clarification: As Brain rightly points out in the comments, Carbondale has no property tax imposed by the city. These figures are aggregated property taxes imposed by various taxing districts existing within the city. Also, the figures are at least three years old so very well may have fluctuated since then.

SIUC Cash Problems

Looks like SIUC is currently running about $20 million short in paying its bills, at least, that's the figured projected by the end of this month if the state doesn't come up with the $115 million owed. Given this situation, it's certainly not a surprise the university wants no change in its arrangement with the city regarding Saluki Way funding.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween Aftermath

Checked with both City Manager Alan Gill and Carbondale Main Street Executive Director Meghan Cole about any damage to downtown as a result of Hallloween festivities. Gill says nothing that he had been notified of. Cole says the only thing she saw after a drive through downtown was some chalked graffitti on the building housing the Main Street offices.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trailers Go

Missed the city council meeting last night but it looks like the council voted to eliminate the grandfather exception for the 20 mobile homes still in zoning violation. Apparently one of the homes was already moved as he discussion was about 21 homes at the last meeting.

One procedural correction to Thomas' story. Unless I missed something, Lance Jack had advanced a motion to the floor but it died for lack of a second. There was never any motion on the floor to table.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update on Trailers

Looks like the plan city staff are advancing for removal of the non complying trailers from the city involves giving the owners 5 years to move them, since the structures have depreciated to no market value, with a clause allowing early removal as a nuisance if they remain unrented for over six month.

Monday, November 2, 2009


If you can judge by the news coverage, this year's event was very quiet. A lot of kids chose to trick or treat at the mall, Murdale Shopping Center, the Student Center at SIUC, and downtown Carbondale, which the Southern managed to overlook in its story. The C'dale Police website doesn't show much sign of activity as of this afternoon either, with the latest post dated 10/28.

Crime Up

The DE has a map up showing the locations of the 20 plus residential burglaries that took place in Carbondale in October. Even Police Chief Jody O'Guinn says the numbers are up:

“There has been in an increase in robberies more recently than anything,” O’Guinn said. “The total numbers are outrageous from years past.”