Friday, May 30, 2014

Pravin Varughese Update

In an interview with Monica Zukas, attorney for the Varughese family Charles Stegmeyer said that the pathologist hired by the Varughese family to examine their son's body had detected "blunt force trauma to the head". This rather contradicts earlier statements that no evidence of foul play had been found. Certainly will be interesting to see where this goes.

Update:  Today's Carbondale Times (print only but available around town) has more info, including that Varughese had suffered multiple head injuries, a bloody nose and a defensive would prior to his death.

The Most Important Thing

According to the Jackson/Williamson County Survey conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the most important issue facing both counties is attracting new businesses and jobs to southern Illinois. More jobs for the area trumps reducing local crime, reducing government spending and reducing the local tax burden.

Attracting more jobs and business to the area would also help in combating the student brain drain from SIUC. Unlike universities in larger communities, Carbondale has too small an economic base to keep the students that graduate here yearly. Ergo, they take the skills and education they have spent the last 4-5 years developing with them when they leave the area, seeking employment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fracking Speed Up Dead

Apparently Rep. John Bradley's proposals for speeding up the process in southern Illinois and putting moratoriums in place for central and Norther Illinois failed to win support from the business community. Not so much that business doesn't want the process sped up but representatives objected to the moratorium

Carbondale Flats Project

The city announced that Tartan Realty has closed on the 710 Bookstore property. Construction of the 360 bed Carbondale Flats complex was scheduled to start yesterday and expected to finish in 14 months, roughly fall of 2015. 710 Bookstore, the last remaining business in the block, has moved about a block south to the vacant UniversiTees building, near Kaya and Harbaugh's Cafe.

One problem that may impede the development has been the refusal of the owners of the now vacant Attitude Designs building to sell in order to include the property in the development. Another difficulty, which I have not seen addressed yet, is the parking for the complex. 360 beds means 360 residents which means, unless college students change a lot in the next year, 360 additional cars needing parking in the downtown area, as close to the apartment as possible. I see no way to fit an additional 360 parking spaces adjacent to the Carbondale Flats development.

Pension Reform Law Blocked

Missed this, which happened on May 14, but Circuit Court Judge John Belz granted a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of PA 98-599, the pension reform law passed last December. Judge Belz halted the law until courts can rule on its constitutionality. This means that the current system stands and will continue to administer contributions and paying benefits as the law mandated prior to the passage of PA 98-599 until otherwise directed by the court.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Apparently Rep. John Bradley is in a rush to get fracking going in southern Illinois, though it is interesting that he wants to put a moratorium on using the technology in northern and central Illinois.

It looks as if Bradley received just shy of $78,000 in campaign contributions from the energy industry during his 2012 campaign. Looks like a good chunk of that money was spent on hotel stays in Chicago and St. Louis, as well as jewelry and gifts. Lucky for Rep. Bradley that rules on the spending of campaign contributions at the state level are much more flexible that at the federal, since Jesse Jackson Jr. got sent to prison for similar spending.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Carbondale Memorial Day Service

Today at 10 a.m.:

The annual Carbondale Memorial Day Service will be held on Monday, May 26 at 10:00 a.m. in historic Woodlawn Cemetery on East Main Street in Carbondale. Acting Mayor Donald D. Monty will serve as master of ceremonies and the keynote address will be delivered by General John A. Logan’s great-great granddaughter, Mrs. Margaret Hilliard. General John A. Logan (as portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis) will recite General Order No. 11. Other participants in the Service will include Veterans of Foreign Wars Teeter-Carter-Watson Post 2605, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 514, Company C of the 31st Illinois Volunteer Infantry, the Daniel H. Brush Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the African-American Museum of Southern Illinois, members of the Preservation Commission, and members of Girl Scout Troop 8641. Vocalist group Divine Worship & Praise will perform at the service.

The Memorial Day Service is conducted regardless of the weather. Ample seating will be provided. The Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church has generously offered their parking lot located at 400 East Main Street to those attending the service.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

City Council

Light turnout for last night's city council meeting.  I had another meeting to attend so did not get there until a bit after 8.  By that time, besides council and staff, only two people remained in attendance.

I was told council did suspend the ordinance shutting down bars over the weekend prior to or after Halloween. Of course, over the years the area affected by the ordinance has shrunk so much than only 3 bars are affected:  Sidetracks, Gatsbys and Hangar 9. Given the stepped up police presence in downtown on the weekends, stopping students from "taking the Strip" and blocking off S. Illinois as was the wont on every weekend in years gone by, I doubt if we will see much in the way of illegal student activity on the Strip proper. Most of the action appears to have shifted to student housing in the area west of University Avenue.

Council dismissed at about 8:25, the earliest I every remember a council meeting closing.  Council would have closed earlier, save for council comments as a few council members wanted to push for more local bands to play at the upcoming Sunset Concerts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


On the planning board for the city is replacing the stop signs at the intersection of Lewis Lane and East Grand with a roundabout. From what I understand, the idea is to test one out there and, if it works, expand it to other sections of the city.

The problem is, of course, that the streets of the city that could most benefit from such a method of controlling traffic are on Highways 13 and 51, both of which are state highways, thus meaning the city would need state approval before implementing any such change in traffic there.  Putting a roundabout in place on a city only street is much less difficult than getting IDOT to sign on to the project.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Halloween Vote

City council meets tomorrow night. Looks like the major things on the agenda are the swapping of properties in the 700 block of S. University between the city and the Carolyn F. Donow trust and the suspension of the ordinance closing bars along S. Illinois Avenue for Halloween this fall.

Here's hoping the council votes to suspend the ordinance and that they weather over the Halloween weekend is typical for fall.  The weather during the same period last year reached significantly lower temperatures than normal, keeping many people off South Illinois during Halloween.  More people attended house parties along S. University and in the Poplar Street area that did events on Illinois, or so it seemed. A second year, combined with good weather, will give the city a better idea of whether we could expect to see a recurrence of the vandalism of 20 years ago.

Update: after some discussion about the status of the Varsity Center for the Arts and its service of liquor during Halloween, council suspended the ordinance.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Kahala Moving

Long-time downtown mainstay New Kahala Fast Foods will move this summer. The last day of operation at the current location is May 28.  The restaurant will then close for approximately six weeks and reopen at its new spot at the corner of Grand and Wall, in the same strip  with Common Grounds and Don Taco.

I hope they plan to do a lot of advertising through both traditional and social media as businesses, especially small ones like New Kahala, can expect to lose approximately 20-40% of their customer base after a move.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dunkin' Donuts

In case you missed it, Dunkin' Donuts is coming to town, opening up on Rendleman Road next to the Subway. Target date for opening is July 1. I never have understood businesses that open in Carbondale in May or the summer time. Nearly half the town's population has vanished for three months, which helps sales not at all. The only reason I can see for do it is to open slow to shake out the bugs in the operation before students get back. Still, a month and a half seems quite a bit of time to check out how your business is running.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Thought Delish had closed its doors but turns out it is just moving. IDOT regulations required any new business to keep signage 55 feet back from any state highway, of which Main Street is one, ergo visiblity not particularly good at the East Main location.

From what I understand Delish will move into the old Corner Diner/Jewel of India building at the corner of  Illinois and College. Ergo, now in downtown you will be able to get breakfast at Harbaugh's at the south end, Mary Lou's, Cristaudos and Longbranch at the north end and Delish in the center.. Also, I understand Delish plans to add a small grocery to complement the prepared food, so expect them ot offer longer hours than they did at the East Main location.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Halloween Allowed?

According to this article in Sunday's Southern, the ordinance allowing downtown bars to remain open over Halloween got extended at last Tuesday's council meeting. Not according to anyone with which I have spoken, including city council members.  Extending the ordinance, much like the proposal to allow convenience stores to sell beer and wine, was discussed at the meeting, bu no action was taken. Council likely will lift the ban again, but has not so far.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chief of Staff Cole?

Heard from a reader of the blog who is in a position to know these things that new SIU president Randy Dunn wants to name former Carbondale mayor Brad Cole as his chief of staff.

Dunn can probably expect negative feedback on this as Cole served on the search committee that forwarded his name, along with 4 others, to the SIU Board of Trustees for the final decision. After, 12.88 million people in the state and you select one of the group that put you forward for the job?

Got this information second hand and will certainly be interesting if it pans out. It may not as I understand there is a lot of push back on it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

DE Could Shutter

The board of Trustees tabled until next year a proposed student fee increase of $9 per student, designed to help cover deficits at the Daily Egyptian, which otherwise, according to its current editor  may have to shut down after this semester.

The increase in online media has hit the Daily Egyptian particularly hard.  Campus readership has dropped from 97-99% daily readership among faculty, students and staff in the 1990s to about 99% of students and 75% of faculty and staff reading the paper once per week.

An additional problem for the DE is the bars and liquor stores, major advertisers in the DE in past years, have almost no advertising in current issues. In the past, the DE has run stories on liquor license violations at various bars and, from what i understand, saw a drop off in adversing by said bars in response. The DE has not run any such stories in recent years but the b ar and liquor store advertising has not come back to the level that it reached in past years.

New Taxi Service

Looks as if we may have a new taxi service starting up to replace the late, lamented Yellow Cab and provide competition to Ace Taxi:

A public hearing regarding an application from Gerald Dunn, d/b/a Saluki Cab and Limo Service, requesting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Taxicab Business License) will be held in Conference Room A at the Carbondale City Hall/Civic Center on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. 

For some reason, the attempt by a prior employee to get the city to approve either a transfer or relicensing of Yellow Cab never went anywhere, leaving the city with just one taxi service.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Convenience Store Liquor Sales

Sat in on part of the discussion regarding allowing convenience stores and gas stations to acquire liquor licenses to sell beer and wine. Predictably, convenience stores were in favor of it and exiting package liquor stores opposed it.

Trace Brown, owner of Marketplace Shell on the east side of Carbondale, said he had building the business with the expectation that he would in the future be allowed to sell beer and wine and that he needed to do so in order to make the business profitable over the long term.  He planned to start collecting signatures from customers asking that the ordinance be changed to allow him to do so.

Representatives from the Hucks and Caseys chains spoke as well to point out that they sold beer and wine in stores in a number of communities surrounding Carbondale with few,if any, incidents reported.

A number of representatives from existing package liquor stores spoke in opposition to any change. Their main point was that their sales had dropped anywhere from 25-50% since the council had voted to license grocery stores to sell beer and wine and that expanding the licensing to convenience stores would likely drive them out of business. Quite a few supporters of the liquor stores were in the audience as the plea to the council to help them stay in business drew the only applause I heard.

This session was only for discussion of the proposed chance in licensing and to get comments from local businesses and residents.  The council will take up the issue of changing the ordinance later.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

City Council on Halloween

Tonight, the city council will also discuss what steps to take regarding the ordinance that lifted the ban on bars operating on South Illinois over the Halloween period. The council will have to act again in order for the bars in the area to remain open during the period this year, as only a one year extension was enacted.

According to police reports, no more activity was reported in the area than would take place on a non-holiday weekend, likely due to the unusually cold and wet weather over the weekend. "Unofficial Halloween" the weekend prior may have drained off some of the energy as well.

Be that as it may, if the city council sought evidence regarding which way to go on extending or eliminating the ordinance, based on last year, they should extend the lifting of the ordinance for another year. I do not advocate a complete repeal of the ordinance currently, since we have yet to see what happens under more favorable weather conditions. However, if council  truly viewed last year's change as a test, the bars and students passed it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Convenience Store Liquor Sales

City Council will discuss expansion of Class C liquor licenses to convenience stores at the council meeting tomorrow night. Currently, they cannot get a license to sell beer or wine and the Liquor Advisory Board has voted twice in the past couple of years to approve expanding Class C availability to them.

Deserved or not, Carbondale does have a reputation as a business unfriendly city. Not allowing convenience stores and gas stations to sell beer and wine only serves to reinforce that image. Near as I understand, there are two arguments in favor of keeping the restrictions in place.

1. Competition from convenience and gas stations could drive already existing liquor stores out of business. Giving government sanctioned protection to one group of businesses over another doesn't seem particularly fair though.

2. People drive into the gas station or convenience store, buy beer and drive off, opening one to drink as they drive. This one doesn't make much sense either, especially since we have at least two liquor stores in town with drive up windows.

I cannot think of any other good reasons for not allowing convenience stores to sell beer or wine. Am I missing something?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Levee Bonds

Apparently bi-partisanship only goes so far.  According to this story in the Southern, State Sen. Bill Luechtefeld thinks Rep. Bill Enyart stepped waaaaay out of line by testifying in favor of a bill allowing the issuing of bonds to repair the levee by Grand Tower. Luechtefeld:

“We had a gentleman there taking credit for it who had absolutely nothing to do with it,” Luechtefeld said. “That’s over the top. You see a lot of awful political things that are ugly, but this was right at the top. I’ve been here for a lot of years, and this is as political as I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, that a person would have the nerve to do that just for political reasons. He used it.”

That's quite a condemnation, coming from a guy who served during the Blagoyovich years.

Jackson Williamson County Survey

Looking over a copy of the Jackson/Williamson County Survey conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute this spring. Lot to go through here and I plan to over the weekend but right off the bat, less than 15% of residents of the counties believe that current local business conditions are better than they were a year ago. 

This despite the fact that the economy both nationally and in the state have slowly improved since the recession kicked in and 2/3 of those responding said that the state, as a whole, is generally on the right track. In fact, only 7% of those responding rate the counties as an excellent place to live.

Dunn Back

Maybe I am just cynical, but I see Dunn viewing the presidency of SIU as a "dream job" only as long as something better doesn't open up. While I am certain he is happy to be back here, he has jumped quickly from other positions when better opportunities opened up.

He certainly has a lot on his plate with both budget cuts from the state for the system and the differing problems facing the two institutions under his administration, SIUE having to deal with growth, while SIUC faces incremental decline.