Latest news from The Southtown Star Online en-us Wed, 28 Jul 2010 14:10:16 PDT Southtown Star logo 84 34 30 Copyright 2014 <![CDATA[ ]]>

Barely an hour after arriving at Uncle Syl’s farm in Indiana, we got ourselves lost in the woods beyond the crop fields. City kids, we had wandered off amazed, exploring the countryside, drawn by the smell of sweet mud from last night’s rain. But there was a secret thrill in being lost because there were a dozen of us, cohorts, my brothers and cousins and Syl’s collie, Riley. Uncle Don Cichowski had come, too, because he still had some kid in him. That meant we could all confront delicious danger without worry, for how could anything go wrong with a … ]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:30:00 -0500 <![CDATA[ Graham Peck: Douglas had big impact on slavery pre-Civil War ]]> Lead story image

April 23 marks the 201st birthday of Stephen A. Douglas, most famous for his debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858 but more significant historically for the broader role he played in American politics during the 1850s, one of the most portentous decades in the nation’s political history. Douglas was a Vermonter by birth and came to Illinois in 1833. A gifted orator and organizer, he soon founded the Democratic Party in Illinois and rose through the ranks, claiming a position in the U.S. Senate in 1846. He strongly advocated western expansion and war with Mexico, believing that the United States … ]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 02:21:15 -0500 <![CDATA[ Reeder: An overdue rejection of a really bad law ]]> Lead story image

The Illinois Supreme Court hit the erase button last month on the state’s eavesdropping law. It was a smart decision on a very bad law. Millions of Illinoisans carry cellphones that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice to record just about anything. It’s a world apart from when the state passed its eavesdropping law in 1965. Back then, tape recorders were about as big as a shoebox and not readily used by the general public. The ubiquitous nature of recording devices today has landed some folks in trouble when they have taken to recording government officials. In one … ]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 02:11:40 -0500 <![CDATA[ Earl Thomas: Addressing the reading crisis of black boys ]]> Lead story image

Recently, the Black Star Project published that only 10 percent of eighth-grade black boys in America are proficient in reading, and the figure was 9 percent for black boys living in Chicago. Even more shocking is that there is no large-scale plan by cities or the federal government to change these dismal figures. Research study after research study continues to point to the fact there is an achievement gap between white and black students. The 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that by the eighth grade, 46 percent of white students are proficient in reading as compared with only … ]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 02:12:10 -0500 <![CDATA[ McGrath: Beware, you’re entering Florida ]]> Lead story image

As thousands of students from Illinois colleges head south on spring break, a larger number may opt for places other than Florida, traditionally the No. 1 destination for beaches and beer. That’s because Florida’s recent worldwide notoriety for gun violence may give pause to kids seeking fun and sun. National headlines about a man shot dead by a movie theater patron near Tampa for not shutting off his cellphone, or the teenager who dared to play his music too loud, killed by a pistol-packing citizen at a drive-in in Jacksonville, tend to counteract glossy travel brochures. Trouble in paradise has … ]]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 02:13:46 -0500 <![CDATA[ Russia protects strategic interests in Crimea ]]>

While examining the Ukraine crisis, I would prefer that nation-states act in the global interest and not in their national interest. Yet it is essential to note that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin’s desire to prevent the loss of Crimea within his sphere of influence and access to the nation’s Black Sea fleet is reasonable and should not lead to an escalating crisis between two nuclear powers with the capacity to obliterate human life on the planet. I blame the North Atlantic Treaty Organization enlargement policies of post-Cold War presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as a continuation of … ]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:11:03 -0500 <![CDATA[ Illinois’ tax burden driving away the affluent ]]> Lead story image

One of my favorite books is John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” In that epic tome, farmers from across Oklahoma load up all of their earthy goods on to Model Ts and flee the Dust Bowl for California in the midst of the Great Depression. It’s easy to see that great exodus along U.S. 66 as the face of migration from one state to another. That’s one face of relocation. Poor folks still load up dilapidated cars with what they own and seek out opportunity. I saw it all the time when I was reporter in Las Vegas — families … ]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:42:28 -0500 <![CDATA[ Higher tax not much help for state’s finances ]]>

In 2011, the state of Illinois began snatching away an extra week’s worth of our pay. At the time, we were assured of two things — the income tax increase from 3 percent to 5 percent was necessary, and it would be temporary, with a rollback starting in January 2015. But like so much that politicians tell us, both statements are questionable. First of all, we were told that the higher tax was needed to help put the state’s fiscal house in order and to pay down a multibillion-dollar backlog of unpaid bills. But even after jacking up the personal … ]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 06:13:45 -0500 <![CDATA[ Reeder: Here’s hoping proposed pop tax goes flat ]]> Lead story image

The latest taxation plan in Springfield is more than a bit hard to swallow. State Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, has introduced legislation that would allow the state to start taxing soda pop at a rate of 1 cent per ounce. That would jack up the price of a case of pop by 50 percent or about $2.88. Hunter’s reason is straightforward: soda pop helps make us fat. No kidding. So do pecan pie, potato chips, ice cream and just about anything eaten to excess. Should we start creating special taxes for them, too? A few years ago, I was reporting … ]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:17:28 -0500 <![CDATA[ Shapiro: Political leadership is harder than it looks ]]> Lead story image

In a Jan. 5 column, I explained why the so-called political “mess” in Washington, D.C., actually demonstrated the success of James Madison’s structural antidote to factionalism. Narrow-minded partisanship necessarily fails in a country the size of America, eventually giving way to political compromise and moderation. But there’s no denying the collateral damage to both the country and individuals alike as this process works itself out, sometimes over years. The only way to accelerate a good conclusion is through strong and effective political leadership. Such leadership is much misunderstood and harder than it looks. It escapes easy definition, but here are … ]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 06:02:59 -0500 <![CDATA[ Reeder: State’s silly stance causes store to close ]]> Lead story image

Susan Clause is no quitter. For 16 years, she and her husband, Stephen Briggs, have owned and operated a teacher supply store, Ergadoo, in Springfield. They love their business and it’s making money, but they are shutting it down this week. Why? They say the state of Illinois has made it too difficult to operate. It’s a painful decision for the couple, who aren’t quitters by nature. They fought to keep the doors open when Clause was fighting leukemia and Briggs was battling prostate cancer at the same time. And there were tough days when they unloaded truckloads of merchandise … ]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 14:55:45 -0500 <![CDATA[ McGrath: Valentine’s Day: Lessons in friendship ]]> Lead story image

Remember passing out Valentine’s Day cards to all the kids in class? I always tried to find one with the laughing face of a cartoon dog to give to Bob Remiasz, who was also my next-door neighbor. That’s because Bob had been my daily companion since first grade when I used to play after school with him and Blackie, his giant Newfoundland mix, the happiest dog I’d ever seen. And in second grade, Bob taught me how to ride his green Schwinn bicycle when I hadn’t a bike of my own. You stop giving Valentines to everyone around fourth grade. … ]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 10:51:57 -0500 <![CDATA[ Reeder: Monsters not only in a child’s imagination ]]> Lead story image

The phone call came the other day as I drove to work. A tired, sad voice said, “Scott, there’s going to be another murder trial.” My shoulders sagged. My 3-year-old daughter fidgeted in the back seat. And my mind suddenly was remembering a night of horror 24 years earlier. I still could hear my editor’s voice from that day — Sept. 17, 1990. The radio squawked, and he asked me to check out a small fire near a school playground. I didn’t think much of the assignment. Some kids probably had set some trash on fire. But I was a … ]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 07:41:09 -0500 <![CDATA[ Shaw: Sometimes government gets it right ]]>

One of the questions I fielded most often when I joined the Better Government Association in 2009 was this one: Why don’t you highlight more examples of good government — public officials and agencies that deliver services honestly, transparently and efficiently? My answer was: We pay for good government with our tax dollars — it’s what we deserve and have a right to expect — so there’s no reason to highlight it. I argued that our job as anti-corruption watchdogs is to shine a light on bad government when it wastes, abuses and misuses our tax dollars and to hold … ]]> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 06:38:31 -0500 <![CDATA[ Reeder: Beware of ‘progressive’ income tax for Illinois ]]>

Hang on to your pocketbooks, the politicians are getting restless. They want more of your money. Never mind that the Illinois Legislature jacked up your state income tax with a temporary increase from 3 percent to 5 percent three years ago. At least the bulk of this tax increase is set to expire in January. Now the politicians are looking at another tax grab, and this time they’re doing it under the guise of “fairness.” Public employee unions and their political allies are pushing hard for a graduated, or “progressive,” income tax. What this would mean is that instead of … ]]> Fri, 07 Mar 2014 12:25:14 -0500 <![CDATA[ Shaw: A campaign to trim Illinois’ government fat ]]> Lead story image

It’s “show time” again in Springfield, and what a difference a couple of months can make. The unexpected success of the fall veto session and the politics of an election year offer genuine hope for a productive 2014. In December, lawmakers passed a major pension reform bill, and whether or not you like the details, the rating agencies are pleased, and the courts will decide on its constitutionality. The General Assembly also legalized marriage equality, which settles a divisive social issue, at least for now. Those giant steps were made possible by the sensible stewardship of the four legislative leaders, … ]]> Mon, 03 Mar 2014 17:41:19 -0500