Peoria closing schools

Peoria made national news with the election of Aaron Shock, the youngest member of the House of Representatives. Peoria became a Jay Leno joke as he talked about the 13-year old who was arrested for robbing South Side Bank. What’s next for Peoria? How about news that District 150 is closing not one, not two, not three, but four schools? Kingman, Tyng, and Irving grade schools and an unnamed high school are slated for closure. And apparently the business community is so excited about it that Roberta Parks, executive director of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, warmly supported the district’s decision. Her endorsement says loads about why businesses should not locate in Peoria.  Wonder if attitudes like that motivated Peoria companies Pepsi to move to Morton and Waugh Foods to East Peoria .

   Watching District 150 board meetings on television Monday nights is a real education. Monday, April 20, was no exception. Voters could see who they elected to determine the educational future of their children. It’s disturbing to see the school district contribute to the decline of that part of Peoria once known as Averyville with its decision to close Kingman. The school is just two blocks from where my family lived. It’s miles from where people like Mary Spangler, Jim Stowell, and other board members live. PJS reporter Dave Haney thinks Irving and Glen Oak schools are in the same neighborhood. My God, Glen Oak School is in the East Bluff and Irving is a few blocks from downtown.

 Kingman is on the north side (there’s never been anything called the north valley) in what was once known as the Village of Averyville. Once called Kingman High School, the building was a few blocks from the Averyville Village Town Hall. Along with my brother and two sisters, I attended Kingman from K through 8th grade. While new schools are on the drawing board for other areas of the city, none is planned for Averyville. That’s sad. The area is on the downhill slide and Kingman is the neighborhood anchor. There’s plenty of room to build a new Kingman to help stabilize the north side community. So much for neighborhood schools and the pledge the district made several years ago.

 It’s interesting to note that both black and white board members are supporting the closure of just Title One schools. These are schools with high minority populations and low incomes. They’re schools with dedicated teachers. The students will be bused, some to two different schools during the next two years. Did you read what board member Debbie Wolfmeyer said? Paraphrased, she said it was okay to sacrifice today’s children for the future of tomorrow’s children. You can’t be more insensitive than that.

 Protestors to the closing of four Peoria schools were articulate in presenting their arguments including attacks on board member Mary Spangler. They claim Spangler hadn’t attended important meetings on school closures for almost two months, but appeared April 20 to support the measure. Some also argued that Superintendent Ken Hinton was leaving his job next June and the decision should be delayed until a new superintendent was hired and Spangler’s replacement was seated. Objectors believe a new superintendent would bring new thoughts, new visions, new energies and would be free of bias and any special relationships and connections with board members. Terry Knapp, who passionately argues on behalf of students and teachers, feels plans to increase class sizes is a violation of teachers’ contracts that could lead to a costly lawsuit. By the way, reporter Haney totally ignored the arguments that Spangler should not have voted despite presentations on that subject by several speakers. I wonder why.

 There are several blog sites providing far better information on the board meeting and other school district business. They include: peoriachronicle, peoriapundit, peoriarocks.blogspot and peoriastory.typepad. All end with the usual dot com.

   Meanwhile, the school board has avoided naming the high school that will be closed. Most people are betting it will be Woodruff.

DO I HAVE THIS RIGHT?

 Let me understand this torture investigation liberals are now promoting. They’re upset the Bush administration used interrogation methods to save lives in the war against terrorism. As far as I know, none of the prisoners, accused terrorists, died under questioning. On the other hand, President Franklin Roosevelt approved bombing the crap out of Germany and Italy during World War II resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. President Harry Truman approved the horrific A-bombing of two cities in Japan killing millions of men, women and children. Both Democrat presidents are honored by Americans while Democrats today are trying to “get” George Bush for winning the war against terrorism during the past eight years.

  Few critics (if any) of the Bush administration interrogation methods have served in the military. I doubt any has been a prisoner of war so I decided to ask someone who was held by the enemy for his thoughts on the subject. That someone is Victor “Dick” Reynolds, native Peorian and a frequent guest on our WOAM radio program, “Breakfast with Royce and Roger.” Dick was serving in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy when he was captured by the Japanese. He was held prisoner for three years, four months and 27 days. How was he treated? “Waterboarding is minor compared to what they did to us,” Reynolds said. “We were subjected to beatings, starvation – unbelievable treatment. You name it; they did it. I got hit with the butt of a Japanese rifle so hard I thought I was going to die.” Reynolds further described his captivity, saying, “We lost three to four thousand prisoners at one camp and at another I saw the graves of 1,200 American soldiers who died while prisoners of the Japanese.” The Navy veteran said, “The Japanese loved to put their bayonets up against your head or neck.”

 “What about plans to begin investigation of the Bush administration approval of interrogation methods in the war against terrorism,” I asked.

 Dick angrily replied, “It’s wrong. It’s totally wrong. It’s a crime. We got information out of them that saved lives. Instead of waterboarding that one terrorist, Mohammed, they should’ve drowned him. “ Reynolds added, “Not one of those senators calling for an investigation has ever been in battle. They don’t know what it’s like.” Amen Dick. I might add, neither has any of the newspaper and TV critics. 

CENSORSHIP IN AMERICA

 The taxpayer demonstrations held across America on April 15 were a huge democratic success. People of all ages and political persuasions expressed opposition to increased government taxation. Unlike demonstrations held during the President Bush administration, main-line electronic and print media did its best to downplay the scheduled events. The day of the demonstrations a CNN reporter made a complete ass of herself as she tried to debate one of the demonstrators. So much for objective reporting. Of course, CNN ratings are dropping faster than Madonna falling off her horse.

  Peoria media wasn’t much better. The April 14 edition of the Journal Star failed to acknowledge the news there would even be a protest at the Courthouse. During the protest WMBD’s Ed Hammond, erroneously guessed the audience at 200. A friend suggested he was counting the lunch crowd at Big Al’s. 

COLD WAR HERO?

 Just when I think I’ve seen and read about the most ridiculous position the local newspaper can take, they fool me. The latest goof-ball approach by the newspaper was the warm welcome provided former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev as he arrived to receive an honorary degree from Eureka College. The front page headline in the Saturday, March 28, edition of the Peoria Journal was, “Cold War hero.” A hero? Gorbachev? I don’t think so. Since Eureka College officials and folks at the George Washington banquet didn’t refresh memories, nor did radio or TV people, let alone the newspaper, let me remind them about Mr. Gorbachev’s infamous record. It’s called history. 

  As Soviet President, Gorbachev directed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan resulting in the death of millions, that’s millions, of Afgans. Thousands of children were left maimed by Soviet anti-personnel mines disguised as children’s toys. Does that qualify him for being called a hero by the Journal Star?  Here’s another Journal Star qualification for achieving hero status. In the late 1980’s Gorbachev ordered crackdowns against independence movements in the Baltic States and in the captive Soviet “republics.” Under his leadership Soviet military and secret police operations in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Tiblisi, Georgia, left thousands of civilians dead. President Ronald Reagan did his best to convert the well-known atheist to believe in God. He failed at that, but did convince him to eventually “tear that wall down.”

 Speaking of “that wall,” I was there, compliments of the U.S. Army, spending a little over a month in West Berlin. I even traveled into East Berlin and East Germany. I saw the East Germans on guard duty at the Brandenburg Gate and heard the joke about them. In the beginning there was only one East German soldier on guard duty. So many of them defected to the West they had to put two soldiers on guard duty; one to guard “the gate” and the other to guard the guard to keep him from defecting.

 Mikhail Gorbachev a hero? Eureka College and organizers of this year’s George Washington banquet ought to be ashamed.  

MISSED BY TWO

 The April elections went as predicted. I did miss two. I was totally surprised when proponents convinced the majority of voters to support an increase in real estate taxes for a new multi-million dollar museum on the former Sears block. Congratulations to the people who designed the well-orchestrated campaign.

 I also missed the race for District 150 School Board. I thought Sandy Farkash, former Manual principal and experienced educator, would get the nod. Not so. Attorney Laura Patelle was the winner. I hit the nail on the head on all the other races. Mayor Jim Ardis won in a no-brainer, and I’m sure he recorded the largest margin of victory in the history of Peoria mayoral contests. Other predicted winners were Dan Irving, Tim Riggenbach, and Barbara Van Auken for City Council; Patrick Nichting for City Treasurer; and Joe Whalen for Supervisor of General Assistance.

CEMETERY BOARD

CREATES CONTROVERSY

 Not far from Kingman School is Springdale Cemetery. Like the School Board, there’s turmoil over the vote to seek the resignation of Pat Lewis who’s been the general manager for the past four years. Despite his passion for Springdale and the outstanding job he’s done, Lewis agreed to resign. It’s too bad the cemetery board is filled with politics and people who appear to ignore the meaning of teamwork. Board members include: Kent Rotherham (chairman), Patty Polk, Susan Love Smith, Jeanette Hillyer, Bruce Thieman, Matt Ryan, Bernie Thieben and two members of the cemetery foundation. I’ll let you decide who were the malcontents and who were the team players. I hate to see more turmoil regarding the cemetery funded in large part by our city and county taxes. I was just about ready to make a purchase. Now I have to look elsewhere and I’m not getting any younger.

NAMES IN THE NEWS

 Several months ago two Bradley sources told me that university athletic director, Ken Kavanaugh, was on the way out. Out of respect for Ken, I didn’t write about it in my column, primarily because I was hoping it wasn’t true. However, with the latest news that he has been considered for positions at other universities, I’m convinced the rumors are true. 

 Meanwhile, our good friend Royce Elliott has been released from the hospital, but is expected to return for needed surgery. Hang in there Royce. Royce was on hand for the musical tribute to Conway Twitty held at the Civic Center. No one locally had a closer relationship with Harold Jenkins (Twitty’s real name). Royce had just signed a one year contract to open virtually every show for Conway when he was stricken with the aneurysm that took his life. He was introduced at the opening of “Conway Twitty, The Man, The Music, The Legend, The Musical.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.” —David H. Comins