For writing a column in a monthly newspaper I’m proud of the scoops I’ve had over the years. This column was the first to predict a federal judgeship for Judge Jim Shadid and the first to forecast that Chillicothe’s IVC would join the Mid-State 6. Here’s another one to remember. Don’t be surprised to learn that one of Peoria’s hospitals is shopping the market to sell to a national health system. That’s the rumor floating around the medical community. The rumor persists that the top official has been involved in off and on negotiations. No one can explain why the hospital is allegedly “being shopped.” Talks reportedly have been very secretive for obvious reasons. That’s the rumor. Which hospital? Guess!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PETE!
The lovable and colorful Pete Vonachen turned 85, Tuesday, August 31, but we surprised him with a birthday breakfast a week earlier at Louie’s Sterling Family Restaurant. The happy gathering included birthday cake, jokes, stories and lots of laughs. Even Royce Elliott managed to make it as did another funny guy, Mike Dentino. Brother Zack came and Harry Whitaker joined in on the fun along with Bob Sulaski. Pete is amazing. Despite losing part of a leg to diabetes, he is constantly on the move, laughs and tells stories like a modern Mark Twain. It’s an honor just to know this community icon.
HOW DID HE DO IT?
Speaking of Harry Whitaker, we all wondered how he was able to manage District 150 schools for over 14 years without hiring out-of-state assistants. Those who were in leadership positions for Whitaker were all Peorians. Isn’t that amazing? People like Personnel Director, George Burnett, and Comptrollers Roy Ricketts and later Harvey Jenkins were administrators under Whitaker as was Dennis Gainey. Oops, I think he lived in East Peoria. Whitaker had the quip of the day when he said, “I didn’t know North Carolina was the education mecca of the nation.”
$4 MILLION EQUALS
$1.5 IN DISTRICT 150
There’s the new math and then there’s dumb math. The latter is how the board of District 150 puts numbers together. The board voted to close Woodruff High School to save $1.5 million. With Woodruff closed, the board then approved plans to send over 600 Warrior students to Peoria High and most of the rest to Manual. To accommodate the new students, the mathematical wizards on the board spent $4 million on renovations at Peoria High.
SPITTING IN THE WIND
Peoria’s naysayers, Councilman Gary Sandberg, and county board member Merle Widmer, are leading an effort to torpedo the Caterpillar-Lakeview “Build the Block” project. The two have been joined by Brad Harding, newcomer on the board, and Karrie Alms. They’re part of a group calling themselves “Citizens for Responsible Spending.” They announced plans to obtain close to 10,000 signatures on petitions to block issuance of two bonds by the county totaling $41 million. If the petition drive is successful, the question will be placed on the February primary ballot for voters.
However, they only have until September 25 to fill those petitions. It’ll be like spitting in the wind. They have no chance of succeeding and the museum work will continue. Opponents are claiming the plans have changed as has its financial support.
While conflicts continue to plague the Sears block museum, there’s progress for a mini-museum at City Hall. Under the leadership of City Clerk, Mary Haynes, a “Rediscovering Peoria City Hall” committee has been formed to create an historic environment in the building that sits next to the contemporary Civic Center. Some changes have taken place on the first floor and now the committee is preparing to hang beautifully developed and framed lithographs from an 1885 city book. Each lithograph will have a brass recognition plaque with the name of a former official who served in city government. Donations are being accepted by the Community Foundation of Central Illinois to help finance the lithographs. Our Dad, who served as 10th Ward Alderman from 1949 to 1957, will be a part of the display of city history. He also was Supervisor of General Assistance from 1957 to 1997 and served on the Peoria County Board as Peoria Township Supervisor.
It will never happen, but Peoria’s history would be well-served if the City Hall became a history museum and the city joined with the county to build a city-county government facility as they’ve done in Rochester, Minnesota.
TALK O’ THE TOWN
As I recall, there was a night spot around Franklin and South Adams with the name Talk O’ The Town. I think it was near the Faust Club. Any old-timers remember? Anyway, I want to devote this portion of the column to conversations over heard directly or indirectly.
RAY LAHOOD ROASTED
Some staunch Republicans are angry about Ray LaHood, especially after he came to town and spoke “bullet points for the Obama administration.” He touted the (non-existent) economic recovery by the White House. Two days later it was announced the housing industry had the worst month since last November. Then the GNP in the first half of the year turned out to be a poor 1.6% instead of the predicted 2.4% and unemployment remained around a dismal 10% while new unemployment claims reached another milestone at 500,000. As a Republican woman in Tazewell County said, “If this is LaHood’s idea of a recovery I would hate to hear his thoughts about a failing recovery.” My response is, “Hey, he works for Obama now.”
Several media buffs wonder why WHOI even carries newscasts since they simply are re-runs from WEEK. They say the news stories are the same, as is the weather, as is sports. WEEK has a management agreement for not only WHOI but also WAOE. That makes me wonder why.
Months ago this column exclusively announced that Illinois Central College was in the process of acquiring an FM radio frequency. When it was finally revealed by ICC, I applauded the effort led by President John Erwin, an ordained Methodist minister. The station is now on the air and I have never heard such programming garbage in my life.
The school should be ashamed! I can handle left-wing, radical commentators talking about why Native Americans should have their own radio station (as it has done). I can even handle hip hop and heavy metal (as it has), but what I heard Sunday night, August 1, was completely absurd. With a heavy beat in the background, some clown was talking/singing about women’s breasts, sexual intercourse, indiscretions by ministers, alleged sexual behaviors of Jewish women, and, well, you get the idea. It was pure filth. ICC claims 90.7 is community radio. I’m not sure what community they’re talking about, but this is not radio for Peoria, East Peoria or Pottstown.
NICE WORK WTVP-TV
I congratulate local PBS station WTVP for its excellent programming the first week of August. First they featured the talented voice of Clay Aiken as he sang one big rock song after another as beautiful ballads. It was marvelous as he was accompanied by a full orchestra complete with strings without electronic “bells and whistles.” The next night it was “Marvin Hamlisch Presents the Music of the 70’s.” Lo and behold there were musical stars like Bobby Goldsboro, Ray Stevens, Debbie Boone, B.J. Thomas, Peaches and Herb and others.
As has been pointed out by many, the referendum to sell the museum used the argument it would include a IMAX theater. Now supporters are backing off the idea of IMAX. County board member Andrew Rand, city councilman Tim Riggenbach and even former Mayor Dave Ransburg claim it wasn’t promised. That’s just plain BS. Editors at the newspaper, with loads of business experience, ho ho, said “first run movies” would be a bigger draw than an IMAX theater. What a joke. A tip of the hat to Merle Widmer who accurately and factually exposed this sham argument. By the way, if you think the $141 million museum in Peoria will be the end of the need for money, think again. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, just completed a $54 million renovation project that includes immersion theater. It features 3D sights and 4D special effects including dramatic sound, wind, mist, smells of the on-screen action and even seat movement. Tickets to enter the theater are just $6.00 for adults.
WHY IS IT……………
……Republicans and Conservatives are always “controversial” according to the media? Radicals like reporters Gene Robinson, Leonard “The” Pitts, Keith “Screwball” Olbermann, and the Journal call Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and even Sarah Palin controversial, but they’re the ones who do the smearing……
…….the media spends days recalling Katrina but woefully ignores the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor…….
…new business and education leaders come to Peoria with unemployment at 10% and immediately start hiring “friends” from out-of-state?….
…the Journal uses black, liberal, left-wing columnists with weak educational credentials but ignores well-educated, noted conservative columnists like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams?……
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” ——Thomas Jefferson