30 percent funding cut for EPA

The President’s proposed budget slashes funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent, and programs addressing climate change are the major targets of these cuts. Talk about penny wise and pound foolish! When our coastal cities are underwater and drought has devastated our agricultural regions, I’m sure we will all take comfort in knowing that $2.5 billion were diverted from preventing that disaster to pay for – what? More golf weekends at Mar-a-Lago? A war with North Korea? What is more important than preserving life-sustaining conditions on the one planet we call home?

The loss of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico may seem so distant that it’s almost unreal, but the truth is we are already beginning to suffer the effects of climate change. Heat waves are already becoming more frequent and severe, resulting in injury and death to vulnerable populations as well as crop and livestock loss. Here in the Midwest in recent years we’ve seen an increase in intensely heavy rainfalls, and in the last few decades an increase in the frequency and severity of river flooding. On the other hand, summer droughts in the Midwest have become more frequent and severe and have already caused problems for barge traffic in Midwestern rivers.

The EPA has a track record of success over the years with efforts to keep our planet livable. To take just two of many examples: Thanks to EPA’s actions to reduce lead in gasoline and industrial emissions, we’ve seen an 85 percent decrease in lead air pollution and an 80 percent decrease in the levels of lead in children’s blood (and a resulting rise in IQs). The shrinking of the hole in the ozone layer following the 1980s EPA ban on chlorofluorocarbons has helped protect us from cancer-causing UV radiation, but also helped slow global warming—a benefit that wasn’t recognized 30 years ago.

We used to be a country that aimed high and did great things – a country that set human feet on the moon in less than a decade once our President made the challenge. A country that has cured diseases, developed the internet, and put a rover on Mars—to name just a few—because we respected, valued, and supported science. We could be that country again, and empowering the EPA would be a great first step in taking action against climate change and saving life as we know it on earth. Please stand up for science and the EPA, and contact your members of congress and the white house early and often. And consider joining your fellow Peorians at our local Rally for Science on Earth Day, April 22, at 3:30pm at the Gateway Building.

Lisa Offutt,  Mossville

Journal Star once an ESOP
Now owned by Japanese mogul

(Community Word, March 2017)

One of Congressman Bob Michel’s more interesting gifts to Peoria was help in the creation of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan at the Peoria Journal Star, made possible by a special act of Congress which allowed federal tax breaks to fund it.

The ESOP, begun in 1983, was both wonderful and bad. Wonderful because it made millionaires of some of its participants and gave others a sound retirement. But bad in its lack of democracy.

Managers and non-union employees of the Journal Star had a better ESOP deal than the union members. And no one but the newspaper’s board of directors had a vote in how the newspaper was managed.

Employees contributed to the purchase of shares of stock, and the company matched the amount up to a certain point. The value of the shares kept rising as the newspaper industry as a whole began consolidating in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s.

When the Journal Star’s board decided the ESOP could no longer sustain itself, a company-wide vote was taken on selling the newspaper. Some of us campaigned for the employees to own the paper, but greed prevailed, so it was sold to Copley Press, which purchased our shares of stock for cash.

The money for our shares of stock became 401(k) funds, then IRAs when employees retired. The IRAs supplemented our meager pensions, so were very helpful. And those who invested their IRAs wisely benefited greatly, thanks to owner Henry Slane, Bob Michel and federal tax dollars.

Of course it was also a conflict of interest for Michel, who was covered by the Journal Star’s staff, to benefit the newspaper owners and employees in this way. But though obvious, that was never mentioned in the newspaper.

Elaine Hopkins, former Journal Star reporter,  Peoria

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