It took the Illinois General Assembly and Governor JB Pritzker to give Peoria Airports Director Gene Olson and his board a dose of decency and moral direction, but the battle over the MIA/POW flag is just that, over. The flag is flying after Olson told Vietnam veteran Gary Hall, “The janitor will put the flag up.” Give Hall credit. He led the way after the board and Olson adamantly refused to honor the request to fly the flag, comparing it to a Girl Scouts flag.
Hall didn’t take the misguided position lightly. He turned to State Sen. Dave Kohler who then sought the support of Chuck Weaver and other state legislators. It took awhile, but at every turn and vote in the process, the decision was unanimously supportive, unlike the Greater Peoria Airport Authority which was unanimous against honoring our missing soldiers and POW’s.
Olson and his board could’ve “saved face” by holding a special ceremony inviting Hall and other veterans for a flag raising event. Members of American Legion Post 2 would’ve been happy to participate with a 21 gun salute. It could’ve been a solemn, but a remembrance occasion with family and friends of former POWs Dick Reynolds, William Klusendorf and MIA Ed Lehnhausen, brother of former Peoria mayor, Bob Lehnhausen, and others. However, the insensitivity of airport officials appears to be a corporate culture of thought. By the way, airport authority members are appointed. They include long-time politician Gary Stella, Karen Jensen, Erik Fehl, Dean Heinzmann, Steve Roehm, Ed Barry, Jr., Harold Dawson, Jr., Gustav Krantz, and Karl Weiss.
Interestingly, our coverage of this controversy struck a nerve of a former Caterpillar employee. He sent an email pointing out that the giant company also fails to fly the MIA/POW flag at its downtown building on North Adams. He suggested the same corporate culture flies proudly there as well. “Caterpillar doesn’t want to offend countries that may well have American POW’s and MIA’s.”
There are, however, a couple of major differences. The Greater Peoria Airport is tax-supported. Caterpillar has been a major supporter of the war memorials at the Courthouse. As a member of the original World War I and II Peoria County War Memorial Committee, I can attest to the company’s strong financial and moral support. Still, Caterpillar should fly the MIA/POW flag at all of its U.S. plants. Gary Hall is a former CAT employee. There are probably hundreds of employees who served in the military and some who were held as prisoners of war.
Goodbye $30 million in taxes
Hate to say it, but it appears Peoria School District board members are going to pay private owners of the private Quest Academy, $30 million of your tax dollars over the next five years. The contract between the school district and Quest is due to be renewed and the private corporation is asking to be paid $6 million a year over the five to teach a couple hundred grade and high school students. Remember, the board closed Woodruff High School with some 1,000 students living on the northside of the city to save an estimated $2 million. That decision came on a 4-3 vote. Not exactly a unanimous decision. Why is it when people get elected on promises to be good stewards of the people’s taxes, they wind up doing the same as their predecessors? It’s the culture of thought. They can’t think for themselves or don’t have the guts. So just like those who served when Edison was the educational program of the time, board members will throw your tax money at the Quest program of our time until they go belly up or a new educational miracle system arrives on the scene. But hey, Quest has a pretty good high school basketball team and the city once again has four high schools, something city leaders told us we couldn’t support when calling for the closure of Woodruff.
What’s going on?
What in the world is going on at WMBD-TV? They go through weather personalities like a farmer picking corn. Just about the time you begin to get comfortable with a new face and style, she’s gone. Molly Naslund is the newest forecaster replacing Lauren Rainson who disappeared as did Brooke Brighton. Anchor Lauren Langer is gone as well. People come and go in local television as they seek bigger and better opportunities. Peoria has been long known as a training ground for people seeking careers in television news and weather.
Speaking of people seeking bigger opportunities, that’s what Peoria’s Maggie Vespa has done. The former WEEK anchor is now at KGW-TV in Portland, Ore., and is making the news there. A male viewer was critical of the way she was dressing and she took offense firing back with her own on the air editorial. The daughter of Judge Joe Vespa, said, ”I wanted to draw attention to the pressure women face on a daily basis.” The viewer twice sent messages telling her to dress like a normal woman. Vespa is a nine year veteran of television news and is the weekend news anchor at KGW. She said she has no plans to change her wardrobe which includes high-waisted pants about which the viewer complained. Good for Maggie.
Quote of the month
“Eating crow isn’t bad if it’s prepared right.” –Unknown