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Opinion

  • In his life outside his duties as a state senator, Kyle McCarter is a businessman. And he plans to keep his business ties to remind himself that his votes as a senator have a real-world impact on the state's businesses.

    It's a perspective some of his fellow legislators apparently have forgotten.

  • The late Dr. George Ross published a history column in The Centralia Sentinel newspaper, and from time-to-time my friend, Emory Meador, would hand me an envelope stuffed with some of Dr. Ross’ articles that he thought would interest me.

    One of these was a compiled list of 42 Marion County inventors. I came across this list the other day and thought to myself, if Marion County has 42 inventors, then so does Fayette County.

  • Though teachers and coaches have a unique opportunity to influence young people, few have done the job as well as Edward W. Mills.

    For 65 years, he worked in either a full-time or part-time capacity as a teacher, coach or volunteer at area schools. He began teaching at Vandalia High School in 1946, after serving in World War II. He taught general science and biology, but he also coached a number of sports and served as the basketball scorekeeper for 50 years

  • “War, like the thunderbolt, follows its laws and turns not aside even if the beautiful, the virtuous and the charitable stand in its path.”

    – Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

    These are the words that came to mind Friday afternoon when I first saw the fallen "capital" oak, its trunk splintered as it lay on the ground in the Old State Burial Ground in Vandalia, a victim of the strong storms that passed through two weeks ago.

  • When you’re a jazz fan, you’re accustomed to being a minority. Popular musical tastes run in other directions.

    So it was on Saturday night, when my wife and I attended a jazz concert at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. We were among a decided minority of whites in a predominantly black audience. But it wasn’t uncomfortable in the least.

    In fact, race didn’t seem to matter. What bound us together in color-blind unity was our love of music. And there was plenty of that to love.

  • Though his behavior since taking office in January doesn’t raise our expectations much, Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to talk with Vandalia officials this Saturday at the DuQuoin State Fair.

    We hope it doesn’t trouble the governor unduly to have a conversation with Vandalia Mayor Rick Gottman and other locals who would like an audience with him.

    Since Quinn early this month announced his plan to slash about 125 positions at the Vandalia Correctional Center, lot of us in this area would like to bend his ear. But no go. He’s been unavailable.

  • For the Dec. 4, 2008, issue of this newspaper, my story for this column was about Arnold "Mike" Koehler of Mt. Pulaski.

    In the story, I told of attending the annual Torbeck family reunion and seeing Mike there. I looked around the room for his wife, Berniece, only to discover that she had died five months earlier. Berniece was a first cousin to my dad, Ed Torbeck.

  • Monday was a good day for openness in Illinois government.

    Though our state is widely known for its corruption and pay-for-play politics, Monday’s action is a welcome movement toward transparency and accountability in state government.

  • My 40th high school class reunion is coming up on Sept. 19, and I figured this would be a good time to look back.

    I began my school career at Central School on Kennedy Boulevard in Vandalia, with Miss Crickman as my kindergarten teacher.

    Do all children love their kindergarten teachers? I surely loved Miss Crickman, and then one day she got married and wasn’t Miss Crickman anymore. In fact, I think she quit teaching and turned our class over to a perfect stranger.

  • With the sounds of coaches' whistles on the football field and the whir of fans in school halls, it's undeniable that the beginning of a new school year is upon us.

    In fact, most area schools will welcome students back next week. Vandalia teachers have a work day on Thursday and then welcome the students for a half day on Friday.

    The start of classes in the fall is always a busy time for families, with school supplies to purchase, registration to tend to and schedules to adjust.

  • Many of the earliest settlers in Fayette County came in small groups, bound together by family or religious ties.

    The Paul Beck family is recognized as making one of the earliest permanent settlements, with members of the family camping on the banks of the Kaskaskia River during the winter of 1805, near what would become Vandalia.

  • As the work in downtown Vandalia continues, it’s easy to get enthused about the new face we’re seeing emerge for our downtown business district.

    Already, the project is more than one-third done, more than a month ahead of schedule and well under budget. Those are, indeed, cause for excitement.

    But short of standing on a street corner and watching the work, there’s not much the common citizen can do to feel like they’re really a part of the project.

    Or is there?

  • I’m the talk of Harvard University. At least that is what my oncologist, Dr. Philip Dy of Crossroads Cancer Center in Effingham, tells me.

    Let me explain that statement. I’m the talk of a group of 23 Harvard doctors specializing in the study and treatment of breast cancer. Their names are unknown to me, and my name is unknown to them. However, I’m sure my patient profile number reads something like BR-549.

  • Once again, Vandalia officials are doing everything possible to preserve jobs at Vandalia Correctional Center. And, once again, local residents are encouraged to be part of that effort.

    This latest tussle between the state and our community comes about five years after a local effort, led by Mayor Rick Gottman, staved off then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to close VCC. The key player in that fight was the public.

  • A week ago Sunday, on July 19, the Brownstown Library sponsored "Those Were The Days" history day at Brownstown City Hall.

    The event gathered in one place some of Brownstown’s older residents, who had been asked to pass on their knowledge and memories about early Brownstown to the younger generations.

  • Just a couple of months into the project, we’re beginning to see signs of how the TEA-21 project will enhance our downtown business district. And beyond those visible indicators, there are facets of the project that we will not see.

    Among those facets are new water lines along Gallatin Street.

    Action taken by the Vandalia City Council on Monday helps to prove the worthiness of the enhancement project.

    City officials knew beforehand that significant work was needed underground. Separate storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines ranked at the top of that list.

  • The 80th anniversary of the Fayette County Fair was celebrated this year with events the organizers could not have imagined back in 1930, when it all began.

    It has always puzzled me that the county fair was not located at the county seat. Same with Effingham and Montgomery counties, where smaller towns, Altamont and Butler, respectively, host the annual county fair.

    I figured it was politics, or because there was a sulky track already in Brownstown. However, my research into the beginnings of the Fayette County Fair held another explanation.

  • Though Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly this week moved closer to a budget compromise, at least one element proposed last week by Quinn needs to be revisited.

    Last Tuesday, the governor rolled out a plan that called for sweeping layoffs in a number of state agencies. In all, his proposal would cut thousands of state jobs. Many of those cuts would dismantle social service agencies that serve the most vulnerable among us. Others target correctional facilities.

  • For my article last week on Thomas C. Grandfield, I depended on the family history to tell his story, although it was the reunion ribbons from encampments, or reunions, of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) pinned to his coat that first piqued my interest.

    The G.A.R., an organization of Union Civil War veterans, was founded in 1876. From that year, they hosted annual reunions, called encampments.

    The 45th annual encampment, "Along the Rivers," was held at Joliet on June 13-15, 1911, and the following is an excerpt from an account by a person who was there.

  • It’s way past time to do something.

    It was about a decade ago that the city of Vandalia had to turn to an outside engineering firm to solve the problem of odor spreading from its sewage treatment plant. City officials are now trying the same approach with its new Kaskaskia River intake.

    The city council agreed on Monday to hire Gonzalez Companies to look into that problem, and that action is none too soon.