U of I Extension Offering Composting Lesson Tree Walk Archery Club

U of I Extension Offering Composting Lesson Tree Walk Archery Club

September 22 – The Macon County Office of the University of Illinois Extension has programs will offer a lesson on composting, a tree walk and an archery program over the next couple weeks.

Composting: As part of the Four Seasons Gardening series, educator Duane Friend will provide tips on improving compost quality and having the right mix of materials during a 1:30 p.m. program Tuesday at the Decatur Public Library.  The program can also be viewed via webinar, and another webinar will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

The program is free but requires registration one day in advance. To register for the library session, visit go.illinois.edu/dmp or call 217-877-6042. To register for either webinar, visit go.illinois.edu/4seasons_webinars. Recordings of all sessions will be available at go.illinois.edu/fourseasonsrecordings.

Tree walk: The “Walk in the Park” Fairview Park Tree Walk is scheduled for 2-4 p.m. Sunday, presented by the Glacier’s Edge Master Naturalists. Guests will start their tour at the main pavilion, where they will pick up an identification guide and map showing where to find more than 80 species of trees throughout the park.

Participants can visit one of five marked stations for guided tours and to learn about tree identification techniques. The walk is free and light refreshments will be available. For more information, contact Dean Hyde at 1-217-877-6042.

Archery club: Children age 8-18 are invited to learn about archery in an introductory club with the Macon County 4-H. The club will encourage kids to try archery in a safe, hands-on environment supervised by certified adults. Equipment will be provided.

The club will run Mondays from 6:30-7:45 p.m. beginning October 1 at East Park Baptist Church, 1919 S. Baltimore Ave. The program costs $20 for current 4-H members or $40 for new members. Class size is limited.

Register online at go.illinois.edu/dmp by Thursday. For more information contact Becky Hugo at 1-217-877-6042 or by email at rhugo@illinois.edu.

Arts Council to Launch Mid-Day Music Series

Arts Council to Launch Mid-Day Music Series

September 22 – The Decatur Area Arts Council will present the first show Wednesday in a series of daytime concerts in collaboration with Millikin University.

The “Mid-Day Music” program will debut at 12:15 p.m. with a 30-minute performance in the Anne Lloyd Gallery at the Madden Arts Center in downtown Decatur. Future shows are planned for November 7, January 23 and March 20.

Each event will showcase a preview of selections from the four Faculty Recital Series concerts. The free shows are designed to accommodate lunch breaks and will feature different musicians, instruments and types of music.

The first performance will have musical excerpts from the “American Songbook” concert with tunes by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers. Featured musicians will be Justin John Moniz (tenor), Steve Widenhofer (piano), Brian Justinson (drums) and Chris Nolte (bass).

For more details, visit www.decaturarts.org.

Early Voting Begins Thursday

Early Voting Begins Thursday

September 21 – Early voting for the November general election begins Thursday at the Macon County Clerk’s Office.

Macon County Clerk Steve Bean says 26 overseas and military ballots have been distributed, and the election staff is processing approximately 200 requests for ballots by mail. Thursday is also the first day mail ballots can be returned.

Early voting begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Macon County Clerk’s Office, 141 S. Main Street, Room 119. Early voting hours can be found on the county website at www.co.macon.il.us.

For more information, call 1-217-424-1333.

IDNR Restricts Archery Harvest of Antlerless Deer

IDNR Restricts Archery Harvest of Antlerless Deer

September 21 – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has prohibited hunters from harvesting antlerless deer for the first 15 days of Archery Deer Season in five counties, including Macon County.

The restriction announced Friday covers October 1-15 and is part of an effort to grow the deer herd in the region. The other counties covered in the ban are Champaign, Douglas, Moultrie and Piatt.

Deer without antlers or deer having antlers less than three inches long are considered “antlerless.” Hunters in the five designated counties may only harvest antlered deer through October 15.

Deer population levels in the five counties comprising the “Restricted Archery Zone” are below currently adopted county goals. Similar restrictions in the late 1990s and early 2000s were effective in boosting the herd size.

Additionally, public land hunters in Piatt County are advised that the IDNR Piatt County Unit of Weldon Springs State Park will be closed to all archery deer hunting until October 16.

Ameren, DMCOC Holding Customer Assistance Event

Ameren, DMCOC Holding Customer Assistance Event

September 21 – Ameren Illinois and the Decatur Macon County Opportunities Corporation will hold a customer assistance event Tuesday at the Salvation Army office on West Main Street.

One-time energy assistance grants of $150 will be available to select Macon County customers, based on income eligibility (see chart on flyer below). Funds are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis; the event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until funds are exhausted.

Customers seeking an assistance grant must bring a copy of their current Ameren bill, photo identification and proof of income for the last 30 days.

Ameren efficiency advisors will be on hand to demonstrate ways customers can reduce their energy usage to save on their monthly bills. Attendees will receive free kits containing energy-saving products.

PDF: Decatur Customer Assistance Flyer

Dove Honors Retired, Senior Volunteers

Dove Honors Retired, Senior Volunteers

September 21 – Jim Beckhart, Patty Cain and David and Barbara Banfield were honored Thursday during the 42nd annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon for Dove, Inc.’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Beckhart, Cain, the Banfields and the Northeast Community Fund were chosen as this year’s winners of the Recognition of Service Excellence (ROSE) Awards, presented to one male volunteer, one female volunteer, one couple and one outstanding volunteer organization.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and Corporation for National and Community Service CEO Barbara Stewart spoke at the event, while Macon County Sheriff’s Office Administrative Lieutenant Jonathan Butts served as guest speaker.

According to Dove’s Annual Report, the RSVP of Macon and DeWitt Counties had 345 active volunteers, 200 volunteer jobs and totaled more than 62,000 hours of service.

Gubenatorial Candidates Face Off in Thursday Debate

Gubenatorial Candidates Face Off in Thursday Debate

September 21 – Gov. Bruce Rauner clashed with Democrat J.B. Pritzker in the first televised debate of an increasingly expensive Illinois gubernatorial race along with two third-party candidates vying for a chance to get their message out to voters.

The state’s candidates for chief executive argued their case Thursday evening on NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago. NBC 5 Political Editor Carol Marin put tough questions to each. Pritzker was asked about removing his toilets in his house for a tax break while Rauner was pressed on his comments about not being in charge of the state.

Rauner, the first-term Republican who is seen as the most vulnerable governor in America, was quick to blame House Speaker Michael Madigan for blocking his agenda through a stranglehold on Illinois politics.

Pritzker has taken criticism for his ambiguity during the campaign, refusing to give any details about how much more the wealthy would be taxed and who the billionaire considered wealthy for that matter.

The Chicago billionaire stuck to that script Thursday, promising investment in infrastructure, higher education and other projects while also lowering property taxes and income tax for middle-class Illinoisans. He said that it’s all possible by changing Illinois’ constitution to allow for a progressive income tax.

“Illinois has the most unfair tax system in the entire nation,” Pritzker said. “We need to ask the wealthiest people like Bruce Rauner and me to pay a higher rate and we need to provide a tax cut for middle-class families and those who are striving to get there and lower local property taxes.”

Marin tried several times to get Pritzker to talk about the rates he envisions for the graduated tax. Pritzker wouldn’t talk numbers. Rauner pounced on Pritzker’s ambiguity.

“Mr. Pritzker is dodging your question because he doesn’t want to tell the truth to the people of Illinois,” he said. “He is proposing a massive new income tax hike on all the people of our state. He doesn’t want to talk about it because the truth is so painfully unpopular.”

Rauner said the state cannot tax its way out of existing fiscal and economic realities. The governor took criticism from all three other candidates for his role in the state’s historic two-year budget stalemate that shuttered social service providers and hobbled the state’s higher education institutions.

The candidates were asked what they would do to stem the tide of outmigration that’s struck Illinois in recent years. Pritzker said the state should invest more in schools, convincing students to attend and stay in the state. Rauner said the state needs to lower the tax burden on people and business.

“The challenge is lack of economic opportunity,” Rauner said. “That comes from a broken system of deficit spending and, to cover it up, higher and higher taxes.

Marin asked the union-backed Pritzker about Chicago hotel workers who are on strike, many of them from Hyatt group hotels. Pritzker’s family founded and manages the hotel chain. He said he doesn’t have a say in the management of the hotel chain. He took criticism for that and anti-union actions by other companies he has an interest in.

Both Conservative Sam McCann and Libertarian Kash Jackson took shots at the front-runners.

There was a heated exchange between McCann and Rauner after the governor accused the state senator of acting as the spoiler at the behest of Madigan.

Jackson had a couple memorable one-liners about not only the big-government philosophies of both of the state’s major party candidates but also the protectionism against third-party candidates and the amount of spending that Rauner and Pritzker have spent on the campaign.

“I spent $25,000,” he said. “You two gentlemen spent $200 million to get on this stage. Who’s the fiscally-minded guy?”

The election is Nov. 6.


Decatur to Get $4.6M to Replace Buses

Decatur to Get $4.6M to Replace Buses

September 20 – The City of Decatur will receive more than $4.6 million in federal grant funding to replace buses that have exceeded their useful life.

The award from the Federal Transit Administration’s Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Grant program was part of more than $10 million announced Thursday by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, with Connect Transit in Bloomington-Normal receiving $6 million.

According to the announcement, 60 percent of the Decatur Public Transit System’s fleet has exceeded its intended life span and eight buses remain within the useful expectancy.

“For so long, I and members of the Decatur City Council have been working to maintain the system during difficult financial times and it has not been an easy task,” said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. “This grant when paired with Illinois Department of Transportation grant funds will allow us to replace 18 buses over the next five years.

“More importantly, we can continue to provide transportation services that are critical to thousands of our residents who rely on public transportation each and every day.”

The funding is provided to state and local governmental authorities to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities.

“Investing in our smaller, public transit systems means investing in jobs and economic growth,” said Davis. “I’m proud to see these communities receive these competitive grants, which allow them to upgrade their fleet, increase reliability, and become more efficient.”

Madigan Says He ‘Didn’t Do Enough’ to Combat Sexual Harassment

Madigan Says He ‘Didn’t Do Enough’ to Combat Sexual Harassment

September 20 – Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says combating sexual harassment in the Capitol has become a “personal mission” but he wishes he’d acted sooner to “correct past mistakes.”

The Chicago Democrat spoke out Thursday in a Chicago Tribune op-ed . A string of Democratic lawmakers and workers in Madigan’s political and government organizations have been accused of sexual misconduct this year amid the #MeToo anti-harassment movement. Madigan has been criticized for not having rooted it out.

Madigan says “that I didn’t do enough, and that we, collectively, have failed in the Capitol to ensure everyone can reliably, confidentially and safely report harassment.”

An outside investigation of all harassment allegations continues and Madigan’s chief of staff is reviewing House procedures to ensure she is told of complaints and reports them to Madigan.

Illinois Receives $29M to Combat Opioid Crisis

Illinois Receives $29M to Combat Opioid Crisis

September 20 – An additional $29 million federal grant to the Illinois Department of Human Services will help the state fight the opioid crisis.

The funding announced Thursday comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It raises the total of Illinois’ federal aid to $61 million for funding treatment and recovery programs and initiatives.

“These federal dollars will allow the state to move forward on the goals and objectives laid out in the state’s opioid action plan and the work being done by the Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a media release.

“The programs supported by this award represent a range of critical services that will prevent people from misusing opioids and help those with opioid use disorder to begin or continue their path to recovery.”

Addressing the opioid epidemic has become a priority for many federal, state and local agencies. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation recently announced a $30 million commitment to develop a 17-acre Community Care Campus near downtown Decatur.

Among its many uses, the federal grant announced Thursday will strengthen and enhance the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, the state’s tracking system that helps to prevent the misuse of prescription opioids.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently awarded the Illinois Department of Public Health almost $3.7 million as part of an emergency response grant to combat the opioid epidemic.