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Well I’m in a little better mood than when I wrote my last post.  Nobody told me that there was this period after graduating college in which you become slightly psychotic and despondent.  Hey, it’s a major change.  Even though I wasn’t getting paid to do all the things I was doing for school it became a huge part of my life.  Then it was gone and I had nothing lined up afterwards.

If I was single, young, footloose and fancy-free I could move to any state and have a job tomorrow but my prospects are limited since I live in the wrong part of the country for my degree.  There’s jobs here but I might have to wait until someone retires at the IDNR or mysteriously disappears.  [cough cough]

Anyway, right now I’m in the process of applying for grad school even though if the new tax plan passes I’ll be screwed.  If I get a graduate assistantship position I’ll have to pay taxes on the waived tuition.  That means I may have to get student loans to pay taxes on money I never actually get paid.  A similar situation always killed my brother at tax time when he was a pastor.  The government considered the parsonage he lived in part of his wages but it’s not like you can send in a part of the house to the IRS.  They want money but waived tuition and parsonages aren’t spendable money.  Yeah, parts of our tax laws don’t make much sense.

Ash & 51 Development

Now onto Decatur stuff.  I knew it wouldn’t be long until another rezoning battle would take place over the US 51 & Ash corner after Aldi’s request was shot down.  I don’t think I’ve read so many comments from such a wide array of people against anything.  It’s practically 99-1 in favor of rejecting the rezoning request, even though it would bring in new businesses and jobs to Decatur.

I have mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, Lord knows Decatur needs more tax revenue and jobs and it would be nice to have more dining and shopping choices but on the other hand that intersection is already at full capacity.  The character of the neighborhood would forever be altered.  There’s no going back to what it once was if the businesses fail or cause traffic nightmares.

The whole situation highlights a major problem with Decatur being able to attract new business.  Yes there are many empty lots and empty buildings but most are in areas that aren’t desirable or would cost a boatload of money to get ready for new construction.

Honestly, I think Northgate Mall needs to see a wrecking ball because the days of big retail stores are over.  That area just needs to be cleaned out and opened up for new things.  I could see the old Kmart building being desirable for a warehouse or light industry but not retail.  The lots in front of it could be desirable for smaller storefronts and restaurants however but Pershing Road along that stretch needs upgrades.

I’ve always disliked driving that part of Pershing because it narrows and it seems like there’s tons of fender benders from sudden stops.  Something just isn’t right about that stretch of road for smooth traffic flow, especially heading east.  I personally avoid that part of Pershing Road if I can.  Another problem is that there’s no middle turn lane to get to businesses on the opposite side.  I know the secret passage ways to get to KFC when I’m heading east but out-of-towners don’t.

MLK Overpass

Really until Decatur gets an overpass over I-72 for MLK we’re going to have a hard time finding good spots for major chain restaurants and other retailers.  That area can be developed without disrupting neighborhoods or creating dangerous traffic conditions.  It would be a highly desirable area for businesses because restaurants like to be visible and accessible to Interstate traffic and away from troubled, blighted areas of the the inner city.  I hate to say that but that’s just the way it is.  The city needs to focus its attention on getting that overpass funded and built.  Forget the bypass for a while.  That’s going to take decades to get full funding for.  Instead, get that overpass now!

How Would I Vote on Ash & 51?

In the meanwhile, I’m not going to say I’m against development at 51 and Ash until I see the full plans.  The Target development turned out to be an asset to the area but then houses didn’t have to be torn down and Walmart traffic wasn’t already there.  It’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison but if there’s plenty of greenspace and good landscaping to buffer the commercial area from the neighborhood I might be for it.  However, I would want changes to our city code requiring upkeep on landscaping.

New commercial properties are required to install a certain amount of trees, shrubs, and other landscaping features depending upon the size of the lot but I’ve noticed that they aren’t required to keep those things.  Over time the lots begin to have fewer and fewer trees, shrubs, flowers, etc., and then the lots begin to look just as unappealing as every other commercial lot that puts zero effort into aesthetic appeal for the city.  I would only vote in favor of the zoning request if ongoing landscaping maintenance was added into the city code and the Ash & 51 plans fit well into a neighborhood setting.

My heart goes out to the residents though.  I grew up on the north side of town and I know how upsetting it is to see things change.  A few weeks ago I went to Brettwood for my weekly grocery shopping and I broke down into tears in the parking lot.  I looked at the mostly empty lot and the lonely looking buildings and cried.  I know it sounds silly but I spent a lot of my childhood in that shopping center.  I have so many memories there with my friends and my mom.  It’s hard to see something become neglected and unwanted that you have such strong emotional attachment to.  I completely get it.

 

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I haven’t been writing much about Decatur lately for a few reasons. One, Decatur has been depressing and two, I have a lot of my own issues to deal with.  I used to enjoy trying to come up with ideas to help poor, beat up ole Decatur but I’m just tired of it.  It reminds me of an old car I kept too long.  The intention to bring it back to its glory was always there but the money never was.  The car wound up in the scrap yard and sometimes I feel like that’s where Decatur is headed too.

Every year (decade) we face the same problems and the vast majority of them stem from a lack of jobs.  Oh, I know those marketing Decatur will say there’s lots of jobs and that people just don’t have the right skill set.  That is true for some of the jobs but after being on the job hunt myself for a few months I can honestly say that most jobs out there are just weird.  I don’t even know what they are.  What happened to secretarial or clerical positions?  Are they called something else now?  Almost every job has some weird title that makes it a mystery as to what exactly you’d be doing and then they want 5 years of experience doing something that nobody could possibly have experience in because it’s so specialized or just so plain weird.

Yeah, there might be 1,000 jobs on Indeed for Decatur but most of the listings are repeated over and over again and then there’s the work at home scams, private massage therapists positions (you want me to massage what…), customer service positions which nobody in their right mind would do for any amount of pay, and lots of medical positions that require training that isn’t available at any college within a 1,500-mile radius.  If you take out all of the repeated entries and scams, there’s probably only about 12 legit jobs available in Decatur at any one time.  Okay, maybe more than 12 but I bet the real number is closer to 12 than 1,000.

Yes, I did major in a field that has fewer positions than many but I also live in a part of the country where there’s very little interest in conservation or managing natural resources.  To our city leaders the only good tree is a chopped down tree because  that will make our city more beautiful.  They said that, not me.

I don’t have much hope of finding anything around here and with the Trump administration, I don’t have much hope at the federal level either since he’s gutted every agency that has anything to do with conservation or the environment.  My only hope is moving to a state that is run by Democrats, maybe California or Oregon but then I’m kinda stuck here.

My husband has a good job and probably wouldn’t be able to find anything as good anywhere else but there’s absolutely nothing here for me.  I feel like an overeducated bum. I went through all those years of school and I have no options but to get a divorce and move to the left coast. If I stay here I’ll probably work a crappy job (hopefully not a private massage therapist) that I could have gotten without the degree, or I guess, I could always just shoot myself.   Yeah, I don’t have any good options.  This is the most aggravating city in the world to live in!  That’s why I haven’t been writing about it.  I’m sick of Decatur.

Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I really don’t.  I’m just stuck and it sucks.  My rant is over, for now.

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Okay, I was really looking forward to shooting a video this year at Greenwood Cemetery before Halloween but I ran into some technical difficulties and mostly user error with my video camera.  Every year, something prevents me from doing this video.  It’s a curse or something but I think I finally figured out why I couldn’t import any video to my computer to edit and upload to YouTube.  I think everything is good to go now but recording a video at Greenwood Cemetery after Halloween is like opening Christmas presents in August.  The thrill is kinda gone but I might still make it out there; if not there’s other videos I’m wanting to shoot and share.

Other than that, I will be participating in the city’s upcoming Community Revitalization Initiative.  I believe the main focus is on improving Decatur’s neighborhoods.  The first meeting is November 7th from 5:30-7pm at MacArthur High School.  I think this is something that interested community members had to sign up for before the meetings but if you’re interested, I would assume to city would love to add you to one of the groups.  I’m not sure how it all works just yet but I will let you know after Tuesday.

 

 

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When I graduated I thought I’d have all the time in the world to do so many things and ha!  I’ve been just as busy.  I’m finding a zillion projects that need done around the house and I’m babysitting my grandson every afternoon.  What a handful!  I don’t remember my kids being that much work but I guess when they’re your kids you don’t worry as much if they  get hurt or like you.  When I tell him no and he looks at me like I broke his heart I feel like I should run out and buy him a pony.  It’s not that easy being a grandma.  It’s complicated.

I’m also preparing for the next step in life. I plan to continue as a grad student but I haven’t decided where I would like to apply yet or which specific program to shoot for.  The top contenders are Illinois State, the University of Illinois, and Oregon State.  I’m pretty sure I would have no trouble getting into Oregon State’s grad program.  They already know me and my GPA is definitely high enough but I think I would benefit more by going to a school here in Illinois. I’d like to attend some classes in person and learn more about local natural resource issues but I’ll just apply at all three and see what happens I guess.

Anyway, I don’t plan to go back until January or March.  I really need the time off to recharge and refocus and build a craftsman style fireplace surround in my family room.

The only woodworking I’ve done in the past is building frames for stained glass panels so I’m pretty proud of myself for building a fireplace surround piece by piece out of pre-finished oak with only hand tools and a lot of improvisation.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the Norm Abram workshop in the backyard.  When we added onto the house in 2011, I had the family room built for a craftsman style built-in fireplace but we ran out of money and mostly energy by the time it came to doing the finish work.  So, I installed a stone surround with the intention of it being temporary.  I should have picked something that would have been a lot easier to remove than stone.  That’s been the worst part of the job so far.

Over the next few weeks I plan to build shelves to connect the cabinets to the fireplace and give it that true built-in look.  Hopefully, it turns out how I have it pictured in my mind.  So far so good but I’m not going to get overconfident just yet.

The Tradition Continues or Starts Again

Today, I visited Greenwood Cemetery to prepare for next week (no I don’t plan on dying).  I always visit the cemetery this time of year as tradition.  It’s the perfect time to visit because the leaves are beginning to turn, the autumn weather is magical, and there’s tons of acorns meaning there’s zillions of squirrels running around to keep me company.  I didn’t make it there last year and I think I unleashed unspeakable evil upon the Earth by not going.  2016 was such a miserable year.  The Cubs won the World Series which was Twilight Zone-like and Donald Trump won the presidency, which is beyond any reasonable explanation from even a parallel demented universe.

So, I’m hoping my return will restore the natural order of things and the gods will bestow good things upon Earth once again.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll need to find a volcano and toss a virgin in it or something.

I’ll be shooting a video at the cemetery next week.  I’ve been wanting to do a narrated walk through Greenwood for years but I never got the chance for one reason or the other.  It should be fun.  I hope.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been so displeased with a city council than the one we have now.  I’m not impressed at all.  Some of their actions have been blatantly dismissive and needlessly rushed.  The recent decision to harvest trees near lake Decatur for profit (a small profit at that) was met with concerned citizens, including myself, wanting more answers and more time to ensure our concerns were addressed.  The city council simply didn’t care and our mayor said the conversation was over, when in actuality there never was a  conversation.

What was the rush to cut down the trees in the first place?  Then this week the council voted to hire a company to remove birds from the downtown area.  Honestly, I’ve never noticed any problems whatsoever of birds downtown but I’m assuming there is a problem that I’m not aware of.

Councilman David Horn wanted to ask questions regarding the methods the company would employ to rid pigeons and starlings from downtown.  A representative of the company wasn’t at the council meeting to ask.  Horn is a biology professor at Millikin and he has voiced his concerns regarding environmental issues before, including the sale of the trees.  Both Horn and Councilman Faber wanted to hold off on the tree contract but the other members didn’t want to wait on the vote and quickly passed it.  This time Horn was on his own.

I don’t think it was unreasonable to want to ask questions regarding what methods are going to be used before approving the bid.  Does city management even know?  Did they call up Springfield and ask how well the methods have worked there?  From what I’ve read, there’s been a lot of displeasure in the results seen in Springfield provided by the same company.

The larger issue is the pattern I see with this mayor and most of the members of the council.  They can be bullies.  They can be downright mean.  They pick at anyone who is different than they are and dismiss them as irrelevant.   It doesn’t matter who it is.  If that person isn’t in lockstep with their agenda, they’re ignored.  Councilman McDaniel said he’s “no fan of tree huggers”.  Okay, well it’s nice to know you don’t care about me or my concerns.  That makes me feel confident in my reasoning for not endorsing you before the election.

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