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I’m not the conspiracy believing type of person but this whole wacky Rev. Wright show we’ve been watching the past couple of days seems more than strange. Is it planned? Isn’t this the best way to separate Obama from his pastor? Think about it, the whole thing is quite ingenious. If Rev. Wright just acts like this total loony and makes everyone think that he now hates Obama and wants to destroy his presidential hopes, wouldn’t that make people feel kind of bad for Obama and put a HUGE separation between the two? Rev. Wright is supposed to be a smart guy, Obama is a smart guy, they had a close relationship, now Rev. Wright suddenly becomes Obama’s #1 enemy? Obama could very well be the first African American president, why on earth would Rev. Wright, especially Rev. Wright, want to derail that possibility? He’s THAT hurt by Obama condemning his controversial remarks? Obama wasn’t that hard on Rev. Wright, he didn’t disown him, he didn’t say he was a bad guy, there’s no reason for Rev. Wright to be this angry at Obama. I could understand his anger towards the media but not Obama.

Maybe Rev. Wright is a total nutcase and I’m off my rocker but isn’t this all kind of fishy. Isn’t it?

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The last I saw the going rate for gas in Decatur was $3.55 a gallon – actually $3.56 if you notice the .9 behind the .55. Anyway, it got me to thinking, always dangerous, of what we can do to relieve some of our pain. $3.55 GasI’ve tried to think of ways I could cut down on my driving but I’ve quickly come to the realization that in Decatur, as in most mid-size cities, we are totally dependent upon our personal vehicles to get from point A to point B and back again. America simply has a lousy mass transit system, or no system at all, for the majority of the country. Europeans are decades ahead of us in mass transit. Besides the fact that it may become too expensive to travel very soon we’re also hurting our environment. The Earth can only take so many carbon emitting vehicles and that’s it; there’s only so much oil in the ground, only so much corn we can grow for ethanol, only so many wars we can fight for oil until we blow the entire planet up – we simply need cars that don’t require a combustible engine to power them – we need something else.

If I had a large enough piece of land I would seriously consider buying a horse! I could picture myself driving around town with a horse and buggy. It would get me where I needed to go – though a little more slowly than I’m used to but heck, it’s better than walking! As much as I’d love to have a horse and have been looking for any excuse to buy one, I’ve tried to think of other more realistic means of transportation to reduce our dependence on our vehicles. I went back to the past again and thought of the electric street cars that once zipped through Decatur. You know, right now, those don’t seem like such a bad idea! The problem is we are so used to our freedom. I don’t want to arrange my life around a bus or street car schedule, I want to hop in my car and go whenever to wherever I please – I’m spoiled that way like the rest of America. I don’t want to walk or ride a bike either. Let’s face it, we’ve been spoiled but if gas hits $5 a gallon or higher, a very likely scenario, we’re screwed!

The United States is decades behind Europe in mass transit – very few Europeans drive. Their cities are equipped with mass transit systems to take them throughout their cities and beyond. They have modern passenger trains that can reach 200 miles an hour and above. It makes our Amtrak look downright prehistoric in comparison. We need to invest some major bucks into modernizing our transit system. We also need to pour some major bucks into developing vehicles that don’t require fossil fuels or ethanol. We need a technological revolution to save our economy and our way of life. I don’t know what the answer is because I’m not a scientists or an engineer but I know doing nothing isn’t an option any longer, that is, if we want to have any place in this world’s economy besides being the laughing stock.

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The Decatur City Council will be meeting tonight at the Civic Center at 5:30 pm. The main agenda will be the budget. Councilman Caulkins reimbursement request for his legal fees is on the agenda again, we’ll see if his lawyer shows up this time. If you can’t make it down to the meeting and you have Comcast, tune in to channel 18. ( I think that’s right!)

The council packet for tonight’s meeting can be downloaded here. (Offsite, PDF, 10.67 MB) This is a 208 page packet! I’ll have to set aside some time to read it through and take some notes. There are quite extensive details regarding the city’s beautification program in this packet. I believe the recommendation is to have Macon Resources take over the maintenance of these beds. Private landscapers have done this in the past but for whatever reason(s) that didn’t work out too well. Personally, I’d like to see more wildflowers planted, they take care of themselves! I’ve been waiting for the flowers to grow and bloom in the median between Water & Main by Brettwood Village all Spring. (See the picture below from last year.)

A Side Note:

A good link to keep bookmarked, if you haven’t noticed it before, is the council agenda page on the city’s Web site. This has all the up-to-date council meeting times, agendas and other important information regarding city council business.

http://www.ci.decatur.il.us/citygovernment/council/council_agenda.htm

UPDATE:

I watched most the the council meeting last night. It looks like Caulkins was denied reimbursement for his legal fees though most of the council expressed sympathy for his troubles. It was agreed that some sort of “system” needs to be in place for the future. I’ve been on the fence on the Caulkins thing for a while. Part of me could see his point of view, it’s not like you get rich being a councilperson in Decatur; the other part of me realized that if he were reimbursed – this could possibly open up an expensive can of worms in the future!

An interesting lengthy “discussion” centered around a property that had been ordered demolished, but was purchased by a private entity, who hoped to secure a federal loan of $360,000 to turn the property into low-income housing. Apparently this building has been a notorious hot spot for criminal activity through the years and the neighbors wanted to see it go; they even inquired into purchasing the property themselves but for whatever reason didn’t know the right channels to do so before the other entity did. (At least that’s what I got out of the conversation.) The neighbors have complained of lewd conduct by the contractor working on the building and claimed criminal activities are still a problem. I’m sure there’s two sides to the story, but at any rate, the council chose to nix the building owners request for the funds.

The council plans to meet in special session on Wednesday April 23rd, to select an Executive Search Firm, to find qualified city manager applicants.

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Today my daughter, I and about 70 other people from Decatur were lobbyist at the state’s capitol. We were all there to urge our state representatives to support continued funding for the Gifted Student Program in Illinois. Decatur’s program is faring well but others in the state are running into financial problems. We rode over to Springfield in two yellow school buses; I sure remember those buses being much roomier, either the buses have gotten smaller or I’ve gotten bigger – I say the buses have gotten smaller… Anyway, Rep. Bob Flider came out to meet us outside the capitol, then we marched in the capitol rotunda in our bright yellow t-shirts and met for brief photo ops with Rep. Bill Mitchell and Sen. Frank Watson. I was impressed with all three gentlemen. Sen. Watson has a very good tan! I might even vote for a couple of them next time 🙂 I couldn’t hear their speeches too well with the crowd noise but I believe they all share the same disgust with our current governor and his preference for funding projects well north of Central Illinois.

A scary ChangeDecatur moment happened too! Rep. Mitchell, who was one of the local politicians who stood against the ChangeDecatur movement – remember that horrid debate, was greeted by a ChangeDecatur supporter who happened to be part of our group. I was standing next to Mitchell and the man showed the button on his shirt and said to Bill Mitchell and me (I don’t know why me), the “change” is coming back. I don’t think Mitchell heard him too well but once he caught sight of the button with the ChangeDecatur logo he leaned back. I said to Mitchell “Oh yeah, you know all about that, don’t you?” Memories of the debate started filling my mind. I had totally forgotten about Mitchell being involved with the ChangeDecatur deal. Everything was going so pleasant until that point. Mitchell didn’t say anything and kindly moved to another location. I don’t blame him. That was a little awkward but hey that’s part of politics too – not everybody is going to be in love with you!

All-in-all it was a very interesting and enlightening trip, my first to our state’s capitol. We got to sit in and listen to a few minutes of House Chamber business. It sounded and looked more like an auction than a meeting to me. None of us could understand what exactly they were discussing or voting on. Something about mortgage stuff…I think. Most importantly it was a day to remember for my daughter. I told her when she becomes President, she’ll remember this day as her first brush with politics. Hey if not Hillary, than my daughter!

Some photographs of the experience: (Click thumbnails to enlarge)

Bob Flider Addresses CrowdSpringfield, Illinois Capitol RotundaStudents from Decatur’s Gifted Program in front of State Capitol 2008Looking Down in Illinois State Capitol RotundaRotundaSen. Watson and Rep. Mitchell

Completely Unrelated:

I just thought this was the coolest sculpture, so I thought I’d post it here too! It stands in front of the Illinois State visitor’s center. The piece is by artist John Kearny, who’s famous for making metal sculptures. I so want one of those for my front yard – maybe just a little scaled down so as not to annoy the neighbors 😉

Deer Sculpture

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