Decatur Issues

With my break from school, I should be writing more but I can’t think of anything to write about. Well, there are a lot of subjects to write about but I’m too lazy to actually put a whole lot of effort into it right now.  Maybe later!  So until then, I’ll just post some random photos from my phone.

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My family had dinner at the Beach House last night for my 19th wedding anniversary. 19 years!  And I said it would never last.

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While I was down there, I noticed palm trees have been planted in front of the Beach House.  Palm trees?  I have nothing against palm trees but this is Illinois and it gets cold, really, really, cold, especially by the lake.  I know, because I went to the Beach House for my birthday in December.  The walk was quite arctic.  I’m assuming the trees will be taken to a warm location in the winter but it probably would have been better to go with a native plant, as much as I love palm trees.  I would also suggest decorative heat lamps in the winter along the boardwalk, especially if the lakefront ever has storefronts, because it would be very unpleasant Christmas shopping.

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County Market is going up and it may be done before the new miniature golf course in Nelson Park.  What is the deal with the mini golf course anyway?  It took over 6 months just to put the roof on the building and it’s not that complicated looking.  Somebody needs to crack the whip more and get that puppy done.  It should have been open by Memorial Day, in my opinion.  I realize there are other things going into that building but the golf course portion should’ve have been ready.  I’m sure the park district would love for it to be done too.

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Trains, trains, and more trains.  I’ve learned to avoid certain parts of town due to the lengthy delays due to trains camping out and blocking major roadways.  I’ve been told people had to wait an hour on Water Street for a train.  An hour!  Seriously.  Water Street is Highway 51.  It’s a major road.  People may be trying to get to the hospital.  Change the laws back to what they were!  No more than a 15 minute delay.  I do admire some of the graffiti on the rail cars however.  Some of the people painting these things are seriously talented.  I also think a good idea would be painting them all white so a projector could be pointed at them.  If we’re going to be stopped for so long, might as well watch a movie!

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Since we decided to stay in Decatur, a friend teased me about the reasons why and Krekel’s was on his list.  Considering my cholesterol numbers and other heart problems, it probably shouldn’t be on my list, but you gotta go some time.  I would also add Del’s Popcorn.  That’s my favorite local store and if I get the right popcorn, I think it’s okay for my heart.  It makes me happy so that’s got to be good for it, right???

I found stuff to write about after all, as weird as some of it may be.

 

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One of my blog post stood out to a Springfield newspaper reporter, because I had taken some shots at Springfield, after reading comments written by Springfield residents about Decatur.  His article stated that I was angry after reading the comments on the Capitol Fax but I wasn’t angry at all.  I find it interesting and helpful to read outside opinions of Decatur, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly.  I’ve lived here my whole life, so I welcome an outside point of view.

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We need to name our clock downtown.

He was bewildered why people in Springfield like to pick on Decatur so much and admitted that he had looked down on us as well.  He equated the behavior with how Chicago treats Springfield.  I told him that I thought Decatur and Springfield had a lot in common but I hadn’t considered our similarities in the same light that he had.  I was thinking more along the lines of our economies and culture.  I hadn’t considered how people in Springfield felt about their diminishing role in state affairs.

Springfield has been kicked to the curb by upstate politicians who have, for all practical purposes, moved the state capitol to Chicago.  He equated it to Decatur no longer being ADM’s global headquarters. It’s fair to say that Springfield and Decatur have both been ditched by their dates to the prom.

What I found really fascinating was how little he knew of Decatur and he’s in the news business but then I don’t know much about Springfield either.  I don’t know what their future goals are.  That was the point of my article.  We base our opinions of one another based on scant knowledge.

He asked me how that “convention” thing turned out in Decatur and it took me a while to figure out what he was referring to.  He was referring to the old plans at the former Holiday Inn, which is now the Decatur Conference City & Hotel. 

At one time, there were plans for a waterpark, and I think even a botanical garden to be located near the hotel.  The city put in a fancy new road for it in great anticipation of its’ construction.  The waterpark and garden never materialized but luckily the hotel has been remodeled and is doing well, as far as I know.  This all took place 5 or 6 years ago but it was something that he remembered.

I had posted some pictures of Decatur too and he asked with great interest what they were of.  I had a photo of Merchant Street, Nelson Park, and Lake Decatur.  He wasn’t aware of our recent downtown streetscape renovations, nor too much of the lakefront development plans.  He had heard of the new mini-golf course though.

Our discussion made it clear to me that Decatur has some serious advertising to do.  If people in Springfield, 30 minutes away, don’t know anything about our city (besides random murders, factory closings, and stinky air), how do we expect anyone else to?  Bad news gets around but good news needs a well-funded marketing campaign.

I wondered if people from the Springfield area ever visited Decatur.  My family goes to Springfield often to go shopping.  Let’s face it, Springfield has more retail variety than we do, but why would anybody come here? He did mention the Decatur Celebration.  There’s the Farm Progress Show but that only appeals to farmers and every other year.  Beyond that, I can’t imagine too many people leaving Springfield to come shop in Decatur, though they really should.  Our downtown is better!  Well, I think it is.  It’s much more quaint and easy to to navigate. Our downtown just needs to work on a nightlife.  It’s dead past 5 pm.

Anyway, I enjoyed our discussion and got a lot out of it.  I like Springfield.  Besides Mars has always fascinated me.  I keep waiting for word on my Twitter feed that life has been found over there.  Hee hee!

 

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Usually this time of year, I entertain the thought of relocating south.  Who doesn’t?  You know I’ll probably never leave Decatur, unless I have to, but I came across this impressive promotional video for Greenville, South Carolina:

Greenville’s downtown looks beautiful and alive but I saw a lot of Decatur in it, or at least a lot of what Decatur could be.  Their downtown looks a lot like ours, but they have many more retail establishments and white-collar jobs, in impressively designed buildings.  Their bridges don’t even scare me and I have a bridge phobia!  I don’t want us to copy Greenville, because every city is unique, but there’s principles of good city planning to study and apply here. Decatur has begun doing just that.

Our downtown has never looked better.  The lakefront has so much potential.  Our zoo keeps getting better and better.  We have a children’s museum and historical sites and neighborhoods.  We have Millikin University and Richland Community College, which continues to grow.  There’s numerous things to list that are attractive about Decatur.  Yes, there are problems but you don’t build upon a foundation of what’s wrong; you build upon what’s right or at least, what has potential.

And to those, who think looks don’t matter, or culture doesn’t matter, take a look at the comments of those who viewed Greenville’s video.  People want to visit there, relocate there, and undoubtedly businesses would be motivated to expand or relocate there, as well.

Comparing Decatur to Greenville isn’t exactly an apples to apples comparison.  Greenville is located at the center of a metro area of about 800,000 people, but Greenville itself has a smaller population than Decatur.  Decatur is in a metro area of about 100,000 – 150,000 people. Still, we can apply many of the same principles.

Here’s a link detailing what Greenville did to revitalize their downtown. It should help explain why Decatur is investing in our downtown and lakefront by doing many of the same things Greenville has done: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2008-mar-learning-from-greenville-sc

By the way, Greenville’s unemployment rate is less than half of Decatur’s.

This video highlights how the Greenville area ranks in public education, civil engineering, city planning, and attractiveness to business.

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The topic of fracking, the process of extracting natural gas from below ground, has come to Macon County. As a student of environmental science, it's of great concern to me. Even if I wasn't an environmental science major, it would still be a major concern.

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of the controversial process. It can destroy habitats and farmland, demand huge amounts of water, introduce unknown chemicals (some carcinogenic) into the ground and possibly into water supplies.

Those supporting it hope it will bring jobs and economic prosperity to the county. However, the jobs are temporary, while the damage may be permanent.

Macon County has unique facts to consider. Our water supply is already threatened by large industrial users and a dry summer weather pattern that may be the new normal for our region.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/midwest.html#impactswater

Ground water is a very precious natural resource. Unlike lakes and streams, which are able to recover quickly after some good soaking rains, ground water can take years, possibly decades, to replenish itself.

Our second concern is that ADM is storing large amounts of carbon dioxide below our feet, in a process called carbon sequestration. This involves liquefying carbon dioxide and pumping it deep within the earth in porous rock formations.

It seems risky to do both processes in the same county. Fracking can cause small earthquakes and possibly alter the geological landscape beneath us. We don't want large amounts of carbon dioxide suddenly escaping because of this. I'm over-simplifying and I wish I could back up statements with sound factual data but I think our situation is very unique, and calls for people far more knowledgable than myself.

Keep in mind that scientific studies and scientists can be bought. Objective studies are hard to find. Everyone has an agenda, even us hoping to protect the environment. Let's use good judgment.

I would argue that fracking isn't a sustainable or wise option for Macon County, and I've only listed a few reasons. There's many others. I'm sure I'll be writing much more about this in the near future.

 

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ADM decided to locate their global headquarters in Chicago without the tax incentives they were asking for. I was against the incentives from the start for several reasons. One, they didn't need the money. Two, too many large businesses have been demanding the same deals, costing the state millions of dollars in badly needed revenue. Three, it's apparent now that many of the jobs they promised to Decatur, if lawmakers approved the tax breaks, would have happened with or without the incentives, just as I thought.

A day after they announced their decision to locate their global headquarters in Chicago, they also announced a major expansion at Decatur's production facility. That's the good news. The bad news is that they also reneged on their promise to Decatur of millions of dollars worth of donations for economic development and other worthwhile charitable initiatives. It seems like the decision was made out of spite. Whatever it was, it was a slap in the face to Decatur and a broken promise.

When ADM announced their pledge, it wasn't tied to any incentives. In fact, they hadn't announced they were seeking tax breaks at that point. Their decision was uncalled for. What has Decatur ever done for them but bend over backwards?

Well, at least we got to see their true colors.

 

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