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Well, I think I have made up my mind for who I will be voting for for council.  I had already stated that I’ll be voting for Chris Riley and David Horn and I’ll explain why.  The third vote was a little difficult but I have decided to go with Chuck Kuhle and I will explain why I chose him too.

I have found Chris Riley, who has been a park board commissioner for several years, to be very accessible and willing to listen to anyone.  I can’t tell you how rare that is.  He is undoubtedly a very busy professional in his day job but still makes time for any resident to speak with him.  That’s the number one thing I ask of any candidate.  We don’t have to agree all the time but there needs to be mutual respect and a conversation.  So, I feel very confident in my decision to vote for Riley.

I voted for David Horn the last time he ran and I believe he only lost by a small margin.  He’s very enthusiastic about the community and I think we share many of the same interests.  He’s a biology professor and I’ll be graduating with a B.S. in natural resources in a few months.  We share an interest in the environment, which I think is something that Decatur needs to focus on more.  I also think he’ll bring a new perspective and new ideas without a personal vendetta against any one issue or personality.

My choice for Chuck Kuhle was difficult because I also think highly of Marty Watkins.  He has also impressed me, so I wouldn’t be upset if either won.  I wish I could vote for both but I chose Kuhle over Watkins because I think we probably have a similar vision for creating a more healthy place to live, not that Watkins doesn’t believe in that too.  See why it was a difficult decision?

In one of my classes I just finished I learned about values mapping and essentially in values mapping you ask a person to point out 5 places on a map that have meaning to them.  Those meanings can be economic, spiritual, recreational, educational, etc.  For my map I had to select 5 places from Macon County that matter the most to me.  Two things I chose were Garman Park and the Stevens Creek Bikeway.  Both are within walking distance of my house and both are major reasons why I choose to continue living in Decatur.  I’m lucky that I live near them but other parts of the community don’t have the same things within walking distance and they’re far less attractive to residents because of it. Kuhle has called for more investments in bike paths and similar projects.  The park district has done a lot in this area but the city needs to step it up too.  I can’t speak for any of the candidates I’m supporting but I think they all would be receptive to a more walkable and healthy community.

I also like Kuhle’s idea of encouraging efforts without using tax dollars to help pay for college tuition for recent high school graduates in Decatur.  A big reason why families leave Decatur is because of our public schools.  We need to keep  involved families here to help schools and teachers.  We also need to expand the tax base.  It is absolutely essential and such a program would help encourage people to stay and produce a trained workforce that would attract new employers.  It’s a win-win across the board.

Of course, a biggie with me is neighborhood revitalization.  We have to improve our neighborhoods and especially our main corridors.  US 51 heading south into downtown Decatur should be priority number 1 in my opinion.  It looks awful.  Heading north from downtown on 51 doesn’t look much better.  Of course, it would help if the state would repave the hideous road.

I also absolutely agree in a targeted approach to improving specific areas of the city rather than doing a little here, there, and wherever.  We need specific plans for redevelopment for specific areas.  I hope the candidates I’m voting for agree.

I’m still going to keep my decision for mayor to myself because I don’t want any ideas I might have to be shot down by a mayor that thinks I don’t like him or her.  It has nothing to do with who I like or don’t like.  I think the council candidates I have chosen are already supportive, or at least receptive of many things that I care about and I think all three (and my fourth choice) have a very good chance of winning. However, I’m not that sure about the two mayoral candidates and that’s why I’m keeping that vote to myself.

 

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Something unusual happened while I was buried beneath a mountain of schoolwork this quarter (that I thankfully finished yesterday).  The city council race has become interesting and that’s something that hasn’t happened in a quite a few years.  Even more rare is a real competition for the mayoral position.  Things became really interesting when current city councilman Bill Faber openly threw has support behind John Phillips for mayor, over current mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe.

Before I learned of Faber’s endorsement, I had read a post on social media from current councilman Jerry Dawson endorsing Moore.  Dawson’s seat is one of the seats up for grabs but he chose not to run again.  The endorsement seemed a little strange in its logic because Dawson went after “liberal” politicians in Springfield and essentially blamed them for Decatur’s inability to attract business.

Bringing Partisan Politics Into a Non-Partisan Race

From Dawson’s Public Facebook Page“The real reason Decatur has a hard time attracting good jobs is due to the poor business climate in this state thanks to Bill’s (Faber) liberal friends in Springfield.” 

There’s a couple things wrong with Dawson’s statement.  The first being that our stellar governor is hardly blameless in our state’s stomach turning budget impasse and secondly, the city council race is supposed to be non-partisan.  Oh, and I should throw in a third.  Moore-Wolfe is a Democrat… that last I knew anyway.  And I’m pretty sure Phillips is a Republican, though don’t quote me on that.  So, how does Dawson think Moore is going to fight against “liberal” legislators in Springfield…when she’s a Democrat?  Aren’t Bill’s liberal friends Julie’s friends too?  And it’s not like it’s such an awful thing to have liberal friends in the first place.  What is awful is blind allegiance to a particular political party on either side. If you want to know what is wrong with our state (and nation).  That’s it.  Anyway….

I don’t think it’s smart to bring in partisan politics into a city council race.  A few of the people commenting on Dawson’s post were turned off.  It didn’t exactly make me want to run out and hammer in a Moore-Wolfe sign in my front lawn, even though she wasn’t the one who wrote the divisive statement.

Dawson also said that Phillips would be “scary and dangerous” for Decatur if he were to win.   That seems a bit extreme.  It’s not like he would have the codes to Decatur’s nuclear arsenal. Haha!

Phillips came to the defense of Faber’s endorsement and basically said that Faber’s suggestions on the council are ignored.  I would have to agree.  Faber is ignored.  It’s no wonder why he isn’t endorsing the current mayor.  I’ve watched several meetings in which Faber has tried to bring a topic up for a study session and nobody would second him. I’ve liked some of his ideas and I think they were worthy of at least a discussion.

Phillips Might Have A Good Chance

According to an article I read on the Decatur Tribune, many believe that Phillips has a good chance of winning.  Just driving around town, I’m sure seeing a lot more Phillips’ signs in people’s yards than Moore-Wolfe’s.  I don’t know if that means anything but that’s what I’m noticing. If signs could vote, Phillips would win by a landslide but that’s not how it works.

So who am I endorsing, as if my endorsements mean much?  For city council,  I will be voting for Chris Riley and David Horn for sure and I will write more about that later. (And for the record, I don’t know either Riley’s or Horn’s political party preferences and I don’t care to know.)  I’m just not settled on the third vote yet.  There’s two other candidates that I think are both a good choice and that’s why I’m having a hard time choosing.  What a wonderful problem to have!  I wish all elections had tough choices like that.

For mayor, I’m going to keep who I’m voting for to myself.  I want to be on good terms with whoever wins.  My decision is purely a pragmatic one.  Anyway, at least the race is going to be interesting this time, even if hardly anyone shows up to vote, which will not be unusual unfortunately.

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It’s a pleasant early March day – the type of days that put a skip in one’s step, unlike the freaky warm weather in February that was nice but we knew it wouldn’t last.  March is that way too.

Amazingly, I’m caught up with my homework for the week and only have a few little things left to do.  I knew taking six classes in one quarter was going to be a big challenge and it has been.  I still have a couple more weeks to endure – finals and term projects, but it doesn’t seem as daunting as when I began.  I didn’t know if I’d become a mess of frazzled nerves and feel like crawling into a hole and crying myself to sleep.  Although, I have been very close to both, so far I’m keeping things together.  No promises as finals approach.

I’ve registered for my last full-time quarter at Oregon State.  I am so happy to be so close to being finished.  Although I’ll have a couple classes to finish this summer after I go through commencement in Corvallis in June, a big weight will be off my shoulders.  I’m most looking forward to visiting the Redwoods in California for my graduation present to myself.  It’s only about a 5-hour drive from Oregon State.  The picture below doesn’t begin to do the giant trees justice.  Hopefully, I’ll come back with some amazing pics.

Redwood National Park, fog in the forest

When I’m finished I’ll finally get to do a lot of things that I haven’t been able to over the past 4 1/2 years.  I’ve missed so many weekends, family events, community events, blogging, and have stretched myself thin when it comes to all my other obligations.  Not that I’ll be footloose and fancy-free after I graduate but compared to college, I should have more time for many of things I find meaningful in life.  Writing about Decatur is definitely one of those things.  I absolutely love blogging.

I’m planning to do some new things with the blog this spring and summer and I’ll actually have enough time to do them.  And I purchased a kayak!  My husband doesn’t know about it yet. Right now, it’s hidden in the basement.  It wasn’t expensive but I can just hear him now.  Sometimes I wish I was single so I could be as crazy as I want without someone telling me I’m crazy.

Yeah, I don’t think my kayaking trips will look like this, unless I go over the Lake Decatur dam!

Remic Rapids, Ottawa, ON (14018430256)

Kayaking has been on my bucket list for a while and I think I’ll love it.  Hey, at least I didn’t go out and buy a motorcycle or a convertible sports car.  My kayak is carbon neutral and will be great exercise.  I’m not too crazy about the idea of kayaking on the Sangamon River.  Weldon Springs State Park and the quiet basins of Lake Decatur and Lake Shelbyville are more my speed.  I just have this phobia about rivers.  Maybe I drowned in one in a past life.  Who knows.

Well, here’s to hopefully good times ahead, or at least a heck of a lot less stress.  And no, it wasn’t easy hiding a kayak in the basement.

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It’s been a little over a month since Donald Trump became president and for non-Trump voters it has been a scary, nauseating, upsetting, disturbing, anger-inducing ride.   I can’t list all of the things Trump has said or done to upset me over the past few weeks because I’ve lost count.  But as someone who cares about the environment and wildlife, I’m sickened to think Republicans would like to either cripple or get rid of the Endangered Species Act, silence government employees from speaking about climate science, and approved the appointment of a man to lead the EPA who doesn’t even believe in its’ purpose.

Trump’s Russian ties are deeply disturbing.  More disturbing is that most Republicans don’t care about it for partisan reasons, even though they practically wanted Hillary Clinton burned at the stake for having a private email server. Compared to possibly consorting with Russians to disrupt our democratic process, Hillary’s “crimes” seem on the same level as cutting off the “do not remove tag” from a new pillow.  Most disturbing is that a white supremacist is a top advisor to the president.  That should be an impeachable offense.

Quite simply, Donald Trump represents everything that I’m not.  He and his actions are contrary to the core of my being.  He and his agenda has definitely put a strain between Trump supporters, of which some are people I know and care about, and myself.

Some friendships have been lost.  Relationships with some of my family members has been deeply strained.  This was not your typical partisan presidential election.  It went way beyond anything so trivial.  This is a defining time in American history, on par with the social and cultural changes of the 1960s and even the 1860s.  This is about our culture and our values.  These are very trying times and keeping the peace and any sense of sanity, requires a lot of self-control and biting of the tongue.

The tension is thick.  When I’m in the company of a family member or friend that voted for Trump we still laugh and carry on like nothing has changed between us but then there are those honest moments when our eyes meet.  Then suddenly, I know that they know that I know how they know how I feel about you know who.  It’s awkward but worse than that our friendship has been crippled by it.  It’s become a bit of a silent civil war.

I find it unbelievable that others can’t see the threat Trump is.  How are they okay with him appointing a neo-nazi as an advisor?  How are they okay with his unstable, hyper-arrogant, and obnoxious behavior?  How are they okay with him possibly having ties with Russia?  How are they okay with him insulting and demeaning those that are critical of him?  But then it’s easy to see how they don’t see what I see.

Right-leaning and left-leaning news sources tell very different stories.  We’ve been isolated from each other for so long politically that we have evolved into different kinds of Americans.  As someone who studies ecology this is quite familiar.  When members of the same species are separated from each other long enough, eventually through natural selection different traits are favored to match their respective environments, and then we have two new species from one.  The one no longer exists.  Well, in the United States, we have essentially become two different critters, ideologically speaking.

About 35 miles from where I’m sitting, Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech and it still holds true today.  We can’t go on in one country as two different populations with two different value sets and ideologies.  We have to agree on the most fundamental and foundational aspects of our democracy.  I don’t think we do anymore and that can’t go on forever.  I know that and you know that.

 

Photo Credit:  By swatjester – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3256256

The Grand Army of the Republic Monument stands in Washington D.C. The organization was founded in Decatur.

 

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The municipal election is coming up quickly and it’s getting time to take a look at all of the candidates and figure out who will get my vote.  This year the mayor and three city council seats are up.  There are also other local offices that we’ll be voting on including school boards and park commissioners.  I’ll be taking a look at those separately. I’m much more familiar with the city council (and to a lesser extent the park district) than the others.

As of today, before I have listened to any of the debates or interviews (though I have read each candidate’s thoughts about a variety of issues elsewhere), I am leaning heavily towards certain candidates but I’m going to wait to make my final decision until I’ve learned more, which I think is wise.  Speaking of that, this would probably be a good time to present an abbreviated version of Decatur Government 101 because a lot of people seem to be confused about what our mayor and city council does.

Our Mayor Is Just One Vote…plus some extra stuff

Our mayor is just one vote on the council.  He or she doesn’t run the city on a daily basis.  They usually have other full-time job and they aren’t paid much to be mayor.  The last I heard it was $8,000 a year, so they’re hardly cashing in on taxpayer expense.  Our mayor and council members do not run as Democrats or Republicans, which is refreshing, considering how politically divided the country is along partisan lines.  It makes our form of government much less politically toxic.

Our city manager is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city and he or she (I don’t think we’ve had a she yet), is hired by the city council. The council has the authority to decide to retain or dismiss the city manager.  The most important role the mayor plays is probably in the council chamber where he or she oversees the meetings and basically makes sure it doesn’t devolve into mayhem and disorder.  Believe me, it’s come close over the years!  I recall people getting irate when once-a-week garbage pickup was implemented.  The National Guard almost had to be called in.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but not by much!

Most of all the mayor sets the tone for the council and the city as a whole and that tone can be cooperative or very contentious and unproductive.

The City Council Does Not Have Control Over Our Parks

Another big misconception many residents have in Decatur is that the city runs the park district and is responsible for what is happening in Nelson Park or at the lakefront or any other park property.  Decatur has a separate park district that does not fall under Decatur city management.  They have their own elected commissioners.  However, the city and the park district often tries to form a singular vision for large projects.  For instance, the park district owns Nelson Park but the city owns the lake and the docks.  So, development along the lakefront will require cooperation between the two.  For example, not too long ago the city helped chip in funds to renovate the beach house.  So the city and park district can work together but they are separate governing entities.

I thought it was important to explain these things because I read a lot of social media comments that reflect people’s misunderstanding of our form of government and who is responsible for what.  Now back to the council race…

Who’s Running For Decatur City Council?

For the three seats up for election on the city council we have six candidates.  The only incumbent running is Pat McDaniel.  The others vying for a seat are Chris Riley, Chuck Kuhle, David Horn, Andrew Apel, and Marty Watkins.  Riley is currently serving as a commissioner for the Decatur Park District.  Kuhle has served on the Macon County Board in the past and is currently the tennis director for the Decatur Athletic Club.  This is the second time Horn has run for city council.  He is a biology professor at Millikin Univeristy.  Marty Watkins is an ordained minister and Apel is a local businessman.

At this point I’m fairly certain of two of my votes for the city council but I’m still undecided on that third seat.  I encourage anyone interested in the election to learn about the candidates.  The Herald & Review and local radio talk shows are good places to learn more about the candidates in their own words.  That’s what I’ll be doing.

In the meantime, here are links to the each candidate’s Facebook page and/or website that has either:

Andrew Apel

David Horn

-Website: http://hornfordecatur.org/

Chuck Kuhle

Julie Moore-Wolfe

John Phillips

-Website:  http://johnphillipsfordecatur.com/

Chris Riley

Marty Watkins

 

 

 

 

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