Monday, February 26, 2007

Death on our Roadways - Part 3

“Rising Death Rate for Teen Drivers Spurs legislation” is a headline in the WSJ dated 6/03/05. I quote, “Maryland, where 20 teenagers have died in accidents in the past 9 months, has just enacted 5 new laws aimed at the problem. One extends the learners permit period to 6 months from 4 and boosts the required time with adult supervisor to 60 hours from 40. For the first five months of the 18 month “provisional” driving period for teen drivers that follows the learner-permit period, a new law bars unsupervised drivers from carrying non family passengers. Another new law prohibits cell phones during the learner’s and provisional periods.

Colorado, Delaware, Georgia and Connecticut are among the states that in the past two years have added or strengthened passenger or nighttime driving restrictions for teenagers. Montana, Wyoming, and Hawaii have joined states with so-called graduating licensing—involving an intermediate driving period, often lasting 18 months, before a driver is fully licensed”.

I believe in August, 2005 Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation into law making it illegal for teens under 18 to talk on a cell phone while driving—even with a hands free device. How is the law working? I believe when the media gives us information about corrective happenings, they are obligated to follow through with results. Is the law being enforced? How many drivers have been arrested because of this law and how many in Peoria County? How many teen accidents have been attributed or partially attributed to the use of cell phones while driving? What good are laws if not enforced?

Some law enforcement agencies are saying, give us the money to enforce the laws. I answer this in two ways. Increase the fines and penalties to fund the enforcements. Demand that governmental bodies authorized to increase the fines and penalties do what it takes to convince people to obey the law. If our enforcers are sincere about mitigating the problem, they should make their case to money granting bodies outlining how stricter law enforcement, fines and cost distribution to those driving all costs upward and what benefits we can expect once everybody gets on the same page. This maybe too much to ask; especially getting everyone on the same page.

Again, I ask that we don’t reinvent the wheel every time we take action. I’M NOT INSUIATING THAT WE DO ALL THE TIME BUT WE DO TOO MANY TIMES. Find out what other communities are doing successfully. I’m weary of knee-jerk reactions in this community.

I quote from a letter written by Doyle Perry of Florissant, Mo. “Most accidents are linked to inattention or aggressive driving.” He is replying to an editorial in the WSJ on 7/10/06 saying that” speed is safer”. Mr. Perry asks, if so, why any speed limits at all? Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, based in DC., disputes that greater safety does not result in a loss of liberty, rather-it provides freedom from harm. I agree.

I ask that Leitch, McCoy, Ardis and others that read these three blogs and tell us more how we can handle this actual terror resulting in tremendous costs to parents, kids and all the citizenry of our communities. Maybe they will post some comments.

Deaths on our Roadways Part 2

“Bill would ID teen drivers” is a headline in Friday’s JS. Rep. David Leitch would have any driver under 18 who has a learners permit or graduated driver’s license would be required to have a sign attached to their vehicle indicating they are a new driver. Rep. Leitch says he got this idea from Metamora resident Amy De Fretias. He says the signs would need to removable as everyone in the family may be using the same car.

This is another attempt to curb the teen “killing fields” and it may have a reverse effect of endangering the young and inexperienced. There is no solid proof that this costly system would work. Mrs. DeFreitas says the signs would help inexperienced teen drivers by making other motorists more alert and patient. Most of us who talk about the way teens and other young people drive realize that these kids are passing us on the roadways, often far in excess of the speed limit. How can we be patient with them when many times all we see is a car with a person in the driver’s seat, a cell phone to their ear and then we see the rear end of their car going many miles over the speed limit, weaving in and out and disappearing in the distance? Also, what’s to stop the teen from removing the sign as soon as they are out of the parent’s sight, especially if it’s easily removable? A lot of these kids have alcohol content in their systems and yet it is illegal for them to drink. Does that stop all of them? I think not.

Tazewell County is trying educational programs; similar programs have been going on for 25 years or more while the problems keep growing. Tazewell Sheriff Robert Huston says 805 speeding citations were issued over a 14 day period in February Two citations were given to driver’s exceeding 100 miles per hour and two to Olympia High School students driving over 90 miles an hour near the school. Sheriff Huston sys he finds this quite alarming. I would regret having lived this long only to be killed or maimed by someone who thinks he or she is invincible but is almost totally inexperienced to drive a powerful motor vehicle on any road bed at any speed.

Perhaps some schools are using simulated computer training such as used in pilot training. If not, I wonder why not? If they are, I would like to know who the schools are and the successes. If deemed too costly, I suggest comparing the cost of the right kind of training to the cost each driver killed or maimed. Then add in the emotional cost to the family, the community, our safety and highway departments and our medical care systems plus the rise in insurance rates often distributed to all insured. The cost to all concerned of an accident that injures or kills is not measurable.

I believe we have a growing misguided compassion toward our youth, a failure to understand what the true meanings of freedom are. Too much speed, violence and mayhem as an acceptable way of life; this real and mostly fiction that is constantly displayed in all forms of media. The inability of people of all ages to separate facts from fiction, the attitude of kids to say to their parents “we know what we are doing”, when later on if they make it into mature adulthood, they will often admit that they “thought they did but really didn’t”, add to the problem of invincibility. It’s trite to say we adults often lack the common sense and the fortitude to take stronger actions to prevent disasters. Look around and see what is happening, 16,000 deaths attributed to alcohol out of 41,000 vehicular deaths yearly on our highways, not counting the millions injured or maimed; an article in the WSJ on 6/03/05 states that “Teenage drivers are involved in fatal crashes at twice the rate of drivers overall, and have a fatality rate four times that of drivers ages 25-69.) (Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

Lastly, there is a growing misunderstanding that with freedom and self-esteem, comes responsibility.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Recent Front Page Headlines

“Girl assaulted at gunpoint” reads the front page headlines of the JS yesterday. Great headline for the out of town visitor to read and take a copy of this alleged assault back to their community. Bad publicity to offset all the hard work being done by community leaders to get businesses to locate in Peoria. Good headline to make people want to move out of the community. Not a good headline when at that point the JS had only the girl’s story according to the JS reporter. A thirteen year old girl approximatly a mile away from her school at 9:45 in the A.M? Today’s also prominent article on the subject says she was tardy. Hmmm.

The Journal Star has turned more and more into the National Inquirer. Print front page headline “news” before the complete information has been verified. Really helps build up our reputation, doesn’t it?

I suspect more to this story may develop further down the road. I wasn’t aware that kids who live about a mile away from school aren’t picked up the dozens of school busses I see everyday. Why would any mother send her 13 year old daughter to school walking thru an area so secluded that the event wasn’t witnessed or her screams for help heard by someone?

I certainly have great compassion for this 13 year old grade school student no matter what the circumstances are. I plan to follow this unfortunate situation carefully but I ask school administration to advise the general public what their policy is on distances from home to school, the safety of kids walking and what circumstances must exist before a bus picks them up. Did she perhaps miss the bus?

I note that the school is increasing security around the school. Is this security going to extend out to a radius of one mile? Hmmmm.

In simple language, I don’t believe this unfortunate event and the unfortunate behavior of the “athlete” going to school for an education at the U of I are worthy of front page headlines when we are getting enough bad publicity as it is.

Hope some school board member answers my question but the potential for lawsuits may prevent them from doing so. In the meantime “thumbs down” for the JS in continuing their drive to prove this is dangerous community to live in.

Is this railway part of the rail that the park wishes to turn to trails for only a cost of $10,000.00 a year to maintain? This was the figure given Tuesday night by Board President Tim Cassidy. Doesn’t sounds reasonable as security alone will cost more than that unless the park believes the city should provide the security instead of park police.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deaths on our Roadways

Statistics for 2005 show 4100 pedestrian deaths on roadways, plus an additional 100,000 plus injured for mainly no other great cause than walking from one place to another. These figures would be close to 24,000 total deaths over the period of time since we were assaulted by terrorists on 9/11/01.

Almost weekly we can read in our local major paper of one, two, three or more highway deaths in one accident, or a total nationwide yearly average of around 41,000. That’s FORTY ONE THOUSAND EACH YEAR or TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND PLUS SINCE 9/11/01. Add another ONR MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED INJURED SINCE 9/11/01.

We give our young people a few hours of individual driving lessons and turn them loose with vehicles: the most deadly of any legal weapons. Or, as radical environmentalist Tom Edwards, might say, “The most deadly weapons know to mankind.” If only the radical environmentalists would turn their attention to the greatest causes of death of our friends and neighbors, we could reduce these numbers drastically, and in a hurry.

Like most problems caused by humans, we do know the answers to the problem but do not have the fortitude AND COMMON SENSE to act.

How to act? Enforce the laws that protect pedestrians. Enforce the laws violated by pedestrians. If the behavior of a pedestrian causes injury to anyone including the pedestrian, have the wrongful behavior of the injured or dead pedestrian bear the majority of the cost

Ban all handheld telephones from being used by drivers while any vehicle is in motion.
Extend the training and testing of young people before they are permitted to drive by at least threefold. Increase safe driving requirements and show the grade received by each person of any age who receives a legal permit to drive and show this grade on their driver’s license so parents and judges can make a more accurate assessment of the ones a fault when assessing penalties. Increase driving violation fines dramatically to pay for the extra training and the hiring of thousands or more law enforcement officers and judges needed to enforce these laws. Pass laws to require those involved in drunken driving disasters so that the driver not only serves incarceration time but pays the full cost of arrest, conviction, legal proceedings and incarceration. .

Limit the number of teens in any vehicle being driven by a teenager.

Put blocks on speedometers assessing maximum speeds just like blocks on destructive lifestyle television programs that lure our young people into the risk of death by carelessness. Mandate this feature to all new vehicles built starting in 2009. We don’t want to create a dangerous cult of grieving hero worship for kids in high school who are killed as a result of reckless behavior on the roadways.

Holland and Belgium put cameras along the roadways that record the vehicle license plate of any speeders. The license numbers are larger than they are in the US, the easier to be photographed. Convicted violators are subject to suspensions and large fines where warranted. The results have been very rewarding and more people are enjoying the drive.

Crack down severely on driving while intoxicated by immediate withdrawal of the driving license, then commit drivers to alcohol or drug rehab at their expense. If the violation is severe enough, impound the vehicles just like the law does for those who deal drugs of destruction. For those who say they can’t hold a job without a car; say, “Too bad; you should have thought of that first.” Chances are they have been driving while inebriated for a long time; they just weren’t involved in an accident or caught.

Put up more crosswalks where street blocks are considered by pedestrians as being too long; then enforce the jaywalking laws with healthy fines. Of course, you will need more officers paid by the substantial fines. Jaywalking is not a problem, then how did 4100 pedestrians get killed in 2005?

For anybody paying lip service to sincere efforts to greatly reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways, I suggest you stop your character assassinating comments about the current administration and stop making unqualified accusations and threats that undermine the 200,000 or more troops and support cadres now involved in efforts to bring some semblance of orderly government to the MidEast. Stop dishonoring the 3100 brave individuals killed in action and the thousands injured or maimed while at the same time ignoring the massive slaughter on our roadways.

I recently drove Hwy. 75 between Mt. Myers and Naples, Florida. The four lane highway is nicknamed Death Valley or Alley. Approximately 28 miles of Rt. 75 have skid marks every 20 feet or so where people traveling 85 miles an hour or more failed to make adjustments for slowed or stopped vehicles in front of them. My wife and I witnessed a terrible accident in which a car cart- wheeled numerous times thru the air before we lost sight of it. We were about 100 yards away from the accident going the opposite direction but we could see both the car and truck involved. We did not see how anyone could have survived at least in the car. We looked in the local paper the next day and found nothing. We learned that most bad accidents do not appear for the tourists to see, as this kind of news is bad publicity for Florida businesses.

I can also understand why lawmakers are afraid to enforce many existing laws or pass new laws that would save thousands of lives. They are afraid of not being elected, reelected or appointed. Public safety departments and the judicial system are under funded but billions of dollars can be raised by making the fines pay the additional costs of enforcement, conviction and even incarceration, when warranted. Lawmakers may as an excuse say they believe in the rights of an individual. So do I but not when I am at daily risk of being killed by the most deadly weapons on our roadways driven by impaired, untrained or unacceptable drivers. Or of killing a pedestrian who is ignoring the law and then probably spending a fortune to protect myself from some tort lawyer who demands an out of court settlement or face bankruptcy in defending myself from false charges.

I have always been a strong supporter of individual rights. However, this country must make sure you lose those rights when your actions kill and maim others. Many lawmakers are not afraid to pass all kinds of laws, many ridiculous to protect the individual rights of a few or many. What are they afraid to make judgments that would greatly reduce the largest “accidental” (and yes, some are really accidental) loss of life and limbs on the public roadways?

Some politicians and law enforcement management will say, “Ok, are you going to pay for this crackdown on the unnecessary loss of innocents?” My answer is, let those abusing the privileges granted them legally, pay the major part of the extra costs of the havoc they bring to other peoples lives including the bereaved. Raise the fines to pay for the extra costs needed to enforce existing laws and new laws needed to greatly reduce the carnage on our roadways. Greatly increased costs of enforcement of existing and new laws can be funded by greatly increased fines for those responsible for this ghastly carnage as a “pay as you kill or cause bodily harm to innocent people”.

If after all appropriate laws and greatly increased penalties are passed and enforced and individuals still want to risk the chance of killing only themselves or destroy their own property, they have the right to do so. When people say they can do whatever they want “because this is a free country” I don’t think they realize that true freedom comes with a lot of costs; cost that include personal responsibility.

When “free individuals” endanger or kill other people, we have laws that protect the innocent and we usually try to enforce them. We must enforce those laws on the books and add new laws to stop these “killing fields” on our roadways in the United States. These “killing fields” can become much smaller but only when we all, including those who attempt to lead us, become as concerned about these roadway deaths as we are about deaths of our security forces and support groups including contractors defending us from death and destruction from terrorist Muslims and other peoples and places of violence across the world.

The cost of all this havoc on our roadways is massive compared to the cost of supporting our security forces and their support teams in protecting our rights at home or abroad. One accident on a heavily traveled roadway can tie up thousands of people waiting for the wreckage to be cleared, put a tremendous demand on our law enforcement employees, our public legal staffs, our judges, our hospitals and emergency rooms, our doctors, increased insurance rates for safe drivers and the stress and anguish on all related to all parties involved in these disasters. These accidents put billions of dollars in the pockets attorneys trying to sort out the mess created by each “accident”.
I do understand real accidents happen and that we do need attorneys to settle disputes.

I’ve laid out the problem and solutions. I have personally driven over 1,600,000 miles in my lifetime without being involved in any accident deemed to be my fault. My greatest fear is to be stuck by another vehicle out of control but to date I have avoided all but one accident in which the other driver was given a ticket and but fortunately no one was injured. But I drive with a wary eye out for the out of control driver that too date has not yet caused bodily harm to me and only one of my nieces, killed many years ago at the age of 17 by a drunken driver.

I’d like some support for these facts and some pressure put on our lawmakers to react to this increasing terror on our roadways; greater even than crime when it comes of loss of innocent life.

Recycling Points of Reference in County

Some inquires have been made as to where to recycle plastics. Call 309-452-0064, Midwest Fiber at intersection of Rt. 6 and Mossville Rd. Hours are from 7:A>M – 2:30 Monday-Friday.

For electronic recycling call 309-682-0675 RFE, 401 NE Rock Island Ave. Peoria, Il. 61603.

Other questions about recycling, call Karen Raithel at Peoria County 672 - 6932

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is Peoria Phony, Too Compassionate, Too Politically Correct or Just Afraid?

I have a folder with approximately 75 articles clipped from various sources, recently adding “Effective parenting is a basic key to learning” clipped from the St. Petersburg Florida Times on 1/07/07 written by a Bill Maxwell. He writes “In Pinellas County, like so many other parts of the nation, black parents and the public school systems are locked in a virulent, protracted and phony debate about how to close the achievement gap between black and white children, black parents and their “phony” organizations (my interpretation) representing them and who are blaming the public schools for the poor performance of many black children. They are demanding the school system shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility. The school district Superintendent says that they his schools are unrealistically expected to solve a problem that no other district in the nation has been able to solve.” The old saying used to be “turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse”.

Mr. Maxwell, his title and position is not listed but his picture shows him to be a black, says he calls ‘the achievement gap debate “phony” primarily because black parents, many of them low-income single moms, have virtually absolved themselves of academic responsibility ( and all other responsibilities, I add) for their children’s poor performance in school. They also ignore the negative affects of non-school related factors, such as dysfunctional environments, poor nutrition and a lack of adult role models that harm their children.” In a news conference one local minister reiterated what has been said millions of times all across the county “If we are going to close the gap, we must first heal our families. Mr. Maxwell asks that people blaming the schools should read “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap.” He further states that all concerned should also read works of Doris Entwisle and Karl Alexander of John Hopkins University and performance studies conducted by Betty Hart and Todd Risley of the University of Kansas. Also they should know all they can about the KIPP program that has two simple rules, work hard and be nice. The feeling is that too many uniformed people have put themselves or been put in leadership positions.

A column in the N.Y. Times on August 8, 2006, written by Diana Jean Schemo, titled “It Takes More Than Schools to Close Achievement Gap” states that recent studies have forced educators and policy-makers to ask “What if the impediments to learning run so deep that they cannot be address by any particular kind of school or any set of in-school reforms? What if schools are not the answer?

Mr. Maxwell concludes “until the concerned blacks muster the courage to ask these questions, the debate about closing the achievement gap will remain a phony one and black children will continue to lag behind their white peers”. Also, I will add, behind their Asian, Indian and other kids of other races and colors.

On 2/08/07 Jennifer Davis writes “Peoria Council weighs parental law” and quotes Gerisa Eppinger, who spends her days helping troubled kid and families, “Peoria is not geared for low income people of any race, fix that first before you blame the parent. You never know what a parent has to go through until you’ve walked in their footsteps. They’re trying to work and put food on the table.” She believes the council is trying to put a quick fix to the problem by blaming the problem on the parent.

I don’t know Ms. Eppinger but she is only partially correct based on my experience as a parent, teacher, coach, business person, restaurant waiter, horse groomer, farm worker, politician, informed reader and volunteer. She lost me totally when she said “the city and the families would be better served if there were something for kids to do.”


I could list 100 things available to most all kids in the community starting with; how about helping around the house and developing a work ethic, tend a small garden, join 4-H or the scouts, read books, go to the parks, play tennis, baseball soccer, volleyball, run track or participate in any sports, art and dance classes area available, singing groups, music groups, go to church, volunteer, go the library, stay for after school programs, join Carver Center, Proctor Center, Boys and Girls Club, and I’m just getting started. The community offers poverty and below residents, relatively cost free programs by the dozens.

Every article I’ve read, every book I read put the parents at front and center to the problems, with truancy, crime, unmarried pregnancy (maybe hardest to control by parents) and dropouts not just in school but in life. Jerry Klein writes “kids without parenting are like running an unplugged computer”.

As to lack of jobs; hogwash again. Why force an employer to hire someone whose can't read, can’t communicate, can’t write a sentence, has a drug or jail record, lacks responsibility and dresses and make themselves up to look like space aliens? It is not the private sectors, nor the public sectors, to hire people who will bring the current worker down to the unqualified person’s level. There are jobs all over town being filled by people who try to get into this country by any means, legal or illegal, and do work any job available.

Crime, dropouts, truancy, lack of work ethic, lack of responsibility has always been tracked mainly to the lack of reasonable parenting. On previous blogs, I’ve addressed this problem many times. If a child is brought into this world by accident or intention, the people involved in the birth are responsible for the conduct of that kid until he or she is legal age. It is up to the community to do something about it if the parent can’t or won’t. And adoption in the United States should be made easier. My daughters experience was one she and her husband did not enjoy. They are enjoying the result but the effort was discouraging.

Schools could do more but because of certain educational requirements like endless testing of kids who should be in Vo-Tech classes, much of the product turned out or turned away by lack of understanding or lack of interest, is unacceptable in the work force. All kids are not born equal but all must be given equal opportunity. Good teachers know that all kids are not going where they or their parents think they are; to college and a cushy job. I am an advocate of equal opportunity and a 2nd chance but not an advocate of people who can go to school to learn but don’t and can work but don’t. I am an advocate of placing those who are not interested or can’t adjust to a standard education be given an opportunity in different fields of learning such as training for a fulfilling career that probably won’t be white collar. So what? Hanging out with the country club set isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Many schools across the country have made more adjustments to school and parental problems. Many adjustments seem to be hindered in Peoria, partly I believe, by fear of lawsuits, political correctness, intimidation and the worry about being called a “blue collar” town. Peoria Public Schools have a greater need to adjust than say Dunlap or Washington. We do many good things but are too politically correct to do all of what needs to be done.

One act has always worked for parents, schools and the community, when I was a kid, was “tough love”. Get as much Federal and State Government out of local education issues and ignore the whiners and the pacifists who want every parent who tries to show “tough love” to a kid, put in jail.

Promise Peoria and dozens of other programs in place and running with some success are small but important steps. Those public bodies in need must admit they need help and make transparent where and how they need help. This is a compassionate community but we need some of our citizens to take on more responsibility themselves or pay the price for their failures. It is past time to step up, not continue to back down. Let’s back more leaders who aren’t afraid that their actions will cost them the next election.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Peoria PlayHouse Private Donations

I note the article about the generous donation of $300,000.00 made by Glen and Polly Barton to the Peoria PlayHouse appeared in a four inch column on the 3rd page of the “B” Section of the JS. By comparison, the $500,000.00 pledged by Ameren/Cilco made front page headlines. The Ameren/Cilco pledge was made with your money; the Barton pledge was made with their money. Ameren/Cilco hinted publicly that they may have to cut back on charitable giving if they didn’t get their price hike.

Those giving their own money to worthy causes, should get a lot more praise than those who give away stockholder owned money and the money they collect from you thru increased user fees.

I hope the Peoria Playhouse becomes a source of joy for all kids who visit and the community supports it financially.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cynthia Enloe

You might find this lady to be an interesting read, especially my female readers. When you find her click on “Maneuvers”.

Robert Allan McCord (April 26,1920 - February 11, 2007)

I first met Bob McCord when I was seeking office space to open my business in 1964. Bob owned office space just around the corner from his company, Illinois Mutual Life Insurance Company, a site where the Civic Center, a development both he and I supported, now sits. I was fortunate to rent this space from Bob and hang out my shingle at 313 S.W. Jefferson. In an article in today’s JS, son Michael McCord, in praising his father, was quoted as saying “he was always reminding everybody to do what was right and what was fair.” Michael has assessed his Dad as he and I and other who dealt with Bob, correctly.

A short time after I signed a rental contract with Bob, I came to work to park in my allotted two cars space in the back of the building only to find a bright red sports car setting crosswise in my space. After inquiring around as to whom it might belong to and finding no owner, my employees and friends, proceeded to pick the car up and move it. About an hour later Bob and Michael stormed into my office and demanded to know what happened to Michael’s car. When I told Bob that my rental space included parking for two cars and someone had parked crosswise blocking both spaces, Bob looked at Michael. No further words were said and the McCord’s left my office. End of story.

But not quite. Over the years, his company became a very good customer of mine and Widmer’s bought our health insurance from Illinois Mutual. My relationship with Bob continued as he praised my work and interest in the community, even as late as last October, when I visited with Bob and Vicki at their lovely High Point home. Despite his deteriorating health, Bob and Vicki insisted that we converse about happenings in the community. Bob regretted not being able to get about and especially about no longer being able to go the Bradley basketball games.

Bob’s extensive obituary does not nearly cover all the community development accomplishments and happenings in which Bob played some type of leadership role. Back in 1999 and prior to the Promenade Shopping Mall financing proposal being presented to the City Council for approval, Bob sent me the following letter. “Dear Merle, After reading your letter (to the Editors) in the 11/28/99 Journal Star, I thought you would be interested in the enclosed letter which was sent to the Mayor, all Council members and the City Staff on 11/24/99.” Sincerely, Bob McCord.

This 11 page detailed document reviewed all the financial figuring that he figured were not accurately included by the Promenade promoters in the proposal to the City Council. He particularly pointed out that the document referred to the bond repayment to the city of $29,500,000.00 when the actual figure would be about $80,630,000.00. He pointed out that “The owner/or developer have repeatedly stated that the owner and/or developer “guarantee” the repayment of these bonds to the City. The agreement DOES NOT provide for any such “guaranty” at all.” He concluded that the actual cost to the taxpayers would have been almost 100 million dollars.

The night of the Council Meeting, I spoke against this project; Diane (then) Cullinan left her seat and the meeting. She has not spoken to me since except in 2000, she sent me a letter reminding me that my election margin “was not a mandate”. (People as outspoken as I seldom get large mandates but most of us do get elected.) The Council did have the wisdom to turn down Diane’s plea for taxpayer money and I remind the taxpayers that the “Promenade”; later named The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, somehow did get built with a minimal cost to the community.

If we had a dozen more community leaders like Mr. Robert Alan McCord, we might not be heading for the financial crises I foresee in the future. On my last visit with Bob, he expressed concern for the future of property tax payers in Peoria.

He will be greatly missed by this entire community.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Opening up Young Minds to Make Correct Decisions

As a follow-up of my too long blog on “Incentives to Learn”, I quote from an article appearing in the Science Journal titled “You Might Help a Teen Avoid Dumb Behavior by Nurturing Intuition”. The article is written by Sharon Begley who can be reached at She writes quoting Valerie Reyna of Cornell University “Deliberately weighing costs and benefits often encourage risky behavior. You have a better chance of getting thru to kids if you can get them to pick up, unconsciously, that a behavior is dangerous and intuitively avoid it”. Ms. Begley says “Social acceptance and the allure of rebellion right now outweigh the costs later. Even adults prefer immediate benefits to future ones. Teaching teens to assess risks accurately won’t decrease stupid behavior-they’re already pretty accurate at gauging the consequences. They just aren’t bothered by them. Young people are especially bad at resisting risk when they are with peers and when they make decisions on the spur of the moment. In these cases, the emotional brain hijacks the logical one. Risks area suppressed.”

That’s why so many kids drop out of school; they fail to recognize the risk of not having enough education and/or commit risky behaviors. Many are influenced greatly by their peers. Many parents have no idea of the character of the kids their kids associate with. I don’t believe my wife and I did but we had a lot of success and some failure with our three children, the youngest now 47.

This article mainly discusses why kids drive too fast, drink too much and doing their all to perpetuate the species. Adolescents believe danger bounces off them and they low-ball the chances that it will bring harmful consequences. This explanation implies that when teens do stupid things, it is for rational reasons. That’s the problem; “Adolescents don’t tend to underestimate the probability of major risks nor do they generally have feelings of invulnerability. That’s bad news for parents and schools.”

This brings me back to all our efforts to get kids to see things as we see them. They often don’t. Mature adults manage mostly to avoid risky behavior not because they are better at conscious deliberation, but because they intuitively grasp dangers. They don’t stop and deliberate on the costs and benefits of risky behaviors.

Maybe our approach to getting kids to learn is mostly wrong. Everybody, I believe wants their kids to stay in school, get good grades, go to college, avoid killing themselves in some ill advised risk, and want to keep them out of a group of 3,000,000,000 new cases of STDs that are diagnosed in U.S. adolescents each year. Maybe we are spending too much time looking at kids through our adult eyes; kids with still developing frontal brain lobes that don’t fully develop until the mid 20’s; looking at them thru adult brains.

Raising today’s generations of kids is kind of like playing the stock market. Some parents, and teachers, (stock buyers) know exactly what they are doing; they’ve done their part to raise kids successfully. Other parents and teachers haven’t got a clue how to teach and raise their kids (buy stocks that go down instead of up) and raising kids or buying stocks becomes like another gambling game, a crap shoot whether or not these parents and kids win or lose.

We need to get kids at an early age to grab the gist of something that they can manage. We need to drum into kid’s heads positive images of healthy and wise behaviors and negative images of risky behavior. The idea is to make the thought of risky behaviors to reflexively trigger a no-go decision.

The article concludes “All the evidence, as opposed to folk wisdom, says this is more likely to work than current tactics.”

Modifying Permit Denied

My blogs are too long for many of my readers. This blog will be short. I note the article on the PDC Landfill on 2/9/07 credited no reporter. JS reporter Molly Parker was present and appeared to be covering the meeting. The reporter that covers environment, Elaine Hopkins, is gone from the JS. Elaine, who appeared to write articles slanted in opposition to the application to expand, did a reasonable job in the years I’ve know her and I wish her well in the future. Molly Parker who sided with the no voters picked the wrong headline “Landfill Expansion Refused”. What the County Board did was deny a modification to its operating permit which Molly says PDC offered as a backup plan that would only be used if PDC is unsuccessful in reversing the boards siting decision now on appeal. This old news headline should have read “Modifying Permit Refused”. The application permitting expansion is probably a long way from over since 3 of the no voters are gone from the board and as far as I can determine none of the 6 yes voters have changed their position. Expect a long legal battle with costs borne by the taxpayer and all the special criteria offered by PDC off the table.

A few have criticized PDC for not offering these special criteria in their original application. The reason appears to be that PDC did not think the expansion created a hazard to the health of the communities involved. Evidently the Pleasant Valley Water District with deep wells adjacent to the landfill site did not believe the landfill to be a hazard to their water supply as I do not recall any protest from their board in any of the testimony submitted prior to the vote to deny.

For those of you who believed 700 doctors opposed this expansion thru spokesman Gary Zwicky should ask their doctors if they followed the testimony or visited PDC to see what PDC actually does. They do not accept anything and dump it in a hole in the ground as the most radical environmentalists would have you believe. Also read or reread Dr. Zwicky’ testimony which you can find on this site published on 4/13/06 and Dr. Smarts “letter to the editors” dated 4/5/06 also on this site.

The Coulter family who own PDC have stated they will give any group of people interested in see how they handle solid waste a tour. They have stated that Dr. Zwicky did NOT tour their operation but Dr. Smart did.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Incentives to get Educated

Peoria Promise, as detailed to me so far, is an incentive for parents who might not see any college planning in the future of their children. There are as usual a number of questions that will be posed before some people will contribute to the fund. I haven’t talked to the Mayor recently but I will and receive more details but I will ask a few questions and make a few comments on this site. Who will be included on the oversight committee? If a large number of students enroll in the system, the selection process must be by lottery if there is a no qualifying minimum high school grade point average. I suggest anyone with a too low GPA is not ready for college. Since the Mayor says preference will be given to longevity of attending schools in the area and Mr. Collier says middle class and lower middle class parents are the ones that need help in educating their kids, it may appear that those in poverty levels or below will be given no special preference.

I believe the private contributors will insist that those families and children receiving scholarships, be citizens of this country and have mastered the English language. My experience has been that the oversight committee must be independent of any school of higher education these kids might attend. Committee members should not be selected from any school board and that none be administrators or staff of any school and those who do the selecting of who will receive scholarships do not have any kids that might be eligible. Members of the educational community should act as advisors; since this effort will be privately funded, the oversight committee should come from the private sector.

Over dozens of years, many ideas have been presented by the community to educators as to how to make our school programs more appealing to those who do not understand they need a good education to earn the good wages; wages they believe by some misguided thought process they feel they should be entitled to earn. The presentation of more Vo/Tech training and on the job training as shown in today’s WSJ titled “Playing at Professions” Job Theme Park for Children is a Huge Success in Japan”. The theme park called Kidzania can accommodate 3,000 children a day and is hugely successful. The importance of job preparation is stressed as one teacher said “otherwise, children would tend to choose the easy jobs.” The park was created because many young people lack the diligent work ethic and more young people are dropping out of jobs and many not even looking for them. About 640,000 single Japanese between the ages of 15 and 34 are neither at work nor at school.

Much dismay has been expressed as to why parents aren’t more involved in making public school systems more effective. There are about as many reasons why parents aren’t as there are reasons why many parents are. Many programs have been tried to get parents more involved in the good guidance of their children including one being designed by members of the City Council such as detailed in an article titled “Parental Responsibility Law on the Drawing Board” written by Jennifer Davis in the JS on 2/1/07. Articles have appeared quoting District #150 and the County Health Department stating that “we can’t raise and educate kids alone” and that the whole community must be more participatory. Hundreds of solutions and possible solution have been brought before the public in hundreds of books, news media and the spoken word. Many pockets of success are documented to be copied. I understand Peoria Promise is going to be tailored after a successful program in Kalamazoo, Michigan that was started in 2005.

What communities are realizing is that we must show kids incentives that they can understand to get them thru at least high school and some college time. However, it would be a serious mistake just to send kids to college before they are ready to accept the responsibility of applying themselves to the opportunities presented. It would be another mistake if these kids aren’t counseled as to what fields have the greatest need for educated graduates. It would be a mistake to make kids believe that since they are rewarded with a college degree they will all be “Chiefs and no Indians” a quote by Garrison Keillor’s in one of his recent books. It would be a mistake to let kids believe that just because they have a college degree, they are entitled to high paying white collar jobs.

When kids graduate from college, they must understand that their degree gave them a hunting license to get a financially adequate, community contributory and personally satisfactory job.

Also, on 2/1/07 and article appeared in the WSJ titled “Keeping up with the Chavez’s” written by Francis Fukuyama, Professor of International Economy at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies among other titles. The article states that there has been little new thinking in the U.S. on social policies for the poor. Part of the problem is that while social policy is popular, it has many pitfalls. Public social policies have a tendency to become entrenched entitlements controlled by teachers unions whose main interests are protecting the interests of adults in the system rather than the children. But other countries with a populist bent have tried to design educational programs that take incentives into account from the get-go. The Mexican Progresa Program pays poor people a stipend on the condition that they send their children to school, recognizing the fact that many poor families see greater benefit in putting their children to work rather than educating them. Studies document that Progresa has raised school attendance dramatically. Early success caused the program to be expanded broadly but long term educational outcomes are less certain.

Yet, the success of Progresa has led to its being copied by other parts of Latin America where the Bolsa Familia reaches some 15 million poor in Brazil and appears to have had an actual impact in lowering that country’s income inequality; Brazil’s inequality being one of the highest in the world. What has allowed people like Venezuela’s Chavez to win over the vote are policies similar to Progresa and Bolsa Families and their ability to promise, and to a certain extent, deliver on social policy—things like education and health and other social services particularly for the poor.

Most born in this community realized at some point in our early lives that we had to learn to read well, write well and speak well to avoid living in poverty.. The overwhelming majority of us accomplished these attributes thru our educational systems and our paying attention to what was going on around us and being sure those we mainly associated with were on the same upward mobility track on which we were trying to stay. We recognized incentives more easily than did many of the uneducated, middle class or poor. For those of us who made reasonable successes of our live, more thanks is owed to our parents, no matter what was, or is, their income or position in their community. Most of us never realized or appreciated our parental, school and community guidance in our in early lives. To have parents who did guide us and offer us incentives such as, “if you want to live here with us in OUR HOUSE and enjoy what we do have”; that was incentive enough to get us out of bed, go to school, pay attention while there and develop a work and responsibility ethic.

I have written dozens of articles on the successes and failures of the public school system. One article you may want to read was published on this site on 4/24/05 and titled “School Daze”. Another is titled “The Educational Battleground” published 11/20/05. Another blog is about a partial solution for the truancy problem dated March 26, 2005.

I wish the community and the Mayor success in this venture and realize it is another beginning. We need to create incentives that “kids can understand” (just because we do, doesn’t mean, they do) as to why they need to take advantage of what I believe to be the best overall educational system in the world. We need to get the best teachers we can get and pay them on a “performance” basis, the same as the private sector does with their non-union employees, and some performance pay with even union assistance. I refer you to my blog dated 10/21/05 “Incentive Pay for Teachers” and my blog dated 12/13/05 “Linking Pay to Performance”.

Thank you for reading me and I will appreciate your comments.