Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stephanie is Back Performing in the Area

Say, you stalwart downstate music enthusiasts,
We've done it. We've made it nearly all the way thru winter and how can you not want to celebrate?!?!?!?!?! Amazingly enough, April is hitting town on Thursday - along with yours truly. Come and make juvenile jokes with us on Thursday, April 1 at Basta O'Neill's from 6 - 9pm. The band is the always-fabulous and kind Larry Harms Trio, of course, and the weather report calls for highs in the 70s. You are going to feel so good that you'll just have to come out and play! The weather also looks good for our gig on Friday, April 2 at the Contemporary Art Center from 5:30 - 7:30. This is a TON of fun; you bring your own tasty food and drinks and enjoy live music in a fun and funky, arty venue. We love it upstairs on Water Street! Join Larry, Cory Flanigan, Mike Nellas, and me on Friday or on Saturday, April 3 at Swinger's Bar and Grill in Normal from 8 - 11pm (it's on Cross Creek Drive, in the All Seasons Entertainment Center). You provide yourselves, some friends, and your appetites, Swinger's provides the food and drink, and we will provide the swing. And is there anything else you really need?!
Happy Spring, everyone! Hope to see you this weekend.
as always, if you do not wish to receive this email, simply hit reply and put Remove in the subject line

Monday, March 29, 2010

Busey Bank Files Against Globe Energy

On March 22, 2010, Busey Bank filed Judgment orders against Globe Energy Eco-System LLC, David M. Jones and Joan Jones, totaling $7,938,676.81 with attorney fees reserved.

Globe Energy owes Peoria County $128,155.38 currently. Recovery chances for Peoria County. I believe we will be at the end of the line????

Bad bets by the EDC who recommends these companies to the county, recently include In_PLay, River Station and FireFly and now, apparently Globe. County financial advisers included County Treasurer, Tripp O'Connor who, if you recall said, "I do not forsee a risk", when advising the County Board on guaranteeing City Nationals approximately $7 million loan to FireFly now in apparent default.

As I have advised the board many times and the record will so state that we should not be in the lending business with taxpayer money even if the money comes from the state.

We should not be loan officers because we are not qualified and some board members cannot read a financial statement. One reason the board apparently feels give validity to the loan if because there is a bank involved and sometimes the government. If the loan goes bad, the county generally stand last to get what left.

If any.

Congressman Aaron Schock - Health Care Bill's Tax Impact

The U.S, is apparently heading down the same path as the U.K.; now basically a social democratic country in which U.K. voters (In the U.S. 39% favored ObamaCare vs. 30% a short while ago), are mainly interested in government services, environmental virtue and "free" medical care service. Now the U.S. is headed in the same direction courtesy of most of the Democrats supporting ObamaCare.

Merle Widmer

From: Congressman Aaron Schock [mailto:rep.schock@mail.house.gov]
Sent: Friday, March 26, 2010 10:10 AM
To: Scott Sorrel
Subject: The Schock Report - Health Care Bill's Tax Impact


Dear Friend:

This week the House passed a mammoth, $1.2 trillion health care package which spends $940 billion in coverage subsidies, $144.2 billion in additional mandatory spending, $70 billion in discretionary spending and $41.6 billion in unrelated education spending.

This bill is essentially the largest tax increase in American history. Below is more information on the impact this bill will have on families, individuals and small businesses.

Increases Financial Burden on Families & Individuals
There are 12 new tax increases in the bill that increase taxes for families making less than t$250,000 a year. There is an overall tax increase of $569.2 billion nationwide over the first 10 years and Illinois' share of increased taxes are $23.9 billion.

Individual Mandate Tax

Taxpayers who fail to prove to the IRS that they had "maintained essential coverage" during each month of the year would have to pay a new IMT when they file their federal income tax returns.
For 2016, the IMT would equal the greater of: $750 per person (up to a maximum of $2,250 per household) or 2 percent of household income.
Medicare Payroll Tax

Expands the Medicare payroll tax an additional 0.9 percent - for the first time in history - to all investment income for individuals with incomes over $200,000 and families with incomes over $250,000.
Because the underlying Senate bill does NOT index this new tax for inflation, more and more middle-class American families will be hit by this tax over time, just like the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).
Capital Gains Tax

Includes a new 3.8 percent tax on "unearned income" of people who have adjusted growth income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families. (This includes interest, dividends, passive business income and capital gains).
This adds up to $210.2 billion in total new taxes. This new tax rate would raise top income tax rates on capital gains and dividends from 15 percent to 23.8 percent by 2013.
Increases Premium Costs

Insurance premiums will increase on average by 10 to 13 percent in the individual market, affecting over 612,000 people in Illinois.
In Illinois the average annual individual market premium is $2,499 for a single person.
Individuals in Illinois will see an additional $150 to $325 dollar increase in their monthly premium or an additional $1,800 to $3,899 increase annually.
Impact on Small Businesses
The health care bill imposes $52 billion in new taxes on employers who cannot afford to pay their employees health care, imposed at a time when unemployment is 9.7 percent.

Employer Mandate

$2,000 tax on employers and businesses, with more than 50 employees, that cannot afford to provide their workers with health coverage
In Illinois, there are approximately 21,684 firms with 50 to 499 employees.
Applies these taxes to part-time as well as full-time workers. As if these higher taxes were not enough of a disincentive to prevent firms from hiring workers, the reconciliation bill also includes an unprecedented extension of the Medicare tax to all non-wage income. These tax increases will raise the top marginal rate on small business owners by 20 percent.
Large employers that offer coverage and have employees that receive a premium tax credit will pay penalties of $3,000 per employee receiving a premium credit.
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

"A Fanatic God"

We have spent many lives and years trying to bring freedom to parts of the Middle East without most of us not fully understanding that the terrorist fanatics believe they are doing the will of a "fanatic" God. It doesn't matter if he/she is a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. As has often been written and demonstrated, a traditional Muslim can end up DOING the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God.

I have always opined that the problem is not with the Muslim people as an ethnic group, but with their fanatic God. They need to be liberated from this God. He is their biggest enemy and Muslims have been lied to for almost a century and a half. (As quoted by a terrorist named Yousef, his current name and supposedly worked for both sides, who is now in our custody).

The wars we have been fighting recently are ideological wars. Using a largely mistaken interpretation of history, fanatical war lords and terrorists will never live peacefully with peace seeking people. We must be aware in our country, as they are in Europe, perhaps coming too late, that fundamentalists of any ilk, are not likely to be peace loving neighbors unless they have control.

Complete control and that is what we had all better be worried about. It should be no secret that the reason we have had so few terrorist acts in the U.S. since 9/11, is not only because of our increased security, but because our enemies are winning without committing overt acts of violence.

They have an ideology that is probably going to prove they can wait us out. Since they are all going to sit at Allah's right hand with a bevy of Virgins, (what happens to the women who are not virgins, or just women, is not mentioned by these fundamentalists) they can leave this terrestrial domain believing that their offspring, of which there are many, will complete the crusade in which they are now involved.

Negative Attitudes and Myths Hinder Welfare

So writes Fredrick J. Streets, Professor in Pastoral Counseling at Yeshiva University, N.Y. Dr. Streets writes, "There needs to be a new collaboration and conversation among religious, political and social welfare leaders that addresses the negative attitudes and myths that hinder our social welfare system from reflecting the best of our vision of being a democratic society and nation.

Religious people, in serving the poor, demonstrate aspects and values of their faith. This may inspire those they help to adopt their faith orientation. The main objective is for religious people to help those in need.

Justice also require that compassionate people deal with the policies and structural ways which contribute to the causes and conditions that put people at risk or in peril."

No, Dr. Street, this nation has not done a very good job of tackling the "causes and conditions". Compassion, coming from religious people or not, is not enough. What can be done about causes and conditions often times fail to enter into the equation. It is easier to support those in need with money without concern as to how that money is used. Too many compassionate people are not concerned with correction; they want or give money to solve the immediate problems. Some would be shocked to know how some of their money is used. Like new hires, new offices, new furniture, etc.

Haiti is a good example. I send money to "Doctors Without Borders" where they will use the money with less fear of corruption or the money falling into the hands of those who are corrupt in the Haiti government.

Trust? I do not trust the Haitian government nor even the U.N. I know in fact that the corrupt government of Haiti has wasted millions of donated dollars and wasted much food and equipment as disorder reigned and still does, in this unfortunate country.

"Trust is Missing"

So wrote Paul Johnson, eminent British historian and author, "We do not trust--and with good reason--either our elected leaders or the corporate elite who constitute the top echelons of society. Seldom in modern history has the lack of trust, now verging on contempt, been so deep, so universal and comprehensive.

At the very top we have a sad bunch of flawed mediocrities, Obama, Merkel, Sarkosky, Brown, and Berlusconi not to mention Ortega, Chavez, Castro on dozens of others of their ilk.

Now, as the theory of man-made global warming unravels, scientists are suddenly (probably not suddenly, my comment) and devastatingly revealed as fallible mendacious, self-seeking, criminally secretive, furtively trying to hide their errors, debasing the system of peer review of scientific papers and conspiring to conceal the truth from once highly respected professional publications.

The center has not held. More devastating, in a sense, is the loss of trust in entire categories of people who once formed bastions of integrity at the heart of society."

Other than listing failed world leader; he quoted Disraeli in describing our president , " A sophisticated rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity", Mr. Johnson is talking about the sad situation in Britain. But he could be talking about Peoria where our leadership has become lest trustworthy in that "are they telling the truth or embellishing it to fit their own agenda, special interests or lack of history, past and even present history of the last decade".

On 8/06/04, one of my first blogs was titled "Conceptions, Misconceptions, Perceptions, Truths and Subtle Lies". On 5/19/05, I blogged "Blind
Beliefs", and on 5/23/09, I blogged "The Search for Truth". These, along with 1100 plus blogs can be found on my archive sidebars.

Let the thinking reader be the judge of what is going on in this country when 75% of students are cheating in the school according to a survey taken by Rutgers' Management Education Center in New Jersey. This sad situation was reported by ABC New, Friday, February 29, 2008. A survey taken in 2006, showed 60% of students admitted cheating on a test. Source - Michael Crowley at outrageous@rd.com

Government leads the way for all to cheat. NCLB led to inflated scores by some teachers, lying about the use of illegal drugs use led to drug testing, getting elected caused outrageous lies as committed by Clinton, Bush, Balgo, Obama plus locals such as a recent local #150 school board member and some current legislators in Springfield.

Mr. Johnson is correct and most of us know that lying often becomes a part of who we are and what will eventually be the fate of this great country.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Deleted Blog

My blog taken from a friends email to me along with 40 others is apparently using false figures on health care comparisons. However, the majority of opinions I receive and data I've collected definitely indicates that ObamaCare is a major mistake for the vast majority of people. I suggest reading the Wall Street Journal today especially page A13, an interview with Gary Becker, a founder, along with Milton Friedman, of the Chicago school of economics.

I have always been concerned that those with their hands out to government and have goodies placed in those hands, will always support the party that makes these handouts, no matter what else the person or party stands for or does that is detrimental to our country.

Sorry, but I work alone. No secretary, no researcher or English teacher. Of almost 1200 blogs I've written, I was bound to make some mistakes.

That being said, I would like to know of other surveys on U.S. health care comparisons including costs, quality of service, wait time, etc., with other countries. I have heard of horror stories, some locally, one story yet to be told, many of them involving individuals and not necessarily the intent of the provider.

Thanks, Mike Madigan, for pointing out my apparent error.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama's and the Powerful Unions Card Check Bill

As you recall, the "card check" bill to end the secret ballot in union elections is on hold because many common sense Democrats realize that this would be dangerous to the private sector; need I remind anyone that it is the profits earned in the private sector that fund most government in this country; dangerous, also, to their re-elections.

Quoting from the WSJ, 3/9/10, "in a novel variation on pay to play, Obama is planning to force companies to raise pay and benefits for workers if they want continued access to federal contracts. Waiting to cash in on the impending Executive Order are unions that would end up with a (greater) piece of the government's $500 billion in annual contracts. The government can't steer contracts directly to unions." (non-profits funded mainly by taxpayer dollars can, the Peoria Riverfront Museum will be a good example)

"This Executive Order is being drawn by Joe Biden's Middle Class Task Force. It would oblige government procurement agencies to give contracts to "responsible contractors" who pay well and offer higher health benefits, pensions, sick leave and other benefits."

Sound somewhat similar to the new County Asphalt Ordnance drawn up by County Administration and approved by all but one of the Democrat majority on the County Board.

Obama and his administration's, the same as Peoria County should be doing, main goal is to find the best services provider at the best prices. Procurement agencies are not to be agents of social engineering.

Sorry, but they are. Watch for a lot more that has already been maneuvered by Obama and his administration and is underway at a rapid pace as I write. This move to expand the control of businesses by the government, would also include right-to-works states where other efforts are underway by Obama to weaken the positions of right-to-work states.

Debt? You haven't seen anything yet here in Peoria County and the nation as a whole whose triple A bond rating is in jeopardy.

Illegals and Current Unemployment - Political Influence

Copied from and email sent to me.


How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico



By John Dillin / July 6, 2006

George W. Bush isn't the first Republican president to face a full-blown immigration crisis on the US-Mexican border.

Fifty-seven years ago, when newly elected Dwight Eisenhower moved into the White House, America's southern frontier was as porous as a spaghetti sieve. As many as 3 million illegal migrants had walked and waded northward over a period of several years for jobs in California, Arizona, Texas, and points beyond.

President Eisenhower cut off this illegal traffic. He did it quickly and decisively with only 1,075 United States Border Patrol agents – less than one-tenth of today's force. The operation is still highly praised among veterans of the Border Patrol.

Although there is little to no record of this operation in Ike's official papers, one piece of historic evidence indicates how he felt. In 1951, Ike wrote a letter to Sen. William Fulbright (D) of Arkansas. The senator had just proposed that a special commission be created by Congress to examine unethical conduct by government officials who accepted gifts and favors in exchange for special treatment of private individuals.

General Eisenhower, who was gearing up for his run for the presidency, said "Amen" to Senator Fulbright's proposal. He then quoted a report in The New York Times, highlighting one paragraph that said: "The rise in illegal border-crossing by Mexican 'wetbacks' to a current rate of more than 1,000,000 cases a year has been accompanied by a curious relaxation in ethical standards extending all the way from the farmer-exploiters of this contraband labor to the highest levels of the Federal Government."

Years later, the late Herbert Brownell Jr., Eisenhower's first attorney general, said in an interview with this writer that the president had a sense of urgency about illegal immigration when he took office.

America "was faced with a breakdown in law enforcement on a very large scale," Mr. Brownell said. "When I say large scale, I mean hundreds of thousands were coming in from Mexico [every year] without restraint."

Although an on-and-off guest-worker program for Mexicans was operating at the time, farmers and ranchers in the Southwest had become dependent on an additional low-cost, docile, illegal labor force of up to 3 million, mostly Mexican, laborers.

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, published by the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas State Historical Association, this illegal workforce had a severe impact on the wages of ordinary working Americans. The Handbook Online reports that a study by the President's Commission on Migratory Labor in Texas in 1950 found that cotton growers in the Rio Grande Valley, where most illegal aliens in Texas worked, paid wages that were "approximately half" the farm wages paid elsewhere in the state.

Profits from illegal labor led to the kind of corruption that apparently worried Eisenhower. Joseph White, a retired 21-year veteran of the Border Patrol, says that in the early 1950s, some senior US officials overseeing immigration enforcement "had friends among the ranchers," and agents "did not dare" arrest their illegal workers.

Walt Edwards, who joined the Border Patrol in 1951, tells a similar story. He says: "When we caught illegal aliens on farms and ranches, the farmer or rancher would often call and complain [to officials in El Paso]. And depending on how politically connected they were, there would be political intervention. That is how we got into this mess we are in now."

Bill Chambers, who worked for a combined 33 years for the Border Patrol and the then-called US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), says politically powerful people are still fueling the flow of illegals.

During the 1950s, however, this "Good Old Boy" system changed under Eisenhower – if only for about 10 years.

In 1954, Ike appointed retired Gen. Joseph "Jumpin' Joe" Swing, a former West Point classmate and veteran of the 101st Airborne, as the new INS commissioner.

Influential politicians, including Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D) of Texas and Sen. Pat McCarran (D) of Nevada, favored open borders, and were dead set against strong border enforcement, Brownell said. But General Swing's close connections to the president shielded him – and the Border Patrol – from meddling by powerful political and corporate interests.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fox News - Obama Report

Passed on to me by a friend. Fox News on TV is the best station to watch if you really want facts on what is going on openly or behind closed doors in our country.

No, this will not be about Tiger which you can find along with news on Natalie, Caylee, Mary Lee or Georgia Brown, all of which you can find on CNN.

Merle Widmer

This Coming Sunday March 28th --
Watch or set your DVR for Fox News--
Sunday at 9:00 pm eastern.

Correction: I typed the 21st. It is on the 28th and a big thanks to Mike Radigan who called attention to my error.

About Obama's Past

Maybe this is why the White House has been discounting FOX. Sounds like this could be history in the making - someone may go down - either Obama or Fox News. It may be that Fox has been holding this information back due to the sensitivity of it and out of courtesy. But, Obama has taken on Fox and it appears that Fox is ready to spill the ugly beans of truth about the background of this individual who has had an extremely radical past.

This Sunday Fox news, is going to air a very important documentary about Barack Obama, Sunday night at 9 P M Eastern. The report will go back to Obama's earlier days, showing even then his close ties to radical Marxist professors, friends, spiritual advisers, etc. It will also reveal details about his ties to Rev. Wright for 20+ years, i.e., how he was participating with this man, and not for the reasons he stated. The report has uncovered more of Obama's radical past and we will see things that no one in the media is willing to put out there. It will be a segment to remember.

Mark your calendar and pass this on to everyone you know: Sunday night, 8 PM CT; 9 PM ET. Democrat or Republican, this report will open your eyes to how YOUR country is being sold down the road to totalitarian socialism. If you care about the direction of our country, pass this notice on to everyone you know

Where Were You When the Republic Died?

Forwarded to me by email.

Is this the best answer the Democrats can come up with? With all the blatant funmneling of Federal dollars to an "old" or new breed of "me now" elected representatives and union bosses?

Probably not but at least there will be more elections.

Merle Widmer

March 22, 2010

By Matt Patterson

In November 2008, Americans elected a socialist as their president. In March 2010, they woke up stunned to find themselves living in a socialist country.

Health insurers -- once private companies -- are now organs of the federal government. Every citizen is a ward of the state, which can now compel you to have insurance, punish you if you don't; determine if your insurance is acceptable, punish you if it isn't. Thousands of new federal bureaucrats will soon spill from the D.C. Beltway and flood the country, scrutinizing our finances to verify compliance with this new law.

A government that grants itself this kind of power over us can conceivably do anything to us. For our own good, of course. Such a country is in no meaningful sense "free."

And this is only the beginning. Liberals are salivating in contemplation of all the fanciful window trimmings that can in the future be hung from this legislative framework. Public option will soon appear as prelude to single payer, as was the intent all along. Soon, Americans won't even have the illusion of a choice -- the government will move from subsidizer to provider, and it will be the only game in town.

So what's next? Some look to the states as possible saviors. Please. The states long ago surrendered their sovereignty, and they are now junkies on federal monies, which they need for schools, roads, Medicaid, and much else. If the citizens are now wards of the federal government, then the states long since preceded them in that sorry servitude.

The individual? What are we going to do, not pay the taxes to support this beast? Oh, they'll take that from you before you ever get your check; we gave them that power to them long ago, remember. March on Washington, en masse? Lot of good that's done thus far.

The Republicans? Assuming the GOP can take back both houses of Congress and the White House in the next couple of elections (by no means a sure thing), can you name one gigantic entitlement enacted by liberals that Republicans have successfully repealed? Or even made serious effort to repeal? Ever? Anyone?

The Courts? Sure, maybe Obamacare will work its way through the courts, and maybe the Supreme Court will finally take up the case (there is no guarantee of that, remember), and maybe the Court will not have tilted left by then, and maybe the Justices will declare it unconstitutional. Then what? Who will enforce this decision? Obamacare is already unconstitutional on its face, and yet it is the law of the land. Do you think the Democrats will say, "Oh, all-right, never mind," and cheerfully strike it from the books after their successful five-decades-long crusade?

And even if a court challenge is eventually successful, how much of the bureaucracy will by then already be in place, how many of the thousands of new regulations already in effect, how much of the billions in new taxes and fines collected, how many jobs killed, how many middle class families addicted to the entitlement?

There's a reason why Democrats were desperate to ram this through at any cost -- once enacted, such things are all but perpetual. Former freedom-loving peoples begin to tell themselves that it's really not so bad. Sure, government is forcing you to eat state-approved gruel, but hey, at least they hold the spoon, and they even pour a little sugar on top when you're good.

The worst part of watching the proceedings unfold on Sunday was the endless stream of commentators and pundits calmly discussing this bill as if it were just one more piece of bad legislation that we will have to live under. In fact, what has transpired is nothing less than an overthrow of the old Constitutional order.

In 1776, the American Republic boldly announced its birth with the Declaration of Independence. In 2010, it quietly expired with a declaration of dependence -- on government, on entitlement, and on the Democratic party.

Matt Patterson is a National Review Institute Washington Fellow and the author of Union of Hearts: The Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge Story. His e-mail is mpatterson.column@gmail.com.

Public School Teachers Tenure - Protects all, Effective or Not Effective

This email about actions intended to break some the powerful hold that unions have over the public school system the so long, was forwarded to me by Dr. Jerry Becker. Pending legislation in Florida will be like a breath of fresh air if this bill passes. The Governor says he will sign the bill.

From a JS article, on 12/05/05, titled "Study: Tenure means job security - Illinois teachers rarely fired." Stating that "out of 95,000 tenured teachers employed in the state, only 7% of the states 876 school SYSTEMS have attempted to fire a tenured teacher since the mid-1980's. Many larger school districts like Peoria #150 had not fired a tenured teacher in 18 years, the study showed. The unions say so few are fired because there is no need to fire them."

"Only 2 teachers per year out of this 95,000 are fired for poor performance. Another 5per year are fired for misconduct." Tenure means more than job protection; it means that teachers are promoted over the Peter Principle or beyond their ability. Also, usually, newer, younger or better teachers are laid off while older teachers continue to safely hold their tenured positions and promoted over the more qualified.

I support the private sector that usually does not promote on tenure and does fire workers, I also believe that more than test scores should enter into the teacher evaluation equation.

By all means, the public school system needs re-arranged from the board, to the kids and parents and the community. Breaking the lawmakers and the union hold on tenure would be just a strong beginning.

Merle Widmer

"Florida Senate kills teacher tenure employment and pay system; raises tied to student success on tests."

By Josh Hafenbrack

TALLAHASSEE - In a major shift, the salaries of Florida's 167,000 teachers could soon be tied to student test scores, rather than seniority and education level.

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a controversial bill by a 21-17 vote to dismantle teacher tenure, a decades-old system in which educators' pay is based on years of experience and whether they earn upper-level degrees.

New teachers hired after July 1 would work on one-year contracts and face dismissal if their students did not show learning gains on end-of-year exams for two years in any five-year period. For them, job security would be based soley on two factors: standardized scores and job reviews by principals. Existing teachers would have future pay raises tied to student scores and reviews but would keep their current job security.

"It takes a sledgehammer to the teaching profession," Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said Wednesday.

Bill sponsor Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said the bill means teachers who earn high marks will get higher salaries and it "will help put a good teacher in every single classroom."

Despite President Obama pushing merit pay on the federal level, Florida Senate Democrats were unified against the proposal -- and joined by four Republicans in opposition. Still, Republicans, who have a 26-14 majority in the state Senate, had a comfortable margin to push the bill through, which now must be considered by the Republican-controlled House.

Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, indicated he likely would sign the bill into law if it passes the Legislature, as expected.

"Generally, I support that," he said Tuesday. "That's how it is for most of us -- you do well, you keep your job. It seems to me that wouldn't be a bad idea in the area of education, too."

Kevin McDonald, an English teacher at Royal Palm Beach High School, said the proposal has been a topic of conversation and angst at his school.

"Let me ask you: With all the accountability measures being heaped on teachers, what about the parents?" said McDonald, 38, a teacher for eight years. "The best teacher in the world will not see terrific gains if there's hell going on at home."

Based on student test scores and principal reviews, teachers would be ranked in four categories: unsatisfactory, needs improvement, effective and very effective. Beginning in 2014, new teachers hired after this July would have to score "effective" or "highly effective" for four of five years to keep their jobs. Current teachers would need high student scores to get pay raises.

Teachers unions are up in arms about the proposal. Robert Dow, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, called the new pay plan "draconian and devastating to public education in Florida." The union, he said, has been urging members to tell legislators the bill is "wildly misdirected, cowardly, punitive and vengeful."

Republicans appear unbowed. Thrasher, who doubles as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said the overhaul is about devising a system that eliminates bad teachers and pays good ones.

"Tenure rewards ineffective people. That's the bottom line," Thrasher said. "We have no way of rewarding good people today and that's what our bill goes to."
Staff Writer Marc Freeman contributed to this story.
Josh Hafenbrack can be reached at jhafenbrack@SunSentinel.com or 850-224-6214.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu

Comments on my Blog Site

My blog site is again open. Serious and factual comments are welcome. Argumentative and personal attacks will be deleted.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Charging Ahead - The Battery

"The Battery" is a book written by Henry Schlesinger describing the history of battery development over the past approximately 250 years. "According to some experts, the battery industry is close to the end of the line of usable materials." Batteries have come a long way and their has been a lot of wishful thinking. But Schlesinger concludes, "But it would be a big mistake to think we are poised on the verge of another big breakthrough just because we desperately need one."

Not to worry, with elected officials using your money and their hype, a breakthrough will possibly happen.


Elected Officials Using Your Money to Make Venture Capital Risks

Here is what regional President Doug Stewart of National City Bank SAID when asked to lend $6 million to Firely back in 2007, "Banks generally do not make this type of loan risk on companies still in the early stages of development." Here is what Dave Leitch, V-P of the same bank said at the same time while passing on the risk to the taxpayers of Peoria City and County, "This will be a movement we can all look back on and say, 'wow'."

Say wow, Dave.

We know that Ed Williams, CEO contributed $1800 to one of Ray LaHood's campaigns when LaHood was on the Appropriations Committee in D.C. Wonder how many other FireFly connected individuals made financial contributions to elected officials in Springfield and Washington, or locally? FireFly was the recipient of many millions of dollars of taxpayer money courtesy of our elected officials.

You know, those who take large amounts of tax money from Peoria and dribble it back at 50 cents on the dollar, usually to special interests or special interest individuals who can afford to make substantial contributions to their campaigns.

On 3/23/05, State Treasurer, Judy Baar Topinka, announced that that the State of Illinois would invest $7.5 million in three Illinois venture capital funds as part of the first allocations of a $50 million dollar venture capital fund.

In olden days, before the country is on the verge of bankruptcy, it was PRIVATE investors who took those risk as they could AFFORD to take those risks. It was THEIR money, not yours.

And we are angry because businesses are moving out of Illinois and the state is billions of dollars behind in paying their bills and the state also may be on the verge of bankruptcy??

Comments on my Blogs

You can still make your comments on my blogs by sending them to me by email. If you don't know my email # call me as I am in the phone book. I can print your email exactly as worded to my blog site.

Abuse of the comment privilege by a few caused me to block comments that go directly to my site.

Thanks to those who make contributions or point out corrections to me.

Obama and the Unions

I thought this comment on 3/23/10, in the WSJ, was worthy of a total reprint. "It's no joking matter, not all members join unions voluntarily," by Don Crockett of Oakland, Calif. Mr. Crockett wrote, "Lynn Rhinehart (AFL-CIO general counsel) must also have a keen sense of humor" (Letter, March 18). She states that "union members....voluntarily joined (their unions) in the first place." The fact is, there are only 22 right-to-work states left where workers CANNOT be forced to join their workers union. (My comment: President Obama is working to force union membership on right-to-work states even as I write this blog)

Secondly, she states that " represented nonmembers already can opt out of financing union political and legislative activity." This indeed was confirmed in the 1988 "Beck" decision, and Executive Order 13201 required federal contractors to post workplace notices of this right. However, President Obama, flanked by big labor representatives, REVOKED this notification requirement soon after assuming office.

Why would big labor and President Obama not want union members to know of their rights to opt out of conscripted political contributions to a party or candidate they might not support? Hint: The AFL-CIO spent $53 million in 2008 to help elect President Obama. If "unions give voice to workers" per Ms. Rhinehart, It appears that the VOICE is to the Democratic Party only."

As I've written before, unions are losing ground rapidly in the private sector and gaining ground rapidly with employees in the public sector. President Obama has been paying back these "special interests" is many ways that slide under the the radar of the ordinary citizen. Hopefully many will wake up in 2012 and be wide awake when elections are held in 2014.

Obama is creating thousands of new federal workers (watch the new health bill create government jobs)that he knows will support him come election time if they realize where their "bread is buttered".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Help Improve Teachers - Firing Should be a last Resort

One of Jerry Becker's better letters. Should be read and pondered by all concerned with education.


Work with teachers, don't fire them

By Esther Wojcicki, Special to CNN


* Rhode Island school district fired teachers at a failing school
* Teacher Esther Wojcicki says that's not the answer to poorly performing schools
* She says parents, administrators need to share blame, help solve problem
* "No teacher can effectively educate a child without support from the parents," she says

(CNN) -- Little Rhode Island made big news in the education arena last month. Superintendent Frances Gallo fired all the teachers at Central Falls High School after negotiations with the teachers' union failed.

The move was triggered by low test scores -- only 7 percent of 11th-graders passed the state math tests, and 50 percent of the students at Central Falls failed to graduate in four years. Appalling numbers. Gallo wanted teachers to increase the length of the school day and spend time tutoring kids. The teachers' union was not convinced.

Even President Obama got involved and supported the firing, saying, "If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."

Yes, accountability is right, but who is supposed to be accountable for this massive failure to learn? The general consensus is that the teachers are responsible.

Is it really all the teachers' fault? Columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. thinks so. Having been a teacher himself for five years, he says teachers just like to complain. He doesn't say why he is no longer teaching, but he applauds the firing and blames the teachers. Superintendent Gallo agrees. She fired all of them.

Everyone agrees that the K-12 schools are failing, but the reasons are not as simple as Navarrette and Gallo think. Firing all the teachers is not the answer. Closing schools is not the answer.

Schools aren't failing because the teachers don't care or aren't trying. It's not because teachers fail to follow the curriculum. It isn't because they are poorly paid. Teachers go into teaching because they want to make a difference and help kids. They certainly don't go into teaching to get rich. They don't want to do a bad job, either; no one likes to fail. A recent survey of 40,000 teachers by the Gates Foundation shows that teachers are more interested in reform than money.

If you examine Central Falls High School closely, a few things stand out: More than 96 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, according to the school's Web site, and only 6 percent of the people in the town have a college degree. Does that tell you something important about the parents? They are struggling financially and lack postsecondary education.

Central Falls provides little or no parental support for students or for the teachers, yet everyone expects teachers to do it all with few resources. Clearly, it does not work.

In his book entitled "Does Money Matter? the Effect of School Resources on Student Achievement," Gary Burtless argues that the "home environment has strong effects on student achievement, stronger in fact than social class effects." He argues that the most important home environment variables involve "parents expending time participating in activities with children that enhance learning."

Very little, if any, of this is happening in the communities of a failing school. Look at where the schools are failing -- in the most densely populated areas of the 50 largest American cities.

Teachers are not magicians. Low test scores and the dropout rate cannot be blamed on the teachers alone. They need help from the parents, help from the community, help from the administrators, help from state and federal governments.

Thousands of kids starting kindergarten each year don't know colors, counting, or even the names of fruits and vegetables. Their vocabularies are hundreds of words fewer than their more advantaged peers. Who is talking to these kids? The electronic nanny -- the television.

No teacher can effectively educate a child without support from the parents. Support at the elementary level means spending time with their child, reading to their child, talking with their child, providing a stable home for their child. Support in high school means a quiet place to study, recognition and approval for kids' efforts, and helping when they are not doing well.

Strong schools have supportive parents and an involved community. Schools like Central Falls High School have struggling communities. To fire all the teachers and blame them for the failure is to dismiss the important role that parents and communities play in the education of their children.

Imagine firing all the parents -- does that solve the problem? What we have in communities with failing schools is parents who are for a variety of reasons -- mostly economic -- failing to parent effectively. They have no time. The job of mothering is passé.

Let's look at how ineffective school closures have been in Washington, where Chancellor Michelle Rhee has closed many schools. Test scores are up, but scores dropped on the federal government's broader measure of how local schools are doing in meeting the standards of the No Child Left Behind law.

Or take a look at the Chicago Public Schools, where former CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. secretary of education, closed many schools. There's been little change in scores because students are being transferred to other low-performing schools. It hasn't worked because the community's attitude and level of support hasn't changed.

A report released on March 1 by The Education Trust shows that schools often lumped together as "low-performing" are not all alike. "Examining data from reading and mathematics assessments for elementary and middle schools in ten states, the study's authors found that some low-performing schools remain stuck year after year, and others that started low performing are among the fastest improvers in their states." Solving the problem requires individual solutions tailored to each school, not a blanket approach.

The U.S. Department of Education needs to change its focus and stop its policy of supporting the closing of failing schools; it does not bring long-lasting change. No Child Left Behind has had unintended negative consequences. Instead, we as a nation need to support teachers in the classroom and stop using teachers as scapegoats in seeking to solve a major national problem. We need to work with teachers, not fire them.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Esther Wojcicki.
Editor's note: Esther Wojcicki, a teacher at Palo Alto High School in California for the past 25 years, developed its award-winning journalism program. She helped design the Google education program, which includes the Web site http://www.google.com/educators/index.html. Wojcicki is chairwoman of the board of directors of Creative Commons and serves on the board of the Developmental Studies Center and the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu

"The Doctors of the House"

Is the heading of the WSJ Editorial Board concerning the passing of President Obama's federal takeover of the U.S. Health care system. "So this is the hour of liberal political victory is a good time to adapt the 'Pottery Barn' rule that Colin Powell once invoked on Iraq: You break it, you own it."

The article concludes, "As for politics, the first verdict arrives in November."

Try to remember the details.

Vote and get your family, friends and aquaintances to vote. The liberal Democrats will even though Acorn may have many new names to replace the scandalized namde of "ACORN".

Worst Roads in America

I once reported that decade or older surveys showed that the State of Illinois was ranked 4th in the nation for the condition of our highways. In the January issue of InterBusiness Issues, Editor Jan Wright reported the results of a survey of 7500 truckers by Parade Magazine. The truckers were asked about the "toughest stretches of highway in America. The third item on their list: "1-55, 1-57, 1-80 and 1-90 in Illinois."

On December 19, 20, and 30th, I wrote three blogs titled " A look back from the 90's through 2009" about the folly of continuing to spend dozens of millions of dollars on consultants and engineering studies about where and how to build NEW highways in our area.

Most of us of older generations who helped make large improvements to this country, decree the lack of maintenance of older highways as we continue to spend MANY MILLIONS on PLANNING new highways. Instead of keeping up the maintenance on what we already have.

Reminds me of the referendum passed in 2003 to MAINTAIN our County owned Bel-Wood Nursing home, which we didn't keep maintaining with the property taxes we were collecting. We are now far along in planning to build a $45 million or thereabouts, a new B-W with money we don't have.

If it's not new, our community leaders feel we are not keeping up with other communities we compete with for residents and businesses. I fear it may have the opposite effect once rising property taxes and fees really begin to kick in. Starting now and accelerating into the future generations to pay.

In Peoria, I drive some of the worst streets and highways in the country. All because, we are told, the excessive freezing and thawing in Peoria. Sure, but another excuse for failure, just like "it's the economy, folks".

FireFly Loans - Committe Notes

I've often asked why more people don't attend open county committee meetings to learn how we spend our approximately $120 million budget but since few do, I'm going to print some excerpts that may interest you. Chairman Tim Riggenbach, now a city councilman, conducted this meeting of the Finance/Legislative Committee, of which I was a member, on May 31st, 2007.

"In discussing a recommended resolution to guarantee National City's $3 million loan to FireFly, committee member Mike Phelan questioned the role of National City Bank, and asked if other local banking institutions were given the opportunity to bid on the loan. Administrator Urich said due to the timeline involved and the relationship of FireFly with National City Bank, other banks were not contacted. Responding to a concern about a financial risk for the county (Widmer) County Treasurer Tripp O,Connor said he DOES NOT FORESEE A RISK. Mr. Phelan felt the selection of a bank was a policy decision that should have been decided by the full board. In particular, other local banks should have been allowed the opportunity to bid. Mr. Riggenbach felt National City's interest rate was competitive; however, he felt it is important that rules be established in the future for an issue of this nature. (Interesting statement)

Mr.Widmer was concerned about the financial fate of the county in this deal should Keystone go under. (Keystone loan? Review my recent blog on Keystone.) He also asked the length of FireFly's lease and will there be a contract signed to assure that FF will keep it's headquarters in Peoria. Widmer also asked if FF was paying ICC rent on the space they were using at the college. Mr. Ovan, the first major departure from FireFly, said they do pay rent and that the contract include language that they would stay in Peoria.

Administrator Urich stated that what we were doing on this loan was consistent with two strategic goals of the Count: Partnership with our citizens (FireFly) and another unit of local government (the City) to achieve success (investment in the community and job growth) Second, to grow the economy.

Mr Widmer said if the resolution passes, the Finance/Legislative Study Committee needs QUARTERLY updates of Firefly's progress. The motion passed. Meeting adjourned."

Quarterly updates received? Hm.

FireFly - Who Said What?

On my blog site , blogger C.J. Summers asked me why I voted yes on the City/County $6million loan guarantee for the "can't miss", (isn't what every leader in Peoria said?)_ FireFly now going through bankruptcy proceedings. On his blog site, The Peoria Chronicle, C.J. wrote on 5/29/07, "My little brainstorm for the City/County FireFly partnership. This will allow FireFly to establsih their headquarters here in Peoria and employ 65 people locally. Assuming (assuming-makes ass out of u & me) they're are successful, WHICH SEEMS PRETTY LIKELY, it won't cost the city and county a thing. In fact, the city and county will receive $480,000 in common stock. So here's the little brainstorm I had, for what it's worth: I believe FF should have a place to showcase their battery technology. How about if they show case in CityLink buses?"

I guess C.J.s comments and brainstorm caused me to vote yes. How could I be the only one in any type of leadership be the only one wrong?

So City/Link did just that. They bought 18 batteries costing about $450 each (JS, Steve Tarter, 3/24/09. The batteries they were buying cost $146 each.

And as former newspaper editor Don Axt said, Peoria should be renamed Dreamsville and a World Series between Peoria and Rockford will happen right here in this city of hope.

And speaking of hope, I finally received my income?? tax statement. Disappointed again as it showed another loss, $3,000+ this time continuing a long string of losses on my original investment in 1994. I expected better as Kevin Capie said in his JS sports column that the Chiefs were "setting attendance records".


"Excessive Exuberance in Peoria?"

"We didn't let the economy stop us. The economy here in Peoria is strong. We expect that to carry us through", quoting Jeff Bundy, co-owner of Party World on opening a new store at University Plaza.

Party World evidently closed in 2009; it apparently opened in 2008, as the building is vacant and the phone is disconnect. PAC & Mail next door doesn't appear to have any activity and I could not find it listed in the phone directory..

I distinctly recall when the first retail business opened on the deck where Hearland Partnership and their groups are now located in the former Damons Restaurant space. When the owner closed the store because of what he said was lack of business and un-kept promises; he was extremely bitter and felt he had been misled by community developers and other leaders.

Don't think he and Mr. Bundy are alone.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Common Sense Judge

Forwarded to me by my daughter Mary Jo Greytak whose son is in the armed services.
She checked with Scopes. All my family support strong judges and strong actions against terrorists, often called "insurgents" or "freedom fighters" by the liberal press.

For comments on my site, please email them to me. If researched and factual info, I will transfer to my blog site and your comment will be seen by all. If you do not know my email, call me as I am in the Peoria Directory.

This action was taken to block the nusisance and personal attack type comments I was getting on my site.

Remember the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it?

Did you know his trial is over? Did you know he was sentenced? Did you see/hear any of the judge's comments on TV or Radio?

Didn't think so.!!!

Everyone should hear what the judge had to say.


Ruling by Judge William Young, US District Court.

Prior to sentencing, the Judge asked the defendant if he had anything to say. His response: After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his 'allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah,' defiantly stating, 'I think I will not apologize for my actions,' and told the court 'I am at war with your country.'

Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted below:

January 30, 2003, United States vs. Reid.

Judge Young: 'Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutively. (That's 80 years.)

On count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years again, to be served consecutively to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you for each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 that's an aggregate fine of $2 million. The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you an $800 special assessment. The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need go no further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is too much war talk here and I say that to everyone with the utmost respect. Here in this court, we deal with individuals as individuals and care for individuals as individuals. As human beings, we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier, gives you far too much stature. Whether the officers of government do it or your attorney does it, or if you think you are a soldier, you are not----- you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've known warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and the TV crews were, and he said: 'You're no big deal.'

You are no big deal.

What your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today?

I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing? And, I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you, but as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose. Here, in this society, the very wind carries freedom. It carries it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom, so that everyone can see, truly see, that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely. It is for freedom's sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf, have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties. Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms. Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. The day after tomorrow, it will be forgotten, but this, however, will long endure.

Here in this courtroom and courtrooms all across America , the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done. The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America . That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down.

So, how much of this Judge's comments did we hear on our TV sets? We need more judges like Judge Young. Pass this around. Everyone should and needs to hear what this fine judge had to say. Powerful words that strike home.

Please SEND this around to your friends----so that everyone has a chance to read it.

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG - www.avg.com

Sunday, March 14, 2010

FireFly - What Community Leaders Said

"Calling FireFly 'the poster child' of Peoria NEXT", National City regional president Doug Stewart said that technology was not in short supply in Peoria. "Ideas are not our problem. The issue is management, first, and capital second. If we are going to hit a home run, FireFly is the closest thing we've got."

Doug was probably right on both counts. If you recall, he also said the PRM would need a $14 million endowment. Hmmm.

Joseph O'Neill, G&D president said of FireFly CEO Williams, "His company could change the world of fuel cell technology and he wasn't getting any cooperation from anyone." JS,5/19/07.


A pause. Glen Barton, ex-president of Caterpillar joins FireFly board of directors as reported by the JS on 9/27/05.

On January 27. 2008, U.S. Democrat Senator Dick Durbin said, "I like the parentage of this company. Caterpillar is a company well grounded in technology. I like what I see here. Early reports are very positive". Durbin had announced earlier that $3.2 million had been budgeted for FireFly.

Tax-payer dollars, not Durbins. Also Caterpillar spun this company off and was not involved in FireFly's management, Mr. Curbin. Durbin also cited U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood for lining up military contracts for FireFly when LaHood acknowledged FireFly's 45 employees for their work on a revolutionary ways to to create energy with a new battery.

State Representative Aaron Schock said "Silicon Valley started with just one company, too. (not a correct statement, Aaron) Hopefully, this will be the first of many new ventures to open here." August 13, 2008, JS reporter Steve Tarter.

You all know what Mayor Jim Ardis, the Chamber's Kyle Hamm, IB Editorials,and County Board Chairman Bill Prather said as most of you read The Peoria Chronicle blog.

"200,000 Oasis batteries are planned to be produced by FireFly in 2009. Components for the batteries will be made in Peoria and shipped to various manufacturers around the country." Journal Star 8/17/08.

We were all hopeful that this enterprise would succeed. But what was it that ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan said about "excessive exuberance"?

FireFly Closer to Burning Bright

So wrote Molly Parker, reporter for the JS in May of 2007. The resolution by the County to guarantee, along with the city, a six million dollar loan to FireFly by National City Bank, State Representative Dave Leitch, Vice-President, who personally urged the County Board to approve this loan. Quoting Ms. Parker,"The resolution passed both committees by voice vote with no one registering a nay, though Merle Widmer said he thought 'government had gotten off track quite a bit' when it comes to aiding private businesses with taxpayer dollars."

On 4/9/04, JS reporter Angela Green wrote, "This, in a business sense, is one of the worst decisions you can make...you are absolutely betraying the people you represent," Widmer told fellow board members. If we are in the Venture Capital business, I don't think the people elected you to proceed in this way."

I raised many questions about both of these loans, some which appear in the minutes of the meetings on FireFly loans. "Does the County have a history of guaranteeing bank loans? What is the risk to National City Bank? Where is the $20 million equity FireFly is bringing to the table? Has most of it been expensed out? At the rate FireFly is burning though equity, what reason is there to believe they won't be coming back asking for more money?( I have called attention several times to the fact that the Peoria Riverfront Museum Committee has 'expensed out' $11+ of the $13 million it has raised in cash) I also asked is FireFly was using corporate blackmail by intimating that "If we don't give them the money, they will move to Michigan or somewhere else. Sounds like a threat".

I summed up by saying "I do not like the way this deal was presented to us and the inability of our administrator to answer hard questions."

Let no one accuse me of any hindsight. I asked all the hard questions but garnered little support from the board, administration, community, and certainly no support from ANY of our elected officials.

Peoria County Administrator, Patrick Urich, in helping sell the loan guarantee is quoted in the JS, "Ultimately, this is new ground for Peoria County but he told the committee it was a worthwhile investment because the company has promised to keep it's headquarter here......and FireFly will give the city and county stock warrants valued at 8% of the $6 million dollar loan."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

FireFly & G&D Integrated

On 5/28/07, Jennifer Davis and Molly Parker wrote "Finding a FireFly Fix Over Breakfast" in their 'Word on the Street' Column in the JS. Quoting the column, " braving buckets of snow, former Mayor Dick Carver, current Mayor Jim Ardis, state Representative Dave Leitch and a Peoria businessman showed up for breakfast at Le Peep. Over toast these men toasted a commitment to finding a solution that would keep FireFly Energy in Peoria." Firefly was cramped in the state owned ICC North free space they were occupying and needed to expand.

To shorten this story; you can find the whole column on the net, the businessman was Joe O'Neill, president of G&D Integrated, a Peoria business that helps companies with their manufacturing, assembly and transportation needs. (Think Caterpillar) O'Neill said he had met FireFly CEO, Ed Williams some years ago.

Out of this meeting, a plan was hatched that allegedly resulted in O'Neill buying the old Foster Gallagher building, remodeling it and leasing it to FireFly. Leitch was quoted as "I heard the story that Carver was extremely concerned that FireFly was going to leave the community, and came away with the idea we needed to put on a full court press to make FireFly happy so they stay in the community."

Since Dave Leitch was a Vice-President of National City Bank it is alleged that the bank approved a loan to FireFly if totally backed by the City/County elected officials and O'Neill would go ahead with his commitment.

Then City Councilman Bob Manning was like me asking questions even though he knew "the chute seemed slick for this deal long before it was brought to the council." The vote sailed through 10-0. Sandberg was absent.

If you read C. J. Summer's blog, "The Peoria Chronicle", you can find some of the 'no fail' quotes from community leaders that FireFly was going to be the most successful innovation to come out of Peoria since the distilleries and breweries came to Peoria. Pabst was the last to leave but I believe there still is empty space in that building.

It's getting late and I'm tired but I'll pick up on the FireFly theme tomorrow. It's failure had to be a shock to those who believe anything coming from Caterpillar must be a success. Not being venture capitalists who use PRIVATE FUNDING they did not understand that 9 out of 10 FireFly types either fail or are not profitable but that one that succeeds make hundreds of founders and investors millionaires.

But they are not making that gamble, as a rule, with taxpayer dollars.

Why Peoria County Makes Gap Loans

It appears the City/County of Peoria had put in place, through an Inter-Governmental Relations Committee a long time ago, a City/County Loan Program with the aim of helping businesses in need of financial assistance to expand or begin operations.

An early loan of $100,000 to United Scanning Technologies went bad in 1986. In time, this Loan Program was replaced by a Self Employment Training/Revolving Fund to assist small businesses, especially minorities. In time this assistance evolved into what is now Peoria County Government Assistance Program Loans (GAP) administered by the EDC for Central Illinois. The City of Peoria has a different Loan Plan. By the year 2001, Peoria County had contributed $1.2 million to EDC resulting in an EDC claim of the creation of $164 million in private investment in Peoria County.

To be eligible for a Peoria County Gap Loan the industrial, commercial or service related business located in the county will create and retain jobs. Projects selected by the EDC and brought before the Peoria County Tax/EDC Committee will attract sizable PRIVATE investment, have solid commitment to create or retain permanent jobs, demonstrate financial feasibility and benefit low to moderate income persons.

To my knowledge, FireFly met none of these criteria. Firefly did eventually commit to have their home office in Peoria. On 5/16/07, the JS reported that FireFly entered into a partnership with Northstar Battery Co. in Springfield, Mo. who will contract with Crown Battery of Fremont, Ohio. "We're looking forward to partnering with FireFly Energy and to MANUFACTURE a new performance class of battery based on this innovative technology," said Hal Hawk, Crown's president, in a statement.

Not only did Peoria County stretch the meaning of GAP loan but they waded into uncharted waters of the very risky business of Venture Capital.

And with the risk of taxpayer money, no matter which horse came bearing the money.

My next blog will cover how FireFly landed in the old Foster Gallagher location.

Keystone Money - FireFly Connection

Keystone money enters into the FireFly story in this manner: A number of years, Senator George Shadid secured a $10,000,000 loan from the State of Illinois to help bail-out Keystone who was in financial distress. Terms of the deal were that Keystone would pay the $10 million back to Peoria County to use as the county saw fit.

Keystone did pay this money back and the County lent the same $10 million back to keystone under the following terms: Keystone would make a $1 million principal payment on June 1, 2007. Keystone would refinance $9 million at 7.5% interest over the next seven years with level payments of $838,018.49 twice a year payable June 1 and December 1 through June 1, 2014.

County Administration says Keystone is current on their payments. Now some of this money apparently will be needed to finance the guarantee made to National City Bank because of the FireFly's apparent failure.

On January 14, 2010, the Peoria Chronicle reported that Illinois lawmakers, Smith and Koehler were able to pass tax benefits legislation (Senate Bill 328) even though Keystone didn't qualify for these tax exemptions that have the potential to save Keystone $140,000 a month.

Taxpayer dollars well spent. Apparently, as Keystone is still in business although I understand they must employ over 500 workers full time and gradually work employment up to 1000 by 2013.

I hope they are on track and are able to stay on track through 2014 to meet all their taxpayer funded benefits to the state and county.

More on FireFly upcoming.

FireFly - City/County Backing of the Loan

National City Bank would not make the $6,000,000.00 loan to FireFly without the City/County guaranteeing the loan. "Under the proposal, National City Bank will provide FireFly Energy with a five year loan for the $6 million secured by $4 million in equipment. the remainder of the funds would be used for working capital. The first three years would be interest only paid monthly. (I don't know how much interest, if any, $300,000 per year, is past due) and the last two years provide for a small amount of amortization."

"The loan would first be secured by the equipment in event of default, then by the $1million in Keystone money (another brighter story) placed in a reverse fund by the county. Any loss would be shared 41.07% by the County and 58.93% by the City. The City's guarantee is pledged with $3.3 million in utility tax revenues. The County's guarantee is the $1 million in Keystone money and $2.3 million in Personal Property Replacement Tax. The total guarantee is $6.6 million for accrued interest during any potential default period." Taken from May, 31, 2007 Tax/EDC Minutes.

Will any money be collected by either the City of the County? The answer is probably not as the bank has no worry, they let the gullible taxpayer do the worrying, any leaser plus anyone who stands next in line before the C/C.

See my next blog on the alleged FireFly bankruptcy.

County/City Elected Officials Decisions

Seldom have I seen in the past 15 or so years so many made so many decisions negatively affecting taxpayer dollars made by elected officials. FireFly is just one. I was on the County Tax/EDC Committee when recommendations for the original GAP County Loan to FireFly, paid off in 2009; I received no notice of the payoff, were made by Sally Hanley, representing the Economic Development Committee, Division of the Heartland Partnership. It is a branch of this group that brings the "paperwork" to this county committee on Gap loans. More on the description of a GAP Loan in a later blog.

Quoting from the Minutes of the October, 27. 2005 County Tax/EDC Committee, "Mr.Widmer expressed concern over (1) the speed with which FireFly was consuming it's income, (two officers totalled about one half million dollars in yearly salaries) (2) the past and current lack of any bank involvement, (3) the fact that FireFly already received financial support from the state, (more on this later) FireFly's inability to commit to expand in Peoria County if successful.

Other questions, I asked or stated were, the loan did not meet GAP loan criteria, no individual equity by the founders, (AN ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT) no tangible assets to claim ion event of default.

When the vote to make the loan was called I was the only one to vote no in committee. When the full board voted on this loan, I was joined by Carol Trumpe, Brian Elsasser and Bob Baietto. All Democrats voted yes along with Republican Tim Riggenback, who I have noted before, has seldom seen a dime of taxpayer money he wouldn't like to spend. Tim is now on the City Council. On the night the full board voted 14-4 to make the loan, neither of the founders were in attendance. When I asked, "why not", Ms. Hanley informed me, "they were in Chicago meeting with their investors". I challenged, "but they have no investors". My challenge went un-answered.

See my blog as this will be a series, as this boondoogle was something made for a Hollywood script, sometimes, perhaps out of sequence as I do not get paid for blogging. Nor do I brag about my journalism which I never studied formally.

Another Shoe Drops on the City and County Taxpayers

Many times I posted that taxpayers should pay more attention to what is happening in this community that is going to directly deplete your wealth. I recently noted the "possible failure" of more taxpayer supported businesses but I was and am not in a position to name them.

I will do a full story soon on FireFly and then on the next "shoe" that probably has already dropped. Lot's of taxpayer dollars lost that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN LOST.
I have frequently advised board members that the County should not be in the Venture Capital business with TAXPAYER dollars. When Allen Mayer became Chairman, I left this committee at the start of 2008 with the blessing of most of the committee members.

I am in the process of laying out this whole story to the public on this site Check "The Peoria Chronicle" blogsite as C.J. has part of the story. I will blog most of the rest.

World Net Daily

Conservatives should log on to this site worldnetdaily.

My recommending of sites and what they write does not mean I believe everything they write and post. I believe in the right to abort where rape is proved, incest, mental condition and age of victims.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Immigration Joke Not so Funny

The latest telephone poll taken by the Florida Governor’s office asked whether people who live in Florida think illegal immigration is a serious problem:
29% of respondents answered: “Yes, it is a serious problem.”
71% of respondents answered: “No es una problema seriosa.”

This is a sad joke forwarded to me. The world's richest "businessman", Carlos Slim, politicians weak or corrupt, or both, continue to help push the poor Mexicans across the border taking up the lower paying jobs some of the 17 million unemployed would now accept. This country gets the laborers, the thieves, the gangs along with many hard workers, while legally limiting the educated; doctors, scientists, specialized technicians immigrants, etc., all who have already learned the English language while we accept millions of the uneducated and those who have no desire to have English as their first language, the majority here illegally.

Some feel "what to worry", we Caucasians will be a minority very, very soon anyway and then maybe the poor English speaking citizens will get the benefits now available to so many illegals.

Probably not.

Expect to see the "balkanization of the west" in your lifetime, but since maybe 30 or more per cent of the people living here, would rather lead a Socialism way of life rather than a capitalistic way of life, again no problem to them.

Very sad to myself and most of my friends and acquaintances.

Asphalt Ordinance - 2nd Lawsuit Against Peoria County

Just received notice of a 2nd lawsuit against the Peoria County Board filed by non-union asphalt pavers whose businesses are located in Peoria County. I wish them success. There is growing evidence of shrinking union membership in the private sector and an expanding of unions in the public sector.

The word is out from union leadership; expand unions membership in the private sector through elected public bodies. Make it more difficult to do business with the public sector for those not unionized and those who do not always pay prevailing wages.

Consequences of the Davis-Bacon keep coming back to eliminate competitiveness costing the taxpayers more dollars.

Just like the minimum wage acts that allow illegal immigrants to take less than minimum wage thus eliminating school kids and job entry kids from access to these jobs and earning, at least, some money.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Discipline of Simplicity

Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
Reject anything that produces an addiction in you.
Develop a habit of giving things away.
Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
Get away from a "buy now, pay later" mindset.
Reject anything that will breed the oppression of others.

Statements copied from "Guest Reflections" a larger column in the JS, 5/20/06, by Rev. Alphonso Jones of Peoria.

Good advice we can all ponder.

Humor? Not Funny, These People are in Charge!

I've taken this blog down as being old "humor" adding different names to embarrass people under the misstated tile of "Not Funny". As it turns out these are funny but not at the expense of others.

Thanks to those who called my attention to the fraudulent statements. I apologize.

Renting Versus Buying - Bad Debt or Good Debt

An article by Eugene N. White, a professor of economics at Rutgers University, says that the government is making a major effort to keep those home owners facing foreclosures in homes they can't afford, when the government should let them go back to renting until they can really afford to buy. He says, "Renewed efforts to keep people in their homes by jiggling the terms of the mortgages simply keeps them locked in with little chance of saving for other purposes. Home ownership has been branded as the ultimate fulfillment of the American dream. This ignores the true American dream: upward mobility for them and their children."

Dave Ramsey, a nationally known personal finance expert, who sometimes has a column in the JS, wrote, "Who plays the lottery? Poor math-illiterates who spend their money buying lottery tickets, excess tobacco, liquor and drugs, new vehicles and entertainment and who are easily led into buying homes they can't afford. Never concerned about having enough "fall back" money saved. Like money for life insurance, car insurance, health insurance and educational savings for their children. Not accepting responsibility, not delaying certain pleasures until they were mature enough and responsible enough to almost assure a better quality of life they can actually afford."

Renting can be a pain. A worse pain is mortgage foreclosure or years of fighting mortgage foreclosures finding out along the way that the home they "felt they must have" leaves them with nothing but a ton of debt will still trying to pay for all the other things they actually did need like food and insurance plus the many things they really could have delayed.

As if those who are having financial difficulties on the home front is not bad enough, our governments that helped lead the homeowner into financial stress, are moving toward bankruptcy themselves. California's "me" attitude leads the way with Illinois a close 3rd or 4th in the nation. You can find in my archives a blog "Keeping up with the Joneses" dated 6/02/05 and DeWayne Bartel's column in the Times-Observor dated 6/01/2005 quoting City Councilman Gary Sandberg's prediction that the city would eventually run into financial problems because of it's elected officials inability to distinguish between good debt and bad debt.

Those who did not have Gary's astuteness in distinguishing between good and bad debt in government commitments and spending are adding to the tax-payer burdens. Burdens that will increase in the upcoming years as all those who have some understanding of finance have predicted.

Peoria County, of which I am a board member, appears to some of us to be heading in the same direction as the City of Peoria and Peoria Public School District #150. I regret to say, despite my warnings and efforts to curb long term debt and risk, the past 15 months have been the most discouraging of my years on the board.

Some accuse me of being negative. Realistic would be a better description.

Bradley Men's Basketball

After losing to Northern Iowas 57-40 in the second round of the Missouri Valley Championships, Bradley waits by the phone to see if they are invited to a third or fourth rate tournament. With a record of 16 wins and 15 losses, the only people who would come out to watch this "tournament of losers" are the Bradley faithful. The tournament sponsors know this so the games would be played at Bradley. While Bradley, under Les, has never fielded a really great team; the one trip to the NCAA was exciting, tournament sponsors know that Bradley basketball at the Civic Center will always be a good draw. These "best of the worst" loser tournaments are all about money.

In a Kirk Wessler, JS, interview with sixth year senior Sam Singh, Singh said, "I had a blast with these guys. I could have been out in the real world, miserable working everyday from 9-5. Thanks to the opportunity Coach Les gave me, I was able to come back for a sixth year."

Times have really changed. I couldn't wait to graduate and seek employment in the real world.

Maybe MR. Singh should stay at Bradley working on various degrees and university employment until he is old enough to retire at 55 or earlier. Otherwise, surely some employer in the private sector might hire him because he played basketball at Bradley and because he is a big kid, 7 feet tall. In his final "real" game, sixth year senior Singh scored 1 point out of 40 for this exciting basketball team.

Having such fun instead of being miserable every day "working" from 9-5.

I was present when fiery Jim Les was hired years ago promising an "exciting" brand of tournament winning basketball. I suggest it's time for Mr. Singh to get a real job and Bradley to hire a new coach who will bring an exciting winning brand of basketball back to Bradley. A coach who will train young men to go out and make their mark in the "real" world as soon they can graduate.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Silent Majority Not Voting - Lack of Trust?

"Trust is missing. We do not trust-and with good reason-either our elected leaders or our corporate elite who constitute the upper echelons of society. Seldom in modern history has the lack of trust, now verging on contempt, been so deep, universal and comprehensive." So writes Paul Johnson, eminent British historian and author in the March 10 issue of Forbes, "The Sickness of the West". Johnson continues, "At the very top we have a sad bunch of flawed mediocrities, citing President Obama as Benjamin Disraeli quotes, 'A sophisticated rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity. If only he would talk less, and think more.'

Johnson calls Chancellor Merkel "a well meaning hausfrau with the steely will of a dishcloth", President Sarkozy, "an operator who is clever at everything except what matter most", Prime Minister Brown, "a machine politician whose own machinery is breaking down", and Mafia linked Prime Minister Berlusconi, as "a clever advertisement for Viagra, a man whose antics wold have afforded us much amusement in a time of normal prosperity".

(Picking up where I left this site Saturday) While it is true that some people would not know the truth even if truth was staring them in the face, people are so busy today doing trivia that they have no time for research. It is often found easier to criticize a person from "ones opinion" than it is to do the research and print the facts that should form one opinion. And, of course, failing to vote.

In our last election, turnout in the City of Peoria was 18%. As a note, this election was held a month earlier in a precedent set Obama to boost his chances for the presidential nomination. Thanks, Barry.

Peoria County did worse; 17.8 showed up compared to 15% four years ago. While Iraqi's risked their lives to go to the polls, our voters were busy twittering or hanging out. Or putting in 14 hour days. So how do the other 82% that didn't vote feel. City Councilman Spain went to different cities in different states to see what they thought of Peoria. He should have asked the 82% locally. They could give all politicians and earful and most of it would be true.

More truths. An example - Does the State of Illinois, most Illinois Cities and Counties continue to spend more than they take in? Look at the finances of the state and the truth should stare our politicians in the face. Does that stop them from spending? Check the records which will show of course they don't, they look for more revenues from the taxpayer on the guise that they are obligated to fund "priorities". Nothing wrong with that except that every special interest group on record feels their request for funding is a priority.

The problem? Most lawmakers got financed largely by "special interest groups"; that is a truth and the other truth is that these politicians can't say "NO" to anything requested of them. Do they have time to research these requests such as (the recent Peoria Public Library $28 million boondoogle) that was was endorsed by every name politician, Councilman Eric Turner endorsed in writing the Lincoln Branch expansion BEFORE he set foot in the building to VERIFY they alleged "sorry conditions". Some endorsed the $28 million, no make it $50 plus because the city, of course, had to borrow the money hadn't set foot in a library more than once in years. That once was when they were invited to speak.

Back to Mr. Turner, I have his email admitting the fact and my frequent visits, one with a reporter, prove the existing building is underutilized.

Some finally ARE trying to pull back from the brink but even after flailing away at where to cut, they continually seek more tax dollars.

And that's the truth. Trust me.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bill Brady, Illinois Next Governor

A look from the right at Central Illinois politics

Friday, March 5, 2010Bill Brady Statewide Thank You Fly-Around

Illinois State Senator and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Brady will be in Peoria on Monday as part of a Statewide Thank You Fly-Around. This will be a great opportunity to help celebrate a long awaited end to this 2010 Primary Election and help build momentum towards victory in November!

They will start in Chicago at Ogilvie Transportation Center this evening, March 5th. On Monday then, he will start in Rockford at 10:00AM, followed by a stop in the Quad Cities at 11:15AM. They will be in Quincy at 12:30PM, Cahokia at 1:45PM, Marion at 3:00PM and Champaign at 4:30PM before their stop here in Peoria.

At 5:15PM they will be stopping at Byerly Aviation in Peoria. We would like to have a huge crowd on hand to welcome Senator Brady to town for the first time as our Official Republican Candidate for Governor of the State of Illinois! If you have signs, bring them with you to show support!

After their Peoria stop, he will end the day back home in Bloomington at Doubletree Hotel Ballroom at 7:00PM. Many of you will remember it was at this same location many gathered Primary Election Night to watch the results come in. While they left without an answer that night, this time they will leave with the answer we have all been waiting so long for; Senator Bill Brady is officially the Republican Candidate for Governor of the State of Illinois!

We have a long ways to go before Victory in November, but let's start this leg of the journey right. Please join the Official Republican Candidate for Governor of the State of Illinois Bill Brady and Republicans from throughout the State at one of these events! I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve you on the Tazewell County Board and if I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Posted by John C. Ackerman at 6:15 AM
Labels: Bill Brady, candidates, John C. Ackerman, peoria il, rally

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Children's Playhouse - An Unfilled Dream

More missed projections in Peoria. This one badly and this "miss" cannot be blamed on the recession. Read on.

On 10/08/04, Jennifer Rigg, of the JS wrote, "Peoria PlayHouse plans unveiled". The PlayHouse will be located in the building (Pavilion) that now houses the Peoria Park District. The interactive children's museum is scheduled to open in 2007."

Three and one half years ago, November 29, 2007, Scott Hillyard of the JS wrote, "Children's museum funding drags". Scott wrote, "after nearly 4 years of asking for donations - no one is willing to speculate when the museum will open, about $2 million has been raised to date."

Terry Bibo, Js Columnist wrote, "Children's Museum fundraising is on track with about $2 million raised. On March 1, 2010, Catherine Schaidle of the JS wrote "Junior League keeps pushing toward Peoria Playhouse, $5.25 million project announced 6 years ago is still just a dream."

Well, I could hazard an opening guess. This is now March, 2010 and only about $2 and one half million has been raised. The PPD planned move to the partly refurbished old IDOT on Knovxille appears to be on hold unless our local politicians decide to grant the park districts request for $2.1 million to complete the job instead of using that money to pay their $4 billion dollars in overdue bills.

When Peoria makes their pitch for Google, I remind them that "will it play in Peoria" is possibly another dream. Not one project partially funded by taxpayers dollars has been an outstanding success in Peoria in the past decade. If I'm wrong, send me a recent financial statement of the organization along with its success in accomplishing what it promised in the very beginning.

Peoria Next? Time will tell. Maybe Caterpillar will announce it is building new plants in Peoria that will need at least 5000 new employees. Or FireFly and Globe Energy will hire the hundreds of new employees they "projected".

Oh, yes, my guess for the opening date for the PlayHouse? 2017 as it is "projected" to take 3 years to remodel the pavilion AFTER the PPD relocates.


Asphalt Ordinance

An email I received that helps shed more light on possible effects of this ordinance on some local pavers. Refer also to my archives to find my blog of 2/9/10 titled " Laborers Union Letter to County Board Members Regarding the asphalt material paving ordinance.

To date, I have received a copy of one lawsuit opposing this new County Asphalt Ordinance.

Sent: Friday, February 26, 2010 7:39 PM
Subject: FW: Asphalt plant and Peoria County Board

Ladies and Gentleman;

I am forwarding this email to you as suggested and as a courtesy if you will.
As a Project Manager and Superintendent, doing Multi-family and Commercial Developments, with my experience in dealing with costs and surcharges. All of them always in the end are within the final billing to the customer. All costs of doing business is one or another passed onto the customer with add ons for mark-up an overhead...

So for example... If each load as explained by IDOT has to be inspected at the project, generally speaking from my own experience, the avg for sampling and testing cores can run as high as $1000.00 per... so if the avg project takes 2 loads, that would be a direct cost to the County or Contractor. If it is the County doing the testing that would mean the permits for doing a driveway or parking lot would be no less than $2000.00 plus whatever amount the county adds for administration.
If the Contractor is required to do so, the same numbers applied, take the $2000.00 and one can expect at least 15% markup, which is a reasonable and standard mark-up.. Either way these costs are applied directly to the project, so I ask, who is going to pay these additional costs, The Homeowner/Property Owner.

It is common knowledge who is backing this measure ( Local Unions ) Okay, lets look at their history, for a minute...
Can any of them really convince any of us that it would be competitive for them cost wise to load their equipment, call the Union Halls, have 2 Operators, 2 Laborers, 2 Teamsters, keeping in mind, one from each of those would have to be considered a foreman, per Union guidelines. If that wouldn't drive the costs up to a level that the avg homeowner would not be willing pay, for one to believe otherwise is not thinking fairly or realistically. If you were to look at a neighbor city and county, Bloomington for example. Asphalt is Union controled, non-union contractors can not even purchase materials there, to truck them there from Peoria is not an option, material would cool to much in the travel distance and time. So in the end, Asphalt Driveways are an option for citizens. No one is able to justify the cost to install such a driveway. So a choice is therefor removed from the public.

As a voter myself, If the one whom represents me is backing and pushing such a measure, I would really call them and ask them to reconsider, for it would lead me and most educated people and voters to rethink who it is speaking on their behalf's, Political Career suicide I would suspect.

Thanks in Advance for your time reading and looking into all of this.


Subject: RE: Asphalt plant and Peoria Co

10 Qualities of a Great Teacher

Forward this to all those you know who are in the teaching profession. Or aspire to teach. Add Dr. Jerry Becker email site. He is the among the best in the field of education.



Attention, Gates Foundation -- 10 Qualities of a Great Teacher

By James D. Starkey

Here are the first two paragraphs of a story [http://www.denverpost.com/education/ci_13828944] that appeared in my local paper, The Denver Post, in the fall:

"In a quest to find out the best teaching practices, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $45 million to six school districts, including Denver, for a two-year study of teaching.

"The Measures of Effective Teaching project will examine the work of 3,700 teachers from across the country, using videotapes, surveys, and student assessments to figure out what works and what doesn't."

Now, I know I am supposed to applaud the foundation's philanthropy. And I know I'm supposed to think it is about time somebody stepped in to do something substantive about public education. But I don't feel that way. I think it stinks.

Interestingly enough, further on in the Post article there was a quote from Melinda Gates that said what I really think about this new research windfall. Speaking in a telephone news conference about the foundation's near-decade of research into the factors that improve school quality, she said this: "What was the thing that works absolutely the best? At the end of the day, it is the teacher in the classroom."

At the beginning of the day, too.

So my question is, if you know what the answer is, why are you spending $45 million on research?

I have a better idea. Give me the $45 million and I will save you some time. Or give the dough to any of the retired teachers I hang out with. We'll tell you what the research will reveal about effective teaching, and it has almost nothing to do with time on task, identifying objectives, administrative fiats, or the latest recycled fad (small-group instruction, large-group instruction, writing workshops, reading labs, concept attainment, modular scheduling, block scheduling, traditional scheduling-or, for that matter, following curriculum guides). Teaching and learning happen whenever significant adults interact with and direct children. You can't stop it.

Of course, it's important to note that significant adults can promote learning that society doesn't necessarily want. Guys who drive around town in chopped BMWs dripping in gold are significant. Fathers or mothers who abuse their children are significant. Catholic priests who fondle altar boys are significant. Sports heroes who-you know the rest-are significant.

I'm talking about the effect a serious and interested and knowledgeable adult can have on a group of children. It can be a wonderful thing to see. In such an atmosphere, learning happens regardless of the curriculum, or the objectives, or the strategies. In any given school, on any given day, you could walk by rooms with master teachers doing their thing. One might be a lecturer, and every day students would go into her class, get out notes, and pay attention. Another might be totally committed to large-group discussion, and every day that teacher's students would be seated in a circle talking to one another. The teacher next door might deal exclusively with small groups. The one next to him might be convinced that a writers'-workshop approach is the best.

There are as many classroom approaches as there are master teachers, but the one thing they all have in common is that students learn. They get higher test scores. When you walk by such teachers' rooms, students will be smiling. There will be no one asleep (well, let's not get too carried away). Their classrooms, though different from one another, are good places to be. They feel right. And none of those teachers learned how to create that feeling in a methods class, or from an administrator, or from some ground breaking research.

When the Gates Foundation finally crunches all the numbers from its two-year research project, that is what it will discover. Great teaching is not quantifiable. As dorky as this sounds, great teaching happens by magic. It isn't something that can be taught. I'm not even sure that good teaching can be taught. The only thing that I know can be taught is average teaching, and almost anybody who has paid attention through all those interminable hours in school classrooms and is willing to work hard can pull that off.

Now I will attempt to give you the keys to great teaching. The fact that I understand the irony and hypocrisy in that statement makes it almost forgivable. And I will add a huge disclaimer: It is possible to talk about great teaching without being a great teacher yourself, which is the position I find myself in. I taught for almost 35 years and am still amazed that I wasn't fired during my first four. The fact that I managed to stay in the profession so long could, I suppose, be an indictment of the tenure system.

But, on the other hand, my various supervisors' indulgence during those first rocky years gave me the chance to get better. That is the one thing I can say for sure about my career.

Every year made me a better teacher. I could even go so far as to say that every year made me love teaching more. Of course, every year also made me hate schools more. There is no contradiction there.

The thing to do now is to make a list. Everyone likes lists. Educators are particularly taken by them. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times that just the act of making a list during a faculty meeting served to convince us that a problem was solved.

So, Bill and Melinda, listen up. Here are 10 qualities of a great teacher:

(1) has a sense of humor;
(2) is intuitive;
(3) knows the subject matter;
(4) listens well;
(5) is articulate;
(6) has an obsessive/compulsive side;
(7) can be subversive;
(8) is arrogant enough to be fearless;
(9) has a performer's instincts;
(10) is a real taskmaster.

There, see how easy that was? And inexpensive to boot.
James D. Starkey is a retired teacher living in Littleton, Colo.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu