- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 3, 20411

The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald

Reorganization should help history, tourism

When new leaders take charge, things are bound to change.

Supporters of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency are concerned about a change proposed by first-year Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner supports the abolition of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

At first glance, his proposal seems drastic.

Illinois has a remarkable history, after all, and the Historic Preservation Agency plays an important role in safeguarding that heritage.

Some people have gone so far as to call the proposal “devastating.” We’ve read the legislation, House Bill 574, and believe the alarmist talk is overblown.

It’s true the bill would abolish the Historic Preservation Agency. However, all the agency’s “powers, duties, functions, and responsibilities,” with one exception, simply would be transferred to a new Historic Sites Division within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The exception would be the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

The bill would allow that state-owned facility to operate on its own, governed by a board of directors. The belief is the 10-year-old Lincoln Library and Museum could become more efficient in its mission “to promote tourism and educate Illinois residents on Lincoln’s legacy and impact.”

Back to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. If it is rolled into the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and becomes the Historic Sites Division, its duties still would be taken care of.

The state’s dozens of historic sites, museums and monuments still would be operated. People still would be able to conduct historical research. Efforts to preserve Illinois’ history still would be undertaken. Volunteers still would be solicited to assist at various historic sites.

Why the change, then? A new Historic Sites Division should benefit from better marketing and promotion within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Those people are all about business, and tourism is important to businesses in Illinois.

History buffs fearful of the proposed changes should take a longer historical view.

With reorganization can come rejuvenation. We believe that would be good news for Illinois’ historic sites and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.


May 2, 2015

Belleville News-Democrat

Pensions key to turnaround

Most people see only the negatives in Illinois’ fiscal crisis; Gov. Bruce Rauner sees it as an opportunity for a seismic shift in the way Illinois does business.

“Want more money to spend on programs and services, lawmakers? Want to avoid cuts in state funding, mayors? Then support my turnaround agenda.”

Rauner was in Belleville on Friday to talk about that agenda, including to the BND editorial board. He wants to get Illinois back on the list of states where companies want to do business, and get government back to serving the taxpayers rather than special interests. His energy and enthusiasm for the task makes us think he just might pull this off.

One major component is Rauner’s plan for pension reform. Regardless of how the Illinois Supreme Court rules on the pension reforms before it, Rauner said more reform is necessary to quickly make a meaningful dent in the $111 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.

He wants to move state employees who are in the crushing Cadillac Tier 1 pension plan to the more affordable Tier 2 plan, set up for employees hired starting in 2011. That would keep intact the benefits workers have already earned, which Rauner said is fair to employees and would pass judicial scrutiny. Rauner’s plan would cut the state’s pension contribution in the new fiscal year by $2.2 billion compared with $1.1 billion with the reforms being challenged in court.

Lawmakers would never consider this drastic a change in good times, but these are desperate times for the state. Continuing to feed the pension beast for state workers and teachers means the rest of Illinois will go without. State government spends almost 25 cents of every $1 on pensions, which means less money for roads, social services, education and everything else government provides.

If we are going to be able to afford essential government services in Illinois, major pension reform needs to happen (during) this spring’s legislative session.


April 30, 2015

The (Sterling) Daily Gazette

Twister survivors, board agree: Mirtoska is a hero

The Ogle County Board has officially proclaimed the owner of Grubsteakers restaurant a hero.

And why not?

With an EF4 tornado bearing down on her eatery north of Rochelle the evening of April 9, Ava Mirtoska kept her head.

Thinking of the safety of her customers, Mirtoska remembered the old storm cellar beneath her business.

A survivor, Raymond Kramer of Ashton, recalled what happened next:

“Next thing I know, the manager said, ‘Everyone in the basement, right now.’ We were placed in an old-fashioned storm cellar.”

Mirtoska hunkered down there with 11 other people — employees, customers, and several passers-by who sought shelter from the twister’s fury.

One of those lucky 12 was Tod Carlock of Mount Morris, who left his Meyer Trucking semi parked outside to escape the storm.

“The whole thing was over in a minute and a half,” Carlock said. “You didn’t hear a roar or anything like that. It was more like heavy wind.”

With the tornado gone, now came the waiting game. The storm cellar that had saved their lives became a temporary prison. No one could get out because of the rubble overhead.

About 90 minutes later, rescuers arrived and helped Mirtoska and her new best friends climb out to safety, all basically unscathed. Relieved to have survived such a close brush with death, Kramer began to sing. Carlock started laughing at his twisted, damaged truck.

And the others thanked their lucky stars — and Ava Mirtoska — for their deliverance from danger.

Recognizing the key role Mirtoska played, the Ogle County Board voted to proclaim May 7 as Ava Mirtoska Day in Ogle County.

A proclamation approved by board members honors her as a hero for her quick thinking in the face of incredible danger.

With her restaurant destroyed, what does the future hold?

Mirtoska plans to rebuild at the same corner of state Routes 251 and 64.

“My employees need jobs, and my customers need a place to go,” she said.

We can think of 11 grateful people, along with their families and friends, who likely will be first in line to patronize her new restaurant.

We join the Ogle County Board and a long list of area residents who salute Ava Mirtoska and congratulate her for being a hero.


April 29, 2015

Rockford Register Star

Rockford region propelled Dan Walker to Illinois governor

Dan Walker was elected Illinois governor in 1972 in large part because of how well he did with the voters in northern Illinois.

Walker, who died Wednesday at age 92, received almost twice as many votes in the 11-county northern Illinois area than Paul Simon, his Democratic primary opponent. Walker carried Winnebago County with 14,477 votes to 6,896.

In the general election, Walker defeated incumbent Richard Ogilvie in Winnebago County with 52,563 votes to Ogilvie’s 40,920.

He gained that kind of support because he walked across the state - 12,000 miles - and talked to people in towns such as Durand, Rockton and Pecatonica.

He returned to Pecatonica and some of the other small towns across to state after he was elected to thank the people who put him into office.

Walker served only one term. He lost the 1976 Democratic primary to Michael Howlett, who lost the general election to Jim Thompson.

If it were up to Winnebago County, Walker would have been re-elected. He got 19,866 votes to Howlett’s 5,777, according to numbers reported in the March 18, 1976, Register-Republic.

Walker signed two pieces of legislation to which residents of northern Illinois can relate. He signed the bill that created the Illinois lottery. He also signed a bill that allowed Rockford to build a civic center.

The Rockford MetroCentre, now the BMO Harris Bank Center, opened in 1981, and Rockford has not quite achieved the community renewal hoped for in 1974. We expect the Gorman Hotel project and the Indoor Sports Complex to change that.

However, some things never change. When he first campaigned, Walker said the state should be the primary funder of education, as mandated by the constitution, and would work toward that goal.

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