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OUR VIEW: Naplate discussion an example of government at work

THUMBS UP TO… the process at work. There’s been a lot of attention on tiny Naplate in recent weeks as the Village Board there considered changes to the building code it considered necessary for preserving the community’s character. The concern is timely because it’s now about 13 months past a tornado that wreaked havoc in the community and the stage is set for addressing lots no one ever expected to be vacant.

At a board meeting last week, dozens of folks weighed in with their opinions, most in favor of the changes. Two vocal folks on the other side were brothers Ben and Elijah Mackenzie. The men, who own land in Naplate, are worried the changes will be overbearing and discourage development. Without taking a position on the issue itself, we salute folks for presenting their opinions in this venue, and also the board for agreeing to postpone its vote until later this month just to make sure everyone has a chance to consider the issue before anything is finalized. We can’t all get our way all the time, but no one should feel their local representatives aren’t at least listening and understanding concerns.

THUMBS DOWN TO… Etna Road enmity. It was nothing short of disappointing to hear the reasoning of two founding members of the La Salle County Zoning Board of Appeals who recently tendered their resignations. Larry Bianchi and Tom Bruch started serving a dozen years ago, when the county’s first-ever zoning code took effect, and said they no longer feel like their efforts are being respected.

It’s not just that the County Board grants approvals to projects the ZBA said should be shelved, the men said, but that the majority of board members never asked for the reasoning behind zoning members’ votes. It would be understandable for Bianchi and Bruch to feel such County Board members disregard the role of the ZBA, if their individual votes never reflect insight gleaned from lengthy ZBA hearings. We don’t expect County Board members to attend every ZBA session in full. But we do think the two bodies need a much healthier relationship.

THUMBS UP TO… a fair showing. One sometimes underappreciated aspect of the annual Illinois Valley Community College Job Fair is the fact it’s open to more than just IVCC students and graduates. The fact the college — a public institution, of course — uses its resources this way to connect any aspiring workers with a bevy of prospective employers is testament to its commitment to truly serving the entire district. So it’s perhaps not surprising to hear last week’s fair drew 74 companies and 256 people looking for jobs, an increase of five and 50-plus respectively.

College officials continue to work on making sure the fair reaches as many people as possible, with this year’s tweaks including selective promotions via text message and emails to students as well as shifting the hours to reach students at the end of their academic day. IVCC also works with students to polish resumes and give direction on making good impressions with interviewers. Looking for meaningful work is stressful, as are decisions about hiring just the right person. The job fair approach doesn’t suit every situation, but IVCC clearly is doing good things in the name of employment opportunities.

THUMBS DOWN TO… dire projections. State Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican who grew up in rural Streator, is not known for outlandish remarks or unfounded optimism or pessimism. So we listened closely late last week when he told WJBC-AM voters would be wise to expect another legislative session full of gamesmanship with respect to the state budget.

Obviously we’re heading into campaign season, and this is Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first attempt at re-election. Barickman suggested House Speaker Michael Madigan is unlikely to allow another full-year budget authorization, “because it will be perceived as a win for Rauner.”

We’re not taking issue with Barickman making the remarks — it’s awfully hard to suggest he’s wrong — but it’s yet another reminder of how the most powerful folks in Springfield almost always seek first their own comfort and safety before considering how their votes actually serve the people who give them that power.

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