THUMBS UP TO… a growth mindset. Last week the Marseilles City Council heard a proposal to rezone more than 40 acres east of the Sabic Innovative Plastics plant and west of Walbridge Creek. The owners, Rivers Edge Developers, want to grow and process industrial hemp. Mayor Jim Hollenbeck said the hemp would be used for grain, fiber and hemp oil and the site is prepared to be a genetic test site to develop better seeds. He noted the site is bringing an initial investment of $150,000 to the community as well as tax benefits and seasonal jobs.
We understand neighbors are concerned about the potential odor, but we support the council’s unanimous approval of the zoning change. At a time when so many farmers are thrust into uncertainty on account of weather and international trade drama, and after many years of debate over whether prime Illinois Valley farmland should be plowed under for residential development, it’s rather refreshing to see a push toward new agricultural development. Leaving that much land largely unused doesn’t make a ton of sense, and if the owners have an idea for how to make it profitable through farming, we’re glad to see them get the chance to try.
THUMBS DOWN TO…a needless markup. In a state where the unfunded pension obligation has exceeded $130 billion, it’s hard to say $283,000 makes any significant difference. But during a flurry of activity at the end of the legislative session, lawmakers voted to give themselves an annual raise of more than $1,600. Applied to each of the 177 General Assembly members, the overall cost is more than $283,000. Worse than the raise itself is the way it took effect with little public scrutiny.
According to Capitol News Illinois, in the past decade each chamber routinely adopts language prohibiting annual cost of living increases from taking effect, but wasn’t included in budget implementation legislation this year. Senate Republicans questioned the omission when the budget bills passed late May 31 into June 1, and that chamber rushed to unanimously pass a measure preventing the increases. But the House never took a floor vote, and Gov. JB Pritzker rejected calls to use an amendatory veto on that line item. This maneuvering sends a terrible message to taxpayers and we are sorry those who tried to stop it came up short in their efforts.
THUMBS UP TO… building success. It sometimes feels like every month brings with it more good news for the Illinois Valley Community College agriculture education program, but that’s exactly the kind of pace needed to turn this up-and-coming program into a perennial powerhouse. The most recent tidbit was word the General Assembly awarded a $150,000 grant to phase one of the ag department’s building project, adding on to an earlier announcement of securing $165,000 in state funds.
The two lump sums represent about half the cost of the first phase of the building project, which should include a storage and maintenance facility allowing students to inspect and perform minor, routine work on ag vehicles like tractors, cultivators and planters. The ag program has already tripled enrollment from its 2016 inaugural year (from nine to 27) and commitment to physical infrastructure is a strong sign of IVCC’s intent to be a leader in this important academic area for years to come.
THUMBS DOWN TO… a persistent problem. A few weeks ago in this space we gave a thumbs down to the people in Marseilles whose indifference to the grass clippings they blow into the street led to a public rebuke at a City Council meeting, as commissioners talked about the safety concerns for bicycles and motorcycles, as well as the possible negative effect on drainage systems. Since then, the problem seems to be spreading, as we’ve noted a lot of social media chatter on the topic and taken calls from readers asking what can be done to stop the problem.
Based on what we read and hear, this challenge goes far beyond Marseilles. And while we continue to feel bad for folks who do things the right way, there is an obligation to keep mentioning the situation until conditions improve. As we said last time, this shouldn’t be complicated: public property is no place for personal waste. That concept doesn’t change just because grass clippings are organic material. We all can do better, but apparently a few of us need more motivation to toe the line.