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THUMBS UP: Reining in spending a win for taxpayers

THUMBS UP TO ... fiscal forthrightness. We’re firmly on the side of Amanda Zaver, officer manager for the La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office, who stood with taxpayers when being blunt with her colleagues about their expenditure requests. At a County Board oversight committee meeting last week, Zaver said she stopped buying pens that cost $20 per dozen, opting instead for perfectly suitable Bic models, and also responded to complaints about generic paperclips by telling people they were free to spend their own money on more expensive models.

Zaver, who said being the mother of five children gave her experience sticking to a budget, is absolutely correct in this case. People who make buying decisions at private businesses have to use prudence when making expenditures, even on something seemingly as insignificant as office supplies, and there’s no reason a taxpayer-funded office shouldn’t also mind the pennies. All of these things add up, and we’d much rather see money invested in high-quality legal minds than top-shelf writing supplies.

THUMBS DOWN TO ... the end of an era. Jerry and Pat Curl gave 23 winters to children of all ages in and around Ottawa by donning the iconic red suits of Santa and Mrs. Claus and bringing the Christmas spirit to the downtown Santa house as well as various holiday events and nursing homes. These dedicated servants — surely dispatched directly from the North Pole — spent up to two hours each time they prepared to greet visitors. Hair, makeup and those picture-perfect outfits are indeed a tall task, though it all would have been meaningless without the warm, welcoming personalities the Curls brought to their roles.

While we share in sadness at the Curls taking their final bows, we join in gratitude for their service and especially want to give credit to the donors who contributed toward a generous thank you gift — a $3,000 gift certificate toward travel, given them as they left the log house for the final time. We can only hope whichever folks volunteer to assume the roles in 2018 realize the true size the shoes they will need to fill. Putting on a suit is one thing, but spreading the magic of Christmas with the utmost sincerity is quite another. Thank you, Curls, for your contributions.

THUMBS UP TO ... hardwood hard work. Every winter the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day means a flurry of activity in local gyms as basketball tournaments and wrestling meets draw crowds from all over, keep radio crews and sportswriters hopping and most importantly give folks a sense of sporting community at a time when school is not in session. And these events simply couldn’t happen without an army of school staff and dedicated volunteers.

Whether you watched hoops in Marseilles, Pontiac, Plano or elsewhere, if it was boys, girls, varsity, sophomores or freshman, you could do so because people in the host communities — some of which don’t even have a high school — gave up their holiday time to put on the best event possible, offering players, coaches, parents and fans the time to make lifelong memories. Thanks to everyone who was involved.

THUMBS DOWN TO ... another unfunded mandate. There might not be a grander tradition in Illinois than the state Legislature passing a law forcing a change at the local level of school, city or county government, but not giving any indication how the smaller body is supposed to pay for the implementation. The most recent example of this is the Bail Reform Act, which requires public defenders to be available for all bail hearings, including those on weekends.

Obviously the right to legal representation is a core tenet of our government system, and if bail hearings have to happen on weekends, public defenders should be available. But unless that can be part of a regular schedule, these lawyers are going to either need to be on call — which should carry some form of compensation — or reimbursed for times they’re called into duty. Either way, it changes the county’s budget calculations, all with no direction or extra money from the state. We support good government, but we also support adequately funding good government. That shouldn’t be so difficult.

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