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THUMBS UP: Posse proves a powerful tool for sheriff, taxpayers

THUMBS UP TO… a decade and a half of dedication. Last week the La Salle County Board honored the Sheriff's Mounted Search and Rescue Posse for its services and its work on the horse arena project upgrade at the county's Catlin Park. The posse’s main service to the county is searching for lost people, planes and evidence, but it also does crowd control and even has appeared in a Thanksgiving parade in Chicago.

Fifteen years ago, Sheriff Tom Templeton turned to Deputy David Guinnee to form such a posse because the county was facing budget constraints.

"David said he could find the right people if we give him time. David found the right people," Templeton told the board. "They supply their own horses, their own tack, their own trailers, their own food and their own time. When we call and ask for help, they show up. It hasn’t cost us a dime."

That dedication is a remarkable gift to the people of La Salle County. We’ll all benefit if their volunteer efforts continue another 15 years — and hopefully much more.

THUMBS DOWN TO… paperwork problems. Early voting was supposed to start on Thursday for the Tuesday, March 20, primary election, but according to The Associated Press, millions of voters won't have the option due to pending candidate challenges. The state's four most-populous counties delayed the start of in-person early voting, with Cook and DuPage waiting until as late as Wednesday, Feb. 21, in order to get final decisions on several candidate challenges. Lake County plans to start Feb. 16 and Will County election officials say they'll keep voters updated on their website and hope to be ready within days of a decision.

Elsewhere, particularly in smaller counties downstate, clerks proceeded Thursday, offering caveats to voters who want to cast ballots. But one candidate ballot challenge has statewide impact. A judge ruled Democratic attorney general candidate Scott Drury can't be on the ballot over questions about his filing of a candidate economic disclosure statement. However, his name will be allowed to remain while he appeals. If Drury is ultimately ruled off, votes for him won't be counted, though he could still run as a write-in candidate. If nothing can be done about the situation this time around, at the very least officials have to look closely at filing and challenge timelines to make sure there’s no repeat occurrences in future years.

THUMBS UP TO… paying it backward. Expressing gratitude to first responders is common, but it was something special to see the folks at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort in Utica use their resources to say thank you to the 17 agencies that responded to a Jan. 2  mechanical fire that could have destroyed the entire complex if not properly battled. It might be easy to overlook just how brutal the weather was that morning, but that degree of difficulty shouldn’t be forgotten when praising more than 60 firefighters and other specialists who answered the call.

When you’re in the hospitality business, throwing a catered reception is standard operating procedure. Still, that the Grizzly Jack’s people decided to use their resources in a show of appreciation speaks a lot for both the efforts of the firefighters as well as the resort’s sense of community. The entire situation could have been significantly worse, and making a public showing of thankfulness is an indication the Grizzly Jack’s people know exactly how lucky they are to have such talented emergency crews in the neighborhood.

THUMBS DOWN TO… Statehouse secrecy. Usually when we express concern about government bodies trying to keep things under wraps, it’s on behalf of the media or public. But last week in Springfield the conflict was intramural — Illinois Public Health Director Nirav Shah told a joint House-Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that his agency denied Senate committee chairman Tom Cullerton’s demand for communication about the Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans' Home in Quincy under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

Cullerton is not just a state senator but also a U.S. Army veteran. The outbreak contributed to the deaths of 13 residents — 12 in 2015 and one last fall — and sickened dozens more. That appointed officials would put up barriers to impede lawmakers trying to analyze how the state handled this situation, which literally was a matter of life and death, is both inexplicable and unconscionable.

“I didn’t realize that as a senator, I had to file a full FOIA request for an agency that the General Assembly is responsible for doing an appropriation on,” Cullerton said.

We absolutely agree. Government hiding things from the people is one thing, but trying to be internally secretive raises even more red flags.

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