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Schoos, students take high road with walkout events

THUMBS UP TO… taking the high road. There had been quite a bit of talk about last week’s planned events to honor the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Student walkouts were planned at schools throughout the country, including most local high schools, and they ended up taking various forms, from students actually leaving the school buildings on their own to what might best be termed optional indoor assemblies formally organized by school administrators.

Without saying one approach or campus climate was superior to any others, it seems appropriate to issue a broad statement that locally it seems all the events served the purpose of allowing students to exercise their rights to demonstrate and assemble without causing significant disruptions to the academic schedule. As stated in advance, we hope these events serve as a catalyst for involvement and education. Gaining attention is the easy part. Putting words into action is a much taller order.

THUMBS DOWN TO… zoning in the dark. We learned last week that when La Salle County Board members vote on recommendations from the Zoning Board of Appeals, it does so with limited information. County Board members get property descriptions and applicant plans, but unless they ask, they don’t have access to minutes from zoning board meetings. The official reason is because such minutes are still in draft form awaiting zoning board approval, and while that’s an understandable position, it’s also one ripe for re-evaluation.

We don’t expect all County Board members to attend every zoning board meeting, but neither should they have to in order to get a complete picture of what transpires as these proposals face their first round of public scrutiny. This information should be readily available to taxpayers, too, let alone County Board members, so we strongly suggest the county evaluate its policies and timelines to increase the speed at which items are completed and posted. Another solution is to record the proceedings and put the video online so County Board members — and the public — can view them at a convenient time.Our directly elected officials should never feel they lack information from an appointed body, and the fact it’s gone on this long is disappointing to say the least.

THUMBS UP TO… a concert for a cause. It’s always heartwarming to see local folks come together to raise money for someone in need, but there’s something especially uplifting about the gig planned for Saturday, March 24, at the Streator Knights of Columbus Hall. Dubbed Ralph’s Rockin’ Recovery, the benefit includes food, live and silent auctions and door prizes, but most importantly music — and lots of it. The man of the hour is Streator’s Michael “Ralph” Gardner, a 58-year-old guitarist and singer who has been on the local music scene for three decades, and seven local bands are taking part in the fundraising.

Gardner collapsed at home Dec. 29 and is recovering from heart valve replacement surgery. He’ll be able to perform Saturday, but he’s sharing the stage with members of Kevin Chalfant's Journey Experience, The Higgins Brothers, Ray’s Rockets, Trophies for Tryin’ (formerly Snap Holiday), Tim Ajster, Alika Arlynn and the Awesome Band, and Road Angel, all of whom are showing the good that can happen when people set aside ego, recognize basic humanity and work for a common cause. Here’s hoping Gardner rocks the night away Saturday — and for many years to come.

THUMBS DOWN TO… baffling campaign messages. Literature for Lance Yednock, a Democratic candidate for state representative, says he “will stand up to Bruce Rauner.” It’s not unlike many of the leading Democrat governor hopefuls whose commercials and statements seem to be more about taking aim at President Donald Trump’s administration, or the 16th Congressional District hopefuls who expend more energy running down incumbent Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, than touting their own assets.

Tomorrow’s vote is a primary election: Republicans against Republicans and Democrats against Democrats. Afterward comes nearly eight months for the winners to tell us why we should give them a vote in the general election. For someone like Yednock to presuppose Rauner will both survive a primary and then his own general election seems shortsighted at this stage, especially since anyone pulling a Democrat ballot Tuesday is likely to oppose whichever Republican wins the nomination. What primary voters really want to know is how candidates fit into the state party operation, and specifically a relationship to party boss Michael Madigan. And a good lesson for all candidates: don’t just identify problems, tell us how you’ll try to fix them.

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