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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: New resource officers should serve communities well

THUMBS UP TO… expanded resources. Last week both the Marseilles City Council and Seneca Village Board took steps to supply police officers to public schools in those communities, moves aimed at both increasing positive relationships between law enforcement agencies, students and teachers as well as making the schools themselves safer places to learn and work.

In Seneca, the high school will pay the full cost of having an armed officer on school grounds. In Marseilles, the city and school probably will go 50-50 on the costs of having a police officer working at the school every day it’s in session, as well as at evening events like sports contests. SROs have been on the job in several local schools over the years, by and large to positive reviews from all relevant parties. We hope to see similarly favorable feedback for these two new officers and the communities they will serve.

THUMBS DOWN TO… a trashy problem. Last week a Grand Ridge resident approached the Village Board to complain about an issue he said he’s been dealing with for more than a decade — a neighbor who puts trash cans, brush and other debris in a shared alley. As the resident pointed out, the alley is public property, but more importantly there is an ordinance on file allowing the village to remove anything placed improperly on public property and to charge associated costs to the offending party, as well as levy fines as appropriate.

Village Attorney Sheryl Churney said fines for illegal dumping of trash or waste run from $75 to $750. Those are dollar amounts that should be sufficient to correct the conduct, but that approach only works if the rules on the books are enforced as written. We’re not here to weigh in on spats between neighbors, but this is a textbook example that having a law on its own doesn’t prevent bad behavior. That law must be enforced if it can be expected to have any preventive power. We’re glad to hear trustees commit to executing waste removal and levying fines, but have to wonder why it took so long to get to this point.

THUMBS UP TO… pounding pavement. When the Shepherd Middle School band takes to the streets for the Sept. 19 Ottawa High School Homecoming Parade, it’ll do so with members sporting fresh new uniforms, the result of a massive, multi-year fundraising effort. The Ottawa Elementary School Board last week praised band teacher Justin Marxman for his efforts, noting he and his students and families raised more than $32,000 in a campaign started in 2016.

The district is kicking in $7,500 for purchase of tuxedo jackets, pants, shirts, bowties and marching band jackets. The current band uniforms lasted 20 years and served thousands of students, and the hope is the new threads will last another two decades. In what has been an uncomfortably extended period of financial insecurity for many public school districts, efforts to raise money for non-essential (but eminently practical) things like band uniforms show not just the dedication of professionals like Marxman, but also reveal a community dedicated to supporting the arts far beyond just a few rounds of applause at the end of each song.

THUMBS DOWN TO… ignoring warnings. We’ve spent a lot of ink over the years urging people to heed posted warnings at Starved Rock and other state parks instructing hikers to stay on marked trails. We have to repeat the message frequently because it’s so often ignored, directly resulting in injury, sometimes death, to say nothing of the danger posed to those brave enough to attempt rescue missions. But we’ve noticed trails are not the only place where safety bulletins are overlooked, as there seems also to be far too many instances of people swimming in water deemed unsafe and not everyone is pulled out alive.

Fortunately most of those occurrences involve Lake Michigan — the state doesn’t seem to matter, as it happens in Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan as well as Illinois — but we’d hope the takeaway is the same regardless: the safety warnings are in place for a very good reason, to keep you safe. You might be a strong swimmer or a hardy hiker, but if the risk is too great, what is there to gain? Live to play another day.

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