THUMBS UP TO… a resource revival. Late last month the Streator City Council heard a briefing on upcoming projects at the Pontiac 911 call center, including news that the Crime Stoppers hotline number will be resuscitated. It’s been about two years since Streator merged its 911 center into Livingston County’s, which now is known as Vermillion Valley Emergency Communications Authority. That’s a mouthful, but the important thing is that when a Streatorite calls 911, a professional answers quickly. The Authority has 12 full-time and five-part time dispatchers, four of whom are Streator residents.
Part of that merger was the end of Streator Crime Stoppers, a valuable service for police to collect tips on unsolved crimes. It’s a comfort to learn that option will be restored to folks, as there were several past instances where information provided via phone call — anonymous or otherwise — led directly to arrests and resolution of crime. Along with other completed and planned upgrades, we feel confident Streator residents are getting good value from their contributions to the regional dispatch office.
THUMBS DOWN TO…
THUMBS DOWN TO… choosing the worse of two evils. Last month we wrote a full editorial about $8 million the state of Michigan was offering to Illinois to go toward the team effort of keeping Asian carp from infesting Lake Michigan, a legitimate threat as the invasive species continues to thrive in the Illinois River. We noted the money would be on hold until 2028, and a drop in the bucket considering the prevention efforts could exceed $1 billion by the time everything is installed, but urged Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois and his Michigan counterpart, Rick Snyder, both outgoing Republicans, to continue the dialogue.
Instead, Rauner effectively said thanks but no thanks, and told Snyder to keep the change. So now if we want to get back to those dollars, it’ll require invoicing Democratic Govs. JB Pritzker and Gretchen Whitmer to talk turkey once their inaugurations are settled. Maybe they’ll reach a better deal, and maybe things will get solved before 2028 when that $8 million Snyder authorized would make a difference. But really, what was the harm in at least accepting the offer on the table instead of shutting things off altogether?
THUMBS UP TO… a healthy decline. La Salle County marked a new low in 2018 with only nine recorded deaths linked to vehicle crashes. Even adding the two people who died at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria after a La Salle County crash, it marks a steep drop-off from 18 vehicle crash deaths in 2017, and the staggering peak of 34 in 2007, the most so far this century. Only three of the traffic deaths in 2018 involved victims with drugs or alcohol in their systems.
We realize every individual death is tragic for the families involved, and by no means seek to minimize anyone’s loss. But if these statistical trends continue it’s a good sign our roads are safer, our drivers more responsible and our vehicles better equipped to keep us all alive. A lot of people deserve credit here, from the highway engineers who design safe intersections to the law enforcement officers who keep intoxicated drivers off the road to passengers who wear seat belts and more. Accidents will always happen, but a low number like this indicates many people taking precautionary steps to prevent tragedy.
THUMBS DOWN TO… staggering statistics. Whereas the idea of safer roads brings optimism, there is deep pessimism stemming from the numbers linked to a federal lawsuit accusing the Illinois Department of Corrections of having such an inadequate health care system that several inmates died in custody over the past decade. On Thursday the state moved closer to a settlement with lawyers representing about 40,000 inmates who first sued eight years ago. According to The Association Press, the latest report form plaintiffs’ lawyers showed experts examined 33 deaths and determined 12 were clearly preventable with better care, seven might have been preventable and in five cases, records were so poorly kept they could not make a determination.
It is simply inhumane to have a system where anyone in the state’s care is left to grow sick and die, whether it be a foster child, a veterans home resident or a convicted felon. We’re not saying these people didn’t deserve their incarceration, but being sentenced to prison shouldn’t mean being sentenced to death, and if IDOC is on the hook for a dozen preventable deaths — and can’t even say what happened to five other people — then reform is long overdue. Hopefully this settlement moves us in that direction, or we as a state have some serious self reflection to undertake.