THUMBS UP TO… classroom cooperation. We always enjoy seeing schools find ways to take teaching from purely academic to experiential, and the most recent example is a remarkable partnership. Last week, we had the honor of reporting on Illinois Valley Community College chemistry professor Matthew Johll’s work with La Salle County Coroner William Wujek, who is committed to discovering the identity of a woman found dead in a La Salle County cornfield almost three decades ago. It’s a great pairing of two public bodies that provides a fascinating opportunity to budding scientists.
Johll and his students have researched testing methods and laboratories, contacted the FBI and the Smithsonian Institution and learned about the way isotopes on adult teeth can be connected to regional diets, how mid-century nuclear explosions increased carbon 14 atmospheric levels and a few more details germane to death investigations. There may not be an answer, and these students may never enter professional forensic chemistry, but all of them have gotten a unique experience sure to serve them well as they continue academic pursuits.
THUMBS DOWN TO… a prize pause. The news the Omni Prize for the Arts won’t reprise its 2018 debut later this year is a bummer. The three-day juried arts festival took over Ottawa in September and in the immediate aftermath there were high hopes for an expected return in 2019. But last week Starved Rock Country Community Foundation President Pamela Beckett said in order to meet the committee’s desire to expand the event, it will have to be postponed a year.
The good news is the revised target date is 2020, so those who really enjoyed the first festival shouldn’t have to wait too long for a second. In the big picture, if waiting a year allows organizers to build something more sustainable, even a festival that only takes place every other year, then the delay is sound strategy. The inaugural festival included more than 60 artists across multiple media displaying work downtown, dramatic performances in the 807 Building and independent films at Roxy Cinemas. Something that major or larger requires significant effort, and we hope the extra planning time pays dividends.
THUMBS UP TO… a second statue? We’ll admit there’s valid criticisms of Springfield lawmakers going over the top whenever given the chance. But there’s a Streator angle to a story that made the rounds last week that might be worth exploring. A house bill regarding installation of new statues of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, joining the Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant sculptures, now includes a few other Illinoisans, notably Streator’s Ruben Soderstrom, who was a state representative before embarking on a legendary career leading America’s organized labor movement.
The movement for a Reagan statue is several years old. This specific bill actually originated last year, but with the 101st General Assembly now in session, Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, handed sponsorship to Rep. Thomas Bennett, R-Gibson City, generating a new round of buzz. Soderstrom’s Streator City Park statue and plaza was unveiled to great fanfare in 2012, and the Illinois AFL-CIO, which he led from 1930 through 1970, already is planning a statue and memorial in the plaza in front of the group’s Springfield headquarters. So perhaps a third would be overkill, and we certainly would say the Reagan and Obama projects deserve priority. But Soderstrom is a major figure in Illinois history, and even a fresh round of publicity is great for his legacy and his ties to Streator.
THUMBS DOWN TO… loss of perspective. Every winter we can count on two things — snowfall that affects driving conditions and people complaining about the ensuing postponements and cancellations. And look, we get it: snow is a major hassle. It adds extra time to everything, whether that’s clearing your own walks and driveways, waiting for the plow to come through or just being more cautious than usual behind the wheel. No one wants to have to scrap a middle school wrestling tournament or pancake breakfast fundraiser, but as a community we have to accept that sometimes public safety is simply more important than whatever might’ve been on the schedule.
A polite suggestion: take that negative energy you might’ve spent complaining about someone else’s decision and channel it into being a good neighbor. Clear your own sidewalks and any others you might be able to manage. Make sure letter carriers have clear paths to do their job, and do the same for firefighters. Eventually the snow and ice will melt and life will resume as planned. There’s no sense getting angry about any individual snowstorm, as Mother Nature simply doesn’t care. And by all means, if you absolutely have to drive somewhere when all common sense says otherwise, do so as carefully as possible. If not for your sake, then for the sake of anyone else who has to be on the road at the same time.