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Local Editorials

THUMBS UP: Bike sharing program a wonderful enhancement to beloved natural resource

THUMBS UP TO … two-wheeled tourism. Count us in favor of the Canal Corridor Association’s introduction of a bike share system for communities along the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Last week the rollout began with stations in Morris and La Salle, with plans to bring sites in Channahon, Utica and Lockport online in short order. Anyone who wants to rent a bike can do so through a smartphone app at $2.50 per hour — which includes the basket, bell and headlight — and they can be returned to any of the connected spots on the route.

The Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity’s tourism office provided a 50 percent matching grant and with municipal, corporate and individual donations, the system is fully funded for two years, which should be enough to prove long-term viability. This is a great way to increase use of a treasured natural resource. Although targeted at out-of-town folks who might not have the ability to bring their own bikes to the canal, it also provides a low-cost point of entry for anyone who wants to experience the canal in this fashion. It might just turn more folks into regular cyclists, which would be a delightful development.

THUMBS DOWN TO … mail mishaps. Imagine the consternation at last week’s Sandwich City Council meeting when City Clerk Denise Ii announced more than half of roughly 860 water and sewer bills somehow disappeared in the U.S. Postal Service. Ii said some 440 invoices were lost and “the post office still cannot locate them.” Worse, this isn’t even the first time this has happened to Sandwich, although previous misplaced mailings were of a much smaller quantity.

It doesn’t appear Sandwich will run out of money to keep wastewater treatment operations flowing smoothly, but now the city has to spend extra administrative time making sure no one is charged late fees if they never got a bill in the mail, not to mention the possible cost of sending new bills and the longer-term disruptions in the billing cycle that is supposed to be somewhat streamlined for efficiency. There’s also potential for confusion if the missing bills go back into the mail after the city sends replacement invoices. We’re not pointing fingers of blame, but this certainly is not an ideal scenario.

THUMBS UP TO … a successful strategy. At a Marseilles City Council meeting last week, Mayor Jim Hollenbeck shared information about an exceptionally effective new program. In September, the city discussed what to do about the growing problem of abandoned homes, which create eyesores and public safety hazards while depressing the value of neighboring properties. The council enacted an ordinance to tackle the problem and issued 25 citations which, according to Hollenbeck, has resulted in 20 of those houses coming into compliance. The homes either became occupied or were sold and are being rehabilitated, and in a small town like Marseilles having 20 homes pulled back from the brink is simply remarkable.

“That was our goal all along,” Hollenbeck said. “Our goal was never to make money, we just didn’t want abandoned properties sitting around.”

The mayor is right — the ordinance strikes a good balance by making compliance logical and affordable yet punitive enough to give homeowners incentives to find a permanent fix. We hope the five outstanding properties are remedied quickly and encourage other towns struggling with a similar issue to consult with Marseilles regarding this impressive outcome.

THUMBS DOWN TO … antisocial media. Last week political organizations representing both major parties — the Kankakee County Democrats and the Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association— caught major flak for Facebook posts that were inarguably inappropriate and served only to inflame anger and fuel partisan rhetoric. While the posts came down amid public condemnation from elected officials and other party leaders who don’t want their images tarnished by misguided memes, we’re looking for something beyond just calls for civility and respectful debate.

Rather than just issuing statements about how the images don’t reflect on an entire party, we encourage leaders to conduct training throughout their grassroots organizations to discuss appropriate use of channels like Facebook and Twitter and to perhaps enact stricter vetting processes so things don’t go online until a responsible party has a chance to grant final approval. Any post can be deleted, but sometimes the damage done can’t be retracted. If you can’t make your point without crossing a line, then maybe the message needs to be sent back to the workshop.

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