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So far, deep southernmost Illinois has avoided the coronavirus or COVID-19. Being the eternal optimist, I am hoping we can stay that way. But I am probably wrong.

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The evening of March 2 I wrote the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write — my resignation from my job here at the Planet. And as I write this column, I’m finding it to be the second hardest thing I’ve had to write.

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At a recent dinner party, it was wondered why our society appears to be pulling apart. I observed that sometimes unfortunate consequences flow from otherwise benign changes. I illustrated with a “tale of two families,” both known to me in my rural central Illinois setting.

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“Where are you from? Russia?” the middle-aged woman asked matter-of-factly, as she walked toward her polling place in Seaside, California, on Super Tuesday. She had been approached by a man wearing a Cossack Ushanka hat with a hammer and sickle pin, offering to buy her vote.

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Massac Unit One school board members have been talking about the future of the school district for quite some time now. Word came last year the state’s Capital Development Board (CDB) may launch new school construction grants, and Unit One began taking the needed steps in order to apply for …

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Last month, Gov. JB Pritzker delivered his annual budget address where he outlined his priorities for state spending in the fiscal year 2021, which begins in July.

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The rise of billionaires running for office is dampening the democratic impulse, that is, they threaten to take “by the people” out of government. The threat from those who swirl big money around in campaigns drives others to the sidelines of democracy, unwilling to waste their time in a con…

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Jim Nowlan and I go back a long way, and I can't think of anyone I know who I respect more. That being said, I have a much less dystopian view of the future of newspapers, and particularly community journalism, than the one Jim shared in his piece "Stop the hand-wringing over decline of news…

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The day my Mother and Father met, he was arguing with some high school friends about whether a slice of lemon would corrode the coating on a porcelain sink.

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Illinois will never have fair maps for its legislative districts under the present Illinois Supreme Court. There is an opportunity in November to change the court, yet I fear the contest will not be engaging, even though it's long past time for a change.

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According to a late 2019 piece in the New York Times, one in five newspapers in America has been shuttered over the past 15 years, and journalist numbers cut in half. This bodes ill for the vibrancy of communities, for which newspapers have been the essential glue, prod and town crier.

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There are 61 national parks. California has nine. Illinois has none. In the past couple of years, the Arch in St. Louie and the Dunes in northwestern Indiana have both been designated as national parks. Illinois had better rattle its tin cup out in D.C., as it appears to be "let's get a park…

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At the end of session last spring, the Illinois General Assembly approved and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed SB 1932, which created the Property Tax Relief Task Force. The task force is designed to evaluate Illinois' property tax system and issue a final report suggesting reforms by December 31, …

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Editor's Note: This is the third installment of a tale about the my1984 backpacking adventure in the Grand Canyon. The trip, through SIU-C Touch of Nature, included five days down in the canyon.

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Remember as a teen when you devised a strategy to convince your old man to let you have the family car to go on a date Saturday night? You we're lobbying, trying to get what you wanted. We're all lobbyists.

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Editor's Note: This is the second part of a series outlining my 1984 backpacking trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The trip was through Touch of Nature at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

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In this season of joy, I am reminded, as we all are, fleetingly, that not all share our joy. Several years ago, for example, the circus came to my rural town. A friend and I decided to ensure that all kids could have the very few bucks needed for tickets and some cotton candy. Fifteen single…

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The word on the street, say my insider friends, is that a lot of indictments are coming down soon as a result of federal public corruption probes in Chicagoland and Springfield, probably including both legislators and lobbyists. So, to stay ahead of the curve, I write this week the first of …

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A Nov. 19 article published by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune, outlined the practice of using isolated timeout rooms in Illinois - and in some instances - wrongly using those spaces for punishment.

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I've said many times going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on my bucket list, but after attending the annual Gatlinburg, Tennessee lighted parade, well, I'm thinking I may have to take Macy's off my list.

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A number of readers (actually two) have requested a column about Gov. J.B. Pritzker's tax initiatives. I have rattled on about this in the past, yet the topic is important to the future of Illinois, so here goes again, at least for the benefit of the two readers with interest.

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This column proposes a powerful, practical, if highly unconventional, way to start a national conversation, even a movement, that could possibly help restore a healthy American democracy and solid economic future, and maybe even replace one of our two bankrupt political parties.

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Anyone who knows me knows I'm always trying to earn extra money by doing odd jobs. Lord knows weekly newspaper reporters do not make the big bucks, and ever since I became a homeowner, I always seem to need more money.

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As readers might surmise from reading the news about Illinois, our state is arguably embedded in a political culture (patterns of behavior) of corruption (unearned personal gain at public expense). This doesn't mean that everyone in the Prairie State is corrupt, but that there is a learned d…

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One of America's most pressing public health problems is drug abuse and addiction. Deadly drugs that are smuggled across the border are killing Americans every day. To stop this crisis, lawmakers should come together and strengthen the nation's borders before we lose more Americans to drug abuse.

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Editor's Note: For many years, Jim Nowlan was a senior fellow and political science professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He has worked for three unindicted governors and published a weekly newspaper in central Illinois.

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Gov. JB Pritzker has lately won plaudits from even some conservative opinion-makers for making the right moves on corruption. But I am going to register an objection in a bit.

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The political muscle of ComEd/Exelon aced its last major test in 2016, when the energy companies finally passed what one Illinois House member referred to at the time as a "multibillion dollar corporate bailout" by electricity ratepayers to keep two of its nuclear power plants open.

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One of the provisions of the sweeping state pension reform law passed in 2010 has always stuck in the craw of first responders.

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You might have been asked recently to sign a petition to put a candidate on the ballot in 2020. It's that season and, though a truism, if good people don't run for office, democracy doesn't work. You ought to try running. Here's how.

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Once upon a time, having a job at a newspaper meant working in one of the most imposing buildings in town, inhaling the acrid aroma of fresh ink and the dusty breath of cheap newsprint and feeling mini-earthquakes under our feet every time the presses started to roll. For those of us old eno…

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The governor's top budget people sent a memo last week to agency directors giving them a heads up about what will be required in their annual budget request submissions. They are not easy-peasy asks.

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Whatever else you may believe, you have to commend Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for trying to live up to her campaign promise of making sure that new economic development isn't concentrated in her city's downtown business district.

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Adults, especially after the age of 30, seem to ask themselves lots of questions to determine if their lives are progressing satisfactorily. Looking back at old Massac Memos, I was doing that in 1983. The odd thing is that I am still asking the same question almost 40 years later.

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I am the first person to admit when discussions began about the Massac County Courthouse I was one of the people hoping the county would decide to build a new courthouse and the old one would get torn down. I had hoped the space would be developed into a nice, Superman-themed park, but that …

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The statement issued by Gov. JB Pritzker's office last Thursday night had some good advice for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who gave what was billed as a "State of the City" address earlier that evening. Lightfoot had outlined the challenges facing the city, including an $838 million budget…

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Although we cannot be sure exactly what occurred two, three or four thousand years ago, it is generally agreed that what we know as democracy, began in what is now Greece. And, even in hard times, the people of Greece still have a democratic government.

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As I mentioned in my last column, sometimes we all need to take a break from our everyday lives. I know when 2019 began I had hoped this would be a good year. Overall, it has been, but there have been some bumps along the way that have been stressful to deal with.

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When House Speaker Michael Madigan announced in February of 2018 that he'd fired Kevin Quinn, the brother of Madigan's alderman and political general, he said he made the decision because of Quinn's "inappropriate conduct" with Alaina Hampton, whom he called a "courageous woman." Hampton had…

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Many rural Midwest towns have become like my stereotype of Appalachia - main streets of mostly empty storefronts; lots of unskilled folks left behind, yearning for jobs "on the line" that are gone forever; too many single mothers struggling to make it on low-wage work, or welfare, lacking th…

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Gov. JB Pritzker signed the $45 billion infrastructure bill into law last week during a three-day fly-around to several Illinois cities.