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Thursday, March 23, 2006 09:57 pm

CAP CITY

Bicentennial planning for Abe, signs of the times, and blogging troopers

WHAT DAY IS IT? In early February, Julie Cellini, chairwoman of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, pooh-poohed the notion that there might be any urgency in hiring a replacement for Richard Norton Smith, departing director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, after all, is in 2009. A proper bicentennial celebration, Smith told Illinois Times, should start in 2008, involve diverse segments of the community and build, build, build to a big, climactic . . . well, a big, climactic something. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to hire someone sooner rather than later to help ensure that the bicentennial truly is a once-in-a-lifetime gala instead of just another excuse for the U.S. Mint to make a commemorative coin? Cellini told us that there’s plenty of time and assured us that there are lots of ideas in the mill. “It’s way too early talk about them now, of course,” she said. “It’s still three years away.” A couple of days later, Cellini succeeded former Gov. Jim Thompson on the federal commission that’s putting together a national celebration. Thompson resigned, and Cellini is finding out just how much work she has to do. For one thing, as the State Journal-Register reported on Monday, there are no events planned for Springfield until 2010. By then, we suspect, everyone who matters will be making plans to remember the War of 1812. “That’s not nearly enough to celebrate Lincoln, who lived here 28 years,” Cellini told the daily paper. “I’m wondering how we get into the game, how we become part of it. An event the year afterward — isn’t that a non-event? 2010 is puzzling, bewildering.” Roll up your sleeves and go, girl.

WHEN COPS GO WILD If you want to know what’s really going on with the Illinois State Police, well, you’ll have to take a series of tests, get hired on, survive academy, swear out the oath, and ride the road for a good five years or so yourself. If, however, you want to know what might (or might not) really be going on, who might (or might not) wield the real power, and who might (or might not) be zooming whom, surf on over to the hot blog ispeeved.blogspot.com. Created in January as “an outlet for all you sworn, code, and merit comp employees of the ISP to let everyone know what is going on in your areas,” the site is populated by countless folk named “Anon” — plus a smattering of brave (i.e., retired) souls willing to sign their posts. Despite the creator’s plea for troopers to “keep your posts clean, honest, and available for real debate,” the usual fare spans a narrow spectrum from raunchy rumors and salacious gossip to complaints about seat-belt detail, unequal discipline, unfair promotions, and minorities of every stripe to complaints about the idiot bosses and longing for the good ol’ days. Those paranoid posters who keep fretting that the agency’s internal-affairs investigators are reading everything they write might be interested to learn that their fears are unfounded, according to ISP’s official spokesdude, Master Sgt. Rick Hector. “The ISP Division of Internal Investigations does not monitor the site,” he writes in an e-mail. “The Department does not have any opinion or comment.”

SIGNS OF THE TIMES Commercially speaking, the two twisters that smacked Springfield on March 12 affected many of the town’s busiest commercial corridors: Clear Lake Avenue, North Dirksen Parkway, Wabash Avenue, and parts of Veterans Parkway. More than a week later, the blown-out and missing signs are evidence of the storms’ fury. Springfield Signs owner Joe O’Neill estimates that about 350 commercial signs will have to be replaced. Besides replacing signs knocked down by the heavy winds, he says, his company is dealing with others that haven’t come down all the way and pose a safety hazard. For example, part of Clear Lake was temporarily shut down so that O’Neill’s guys could prevent a giant Golden Arches sign from crashing into the busy thoroughfare. O’Neill says that even though his company’s done six to eight months’ worth of business in the week since tornadoes hit, he’s not really in it for the money: “Hopefully consumers don’t think we’re looking for a dollar bill, because we don’t need it.”

FREESE FRAME Illinois artist and soldier Philip M. Freese is showing his paintings at the Murray Gallery, on the campus of Lincoln Land Community College, 5250 Shepherd Rd. The show, which opens Friday at 5:30 p.m., continues through April 14. Freese studied art at LLCC, the University of Illinois at Springfield, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Freese relies on basic design tools in his work — a compass, brushes, paint. “A well-designed object,” he says, “carries a kind of morality with it. It exists as a synthesis of trust and discipline, ingenuity and quality, beauty and joy.”

GET INTO THE RACES The Citizens Club of Springfield examines race relations with a three-part series of public forums. Presenters include Cullom Davis, emeritus professor of history at UIS; Richard Hart, a partner in the Hart, Southworth & Witsman law firm; and Elijah Singley, retired faculty member and research librarian at LLCC. Management consultant Kenley Wade will serve as moderator for the forum, which will be held 5:15-6:45 p.m. at the Prairie Heart Institute at St. John’s Hospital, 619 E. Mason St. The event is free and open to the public.
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