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Thursday, March 30, 2006 02:46 pm

CAP CITY

Hail to the chief, the life of Riley, Springfield Clinic’s expansion plan

HAIL TO THE CHIEF We’re going to be seeing a lot less of Springfield Police Chief Don Kliment in the weeks ahead. For one thing, there’s simply less of him to see — he’s dropped some 30 pounds. For another, he will soon take off for Quantico, Va., where he will be attending the FBI’s prestigious National Academy. According to the FBI’s Web site, this two-and-a-half month graduate-level course for law-enforcement leaders from around the world accepts just 1,000 officers per year. All must meet certain professional, educational, and physical standards. Kliment — who went from being a lowly street sergeant one day to chief the next — has seen a handful of other SPD officers graduate from the course and apparently wants a chance to experience it himself. He’s not talking about it, but his slimmer physique proves that he’s worked hard to meet the academy’s fitness requirements. Attaboy, Chief! Enjoy your trip.

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? In many ways, meetings of the Springfield City Council ebb and flow like a late-night talk show: They start off with current events (proclamations, etc.); move through the my-latest-project-plugging guests (petitioners); the host, Mayor Tim Davlin, trades barbs with band members (aldermen); and it’s a wrap. Until recently, as with these television programs, council meetings often ended in a musical number, usually performed by Stephen Riley, a retired teacher from Chicago who lives in Springfield. But Riley’s been AWOL for the past several months, leaving spectators of Springfield city government with little to look forward to anymore, save for the final rap of Davlin’s gavel. Last week, the mayor asked members of the council whether anybody had seen the virtuoso. Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz said that he had spotted Riley downtown, wearing a tie and sport coat, “doing his usual fast walk” down Adams Street. Asked whether he missed Riley’s melodious voice as much as we do, Kunz says that Riley’s singing never bothered him, adding that council meetings provide a forum for citizens such as Riley to express their opinions. If Kunz won’t say it, we will: Come back, Mr. Riley. Please?

CALL HIM CINDERELLA While Richard Norton Smith, soon-to-be-erstwhile head of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, was packing last weekend, George Mason University, where he’s headed to take a post as a part-time scholar, was the talk of the land — but not for history or dead presidents or anything similarly inconsequential. The Patriots, seeded 11th, messed up a bunch of brackets by beating UConn and making it to the Final Four. No word on whether Smith, whose alma mater Harvard finished below .500 and nearly in the Ivy League cellar this year, had a chance to catch one of the biggest upsets in college-basketball history. He’ll have his work cut out for him when he hits campus, if the basketball team’s academic record is any indication. George Mason graduated 82 percent of its men’s hoops team within six years. It’s a respectable showing, to be sure, but not as good as that of Illinois, one of four teams in the tourney boasting a 100 percent graduation rate. Neener, neener, neener.

BRIDGE OF SIZE As most of the city was cleaning up tornado damage, the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission gathered on March 15 to pass judgment on the Springfield Clinic’s expansion plans — and what plans they were. What had previously been described as a pedestrian bridge over Sixth Street to link the existing clinic and a new building is a lot more than that in an artist’s rendering. This sucker would be 85 feet tall and have at least three floors of space over the street. Plus, with all-glass walls, it’s see-through. Springfield Clinic chief administrative officer Mark Kuhn, who referred to the structure as a skywalk in January, when the clinic announced its expansion plans, now calls it a connector. The project, he explains, has evolved. “We’re homing in on the final look,” he says. The bridge/skywalk/connector could end up housing a coffee shop or even a restaurant, Kuhn reports. “It’s not going to be wall-to-wall offices, by any means,” he says. “We see it as the equivalent of an oasis as we go through these hallways.” Having received the zoning commission’s OK, the $25 million expansion plan now goes before the City Council. A decision could come as early as April 18.
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