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Wednesday, June 20, 2007 05:03 pm

Letters to the Editor

Untitled Document We welcome letters. Please include your full name, address, and telephone number. We edit all letters. Send them to Letters, Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705; fax 217-753-3958; e-mail editor@illinoistimes.com.
The Historic Westside Neighborhood Association shares everyone’s concern about traffic safety and will support reasonable, prudent solutions to the problems at the MacArthur-Walnut-Lawrence intersections [see R.L. Nave, “Beyond potholes,” June 14]. We hope that the rush to judgment does not conclude that the only remedy is a major capital improvement of the intersections. Mayor Tim Davlin recently reported that the yellow warning lights have already had a significant impact. Similar, relatively low-cost options should be immediately considered before a massive capital improvement. A hard analysis of traffic-accident data should be conducted to determine primary causes. It is not clear that the configuration of the intersection is the primary issue. For example, it was obvious from his description that the cause of the accident involving former Ald. Irv Smith was driver error. The person responsible ran the red light, which could have happened at any intersection. We believe that safety should focus on deterrence prior to implementing changes that will only invite more and higher-speed traffic. Retiming the traffic signals and adding left-turn arrows for southbound and eastbound traffic are other suggestions that could have a positive impact. There needs to be a more deliberate pause between the red, yellow, and green lights. Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen has suggested that lighting be staggered so that each direction will have its own travel period, in much the same manner as traffic is regulated at the Wabash-MacArthur and Wabash-Chatham Road intersections. This must be accompanied by stricter enforcement activity, which may include photographic monitoring. City officials must also consider that there are schools in the immediate vicinity and heavy use of Washington Park. Capital improvements that increase traffic volume and speed, together with reductions in the rights-of-way along these busy streets, add to the safety risk for the children who walk to and from school, as well as for city residents who frequent the Williams Boulevard-Washington Park areas. We believe that the historic near-Westside of Springfield is at extreme risk of deterioration. The quality of life remains high, but we fear that the pressure to upgrade area streets into wider thoroughfares will send the wrong signal to residents that the city of Springfield puts the interest of commuters over the residents of the near Westside. We hope that the rest of the city of Springfield continues to protect and preserve the near-Westside and to support our effort to implement reasonable and prudent traffic-safety solutions.
Kurt R. DeWeese
Vice president
Historic Westside Neighborhood Association

POLITICIANS SHOULD LIVE LIKE US While I in no way wish bad things to happen to Irv Smith and his wife, I find it hypocritical that because he and his wife had an accident at one of the highest accident rated intersections in town it is now time to do something other than to preserve the pristine condition of the neighborhood [R.L. Nave, “Beyond potholes,” June 14]. Perhaps this is the solution to the gridlock in American politics everywhere. Let our politicians get off the high horse and experience everyday life as the rest of us do. Let them go to the gas station and pump their own gas and be shocked and upset that it is cutting into our annual budget and will cause us to cut elsewhere. Let them go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and truly be able to answer the question that most of them cannot answer.
Or, better yet, let them attend school and see the poverty, lack of interest in students and the parents, the unforgivable conditions of some schools, and the outdated textbooks that exist in this country where we brag often about being the best in the world. Let them drive in our local downtowns and experience firsthand the homeless, and perhaps they will think twice about cutting off funding of mental-health programs. Julie L. Becker

Benjamin Wolf, legal director for the ACLU of Illinois, grossly mischaracterized my May 24 criticism of his organization [“Letters,” June 24]. He claimed that I stated that teenagers have “an absolute right to control all aspects of their mental-health treatment.” I never used the phrase “absolute right” in my letter.
I did say that teenagers have the right to refuse treatment. This has been confirmed by every counselor, psychologist, and therapist with whom I’ve spoken. This has also been confirmed by U.S. Rep. John Shimkus and the U.S. Supreme Court. I did, however, state that they can under certain limited circumstances be committed. But those circumstances are extremely narrow (“harmful to self or others”) and almost always result in short-term stays that do little if any good. Thanks to civil libertarians, the definition of “harmful to self and others” has been so narrowly defined as to be meaningless. In other words, they have to find the teen with the weapon in hand before they can intervene. Then the teen has to be dumb enough to tell the psychiatrist that he wants to hurt himself or someone else before the psychiatrist can make him stay more than two or three days. Once the child wises up and says he won’t hurt anyone, he’s back on the street and the family is back at square one, or worse. Wolf knows this as well as I do, and I can’t imagine why he misled Illinois Times readers by claiming otherwise.
Wolf then stated that the ACLU got the state to increase funding for a residential-treatment program. If he is referring to the Illinois Care Grant, he is perpetrating a cruel joke on Illinois Times readers. The ICG will be granted only in extreme cases of full-blown psychosis. In other words, the child has to be walking around thinking he’s Napoleon before the ICG officials will give him a second glance.
Wolf was flat-out wrong when he said parents can have access to their teens’ medical records without the teens’ written consent. Because of HIPAA (a federal statute), no medical records can be released to anyone without written consent if the patient is at least 12 years of age.
HIPAA [privacy rules] even apply if the child is in a juvenile detention center and the center performs a drug test. So if your child commits a crime and the county performs a drug test (using your tax dollars) you do not have the right to know the results of that test unless the child gives his written permission. If Wolf doesn’t believe me, he can call the Sangamon County Juvenile Detention Center and ask. People say there are a lot of bad parents out there, and there are. But there are more good parents who are not legally allowed to be good parents because of organizations like the ACLU. How can we be good parents when our own government is not allowed to tell us that our kids are using drugs? If Illinois Times readers like the fact that they have no right to know if their kids are using drugs, then I suggest they send more money to the ACLU.
Robert Huck

ENFORCE THE LAW WITHOUT EXCEPTION I read the editorials from those saying we must help the homeless and the comments from the homeless that that they are stuck in a rut and cannot get a job because they have no address and cannot get an address without a job [see R.L. Nave, “Out of sight,” June 7]. These comments are related to responsibility. I am responsible for getting up in the morning, washing, and going to work. Therefore I can use the money I get from my job to pay for a home. I am also in a rut, but it works for me. If someone said I did not have to work or have a home but could live off what others would give me, I could see how others might fall into that rut, but I would refuse. I learned to do things for myself. The folks at the library have never learned this lesson, and, as long as they are allowed to do what they want and get rewarded for it, it will continue. It is one thing to give someone a fish, but it is another thing to help him learn to catch his own fish. The way the library homeless are being handled, nothing will ever change until we see elected officials who are ready to make the difficult decisions and enforce the laws without exception.
Jerald Jacobs
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