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Wednesday, July 16, 2008 08:57 pm

Cap City

The bloggers all wore pants, plus CWLP project manager speaks out, hog heaven, and homeless circus

Untitled Document HOG HEAVEN It’s hard to believe that the recent floods brought good news to any living creature, but that’s just because you haven’t heard about Doctor, Nicky, Sleepy, and Bucket Head. They’re four of the 65 pigs rescued from a 20-mile stretch of the “Big Ditch” levee in Oakville, Iowa (just across the Mississippi river from Galesburg), by a coalition of animal-rights activists from across the nation, alerted to the fact that stray pigs were being shot. “There was a certain percentage of them that were tough to catch because they were so happy,” says Tricia Barry, who works at the 175-acre Farm Sanctuary in New York, where all of the rescued pigs are now under the loving care of vegetarians, as well as veterinarians from nearby Cornell University. The slower rescuees had severe dehydration and sunburn; Bucket Head, a large sow, was so named because she had found a trash can to use as shade, resting her head inside for naps and walking around wearing it as a hat. “Tests show pigs are smarter than dogs!” Barry says. The same porkers, before the flood, lived in confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, where some 37,000 of their former colleagues escaped the rising waters by taking an early trip to the slaughterhouse.

POMP AND CIRCUS DANCE A couple weeks ago, city community-relations director Sandy Robinson, homelessness czar to Mayor Tim Davlin, said he expected a number of area social-service agencies to make several exciting announcements regarding homeless services to coincide with a visit by President George W. Bush’s go-to-guy on homelessness, Philip Mangano. Specifically, Robinson mentioned the possibility of increased shelter space and hinted at a day oasis, but he also said he didn’t want to steal the groups’ thunder by naming the agencies and their planned programs. To see exactly what’s in store we — and the homeless — will just have to wait for Mangano to finish gladhanding Davlin and members of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, touring the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and making several other stops before concluding the trip with a forum on homelessness issues, some of which apparently have been solved since early July. If you want to check out the presentation, it’s being given at 6:30 p.m. today, Thursday, July 17, at the Dove Conference Center of the Prairie Heart Institute at St. John’s Hospital, 619 E. Mason St.
HIS BLOOD PRESSURE, NOT HIS PAY, WENT UP The past month could be called nothing short of a media feeding frenzy, as the State Journal-Register and other Springfield news outlets circled Brian Fitzgerald, City Water, Light & Power’s project manager.
Fitzgerald’s picture appeared on the daily’s front page and his name surfaced in several of its recent articles — all because he was offered another job and CWLP general manager Todd Renfrow wanted to make him a counteroffer. Fitzgerald’s not happy with the attention, his kids’ sudden awareness of his salary, or what he calls mischaracterizations of his loyalty, but, he says, what really bothers him is that no one from the SJ-R even talked to him. “It’s an issue of ethics . . . the story leads somewhere and the individual never called,” Fitzgerald says of the initial SJ-R story that broke news of his possible career change. The part of the story that hasn’t been told, he says, is that the new job isn’t all about money — it’s also close to his hometown and his parents. Even if the City Council approves an ordinance increasing his salary from $116,153 to $175,000 a year (the measure failed Tuesday but will be reconsidered at a special meeting at noon tomorrow), Fitzgerald says he’ll still probably take the opportunity to move on.
Aldermen will consider salary increases for four other CWLP managers, who have all received other job offers, Renfrow reported Tuesday. Including Fitzgerald’s salary hike, CWLP figures, the managers’ combined raises would total $180,000. An ordinance repealing a salary cap barring pay raises of more than 5 percent for city employees and an ordinance giving Renfrow the power to negotiate employee contracts — both without aldermanic approval — were thrown out Tuesday.
THEY ALL WORE PANTS Something unusual happened Sunday at the Springfield Sliders baseball game. Sliders shortstop Elliot Soto led off the homeboys’ first at-bat with a walk. While the next Slider was at the plate, eventually striking out, Soto stole second. The third Slider batter telegraphed a bunt, pulling the third baseman away from his bag and allowing Soto to steal again. And finally, on a wild pitch that got away from the catcher, Soto came home, thus wringing a run from an inning during which there were no balls in play, no errors, and no one left on. “Kind of an anomaly in baseball,” says Sliders statistician Jay Gundy.
But even more unusual was the little gaggle of nerds sitting in the bleachers, squinting against the sun. It was the first meeting IRL of Springfield bloggers — a group that took offense a few months ago when Cap City called them pantsless persons living in their parents’ basements. For days in advance they had chattered about their baseball outing, but when Sunday rolled around — beautiful weather, free tickets (every Sunday home game, courtesy of County Market), and an extra-innings spectacular Sliders victory — a mere handful of bloggers showed up. Says our brave favorite (a pants-wearing, truth-speaking soul): “Apparently getting bloggers to dress and leave their parents’ basement is more difficult than we thought. Turnout was dismal.”
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