Letters to the Editor
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EATING ON $25 A WEEK
I would encourage everyone to attempt the Illinois Food Bank Association's $25 challenge in an effort to re-examine our attitudes toward food [See Dusty Rhodes, "The challenge of eating on $25 a week," IT, Oct. 2]. Eating has become less of an event to savor a carefully prepared meal than it is a pit stop to fuel a hyperactive lifestyle. We as a nation waste and over-consume food, while based on estimates made by the United Nations, approximately one billion people worldwide go hungry on less than a dollar per day.
Based on this figure, I decided to see if I could
limit my food budget to one dollar per day for a week. During this
time, I lost six pounds averaging 1,200 calories per day and ended up under
budget at $6.89. Just as Kris Armour noted in the IT article, nutritious food was
mostly out of the question. Nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables receive
virtually no subsidies from the USDA, while the majority goes to crops such
as corn and soybeans used in highly processed foods. Based on USDA
subsidies between 1995 and 2004 totaling $113.6 billion dollars, farmers
growing corn received $41.8 billion dollars. For comparison, farmers
growing apples and sugar beets received $611 million dollars. Most fruit
and vegetables are not subsidized by the government in any way.
Food should not be taken for granted. We should view our meals through the eyes of the billion people who would gladly take the leftovers that wind up in our garbage. We as a country have developed a sense of arrogance and entitlement towards our supply of cheap food. As many people are slowly starving, we are slowly killing ourselves with diseases caused by overabundance. Small changes in everyone's lifestyles could go a long way in reducing rates of hunger and malnutrition.
MORE WITH LESS
I was interested in reading your report of living off $100 a month in food stamps. My family of three did this last winter, although we usually ended up spending $50 extra to cover our month's meals. We ate a lot of beans, rice and potatoes, along with canned produce from our summer garden. Who throws away leftovers?! We could not afford to eat meat, cheese, or extras last winter, but we survived all right. Dumpstered bread and homemade hummus got us through the end of the month.
Living in poverty and having access to food goes beyond food stamps. In many parts of the city, there are simply no grocery stores. This is what is known as a food desert. A convenience store is often the source of "food" for many people. Health issues arise later in life for those without access to other options. My family is quite fortunate to have Humphreys Market a few blocks from us still.
Another issue is the lack of fresh local
chemical-free produce for people who rely on food stamps (now received in
the form of a Link card). I can purchase produce at a grocery store, old
food from far away, but I may not purchase fresh, local, chemical-free
produce from actual farmers at a farmers market. I want to support my local
farmers! Many cities have farmers markets that are accessible to poor
people who rely on the Link card. I have attempted to work with Downtown
Springfield, Inc. on this issue, but I have received no response. Poor
people need access to these markets also, and farmers could better support
themselves by selling to another interested segment of the population.
We are working through a group called Food Not Lawns to share knowledge and skills concerning gardening and sustainable living, particularly for people with low incomes. We encourage everyone to set aside part of their lawns next year to grow food for themselves and their friends, families and communities, to provide people with an opportunity to reconnect with nature and have an idea where their food comes from. We offer free monthly educational meetings on a variety of topics, and will be having a free Gardening 101 class this winter, along with a seed and plant swap this spring. We encourage anyone interested to get involved.
Carey Smith Moorman
DON'T INCREASE TAXES
I mostly applaud Mr. Farrar's opinions of historic preservation efforts and the sad, may we say, "efforts" of Illinois state government. However, I do strongly disagree with his recent column regarding increases in state taxes [see "Time for tax reform in Illinois," IT, Sept. 25].
Small businesses here have a really tough time as it is. Utilities, gasoline and food are insane. I can barely make my house payment, which includes $423 per month in taxes and insurance. I am also involved in other properties that pay about $2,000 a year in tax. Although I only spend money on my properties, I had to pay more tax last year, though my actual income was pretty much nothing.
I am quite tired of paying for others' children. Schools mean nothing to me. My parents paid for my education, and I find it offensive to pay for others when I made a choice to not have children.
Perhaps if someone would choose to stop giving the farm away, practice common sense and use taxpayer dollars wisely, there might be some calm and forgiving in this madness. Increasing the cost of the madness is not the answer.
David L. Howard
DANGERS OF CON-CON
Rich Miller's posts of the last two weeks show good reasons for a constitutional convention. My fear is that they ignore the political reality of the present: anti-government attitudes and single-issue political forces are likely to produce a document far worse than the present. Right now, Massachusetts voters are preparing for an up-or-down vote on the state's income tax, contesting the size and extent of state government. Would present Illinois voters be different? As the Illinois Times editor noted last week, the negative attitude toward taxation is a source of statewide problems. Should that attitude frame a constitutional convention?
The impact of single-issue politics has been and continues to be among the major forces which degrade and try to destroy government institutions. I submit that it takes confidence in the principles of good government, not issues, even to begin a constitutional review.
That confidence is not demonstrated today by Illinois voters.
Rich Miller well recognizes term limits and recall as potential problem areas of con-con. Populist "direct democracy" grants of initiative and referendum (citizens circumventing the legislative process and directly voting laws up or down) have diminished too many state constitutions. Just see what they are doing to California governance. The risk is great that a convention would enshrine and elevate these populist icons.
The solution, at least at this time, is not con-con. Better leaders would be a cure. To get better leaders the state needs better voters. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we now lack for the selection of
responsible constitutional convention delegates.
BENEFITS OF CON-CON
Last month state Sen. Larry Bomke revealed that 89 percent of his constituents, responding to his survey, favored recall of an elected official.
Recall and the open primary are two political reforms overwhelmingly supported by the public, but the Illinois General Assembly, which is supposed to represent us, won't pass either measure. Fortunately, the drafters of our state constitution put a stopgap measure in it, giving voters the opportunity every 20 years to bypass the legislature by voting to hold a constitutional convention.
This is that 20th year! By voting "yes" to the question: "For the Calling of a Constitutional Convention," you will be voting to convene a constitutional convention of 118 delegates to be elected, two per state senate district. The convention will have the power to propose constitutional amendments on recall, the open primary and other matters. These proposed constitutional amendments would then go before the voters for an up or down vote at a future election.
A "yes" vote on the constitutional convention is the only realistic chance we have of getting reforms like the open primary and recall.
Plus, a constitutional convention meeting in
Springfield for up to a year will be an economic shot in the arm to our
town with all the economic activity generated by delegates, support staff,
lobbyists, journalists and others.