Your Turn . . . 11-6-03
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My most difficult years
I joined the Department of Veterans Affairs in September 1999 and really didn't know Jerry Wiley that well and had no insight into the discrimination issues highlighted in your article [Pete Sherman, "Trouble Man," Oct. 23]. However, I was impressed that Wiley was knowledgeable and effective as the department's fiscal officer.
I was appointed by John W. Johnston and subsequently terminated effective May 1, 2003 by his replacement, Roy L. Dolgos. I have no hard feelings about the termination because a substantial number of people appointed to work in the Ryan Administration were terminated when the new governor took office.
I left the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to join Johnston as deputy director for operations. He never once made reference as to the terms of my appointment, and I assumed I could work with the department as long as I wanted. I found out after I started that I could be fired at any time without cause.
In all my years of working with veterans I had never encountered an individual like Johnston. In short, he was absolutely impossible to work with unless you could count yourself among the half dozen or so favored staff members, including the auditor mentioned in your article. I could elaborate on a number of issues and events during Johnston's tenure that could only be classified as bizarre, but you would probably question at least some of these recollections because they would be hard to comprehend. The sad irony is that after literally driving the department into the ground and creating the most polarized environment imaginable, Johnston was allowed to stay on for several weeks after the new director arrived.
In my opinion he spent most of this time influencing the new director on who should be terminated and who should be retained. In retrospect, none of Johnston's cronies were terminated, while both deputies and several others who were not in his favor were axed, but by the new director. Hal Fritz had eight years with the department and a Medal of Honor, but he received the same termination letter I did. He was barely given time to clean out his office and essentially treated like a criminal.
This is the first time I have said anything about Johnston, although my name as the "other deputy director" appeared in several articles about Hal's termination. I have a good job that I enjoy, but will always consider my three years and eight months with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs as the most difficult of my career.
Former Deputy Director,
Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
His aim is true
Bob Cavanagh ["History Talk"] is a bloody genius: everyone knows that. Here's to a long and happy association between the lot of you, though I hope he manages to throw a few stones yet from inside the glass house. God bless the good times, all the rest of you can hang. I've renewed my subscription with hot blood this time. Luck, faith and vigor.
Our summer getaway
I enjoyed reading your article "Water World," including the map [Pete Sherman, Oct. 30]. As a child I spent many years at Baldwin's Beach. The area was so small, no more than 16 cottages is my recollection, that it was quite a surprise to see it shown on the map published with your article. Nearly all the cottages were owned by Springfield people -- I can recall most of the names -- who used them as summer getaways in the years prior to air conditioning. Our family was there from Memorial Day to Labor Day in the late '20s and early '30s.
So there's no confusion . . .
I am afraid there has been some misunderstanding in regard to claims of the "Art of Living" course which I would like to clarify [John L. Glosser, "Know how to breathe? Think again," Oct. 30]. The injury to the cartilage I alluded to was personal and stressful. The breathing technique offered by the course helped me reduce my stress and anxiety greatly. The alleviation of stress and anxiety was felt subjectively which had some positive effect on the pain itself. However, I would like to disclaim any inference relating the "Art of Living" breathing technique and alleviation of physical pain. It must be emphasized, nevertheless, that the breathing technique known as "Sudarshan Kriya" has led to an emotional cleansing and betterment of the quality of life for me, and several others personally known to me.
Dr. Padma Talcherkar
Repeal the Patriot Act
Over 190 cities and counties across the country passed resolutions expressing concern about the original Patriot Act. And in Congress, there's bipartisan support for repealing portions of the Patriot Act. Instead of fighting these efforts in Congress or proposing further restrictions on our basic civil liberties, the Bush Administration should listen to the people -- and its Republican allies in Congress -- and join the reasonable and growing movement to restore freedoms that were too hastily thrown away after the horrific 9/11 attacks.
With great anticipation
Just a note to say I enjoyed the chapters that were presented of The Highway Side by Jack Clark. I will miss the new chapter on the last page in future issues of Illinois Times. I now look forward to reading the book in its entirety.