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Wednesday, May 6, 2009 10:32 pm

Letters to the Editor

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FutureGen, a bold initiative

The “Reporter at Large” essay in the April 2 Illinois Times [see “The questionable future of FutureGen,” by Fletcher Farrar] asks important questions about restarting the FutureGen at Mattoon project. Let me add two others: If not FutureGen, what? If not now, when?

Some of the nation’s top technical minds designed and sited FutureGen. Before the project became a political football, few in the scientific community disputed its technical merit. If we are serious about closing the gap between rhetoric and tangible solutions on carbon reduction, there are no other shovel-ready alternatives to FutureGen. Those who say otherwise either have something else to sell, or are clinging to the notion that coal can be kept out of the nation’s energy portfolio.

As the State of Illinois’ lead economic development official, my advocacy of restarting FutureGen should surprise no one. This project will have a profound impact on Illinois. It brings jobs when we need jobs — up to 1,000 construction jobs that will draw skilled workers from a wide radius around Coles County. This project is also critical in bringing long-awaited opportunity to the coal-producing regions of Illinois.

I acknowledge that FutureGen is not simple, inexpensive or failure-proof. But what better point in history to entertain bold initiatives?

The FutureGen site is purchased. Project preliminaries are nearly complete. Engineers are at work obtaining necessary permits. If we move now, we will be at full construction in a matter of months. And, within 10 years, we will have a proven design for a new fleet of emissions-free electric generating stations.

We can move forward with FutureGen, or we can hope a better concept suddenly pops out of a genie’s bottle. However, by that time some other nation will have seized the leadership position in curbing greenhouse gases in the electric power sector. And we will have squandered the opportunity to utilize an abundant, homegrown source of energy using breakthrough technology stamped “Made in the USA.”

Warren Ribley
Director Designee
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
Springfield


Good stewards

This letter from Illinois Symphony Orchestra board president John Wohlwend came to Illinois Times on April 29, in response to an April 23 IT news article about the orchestra.

On behalf of the Boards of Advisors and the Board of Directors of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, I am writing to express our deep disappointment with your publication of a one-sided piece last week [see “Modulation at Illinois Symphony Orchestra,” by Dusty Rhodes, IT, April 23]. When approached by your writer for comment, I responded that I would be able and willing to speak with her following our Board’s meeting on Monday of this week. Unfortunately, she opted to go to press with a biased and sensationalist story that not only misleads the public, but distracts from the wonderful music that is being performed for 4,000 students in Springfield and 1,800 students in Bloomington this week and our season finale performances this Friday and Saturday [May 1 and 2] that promise to be an exciting and beautiful collaboration between our Music Director, Karen Deal, and the top-notch musicians of the ISO.

We are a volunteer-governed organization, as are all orchestras of every size in this country. As the chair, I have always felt it my responsibility to discuss and reach consensus with our Board, representing both cities we serve, before commenting on what are usually confidential and internal matters. We want only the best for our artistic and administrative employees, so that the end product — great concerts — can be enjoyed by our communities. This requires many volunteer hours and financial contributions on all our parts, but we are happy to take the lead so that the quality of life is sustained and ever improving here in central Illinois. We believe that music has added so much to our lives, and we want to be good stewards so that our children will benefit from the joyful experience of orchestral music. For these reasons, it is all the more disheartening to see the article of last week.

As I understand it, the group that conducted their survey was not officially elected by their peers who play regularly in the ISO. We did not receive a copy of their survey to know what types of questions were being asked, nor the manner by which they were solicited. Some of our musicians contacted us voicing objections and stating they had refused to participate in the survey, both because of how it was handled and some feeling that it was instigated by a former employee who had been released “for cause” last year.

Nevertheless, we take these matters seriously and asked to meet with the self-appointed group of musicians, understanding that some were longtime members of our orchestra. We asked to hear their concerns directly. They told us that they wanted their comments to be kept confidential, which we have honored. We had anticipated follow-up meetings, but unfortunately they rescheduled four different attempts to come together.

The unofficial committee that conducted an unofficial survey of the music director has not shared the text of the survey questions, the names of all musicians polled (and we understand several are not regular members of our orchestra and may have not even played under our conductor), or made it a priority to meet with a group of the Board’s busy volunteer directors.

As a matter of course, there has always been a mechanism in place for musicians to elect representatives who would meet regularly with members of our management. The musicians have not exercised that option in several years, although we have always been happy to honor that communication avenue. Fortunately, we often do hear praise or concerns directly from individual players, since most of the commuting players are housed in private homes during performance weeks and have developed close relationships with many of our volunteers and trustees.

Without question, we love our musicians — they bring a high level of artistry and commitment to their work. Moreover, we are very happy with our music director, who is not only responsible for the increasing level of quality of the ISO by virtue of her ability to attract and hire excellent musicians, but who also brings a package of other skills that have helped the organization flow smoothly when we have had to cut costs and staffing from time to time to keep our budget balanced. The increase in audience numbers and the consistency of our season programming are testament to her excellence on the podium. Like any other employee, she welcomes constructive feedback in an appropriate manner. Regrettably, your paper has opted for sensationalism over dedicated journalism in this matter.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express thanks to the loyal audiences and supporters of the ISO, without whom there would be no orchestra and no part-time employment for our musicians.

John Wohlwend
Illinois Symphony Orchestra board president
Bloomington



Rochester fire fight

The Rochester community has unwittingly let the Volunteer Rochester Firefighters and EMTs down. We were so hoping for the community’s support with a “no” vote during the April 7 election. However, I choose to believe, a “yes” vote was what the community believed we wanted.

Unfortunately, disgruntled past members of the department purposefully used to their advantage the community’s indifference and, for lack of a better term, ignorance to advance their own personal agenda. They successfully misdirected issues, while disguising their own self-serving motives.

The disgruntled ex-members chose to abandon this community once. They walked off the job, not able to cope with adversity. They left, hoping the department could not and would not function without them. Yet now they impersonate and represent themselves as spokespersons of the Rochester Fire Protection District. Their attempts to undermine the current board, and to sabotage the workings of the Rochester Fire Protection District, however, have been unsuccessful. They have fabricated, exaggerated and misrepresented issues to further their agenda, all the while playing on the community’s fears and insecurities.

While it appears they have gained momentum with their minute success, I have strong faith that the Rochester community will better educate itself in time for the next election.
That being said, rest assured, it is business as usual at the firehouse. We are on-call 24/7, ready and willing to serve our much-loved community in its greatest times of need.

Cindy G. Cannon
Firefighter/EMT
Rochester


Restaurant tax alternatives

We are writing out of great concern. These days it seems like when there is talk about raising more money for federal, state or city funds, soon to follow is an assault on small business owners, especially restaurant operators.

We recently learned about the city tax hikes being introduced by an individual representing another field, in order to generate business for them while taking from others. We understand the need to keep up our infrastructure, but what we don’t understand is why when there is a need it falls solely on the shoulders of restaurant operators like ourselves. We simply can’t afford to carry the burden anymore, but will be more than willing to share the burden. We would like to offer an alternative.

Why is it OK to target and raise taxes on customers of restaurants only? It’s not. See what has happened in other communities that have done the same. Customers do not support those businesses whose taxes are higher than the other guy’s. There are many empty storefronts and the neighborhoods are littered with abandoned buildings. The communities have gone down so far it will take much more money and many more years to save them. Instead of just targeting one sector of the community, let’s address a community problem as a community. Raise taxes across the board. This way you don’t have to raise taxes so much, because many more are taking on the burden. This way one area of the community isn’t being discriminated against. Everyone shares the burden, which results in a smaller burden.

Other options are to get more aggressive on attracting more businesses to the area. The North End medical district is a prime example. We’ve invested in the North End, but it is like pulling teeth to get anyone to talk about working with us to revive the community and to get the ball rolling on the medical district.

Mike Monseur
John Leskovisek
Owners, J&M Family Fun and Food, Inc.
Springfield


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