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Commentaries posted do not necessarily represent the opinion of LDN.  Any opinions expressed are those of the writers.

The story that tells the truth

By Mike Fak

[FEB. 19, 2001]  From the movie "A Few Good Men" —

Tom Cruise: "I want the truth."

Jack Nicholson, in reply: "You can’t handle the truth."

In all deference to Mr. Nicholson, who is a wonderful actor, I can handle the truth. So can all of you. I wonder if the governor and the many so-called advocacy groups for the mentally handicapped can say the same.

The stories regarding LDC and its potential decertification and closing have filled the pages of newspapers in the area for many months. Pick a day. A headline or a secondary story stating the impending demise of the state-run facility still meriting front-page coverage has been as common as frost in January.

[Photo by Bob Frank]

Always we read about LDC’s problematic history. Always we see inscribed in print how Gov. Ryan is doing what’s best for the residents regardless of the rebuttals of the parents of those same children.

Not once have we been privy to what has, in fact, happened to the residents who have been transferred out of the century-old facility. Never once have it been made known to us whether the governor’s actions truly have been in the "best interests" of the residents. I have to ask why.

By the governor’s own mouth we have been told this has nothing to do with the budget or any other factor than the welfare of the disabled who have called LDC their home. By the governor’s own words as well as the ARC, the Equip for Equality people, Don Moss of the Illinois chapter of United Cerebral Palsy, and the Department of Health and Human Services, all that is transpiring regarding the closure of LDC is for the good of the former and current residents. Yet, not one person, not one agency, has shed the smallest light on what is happening to those who have been moved.

Equip for Equality says they only look into situations where they have received complaints regarding a mentally impaired individual’s status. That is a remarkable cop-out by the agency. In effect they tell us they are only interested in the well-being of an individual until that person is sent somewhere else for the rest of their life. They then wash their hands of the situation unless they are notified otherwise. How can this be considered looking out for the residents? They also have never explained how four other state-run institutions can have poorer records of negative incidents than LDC, but they have no time to concentrate on deriding those establishments. Where is the truth in their actions? Where is the humanity?


[to top of second column in this commentary]

To date 114 residents of LDC have been moved out of the institution to other state-run facilities. None have been relocated into a community-integrated home. The reason, of course, is because there are no such homes currently available nor are there any funds forthcoming to build such homes right now. The residents, in effect, have been pulled from the homes they have known for years, and in many cases their entire lives, and have been dumped into other institutions, such as Jacksonville, that have a worse track record than LDC has. Explain the truth in that to me, please.

To date, reporters have been quick to jot down all that is being said by everyone involved in this issue. Especially, in my truthfully biased opinion, if it is negative toward the Lincoln Developmental Center. Again, to date, I have not read a single account of even one of the 114 stories regarding residents who have been transferred.

Are they in fact better off than they were at LDC? How are these special people doing in their new surroundings? Is anyone interested in writing about the humanity of the people involved rather than just the logistics of a "thing" being shut down?

Whatever the truth is, I will accept it and live with it. I just wish someone in the field of journalism would seek it out and tell all of us what it is. I don’t need any more quotes from special interest organizations nor experts. The story that tells the truth is in the words of the residents, their guardians and the parents who are facing this change in their lives forever. I can stand the truth. Now if only someone will tell us what it is.

[Mike Fak]


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Ryan’s decision leaves more unanswered than answered

By Mike Fak

[FEB. 6, 2001]  Half full? Half empty? That is a question that a lot of LDC proponents are asking themselves after Gov. George Ryan officially gave the news of a massive downsizing for the Lincoln Developmental Center. Yes, the news is better than just pulling the plug on 250 residents and 700 employees… but not by much.

In a classic fit of gubernatorial pomposity, Ryan refused admittance to his press conference to anyone except the waiters. Excuse me, I mean the reporters. I get those two occupations confused since many in both occupations simply write down what someone tells them without asking any intelligent questions regarding the authenticity or actuality of the words.

Yes, only reporters were allowed to transcribe the governor’s diatribe. Of course, why would it be considered proper to let others into the press conference, such as the parents of residents or perhaps representatives of the employees? What do they know about what they want? Gov. Ryan is in charge of their lives as well as their children’s. He, like the Wizard of Oz, is all-knowing. What a shame he also is not all-caring.

The governor says that only 100 residents, moving into community-integrated homes, will remain at LDC. The homes, at a great deal of taxpayer expense ($6.25 million to be exact), will be replacing the cottages that already are set up like a community home. There’s a real savings to the state. The cottages, as well as the rest of the buildings on the 75-acre plot formerly known as Wyatt’s Grove, are to be used for… Sorry, no one said what was going to happen to them, and of course, no one asked.

Perhaps the state will allow them to deteriorate. That way, in a decade or so the community homes can be closed because they are adjacent to an abandoned ghetto. Perhaps they will be maintained by state employees so that doesn’t happen. But is that a good use of tax money and manpower either?

Ryan stated he was downsizing the facility based on the requests of parents of residents. This, of course, is not true, but no one asked the governor for a list of these complainants. There has been only one disparager compared with dozens of parents who want the center to remain home for their children and wards. Geez, a golden opportunity to catch the guy in his own stink went right out the window on Monday.

Ryan stated that CILAs are the future of mental health care, and of course they are. But since they are not here yet, and human beings in a place they have called home all their life are… Couldn’t we do this gradually over the years? The ARC’s own website states there are 271,000 Americans waiting for group homes, with 6,800 of them being in Illinois. How about filling the needs of those waiting for proper residency before pushing into CILAs those who would rather live just up the block from these homes.


[to top of second column in this commentary]

Continuously Ryan talked about how terrible LDC was in care to residents. It never made his conversation that five state institutions have a higher rate of negative incidence than LDC, including Jacksonville, where LDC residents have been unceremoniously shipped off to in the past few months.

Ohhh, for just a question or two to have been asked about that.

The governor went on about how LDC has had problems for two decades. I assume he means receiving high accolades just 10 years ago as a model health care facility is a problem. Actually if you’re a governor trying to close a place, I suppose that is a problem. No comments about this ambiguity in the governor’s statement came out of the peanut gallery either.

The papers, of course, followed the verbatim article with negative quotes about LDC from every organization that has never visited LDC except for the Free Willy Foundation. What a shame that a quick blurp by Sen. Bomke that he questioned Ryan’s statement regarding parental support for the closure was placed in print and then dropped. Wouldn’t it have been fun to ask the senator if he believed the governor lied. That would have been a good story to read.

Gov. Ryan again promulgated his own agenda by saying whatever he felt like saying. No one gave the other side a chance to counter his spurious remarks. Fair and balanced reporting? I haven’t seen it yet on LDC, regardless of what people in the business say. You see, in the world I live in, when someone says something stinks, I ask, "Compared to what?" A fair comparison of all 10 state-run institutions, which only was briefly touched on by the State Journal-Register, shouldn’t have taken three months to appear. But then, at least someone did their homework. Better late than never, I suppose.

Yes, this column is pro-LDC. I am not a journalist, you see; I am a commentator. I have been asking some of the questions, however, that no one else deigns important enough to bring to this story. I will until the man in Springfield leaves and LDC stays.

[Mike Fak]


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Scathing story of state ineptitude
and injustice effectual

By Mike Fak

[JAN. 30, 2001]  Just when you thought we didn’t have a winter’s precipitation in Hades to salvage LDC, a story comes to light that should make us all regather our collective wills and push forward with our objections to the governor’s "prepaid" decision to close the center.

The budget cuts, some $500 million by the governor, not only placed our own major employer’s situation in jeopardy but also sounded the death knell for other such institutions across the state.

One of the most tragic stories regarding the executive guillotine of statewide human services had to be the decision to close the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education in Chicago. This facility, primarily focusing on young men and women who do have basic life skills, was deemed nonessential by Ryan in last month’s budget-trimming nightmare. The institution, which offered such services as an education as well as physical and emotional therapy, with a long-range goal of community placement for its graduates, was advised that it was to be closed and its students moved to other suitable area facilities. This is where the story became ugly.

The Department of Health and Human Services had begun to ship out the residents before a hearing on a stay by the local union came before the Cook County circuit judge. The destinations of the residents were nothing near what had been promised by DHHS. Close to home? How about a young man being sent 250 miles away from his elderly mother. Proper facility? How about that same 21-year-old man, who has a high school diploma and was getting ready for a community home, being sent to a nursing home for severely handicapped senior citizens. A nursing home that had no physical therapy program nor means to allow him to do anything but wait out the rest of his life.

While this was happening, there wasn’t a word from the ARC, nor the Equip For Equality coalitions. Too small a cause? Just one small fish when there is a whole lake full of fish to fry in Lincoln? Who knows? We haven’t heard from them to tell why they ignored this human rights issue.

All seemed hopeless. And then this past week, Celeste Garrett of the Chicago Tribune brought this scathing story of state ineptitude and injustice into the public forum with a pair of headline articles regarding the treatment of the residents of the Chicago center. It didn’t tell the story of the center, it told the story of the people involved. The story brought to tens of thousands of Illinoisans the same type of story that residents and parents of LDC have been facing with far less notoriety. Did Garrett’s story have power? You bet it did! Was it the truth? Absolutely. Did it have any effect on the Chicago institution’s residents? Thank God it did.


[to top of second column in this commentary]

In Tuesday’s State Journal-Register, an article by Jeff Druchniak sayings that Ryan had reversed his decision to close the Chicago Rehabilitation Center flashed off the paper like a Roman candle.

The power of a major newspaper to find the humanity in a story and bring it to center stage had done more than all the letters and calls and petitions of hundreds of concerned Illinoisans. In the limelight of a statewide audience, Ryan and DHHS were shown up as having no souls nor conscience. The heat was too much even for an I-don’t-care, lame-duck governor like Ryan to ignore.

   The lives of dozens of special souls were given a second chance because a reporter delved into the body of the issue rather than just continued to write down what everyone told her. Garrett made a difference that only someone in her special circumstances could do. She did more than just write a story. She helped people who needed help when everyone else just wrote words and then went home.

LDC is in these same dire straits as the Chicago center was. There is still one chance, one opportunity to save the institution. All it will take is one Chicago Tribune reporter or one reporter from the lawmaker’s digest, the State Journal-Register, to bring out the humanity of the individuals in this story and give the residents a chance to live their lives as they would want.

The story is still lying there on the ground just waiting to be picked up. Oh for just one white knight to enter the foray.

[Mike Fak]


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By the Numbers

Population estimates in Logan County
30,798 Total population, 1990
15,380 Rural population - 49.9%, 1990
15,418 Urban population - 50.1%, 1990
2,875 Projected births, 1990-1998
2,736 Projected deaths, 1990-1998
3,143 Persons below poverty level - 11.8 %
258 Average marriages per year
135 Average deaths per year

Alexis Asher

Logan County high schools: 1960-2000
1962 Middletown High School consolidated with New Holland
1972 Atlanta High School became part of Olympia School District
1975 Elkhart High School consolidated with Mount Pulaski
1979 Latham High School became Warrensburg-Latham
1988 New Holland-Middletown High School consolidated with Lincoln Community High School
1989 San Jose High School consolidated with Illini Central (Mason City)

Alexis Asher

Lincoln High School history


Lincoln School District


School buildings in 1859


"Grammar school" in 1859


High school teacher, Mr. January, in 1859


Central School opened


High school building started


High school dedicated, Jan. 5


Cost of new high school


Election authorized community high school District #404


Dedication of new Lincoln Community High School, 1000 Primm Road, in auditorium, on Nov. 9

Alexis Asher

How We Stack Up

This feature of the Lincoln Daily News compares Lincoln and Logan County to similar cities and counties on a variety of issues in a succinct manner, using charts and graphs for illustration.

Racial makeup of selected Illinois counties


What’s Up With That?


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