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

Things that go bump in the night

[FEB. 28, 2002]  Hey, itís been a while since I have cleaned out all the notes strewn about my desk. You remember how I told you when I see something that just doesnít make sense that I jot it down and wait to see if the words eventually cause me in my angst to write a column about them. Sometimes by other stories appearing and taking precedence or, more often than not, a feeling of hopelessness at my wasting time trying to change a world that says no to common sense, I just throw them all away. ButÖ not before I roll them all together into a little "bumps" article. Here are the last few monthsí biggest "What the heck is going on?" stories.

Did you see that it took over six hours in delays for people in Utah to get on a plane after the Olympics were over. How about any business taking a personís money, promising them a specific time to render services and then screw everything up. Would that business survive in the real world? It would if itís the airline industry living off $5 billion in taxpayer relief funds. Does that make any sense?

Gov. Ryan is all hot at AFSCME because they refuse to submit to a yearís freeze on wages that would help keep their own membersí jobs. Doesnít anyone remember that last year employees of the Capital Area Career Center took a wage freeze to protect their jobs? Now they are faced with a 20 percent reduction in funding that will send many employees packing. Is the governorís word really worth believing?

While we are on wages, letís not forget that the governor, staff and area lawmakers will get their raise of 3.8 percent this next year. Why? They have to take it because the state constitution says they have to. Where did this constitution come from? Mars? The one I know about was written and is continually rewritten by these same individuals. Just say "no" to a wage increase and repeal the rule. Isnít that the fair thing to do? Or am I just crazy?

How is it that 95 Illinois communities will receive $23.5 million in funds for water and sewer projects but Lincoln isnít on the list? Donít tell me this is just going to the big boys. Have any of you heard of just two of these towns? Alexis, Alma, Atwood, Bluford, Buda, Colp, Gorham, Granville. Stop. Thatís enough. Ninety-five towns, counties and cities get free funding but not us. Somebody explain this one to me please. (See

Three weeks ago the governor said privatization of the food industry in state-run institutions would save the state $20 million next year. Now the official figure is $15 million. Where did we lose $5 million in just three weeks, and why isnít anyone asking?


[to top of second column in this article]


What about this craziness that the FDA isnít checking on imports of meat and poultry to the U.S. to see if they meet quality standards. Are they waiting for "mad cow" or "crazy chicken" to hit us before they get off their duffs and do their job? They also fielded a yearlong trial of companies doing their own inspections to see how that would work. The answer, according to the GAO, is that the findings werenít conclusive because the FDA didnít keep proper track of the study nor use other FDA-inspected companies to form a comparison. Did everyone at FDA graduate from the Cleveland school system or what?

Speaking of the GAO. Did you know that the 2000 census came in 355 million under the $4.5 billion budget? What happened to this money? The Department of Commerce passed it out to other agencies that needed more funds than Congress had appropriated for them. Our tax dollars at work again.

Lastly, have you noticed all the vegetarian and animal rights groups now pushing to have their way with us? It isnít good enough that we carnivores live and let live with these "veggies"? Now most of the world is supposed to be forced to give up all the foods they like because this meager percentage of the population demand that we sit around eating nuts and berries.



They say they are doing it for our health. Why is it then that Americans have a longer life span today than at anytime in the history of the world? If meat and diary products are so bad for us, why arenít we all dying off at age 25 with a Big Mac and fries clutched in our hands.

I would never tell someone else what they can or cannot eat, so I sure donít appreciate them telling me. I have compromised a little toward this tofu generation. I only eat bacon or steaks that have come from animals that have died of natural causes or in their sleep. Canít we all get along? Iíll eat to that.

[Mike Fak]


Reply to Fak (not for publication):

Response to Fakís commentary: 

Racial profiling: Letís look within

[FEB. 23, 2002]  Oh, heck, it wonít hurt to talk about it. Will it?

The Lincoln Courier has carried several articles regarding the claim by Alderman Glenn Shelton that there is racial profiling in this community. Alderman Verl Prather as well as Chief of Police Richard Montcalm have taken umbrage with Sheltonís claim and show records that they believe invalidate Alderman Sheltonís Martin Luther King Day remarks that there is a higher rate of incidence for a black to be pulled over than a white within the city limits.

Jeff Nelson, managing editor of The Courier, wrote a Feb. 6 opinion piece stating he believes that the numbers crunch showing 5 percent of the tickets being issued to the 2 percent of the community that is African-American backs up Sheltonís claim. The same statistics were validated by the Lincoln Daily News in an article on the same date. Comments by readers in letters to the editor claim police officers have "favorite" targets as they patrol and protect. Tough words to be written in small-town community newspapers. Tougher decisions face us to look at the entire situation with honesty.

I look for numbers in a story more than anything else. Numbers, you see, are an exact science. They never lie, they never exaggerate. A number by its very definition is always the truth. We havenít heard numbers, however, in this issue. We have heard percentages, and percentages, although a distant cousin in the world of math, are a favorite haunt of those trying to take away the reality of mathematics. What I mean is, if there is one incident and it increases to two, the reality is one more such incident has occurred. Percentagewise, however, one could say that the problem has gone up 100 percent.

Sorry if Iím drifting on you, but what I am saying is that I want numbers, not percentages, before I pass judgment either way on the issue. What is 5 percent, and of what? What is 2 percent? I need those facts to sort out my opinion.

And still, after my queries are answered, I believe we need to look past Shelton and the police force and look at ourselves.

Being an officer of the law isnít a very easy task, especially in a small town. Stop someone and issue them a citation, and immediately you are in the doghouse with that person, their family, their friends. Remain on the force for several years and those animosities, justified or not, can build.

I got nailed for $75 a few years ago by a young cop for not having my seatbelt on. Was I, in fact, guilty? I was. But I still grumble under my breath when I see that patrolman drive by in his squad car. Was the cost of the infraction his fault or mine? Now that the check has cleared and time has healed the financial wound, I can admit the fault was mine.

I was once profiled. As a 21-year-old I was thrown against a car, frisked and nearly hauled off to jail because I and my rusty old "tater" car were in the affluent suburb of Forest Hills at 2 a.m. Did I look suspicious? Probably. Would I, if I had been in those policemenís shoes, decide to check me out as well? Again, probably. Did the fact four squad cars pinned me against the curb, frisked me and scattered all the papers in the car about tell me they were overreacting? Still another probably. It took many years for that night to slip off the front page in my memory. Maybe I have gotten mellow in my later years.



[to top of second column in this article]

Today, more than ever, I realize that the moment you place that police shield on your chest doesnít automatically remove a person from being a member of the human race, complete with strengths and weaknesses.

It seems that the issue of community bias is falling squarely on the Police Department, and I find that unfortunate. I had the pleasure of being police and fire commissioner 13 years ago when Chief Montcalm tested for the force. Through the years in all my conversations with him, I have never heard a single slur nor disparaging remark come from his lips against anyone due to their race, religion or personal lifestyle. To be honest, I can say that of very few of us, including myself, in this community. The cops I personally know are good people trying to do a job without having their personal lives disrupted by those of us who cannot separate their being a cop from the individuals they are.

I know Reverend Shelton and have always found him to be an honest, forthright individual with a wonderful sense of self as well as an engaging sense of humor. I cannot for a moment believe he has not measured every public comment he has made on this issue.

And so where are we? We are, of course, where every small American town is in these days we live in. We have biases against people of other races. We find those of another religion or lifestyle or handicap too different to not find a moment to tell and laugh at a joke told at their expense. We even look down on others because they are less affluent or more wealthy than we are.

We are so much better than we were 50 years ago as an "accepting" nation, but again letís be honest. We are still a very long way from needing to go to a trophy store and buying ourselves plaques commemorating our humanity.

Bias in Lincoln? How about everywhere in this world. Itís good to talk about it. Having Shelton or the police force solely under this microscope just isnít reality. Perhaps we need to take the time to pull ourselves over and check ourselves out. No flashing lights are needed. Just the solitude of a momentís reflection to look within oneís own heart.

[Mike Fak]


Reply to Fak (not for publication):

Response to Fakís commentary: 

The story that tells the truth

By Mike Fak

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

Tom Cruise: "I want the truth."

Jack Nicholson, in reply: "You canít 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 LDCís problematic history. Always we see inscribed in print how Gov. Ryan is doing whatís 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 governorís actions truly have been in the "best interests" of the residents. I have to ask why.

By the governorís 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 governorís 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.




[to top of second column in this commentary]

Equip for Equality says they only look into situations where they have received complaints regarding a mentally impaired individualís 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 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 donít 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]


Reply to Fak (not for publication):

Response to Fakís commentary: 

Ryanís 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 employeesÖ 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 governorís 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 childrenís. 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. Thereís a real savings to the state. The cottages, as well as the rest of the buildings on the 75-acre plot formerly known as Wyattís Grove, are to be used forÖ 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 doesnít 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 areÖ Couldnít we do this gradually over the years? The ARCís 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 youíre a governor trying to close a place, I suppose that is a problem. No comments about this ambiguity in the governorís 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 Ryanís statement regarding parental support for the closure was placed in print and then dropped. Wouldnít 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 havenít 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, shouldnít 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]


Reply to Fak (not for publication):

Response to Fakís commentary: 

Scathing story of state ineptitude
and injustice effectual

By Mike Fak

[JAN. 30, 2001]  Just when you thought we didnít have a winterís 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 governorís "prepaid" decision to close the center.

The budget cuts, some $500 million by the governor, not only placed our own major employerís 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 monthís 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 wasnít 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 havenít 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 didnít 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 Garrettís story have power? You bet it did! Was it the truth? Absolutely. Did it have any effect on the Chicago institutionís residents? Thank God it did.


[to top of second column in this commentary]

In Tuesdayís 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-donít-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 lawmakerís 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]


Reply to Fak (not for publication):

Response to Fakís commentary: 

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


Whatís Up With That?


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