For years and years we have had the
Dollar Store in Lincoln. For perhaps a decade the Dollar General has
been a part of our retail economy. This winter we have added the
Family Dollar as well as the Dollar Tree to the Lincoln landscape. I
suppose we could knick name ourselves "Bucktown" or maybe even
"Silver Dollar City," but since both those names are taken, let's
not. We could put up a sign at the city limits saying, "The buck
stops here," but since Harry Truman already used that, I suppose I
should just leave the puns alone.
The mathematics of the city giving a
half mil in order to receive a 10-year commitment from both Dollar
Tree and Goody's Family Clothing to stay in business and thus
generate more sales tax revenue than the city's initial investment
has been dwelt on enough. Allow me, if you will, to take a peek on
the other side of the buck
I have always loved the thinking of our
forefathers when they placed the pyramid on the dollar bill. Ben
Franklin was given the job of creating the back of the U.S.
greenback, and I believe he came up with a dandy idea. Looking at
the pyramid, it's quite obvious that the top isn't resting yet on
the base. Ben wanted to show us all that the job of building America
wasn't done yet. The Latin phrase "annuit coeptis" in translation
means "providence has favored our effort." The Latin phrase below
the pyramid, "novus ordo seclorum," translates to "a new order has
begun." Geez, it seems Ben Franklin knew the city council was going
to decide to go out on a limb to fill two huge holes among our
abandoned retail business locations.
It will take time before anyone can
define for certain whether the council decision was mathematically
correct. Although the Dollar Tree seems to be going great guns,
there is always the question of economic redundancy of same-product
sales. Same-product sales transferred from one retailer to another
do not increase tax revenues.
Goody's, being a clothing retailer of
many popular apparel brands, could be the difference. That
franchise, carrying the most popular clothing and shoe brands
America wants to buy, offered at low margins, could be a mall
buster. Since Goody's hasn't opened yet, let's stick with the Dollar
Tree and the nonmathematical benefits of that store's opening.
Both my wife and I have all our family
members living out of town. Because Sharon is considered a nice
person, all of them from time to time visit our home and thus the
city of Lincoln. For years I heard remarks about Woodlawn Road. To
these outsiders the potholed, tar-filled, cold-patch street
signified to out-of-towners a problem with Lincoln. Jake, a
brother-in-law, once stated, "The main drag in this town is
Four years ago Woodlawn was resurfaced,
and without a comment from me, not only Jake but several other
family members remarked how nice the street now was to travel on.
Ah, the effects of appearance on a city.
[to top of second
column in this letter]
For years, I cringed every time I drove
past the pigeon hotel at the corner of Route 10 and Woodlawn. The
defunct Heritage Inn restaurant sign seemed ironic to me. Is that
what the city's heritage looks like? It's gone now, and for many of
us a vacant lot is so much more appealing than the building.
I believe that having a huge retail
structure empty on our main business drag was not beneficial when
potential new business people quietly inspected our town. The
opening of two national chain stores with more than $3 billion in
sales last year does, I believe, make a potential candidate to
opening a business in Lincoln perceive us in a much better light.
Could those two stores cause another retailer or perhaps a small
manufacturer to inquire about possibly joining our town? Time will
answer that, but I believe we have a better chance with those two
retailers in place than without them.
There is no question that the Dollar
Tree is in competition with not only the other dollar stores but
grocery stores and Wal-Mart. What effect the Dollar Tree is having
on competitors is obvious if you are a discerning shopper. Prices on
many goods have gone down at other stores. The savings are not going
to cause a yacht dealer to find Lincoln a bastion of new
discretionary savings and open a "Boat-Mart," but they are real and
they do add up. Just multiply the five or six or 10 bucks you save a
week buying essentials and multiply it by 52 weeks. Nice little
raise, isn't it.
Another factor is cost versus usage. A
simplified explanation would be perfume compared with paper towels.
Now perfume is fairly expensive, so it is used modestly. Paper
towels, on the other hand, are inexpensive at about a buck a roll.
Now paper towels are two or sometimes even three rolls for a dollar.
Now we have something we consider so cheap that we use them more and
buy more, creating added sales not only for Dollar Tree but for the
competitors who have moved their prices lower in order to remain
competitive. There are hundreds of items, of course, that can fall
into the paper towel category, so there is the potential for a
modest overall increase in total city sales tax receipts. If we
spend tax dollars and receive lower prices on consumables, there
must be a cost savings and benefit that, again, won't show up in tax
Competition is great for consumers, but
it is hard on a retailer's bottom line. In order to keep competition
thriving, it is our job to shop all the retailers who offer what
Dollar Tree does. Sales increases that offset lower margins will
keep these retailers of consumables healthy. It also means good
times for all of us shoppers.
I have to go now, I just spilled my
coffee. I might use a whole roll of paper towels to clean up this
(posted Feb. 28, 2004)
To the editor:
My husband and I live in Oklahoma, and
after our daughter's death in 1994 during childbirth, we were
granted final orders for visitation from the state of Texas in
February 2000. When the father moved to Illinois, our orders were
registered in the state of Illinois.
After Supreme Court Justice Thomas R.
Fitzgerald struck down grandparents' visitation rights in the state
of Illinois, the father of our grandson went to court in Rock
Island, Ill., and the judge had to uphold the Supreme Court's
decision, so our orders were set aside.
[to top of second
column in this letter]
We encourage all grandparents who find
themselves in the same situation as we are to support the House Bill
3959, to please call, e-mail and even write their state senators and
members of the state House of Representatives.
For more information about
HB 3959, go to
www.legis.state.il.us/ and you can read the
full text of the bill.
We are devoted to continuing our
relationship with our grandson that we had since birth until our
orders were struck down in Illinois.
Robert and Oleta Meadows
Oklahoma City, Okla.
(posted Feb. 28, 2004)
To the editor:
I'd like to express some
feelings regarding the
letter published recently in Lincoln Daily News from Christopher Doak, the
young man from Maroa who was sentenced to a prison term for reckless
homicide in the deaths of three local people in a car crash in rural
Maroa in August 2002.
At first, the letter seemed to
be a humble apology to those families affected by the senseless
tragedy. I initially thought it rather brave for this young man to
express his regret about what he did and the incomprehensible sorrow
he has caused.
However, the last few sentences
in that letter made me shake my head. To think that Christopher Doak
thinks of his prison term as a hindrance in his ability to be
"productive and helping others" is sickening. He was not "helping
others" that Friday evening in August 2002 when he plowed through a
stop sign and annihilated three innocent people, as well as the
lives of those who loved them.
Perhaps Mr. Doak feels that
rather than a prison sentence, the punishment for reckless homicide
should be an extended lecture circuit? Or perhaps some community
service to tidy up his mess?
[to top of second column in
Mr. Doak begins his letter
stating that he has accepted responsibility for that car crash. He
ends it by whining about being in prison.
Mr. Doak, if you truly had
accepted responsibility for what you have done, you would accept
your sentence as a just and fair punishment -- some would say even
lenient -- and realize that while you will be out and about in
approximately 10 to 12 years, the Camfield and Marsh families have
been sentenced to life without their loved ones. Seems to me, when
you compare the two situations, you got the better end of the deal.
You end your letter stating,
"Dealing with the emotions of this responsibility is a living hell!"
I wonder how your suffering stands up to that of Jerry and Abby
Camfield and their family, as well as Becky Marsh and her three sons
and their families. I can only imagine that the hell they live with
each day would make your suffering seem pale in comparison.
(posted Feb. 26, 2004)
The first time I had a conversation
with Rob Orr was seven summers ago. Well, it wasn't really a
conversation. Rob was conversing with me. I, on the other hand, was
My partner at the time, Bill Haak, and
I were getting the old Doty's Jewelry store in the Arcade ready for
our antiques store. It was a day when I was writing six checks to
six different entities that my carefully crafted business plan had
not realized would need my largess. It was just after balancing a
new checkbook with all kinds of withdrawals but not one deposit that
Rob walked through the door.
Rob was dropping off a chamber
membership package and was enthusiastically trying to get the store
to become a member. I cannot recall my exact words, but they were
something along the lines of: Why should I give you any money? What
the heck will the chamber do for me? and on and on till I flopped
the packet on the counter and told Rob I would think about it. Still
polite, Rob said he would stop by another day. I am quite certain as
he left the store that he must have felt he had just met the biggest
donkey in Logan County.
To close out this story quickly, Rob
did persevere and come back, Bill and I did join the chamber, and
the legend of my being a "firm keister" grew in the business
Over the years I would see Rob on
occasion. Always a polite young man, he would drop a few proverbs my
way, and I would gruff something back at him.
I followed Rob's
business efforts as we all did in the paper. Not always certain he
wasn't just crazy, I continued to admire the fact that he was trying
hard to rejuvenate downtown structures and businesses. We never
developed a friendship, but I always thought highly of his hard work
ethic and the way he carried himself
Six weeks ago I read that Rob was hired
on an interim basis to fill the EDC job, and my economically
deprived spirits picked up. Here was someone who actually knew what
it was like to be in business accepting a job to promote and help
This week I spent over an hour with
Rob, and now my spirits are more positive than they have been in
years that the right person at the right time is our economic
development director. The only thing that could further boost my
morale is if the word "interim" is removed from his job description.
[to top of second column
in this letter]
I could tell you specifics of the
things Rob and I talked about during that hour, but besides running
out of column space, I would prefer he communicate directly with
you. I sincerely hope he will use the available media to share with
you the ideas and ideals that he shared with me this past week.
I want you to see that he knows what
it's like to build business dreams in Lincoln and Logan County. Rob
knows what it's like to have a great day at the cash register as
well as what it's like to stare out a storefront window and ask the
Lord where the customers are that day. He has personally experienced
what it's like to restore old structures like the Depot and the
Avery and Comstock building. He has dealt with the encouragements
and the disappointments of being an entrepreneur as well as a
retailer. Most of all, he knows what it's like to work 60 or 70
hours a week, as he did at The Restaurant at the Depot, chasing a
dream of making a better life in a town where he has invested his
efforts and his money.
Rob understands the balance between
retail and manufacturing. He is aware that affordable housing is an
element of economic growth and that a community working together can
achieve great things. Rob also appreciates and understands the needs
of those of us who have already made the maximum commitment of
having a retail business or factory right here, right now.
I asked Rob to define his job, and his
simple two-word answer is better than anything I could have come up
with if I used up another 50 column inches. Rob defines his position
as "job broker." Those two words carry more power and hope for this
city and county than any others I could imagine.
(posted Feb. 25, 2004)
Related articles in
Lincoln Daily News
Monday it was announced by the board of
trustees at Illinois State University that Dr. Al Bowman will be
named president of the university.
I want to extend my congratulations to
Al and Linda Bowman on being selected for such a prestigious and
important position. Not only have they given over two decades of
service to Illinois State University, its students and faculty, they
have the institutional knowledge that will help forward the
university at this time.
In my 12 years in the Illinois General
Assembly, I have been pleased to have worked with four university
presidents, each of them fitting the unique role and providing a
unique form of leadership at the necessary time. I firmly believe
that there is no one better suited to fill the role of presidency at
Illinois State University than Dr. Al Bowman.
[to top of second column
in this letter]
At this time, he
possesses the skills necessary to enhance and motivate the faculty.
He has the determination to recruit top-quality students and
challenge them to meet their highest potential. He has the ability
to ask people who have benefited from Illinois State University to
invest in its future through contributions to its endowments.
We are struggling under very difficult
times financially, and it is critical that we have leadership like
Al Bowman and the rest of the administration and faculty on the
campus at Illinois State University.
I pledge my
full support in working with Dr. Bowman as he pursues academic
excellence and achievement for Illinois State University.
Sen. Bill Brady
(posted Feb. 24, 2004)