Thumbs down to the continued loss of life on the section of Interstate 57 between Mount Vernon and the Interstate 24 junction. A 57-year-old O’Fallon man was the latest victim. He died Tuesday when his car was sandwiched between a pair of trucks at a construction zone at the Illinois 148 exit. The stretch of highway is littered with construction zones, but that isn’t unusual for an interstate. What’s more, that section of I-57 has few curves and is relatively flat, making the number of fatal accidents even more confounding. It’s a trend that needs to be reversed soon.

Thumbs up to Southern Illinoisan reporter Molly Parker for winning the Associated Press Media Editors’ Community Journalism Public Service Initiative award. Molly accepted the award in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. She was honored for her work, exposing the horrid living conditions and mismanagement of the McBride and Elmwood housing projects in Cairo. While the newspaper is justifiably proud of her work, the true importance of Parker’s reporting is that a national spotlight has been cast on a problem that festered entirely too long. Parker’s stories have drawn national attention and, hopefully, will improve the lot of Cairo and its citizenry.

Thumbs up to the restoration of Hickory Lodge in Carbondale. Now the home of the Carbondale Park District and Keep Carbondale Beautiful, the building was once the residence of the Thomas Martin Family. The home, believed to be a kit sold by Sears and Roebuck, was donated to the Carbondale Park District in 1978. The building provides a perfect home for the park district. “There’s no street noise, there’s kind of a sense of privacy here that I think just helps for communication when you’re trying to do some creative problem-solving,” said Kathy Renfro, executive director of the Carbondale Park District. “This seems to be a much different atmosphere than … some of the more institutionalized meeting rooms that so many of us are just accustomed to."

Thumbs up to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for his visit to Cairo this week. Durbin talked to seventh-graders at Cairo Junior/Senior High. While he didn’t have any good news regarding the fate of the city’s housing projects, Durbin reinforced an important lesson for all Americans. “You can make a difference,” Durbin told the students, who gained national attention last school year after they wrote letters to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson following HUD’s announcement it would be demolishing two housing developments in Cairo. “You are just as important as anyone else.”

Thumbs down to the State of Illinois for continuing to spin its wheels in processing unpaid bills. A recent review by the Associated Press indicated that nearly half of the state’s $15 billion in unpaid bills hadn’t been sent to Comptroller Susana Medoza’s office as of late June. The age of bills is important because many that are 90 days or older face a 1 percent-per-month late-payment fee; about $5.5 billion of the current $15.9 billion backlog is subject to the penalty. Mendoza estimates the state will ultimately pay $900 million in late-payment fees on the existing pile of debt.

Thumbs up to Tammi Craig of Ruma and the work she does with Gunners Run Rescue. Craig has been rescuing dogs in the small Randolph County Community for 13 years, often spending her own money to care for injured animals. “Anybody can do what I do if you just have that passion and commitment. If everybody just picked that one thing they are passionate about … and they just did one little thing it would make the world a much better place,” she said.

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