Thumbs up to Sesser Mayor Jason Ashmore for securing grants to help rebuild the city’s infrastructure. In July, it was announced that bids had been awarded for the city’s sewer-system overhaul. Ashmore said this project, slated to take about two years, will overhaul the city’s aging sewer system and help provide a better infrastructure. He hopes that will lure businesses in town — like Flipped By M boutique located on the city’s main highway. “To have these businesses you have to have the infrastructure in place,” Ashmore said. “Without the grants, we would not be where we are today.” With money being an issue throughout the state, the grants go a long way for getting thing done. Good for Ashmore for have the foresight to get the grants.

Thumbs down to the mess that the state is facing when it comes to funding schools. We all thought we were past this when the General Assembly finally passed a budget in July. Well, we were wrong. Now, schools throughout the state face the prospect of not being funded by the state. It’s embarrassing. The children of this state should not have to pay for the mistakes and selfishness of the legislators of this state. This isn’t party issue, as many are making it into. Get a deal done now.

Thumbs up to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ameya Pawar choosing Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman as his running mate this week. Pawar said he tapped Coleman because he "embodies the struggle that every Illinois family and town is experiencing.” We love the fact that a gubernatorial candidate has is eyes on Southern Illinois, and more specifically, Cairo. Pawar, who is a Chicago alderman, is one of eight candidates vying for the 2018 Democratic Party nod in anticipation of taking on Gov. Bruce Rauner. Coleman is in his second term as mayor in Cairo.

Thumbs up to the American Trapshooting Association’s Grand American and its success again this year. The tournament, which wrapped this past weekend, was “very well attended,” according to ATA executive director Lynn Gipson. While the numbers aren’t final, he said attendance appeared to similar to last year. But, he said, AIM (Academics, Integrity, Marksmanship) participation was increased significantly — up about 20 to 30 percent. And a lot of those participants stuck around to shoot in the Grand American. “We just started that last year, that’s been very well received,” Gipson said. The ATA puts on a great show at The World Shooting and Recreation Complex near Sparta, and with these kind of numbers, the event is sure to stay in our backyard for years to come.

Thumbs up to former former SIU men’s basketball star Darren Brooks, who will be inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame in March. Brooks, who played for the Salukis from 2000 to 2005, is still the only player in MVC to win its player of the year award and defensive player of the year award twice. Brooks helped the Salukis to four straight regular-season conference titles, four straight NCAA tournament appearances and three NCAA tournament wins, and also helped the Dawgs reach the Sweet 16 in 2002. Congratulations, Darren.

Thumbs up to Milton McDaniel Sr. and his recent retirement after 50 years as a railroad employee. When McDaniel was hired to work as a fireman for Illinois Central Rail Road on Aug. 4, 1967, he was the first black fireman hired north of the Ohio River. “I did what I had to do to measure up to my counterparts. I had to work twice as hard to be considered half as good as my co-workers,” McDaniel said of his early years on the job. Now, McDaniel will have more time to himself — and his family. “I have four grandchildren, and they keep me plenty busy,” he said. Good luck, Milton, enjoy your retirement — you deserve it.

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