Thumbs up to Brandon Phelps, the former state representative from the 118th district. Phelps stepped down this week, citing health reasons, after 15 years in the Illinois legislature. While we didn’t always agree with the positions Phelps took, nor should we, it is difficult to believe that any other legislator approached their job with as much enthusiasm as Phelps. His love of the job was apparent when he’d appear before The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board during endorsement interviews — it was like turning a 10-year-old loose at Dairy Queen. We offer a well-deserved pat on the back to Phelps for giving 15 years of service to the people of Southern Illinois.

Thumbs up to U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth for keeping the pressure on the Department of Housing and Urban Development for answers regarding the residents of Cairo. Illinois’ junior senator has been consistent in her demands for clarity from HUD on basic issues such as how much time to Cairo residents have to find alternative housing once they receive vouchers, or how residents would be reimbursed for moving expenses. Duckworth is also seeking answers from the agency regarding where Cairo residents want to live. She noted that most Cairo residents have told her they would like to remain in Cairo, while HUD officials said surveys of residents showed most preferred to move away from Cairo. The senator’s interest in the residents of Cairo is refreshing and her tenacity is appreciated. The people of Cairo can certainly use an advocate.

Thumbs down, once again, to Mother Nature. Although places like Houston and the Florida Keys are far away on the map, the horrific storms affect us all. Hurricane Harvey created destruction on an unprecedented scale for the residents of east Texas. The ripple effects of the storm are already being seen across Southern Illinois in the form of increased prices at the gas pump. Obviously, a few extra pennies at the pump pales in comparison to the suffering inflicted on the people of Texas, but the gas increase is proof that this storm affects all Americans. Now, sadly, Florida is bracing Hurricane Irma, a storm that is at least as powerful as Harvey.

Thumbs up to Saturday’s opening game of the 2017 SIU football season. Sure, Illinois is still smarting from two years without a state budget. Yes, SIU’s enrollment figures are down once again, but the start of football season is like New Year’s Day in September. Nick Hill, one of Du Quoin’s favorite sons, is beginning his second year as head coach at SIU. As is always the case, the season begins with wide-eyed optimism. There are several key members returning from last year’s team, and opening day normally draws one of the biggest crowds of the year. It is inexplicable, but there is something innately exciting about opening day of the college football season even if you aren’t a serious fan of the sport.

Thumbs up to former Saluki linebacker Chase Allen, speaking of SIU football. Allen, a Belleville native, made the Miami Dolphins’ roster as an undrafted free agent. Allen was the Dolphins’ leading tackler in each of the team’s four preseason games. He is the fifth Saluki in the past 10 years to make an NFL opening day roster as an undrafted free agent. It was also announced this week that former Saluki tight end MyCole Pruitt had made the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad.

Thumbs up to Evansville businesswoman Glenda Zanders on her selection to the Illinois Conservation Foundation’s Hall of Fame. She was selected for the HOF because of her tireless support of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ programs for women and children. She will be formally inducted in ceremonies Sept. 28.

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