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Thumbs up to all candidates on the ballot in the March 20 primary. With seemingly constant turmoil at both the state and federal level, it is gratifying to see citizens willing to serve their country and their state. It is particularly gratifying to see so many contested races in the primary season. This country can only be successful if its citizens are willing to serve. And, another thumbs up to voters who have already cast ballots or those who intend to go to the polls Tuesday. Given the close elections we saw in the last cycle, including the presidential election, we are reminded that our votes truly do count. The beauty of living in America is that your voice can be heard. Cast your vote and make sure that happens.

Thumbs down to the continuing problem with opioid addiction gripping Southern Illinois. The problem has reached a level of severity that law enforcement officials and community leaders have formed a task force to address addition problems in juveniles. “It’s unbelievable. I cannot express my amazement at what’s happened. We almost always have over 100 people in our jail these days, and the vast majority of them are linked to those kind of addictions,” Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones said. “When I first started in this business, we would have less than 20 people in jail all the time — usually young, white males with substance abuse problems. Now we have over 100.”

Thumbs up to Marion Professional Firefighters Local 2977 for its recent donation of $8,000 to Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois. The funds are used to fly military veterans to Washington, D.C. and allow them to visit for memorial dedicated to the specific war in which they were engaged. The next honor flight is scheduled for April 24. The funds were collected in a Feb. 17 fundraiser. Local 2977 raised an additional $2,000 which was donated to Marion Professional Firefighters Scholarship fund.Thumbs up to the boys basketball teams from Goreville and Pinckneyville. The Blackcats finished fourth in the Class 1A state tournament, while the Panthers captured the fourth-place trophy in Class 2A. The performance of the Blackcats and Panthers helps keep alive the tradition of outstanding basketball played in Southern Illinois. In the meantime, Okawville claimed the Class 1A state title. With Okawville, Goreville and Pinckneyville all advancing to the state tournament in Peoria, three of the eight teams in the state finals were south of Interstate 64.

Thumbs up to SIU basketball players Kylie Giebelhausen and Marcus Bartley. Giebelhausen and Bartley truly embody the term student-athlete. In addition to winning several postseason awards for her efforts on the court, Giebelhausen, a senior, was named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s student-athlete team. The East Peoria native is majoring in exercise science. In the meantime, Bartley, a junior from Decatur, was recently named a College Sports Information Directors Association third-team academic All-American. Bartley sports a 4.0 GPA in sports administration. He represents the first academic All-American pick for the SIU men’s program since Bryan Mullins earned first-team honors in 2009.

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