CARBONDALE — Technology now connects the world.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: We’re not going anywhere.
Last week, it was announced that The Southern Illinoisan would be printing in St. Louis. The newspaper you are currently holding and reading is the last that will be produced on our press in Carbondale.
It’s sad. It’s the end of an era. We’ve been printing The Southern on this particular press since 1982, and we’re proud of that fact. There’s a lot of history in that room, and we’re never going to forget that.
We’re also sad to see the guys who worked so hard on our press go. They were the best in the business, and we’re going to miss every one of them. There isn’t a single soul in this building who is happy about it.
But, it was a business decision — that’s it. End of story.
CARBONDALE — Technology now connects the world.
Moving forward, we here at The Southern are still committed to giving the same great news coverage. We’re still committed to providing the same great sports coverage.
However — and for the sake of complete transparency — some of that coverage will be different. With earlier deadlines, it will be harder to put some of the events we usually cover into the print edition.
But, on the other hand, that doesn’t mean those events won’t get covered. It just means that events that take place later will be available at thesouthern.com.
Our mission here is to be an advocate for positive change in the communities we serve — that won’t change, either. We take great pride in the journalism that we do, and will continue to do so.
And, we’ve heard the rumors, too. No, we are not all moving to St. Louis. The only thing that changes is that the newspaper itself will be printed on a press in St. Louis and trucked to Carbondale six days a week. That’s it. The rest of us — news staff, advertising representatives, classified representatives, circulation staff, packaging — are still here in Carbondale. We're not going anywhere.
So, I sit here and humbly ask that you continue to support us. Support local journalism. If you can, buy a subscription. Pick up a paper at the store — I think you’ll find that we have a lot to offer. Remember, we’re your neighbors, too.
And it’s not just the paper itself. We have it all on our website, too. We also have digital-only subscriptions.
It’s definitely an end to an era here. But, in other ways, it’s the beginning of another one.
Capitol News Illinois: Many of you probably have noticed over the last few weeks that we have some new bylines in the newspaper.
The Illinois Press Foundation started Capitol News Illinois, which will provide state government coverage to Illinois newspapers. We at The Southern are going to use this service.
The team of reporters — Rebecca Anzel, Peter Hancock, Jerry Nowicki and Grant Morgan — will work under the direction of IPF Director Jeff Rogers, who serves as the Capitol News Illinois bureau chief. They began service Jan. 28.
"I am excited about the news team we have hired, and we're eager to get to work," Rogers said in a news release. "There's a good mix of youth and experience, and they all share a passion for the Foundation's mission with the news service, which is to bolster a Statehouse press corps that has been significantly depleted over time."
According to its mission statement, The Illinois Press Foundation is dedicated to promoting and protecting free expression through educational activities that foster the practice and respect of First Amendment principles and values, to enhance the quality of services provided by newspapers to their communities, and to support reading and literacy efforts. The foundation was added in 1982 as the charitable arm of the Illinois Press Association.
I’m excited about adding Capitol News Illinois to the daily content you’ll already find in The Southern. It can only be a plus.
CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale estimates that bringing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost the school about $6.9 million annually.
SIU Carbondale and the School of Medicine in Springfield, which are funded jointly, employ about 2,300 students and 600 other employees that make less than $15 an hour, according to SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.
Goldsmith said that SIU does not have a position on the proposal to hike the state’s minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.
“We are simply providing our analysis of the financial impact,” Goldsmith said. The minimum wage hike is backed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has urged the proposal to move quickly through the General Assembly.
The Illinois Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would incrementally raise Illinois’ $8.25 per hour minimum wage to $15 by the year 2025. Southern Illinois’ two senators, both Republicans, opposed the measure, citing their concerns on how it would affect small businesses, agriculture production, municipalities, K-12 schools, community colleges and SIU.
Fowler said on the Senate floor that he has heard from numerous employers in his district, the vast majority of which oppose the bill. But Fowler said that he is most concerned for how the change would affect SIU, one of the region’s largest employers.
“Student employees that could possibly, and probably will, lose those jobs, rely on these jobs to pay for their education,” Fowler said.
As the bill proposes stepping in the minimum wage increase, it would cost SIU increasingly more each year, beginning with about $1.25 million more in 2020, $4 million more by 2023 and about $6.9 million once fully implemented.
In a week-in-review newsletter, Fowler reiterated his concerns about the bill. “While I can recognize efforts to provide more wage earners of this state, I cannot support a measure that has the potential for widespread harm to the business sector of Southern Illinois,” Fowler said in his newsletter.
Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, expressed similar concerns. He said he’s received a number of calls from small business owners saying, “I’m really worried that I’m going to have to close my doors.”
“I have a lot of people in small towns in my district that are worried that jobs are going to go to Missouri,” he said.
SPRINGFIELD — Rep. Will Davis, a Hazel Crest Democrat, plans to introduce legislation in the next two weeks that would move Illinois toward 100 percent renewable energy.
“We want to make sure that the future of clean energy is clear; it’s stable and it ensures equitable participation, and it lifts up all sectors of not only the industry, but all sectors of the state,” said Amy Heart, Midwest chair for Solar Energy Industry Association and policy director for Sunrun.
David Lundy, spokesman for the Path to 100 Coalition, said the future legislation would make this happen by requiring greater private investment in renewable energy production from energy companies. This would be accomplished through the authority of the Illinois Power Agency, which develops electricity procurement plans for large investor-owned electric utilities Ameren, ComEd and MidAmerican.
In this way, investment would be ratepayer funded, costing the ratepayer “less than a couple bucks a month,” Lundy said. It would not require state funding.
Currently, the Illinois Power Agency turns away about 90 percent of applicants for green energy projects due to a limited pool of available credits, Lundy said. But by expanding Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard, the planned legislation would increase the available pool of private grant funding to be disbursed by the Illinois Power Agency.
“The renewable energy industry is ready to invest billions of dollars in our state and deliver the clean, homegrown energy our citizens want,” Davis said. “I intend for this act to benefit our state equitably and spread the economic development dollars to Illinois communities throughout the state and especially those that are most in need of jobs and economic growth.”
Davis said he plans for the bill to expand upon parameters of the Future Energy Jobs Act, under which several hundred megawatts of wind and solar renewable energy credits were procured.
Existing policy requires Illinois to reach 16 percent renewable energy by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025, but Illinois is on pace to hit only 7 percent by 2020.
The coalition said Path to 100 legislation will expand Illinois’ Renewable Portfolio Standard requirement to 40 percent renewables by 2030 and requires the goal be met by new, in-state projects that create jobs in Illinois.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker campaigned on a clean energy agenda and signed an executive order in January making Illinois part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition which is committed to upholding the standards of the Paris Climate Accords.
“We can’t sit idly by and do nothing here in the United States when we too have an environment that is at risk,” he said during a January news conference. “Our industry here is partly responsible to contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, in fact substantially so.”
Pritzker said the process to “environmental justice” would be “gradual,” and a focus would be put on bringing jobs back to coal mining communities which are already seeing job losses because of the changing energy production environment.
The Path to 100 coalition said it also plans to include bill language to increase transparency in the cost estimate process for green energy projects, and to create a statewide study to eliminate barriers for energy storage and identify opportunities to pair energy storage with renewable energy development.
Sen. Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat, is expected to file a companion bill in the Senate within two weeks as well.