Thumbs up to the Carbondale City Council for repealing its panhandling ordinance. The ordinance, which was facing a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union, prohibited panhandling, or a request for financial assistance in any public place. Council members Carolin Harvey, Tom Grant and Adam Loos noted prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting that repealing the ordinance made more sense than spending money defending it in court. Plus, there are already ordinances on the books that prevent aggressive panhandling and disorderly conduct. While panhandling can be an annoyance, we have to agree with the ACLU’s position that peaceful requests for aid should be protected by the First Amendment.
Thumbs up to the return of Friday night lights. The prep football season begins tonight. While other prep sports — golf, volleyball and cross country — have already begun, the opening of prep football season officially signals the beginning of another sports cycle. Prep football may seem trite to some, but the Friday night battles between geographic rivals still draw large crowds throughout the region. The tailgates at high school football games are a reminder that we do live in a rural area. Heading out to the football field on Friday night to watch your child, grandchild or the kid who lives down the street is a Southern Illinois tradition. Go Hometown High!
Thumbs up to still another Southern Illinois tradition — the semi-annual closing of Snake Road. The 2.5-mile long road, also known as LaRue Road or Shawnee Forest Road No. 345, is closing to vehicular traffic Sept. 1. The road is closed twice a year to allow snakes and amphibians, some endangered, to migrate from LaRue Swamp to the nearby limestone bluffs. The gradual, two-month migration attracts people from across the country eager to witness the rich diversity of reptile and amphibian species along this single stretch of road. About 66 percent of the amphibians and 59 percent of the reptiles known to occur in Illinois are found here.
Thumbs up to the City of Carbondale for considering a residential Tax Increment Financing (TIF). It’s an interesting concept. Residents in the TIF district would receive tax breaks if development or improvements to their properties resulted in higher tax assessments. The purpose of the residential TIF is to spur growth in owner-occupied residences and provided incentives for landlords to improve their rental properties. Carbondale Economic Development director Steve Mitchell used the Arbor District as an area that might benefit from a TIF designation. Carbondale City Council members noted some shortcomings in the plan, notably the possible loss of some rental properties, always a concern in college towns with large transient populations. However, it is an idea that should be explored.
Thumbs up to the Southern Illinois University campus for being officially accredited as an arboretum. A general definition for an arboretum is a botanical garden, composed largely of woody plants, intended, at least in part, for scientific study. The SIU campus set up an Arboretum Advisory Committee several months ago. Part of requirement to receive arboretum status is to inventory every tree on campus. SIU’s news release indicated there are more than 5,200 trees on campus. In addition, SIU has developed six self-guided walking tours on campus. The Carbondale campus is the first in Illinois to receive Level II Arboretum Accreditation.
Thumbs up to the SIU School of Medicine for its work on a drug that shows promise in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. The drug, Troriluzole, is a cousin of a drug already known to prolong the lives of sufferers of Lou Gehrig’s disease by slowing the degeneration of neural and spinal cells. And it has demonstrated improvements in memory and thinking in preliminary trials with Alzheimer’s-affected mice. Tom Ala, the Medical Director of SIU School of Medicine’s Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, hopes this drug will be the first to truly slow the advance of the degenerative disease.