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Thumbs up to Rise Above It Bakery in Carterville for being a recipient of the Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Rehabilitation. The bakery was one of nine Illinois important and historic places in Illinois to receive the honor this year. The building, renovated by Jennifer Spence of Carterville, is home to Rise Above It Bakery, operated by her sister, Crystal Lukens. The building was formerly home to Talley’s Cleaners. Spence had previously rehabbed the Carterville Heritage Museum building, located right next door. “I bought the building to complement the Heritage Museum,” she said. “I used this as a workshop space while renovating the museum.” And, Spence said she felt Carterville needed a café and bakery.

Thumbs up, in retrospect, to the voters of Jackson County for approving a 1 percent sales tax in November 2016, when Illinois was mired in a two-year budget impasse. The tax was passed to fund capital projects at Jackson County schools. Schools are now reaping benefits from the tax. De Soto Grade School has received about $250,000 from the tax. “It keeps maintenance projects out of my personnel and education funds,” said superintendent Nathaniel Wilson. Unity Point received $523,931 in fiscal year 2019. The school has used the funding to secure loans for a new roofing, HVAC units, LED lighting and security measures. “It’s allowed us to do the big ticket maintenance projects that we’d put off or so long,” Wilson said. And, the success of the tax instills a sense of trust in schools and school boards that tax dollars will be used as promised.

Thumbs down to Hurricane Dorian. Although the United States has largely escaped the worst this massive storm has to offer, the photographs from the Bahamas were horrific. Southern Illinois is not a stranger to severe weather, but as a region we’ve never experienced anything remotely resembling the widespread devastation Dorian left in its wake. When a tornado, or even derecho, hits our region, the damage is severe, but it tends to be isolated and concentrated. We can only sympathize and hope the residents of the Bahamas recover quickly from this brutal storm.

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Thumbs up to the proactive approach Vienna High School superintendent Joshua Stafford had taken to protect students at the Johnson County school. Three years ago when there was a threat of violence at the school, Stafford decided the time to act was immediately. He realized the leaders of various agencies needed to become acquainted and be on the save page. “We didn’t want to have to make introductions in the middle of a crisis,” Stafford said. “Everyone in our county does a great job, but they work in silos.” Stafford organized a coalition of local, county and state police officers, probation officers, local counselors and therapists as well as school officials. The group continues to meet quarterly. “We talk about everything from mental health to truancy, to discipline,” said Johnson County State’s Attorney Tambra Cain. “It’s all about what can we do to provide extra support for students.” That seems to be the ultimate win-win.

Thumbs up to the somewhat brighter financial picture Illinois faces today. The “good” news recently reported is that Illinois’ net position, the different between its tangible assets and all of its liabilities is a negative $136 billion. The good news is that figure is down almost $50 billion from the previous year. The state’s perilous financial condition as exacerbated by the two-year budget impasse. The 2017-18 budget gave the state increased flexibility to transfer money between funds in order to defray operating costs and provided options for state employees to take voluntary buyouts.

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