The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - May 27, 2005

Kathleen Robbins of Champaign says President Bush is sending the wrong message

The Wrong Message

My name is Kathleen Robbins.

For the last several months President Bush has been on a campaign to convince the American people that Social Security is in imminent danger and needs to be fixed immediately. Is this really what we should be talking about today? Is Social Security our most pressing issue?

Worldwide, oil discovery has peaked. We are paying record amounts at the pump and yet our fuel cost are inexpensive compared to most of the world. We are importing ever-increasing amounts of oil and gas as our domestic supply dwindles. This is not only devastating our economy but funding some cultures that are less than supportive to our way of life. At the same time, while concentrating on fossil fuels we are ignoring the environmental impact that carbon dioxide emissions are having on our planetary system.

Our politicians are betting our future and that of our children on fossil fuels while China and India's energy requirements skyrocket. America consumes over 27% of the world's oil production with less than 5% of the world's people while Asia, with almost 60% consumes only 25% but this is growing rapidly. In 2004 alone, China's oil consumption increased by 33%.

Meanwhile, environment quality continues to degrade. The US Department of Energy said in 2002 the US accounted for 23.5% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels while the whole of Asia, with over 12 times the population, emitted only 33%. What happens to the American economy and the global environment as both Asia's energy demand and emissions increase?

Changes made to Social Security today will make little difference to our children or our grandchildren tomorrow unless we begin to take the difficult steps to conserve fossil fuels while developing multiple sources of clean, renewable energy today An increase in the average automobile fuel efficiency to 39mpg would save three times the amount of oil supposedly in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge each year.

What is needed today and is sorely missing is a bold vision. One that envisions a world of plentiful clean water and air; one in which abundant, clean energy is available to all who need it. A vision that treasures our children's world of tomorrow just as we want our comforts of today.

To develop clean, cost-effective renewable energy will require nothing less than a national commitment, equivalent to the Apollo Program of the 60s. Today is the day; why are we waiting for the next economic or environmental crisis? Isn't it about time to begin?

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WILL - The Public Square - May 20, 2005

University High School student Shara Esbenshade on privatizing social security

My name is Shara Esbenshade. I am a freshman at University Laboratory High school and a member of the Uni High Activism Club.

On Tuesday, April 26th, President Bush presented his new plan for Social Security to Congress. Although many politicians, even republicans, and the public are doubtful of privatizing social security, if this were to be passed, the effects would be drastic.

Economically, the plan is not good for any working person or for the country as a whole. The average worker would lose $152,000 in guaranteed retirement benefits, according to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, and even those that chose a private account would have retirement benefits cut by 40%. Surveys show that most people do not possess the basic knowledge necessary to profit off of the stock market, so there would be only minimal growth in some individual accounts, while others would lose money. What's more, is the transition to a new system would cost an enormous amount. Since the Baby Boomer generation will begin to retire in 2018, this new system would immediately run out of money and be forced to borrow from private accounts to pay the retirement benefits. Overall, privatized social security could put the country's deficit at $4.9 trillion in debt (mostly to foreign countries).

Second, the political consequences would not be pretty. Privatized accounts would inevitably be accompanied by political corruption. Large Wall Street investing firms would profit greatly off of private accounts, and politicians would have the power to decide which company makes how much off of account fees. Also, the system would require an entirely new branch of government bureaucracy. Economist Francis X. Cavanaugh estimates that 10,000 well-trained workers would have to be hired to oversee the accounts and answer questions.

The scariest effects, however, would be moral ones. First, privatization would transform social security into an institution where it's each person for them self, and destroy the idea of people caring for one another. In addition, if social security were privatized, the government could no longer be relied on to ensure that people will receive money when they are in need. I believe it is the government's duty to provide for those who aren't able to do so for them selves. And it is the citizens' right to demand this of the government. If people can't be ensured economic protection from the government, there will be no trust between citizen and state, something that is vital to a healthy nation.

There are simpler and less dismal ways of fixing social security. If the unemployment rate were decreased by just 1 or 2%, social security would receive enough money to survive far into the foreseeable future. Another possibility is to raise the $90,000 cap. Currently, if someone makes over $90,000 a year, they still pay only 6.2% of $90,000 as social security tax and not 6.2% of their actual salary. Ideally, this cap could be eliminated, ensuring the survival of social security forever.

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WILL - The Public Square - May 13, 2005

Cope Cumpston of Urbana on National Bike to Work Week

Springtime in Illinois is a great time to think about getting out your bike and getting serious about using it more often.

Need some moral support? Next week, May 16th to the 20th is National Bike to Work Week. Give it a try; see how much better you feel when you've started and ended your workday with some fresh air, a closer view of what's going on in town, and some exercise to clear your head.

Gas prices are going up; parking spaces are harder to find; there's even the occasional traffic jam in Champaign Urbana. Want to avoid all this, save money, get in shape, and enjoy yourself all at once? Ride a bike!

Biking is convenient. It doesn't take too long to get anywhere in town; and you can park right by the door. If you have a long way to go, put your bike on the rack on an MTD bus and then ride at the other end.

Biking is healthy. Have trouble scheduling your exercise? Feeling sluggish? Get on a bike and feel alive!

Biking saves money. In a year, the average cost of keeping a car on the road is $3,000. Most bikers spend less than $300.

Biking helps the environment. Get away from smog, gas fumes, filling up the landfill with giant dead cars. Ride a bike instead!

Sure, it's hard to get started. What if you have to carry a heavy load to the office? Or dress up for an important meeting? Or when it rains? There's a way around all these dilemmas, and it's not that difficult. Or just ride when you feel like it - one day a week is plenty for starters. Make it your Friday treat.

Biking is a sport. You can join a biking club in town. You can get into riding for speed or distance or just enjoy a long ride in the country.

There's support in the works from the government. Both federal and state legislation are look at a requirement that new road construction include enough money for "complete roads" that are safe for cars and bikes. There's a bill about Safe Routes to School for kids. There are incentives to give bikers cash in exchange for not using a car, and for taxi credits for a "guaranteed ride home" if you have an emergency in the middle of the day.

The University of Illinois is supporting Bike to Work Week and is interested in input from staff and students about ways to encourage bicycle commuting.

This community isn't always the easiest place to ride a bike with confidence; motorists often think they have more of a right to the road. Bike paths may not be in the best places. But we have them, and we have a growing network of long distance bike paths. When more bikers speak up, we'll become a more bicycle-friendly community.

Bikers have to be good partners on the road too. Sure it's tempting to wheel up that one-way street or to fly through a stop sign. But motorists don't appreciate renegade competition for road space. So, bikers - follow the rules, and be considerate of everyone else.

What do you need to get started? Check out those cool new bikes at the bike store, make sure your helmet is in good shape. Get on a bike next week and see how it feels. You may just discover how much fun it is -- and all the advantages of getting around on a bike.

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WILL - The Public Square - May 06, 2005

Peggy Patten on reforming public funding of our public schools:

My name is Peggy Patten. I have worked in the professional field of early care and education for the past 30 years. I am a parent of three children who attend (or have attended) Urbana Public Schools and have volunteered many hours in Urbana's elementary and middle school classrooms.

In my work in the early education field, I read many reports about trends in education. One alarming trend is the decline in support for public education over the years. Each year our schools are asked to do more with less and then criticized for not performing miracles. What I find most troubling, is the disparity in funding between poor and wealthy school districts in Illinois. According to many national reports, our state has the most inequitable school funding system in the country. These inequities are a result of our state's reliance on property taxes to fund public education. Per pupil spending is as high as $18,000 in property-rich districts in Illinois and lower than $5,000 per pupil in property-poor districts, a rate far below the minimum amount recommended by the state's Education Funding Advisory Board.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have crafted legislation to reform the way we finance public education in Illinois. The legislation would raise income taxes from 3% to 5% (a rate that would place Illinois' tax rate near the median nationally), and lower property taxes which currently support a disproportionate share of the cost of educating students in Illinois. In addition, the school reform measure would provide a tax credit to low and middle income families. As a result of the tax swaps included in this legislation, most taxpayers in Illinois would see reductions in their total taxes.

We may not be able to alter the misdirected education goals of the No Child Left Behind legislation, a federal law which mandates additional standardized testing and penalizes schools whose students' scores do not improve, and a worthy topic for another Public Square Commentary; however, we can greatly influence the quality of education Illinois children receive by supporting the school finance reform measure that will be brought before the Illinois General Assembly this spring.

I encourage listeners to contact their representatives in Springfield to tell them it is time to reform the way we finance public education in Illinois. It is the right thing to do for our children, for our businesses, and for our communities.

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WILL - The Public Square - April 29, 2005

Meg Miner on Terri Schiavo, Individual Liberty, and the Same-Sex Marriage Debate:

Hi. My name is Meg Miner.

Following the recent involvement of Florida's legislature, the U.S. Congress and the President in Terri Schiavo's end-of-life decision, 70-80% of Americans said they objected to government involvement in the case. It turns out that most Americans enthusiastically cherish their personal liberty in such intimate decision making times.

Much of the public debate centered on what was humane for Terri's sake. But the president and other social conservatives were preempting the right of Michael Schaivo, Terri's husband, to express her wishes.

As we have often heard, the sanctity of marriage must be defended. So why did Terri's parents succeed in making the federal government act on their wishes, not Michael's?

Terri's parents convinced elected officials that Michael couldn't have her best interests at heart because sometime during her 15 year illness he started another family. He was unfaithful; therefore, he was unfit to be her legal caretaker.

But that's not the way we usually hear these folks talk about marriage.

Up until this tragic family dispute was made into a federal case, being legally married was supposed to be all it took to make a man and woman's relationship unassailable. In this case, the conservative lobby seemed to be implying there is more to a marriage than, well, marriage when it comes to things they don't believe in.

Suddenly the quality of their marriage mattered most and, lucky for us, these folks could tell us just what makes a quality marriage. At least for this occurrence.

When our government officials dropped everything and ran to override Michael's decision, it became clear that they pose more of a danger to family unity than even the most dastardly same-sex couples could hope to achieve.

The fact that the law recognized the Schiavos' legal marriage contract over Terri's parents' wishes caused some pundits to blame activist judges for bringing down morality once again.

If the polls are right and 70-80% of Americans believe they have a right to be free of government interference, then I'd like to suggest that this same large percentage consider the infringement on personal liberty when the government denies same-sex couples the ability to marry.

If you opposed the government's intervention in the Schaivo case, please think of how you would feel if the government tried to tell you whom you were allowed to marry.

Think of how it felt when interracial couples were denied marriage licenses under miscegenation laws. It took a Supreme Court case to declare those restrictions illegal.

No doubt there are people in this country today who feel those judges were activists, but fortunately the majority of Americans would disagree now.

As our President often says, "Americans are freedom-loving people." If you agree that same sex couples should share in this freedom, please lend your support to same-sex couples who are not, after all, the threat you've been led to believe.

Call your representatives tell them the decision to marry is best left up to the loving couples who are committing to it, not the government, and certainly not to some lobby with an agenda aimed at shoving our country back into its repressive past.

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WILL - The Public Square - April 22, 2005

Kathie Spegal of Planned Parenthood on comprehensive sexuality education

My name is Kathie Spegal. I have been Director of Community Affairs for 6 years with Planned Parenthood. I have degrees in Health Education from University of Kentucky and Miami University of Ohio. I am active in women's rights issues.

It is amazing to me, that in this day and age of faster and more information than we could ever access, that our teens are completing their high school education with little or no information on responsible sex. They all seem to think that they have the right information, often gotten from a friend, a magazine or a TV show. It only takes a short conversation to discover that much of what they have heard is incomplete, incorrect or harmful.

The National Opinion Research Center recently completed a study of Illinois sex education teachers. While 93% of those surveyed offer some component of sex education, two-thirds omit critical elements of responsible and comprehensive sex education. Their curriculum does not include information such as where to get birth control, what actions a student can take regarding rape, or how to use condoms or other forms of birth control. 92% of these same teachers think that accurate information about birth control and safe sex should be provided to students whether they are sexually active or not.

83% of the voters who responded agree that students in Illinois should have information about contraception and disease prevention and that age-appropriate facts about pregnancy and STD's are an important part of all sex education programs. Almost two-thirds think that comprehensive sex education should be taught in Illinois schools.

Planned Parenthood recognizes that parents should be the primary source of information about issues dealing with sexuality education. We also recognize that many parents are uncomfortable talking to their children about these issues. That leaves schools as the logical place for accurate information to be disseminated but there is no standardized curriculum to help teachers present the topics.

The Coalition for Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a hosting a community discussion on how to promote responsible sex education in our schools in Champaign-Urbana. The group was formed to involve decisions makers and community influencers in a rational discussion that sticks to the facts. The public is invited to hear panelists, including a clergy person, an educator, a physician, and teens talk about their experiences.

Join us at 10 am on Saturday, May 7 at the Douglass Center Branch Library, 504. E. Grove Street in Champaign. That's 10 am, Saturday, May 7 at the Douglass Center Branch Library, 504. E. Grove Street in Champaign. For more information, contact Planned Partenthood, 217-359-4768. That's 217-359-4768.

Please be a part of the solution and help our teens graduate with a healthy body and a healthy attitude.

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WILL - The Public Square - April 08, 2005

Barbara Linder on TV-Turnoff Week

My name is Barbara Linder. I am the Community Connections Coordinator, Urbana Middle School.

Students at Urbana Middle School are being encouraged to turn off their televisions for one week at the end of April. They're also learning how to be wiser about what they watch, with help from teachers, administrators and the College of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The middle school's "TV-Turnoff Week" is set for April 25 to May 1, in conjunction with National TV-Turnoff Week (www.tvturnoff.org/week.htm), held annually since 1995. Television can cut into family time, harm children's ability to read and succeed in school, and contribute to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, according to the Web site for the TV-Turnoff Network, which organizes the national event.

The week will begin April 25, from 6 to 8 p.m., with a "Family Fun Night" of games and activities in the Urbana Middle School gym, 1201 S. Vine St., Urbana. Included among the activities, organized with help from the Urbana Park District, will be a parent-child two-on-two basketball tournament and a kite-making clinic. Students and families from other schools also are welcome to attend.

In addition to turning the TV off and getting outside, families are being strongly encouraged to re-consider the value of placing a television in their child's bedroom. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, two-thirds of children in America now have a TV in their bedrooms. Why is this a bad idea? In the first place, kids with TVs in their bedrooms watch 90 minutes more a day than children without a TV in their room. According to the facts, the more kids watch TV, the more likely they are to be overweight. In addition, recent research shows that those children get worse grades in school, engage in fewer activities that don't involve electronic media, have less family interaction and read fewer books.

Having a TV in their bedroom is also linked to children having sleep problems. The TV is a stranger in your child's bedroom, influencing, guiding, directing and causing the Great Family Disconnect. There is no good reason not to get it our of there now!

For more information about Family Fun Night or about TV Turn-Off Week contact Barbara Linder, 337-0853, blinder@usd116.org.

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WILL - The Public Square - April 01, 2005

Andrea Antulov on the upcoming Parkland Board of Trustees election

If you have children that are may go to Parkland College or may need retraining in a field and be eligible for financial aid, who is elected to the Parkland Board in April and the policies they support may make the difference between being able to get that education.

There are many policy factors that can affect the Parkland tuition. One position is design approval. The current design looks as though students the school must for future generations pay for the maintenance of a lengthy driveway the circumvents the school mimicking a road. Roads intrinsically cost more to maintain than parking lots. Did the just the recent redesign of the one of the entrances cost upwards of a million?

Many students at Parkland have full time jobs and families and are juggling one car between them. Many students are not eligible for financial aid and cannot afford a car in addition to tuition. Do those seeking power over the students lives, support adding a transit pass to the tuition?

This is just a couple of examples anyone regularly going to events there can deduce. What steps has the current administration taken to even make itself and the scope of its authority known to the current student population? I have not seen any letters from students at Parkland.

Parkland Community College is perhaps the only way many citizens who must work may be trained to enter a career to support a family. A large number of people go into debt attempting to better themselves who are not eligible for financial aid or employer paid tuition. It may be cheaper than the University but price still puts this community service out of reach. One class is about $300, the average wage that puts one out of the running for financial aid but necessary to live is about $8.50 an hour, do the math.

Now I learn that a seven million dollar equestrian facility (200 stalls, and two inside tracks, plus) has been approved by the Parkland board some of which are up for election in April. A Chamber of Commerce says this will bring 40 million dollars to the area. This will be in no doubt from wealthy participants of horse shows coming to town. Illinois has more horses than Kentucky, and supports 15,900 jobs in the state. However the equestrian program currently sends students into the field, at local farms. I assume these places get paid for their services. Will the lack of income hurt them? Since when is on-the-job-training not considered an asset? Is this a field a man with child support payments or a woman with a child would seek?

I believe growth is good. But I would like to see it built with some self sustaining features for the expensive maintenance. Lawsuits about stallion damage, emergency vet calls and students' bite scars or crushed spines can't be cheap. And I would like to know what other business and authoritative entities are willing to support this venture with a no interest loans. And what other plans does instituting this invite. Will the aromatic south farms moving to this location as well or will this stench be enough to devalue the expensive zero lots next to Parkland? Why can't the stalls and tracks already built in the Champaign County Fair Grounds near Urbana and a highway exit be utilized?

And on what time table will Parkland start to roll back tuition price tags? Yes, I am suggesting the Walmart smiling face grace the wallets of students.

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WILL - The Public Square - March 25, 2005

This week, a rebroadcast of a commentary first broadcast in November 2004 by Meg Miner.  We are plea

The Costs of Endless War

Hi. I'm Susan Davis. I am a member of AWARE, the Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort in Urbana-Champaign.

This week marks the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In churches, public meetings and rallies people around central Illinois will be reflecting on the costs of war. What began with a shock and awe Blitzkrieg has bogged down in a bloody occupation, with no end in sight.

It's a big job to tally the costs of war and occupation. More than 100,000 Iraqis are dead, and whole cities have been bombed to rubble. 1500 American soldiers have been killed -- 68 of them from Illinois. More than 10,000 Americans are seriously injured and untold numbers of Iraqi and American lives are shattered. Our soldiers have been asked to commit unspeakable acts, and we have demanded the Iraqi people submit to brutality and inhumane treatment in the name of democracy. The political costs of this are hard to measure; the psychological tolls uncountable.

Iraq's economy is in ruins and what is left has been seized by American corporations. Our own economy is disabled by a 500 billion-dollar deficit to which war spending contributes an ever-growing part.

The spiritual, social and economic costs to individuals, communities and countries spiral, again with no end in sight.

Although the Bush administration claims otherwise, it clearly sees the occupation of Iraq as a long-term project, even a jumping off point for attacks on Iran and Syria. While antiwar activists opposed the invasion before it began, now some of America's most conservative thinkers are worried that a policy of endless war threatens the United States' very future.

Anti-war activists recognize that American foreign-policy threatens the whole world's future. On Saturday March 19, demonstrations across Illinois, around the United States and the world will call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. AWARE, Champaign Urbana's Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort will hold a rally from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1 Main St. in Champaign. Join us, or join your community's own demonstration and demand the Bush administration bring the troops home now.

This is Susan Davis, for AWARE

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WILL - The Public Square - March 18, 2005

Susan Davis of the Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort (AWARE) on the costs of endless war

The Costs of Endless War

Hi. I'm Susan Davis. I am a member of AWARE, the Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort in Urbana-Champaign.

This week marks the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. In churches, public meetings and rallies people around central Illinois will be reflecting on the costs of war. What began with a shock and awe Blitzkrieg has bogged down in a bloody occupation, with no end in sight.

It's a big job to tally the costs of war and occupation. More than 100,000 Iraqis are dead, and whole cities have been bombed to rubble. 1500 American soldiers have been killed -- 68 of them from Illinois. More than 10,000 Americans are seriously injured and untold numbers of Iraqi and American lives are shattered. Our soldiers have been asked to commit unspeakable acts, and we have demanded the Iraqi people submit to brutality and inhumane treatment in the name of democracy. The political costs of this are hard to measure; the psychological tolls uncountable.

Iraq's economy is in ruins and what is left has been seized by American corporations. Our own economy is disabled by a 500 billion-dollar deficit to which war spending contributes an ever-growing part.

The spiritual, social and economic costs to individuals, communities and countries spiral, again with no end in sight.

Although the Bush administration claims otherwise, it clearly sees the occupation of Iraq as a long-term project, even a jumping off point for attacks on Iran and Syria. While antiwar activists opposed the invasion before it began, now some of America's most conservative thinkers are worried that a policy of endless war threatens the United States' very future.

Anti-war activists recognize that American foreign-policy threatens the whole world's future. On Saturday March 19, demonstrations across Illinois, around the United States and the world will call for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. AWARE, Champaign Urbana's Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort will hold a rally from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1 Main St. in Champaign. Join us, or join your community's own demonstration and demand the Bush administration bring the troops home now.

This is Susan Davis, for AWARE

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