The Public Square

WILL - The Public Square - February 04, 2008

Gary Storm on social-issue ballot referenda

Hello. My name is Gary Storm. I am a resident of Urbana and a member of AWARE, the local peace and justice organization.

I am here today to remind voters in Urbana and Champaign that there are three non-binding referenda on the Primary Election ballot tomorrow. These referenda are there to give you an opportunity to let your elected representatives know where you stand on important social issues. Each referendum asks you to support or reject a proposed course of action. Each is stated in the form of a question to which you can respond either "Yes" or "No". Let me first read the two questions that will appear on the ballots of both the Urbana and Champaign voters:

First, "Shall the upon their elected representatives in Congress to do all in their power to repeal or amend the military Commission Act in order to restore the U.S. Constitutional right of habeas corpus and to uphold the internationally recognized rules of law, thereby preventing the cruel and inhuman treatment and the arbitrary and indefinite detention for all detainees held by the U.S. government?"

And second, "Shall the voters upon their elected representatives in Congress to pursue all available means to limit military funding in Iraq to only what is required to bring all U.S. troops home safely?"

Voters in Urbana will also be given an opportunity to vote on the question, "Shall the voters call upon their elected representatives in Congress to pursue all available means to prevent war with Iran, including passing legislation that would explicitly prohibit the President from attacking Iran without Congressional authorization?"

Voters in Champaign will be given the opportunity to vote on the question, "Shall the voters of the City of Champaign Township as the Town Trustees to restore the level of general assistance funding by actively pursuing any and all means available to them in order to preserve the health and well-being of individuals, children, families and adults living in extreme poverty in our Township?"

These referenda can be examined on the AWARE web site: "". That's". Please look for the referenda on your ballots and exercise your civic right and duty to let your voice be heard. Thank you.

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WILL - The Public Square - February 01, 2008

Linda Abernathy on an anti-poverty Advisory Refendum

Hello. I'm Linda Abernathy the City of Champaign Township Supervisor.

On the February 5th primary ballot, City of Champaign Township residents will have the opportunity to VOTE YES on an Advisory Referendum addressing the needs of those living in extreme poverty.

The February 5 Advisory Referendum, stands as a statement of the will of the people by asking the voters to instruct the Township?s Governing Board (also known as the Champaign City Council) to pursue all means to preserve the health and well-being Of children, families and adults living in extreme poverty.

Townships are mandated by Illinois law to provide General Assistance to the eligible poor in our town. On February 1, 2007, the City of Champaign Township was forced to terminate over 50% of the eligible clients from General Assistance because of budget constraints and forced to cut the monthly assistance to the remaining clients from $212 to $150.

Township assistance is often considered the public assistance of last resort. It is for people who do not qualify for other public assistance programs and live on less than $3,000 a year, well below the poverty line ? a level that experts define as unable to meet their most basic needs.

Poverty is not just a problem of developing countries ? Poverty exists everywhere, in every city and every state in the US. In spite of the prosperity that the City of Champaign enjoys, many of our citizens go hungry and lack even the basic needs of medical care, shelter, and warm clothing.

Poverty is a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability for those that suffer because of it. On February 5th please send a message of conscience to the Champaign City Council.

Together our collective efficacy can ignite change.

For the complete wording of the referendum and additional facts please visit That?s Champaign is a Caring community ? Vote Yes on February 5th, for the City of Champaign Township Advisory Referendum. Thank you

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WILL - The Public Square - January 25, 2008

Robert Naiman on US Threats Against Iran

Hi, I'm Robert Naiman, and I'm the National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy.

Many in the United States and around the world hoped the release of the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which concluded that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons research program, would lead to a fundamental change in U.S. policy towards Iran. Likewise, many hoped that the apparent reduction in violence in Iraq that the Bush Administration had previously blamed on Iran would lead to more diplomatic engagement and less saber-rattling from the White House. Instead, President Bush has disowned the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies and continues to push the U.S. towards military confrontation with Iran. There has been no change in the Bush Administration's policy of military threats against Iran, although this policy is a clear violation of international law. Indeed, this month the Pentagon dramatically escalated tensions by releasing information about a military encounter with Iran that turned out to be largely false and highly misleading.

Journalist and author Stephen Kinzer wrote a book about the history of U.S. relations with Iran, beginning with the CIA-supported coup that overthrew the democratic government there in the 1950s. Now Kinzer is on a 22-city tour, raising public awareness about the danger of U.S. military confrontation with Iran and pressing the case for real diplomacy - direct and comprehensive talks with Iran on all issues in dispute without pre-conditions.

Kinzer will be speaking in Champaign on Sunday, February 17, at 3pm at a forum on U.S. relations with Iran at the University YMCA on Wright Street on the University of Illinois campus. The forum is free and open to the public.

The United States government is currently on a path towards military confrontation with Iran. Only an informed and mobilized public opinion can force our government to change course.

For more information about the tour, see the tour website,

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WILL - The Public Square - January 18, 2008

Kellie Anderson on the CU One-to-One mentoring program

I'm Kellie Anderson, Community Involvement Coordinator for volunteers and the CU One-to-One mentoring program at Thomas Paine and Wiley Schools in Urbana. CU One-to-One is a collaborative program of the Champaign and Urbana school districts.

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, sugar and spice and everything nice - the old adage tells us that's what little boys and girls are made of. But, there's so much more! They are made of experiences, both positive and negative. They are made of the influences in their sphere of living - the music, the TV, the ads, the images, school lessons, books, conversations. Mostly, though, boys and girls are made of what they are given by us: the grown-ups. What we give them genetically and biologically is huge, of course. Their genetic code for black hair or blue eyes or a funny-shaped thumb, the eventual need for glasses or a body built for speed or agility - or not. These can be the things that connect the generations in a family.

But what else makes a child? What connects a child to the world and to a community? It's the things of the heart and soul. This is the legacy that can come from endless sources -- and this is where we call out to those grown-ups who possess the spirit to become a mentor.

A mentor is a steadfast friend, an encourager, a compass in the pocket in the life of a child. A mentor is not a teacher, although she might teach mighty things. A mentor is not a social worker, although he might identify a resource for assistance. A mentor does not cure or solve or eliminate a child's problem, although he might be a balm on a wounded young heart and a cheerleader, giving the child a confidence in their own ability to overcome.

Become one of many who are helping along the way, one strong adult influence, one voice in a chorus in that young person's song. Do you have a desire to leave a legacy not just in your own family, but in the community of Champaign-Urbana? Will you help make a lifetime of difference in just one hour a week? That's all it takes - just one hour each week to influence a boy's life or a girl's life forever. Become part of what boys and girls are made of.

To become a mentor in a Champaign or Urbana school, contact CU One-to-One at 337-0853 or 351-3722 or visit our web-site at Training is scheduled for January 29 at 6:30pm.

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WILL - The Public Square - November 16, 2007

Cynthia McDonnell on affordable health care for all

The residents of Champaign County are experiencing a massive crisis in access to health care. Close to 40% of our residents are locked out of the health care system. The crisis began in 2003, when both major physician clinics in Champaign County, Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic, began enacting policies that limit or deny appointments and services to patients without insurance, patients with Medicaid insurance and patients who are insured but have medical debt.

Together, Carle and Christie Clinics house more than 90% of the doctors in Champaign County. As a result, these patients have virtually nowhere else to go for primary or specialty health care. When health care providers discriminate against people who have Medicaid insurance or people without insurance, the whole community pays a price. Community health and productivity is affected as people miss school and work due to untreated illnesses. When their illnesses progress, patients often end up in the emergency departments of our local hospitals, which is the most expensive form of health care for patients, but also results in higher costs of health care for everyone.

In response to the access to care crisis, the Champaign County Health Care Consumers started the Health Care Access Task Force which is comprised of community members who are dedicated to working to end the crisis and create a lasting solution that guarantees quality, affordable health care for all Champaign County residents. Solutions to the health care access issue will have to be sought at the local, state, and federal levels, but one solution is clear. Carle Clinic and Christie Clinic must change their policies that discriminate against the 75,000 people in Champaign County who have Medicaid insurance or lack insurance. While Carle Clinic has publicly promised the community that it would expand access to care for people with Medicaid and All Kids insurance, it has been sending letters to pregnant women, clearly stating that if they intend to use insurance provided through Medicaid, they will have to go somewhere else for their prenatal care. This is just one recent example of a category of patients affected by Carle Clinic's practices.

The Health Care Access Task Force is protesting Carle Clinic to demand an end to its harmful and discriminatory policies. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are asking Carle Clinic to open its doors to the thousands of Champaign County residents who would be thankful to finally have access to timely, affordable health care this season.

Please join us in a Thanksgiving protest at Carle Clinic on University Avenue in Urbana, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Together we can create a healthy community in which everyone has access to health care.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 26, 2007

Jan Kruse on Demonstrations for Peace

On October 27 Peace Groups across the country are organizing a day of local and regional action. 11 Massive Demonstrations for Peace will take place across the United States on October 27, 2007! Boston, Chicago, Jonesborough, Tenn., Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Local peace and anti-war groups from our area are sending delegations to the regional event in Chicago. A number of people from this community and the surrounding area will head north to participate in the Chicago actions starting at 1:30 p.m with a Union Park Rally followed by a 3:00 p.m. March to Loop and 4:00 p.m. Federal Plaza Rally.

However, others in our community who are unable to take the day to travel to Chicago on October 27 will participate in a local event. AWARE and other groups are planning a local event to coincide with the October 27 day of coast -to-coast anti-war activities.

The local events will be designated as a "DEFUND the WAR / REFUND Human needs in IRAQ and the US" rally.

For those unable to travel on October 27 and participate in the regional Chicago activities, a local event will take place right here in Champaign.

AWARE and others will gather at N. Prospect and W. Marketview Drive just off I-74 Champaign at 10:00 AM on Saturday October 27.

This local event will provide a rally and send-off for those traveling to Chicago by van and other vehicles.

Immediately following the van send off an "alternative point of view" event will be held to coincide with a pro-Bush, Never Surrender Victory Rally that is being advertised and held nearby, and is also scheduled for that same morning of October 27.

Please Plan to attend the VAN send off and if you are not traveling to Chicago which is also held at N. Prospect and W. Marketview Drive. The Rally will commence following the van send off at 10:00 AM and last until noon.

With so many of our fellow citizens calling for an end to this war please join Iraq veterans against the war as well as others who oppose the waste, senseless killing, occupation and failed policies of violence over peace. It's time to speak up and join those who oppose Bush as well as the Democratic congress that has failed to stop the funding for war. Join AWARE and others Saturday October 27 and speak for peace as we gather and call for our leaders to DEFUND the WAR and to REFUND Human needs in IRAQ and the US.

See you Saturday October 27 at 10:00 AM at N. Prospect and W. Marketview Drive just off I-74. Rally for Peace!

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WILL - The Public Square - October 12, 2007

Lisa Bralts on the Food For Families Drive

My name is Lisa Bralts, and I'm the Director of Marketing & Development at the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

Operating out of Urbana, Illinois since 1983, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank currently works with almost 200 agencies and programs in its 14-county service area to serve food-insecure individuals and households - people whose inability to adequately feed themselves and/or their families has been compromised by insufficient financial or other resources. The Foodbank distributed over 5 million pounds of food into its service area in the past year.

The Foodbank's tagline is alleviating hunger; nourishing stronger communities, but we're also fond of saying this: the face of hunger will surprise you. Over the past two years, the Foodbank has increased the number of people it serves through its agencies and programs by nearly 40% from 24,000 in 2004 to an average of 34,000 in 2006. Wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living, and more and more people most wouldn't "expect" - people working full time, people with homes, people who are active in their churches, schools, and within the community - are having a much harder time affording transportation, paying the power bill, dealing with health care costs, etc. Food is often left off the table, so to speak, when it comes to meeting those obligations.

The Foodbank exists to help people eat who otherwise might not, and we're doing a lot of things right. The Backpack program - our weekend feeding initiative that helps elementary-aged children get enough food over the weekend - has expanded to another area school. Changes in our Foodmobile program - mobile food pantries designed to meet the needs of people in underserved areas - reflect the knowledge we've gained regarding nutrition-related issues faced by low- and no-income citizens. In June, we gathered together a panel of experts on health, food, and emergency food provision for a public symposium raising awareness about hunger and the issues facing those in need throughout the community. We're an important resource for the community - we put the food in the food pantries, and the soup in the soup kitchens. While not hidden, we fly beneath the radar much of the year.

This fall marks the 21st anniversary of the Eastern Illinois Foodbank's Food For Families Drive. Since 1986, our communities have come together to provide food and raise money each fall for this 2 week long event. So far this year, area elementary schools are once again collecting non-perishable food; when secondary schools and University of Illinois campus groups heard that the Foodbank can acquire and distribute ten dollars' worth of food for every dollar donated, however, many of them did the math and decided to organize "change drives", encouraging their classmates and instructors to donate their pocket change to the Foodbank. Grocery stores are serving as food dropoff sites, organizations and businesses are running their own food drives, and volunteer food sorting crews are lining up their time slots.

Please visit our website at or call 217-328-3663 for more information. Food For Families 2007 kicks off at Urbana's Market at the Square on Saturday, October 13 from 9 AM until noon, and runs through Saturday, October 27. At the kickoff, we'll have facepainting, giveaways, and games for the kids, and Foodbank board and staff will be available to answer questions and accept donations of food and cash. We hope to see you there!

Food For Families is a community event in the largest sense of the word; everyone can do something during these two weeks to help a relative, friend, neighbor, or fellow resident get enough to eat. Our goals are to raise $65,000 dollars and 190,000 pounds of food by October 27. Join us as we continue to develop strategies for alleviating hunger and nourishing stronger communities.

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WILL - The Public Square - September 28, 2007

Carl Estabrook on Peace Activist Kathy Kelly

I'm Carl Estabrook, of the local anti-war group AWARE.

Despite the huge anti-war demonstrations that preceded the US invasion of Iraq, the anti-war movement today contrasts sharply with that of the Vietnam era -- or of the Reagan wars in Latin America.

Journalist Alexander Cockburn recently wrote that there are only "a few good efforts -- the anti-recruitment campaigns, the tours of Military Families Against the War, ... the efforts of some returning vets, the stands taken by some enlistees refusing deployment to the Middle East-and three or four brave souls. Cindy Sheehan single-handedly reanimated the anti-war movement last year; ... there is also the radical Catholic Kathy Kelly..."

There is indeed Kathy Kelly, who will visit Champaign-Urbana next week for a series of talks and lectures. Ms. Kelly, from Chicago, is an American peace activist, pacifist, and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She was active with the Catholic Worker movement and, as a pacifist, has refused to pay federal income taxes for 25 years.

In 1988 she was sentenced to prison for planting corn on a nuclear missile site. Her account of her arrest by an embarrassed young rural soldier is hilarious -- until one realizes that it took place directly over a weapon of the sort the administration is threatening to use again, many times the force of the Hiroshima bomb.

Kelly served nine months in a maximum security prison. She claims that attending Catholic school prepared her for the experience.

At the beginning of the Gulf War, in 1991, she was part of a peace encampment on the Iraq-Saudi border and helped coordinate medical relief convoys, as she also did in Bosnia and Haiti. During the Clinton administration she and friends formed a group to use nonviolent civil disobedience against America's ongoing economic and military warfare against the Iraqi people. They organized over seventy delegations to Iraq in violation of the US/UK economic sanctions, which caused the deaths of a half million children.

In the spring of 2004, she served three months at Pekin federal prison for her non-violent witness against the so-called School for Assassins at Fort Benning, GA. She is currently co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the author of several books, notably OTHER LANDS HAVE DREAMS: FROM BAGHDAD TO PEKIN PRISON.

Her principal talk in town will on Thursday, October 4, at 7pm, at the Community United Church of Christ, 6th and Daniel streets in Champaign. The title is "BATTLEFIELD WITHOUT BORDERS, CONSEQUENCES WITHOUT END."

For more information, see the AWARE website at

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WILL - The Public Square - July 27, 2007

Robert Naiman on a Just Foreign Policy

In September Congress will vote on whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. During the August recess, Republican Congress members will hear from constituents and may become willing to vote for withdrawal.

More than 3,600 U.S. soldiers have been killed, and more than 25,000 wounded. The financial cost of the war is now $10 billion a month. A proposal opposed by the President would increase spending on children's health care coverage by $35 billion - three and a half months of war.

Supporters of the war accuse critics of wanting to "cut and run." This assumes the war is a worthy enterprise. If the U.S. invasion and occupation has been bad for Iraqis, then "courage" to "stay the course" is misplaced.

Four million Iraqis have been displaced by the war. But neither our government nor media estimate how many Iraqis have died. It is absurd to claim the war has been in the interest of Iraqis without considering the Iraqi death toll.

In a study published last fall in the The Lancet, researchers from Johns Hopkins estimated 650,000 Iraqis had died. There has been no study to update these results.

Just Foreign Policy has created an online update. We extrapolate from the Lancet estimate, using the trend provided by the tally of deaths reported in Western media by Iraq Body Count. We estimate that more than 985,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the U.S. invasion.

The exact toll will never be known. But this is no reason not to know what the best estimate is. We don't know many key facts with certainty.

We make estimates, and these estimates form the basis of policy. As Congress considers efforts to end the war, estimates of the Iraqi death toll should be part of the debate.

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WILL - The Public Square - July 20, 2007

Mary Tiefenbrunn on selling puppies at the mall

They're Selling Puppies at the Mall - What's Wrong With That?

Right now, it's trendy to have a designer dog or a tiny little purebred that you can carry in your purse, like Paris Hilton's Chihuahua. So it's no surprise that boutique shops selling specialty dogs are popping up around the country, and even right here in Champaign.

What's wrong with that?

Puppy retailers pronounce that they obtain their dogs only from high quality breeders with whom they have "relationships." However, they also tell customers that they can get "any breed" of dog the customer wants and they maintain a steady inventory of puppies of a variety of breeds. Regardless of the claims of puppy retailers, it is impossible to maintain this type of puppy inventory without acquiring puppies from large scale commercial breeders. Such breeding facilities are often referred to as "puppy mills." Retail pet stores and their customers keep commercial breeders in business.

What's wrong with that?

In a (circa 2000) Dateline (NBC) investigative report, a former employee of a commercial dog breeder told reporter Chris Hanson that when she returned from a delivery run with puppies that were too sick to be sold, the proprietor told her to toss them in the trash burner. The puppies were still alive.

That kind of decision can only be made when a puppy is considered nothing more than merchandise. As in any commercial enterprise, the goal of a commercial dog breeder is to make money and the quality of life of the breeding dogs as wells as puppies takes a backseat to the bottom line. To put it bluntly, life for a breeding dog at a commercial breeding facility is horrific. These dogs live out their entire lives in small, often over-crowded cages. At many facilities, the cages are outdoors where the dogs are exposed to extreme weather conditions. The floors of the cages are often made of wire, so that feces and urine can fall through. The females are bred repeatedly, often ever heat cycle so frequently that they are unable to maintain the nutritional stores required to produce strong healthy puppies. To further keep costs down, breeding dogs receive only minimum veterinary care - that which enables them to continue to reproduce. The health of the breeding dogs is not as important as getting more puppies to market. Dogs that are no longer capable of breeding are killed.

Any doubt that keeping a dog in a small cage twenty-four hours a day, day after day, is inhumane evaporates when you witness the neurotic coping behaviors many of these dogs develop. Some engage in self-mutilation, others obsessively pace or jump, repeating the exact same patterns over and over and over. Whether physical, mental, or emotional, the suffering is apparent and in many cases, extreme.

Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows that dogs form strong attachments to their human companions, thrive on exercise and mental stimulation, and experience physical pain. Anyone who has ever loved a dog would be repulsed by the living conditions found at commercial breeding facilities. Anyone who has ever loved a dog should oppose the inhumane business of mass producing puppies for retail sale.

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