The Public Square
My name is Emily Talen. I am currently an associate professor in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, where I teach courses on community design and the history of planning cities.
Every time I hear this radio segment, the "Public Square", I feel a sense of loss about our own lack of the real thing. We may not want to admit it, but here in Champaign-Urbana we lack quality civic places. Our public square is, quite literally, a virtual reality.
Neglect of public space has deep consequences. Public gathering places - real places, not virtual ones - are not only an essential part of a good town, but they're an essential part of a well-functioning democracy. Public gathering places reinforce community identity, stimulate a healthy civic culture, and bring people together - essential for a diverse society.
When cities have a weak civic realm, public expressions of democracy become undignified, problematic and inaccessible when they should be central. The public demonstration activities of AWARE, an anti-war group, are an example. I'm not a member of this group, but it saddens me when I see fellow citizens who are taking the time to participate in civic life being forced to stand in one of the most inhospitable places imaginable - North Prospect. Understandably, this group is trying to find a more dignified place to carry out their right to free speech and peaceful public protest. But their negotiations with privately owned spaces are met with resistance. There is too much ambiguity about what is private and what is public: privately owned places, even if they function as de facto public realms, are controlled by people who don't feel they have a stake in upholding the culture of democracy.
I see precious little effort expended in attempting to dignify and strengthen our civic realm. This does not have to involve large expenditures - there are small and large ways to support public places. Even a concerted effort to improve sidewalks is an important civic act. It only requires an attitude that values the physical expression of collective life. Now, as the City of Urbana touts its newest commercial development in the five points area - boasting bigger and better retailing opportunities - there is a perfect chance to give attention to the public aspects of this new growth. Let's give tangible meaning to the importance of the public square.
My name is Mort Brussel. I am a concerned citizen. I am belong to AWARE, a non-partisan citizen anti-war anti-racism group. This is an open letter to Senator Obama:
It is clear that the United States is in a quagmire in Iraq.
There are growing calls for the United States to withdraw from Iraq coming from all parts of the political spectrum. I urge you to add your voice to this chorus.
Please do whatever you can to make the United States withdraw its forces and bases from Iraq!
There are those who argue that the United States has a moral obligation to rebuild Iraq. I agree, but that does not require keeping troops and bases in Iraq, thereby maintaining our grip there. The only moral and reasonable recourse is for the President to withdraw all U.S. troops as quickly as possible.
Some argue that withdrawal from Iraq may lead to disaster: Civil war may break out; an extremist Islamic government may take over; outside countries may intervene; the country may be partitioned. But all these possibilities have been engendered by the depredations of the U.S. troops in Iraq and by the U.S. control of Iraqi life. There can be no true democracy in Iraq under an American boot. We have to let the Iraqi people find their own way.
On the other hand, pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq will leave American forces less vulnerable to attacks by the armed resistance, will diminish the casualties among Iraqis and the destruction of their society, will probably diminish terrorism. and will bolster the American standing in the world, especially if the United States truly helps Iraq reconstitute itself by giving ample reconstruction aid as reparations for our aggression there.
The United States must withdraw its troops from Iraq despite its obvious, if denied, original motivations, which were to secure a strategic base to control this oil rich region.
Please make this a top priority. You were elected by many who had faith in your good judgment to stop the war in Iraq. Act with others to do so.
I am Evelyn Burnett Underwood, a retired Counselor with a Masters Degree in Education, and a Specialist in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University, A Doctor of Jurisprudence from Indiana University at Bloomington and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. I have lived in Champaign-Urbana for over fifty years. I am married to Senior Bishop King James Underwood. We have 10 children.
We have a vested interest in Urbana. We care about Urbana.
We are supporting Mrs. Shirley Hursey for mayor of the City of Urbana, and will vote for her not only because she is eminently qualified to run the City of Urbana, but also she has a vision for this city. We know that without a vision the people perish! She plans to make Urbana a premier city, a stellar city not a "little Champaign" but a unique city with a character of its own. She plans to build upon the "good" things about Urbana while bringing about innovations what will make Urbana the kind of city that people will desire to move to, live in and to raise their families, where young professionals will be drawn to and, many University of Illinois graduates will seek to remain her and work here. Everything "we" need will be right here in Urbana, "under her watch as mayor" we will not need to go to Indianapolis and Chicago to shop and to work!
Shirley Hursey has no problem with thinking outside the box. Hursey is one with the proven ability "to take things to another level"; Hursey has a "can do" attitude. Hursey has integrity and is honest!
Shirley Hursey was a hardworking and determined businesswoman, who provided opportunities and training for others; Hursey is now a retired professional utilizing her skills to provide leadership in this community generally and to organizations like the University YWCA, and outreach programs at Bethel AME Church.
Shirley Hursey believes that all men are created equal and thus embrace and celebrate diversity, as evidenced by her "earlier work" with the Council For Community Integrations, the Hayes School Neighborhood Association, her behind the scene work to get the first African American elected to the Urbana City Council, her former husband Paul Hursey, Sr., and her "out front" effort to get the first African American elected elected to the Urbana School Board, yours truly; for behind the scene and out front efforts to assist "women" in taking their place in the political arena, her work with the League of Women Voters, and her work with The Urbana Human Relations Commission.
Shirley Hurseys' negotiation and mediation background will help her to seek for a "fair middle ground" to resolve issues as mayor of the City of Urbana.
Finally, Shirley Hursey pledges to:
1. Be a mayor who in personal, private, and public discourse is guided by civility, courtesy and respect for all people. 2. Be a mayor who seeks the advice and guidance of concerned citizens and neighborhoods. 3. Be a mayor who is small business oriented and who is supportive of Urbana's established businesses. Committed to the recruitment of high quality new business, and encourage entrepreneurship. 4. Be a mayor who encourages cooperation with other units of Government, i.e., the District 116 School Board, Sister City of Champaign, Champaign County, State of Illinois, University of Illinois, and the Federal Government.
Yes, each one of us has a role! Come let us elect Shirley Hursey as mayor of Urbana, for our sake, the sake of our children and future generations! Thank you in advance for your support!!!
This is Nicole Roberts, a Democratic Precinct Committeewoman In Urbana, with a comment about tomorrow's Democratic Primary election in Urbana.
Mayor Tod Satterthwaite's campaign for re-election is being opposed two candidates.
Those of you who have read the campaign literature from those two campaigns, or who have listened to the candidate forums, will be aware that neither candidate is offering a distinct vision for the future of Urbana that varies from the one Mayor Satterthwaite has been implementing in his tenure as mayor. Thus, the only way Laurel Prussing's campaign can gain any traction is through smear tactics, and that is what her campaign has been attempting to do.
One claim of Prussing's supporters is that she is in some indefinable way more "progressive" than Mayor Satterthwaite. I am a "progressive" too, but ever since I learned the meaning of the term and recognized I was one, I have thought that being progressive was about ideas and strategies to move society forward. The people on the other side of this race seem to think "progressive" means to destroy the integrity of anyone who deviates in the tiniest bit from their own idea of the day.
Another claim of Mayor Satterthwaite's opponents is so far from the truth as to be laughable. They claim that Mayor Satterthwaite opposed the library expansion.
The history and facts show that claim to be silly. The mayor introduced a line item in the city budget in 1994 (that would be more than ten years ago) that set money aside for future expansion of the library. This is a fact.
The annual contribution to the library expansion fund ranged from $500,000 to $800,000 per year, once the city's expenses for City Hall renovation were paid. Before the library expansion even began the city had accumulated over $5 million dollars in its library expansion fund. This too is a fact.
The mayor worked with the Urbana Free Library Foundation to contact potential private donors to raise money for library expansion. Check out the Library Foundation's website list of donors. Tod and his parents Helen and Cameron Satterthwaite donated over $35,000 to the library fund. This too is a fact.
The mayor applied for grant funding from the State of Illinois resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars for library expansion. This too is a fact.
The mayor's opponents would have you believe that because he favored a different approach to dealing with cost overruns than the plan eventually adopted, that he opposed library expansion or in wilder versions, that he hates books or even that he hates the Urbana Free Library. These are obviously lies.
Once the decision was made to fund the cost overruns, Mayor Satterthwaite went to work to help raise the money to fund the additional costs. This too is a fact.
If you want a city government that turns every policy difference, no matter how minute, into a personality clash, then vote for one of Tod's challengers.
If you want a mayor who will work hard every day to continue making Urbana a better place to live and work, then reward Tod Satterthwaite with your vote tomorrow.
I want to continue Urbana's momentum in a positive direction and my vote tomorrow will go to Tod Satterthwaite. Please join me in voting for Urbana's future.
My name is Esther Patt and I am a member of the Urbana City Council.
Twelve years ago, a young man with no government experience stood in front of an empty storefront and declared it was time for a change of leadership in Urbana. The man was Tod Satterthwaite and he said that the incumbent mayor had failed to meet the challenges Urbana faced.
Today, one could stand on Philo Road and make the same claim about Mayor Satterthwaite. It has been more than two years since K-Mart announced it was closing. In all of that time, the mayor has done nothing about the decline of Philo Road. Only now, on the eve of the election, has he presented a plan.
We need new energy in city government and former State Representative Laurel Prussing has it.
If we elect Prussing as mayor, she'll actively pursue business development year-round, not just at election time. Prussing will work with the city's outstanding staff on the large projects that build Urbana's tax base. And, she'll also focus on small businesses, establishing an incentive program to attract more retail uses to Urbana.
In her 22 years of government experience, as County Auditor and State Representative, Laurel Prussing proved she is an innovator who seeks out new ideas. She'll study what has worked in other cities and bring the best of those ideas to Urbana.
More than anything, I feel next Tuesday's election is about character.
Although I was once an enthusiastic supporter of Tod, his handling of the library expansion proved that he cannot be trusted.
After years of fighting to keep the project small, Satterthwaite finally agreed to double the size of the library, but only if the Library Foundation raised $2 million. Foundation members made good on their end of the bargain. They raised the money from donors who were promised a specific plan.
When architects told Satterthwaite costs would exceed the estimates, the mayor directed the architects to chop 6,000 square feet off the library. He kept his action a secret from the library board and the public. When the city council found out, Satterthwaite publicly claimed that everything from the original plan would fit in the downsized building. That wasn't the truth. We found out that he had cut space for 26,000 books.
It was pure luck that the city council discovered Satterthwaite's deception at the last minute and saved the project. Public-private partnerships can be successful only if private donors can trust the honesty of public officials. Tod Satterthwaite betrayed that trust.
My name is Sandra Ahten. I am an artist, personal coach, and independent journalist. I have been investigating, understanding, and writing about issues of criminal justice for seven years. I reside in Urbana with my husband Kevin Elliott.
Champaign County makes a handsome profit off of phone calls generated by inmates from the county jail. Here's how it works. Inmates are forced to make collect calls, even when calling locally. The calls are about 45 percent more than even home to home collect calls. Hence families who accept the call is are forced to pay more than $6 for fifteen minutes.
This exorbitant rate is a County contract with Evercom Systems of Irving Texas. As a nice thank-you for accepting the contract - the contract with the highest phone rates of all three bidding companies -- the county received a $10,000 signing bonus and each month receives $14,000 kickback. The county would like to call this kickback: compensation. But compensated for what? The county provides no service or equipment -- only a captive market.
In light of the three jail suicides in six month, Sheriff Walsh suggested that he understood the mental health need for communication between inmates and their support system. This policy defies that: Clergy can't accept calls. Children can't talk to their parents. Families lose their phones.
Many in the county jail are there because they are poor: they can not meet their bond. 57% have not even been found guilty but are awaiting their hearing.
The contract is being considered at the county board meeting on Thursday, February 24 at 7pm at Brookens Administration Building. The county board needs to be sent a message. Stop this unfair practice. Negotiate a contract that provides the least expensive rates for calls not a contract that provides the biggest kickback. Citizens do not want you to fund our general budget with this unfair tax on the poorest inmate's families. The next county board meeting is Thursday Feb. 24. The time for public input is at 7pm. My phone number, if you would like to help organize or want more information is 217-367-6345. I'm Sandra Ahten.
Peace be upon you all. My name is Aaron Ammons, also know as Brother A-Dub. I'm a local activist, husband, father, and published poet. I am also co-founder of CU Citizens For Peace and Justice which is just one of the reasons why I will give you the following information concerning felony convictions.
When one hears that someone has a felony conviction, images of murderers, rapists and pedophiles might come to mind. But did you know that a person can receive a felony for minor crimes such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, video and audio taping of traffic stops of police officers or giving the police a false name.
Why should someone who smoked a little bit of pot in Illinois, for example, lose the following rights:
The right to apply for a Pell Grant to pay for college tuition and books.
The right to bear arms or be around guns or bullets.
The right to work as a firefighter and police officer.
The right to be a Public School teacher, principal, counselor, bus driver, coach or janitor.
The right to hold municipal elected office such as Mayor or city council member or President.
The right to obtain licenses for cosmetology, such as Barbers or Beauticians.
The right to volunteer at places such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
The right to serve in any of the armed forces or reserves.
The right to work as an insurance agent.
And these are only some of the rights taken from a person convicted of a felony.
Furthermore, in Champaign, if a felony crime is less than five years old, landlords are allowed to deny housing to people who have been convicted of felonies. Felons are also tax paying citizens yet are denied many of the rights other tax paying citizens enjoy even after paying their debt to society.
It is unconstitutional to repeatedly try and convict an individual for the same crime. People with felony records need to earn a living and yet there are many jobs denied to them even after serving their time. There are local businesses such as convenience stores home improvement stores who refuse to hire people with felony conviction. You won't be hired for a job with the city or park district even after serving your time.
This sweeping perpetual noose must be re-evaluated, after all the numbers of felons certainly are not decreasing.
And, in 12 states people with felony convictions are banned from voting for life. Florida is one of those states. Thankfully, people with felony convictions in Illinois can still vote.
The Illinois Constitution Article 1 of the Bill of Rights says: "all men are by nature free and independent and have certain inherent and inalienable rights among which are LIFE, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness."
However, a man cannot have LIFE and be sentenced to Death! Ex-States Attorney John Piland once said that the consequences of a felony conviction are a death sentence! One cannot experience Liberty when he is harnessed like a horse and controlled by the bridle of a felony conviction, and it is inescapably true that ones pursuit of happiness is more like a veil of misery and stress.
In Illinois we want amendments to laws that prevent felons from working as firefighters, bus drivers and counselors. We must allow citizens who have made mistakes to still receive Pell grants for a college education, and we absolutely must allow them to participate in the making and enforcing of the laws that govern them. Finally, we want full voting rights restored to all felons who have paid their debts to society by serving their time.
My name is Laura Marland. I'm a free-lance writer and artist, newly settled in Broadlands, Illinois.
My friend Carol and I have, once or twice, gotten into a minor tiff about what it takes to be a writer. Carol was my high-school history teacher many years ago, and she does, bless her heart, tend toward a certain all-knowing maternalism, which, at times, drives me nuts.
The tiff develops when she points out to me that to be a writer, one has to write every day, for a significant length of time.
"Get real," I say. "If that were true, no one except the wealthy would ever get out a book. People who do dishes, change diapers, work as firefighters, clerks, bartenders, bankers, they write."
I get impatient with talk about What It Takes to Be a Writer because I think it's based on Romantic notions that place more importance on artists than on art and argues for an irrelevant perfectionism that dwells uneasily with creativity.
But there is, famously, an argument about another "requirement" of the writing life that has influenced me-Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. She points out that a writer must have what few women of her day had--a place to engage in that most unfeminine activity-thought.
In the spring I married the man of my dreams; last summer we moved to a house in the southeastern edge of Champaign County, Illinois. The floor's bare; nothing matches; it's crowded; it's home. But there's a problem. It's just one big room.
We've got plans. My husband has begun designing the attic, says it's got plenty of room for a separate study for me. A Room of My Own, where I can retire and write.
But for now, I write at an old farmhouse kitchen table, inches from the big table at which we spend most of our time. Beyond the window in front of me there's a crabapple tree, swarming with robins. They make quite a picture: the birds, the berries, the clear blue sky of early autumn.
Of course, I haven't written anything when anyone's around-neither my husband nor my two stepchildren, who come to stay every few weekends, and are, like their father, bearers of light and laughter and joy.
They are a great gift to me, the only children I will every have.
But I get tense when I hear they're planning to come.
My husband knows why. He says it's because I act like their arrival is the Second Coming. I cook; I clean; I treat them like honored guests. He says I need to learn to treat them like children, who understand that grown-ups have things to do. And really just want to be around.
So last weekend, while they were here, I popped Beethoven into my Walkman, sat down at my little blue table, inches from where my new family gathered, and wrote.
The Pastoral filled my head; the birds perched; the keys of my laptop clicked. I had achieved something that wasn't available to Virginia Woolf: an electronic space. Headroom of My Own.
Between my last marriage and this one, I had plenty of time to be alone. I had an apartment overlooking Lake Michigan where waves crashed on the beach across the street. I had, my friends said, Taken Control of My Life and My Space.
I didn't write a word.
It will be spring before the attic space is finished, spring before I canclimb to my perfect little writer's retreat, sit among my books, be alone, and create.
I'm going to get lonely and go downstairs to work.
My name is Lauri Feldman and I'm a senior at University High School.
I volunteer at Champaign County Health Care Consumers for the
Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception.
Our mothers and grandmothers fought to legalize contraception, but that legal right means less and less in a world of rising health care costs and plummeting wages that make contraception unaffordable for many women. In 2003, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, Planned Parenthood, and other groups throughout the state joined together to pass statewide legislation that requires all health insurance plans in Illinois to cover prescription contraceptives. However, throughout the course of their lives, many women will have their regular method of contraception fail, have unprotected sex, or be sexually assaulted and need timely access to affordable emergency contraception. With this in mind, in May 2004, we began the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception. .
Emergency Contraception (or, EC) is a special dose of ordinary birth control pills that can prevent unintended pregnancy when taken up to five days after unprotected sex, contraceptive failure, or sexual assault. EC is not a substitute for correct use of regular contraception and provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. EC is not an abortafacient; if a woman is already pregnant, EC will not work and will have no affect on already implanted, fertilized eggs. EC can only prevent, not terminate, a pregnancy.
While EC can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex, it is most effective the sooner it is taken. However, a woman must currently have a prescription to get EC, many women cannot get EC in time for it to be effective. For this reason, the Campaign for Access to EC has launched an effort to make EC available to women without a prescription through two possible means.
First, we're advocating for FDA approval of EC for sale over-the-counter nationwide. When the FDA's expert panel convened in December 2003, they voted 24-3 to approve Plan B (a brand of EC) for sale over-the-counter. However, the FDA commissioner caved to political pressure and refused to sign off on the recommendation of the expert panel, citing concerns about EC and teen sexual activity. The makers of Plan B, have since re-applied to the FDA with a revised application that stipulates that women 16 and older could get EC over-the-counter, while women 15 and younger would be required to obtain a prescription. .
Secondly, we've proposed state legislation - Illinois House Bill 6577 - that would allow pharmacists to dispense EC to a woman without a prescription. Six other states have already successfully enacted similar legislation.
The Campaign for Access to EC recently launched its push for FDA approval and state legislation at a rally attended by over 150 people, including community members, high school and college students, physicians, religious leaders, and parents. At the rally, organizers distributed the results of a survey of all Champaign County pharmacies. The survey indicated that while many Champaign County pharmacies stock EC, others refuse to fill prescriptions for it.
If you need emergency contraception, call Planned Parenthood at (217) 359-8200 or visit www.ppeci.org. If you are a UIUC student, you can get EC at McKinley Health Center by calling (217) 333-2700 or visiting www.mckinley.uiuc.edu. It is strongly encouraged to get a prescription for EC ahead of time to keep on hand in case of an emergency.
For more information on the Campaign for Access to Emergency Contraception, contact Brooke Anderson at (217) 352-6533, ext. 17 or visit the campaign's website at www.healthcareconsumers.org/EC.
The Creation of Terrorism: Commentary for the Public Square, WILL-AM by Al Kagan, member of AWARE, the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort
President Bush often claims that the terrorists hate freedom and our way of life. But such statements further his political agenda rather than address the real world. Instead of a massive and violent reaction to Bin Ladin's reprehensible and criminal actions, we should be seriously responding to his articulated grievances, which resonate in the Muslim world and attract followers to his cause.
Millions of people remain outraged by three strands of US foreign policy. The first was the long-standing international sanctions against Iraq and the regular bombing of military installations, not less than every two weeks, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The second was overwhelming US support for Israel's policies, resulting in reducing Palestinians living conditions to the level of poverty only seen in the very poorest countries.
And the third was stationing US troops in the Middle East, especially in Islamic holy places. Let's at least acknowledge the force of these POLITICAL arguments.
The basic thrust of US foreign policy remains the same as before 9/11. Reasoned criticism of Israel's policies has often been branded as anti-Semitism, but I would rather characterize it as enlightened self-interest. We must come to grips with the fact that US diplomatic, military, and economic support for the Israeli destruction of Palestinian life has increased.
But the most threatening development is the US assault on the people of Iraq. The initial war was horrendous, but the current policies are even worse. The attack on Falluja has almost completely destroyed the city. How will the returning civilians be able to pick up their lives if their homes, jobs, and city infrastructure are gone? Perhaps 100,000 people are dead from the US war against Iraq, and no one knows how many thousands more are seriously wounded, both physically and mentally. There can be no justification. Not only has the war outraged the Iraqi people, but it must logically lead to creating a vast number of unemployed bitter people who are ready to do anything to kill the invaders. It is clear that some number of other bitter people from the rest of the Islamic world have also found their way to Iraq.
Finally, let's remember the history. Do we ever see any news reports in the mainstream press that remind us of the US support for the Mujahedeen and bin Laden to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan? Do we remember the US support of Saddam Hussein against his rivals in Iran? Do we think that all those US dollars in aid to these tyrants accomplished nothing? The US is facing "blowback," attack by those who were formerly allies.
The way to defeat terrorism is to address its root causes, not by more military actions. The only way to make the world a safer place is to make it more just. To do that we need a mass movement to change US foreign policy. Contact AWARE, the Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort, at www.anti-war.net to work for peace.
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