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Bill Linneman

April 28 2016

I once ate in a café that advertised itself as being on the Forty-Fifth Parallel. It was located in Michigan in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. Michigan has an upper peninsula too, which is separated from the Lower by the Straits of Mackinac.
“Mackinac” is the spelling of the island also, but the city located on the south side of straits is spelled “Mackinaw,” the way we spell our town in Tazewell County, Illinois. No matter how the word was spelled, the pronunciation rhymed with “knaw.” Remember that French explorers gave the first names.
In these days there’s a bridge connecting Upper and Lower Peninsulas. But when I first encountered the Straits the only way to get across was by automobile ferry. If you were traveling in the autumn during deer hunting season, you might have a wait of several hours.
But my crossing was in vacation season—August 1940. I was thirteen years old and with my family. Crossing the Straits mesmerized me—I had never seen so much water. I swiveled my head toward Lake Huron on my right to Lake Michigan on the left. I saw the island where no cars were allowed.
Straight ahead was the town of St. Ignace (Loyola), given that name by Pere Marquette a Jesuit priest. Father Marquette was a great one for naming places. He named Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. He also named Kansas, not by sight but by hear-say.
We were en route to Marquette, Michigan, on the south shore of Lake  Superior. Where Aunt Doll and Dr. Herman spent two months every summer to escape hay-fever.
Usually we had gone straight up through Wisconsin, but this year we changed for variety. We had gone through Michigan City, Indiana, and then St. Joe and Benton Harbor in Michigan. Then we went straight up the Lake Michigan coast—Holland, Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Mackinaw City.
But my encounter with the Forty-Fifth Parallel came sixty some years later. Betsy and I were visiting Viki, Dan and our three grandsons in Grand Rapids, and we decided to take a trip around parts of Michigan we had not seen. And this is how we came to Alpena on the west coast of Lake Huron.
For a time in my memory of things past, I thought the town might have been Mackinaw City but that was farther north in Cheboygan County. Notice how Michigan spells that town “Cheboygan,” when across the lake Wisconsin spells it “Sheboygan.” But pronunciation is what matters. Folklore says the city got its name from a disgusted Indian chief whose squaw presented him with another daughter—“She-boy again.”
The latitude of Alpena is 45 degrees 3 minutes. As I recall, Alpena was like other Michigan towns that extended themselves along their lake fronts. There might be miles of restaurants, convenient stores, and beer places. Bridges spanned inlets leading to harbors with boats, boats, boats.
Along that lakefront we found a sunny restaurant. What made the occasion notable was that we were dining on the Forty-Fifth Parallel. I had never dined on a parallel before and wondered what it would be like. I recall it being very enjoyable.

Capitol Facts
by Rich Miller

April 28 2015
A breakthrough in state government?
A blog post appears to have helped at least temporarily break the long stalemate at the Illinois Statehouse.
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) wrote up a story and I posted it on my blog (CapitolFax.com) last Monday about a way to provide some funding for higher education. Universities and community colleges haven’t received a dollar from the state since June of last year because the government has no budget. Some are on the verge of actually going under.
Fortner’s idea wasn’t new. Some other folks, particularly at the endangered Eastern Illinois University, have been saying for a while now that money is just sitting in a state account and isn’t being used for its intended purpose. Budget negotiators have also been eyeing the fund.
But, for whatever reason, Fortner’s proposal took off like a rocket. It probably helped that the Republican legislator devised the plan with a Democrat from the Senate, Pat McGuire of Joliet.
The governor’s folks almost immediately embraced Fortner’s concept, which gives higher education hundreds of millions of dollars to tide the schools over until tuition money starts coming in. The money comes from the Education Assistance Fund, which receives dedicated tax revenues and is split between K-12 and higher education.
Rep. Fortner’s proposal also included giving universities “relief from some of the procurement code.” Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he wants to redo some of the reforms enacted after Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment, and has made it part of his otherwise controversial “Turnaround Agenda.” But while those earlier procurement reforms have, indeed created problems at universities and in state government, House Speaker Michael Madigan has resisted changing them. Legitimate fears of history repeating itself after the Blagojevich scandals is cited as the main reason.
Rauner won’t negotiate a budget until he passes his Turnaround Agenda. So, good news came when Rauner decided not to tie his procurement reform demands to the passage of Fortner’s funding plan. And then more good news came when top Democrats started openly talking about “building a bridge” to next fiscal year, which begins July 1. They can’t pay the state’s obligations without a lot more revenue, and they can’t raise taxes without an agreement on the Turnaround Agenda. So, they wanted to try and prevent a systemic meltdown in the meantime.
The imminent closure of Chicago State University at the end of April, the severe problems faced by several social service providers, the possibility that the legislature might not fund K-12 schools this year, the state comptroller’s decision to delay issuing legislative paychecks for two months and the looming week-long legislative Passover break, all combined to create an extreme sense of urgency.
So, Fortner’s op-ed came just at the right time.
And things are starting to look up elsewhere, too.
Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks’ proposed constitutional amendment to reform the redistricting process sailed out of committee last week. Franks pledged to include some changes suggested by (who else?) Rep. Fortner, and the Illinois Chamber supports it, which possibly indicates where the Rauner folks are. 
Ending gerrymandering is part of the governor’s Turnaround Agenda. Speaker Madigan once called fair redistricting reform a “plot” by Republicans. He supports Franks’ proposal which still allows legislators to set districts.
Meanwhile, significant progress is being made in negotiations behind the scenes on workers’ compensation reform, one of Gov. Rauner’s top priorities. People close to Madigan admitted late last week that some reasonable procurement reforms could be achieved.
Last week, rank and file legislators in both parties became so disgusted with the impasse that they forced their warring leaders just far enough apart to get something done. Fortner helped that process along by shining a bright, focused light on a solution.
We’re not out of the woods yet. Finding a way to finally end this impasse will be far more difficult than tapping an unused state fund. And, heck, even that wasn’t easy. Negotiations were heated, attempts were made at the eleventh hour to pry even more spending out of Rauner, things broke down time and time again and Speaker Madigan ended the week with an unneeded but typical nasty shot across Rauner’s bow.
“Time will tell,” Madigan said via press release, “if Governor Rauner has further intentions of destroying our state institutions and human service providers, or if he will begin working with us to craft a full-year budget that is not contingent on passage of his demands.”
Rauner is almost always quick to respond in kind to these sorts of statements by Madigan. This time, though, he held the high ground and did not respond to Madigan’s bullying.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com

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Helen Leake's Gardeners Tips
by Helen J. Leake

April 28 2016
Planting tips for those pretty annual flowers
The Garden Centers  are full of the pretty, annual flower plants that will add color to your garden.  Choose a container that all of the plants look healthy.  Work up the soil where you plan to plant them.
When you plant the annuals, if you will pinch the top off to just above a leave stem, that will encourage new growth and a fuller plant.  Also the plant will put more energy into growing a stronger plant and it will soon produce blooms.
Sometimes when you remove the plant from the container, you will see a lot of roots, like the plant was root-bound.  Pull the excess roots off and gently pull the soil apart a little.  That will loosen the soil and encourage the roots to grow out into the soil for more nutrients.  You will notice in a round container, the roots are forming a circle. They could continue the circle, and not go out from the plant if you don’t remove them.
Plant them the same depth and water them.  it is best to plant them in the early morning or evening,  planting them mid-day in the hot sun will put a lot of stress on them.
It us best not to plant plants that the bees like near the front door or mail box.  Also it is best not to have thorns that can scratch you or catch your clothing near the door or mail box

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Classic Colcalsure
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington

April 28 2016
Penmanship and Music
Education was always a number one priority with my father. I can only imagine what he might say if he was informed that in the world of penmanship, cursive will no longer be taught in elementary schools. Perhaps falling into a close second would be any and all instruction concerning music. It is my understanding that 41 states currently do not require public elementary schools to teach reading or writing, in compliance with the dictates of Common Core Education standards that cursive will no longer be taught in elementary schools.
My father would most likely roll his eyes and shake his head at the reasoning of the so called “educated fools” as our school system continues down this slippery slope called education. Seven states, I have read, are now fighting to keep cursive in the curriculum—California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Utah. Their argument is that “it helped distinguish the literate from the illiterate.” It is through the use of computers and Microsoft spell check that writing is becoming obsolete and the end result is that all kids are literate these days.
It is interesting to note that after have spent an entire year in third grade (I think) learning how to write in cursive, that I have rarely used it since. Like many others I rely upon computers and a lot of the tools available to me, with the exception of texting, tweeting and so forth. All of which, rarely use proper written English. I wonder what will become of the generation that follows me that may “lose the ability to interpret historical documents, ancestors’ letters and journals if they can’t read cursive.”
In researching various sites for this weeks’ column, I was astounded at some of the comments that were made in teaching only those essential life skills that would be useful in the work place. That penmanship and music were a waste of time and such time could be better spent teaching only what will be used after graduation. I’m trying to think of what subject they could have eliminated from my education that has never been useful, even once. Can’t think of many, can you?
What is missing folks is that the actual learning, which is taking place, has alternative benefits, which at the age of pre-puberty, are essential life skills, even if at the time, we “don’t get it.” Take cursive writing, for instance. It helps develop fine motor skills and stimulates certain regions of the brain. The constant repetition of writing skills will ultimately translate to readable penmanship and such a skill is a rare quality that is rapidly disappearing. Ever read some of the correspondence between our soldiers and their spouse or girlfriend during World War I or II? Truly a writing of poetic beauty. Patience and perseverance also come to mind.
Turning our attention to music and the memorable “Treble Clefts” and that weird looking wood and wire chalk-holding contraption that the teacher drew lines upon the blackboard and expected us to write in cursive on the lines. Plus, the embarrassment of having to write your given name, in front of the entire class, immediately following the sound of fingernails scratching on the blackboard as the teacher drew five lines after five lines. What about those white letters (cursive of course) on green cardboard sitting above the blackboard? Oh boy, I wonder how many times did I have to write, “I will not talk out loud?”

Till next time…john
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