Pritzker says budget proposal will include $225 million in savings

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Friday that his budget proposal will include $225 million in savings along with the potential for $750 million more in taxpayer savings in three years.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

New bill would establish 60-day time limit for Illinois State Police to consider FOID appeals

A new proposal would put the Illinois State Police on the clock to make decisions a resident’s Firearm Owners Identification, or FOID card.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

First wave of rural broadband access grants in Illinois announced

Illinois is releasing the first $50 million worth of grants aimed at expanding broadband internet access to rural areas and urban segments without service.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Thoughts on old drunks, right versus wrong and paying for your raising

If there’s a single thought behind today’s offering it can be found in a phrase that my late mother used often: ‘You pay for your raising.’

As a youngster growing up in Sesser I learned that for some people life is a daily struggle, a battle against demons they can’t control and that they sometimes lose against. I learned that by watching my Uncle Paul – a man who literally drank himself to death at age 40 and a man that most people would have referred to as the ‘town drunk.’

Looking back I couldn’t argue with that assessment of him. However, I also remember seeing pictures and hearing family members tell stories about the man he was long before alcohol destroyed his appearance, his looks and his ambition. Once he was a decorated Navy veteran, a big strapping man with a quick wit, a ready smile and a keen sense of humor. Of course those who remember him stumbling down the street drunk on cheap wine wouldn’t recall those things.

Even though I was only 14 when he died, I learned from Uncle Paul that life is very fragile and the potential is there for all of us to stray far off course.
Those old familiar thoughts and feelings resurfaced this week. Let me explain.

I’ve done play-by-play coverage of Benton High School sports on WQRL radio for nearly 25 years. On a recent Saturday afternoon I’d just finished a broadcast of a Benton football game in West Frankfort and was leaving town for the 20-mile drive home. It had been a long day and since I hadn’t had breakfast or lunch I stopped at the local convenience store for a quick snack.

As I exited my truck I noticed a couple in a beat-up, SUV in the next parking space. A woman was behind the wheel and a man was in the passenger seat. For some reason I glanced and noticed the Tennessee plates on their vehicle. I went into the store, got my goodies and headed back to my truck. The couple was still in their vehicle and as I approached my truck the man addressed me.

“Excuse me sir … would you be interested in buying a 36-quart cooler?”

I turned to face the man, who then got out of his SUV. Tired, worn out and just wanting to go home, I asked what it was he wanted to sell. “I’ve got a cooler to sell, I want $3 for it … I need a drink,” he said.

I looked the man up and down and guessed him to be in his mid-50s. He had a weathered look, a week’s growth of beard and he wore a T-shirt that had stains on the front, worn out jeans and a pair of tattered shoes. I also picked up the distinct smell of the full-fledged alcoholic – those poor souls that drink so much you can literally smell the alcohol coming out of the pores of their skin. Many people might not recognize that smell, but I do. I immediately thought of Uncle Paul.

The man removed the beat up cooler from his vehicle and sat it on the ground between us. “I’ll take $3 for it … we’re just traveling through … and I need a drink.” It was the fourth time in about three minutes that he told me he needed a drink. He assured me the driver was not drinking, but addicts lie.

At that moment I could have taken a holier-than-thou approach and left. I could have lectured him that cheap booze will eventually kill him. I could have told him that Jesus loves him –I believe He does. But I didn’t do any of those things. Instead I said and did exactly what I felt I should do at that moment.

“I wouldn’t give you $3 for that cooler,” I told him. “But I would give you $20 for it.” He looked at me with a confused expression on his face and again told me that he was only asking $3 and added that he paid $8 for it new. Again, I asked him if he would take $20 for the cooler. “Yes sir, I would,” he told me.

I handed him the money, wished him well and drove away with my ‘new’ worn-out cooler and a flood of emotions rolling around in my head. There will be those that will say I enabled a drunk, and I did. There will be those that say I gave an alcoholic money to buy booze and head down the highway, and I did. You see, I didn’t know this man with an insatiable need for alcohol, but I did know this man and I know the world where he lives. And you’ll either understand that last sentence or you won’t … so there’s no need to explain.

There hasn’t been a day go by since this encounter that I’ve not wrestled with the right vs. wrong of the way I handled the situation. Perhaps I was wrong, maybe I was right. I still can’t decide, but I do know given the same set of circumstances … I’d do the same thing again. Yes, you pay for your raising.

(Jim Muir has been a journalist in Southern Illinois for 23 years working in newspaper, radio and magazine. Follow Jim Muir on Facebook or on Twitter @jmuir1153. He can be reached at jmuir@frontier.com or at 618-525-4744.)

Update on Franklin County Courthouse/Campbell Building – January 31, 2020

Update on Franklin County Courthouse/Campbell Building – January 31, 2020

Two more Franklin County offices have moved to the Campbell Building, located on the south side of the Benton Public Square, and the court system and circuit clerk’s office will be following suit very quickly.

The Franklin County Clerk and Franklin County Treasurer’s offices have relocated to the south end of the Campbell Building and were opened for business on January 22, 2020. Both offices will permanently remain at their new location after the new courthouse is constructed.

The Franklin County Circuit Clerk’s office is still open at the old courthouse and will remain open through Feb. 7, 2020. There are no court dates scheduled for Feb. 3 through Feb. 7, 2020 (except for emergencies). The first scheduled court hearings are slated to be held at the Campbell Building on Feb. 10, 2020. The circuit clerk’s office, women’s advocate office, three court rooms and court reporters’ office and judges chambers are located on the lower level of the Campbell Building. The entrance to go to the lower level is located on the east side of the Campbell Building through the newly-constructed 40-feet-by-24 feet addition. Security will be located in the new addition along with an elevator and stairs to gain access to the lower level or to stay on the ground-level floor.

A new automated phone system was installed at the Campbell Building that will allow callers to access nine different county offices including, treasurer, county clerk, circuit clerk, supervisor of assessments, domestic abuse advocate, regional superintendent of schools, election office, court security, court reporters. The new number is 618-435-9800.

On January 21, 2020 the county board voted unanimously to adopt a budget of $20.8 million for the funding package that will include the cost of the new 46,000 square feet courthouse that is scheduled for construction later this year. The $20.8 million cost is approximately $3 million less than the original proposal submitted. It is very important to note that the $20.8 million budget also includes the $1.6 million to renovate the 21,000-square-feet Campbell Building and another $1.6 million in construction contingency added to offset any cost overrides.

Navigate Building Solutions, of St. Louis, is serving as project manager for the construction phase of the new courthouse. Todd Sweeney, owner of Navigate, was at the meeting and told board members that he fully believes the $1.6 million in construction contingency can be returned to the county. Sweeney said his company recently completed a large project in St. Charles, MO that had a $25 million budget and a construction contingency of $2.5 million. He said all the construction bids in St. Charles came in within the proposed budget and the entire $2.5 million was not used. Subtracting the cost of the Campbell Building renovation ($1.6 million) and the construction contingency ($1.6 million) the cost of the construction (including all professional, architect and other costs) the cost of the actual construction of the new courthouse is projected to be in the range of $17.5 million to $18 million.

Demolition on the Benton Evening News office began on Thursday, January 30 and was expected to be completed in short order. McVicker Excavating & Demolition, the lower bidder on the demolition, projected that it will take only two days to raze the building and then work will begin on making a parking lot for much-needed parking space.

Concerned business owners from the Benton Public Square area have attended recent meetings expressing concerns and seeking input from the county board regarding potential parking problems on the square. The county board has secured permission for the use of part of the parking at First Baptist Church, located on South Main Street. The parking lot west of the church will be available along with parking at the Benton Evening News. The board also recently sent a letter to all employees asking them to refrain from parking on the Public Square and said part of the bid process for construction of the new courthouse will have a provision that no construction workers will be allowed to park on the public square.

Additionally, the city of Benton, as a means to help businesses, is also looking at modifying an ordinance that would prohibit any employee or business owner that works on the square from parking.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois needs to ‘root out the purveyors of greed and corruption’ in State of State speech

Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois needs to ‘root out the purveyors of greed and corruption’ in State of State speech

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

‘He talked about Twitter more than property taxes,’ Republicans unimpressed with Pritzker’s State of the State speech

Political leaders from both sides of the aisle weighed in on the state of Illinois after Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered his State of the State address Wednesday to the General Assembly in Springfield.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

Ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval sent bills to empty committees, ensuring they wouldn’t advance

A former state lawmaker who pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting $250,000 in bribes in exchange for using his legislative weight to unilaterally stop bills from advancing often assigned measures to a subcommittee that had no members, essentially ensuring those measures wouldn’t advance.

Here’s a link to the story at Illinois News Network.

One on One … with Chico Vaughn

By Jim Muir

Who’s the greatest Southern Illinois high school basketball player of all time? That particular question has been asked and the answer argued for decades.

Certainly the era involved, size of school and the success of the player’s team make up the usual discussions when the best-ever question is brought up.

However, if offensive prowess is the main factor that goes into determining the best high school basketball player from our region to ever lace up a pair of sneakers, Charlie “Chico” Vaughn is in a class by himself.

Nearly 50 years after graduating from tiny Tamms High School Vaughn still holds the all-time career high school scoring mark in Illinois with 3,358 points. Vaughn scored 377 points as a freshman, 844 as a sophomore, 1,085 as a junior and 1,052 as a senior.

Perhaps the best way to put those gaudy numbers in perspective is to compare them with some of the other high school greats from this area – players who were virtual scoring machines. Among those falling in behind Vaughn on the all-time scoring list in Illinois are Marty “Mule” Simmons, of Lawrenceville (2,968 points), Scott Burzynski, Sesser-Valier (2,762 points), Dwight “Dike” Eddleman, (2,702 points), Centralia, Ron Stallings (2,643 points), Ridgway, JoJo Johnson (2,575 points) Benton, Jim Mitchell, (2,561points) Zeigler-Royalton, Mike Duff (2,558 points) Eldorado and T.J. Wheeler (2,528 points) Christopher.

SISC Publisher Jim Muir recently sat down with Vaughn and discussed his glory days in Tamms, the three-point shot that didn’t exist when he played, his still legendary jump shot and today’s game of basketball.
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Despite the fact that he’s now 69 years old and a little stooped when he walks Charles “Chico” Vaughn still carries himself like an athlete. In fact, looking at his 6-feet-4-inch frame, his smooth gait, long arms and ham-like hands it doesn’t take much imagination to picture Vaughn in his hey-day reigning points from all over the court on outmanned opponents.

The fifth of seven children Vaughn actually got his start playing basketball in the northwest, living in Portland, Oregon until he was in the sixth grade. His dad worked in the shipyards in Portland and by his own admission his family was “dirt poor” while he was growing up. Vaughn said it was when his family announced that they were moving back to Southern Illinois that he realized that he had special God-given talent as a basketball player – head-turning talent that might someday open other doors.

“I was in the sixth grade and the school officials didn’t want me to move back,” recalled Vaughn. “They wanted me to live with my grandma in Portland so I could stay and play basketball. They really worked hard trying to get me to stay and I was only in the sixth grade.”

Despite the efforts to keep Vaughn in Oregon his family moved back to deep Southern Illinois, settling in tiny Hodge’s Park, located near Tamms. Vaughn played organized basketball in Portland through the sixth grade but there was no junior high school team in Hodge’s Park so he actually sat out two years before going to Tamms High School.

During that two-year stint Vaughn honed his skills in local sandlot games but basically entered high school as an unknown quantity at Tamms, who competed against Gorham, Cobden, Dongola, Ullin, Thebes, Mounds City and Mounds Douglas. However, early in his freshmen season he caught the attention of coaches and eight games into his first season of high school ball made the move to the varsity.

“I ended up being the leading scorer on the varsity team my freshmen year,” Vaughn said.

When asked about his natural ability versus his work ethic Vaughn said he was keenly aware of both.

“A lot of things came easy for me, I was quick and I was a jumper, but I always believed in giving 100-plus percent all the time,” said Vaughn. “I worked hard to become a better player.”

Vaughn said his vertical jump was never measured during his playing days but many longtime Southern Illinois basketball fans claim that the Tamms phenom could literally put his elbow on the rim.

“Nobody ever measured how high I could jump, so I don’t know,” Vaughn said. “But, I could get in the air pretty good.”

Vaughn said he also had another philosophy about the game that he carried throughout his career.

“I thought the basketball was mine,” Vaughn said. “And it didn’t matter if I was on offense or defense when that ball went in the air I wanted it.”

Contrary to today’s high school basketball players who live in the gym and sometimes play 25-30 games during the summer months Vaughn said he didn’t darken the door of a gymnasium during the summer. In fact, Vaughn said he felt like summers were made for something besides basketball.

“I didn’t like summer basketball, never did,” said Vaughn. “I played baseball in the summer. In fact, right after I graduated high school I was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies but I decided to go to SIU and play basketball instead. I thought going to college would be my best bet.”

Vaughn scored over the 60-point mark on three occasions and over the 50-point mark numerous times and once had a 46 point second half where he scored 30 points in the fourth quarter. However it was none of those games that came to mind when asked to recall his most memorable offensive showing.

“I can remember it like it was yesterday, it was during the regional tournament during my senior year and we were playing Mounds Douglas,” said Vaughn. “I scored 16 points in the first half and in the second half I scored 33 straight points and never missed a shot and ended up with 49 points. It was just one of those games where I couldn’t seem to miss.”

Vaughn’s teams advanced out of regional tournament play on three different occasions but ran into the talented Herrin and Pinckneyville teams of the late-1950s in the sectionals where they were defeated.

While Vaughn played during a different era on the court he also played during a different era off the court. He said traveling to some gymnasiums in Southern Illinois meant that racial slurs would be a part of game.

“It was bad,” he said. “Some of the teams had never seen a black ballplayer before. We just tried to play the game and get out of there, but I heard plenty of racial insults along the way.”

Vaughn said he always tried to rise above the racial tension.

“I knew myself and what I was about,” said Vaughn. “As long as they didn’t touch me or lay a hand on me words didn’t mean anything. I tried to make my statement and do my talking on the court.”

Vaughn said Tamms was one of the first integrated schools in Southern Illinois and the team consisted of both black and white players. While Vaughn still vividly recalls the racial tension he often encountered he also lists his high school coach, Scottie Lynch, a white man, as one of the most positive influences in his life.

“He was the kind of guy that didn’t care who you was, he had a set of rules and everybody had to abide by the rules,” said Vaughn. “He didn’t care what color you were he just treated everybody the same.”

Despite his 6-foot-4-inch frame and his jumping ability Vaughn said the strongest part of his game was his outside shooting. Vaughn’s quick answer showed that he’d given the matter some previous thought when he was questioned about how many of his shots would be three-pointers by today’s standards. When asked about his range as a jump shooter he answered by giving his opinion about the 19-feet-nine-inch range that nowadays counts for three points.

“I would say that 70-percent of my shots would be three-pointers,” said Vaughn. “I had a range of about 30-plus feet, so I was crossing the half line looking for a shot. A lot of guys back then shot from that distance, a 19-footer was a lay-up to us.”

Vaughn completed his high school career with 3,358 points and was recruited by scores of colleges but instead opted to take his basketball skills to Carbondale and play for the SIU Salukis.

A step up in competition didn’t change anything for Vaughn as he led the Salukis in scoring for four consecutive years, scoring 2,088 points which is still an SIU record. At SIU Vaughn averaged 23.6 ppg his freshmen year, 26.9 his sophomore year, 23.4 his junior year and 21.9 ppg through nine games his senior year. In all, Vaughn played in only 85 college games and had a career average of 24.6 ppg. Much like the list of high school players he stands in front of the list of those at SIU also speaks volumes about his scoring record as a Saluki. Some of those behind Vaughn include Kent Williams (1999-2003) 2,012 points, Mike Glenn, 1974-77, 1,878 points, Ashraf Amaya (1990-93) 1,864 points, Darren Brooks (2000-2005) 1,761 points, Steve Middleton (1985-88) 1,710 points and Joe C. Meriweather (1973-75) 1,536 points.

Vaughn was declared academically ineligible his senior season and didn’t return to school, opting to take his basketball skills to the NBA.

“The issue involving the eligibility was my fault, entirely my fault,” said Vaughn. “I just started not going to class and I didn’t pass my classes. The rest of it was just playing basketball like I had always played. I just screwed up and didn’t go to class.”

Following his collegiate career Vaughn played for nine seasons in the NBA that included stints in St. Louis, Detroit and San Diego. When asked about his professional salary compared to the multi-million dollar contract these days Vaughn simply laughed.

“It was pitiful what we made,” he said. “In the mid-1960s Bob Pettit was the best player in the NBA, a superstar and he made $49,000 a year. My first contract in 1963 was for $10,000.”

Vaughn played with and against the who’s who of NBA players including many who were recently named as the top 100 to ever play professionally. Vaughn listed Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Hal Lanier, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain as superstars that he competed against. When asked who the best of that group was, Vaughn didn’t hesitate in saying that “The Big O” – Oscar Robertson stood at the top of his list with Jerry West a close second.

“He was big and strong, he had great hands and he could score from anywhere and he could pass,” Vaughn said about Robertson. “I think I lost 13 pounds one night trying to guard him.”

Showing that he still pays attention to the professional game Vaughn named Dwayne Wade, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitski, Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash as his favorite current players.

Vaughn is known for his scoring prowess but he stressed that during his playing days, from high school to the pros, all aspects of the game was important to him.

“You know, when I say that I thought the ball was mine I’m talking about rebounding and scoring too,” Vaughn said. “I played bigger than my height, I led SIU in rebounding, and that’s something that was important to me.”

When asked if he could have played basketball with the same success now that he enjoyed 50 years ago Vaughn didn’t hesitate when answering.

“Yeah, I think I could’ve played today,” said Vaughn. “The game is faster but it still comes down to putting the ball in the hole.”

While Vaughn has enjoyed success on the hard court his life has not always been easy. In 2003 his wife of 24 years, June, died of colon cancer and then 10 months later his 22-year-old son Justin was killed in a shooting incident in Cairo.

“At times like those you count on God, your family and friends to get you through it,” said Vaughn. “I just put my hand in God’s and he helped me through it.”

In 1988, 30 years after leaving SIU, Vaughn returned to the Carbondale campus and obtained his bachelor’s degree in recreation. For the past 16 years he has worked at the Meridian High School as a teaching assistant.

“I love my job at Meridian and I love the interaction with students,” said Vaughn. “I look forward to being there every day.”

Vaughn said he’s surprised, especially with the advent of the three-point shot, that his high school career record has never been eclipsed.

“It’s been nearly 50 years now,” said Vaughn. “Yeah, I’m surprised that it’s never been broken. That record is like me, it’s been around a long time and sort of stood the test of time and I’m proud of that. What’s happened to me during my life because of basketball, it’s a very special thing.”

SIDEBAR STORY

Meridian High School is a better place because of the daily work of Charlie “Chico” Vaughn.

That’s the assessment of Mitch Haskins, who has served as dean of students for nearly two decades and has held a close association with Vaughn during that time.

“He wears a lot of hats around here. He does morning security duty and he’s one of the first faces that many kids see every morning when they enter the school,” said Haskins. “He has a great rapport with the students.”

Haskins said Vaughn works very hard to establish a line of communication with all students, not just those involved in athletics.

“He maintains his area of responsibility but also makes students aware that there are choices they make and with each choice there is a consequence,” said Haskins. “He explains that there’s a price tag with every decision and just does a great job working with the kids and has for years and years.”

Haskins said Vaughn has the ability to find common ground with all students.

“He’s there greeting the students every morning and he’ll talk to them about the game the night before or the one coming up or what was on television the night before or maybe even a concert they attended,” said Haskins. “He does some tutorial work with students and he talks about the importance of academics. And there are many times that students come to him with their personal problems. He’s a father-figure to many of the students here.”

— Jim Muir —

Illinois manufacturers’ group says state’s economic growth held back by state policies

CARBONDALE — Frontier Communications, an internet service provider with significant presence in Southern Illinois, appears poised to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Bloomberg reported last week, after a private meeting between Chief Executive Officer Bernie Han and some of Frontier’s major creditors.

Here’s a link to the story in the Southern Illinoisan.

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