Thumbs up: To Max Law, the Southeast Elementary School student whose pumpkin won top honors at the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. Law’s creation – a pumpkin equipped with wheels and decorated with props highlighting historic U.S. Route 66 – was dubbed the “Pick of the Patch” on Thursday. It is among more than 1,000 pumpkins sprawling across the DeKalb County Courthouse lawn in yet another outpouring of local creativity. We applaud Max for his ingenuity and the Sycamore Lions Club for keeping this wonderful tradition alive for yet another year. The Pumpkin Festival truly is Sycamore’s hallmark event, embodying the best of small-town charm and generosity.
Thumbs up: To Ann Lehan, recipient of this year’s Athena Award, sponsored by the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes individuals that demonstrate excellence in their business or profession, are community minded and serve as a role model for helping women reach their leadership potential. Lehan has been a pharmacist for more than 37 years, and she and her husband own Lehan Drugs in DeKalb and Rockford. She has served the Kishwaukee College Foundation, St. Mary’s of DeKalb, Kishwaukee United Way and the DeKalb High School Academic Boosters. The award is well deserved. Congratulations to Lehan.
Thumbs up: To District 428 officials for making a pledge to fully integrate technology into classrooms in coming years. District administrators are planning to have all class materials available in digital format by the 2016 to 17 school year, and have a computing device available for every student in every classroom. Of course, there still should be a place for words on paper, but computers become more prevalent in society with each passing year, and learning to solve problems in a high-tech environment is a critical skill that students must develop, and digital materials have the advantage of costing less to update.
Thumbs down: To backpedaling on Illinois’ pension problem. This week, state Senate President John Cullerton declared that the state’s $97 pension funding shortfall is not a “crisis.” Cullerton’s fellow Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn have been no more effective in solving the problem, but they at least acknowledge its seriousness. As the state has thrown more money at pensions, it has reduced funding for education and social services, and although the state is collecting more tax revenue than ever, its credit rating has been downgraded five times and it can’t pay its bills on time. We are counting on our state’s leaders to address this issue, not downplay it.
Thumbs up: To putting more zero-emission vehicles on the road. Eight states, including New York and California (but not Illinois) pledged this week to put 3.3 million battery-powered, hybrid and other clean-running vehicles on the road by 2025. To do this, they plan to build needed infrastructure including charging stations that will make it easier for people to recharge their vehicles, hence make them feel more secure traveling. The states also offer financial incentives. Automobile exhaust pollutes the air and most of the scientific community agrees it contributes to global warming. Illinois should get on board with this plan.