Thumbs-up: To DeKalb city officials for responding to community concerns about icy sidewalks. The city, in trying to close a yawning budget deficit, this year eliminated a $40,000 deal with a contractor that used to clear snow and ice from sidewalks in high-traffic areas. The result was a lot of hazardous, and in some cases, impassable pedestrian walkways along major roads over the weekend. After people began to voice safety concerns, the city executed a $10,000 agreement to keep the sidewalks clear. We’re glad to see the cost will be less. DeKalb’s snowplowing operations do contribute some to the snow that accumulates on sidewalks, and above all, making it safe for people to walk safely along major roads is a matter of public safety. However, the city also is facing significant budget challenges. If the agreement gets them through this year, coming up with a plan where everyone – government and property owners – does their part next winter should be on the agenda.
Thumbs-down: To inaccessible information. Last week, the new acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture addressed the major issues facing one of our most vital industries, and although we’re well into the 21st century, the top item on the list was shoddy access to adequate internet. Former state Sen. John Sullivan, whose family farms in West Central Illinois, said in his personal experience and talking to farmers and others around Illinois, “broadband out in the rural areas of the state was just an issue that came up over and over and over again. … Trying to get high-speed internet is very frustrating out in the rural areas of the state, and it is absolutely a hindrance to trying to do business.” Those of us who live “in town” might not think twice about how hard it can be to compete in a modern economy while waiting for an email or download to come through, and the nonfarmers of the world may not realize how much the modern ag industry relies on detailed, real-time data in order to remain competitive. One of Sullivan’s other concerns, increasing ag education opportunities, also relies on viable online access. Here’s hoping that naming the problem leads to solutions, but we know farmers already have been beating this drum loudly for years to no avail.
Thumbs-up: To a strong showing for local wrestlers. This week, all 14 of DeKalb’s high school wrestlers qualified for the IHSA Class 3A Conant Sectional tournament, while 11 Sycamore wrestlers qualified for the Class 2A Geneseo Sectional. The Barbs have two wrestlers committed to Division I schools, Blah Danweih (North Carolina) and Fabian Lopez (Illinois), who are top contenders to win state titles. The sectional round will conclude Saturday with the state tournament starting Thursday in Champaign. Best of luck to all our local competitors. Leave it all on the mat!