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A LINCOLN-HEARTED MAN
Thank you for the excellent feature on Jerry Jacobson in your April 8 issue [Todd Spivak, "To the rescue"]. We knew he was a gentleman, and then he proved it by his letter giving credit for preservation efforts to each and every person who has worked with him.
Vachel Lindsay wrote: "A city is not builded in a day ... We must have many Lincoln-hearted men."
We are fortunate to have had many other Lincoln-hearted men and women and are also fortunate that Jerry Jacobson brought his considerable intelligence, skills, and education to Springfield.
Old classmates sometimes say, "Why did you stay in Springfield?" Above are some of the reasons.
NO EXCUSE FOR MISTREATMENT
I'd like to send out kudos to all of those involved in the creation of Illinois Humane [Todd Spivak, "Don't be cruel," April 29]. Animal neglect and abuse is a serious issue and Board President Jane McBride's statement that "people tend to neglect their animals because they are simply overwhelmed" is a comment that readers should not skim over. Being overwhelmed should serve as no excuse for mistreatment. Imagine if someone were to cite the fact that they were simply "too busy" as the reason for abuse of their children. Animals should only be in the hands of those who will treat them like the fantastic companions that they are. I'll cross my fingers.
MORE FINANCIAL ADVICE FOR FRAZIER
This is concerning the article in your April 22 edition in which you were flaunting the good fortune that Renatta Frazier has recently come into at the city of Springfield's expense and her gleefulness after having received the money [Dusty Rhodes, "Redemption story"]. I thought it to be in poor taste and very insulting to the taxpayers of Springfield. You seem to forget that taxpayers will be paying for this, not the people who treated Renatta Frazier so atrociously. And you just had to rub it in, didn't you?
A majority of Springfield residents can't afford to buy such luxury items for themselves or have a publicist and assistant, yet we are now having to foot the bill for Renatta Frazier's shopping sprees and extravagance. I did not see any mention in your article of her investing some of that money in a college fund for her children or of her giving any of her good fortune back to the community or her church in the form of charity. She will probably have it all blown long before the city has the loan paid off.
KUDOS TO THE MAYOR FOR SETTLING CASE
I would like to commend Dusty Rhodes on her touching and revealing article on the Renatta Frazier family.
It is so sad that this beautiful young family was forced to endure such needless pain because of the unfortunate and unjustified actions of several insensitive law-enforcement personnel who worked under the former administration at city hall. Like me, I am quite sure that many Springfield citizens were shocked to read how the lives of this family were adversely affected and the unfair suffering that they had to endure.
As a community, we should be thankful that the Frazier lawsuit was settled out of court. Mayor Tim Davlin's leadership, foresight, and compassion spared our city the anguish of needless litigation and avoided the very real possibility of taxpayers having to foot the bill of a more costly judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Any compassionate individual should understand that a quick settlement was necessary. This family had suffered long enough! Again, I thank Mayor Davlin for having the vision to effect an expeditious conclusion to such an embarrassing episode in our community.
A CLEAR AND OBVIOUS EXCEPTION
I read with some derision Martina Williams' letter to the editor [April 29]. My response is: lay off Renatta Frazier. Even if she and husband went all out and paid $10,000 to replace the symbols of their matrimony -- lost, with many other belongings, in the coerced eviction at the hands of the good ol' boys at SPD -- it would comprise a small fraction of her entire settlement. There's more than enough money for a home and college.
Some people in this town might quibble with the loss of $621,729 from tax revenue. To them I say, consider yourself lucky: had the case gone to jury you would have lost $10 million. You, the citizens of Springfield, pay -- not those in direct complicity in this wretched affair. Did no one bat any eye when our municipal government paid an extravagant sum for an "independent" investigation, a truly pitiful attempt to free itself of fault, at your expense? Consider as well the separate case, still to be resolved, by the Black Guardians, the law officers who selflessly came to the aid of their fallen comrade. Finances aside, their actions serve as a much-needed lesson in human decency and compassion that all of Springfield should hold in the highest esteem.
To the city: ignore all you want to the issue of racism at the heart of the Renatta Frazier case. It won't go away. But beware the consequences of your ignorance. This shameful episode is but one small symptom of a crisis -- a grave crisis that takes far greater financial tolls, and more severe emotional anguish, on a great many citizens every single day. Mark my words. Do nothing to remedy it, and it may well evolve into a maelstrom of hate and violence from which our dear city will find quite difficult to recover.
Finally, to Renatta Frazier, whose name and dignity were tarnished by those utterly devoid of conscience, but who persevered: I don't make it a habit of looking up to people. I'm very wary of calling anyone a hero. But you, my dear lady, are a clear and obvious exception.
Thomas W. Yale
OAK RIDGE'S HAUNTING REMINDER
"Tombstone blues" [Todd Spivak, April 29] certainly struck a chord with me. The exact same thing happened to my son, only he walked away with just a bruise. It happened two years ago during the Sangamon County Historical Society's Cemetery Walk. My son walked over to a tombstone and another little boy leaned against the stone and it toppled. Luckily, because of the uneven terrain, my son's leg did not bear the full blunt of the heavy stone. A Historical Society volunteer came and collected us in his car and drove us back to the parking area. Neither my son nor the other little boy were rocking the stone; it simply was not secured to the base and gave way when the child leaned against it. I wish now that I had reported it to cemetery personnel the next workday, especially in light of what happened to Andrew, but since the stone was merely leaned back up against its base, I took it for granted that cemetery workers would find it and reattach it. Oak Ridge is a big cemetery and employees cannot check every stone to ensure they will not topple. Perhaps the best prevention is to encourage children to look at and admire the often beautiful grave markers, but to respectfully refrain from touching them.
Editor's note: See follow-up to last week's story on page 15
BECHTEL BEGS TO DIFFER
Jason Vest's story "Fables of reconstruction" [April 22] illustrates the danger of relying on thirdhand reports for your facts. In particular, it recites incorrect claims about Bechtel's work in Iraq. It quotes an article by two other journalists, who in turn quoted an Iraqi plant manager's claim that Bechtel had failed to supply needed parts to fix a steam generator.
The fact is, as we told the original reporters, Bechtel specified what parts were needed, but the Coalition Provisional Authority was responsible for the purchase and delivery of those parts.
Mr. Vest's story also recycles a quote from the earlier story speculating that work in the power sector was being held up because Russian, German, and French companies could not participate in the rebuilding of Iraq. As we and USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] have stated publicly, Bechtel is free to choose subcontractors from those countries. Indeed, our current list of subcontractors includes two German firms: Siemens and Standard Aggregatebau AG.
Public Affairs Manager
Bechtel Iraq Infrastructure Reconstruction Program
"HELLO, MR. FUNNY GUY"
In regard to Carol Manley's comments about Take Our Daughters to Work Day [April 22], I would like to point out that the Illinois Department of Human Services takes this very seriously. We had several groups providing special programs for this particular day, of which I participated in the one for the data-processing division. We had 40 kids attend for our part, and DHS made sure to invite children of disadvantaged families who might not have otherwise been able to participate. With orientations in which the kids are treated as new employees, tours, work duties, and follow-up to have them present what they learned, you can see the experience is more than "just doughnuts and soda pop."
Maybe Carol's experiences have been less than ideal, but we go into great length to explain what the parents of these children do and expose them to the endless meetings, cranky users, exciting technology, and real good work that their parents do. When one meeting went long, we were reminded of that by one child who took a sticky note, wrote "BORING" on it, and put it on his forehead. That was a signal that we had better wrap it up. I plan on borrowing that kid in the future for other meetings.
I personally don't have children but admire those that do, and I enjoy this day as much as if these kids were my own. I tried to relate to them on a level that they could understand and found that they knew more about computers, networks, wireless communication, e-mail, and the Internet than I did after graduating from college. I knew that they weren't bored when one little girl greeted me later by saying, "Hello, Mr. Funny Guy." That made my day.
So, yes, the original intent by bringing the daughters to work may have been diluted, but all kids are now benefiting rather than just a few. Isn't that the real point?
Ignoring, or perhaps simply missing the irony, Exelon Corp. and six other nuclear-power cheerleaders from the NuStart Energy Development group asked U.S. taxpayers for $400 million to build new nuclear plants -- on the 18th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
Their plan is to schmooze the regulatory, political, and public-acceptance process to build a whole new generation of nuclear plants, which for years they claimed were "safe, low-cost, reliable, and homegrown" energy resources.
After watchdogging the nuclear-power industry for 22 years, the Nuclear Energy Information Service has a few questions that NuStart's talking heads failed to answer:
• If nuclear power is so low-cost, why is NuStart in need of $400 million in matching federal (read "taxpayer") funds for them to begin the process? And $6 billion in taxpayer-financed "production tax credits" proposed in the Corporate Tax Bill (S. 1637) for new nuclear plants?
• If it's so safe, why does the nuclear industry require passage of the Price Anderson Act to avoid bearing the full cost of the catastrophic accidents they claim won't occur, passing them on to U.S. taxpayers? Why does the insurance industry refuse to provide homeowners liability coverage for nuclear accidents?
• If it's so reliable, why has Wall Street shunned such a surefire investment for 25 years?
• If the nation truly "needs energy independence from foreign energy sources," would NuStart support legislation prohibiting uranium imports?
• If the nuclear industry "hoped their companies would be compensated for making power without emitting gases that contribute to global warming," shouldn't renewable-energy companies be compensated for not contributing to nuclear proliferation or terrorism problems?
Exelon's 14 Illinois reactors gave ratepayers the highest electric rates in the Midwest in the '80s and '90s. A December 2003 General Accounting Office report suggests that several Exelon reactors lack sufficient funds to cover reactor-closure costs, leaving ratepayers holding the bag. And all of their reactors and vulnerable spent-fuel pools remain less than 30 minutes away from the world's busiest airport, a significant fact in the post-9/11 world.
Yet Exelon wants another reactor at the downstate Clinton reactor site.
Fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, well, we'll deserve what we're likely to get. Sorry, Exelon -- your idea, your risk, not ours!
David A. Kraft
Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service