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Commentary

An Honest Conversation about Crime

Published July 25, 2012 at Rock River Times

It is time for an honest conversation about crime in Rockford, a conversation that focuses on solutions rather than excuses. For far too long, politicians and public officials have gotten away with blaming everything under the sun but themselves for their impotence in the face of the city’s problems. For years they have offered the same solution: raise taxes and pour money into public schools and development projects, with little effect. We need leadership with the courage to change the conversation and get results.

Unfortunately, dissemblance has become a way of life for our public officials. In an interview last week, for example, Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson masterfully side-stepped criticism over Rockford’s embarrassing crime rate. “There is too much crime,” he said. “When we look at crime reduction, crime is the end result. We have to look at poverty, the economy and education. Those are the core components. If we have a crime problem, that is the end. What has happened before that? We are making progress, but there is just too much crime.”

This is an incredible statement because, essentially, Chief Epperson is saying that there is little the police department can do about crime in Rockford. The police department, after all, can do nothing about poverty, education, or the economy. So until “we” fix those things, there is only so much the police can do to keep crime in the city under control. When the crime rate went down last year, however, he was quick to take the credit. Now, when it is on its way back up, it is because of factors outside of his control.

Categories
Commentary

Escaping Leviathan

Published July 11, 2012 at Rock River Times

In this column, I will tackle two subjects: state and federal grants, and Prof. John Kindt’s guest column on Illinois gambling taxation in last week’s issue of the Rock River Times. Both of these subjects nicely illustrate the difference between advocates for bigger government and advocates for smaller government when it comes to the relationship between government and wealth.

Advocates for bigger government believe that the money you earn, whether it be through wages or income from a business, does not belong to you. In other words, government, be it state, local, or federal, should take what it needs from you first, and then you get to keep whatever is left. They believe that politicians and other government officials know what is best for you and will spend accordingly.

Advocates for smaller government, on the other hand, believe that every dollar you earn is yours first and foremost. When you give some of it to the government, you are expecting that it be spent frugally and wisely on a limited number of basic services. They believe that, although you are not perfect, ultimately decisions about how to spend your money should be left to you.

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Press

Interview with WGN News at 9pm

At the beginning of October, John Stephenson and I were interviewed for a segment about Bachelor’s Grove that was to be aired on the WGN 9pm news on Friday October 28th. We were asked to keep it secret for several weeks, but tonight it will be shown to the public. I have not seen the report, although I do know that the reporter and her cameraman filmed every angle of the cemetery and it should be a very interesting and well-done segment. Although John Stephenson was the star of the show, I was included to provide background and historical information. John has moderated Bachelors-Grove.com for the past several years, and has taken a few anomalous photographs in the notoriously haunted cemetery. Whatever you believe about the validity of the stories told about Bachelor’s Grove, you are in for a special treat. Make sure to tune in!

Categories
Appearances

The Conclusion of the “Heartland is Haunted” Book Tour!

I am finally back home from the “Heartland is Haunted” book tour, and what a success it was! On the final day of the tour, I stopped over at the Book Warehouse in Tuscola before heading over to the main event, a retelling of folklore and ghost stories of central Illinois at Peck Cemetery outside of Oakley, just northeast of Decatur. Peck has long attracted negative attention in the area and this event was held to raise money to help restore the cemetery and prevent further vandalism and desecration. About 70 people attended and showed their support. Moreover, I sold out of every single copy of my book Haunting Illinois that I brought on the tour!

I would like to thank everyone who made my first book tour such a success, including Carl Jones of Lincolnland College, Becky Guymon for putting together the Coles County events last weekend, Sharilyn Kibler-Russell, Gretchen & Lisa from Barnes and Noble in Champaign, Jim Heater of CHIPS, the staff at the Camargo Township Library, Catherine Novak of Beads N Botanicals, Cameron Crosby for his photography, and especially Angie Johnson for putting together the headline event! I could not have done this without any of you, and I am eternally grateful – but I also cannot forget to thank everyone who attended the events as well. I met a lot of great people along the way and I hope I made a few more fans!

Categories
Appearances

“Heartland is Haunted” in Champaign-Urbana, Turns into Final Lap

It was a packed day yesterday with two back-to-back appearances in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, one at the Beads N Botanicals on Broadway in Urbana and the other at the Barnes and Noble at the Marketview Shopping Center in Champaign. There were a lot of new faces at both these events, but some familiar ones as well. I spoke about some local legends at both of these appearances, and even shared a story from pioneer Illinois at Beads N Botanicals when one lady asked me to retell a story I had related on WILL Public Radio the previous day. After the events, some friends and I went to Old Chicago and enjoyed some calzones while talking about how well the book tour was going so far, as well as catching up, of course. If you wanted to attend but missed both book signings, you can pick up a signed copy of my book at both Barnes and Noble and Beads N Botanicals, but hurry because they are selling out fast!

Today I will be at the Book Warehouse at the Tanger outlet mall in Tuscola from 1 to 3, and then at my final event of the tour – “Legends and Lore of Central Illinois” at the notoriously haunted Peck Cemetery outside of Oakley (near Decatur) from 5 to 8pm. Money from the event will go to help restore the cemetery and preserve its history. I hope I see you there!

Categories
Appearances

“Heartland is Haunted” Reaches Villa Grove, Moves Toward Champaign-Urbana

I didn’t know what to expect last night when I pulled up to the small Camargo Township Library in Villa Grove, but I was pleasantly surprised. My audience was primarily students from the local high school and many of them, I learned, were from the football team, the Blue Devils, which were 2008 Little Okaw Valley Conference Champions. They had all heard of Ashmore Estates, and many of them had seen the season premier of Ghost Adventures, so they were all eager to hear what it was like to be on the show. I shared a lot of local ghost stories with them and I was interested to know if there were any from Villa Grove. I saw an abandoned railroad depot on my way into town and I was sure there would be some story about the place. To my surprise, there wasn’t! Never the less, the kids asked a lot of questions and bought up Haunting Illinois in droves. I’m afraid I might not have any left after I go to Champaign and Urbana tonight!

This evening I will be at Beads N Botanicals in Urbana from 4:30 to 6:30 and then directly afterwards I am heading over to the Barnes and Noble in Champaign and will be there from 7 to 9pm. Please join me there and make sure to mention that you heard about the event on my website!

Categories
Appearances

“Heartland is Haunted” Rolls into Springfield and Villa Grove

Last night I shared folklore and ghost stories from all over Illinois, as well as my experience being interviewed for the season premier of Ghost Adventures and WGN News, at Carl Jones’ class at Lincolnland College in Springfield. The talk was well received, and the “Heartland is Haunted” t-shirts were a big hit too! Afterwards, Carl and a friend met me at Mowie’s Cue for a round of beers and some fried mushrooms and mini tacos. All in all, it was a very fun evening and left me excited about the second leg of my book tour!

This afternoon I spoke briefly on WILL 580-AM out of Urbana before hitting the road for my next destination. Tonight I will be speaking at the Camargo Township Library in Villa Grove, Illinois, a small town east of Tuscola, from 6 to 8pm. As for right now, however, I am enjoying some ice cream at Flesor’s Candy Kitchen in Tuscola and preparing for my presentation!