DANVILLE — Resident Derek Cooper asked city officials for answers at Tuesday night’s Danville City Council meeting after having been stopped by the Danville Police Department nine times since 2018.
Cooper, 59, who is Black and a veteran, is a former Decatur resident who relocated to Danville in 2010 to take advantage of the services offered at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System. He’s a 16-year decorated combat Army Ranger. He’s been employed at Quaker Oats since 2013.
Cooper said his 17-year-old son won’t ride in his car with him because of the number of times he’s been stopped by police.
Cooper said if he’s done something wrong, he will own up to it. Out of the nine stops, he’s received one ticket.
He said his wife wanted to have a meeting with then Mayor Scott Eisenhauer when the traffic stops started.
If the police are trying to scare him, “I’m afraid,” Cooper said.
He said police officers who are fellow veterans understand the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder effects he is suffering from.
Cooper asked city officials if he can meet with someone “where we can get this handled.”
He asked if it’s his car, himself or if he’s driving on the wrong side of town, about why he’s being stopped.
“I just need some kind of answers, man,” Cooper said.
Aldermen were given a list of the traffic stops starting in March 2018 and going to March 2022. Reasons cited for the stops: lights off; no complete stop at a stop sign; traveling 34 mph in a 30-mph zone; no turn signal; rear plate light out/dirty; obstructed vision, air freshener hanging from rear view mirror; crossing solid white line; and speeding.
Aldermen also were provided a letter from Cooper’s clinical psychologist on Cooper’s PTSD.
Cooper is concerned another traffic stop could lead him to being harmed in some way. It could push him to an emotional state that could lead to his death. He might overreact which could cause a police officer to overreact, according to Cooper.
In addition, the council heard from former alderman Lloyd Randle on behalf of Cooper.
Randle said Cooper came to him because Cooper recalled a conversation they had regarding Randle’s attempts to have the city conduct a formal traffic stop study. The City of Urbana commissioned a study which reviewed traffic and pedestrian stops of minorities.
Randle said an Illinois Department of Transportation search today regarding traffic stops involving African-Americans in Danville is telling.
“African-Americans are at least five times stopped more than other subgroups in this community,” Randle said.
Randle asked the city for a six-year review, to hire an independent firm, to review data and appoint an independent commission to determine whether race plays a factor in traffic stops.
He asked aldermen to ask the question whether African-Americans are being stopped more based on the percentage of the population in our community.
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said the city takes complaints seriously and it does everything it can to address citizen concerns. However, he, nor the mayor’s office or Human Relations Administrator Sandra Finch had been informed of Cooper’s allegations prior to Tuesday.
“We were just notified of this today. We haven’t had any opportunity to investigate or assist,” Williams said.
Williams too said as a former alderman, Randle knows the procedure in filing a police complaint. No one had spoken with Police Chief Chris Yates about the matter either, Williams said.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Sharon Pickering asked that the city meet with Cooper.
In other public comments, the city council heard from resident Brad Bergman about having the council revisit the city ordinance to allow trailers to be parked in resident’s private driveways.
Danville Community Development Administrator Logan Cronk also announced that money is still available for small businesses which lost revenue from COVID-19.
In other business, the council approved:
- A $1 million professional services agreement with the Farnsworth Group Inc. for stormwater management projects.
- A $230,830 professional services agreement with Lochmueller Group for completion of a Vermilion County Safety Action Plan for the Danville Area Transportation Study. The Vermilion County Highway Department will reimburse the city for up to $30,000 for the plan costs.
- The appointments of Zach Gwinn and Sharda Pascal to the Danville Public Library Board; and reappointing Tara Auter to the David S. Palmer Arena board, Marilyn Blanton to the Historic Preservation Commission and Harsha Gurujal to the Vermilion Housing Authority board.
- A five-year subscription for new police officer body-worn cameras and supporting equipment for $35,147 this fiscal year and $33,492 for each of the following four years for 50 Digital Ally body-worn cameras and three body-worn camera docking stations.
- Purchasing 934 N. Gilbert St. for Kirchner Building Center’s move for $55,000 from Kent and Joan Janesky.
- Amending the fiscal year 2022-2023 streets budget for salt purchased last year.
DANVILLE — The Danville community has celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for 37 years, and 2023 also marks the 27th year the local MLK Committee will award a scholarship to a local graduating high school senior.
The MLK Committee will host a celebration on Monday with a parade and community-wide service event. “No Retreat: Let Your Light Shine” is this year’s theme. The $4,000 MLK scholarship recipient will be announced at the service.
The line-up for the motorcade/parade will begin at 10 a.m. at the corner of Main Street and Logan Avenue, and the procession will start at 10:30 a.m. The motorcade will turn east on Main Street and travel to Vermilion Street, where it will head north. Then it will turn right onto Seminary Street and travel to the corner of Jackson and Seminary streets, where it will make a left onto Jackson Street and travel until it reaches the corner of Jackson and Williams streets. It will pause for a small ceremony at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, then proceed west on Williams Street to Vermilion Street, turn right on Vermilion Street, turn left onto Davis Street and park on the northwest side of St. James United Methodist Church’s parking lot.
The community-wide service at St. James United Methodist Church will start at 11:30 a.m. Monday. The Rev. Dr. Jerry Wilson, senior pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Cahokia Heights, Ill., will serve as the speaker for the service.
This event is open to the public.
In addition, an ensemble of singers, under the direction of MLK Music Director Brett Dupree, will perform at the service.
“Unfortunately, again we’re not having the banquet,” said Danville Human Relations Administrator Sandra Finch.
Finch said Wilson is from Danville. His wife also will be with him, and she will sing a solo.
“She’s a very gifted singer,” Finch said.
Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said the MLK Celebration is a wonderful annual community event.
“We appreciate you and the committee and all the great work that you do to make this a big day in Danville,” Williams told Finch at a recent city council meeting.
History of the MLK Jr. Celebration Committee
“The city was invited by the MLK Committee to take on a major role in planning the MLK Celebration in 1991 by the late Rev. Don Ferrill of St. James United Church and the late Rev. Albert Green of Second Baptist Church. The city’s input, through the Human Relations Department, was to make the MLK Holiday a community-wide event for the citizens of Danville,” according to Finch.
On the first national observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, Jan. 20, 1986, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Illinois Holiday Council sponsored a community service at Union Missionary Baptist Church. After the first observance of the MLK holiday, the MLK Council continued to sponsor each year a community-wide service on the holiday.
In 1992, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Illinois Holiday Council changed its name to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee, and it decided to have monthly meetings for the planning of annual programs. Also, the MLK Committee decided to expand the commemoration of the holiday to a two-day celebration, which included a performance by the Danville Symphony Orchestra on the first day and the MLK Community-Wide Service on the second day.
In 1994, the MLK Committee decided to add to its list of annual programs a summer event called Community Day. Community Day, which occurs every July in Lincoln Park, is a fellowship program of speaking presentations, singing and partaking in favorite summer foods.
In 1997, the MLK Committee established the MLK scholarship for a local high school senior who is planning to pursue a higher level of education after graduation. Therefore, the first day of the celebration was changed to a Scholarship Banquet/Program.
Due to COVID-19, the 2021 scholarship banquet had to be canceled. Also because of COVID-19, the committee made a decision that the banquets for 2022 and 2023 had to be canceled.
Vermilion County Farm Bureau announced its annual award winners presented at its 104th Annual Meeting last month.
William “Bill” Acton, of Alvin, was presented the Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award for 2022. Acton has been a Vermilion County Farm Bureau member since 1953. He was South Ross Township representative on the FB board from 1987 to 1992, including three years as Treasurer. His interest in local government (many years of service in his township) led him to be a long-time leader on Farm Bureau’s Legislative and Local Affairs Committees, involved with many activities and letter-writing campaigns. He has been a great connection between rural and urban interests, whether through media interviews or interactions with community leaders.
The Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Award winner is Cindy Hunter, of Mary Miller Junior High in Georgetown. Hunter is the sixth generation to live on her family’s farm. She began teaching five years ago, once her youngest (twins) entered kindergarten. For the last three years, she has taught first grade at Pine Crest Elementary in Georgetown. Her lessons always featured Ag in the Classroom (AITC) in her curriculum – including incubating chicks and hatching ladybugs. Now teach-ing sixth grade social studies and science at Mary Miller Junior High, she is already planning to bring AITC to the middle school ¬¬level this coming spring.
And the Spokesperson of the Year Award was given to Steve Fourez, of Fairmount. Fourez embraces the opportunity to speak out for agriculture. A past Vermilion County Farm Bureau president, he rep-resented our county’s farmers in local media and with elected officials. As an Illinois Farm Bureau di-rector, he took agriculture’s message across the state. He’s just completed his second eight-year term on the Vermilion County Board, sharing agriculture’s concerns on county policy. He now serves on the IL Corn Marketing Board, where he represents local farmers’ interests promoting corn products.
One new director was elected to the Vermilion County Farm Bureau Board during the meeting. Mi-chael Severs, of Collison, was elected to the board. He replaces Steve Huls, who reached his tenure of service on the board.
The Hoopeston City Council met Dec. 20 and approved the task order amendment 7-0 in Donohue’s request for an amendment.
The amendment included the modified additional activities, which included the replacement of the existing diesel generator within the WTP Building with a new natural gas fired generator, and new automatic transfer switch to be installed outside of the building. It also included the addition of another block of water main extending along Honeywell Avenue from Market Street to Front Street to replace a one inch water main with either a four or six inch water main and to modify the Facility Plan to IEPA to incorporate the additions for the IEPA loan.
In other council business, the council approved 7-0 to come out of the State of Emergency Resolution for the City of Hoopeston. The city would just deal with COVID-related matters from this point on.
The council discussed the renewal of the Homefield Energy account and decided to vote for the renewal of four years, 2023-2027, with a 7-0 vote.
“If power rates go down, they would give us a better rate,” said Mayor Jeff Wise.
Two new members were confirmed as Planning Commission Members with 7-0 vote for each member. They were Chris Newman and Merritt Zorns.
Wise reminded members that all basketball hoops near the roadways would need to be removed due to roads being cleared of snow.
The NAPA Frontage Road was tabled.
The next Hoopeston City Council will be held Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
DANVILLE — The Friends of Kickapoo Rail Trail may be a new entity, but the drive behind the group is based on years of effort as the trail is being built.
“Basically [we] started on this venture in the late ‘90s,” Treasurer Kevin Green said. “Support groups have been going through many versions with the Vermilion County Conservation District and the Champaign district. The trail is finally getting built and it is time for non-governmental organizations to help out and this is where the Friends of the Kickapoo Rail Trail comes in.”
The program is based on the Friends of the Constitution Trail in Normal and helps in the maintenance of the trail now and when the Rail Trail from Kickapoo State Park to Urbana will finally be completed.
“It is a grassroots organization to support IDNR (Illinois Department of Natural Resources) and the VCCD and the Champaign County Forest Preserves as far as amenities on the Kickapoo Rail Trail,” Green said. “Cleanup days, signage and substations that the state or the county cannot provide. Charging stations, rest stops, rest rooms, way signs to side venues like the Sleepy Creek Vineyards and venues in Ogden and St. Joseph. Just anything we can do to support tourism.”
The group’s progress is being noticed.
“They are making good progress and I am happy with how it is going,” Danville Area Visitors Bureau Executive Director and board member Jeanie Cooke said. “They do a lot of things and a lot of it has to be paid locally. They do a lot of reaching out to get that support. I compliment them for not giving up because I have worked with them for 20-25 years.”
The group has experience with about 30 members from Vermilion County, Champaign County and the IDNR.
“We have been working on this for the last two and a half years and we had guidance from the National Park Service. We are on our own now, so for the last year, we have been promoting on our own,” Green said. “We’ve had input from the National Park Service, Champaign County Forest Preserves. We are all tied in together. We have people who are on the boards of all of these organizations. There are members from Champaign County and members from Vermilion County. It’s a cooperative effort and everyone is involved.”
While there is support from the organizations, the group is also looking for help from the public and one way the public can help is through memberships. Donations range from $10 for an individual, $25 for family, $50 Bronze Trail Member, $150 for a Silver Trail Member, $500 for a Gold Trail backer and $1,000 for a lifetime membership.
“If we can get some support in telling people that we exist and you can send them as a Christmas gift or stocking stuffer. This is Danville and it has the environmental resources with the rivers, the woods and the parks and that’s what we are promoting. There is tremendous community support for this project.”
With support from the people in the area, the group will be prepared to keep things going at the rail trail, especially when it is finished.
“Even when the project is done, you still need upkeep and take-back vegetation and picking up trash and maintenance that IDNR has not put in and that’s where the friends comes into play,” Green said. “This has the potential for being a major tourist attraction for East Central Illinois and an economic boon for Danville, Oakwood, Muncie, Fithian, St. Joe and Urbana. Bicycle trails are booming and it is a win-win for everyone.”
The thought of having the trail for 25 miles was a big mountain to climb, Cooke said. “But once we were in partnership with the state and Urbana and pull off that marvelous bridge, everyone is seeing that it is special and we are going to make it.
“You have a lot of people helping because people are more willing to help if it is a successful project, and it will be a successful project.”
I’ve wiled away the half-hours on TikTok, time I’ll never get back. I won’t say there haven’t been moments. I’ve seen some super breakdancing, useful cleaning tricks and a cat working a door knocker. But the scrolling short videos do turn tedious after a short while. At least for me.
Not for others, obviously. TikTok has 100 million users in the United States. They tend to be younger people, and their attachment to the social media platform seems surgical. Last year, TikTok scored more watched minutes in this country than YouTube.
TikTok’s magic potion is its ability to ingeniously identify the videos that users like and keep sending out more of the same through its secret “For You” algorithm. The site is so addictive that it has been likened to “digital fentanyl.”
TikTok’s role in torching so many American brain cells would seem reason enough to get rid of it. But that’s not why national security experts and politicians of both parties want it banned in the United States.
Their objections center on the tools TikTok provides China to spy on Americans, drown them in government propaganda and spread misinformation. FBI director Christopher Wray says he’s “extremely concerned” about TikTok’s operations in this country.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr sees TikTok as a sophisticated surveillance tool that might soon vacuum such biometric data as fingerprints and face recognition. He wants Google and Apple to evict it from their app stores.
TikTok, you see, is owned by ByteDance, and ByteDance is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. A few years ago, the Chinese military hacked Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency, stealing personal information on almost 150 million Americans.
The bipartisan nature of the alarm over TikTok strongly suggests there are very good reasons to take it seriously. How bipartisan? Democratic Sen. Mark Warner has said, “As painful as it is for me to say, if Donald Trump was right and we could’ve taken action then, that’d have been a heck of a lot easier than trying to take action in November of 2022.”
Trump did issue an executive order in 2020 to have TikTok expelled or sold to an American buyer — which China surely would not do. In any case, the courts blocked it. At least five states have banned TikTok, and by now, Congress may have voted to forbid its use on all government-issued phones.
Warner is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his desire to expel TikTok from the United States is more than shared by the vice chair, Republican Marco Rubio.
Can Americans live without this free-wheeling platform called TikTok? The Chinese do. China doesn’t allow our version of TikTok but permits another ByteDance app over which the government exercises a right to propagandize and censor. While TikTok spreads videos of self-harm to young Americans, Carr complains, the Chinese substitute sends kids educational fare and limits their time on the site.
The ability to edit the news is a massively powerful weapon. Since 2020, the share of U.S. adults who say they regularly get news from TikTok has more than tripled, from 3% to 10%, according to Pew Research Center. About a quarter of Americans under 30 say they regularly get their news there.
The only real downside to cutting off TikTok might be how it would raise tensions with China, but, you know, that’s a two-way street. After all, China blocks Facebook and Twitter.
How about the millions of consumers who really like TikTok? Well, other less toxic apps can be developed to do much the same thing. The videos — silly or educational — can keep rolling without threatening national security. TikTok must go.
Ron DeSantis has earned some recent notoriety for casting doubt on the COVID-19 vaccines and attacking the experts who happen to know about them.
“It seems like our medical establishment never wanted to be honest with people about the potential drawbacks,” the Florida governor said in his nasal whine. “So why can’t our medical establishment acknowledge that? Why the deception? Why have they continued to do this for two years?”
The likely presidential candidate now wants a Florida grand jury to probe “wrongdoing” by leading federal public health agencies related to the vaccine. Expect more hounding of the doctors fighting to keep alive the unvaccinated victims of right-wing lies. You can be sure that the politicians got all their shots, the bivalent included.
It’s never been clear what was in it for Republicans to talk down the importance of getting COVID shots and question their safety. But it’s clear what’s (SET ITAL)not(END ITAL) in it for them.
Put bluntly, vaccine hesitancy pushed by the right has been killing off their own voters. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who accounted for 41% of all adults, made up 60% of the adult unvaccinated population, according to an analysis released a year ago by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Such reports have led to theories that the surprisingly strong performance of Democrats in the recent midterms is at least part due to significant numbers of Republican voters dying off in the COVID pandemic.
“We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats,” Yale researchers wrote in a working paper released in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research,
Almost all the difference was concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available. In the summer of 2021, the analysis said, “the Republican excess death rate rose to nearly double that of Democrats, and this gap widened further” by year’s end.
Since December 2020, the U.S. has recorded about 800,000 deaths from COVID. There are obviously a huge number of Republicans in that number.
And so it would seem politically unhelpful for DeSantis to go passing around the anti-vax Kool-Aid. “Drinking the Kool-Aid,” the Urban Dictionary explains, refers to “the Jonestown massacre in which cult leader Jim Jones led his followers to commit mass-suicide by drinking a poisoned fruit drink similar to Kool-Aid.”
Does DeSantis really think he’s owning the libs? He’s definitely amusing many of them. “You know, Darwinism,” an unsympathetic Democrat said in response to his campaign. “Thinning the herd.”
One doubts that few even in the darkest corners of Trumpian paranoia still buy into the anti-vax nonsense.
Since the vaccine was approved, it has prevented more than 18 million hospitalizations and 3 million deaths, according to a Commonwealth Fund report. That has helped save the United States an estimated $1.15 trillion in medical costs. And it kept hospital beds open for patients with other needs — emergency cardiac care, cancer treatments, hip replacements.
It’s one thing for DeSantis to go after the woke stuff, though it included bashing Disney and the cruise industry for running their businesses as they saw fit. Republicans used to frown on government interfering with the management of private companies. They called it socialism.
Well, DeSantis now says he’s forming a state committee to interfere with the expert medical guidance coming from the federal health agencies.
“In Florida, you know,” he said, “it is against the law to mislead and misrepresent, particularly when you’re talking about the efficacy of a drug.” DeSantis should keep that in mind.
And so what is he going to do next to outdo Donald Trump? Find Nazis to dine with?
Residents in Illinois’ 52nd Senate District heard the sad news Dec. 9 of the death of state Sen. Scott Bennett, 45, from natural causes.
Bennett, a Democrat who lived in Champaign, had represented most of Vermilion County since 2015 when he was appointed to fill the remaining term of Michael Frerichs, who had been elected state treasurer. Bennett went on to win full terms during elections in 2016 and 2020.
Bennett’s relatively young age added to the shock of the news, but many of his constituents will miss Bennett because of his dedication to them and to issues they thought were important.
Regardless of political affiliation, Bennett listened and, when possible, tried to find a solution to problems his constituents found most important.
That bipartisan effort to help people living in his district reflects a long tradition of lawmakers in east central Illinois such as the late state Sen. Harry “Babe” Woodyard and former state Rep. Bill Black, and continued by Bennett and state Rep. Mike Marron. They recognized that the duty of a public servant is to serve the people, not partisan interests or yielding to lobbyists and their deep pockets.
Marron, R-Fithian, after hearing of Bennett’s passing, said, “… Scott embodied professionalism and bipartisanship in his role of senator and I will be forever grateful for all the accomplishments we were able to bring to the great people of Champaign and Vermilion counties. …”
Sadly, too many lawmakers at all levels put most of their effort into gaining and keeping power rather than into serving the real needs of those they are elected to serve.
Bennett’s efforts in the Illinois Legislature earned the respect of his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
State flags flew at half-staff Monday in Bennett’s honor.
In his order regarding the flags, Gov. JB Pritzker said, “Today, the state of Illinois mourns the loss of a dedicated public servant and devoted father. Sen. Scott Bennett was a good man who always operated with the best interest of his constituents in mind. … The entire state is a better place thanks to his service.”
We hope those with the responsibility of choosing Bennett’s successor find someone who also plans to work for the people and not politics, who wants to see every constituent succeed and not just the ones who agree with him or her. The legacy established by Bennett and others won’t be easy to live up to, but it’s exactly what the people of the 52nd Senate District — and all of Illinois — deserve.