THUMBS UP TO… a race to relevancy. In some ways it’s kind of stunning that Saturday’s edition of the Starved Rock Country Marathon was only the fifth iteration. The race — actually three races — so quickly became such a keystone event that some folks find it difficult to imagine the consternation when the first race was announced earlier this decade. And yet in just five short years, the Marathon draws in more than 1,000 runners from at least 26 states to take part in a 5K race along with half- and full-length marathons.
To what do we credit the smashing success? Praise should be spread widely. The area’s natural beauty surely is a draw. The way Ottawa and the county cooperate to close enough streets to make the routes possible while minimizing disruption on folks just trying to enjoy a May Saturday is commendable. The scores of volunteers who make the experience not just possible but friendly and memorable. The dedicated staff people who work on the Marathon throughout the year. And even the spectators who just want to see the excitement. All these factors and more have contributed to turning what once was a brainstorm idea into a signature moment for Ottawa and the region.
THUMBS DOWN TO… losing Lincoln? For as much public raving — all of it deserved — over the splendor of Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, it was quite shocking to learn late last week that the museum’s foundation is considering selling off part of the collection because it somehow owes $10 million on a 2007 loan. The foundation borrowed $23 million to match $25 million in order to buy the Barry and Louise Taper Collection, which includes a stovepipe hat Lincoln purportedly wore, bloodstained gloves he wore the night he was assassinated and an 1824 book containing the first known example of his handwriting.
The collection is fantastic, as is the facility in which it is housed. But the note is coming due in October 2019, and the foundation released a statement saying it wants to refinance in order to keep making payments. Foundation officials have been in talks with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office about securing state money but say they haven’t received any financial commitments, which makes sense seeing as Illinois is borderline destitute. We’re glad to hear planning is ongoing but hope some real answers are found real quickly, because the alternative is selling these items off into the private market, which will irreparably harm one of the state’s crown jewels.
THUMBS UP TO… help for the hungry. Morris resident Jeff Eberhard has been working hard to bring goodwill wherever he can by installing nearly 20 miniature pantries throughout Will, Grundy and Cook counties. Similar in scale and approach to little free libraries, the pantries resemble a kitchen cabinet full of things like cereal, cookies, granola bars, bread, crackers, canned soup, boxed food, hygiene and baby products. If you need something, you take it; if you have something to give, you leave it. And that’s all — no questions asked.
The newest micro pantry is in Seneca in the 200 block of Main Street. Commissioner Jeff Olson led the charge to bring one to town, rightly saying it will be a worthy compliment to the local food pantry. Eberhard has designs on installations in Marseilles and perhaps Ottawa. Here’s hoping groups will come forward to sponsor these efforts. Ideally our communities wouldn’t have anyone in need, but life doesn’t work out that way, and these micro pantries can be a tremendous resource for people in a tough spot.
THUMBS DOWN TO… another Quincy quandary. Just when you might have thought there was enough bad news associated with the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Quincy veterans home, along comes the Illinois Department of Labor to publicly question whether home administrators did a good enough job notifying all its employees about the problem. On some level, this isn’t surprising. After all, so many people fell short on this problem that 13 residents died and dozens more fell seriously ill that it’s not a stretch to think there wasn’t the utmost degree of attention paid to workers either.
Outgoing state Veterans’ Affair Director Erica Jeffries maintained everyone got emails, was invited to emails and had access to material posted at nursing stations. Still, we’re glad to see lawmakers at least addressing this small portion of the problem, as last week the state Senate voted unanimously to require state veterans’ homes administrators to notify the public within 24 hours of an infectious disease diagnosis in two or more residents, as well as staff members, residents and the Department of Public Health. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem, but this measure shows lawmakers are at least considering how to prevent a future tragedy.