THUMBS UP TO… hometown flavor. We have all the respect in the world for locally owned, independent businesses and especially those in the food service industry who do backbreaking labor without the support of corporate wealth, marketing campaigns and national brand identity. However, we also join those who rejoiced with last week’s opening of a Baskin Robbins-Dunkin’ Donuts combo spot in Streator because it’s long seemed absurd that the city was not home to a location bearing the name of co-founder Burt Baskin, a 1931 Streator High School grad.
The ice cream chain was born in California, the creation of Baskin and his brother-in-law, Irv Robbins. But for years since the Westgate Plaza location closed, Streator has been without a tangible connection to one of its most famous sons. We wish no ill will on any other purveyors of frozen dessert treats or baked goods and coffee, but it seems altogether fitting and proper that the Baskin name live on in Streator, and this new store rights an historical wrong — deliciously so, we might add.
THUMBS DOWN TO… the end of an era. We’ve lost a lot of good local business owners over the past year, and 2018’s final days dealt another blow as Lisle Elsbury sold off the stake he’s had in Duffy’s Tavern, a cornerstone of downtown Utica he’s co-owned since 2003. We bear no ill will against Elsbury, who’s run the Irish pub with pride for 15 years and was instrumental in restoring it after the deadly April 2004 tornado that ravaged the community. But although he headed off to a well-deserved retirement last week, we know the business community won’t be the same without his influence.
If there are silver linings, it’s that the new owners — a business group from Maple Park — are likely to keep the tavern’s significant antique collection as well as Elsbury’s personal museum of firefighting memorabilia. And the old place should stay open, welcoming locals as well as folks finishing off a long day at one of our beloved state parks. At just 70 years young, we hope Elsbury has a long time to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and also that he stops by to tip back a pint or two every so often.
THUMBS DOWN TO… bottoming out. A truly alarming statistic made the news rounds late last week as The Associated Press reported police departments across the country are closing rape investigations at a low not seen since the 1960s. The AP’s report cited FBI data showing police nationwide closed only 32 percent of rape investigations, which ranks it second only to robbery as the violent crime least likely to be solved. The rate was as high as 62 percent in 1964, long before the advent of DNA testing.
We understand one statistic doesn’t tell the entire story. It’s likely reporting of such crimes has increased as social movements aim to ease the stigma on victims. And it’s also possible that law enforcement officers are responding to that cultural shift by leaving open cases they might have closed in a different time when accusations were less likely to be taken with the proper degree of seriousness. That would constitute progress, even as it tampers the resolution rate. Still, the notion that 68 percent of reported rapes can’t be resolved one way or the other makes it very clear that something must change in the way these situations are investigated, especially if victims are being told it is important to report their experiences to police.
THUMBS UP TO… our readers. We wanted to end the year on a positive note. It’s been a year of major changes at the main office on West Jefferson Street as Kankakee-based Small Newspaper Group, after 80 years of ownership, sold The Times to Shaw Media Group, headquartered in Crystal Lake. That transition changed some faces in the building, our website template and a few of the ways we operate, but it also ushered in a new era of partnership with several papers near the Interstate 80 corridor and elsewhere in North Central Illinois, allowing us to continue covering Ottawa, Streator and the surrounding communities that comprise the beating heart of our readership area.
As the evolution has played out since early April, we continue to strive to meet the goal set forth on the front page each day: “If it matters to you, it matters to us.” We appreciate the contributions of our Write Team members and teen columnists, the folks who supply photos for our monthly front page feature and youth sports contests, the letters to our opinion page, the Club Notes write-ups, submissions for Ask The Times, phone calls and emailed news tips, in-person office visits and the silent majority who invite us into their homes several days each week. We’re not perfect, but we care and try to give you the best product possible. That’s one thing we guarantee won’t change in 2019.