Years ago, I worked for a smaller newspaper that competed with a larger one an hour down the road.
To our surprise, the larger paper’s corporate owner bought our daily. Our new bosses came in to relay the news. Their speeches sounded good.
But we knew the truth: Layoffs would happen sooner or later.
Naively, I told the pressman his job was safe, thinking we needed someone to run the press.
He was one of the first to go. The press was shut down. Our paper was then printed at our new sister paper.
We grumbled, but got used to it.
That’s the way of business. Most of our readers know the Telegraph and Daily Gazette combined their operations more than a decade ago.
I wasn’t here then, but I’m sure it rubbed some the wrong way.
Consolidations happen all the time in business. That’s because business people see opportunities for greater efficiencies, adding to the bottom line.
Such mergers are rare in government.
That’s why Whiteside and Lee counties have 22 townships each. That’s why the two counties have a grand total of 10 economic development organizations – all of which receive at least some government funds.
And that’s why the Rock Falls area has both elementary and high school districts.
If corporations controlled the Rock Falls schools, would they have consolidated long ago? Almost certainly.
The Riverdale Elementary district combined with the Rock Falls Elementary district in the summer, and the Nelson and East Coloma districts are preparing a merger. After that is all done, that will leave one high school district and three elementary districts in Rock Falls.
No one is even publicly talking about combining the high school and elementary districts.
If they merged, taxpayers likely would save a lot of money.
Last year, we found that the owner of a $100,000 house in Sterling paid $1,556 in annual property taxes (not including any breaks) for Sterling’s consolidated district.
A resident in Rock Falls shelled out about $500 more per year for the same value property.
Because Rock Falls residents are paying for two separate school administrations.
The state gives authority for higher tax rates in areas with elementary and high school districts.
In support of smaller school districts, one could argue they are more nimble in responding to students’ problems, making sure they are academic successes.
The question: Is that actually the case?
Recently, we learned that the tiny Montmorency and Nelson school districts made the federal standard of “adequate yearly progress” – the only Sauk Valley district to do so.
Elementary schools, though, are more likely than high schools to make the federal grade. Most of the other districts have high schools, reducing their chances to attain districtwide adequate yearly progress.
Is the smallness of Rock Falls’ districts producing enough academic success to justify the higher taxes?
A cost-benefit analysis is in order. That’s what a corporation would do.
I’m not saying we should turn over our schools to the private sector. But it never hurts to see whether taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck.
‘Make a serious statement’
Many thought the choice for president was between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
But former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein also ran.
Voters had still another option – writing in a candidate.
Of more than 40,000 votes for president in Whiteside and Lee counties, a grand total of 110 voters wrote in candidates’ names.
So, who got those votes?
A few went to Republican Ron Paul, the quirky Texas congressman. His Libertarian supporters are persistent.
At least one Whiteside County voter cast a ballot for Mickey Mouse, reports County Clerk Dana Nelson.
That voter was 4 years late. Mickey Mouse ran for president in 2008. And don’t doubt that; there is an entire website for his campaign. He even had a slogan: “Make a serious statement.”
One of the site’s frequently-asked-questions list: “What’s serious about this? Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character!”
The site acknowledged the point, but argued, “If every voter who is disgusted with the candidates ... writes in Mickey Mouse, however, then, by law, that name must be reported. Imagine the impact if 25 percent, 30 percent, even 40 percent of voters do this!”
Mickey Mouse’s running mate?
Donald Duck, of course.
Another Whiteside County voter chose 90-year-old actress Betty White, who stars in “Hot in Cleveland.”
That voter had some basis for choosing White. In 2011, she announced on Craig Ferguson’s “The Late Late Show” that she would run.
Other than a Facebook page touting her candidacy, White did little else for her cause. In fact, she ended up endorsing Obama.
Perhaps that put the president over the top.
Variety show was far out
File this under the category: Don’t say there’s nothing to do around here.
Over the weekend, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois featured a variety show, “Peace, Love, Happiness,” at Sterling High School’s Centennial Auditorium. Seventy-five residents of all ages took part in the program, performed three times over the weekend.
The production involved dancing and singing songs, mostly from the 1960s. Everyone was in period garb. My favorite song of the night was “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which actually came out in 1988. Brian Lobdell, with a crew of children, sang the song.
The program was full of talented performers, including Angie Harrison and Annabelle Chattic.
This year’s show is over, but keep in mind that Lutheran Social Services puts on a production every year.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.