Celebrating Lincoln’s birthday in Springfield and Iraq

After attending several celebrations honoring the 210th birthday of Illinois’ favored son, Abraham Lincoln, I got a great email from a U.S. serviceman in Iraq with the header: CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED.

“I am currently deployed in Taji Iraq,” CSM Lester Edwards wrote. “When you deploy you select a team call sign, we selected ‘Task Force Lincoln’ otherwise known as Lincoln’s 44 (there are 44 Soldiers on the team).”

“The reason for this message is to let you know that I saw the celebration of Lincoln’s birthday on your Facebook and wanted to let you know that we celebrated here in Iraq as well,” Edwards wrote. “I encouraged the Dining Facility to bake a birthday cake for the event. They baked a delicious cake the Commander and I cut the cake.”


Picture courtesy of CSM Lester Edwards of the 108th Sustainment Birgade, Task Force Lincoln,Taji, Iraq

How cool is that!?!

Come home safe soon, Lester! And thank you and your men for your service! Lincoln would be proud and honored I’m sure!

Tuesday was Lincoln’s 210th birthday and in Springfield, it’s a big deal. It’s great to see it’s also a big deal with U.S. service members serving overseas.

As part of the celebrations in Springfield Monday Meghan and I attended a great talk.

Tuesday, for news coverage, I attended a wreath laying ceremony at Lincoln’s Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery where Gov. J.B. Pritzker made remarks.

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Ceremony at Lincoln's Tomb on Lincoln's birthday

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Pritzker was also sure to rub Lincoln’s nose. Watch:

Capping off the celebrations was a banquet where various dignitaries attended to honor the slain president.

For those who don’t live in the Springfield area, I’d encourage you to make the trip and check out the rich history of Lincoln’s lasting legacy.

Debt, wages and guns: This week’s digest from the statehouse

When Illinois lawmakers are in session there’s always a lot to cover. Especially with an ambitious governor that has super majorities in both chambers to get his priories through. But there’s always so much more to cover.

First off, the week ended with Gov. Pritzker putting out a report Friday titled “Digging Out: The Rauner Wreckage Report” increasing how much the state is expected to be in the hole to $3.2 billion going into a new budget to begin this summer.

Read: Pritzker blames Rauner for state’s fiscal woes as he plans to increase state spending

Screen shot of report from Pritzker’s office

You’ll read above a response from a former Rauner administration official who left state government in the transition to Pritzker. Micheal Lucci said “Now it is time to acknowledge the state’s debt crisis, its outlier population loss, and propose long-term solutions. It is also time to prepare a financial contingency plan in the case that we hit a national recession, which is likely to occur during Gov. Pritzker’s tenure.”

In a followup story Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski says blaming Rauner doesn’t acknowledge the state’s problems.

“What’s clear is that the wreckage happened long before Rauner and has been on a downtrend for decades, and while things certainly got worse under Rauner, there’s no doubt this place was a wreck before that,” Dabrowski said.

This, of course, after Pritzker Thursday celebrated the state Senate’s passage of a $15 minimum wage by 2025. Such a move has an expected business and taxpayer cost. How much isn’t fully known. Watch:

It’s not just state debt or requiring a higher wage for entry level jobs lawmakers focused on. There are also a flood of bills being filed and committees to sort through the bills meeting. So far there have been more than 1,300 Senate bills filed and more than 2,300 House bills filed in about a month’s time.

While most of the the committees this week met for the first time for introductions of new and returning members, I watched the House Executive Committee this week advance more than 100 “shell bills,” which are bills on specific acts in state statute, but they don’t have any substance. It’s just a measure changing one word like “the” to “the” in a law that they can come back to later and amended with full floor votes. It’s a typical practice that results in bills and budgets in the hundreds of pages getting rapid final consideration with floor debate and votes.

One areas that gets a lot of attention at the statehouse are guns. Recall last week’s story about a state Senator pushing back against gun legislation. That highlighted several gun bills seen as onerous by some. Thursday a bill was filed targeting “downloadable guns” and gunsmiths see it infringing on not just the Second Amendment, but the First Amendment as well.

Read: Gunsmiths object to proposed regulation of “downloadable guns” in Illinois

There have also been some constitutional amendments filed, like a progressive income tax, or term limits for legislative leaders, and changing how Illinois draw political boundaries.

Something else that passed the Senate this week and is expected to be passed by the House is the appointment of the first permanent inspector general to oversee alleged state lawmaker wrong doing in a decade. Citizen Denise Rotheimer and state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, talk about the legislative inspector general:

 Next week the Senate is off but the House will be back Wednesday through Friday. Early in the week there are a ton of events in Springfield around Lincoln’s birthday which will surely be informative and entertaining. And then it’s time for the House to act on a minimum wage hike. Will they listen to the those seeking amendments to soften the impact? We’ll see.

On our way to 13.1

Meghan and I just finished a six mile jog. It’s the first six mile jog I’ve done in some time.

In two months we’ll be joining hundreds of others running around Springfield for the Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon. And this year’s finisher medal for the April 6 race around downtown is awesome!

It will surely look great with all the other Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon medals we’ve achieved over the years.

All the different medals

The Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon is special for me. Not because I won a particular class (I haven’t), or even came close to be first among my age group, but because training for the race helped me get into a mindset of fitness as part of wellness.

Long story short: Back in 2012 I weighed my most, smoked too much and had a horrible diet. I knew it was time for a change. I knew the basics: Workout regularly and eat right. I didn’t take the first seriously and didn’t think I had the time to do the latter. As a way to get in shape and take others along with me, I decided to blog about the journey. Doing so, and publicly discussing it on air, kept me honest. Using the Internet Wayback Machine, you can see a list of the WMAY blog posts I did back in early 2013.

A ton has changed since I began this wellness journey. My girlfriend turned into my fiance and then into my wife, and she came along for a half marathon in 2014! As we kept up the training regime and nutritious diet, we were able to shed even more weight and improve our performance! But since then there’s also been incredible professional evolution, putting more demands on our time.

Left to right: Circa 2011, Mar. 2013, Sept. 2015

With the race just two months away, it’s time to get back to it, and shed a few of the pounds I know I have put back on since.

I’m not an expert, but I know the basics. I know that to complete a half marathon in once piece, you’ve got to be consistent with the training. That means being selfish with the time it takes to get training runs in. If you have to sacrifice watching a few episodes in order to head outside or jump on a treadmill, by golly do it. If doing training runs on the treadmill while watching a few episodes, or listening to the news or your favorite podcast is what it initially takes to get the miles in, by golly DO IT!

There are a ton of different running charts out there you can follow. They range from first timers, to experts, but the universal thing is to get the runs in. Sunday, Meghan and I did six miles. That’s after I already did five miles Monday, four miles Wednesday and three miles Friday. That’s four different run days in my week and each week the total miles ran increases with a few weeks to taper downward before April’s 13.1 mile race. I tend to keep my longer runs to the weekends so when we get to the nine, ten, or eleven mile training runs a few weeks before the race, we have the time to get it in. You have to be selfish with that time.

The idea with any training is to work up to a point where you know what you’re getting into. A half marathon, or 13.1 miles in one setting, isn’t something to sneeze at, so you have to prepare. You have to test equipment to get the right shoes that allow your feet to breath and the right clothes that don’t rub too much in sensitive areas. And training gets you to know what your limits are, what not to eat or drink before a long run, or how much sleep you need to get to recover from a long run (also very important).

Then there’s food. Food is fuel. Garbage in, garbage out. It’s incredible how vastly different one can feel running after eating a carrot vs. eating a bag of potato chips. But I’ll share my thoughts about food as fuel some other time.

I hope to update the blog with a few tips here and there, but the takeaway from this post: One training run at a time! You got this!

Murder [mystery] he wrote

For the past five years now, Meghan and I have been volunteering some of our free time with the Friends of Chatham Area Public Library, a wonderful institution south of Springfield with an incredible and dedicated staff. It’s volunteers are also dedicated! One in particular, Ryan, spends countless hours writing an original murder mystery that is very Chatham oriented. He’s been doing it for a very long time. Each year that I’ve been involved, the stories and characters outdo the unique and pun-errific screenwriting from the year before! This year is no exception.

The 19th Annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theater is titled “Inhumane Resources: Death By Hiring Squad”. And, if that name doesn’t make you want to attend and see who done it, then I don’t know what will.

You can get tickets to the performance, which depending on which one, it comes with dinner, non-alcoholic beverages, and something sweet, plus there’s plenty of jokes and acting you won’t see anywhere else! So, get tickets now! They’re going to go quick!

Meghan created this graphic to show the vast characters the two of us have been in the past and a big question mark of what we’ll be come a few weeks from now.

Want to know what we’ll be be this year? Come and see!!!

Minimum wage, Rules, gun rights and amendments

Fasten your belts, this 101st Illinois General Assembly is going to be a ride!

First, today’s midday Wrap:

You can read more about the House Rules committee here.

State lawmakers are off for the weekend and Monday, but Tuesday it’s back at it with afternoon committees. Before lawmakers went home for the weekend, I had to ask some about constitutional amendments. Watch:

And, I’ve been seeing a lot of buzz about proposed gun laws. Read more about that here. There’s gonna be a lot of fireworks around some of the proposed measures, if they ever get a hearing.

Oh, and for good measure, today Illinois began a new pilot program for Illinois medical cannabis industry. The Opioid Alternative Pilot Program is explained here.

Friday the Illinois News Network “Illinois In Focus” podcast goes up. Subscribe to that here.

A case of the Mondays …

What a day …

The following took place after I anchored morning drive news on WMAY, and after a 5 mile half marathon training run.

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Detail of large wall art inside military academy

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Started at the Military Academy at the Air National Guard base in Springfield
where Peter Nezamis was being promoted. Gov. Pritzker was there.

Then headed over the Illinois Department of Agriculture where Acting Director John Sullivan met with the press. Pritzker then showed up there too:

Then it was back to the Illinois State Capitol where the House Rules Committee met to hammer out the rules that govern the house.

I was then able to get two stories put out (one linked above about the Air National Guard) and the other about what to expect early in session. Read that here. It was about 4:30 and it was time for a Wrap.

But it didn’t end there. Had to stop by an evening town hall on cannabis legalization …

Was able to talk with an opponent and a proponent of legalization:

Needless to say I’m beat and it’s time to get wink before getting back to the story chase.

Tools of the trade

Full session at the Illinois statehouse begins Tuesday, but there’s plenty to cover Monday.

Be sure to follow along with regular updates on all social channels.

For some behind the scenes of a working journalist exercising the freedom of speech and free press rights, here’s a bit of my everyday carry.

Every bit of that is used at some point in the day in producing news. And since I’m never sure where the story will take me, I’m able to break this all down and move out quickly. It’s a lot to keep track of, but does fit nicely into a soon-to-be-taters bag.

I’ll surely be in the market for a new bag soon …