Bad Day at Starved Rock

January 15, 2012

A message from LaSalle County: “Piss on Starved Rock.”

Those of you who follow my Facebook or Twitter posts already know that last Thursday’s meeting of the LaSalle County Board did not go well for supporters of Starved Rock State Park. In a 20 to 6 vote, board members voted to Mississippi Sand LLC to create an open pit sand mine on what is now a slightly more than 300 acre farm adjacent to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.

According to a number of accounts, the two hundred or so people crowded into the Ottawa Knights of Columbus Hall were evenly split on the issue. However, my sources, who were also at the meeting, report that the sentiments ran decidedly against approval of the sand mine. This, despite the presence of union workers, who are hoping to see the sand mining jobs brought to the county.

What is undeniable is that it is an emotional issue on both sides. One of the people I interviewed on my show last week was told by a high-ranking LaSalle County Democratic official and union leader, “Piss on Starved Rock.” Nice. This is what happenswhen the old “jobs v. the environment” meme is trotted out. It doesn’t help when the Chicago Tribune reinforces this tired, discredited concept in the headline “Sand mine proposal near Starved Rock pits company against environmentalists.” Oh, and by the way, Trib and Sun-Times, thanks for getting on board with this story the day before the vote. Well played.

Even a last-minute plea from Lt. Governor Sheila Simon to delay the vote until more study could be done failed to budge the board members from their laser-like focus on approving the 90-foot deep pit outside the eastern entrance to the jewel of the Illinois State Park System. LaSalle County Board member Rick Scott, who appears on the show this morning, introduced a motion to postpone the vote, but it was defeated handily. His concern was that people who own property next to the proposed mining site have had very little time to present their side to policy makers in the county.

Also on the program this morning is Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Sierra Club, who has had her hands full lately trying to prevent a coal strip mine from being approved near Canton in Fulton County. John McKee, President of the Starved Rock Audubon Society, who joined me last week, also stops by. The focus now shifts to agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which is not only responsible for natural areas like Starved Rock but is charged with regulating the mining industry. Some people, like McKee, are concerned over what has been a deafening silence so far from DNR.

Among other places to look for help might be the Illinois EPA, the Lt. Governor’s office (how does Ms. Simon feel about being summarily ignored at the LaSalle County board meeting?), the Governor’s office (any comment, Mr. Quinn?) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (ditto, Mr. Durbin).

This story is a long way from over…but Thursday’s action in LaSalle County just made saving Starved Rock State a lot harder.

Winter arrives…a month late. How are plants holding up?

Well, we knew it wouldn’t last forever. In fact, I’m one of those people who was actually happy to finally see some snow. But a lot of folks are concerned–and rightly so–with how their outdoor plants will react to getting faked out by warm weather and then whupped upside the head by Mother Nature.

Never fear: Cindy Baker, Manager of Horticultural Services at the Chicago Botanic Garden, is here to tell you what–or what NOT–to do. She should know her stuff. After all, she has been at the Garden for 24 years and she supervises more than100 acres there, including the Berm garden along the Edens Expressway. And if you can keep plants alive along an expressway, you must know what you’re doing.

One Seed Chicago update: Nope, no decision yet

For those of you who are wondering which seed I have decided to favor in the One Seed Chicago 2012 competition, I’m still deciding. The choice is among basil, chamomile and cilantro, and I’m still waiting to be bribed to throw my support to one of them. In the event that nobody wants to bribe me, I will make a sudden, petulant decision, then throw my entire media empire behind one of the seeds.

On the other hand, somebody suggested to me on Twitter that I should have a debate on the show among the three contestant and then declare a winner. Hmm. It certainly would be a lot less stupid than the continuing reality show that are the Republican presidential debates.

Perhaps chamomile will have an “oops” moment. Could be fun.