The visual report for the week of October 17, 2013
The visual report for the week of October 17, 2013
It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you this will be my last week as the editor of The Cairo Citizen. My wife has been accepted to graduate school in Indiana, so we will be moving there so she can pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. I told her when she applied, if she got in we would go with no questions asked. I guess she called my bluff.
Rest assured, though, there will be a replacement who will start work in the coming weeks and he will be just as vigilant and active in reporting the news as I have tried to be. I will let him make his own introduction, however.
It has been a tremendous honor being the eyes and ears of this community over the last year. I have enjoyed getting to know many of you and am sad I will not get to know many more. Thank you for accepting me and ushering me into your lives and for helping me tell the story of Cairo and southern-most Illinois. I will never forget my time here and will look back on it fondly.
The visual report from the week of July 25, 2013
Shaneka Cannon attended church July 21 with her two children.
July 20, Runako Jahi got to play a part close to his heart.
Cairo junior and senior high school students got the chance to argue in public July 20 and instead of posturing and raised voices, the kids were calm and used note cards to get their points across.
Eight Cairo students participated in a debate which centered around the theme of “The Colored Soldier and the Civil War, What Were They Fighting For.” The event, sponsored by the Dusable Museum of African American History and the Amistad Coalition, drew a crowd of nearly fifty community members to the Cairo Library.
The question was simple: Why did Abraham Lincoln free the slaves? Both teams had plenty of answers.
D’Erik Menz’s team argued it was a moral imperative that lead to the decision. They argued that because of his Christian beliefs, Lincoln made the order to abolish slavery.
It did not take long for Keyonte Graham and his teammates to find fault with this logic. It was their opinion Lincoln abolished slavery for political reasons only, citing a famous quote from the former president,” If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it.”
Menz and his team were quick to point out, however, this was not the entire quote. They reminded their opponents Lincoln followed this statement by saying, “If I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it.”
The dialogue was lively and professional and Brian Brandtner said this was the point.
“You can disagree with people in the real world … but there is a way to go about it and exercises like this kind of reinforces that,” he said. Brandtner, Cairo’s high school basketball coach, trained one of the teams and he said he saw a lot of growth in his debaters in a very short amount of time.
The teams started practicing July 12 and had just over two weeks to get ready. Brandtner said in the beginning, it was a bit overwhelming but once they began to narrow their focus, the students began to get more involved in the research and put their own ideas out on the table for discussion.
“Once you get to the point where the kids are putting their thoughts into it, then you have done your job,” Brandtner said. He added that independent thought is the goal of any teacher.
“As a teacher, as a coach, you want the kids to be as independent thinkers as possible … You want the kids to think critically.”
Jomo Cheatham, project coordinator for the Dusable Museum’s participation with the Amistad Commission, said this kind of education through action is a big part of his group’s initiative.
“The Amistad Coalition’s participation with the museum is to integrate all forms of education so it is not just specifically focused on the subject, but looks at how it can interconnect to other real, live, relevant parts of society,” he said.
He said each student learned just by participating in the debate and he said the results were clear.
“What we saw on display here … [were] some very intelligent young men who were able to speak really eloquently at times and in-depth in some instances about a topic that they probably did not know nearly as well, about a month ago,” Cheatham said.
Cairo superintendent of schools and team coach Andrea Evers agreed.
“I think both teams showed tremendous poise,” she said. “They had passion, they had reasons behind their decisions.”
Menz said through the process of preparing for the event, he realized there are strengths in disagreeing calmly. Graham said he learned it took a calm, clear point to be effective in arguing a point.
“It takes a lot to win … It takes a lot of information,” he said.
Menz said he really enjoyed participating in the debate and hopes he get the chance to hone his skills on a team. Evers said because of the success this first debate, she is strongly looking into starting a debate or forensics team at the Junior/Senior High School.
–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242
Alexander County Engineer Jeff Denny came to the Alexander County Board meeting with some very good news: The County finally has its buyout agreements.
These agreements were the only thing standing in the way of moving forward with the Federal Emergency Management Agency buyouts from 2011’s flood.
Excited by the news, the Board moved swiftly to make all the necessary appointments to get the ball moving.
It appointed Harry McNelly to be the signatory for both the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Illinois Department of Natural Resources funds. For the 12 commercial properties, the County hired Tri-C Appraisers out of Marion and for the 126 residential properties it hired Dockins Valuations out of Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Denny said his office would schedule a public meeting to explain what is next.
— Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242
Cairo has become home to a strong population of wild dogs and it seems there is no one around to help.
The City of Cairo has not had dogcatcher in two years despite the growing need for one. Mayor Tyrone Coleman said the stray dog problem has been keenly on his mind. He said he has watched even in his own neighborhood as an abandoned house has been overrun with stray animals. He said he intends to do something about it, however he is not sure how.
Cairo’s animal control program was shut down by the state in early 2011 because its dog kennels were not up to code according to state laws. Instead of repairing the pens, the City had to shut down the operation entirely because they simply did not have the funds to make the necessary updates to meet state code.
City Council member and Cairo police commissioner Richard Pitcher said that the fact there is no one designated to handle the stray dog problem puts stress on his police officers.
“It’s an added workload for our officers that are already stretched pretty thin,” he said. Pitcher said despite their heavy workload, his officers have to take each stray dog call seriously.
“It is not something you can just dismiss or take lightly because some of these animals can be vicious,” he explained. “The last thing you want is for one to get a hold of a kid.”
Courtney Wilson agrees.
Wilson, a mother of three and a resident of 35th St. said she has had to take real precautions when letting her kids go outside because of the stray dog problem. She said the dogs in her neighborhood have killed other animals and even have come after her and her kids. She said she wishes there was someone to come and collect the animals, but does not see that happening anytime soon because of the City’s finances. She is not far off the mark. In numerous City Council meetings, the issue of hiring a dog catcher has come up, but the measure is always shut down because of the City’s dire financial state. They simply cannot afford one.
To read the State Statute on animal control, it could be inferred that dogcatching is the County’s responsibility.
“The County Board Chairman with the consent of the County Board shall appoint an Administrator. Appointments shall be made as necessary to keep this position filled at all times … The Board shall provide necessary personnel, training, equipment, supplies, and facilities, and shall operate pounds or contract for their operation as necessary to effectuate the program,” section 3 of part 510 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes states. However, Alexander County state’s attorney Jeff Farris said this does not help Cairo. He said because it is incorporated and has its own book of city codes and regulations, the County is not responsible for Cairo’s dog problems.
Coleman does not see it this way. He said based on part 24 of the statute, the City may hire and use its own dog catcher, but the County is still required to have it’s own animal control that serves all of the incorporated and unincorporated parts of the county.
Because the Cairo and the Alexander County read the law differently does not mean they cannot work together.
Coleman said he hopes that by working with the County something can be done to resolve the City’s problem. The County board has given nearly $2,000 to the City to build six doghouses as well as provide new water and feed bowls, which will at least provide a place for captured dogs to be taken. Alexander County Board chairman Harold McNelly said if the county could do more to help Cairo with its stray dogs, it would.
“Does it need it,” McNelly asked. “Badly.” However, he said the County is just as bad off as Cairo financially and for the time being, paying for the kennels is all they can do.
These new pens are a start, however. Pitcher said right now, even if officers were to catch a dog in town they would have no place to take it which means, short of finding its owner, there is very little the police can do with calls regarding stray dogs at this point.
Building new kennels is part of the battle, though there is still the matter of finding the funds to hire someone to actually catch the dogs. Coleman explained the position does not stop at catching a stray, there is also keeping the dogs fed and their pens clean as well as filling out all the paperwork involved, of which there is a lot. He said there would need to be someone on full time or a series of people hired part time to fill the position. Coleman said this next step is an expensive one and the City is still trying to figure out how to make it.
Until the time comes when Cairo finds a way to employ a dogcatcher, Coleman said he will continue to hope the City’s luck holds out and that no one gets hurt. He said in the time since they disbanded their animal control program two years ago, there have been very few reported incidents where people have been hurt by stray dogs.
“We’ve been blessed,” Coleman said.
–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242