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Iuka Senior Citizens Dinner

There will be a dinner for senior citizens at the Iuka Grade School on Friday, December 6 at noon.  The dinner is for those 60 years of age or older living in the Iuka Grade School District.

Reservations must be made to the school by calling 323-6233.

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Salem City Council to discuss opting in or out of marijuana dispensary sales    

The Salem City Council Monday night will discuss opting in or out of marijuana dispensary sales.

City Manager Rex Barbee says the city has the choice of opting in or out of allowing any dispensary licenses within the city limits when the legalization of recreational use of cannabis for adults begins January first.  If sales are allowed, he says the city will need to address some zoning requirements for State Licensed craft growers, cultivation centers, dispensing organizations, infusers, processing and transporting organizations as those businesses develop and possibly seek to locate in Salem.

If approved, the city also has the opportunity to impose a Municipal Cannabis Retailers Occupation Tax of up to 3%.

Barbee is seeking direction from the city council on how to proceed.

Salem Police Chief Sean Reynolds has told WJBD/WSIQ news he does not oppose allowing the sales within the city limits.  He notes they will be dealing with the legalization of cannabis for adults anyway and allowing sale locations in the city would provide the city with the opportunity to collect additional sales tax revenue.

Other issues on the agenda include an update from the Greater Salem Area Foundation/Mission Salem on their organization’s activities for the last year.

The council will be asked to award a bid for sanitary sewer work on a portion of Illinois Street and a continuation of the sewer line replacement along Town Creek from East Clark to East Main Street.   The apparent low bidder that is recommended for the project is JK Trotter and Sons at a cost of $361,464.

The council will review proposals for the supply of electric services to city facilities and street lighting.  All of the proposals from AGE are lower than what the city is currently paying.  The current contract with Homefield Electric for electric services ends in April.

Final approval is being sought on restricting public comments at City Council meetings to five minutes per person and no more than 45 minutes per meeting to prevent any abuse of the public comment period.  Council members were told they had the ability to waive the limitations depending on the topic being discussed.

The Salem City Council meeting begins at six Monday night at Salem City Hall.

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Financial disclosure a target of lawmakers’ ethics quest

By JOHN O’CONNOR AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A bribery charge against a state legislator and federal investigations into lobbying have Illinois lawmakers promising to tighten the rules of soliciting and exercising influence in the Statehouse, with a renewed focus on the ridiculed process of financial disclosure.

The General Assembly wrapped up its fall session this month by adopting legislation to streamline information about lobbying, government contracts and campaign contributions, but delayed examining fiscal reporting required of legislators and other state policymakers.

More than 26,000 state employees must annually file a statement of economic interest comprising eight questions designed to identify financial involvement that could intersect with state business.

Often mocked as “None Sheets” for the answers they habitually produce, critics say the process falls short. For example, it requires disclosing monetary gains without identifying the transactions that yielded them. It compels identifying lobbyists with whom the filer has a “close economic relationship,” but provides no definition.

“The narrowly-tailored questions seem to provide plenty of opportunity to shield relationships, say by routing funds through an intermediary,” said Jay Young, executive director of Common Cause Illinois.

The statement re-emerged as an issue with the federal bribery charge against former Chicago Democratic Rep. Luis Arroyo, who allegedly tried to buy a senator’s support for legislation on an issue about which he was simultaneously lobbying Chicago city officials. Other federal inquiries have spotlighted lobbyists, such as in subpoenas for information from Exelon, parent company of power giant ComEd.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris’ measure was accompanied by a resolution creating a commission to examine ethics challenges facing the ethics-challenged politics of Illinois, including an improved disclosure statement, and recommend changes by next spring.

Disclosure centers on ownership or investments valued at more than $5,000 or which yielded more than $1,200 in the preceding year, whether it be owning a company doing business with the state, a filer’s profession outside of the job for which disclosure is required, any organization which pays the filer as an officer or partner, and investments or real estate yielding capital gains. There is the question about relationships to lobbyists and one about gifts totaling more than $500.

Harris’ legislation included a revamped statement, but House members of both parties objected to adopting a replacement without more discussion. It attempted to garner better detail by requiring reporting of any asset worth more than $5,000 which the filer held at the end of the previous filing period.

Cathie Jackson, director of legal services for McLean, Virginia-based Financial Disclosure Resources, which specializes in assisting federal judges in their financial reporting, noted that, like in the current form, the question recognizes assets from a snapshot in time, but doesn’t reveal the source of those assets or resulting dividends.

“If someone makes a purchase at a favored rate, that could be invisible to the public because neither purchase values nor the subsequent values of individual holdings would be reportable,” Jackson said. “And while a favored rate might ultimately be defined as a reportable gift, that language is not included in the current iteration.”

And while the proposed changes also would require reporting assets held jointly with a spouse or with minor children, Jackson pointed out that it’s not unusual for assets to be put solely in a child’s name. The change also would simplify the lobbyist question to requiring identifying any “economic relationship” along with family members who lobby.

By the same token, Rep. Keith Wheeler stressed the questions and their answers should be understandable and provide information pertinent to the job. The Oswego Republican said GOP members balked at adopting a new form this month because of concerns about interpreting some questions and to ensure protection of clients’ names and other matters of professional confidentiality.

For some critics, the missing key to ensuring ethics among decision-making is not related to the disclosure process. It’s an absent conflict-of-interest law. Illinois’ Governmental Ethics Act provides “principles” for legislators, but they’re guidelines as opposed to rules enforced by discipline, said Alisa Kaplan, policy director for Reform for Illinois. It’s routine for a lawmaker to announce before a floor vote that while she or he has a conflict of interest on the issue, “I will be voting my conscience.”

California’s disclosure form, while resembling an income tax return, tracks closely to the Illinois edition, said Gary Schons, a lawyer with Best Best & Krieger in San Diego who assists public officials filing disclosures. But any form “is only as good as the person filling it out,” Schons said, and requiring recusal from votes on potential conflicts is another check on public officials.

“It (disclosure) is a hand-in-glove thing with our conflict law,” Schons said. “Part of the reason it exists is to remind the filer, when he’s confronted with a governmental decision, oh, I own this stock, or I have a rental house.”

The other part, of course, Schons said, is to allow taxpayers to see a public official’s financial standing “and also to contrast that with information they get that he didn’t report.”

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The ethics legislation is SB1639. The ethics commission resolution is HJR93. Online: www.ilga.gov

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Santa coming to Bryan-Bennett Library on Tuesday    

The Bryan Bennett Library in Salem is preparing for Santa’s arrival on Tuesday afternoon.

Santa will be at the library from four to six Tuesday afternoon to visit with youngsters about what they want for Christmas.

After visiting with St. Nicholas, the youngsters will put together a hot cocoa mix that they will be able to take home. Children will also be able to make a Christmas card.

Cookies will be served.

Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras and take as many pictures as they like.   The Library will be decorated for the holiday, so there will be plenty of settings for holiday pictures.

There is no fee to participate in the event. No preregistration is needed.

For more information, contact Bryan-Bennett Library at 548-3006 or stop by the Library at 315 South Maple.

Marion County Jail

Police Beat for Sunday, December 1st, 2019

A 35-year-old Louisville, Texas man was taken to the Marion County Jail by State Police after being arrested on three driving-related charges on Saturday.  Ramiro Chavez was ticketed for driving under the influence, no valid driver’s license, and operating an uninsured vehicle.

A 54-year-old homeless man, Vince Arnold, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies for driving on a suspended license and on an outstanding Cumberland County warrant.

Brick Hill Car removal

(2:30 pm update) Two Centralia men escape injury when driving into floodwaters on Brick Hill Road; more than 2 inches of rain falls

Jerry’s Towing works to remove one of the flooded vehicles from Brick Hill Road Sunday afternoon as water levels started coming back down.  Photo by Tim Ferguson.

Two Centralia men had to walk out of four feet of water after their vehicles sunk in the floodwaters covering Brick Hill Road just off Green Street Road east of Central City on Saturday night.

Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies say 47-year-old Grant Teets of Community Beach Road traveled southbound into the water that was reported to be at least four feet deep as a result of one of the gates of Raccoon Lake being open to get rid of excess water from the heavy rains.   The incident occurred at 5:53 on Saturday evening.

The vehicle is one of two that remains immersed in the flooded section of roadway.   Later in the evening, 72-year-old Edward Clark of Edgewood Lane drove his Hummer into the deep water and also had to walk out.    That incident occurred at 9:41 Saturday evening.

As of two Sunday afternoon, Brick Hill Road remains flooded. However, the open gate at Raccoon Lake is now open only one foot which should allow floodwaters to come down.   The gate had been open six feet on Saturday.

At noon, Salem Township Supervisor Jim Bryant reported South College Street still has water on in the Crooked Creek Bottoms but is passible.  South Hotze, South Hoots Chapel Road and Westline Road all remain flooded in the Crooked Creek Bottoms.

Marion, Clinton and Washington County were all under flood warnings for much of the day on Saturday.    The Salem Water Plant recorded a total of 2.13 inches of rain on Friday and Saturday.  The Centralia Water Plant had 2.01 inches of rain.   

****Flooding conditions and rainfall total for Centralia has been updated.

National News

Buffalo Bishop resigns following Vatican review of his diocese

rclassenlayouts/iStock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) — Bishop Richard Malone, the scandal-plagued spiritual leader of the Diocese of Buffalo, has resigned in the wake of widespread criticism of his handling of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by local clergy members. His departure, announced via press release by the Vatican on Wednesday morning, follows a report on the troubled…read more »