Paul Osborne's
Sears Store Closing Has Connection
To Another Decatur

There’s a connection to another Decatur in this week’s announcement that the Sears store in Hickory Point Mall is closing. Earlier this year, it was announced the Sears store in the Decatur Mall was closing -- Decatur, Alabama, not Decatur, Illinois.
The Decatur, Alabama, Sears store made its closing announcement not long after J. C. Penney, located in the same mall announced it was closing.
That was also the pattern at the Hickory Point Mall.
The Hickory Point Mall Sears store closing will cost 45 employees their jobs.  The Decatur, Alabama Sears store closing resulted in the loss of jobs for 91 employees.
Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications for Sears Holding Co. said: "Store closures are part of a series of actions we're taking to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model.
"These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers and members through integrated retail – at the store, online and in the home."
That statement issued by Riefs is, word for word, the very same statement that he issued in January when the announcement of the Decatur, Alabama, store closing was made.
Decatur, Illinois has a lot in common with Decatur, Alabama  -- even in the reason for closing the Decatur/Forsyth Sears store. 

Chief Walker Retires With Respect Of Officers,

It was apparent at last week’s reception for retiring Decatur Police Chief Todd Walker that members of the department, community leaders and citizens feel he has done an outstanding job in his 28 1/2 years with the department.
Walker, who worked his way up through the ranks to become chief, has served the department and the community in an exceptional way.
I’ve known Walker almost from the time he started with the department and have watched him excel at every level.
He was an obvious choice for police chief in 2011 because of his dedication to the department and the community -- and I certainly had no reservations about editorially urging the city manager to appoint him -- although that decision was for the city manager to make, not this editor.
I told Walker at the reception that I always knew he would do a great job as police chief and he even exceeded my expectations,
Here’s some of the reasons:
Overall, crime is down in the city of Decatur. 
Violent crime has dropped 18% in just the past two years and that’s something that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
Crimes against persons were down 14% and property crimes are also down.
During the last two years the Decatur Police Department has set  records in the seizure of drugs.
Usually, the DPD seizes about a million dollars worth of drugs in a year.
During 2012, it seized $4.1 million and, during 2013, it seized $3.5 million.
Consider that, and a lot more, has been happening with a 13% cut in the department’s budget.

One-On-One Interview

I did a one-on-one interview with Walker in his office earlier this year, not long before the department moved to its new facility at 707 South Side Drive, and he reflected on his career at that time.
I sensed that, once the move to the new facility had been made, he would retire.
In the same edition where the one-on-one story on Walker appeared (March 19), my editorial was about his retirement:
I wrote: “I don’t know when Chief Todd Walker will retire, but I sense that he wants to see his department move into the new facility on South Side Drive before ending his career. 
“He may stay long enough to enjoy some time in settling into the new police location, and working out some of the glitches, and maybe even longer.
“However, I believe that he is coming to a realization that, there’s a time to shift gears and be able to do those family things so many residents get to do and have a ‘normal’ life without the stress of being on call 24-7 for so many years.”
Best wishes to Todd Walker in his retirement.
He has done an amazing job for this community and certainly deserves many thanks.

Promote From Within

Jim Chervinko is now the interim police chief until the city manager appoints a permanent one.
I don’t know Chervinko as well as I’ve known Walker over the years, but I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Chervinko and his long career with the department. 
In my contact with him, he has always displayed the type of professionalism and dedication you would expect from a member of the police department.
The Decatur Police Department has exceptional personnel and, at this point, it would seem there is no reason to look beyond Chervinko for the next permanent police chief.
It’s been at least over 20 years since City Manager James Bacon hired a 
police chief from outside the department. 
It didn’t work out,
The City of Decatur has been blessed with great police chiefs through internal promotion and that’s also true of the fire department.
The internal promotion to police chief or fire chief has worked great for Decatur and, if it is not broke, don’t fix it.

A Change In Driving Habits

While at last week’s retirement reception for Todd Walker, I asked Lt. Cody Moore if it was quite a change from driving to work at the downtown Law Enforcement Center to the new South Side Drive location.
Moore told me that it took a period of adjustment because driving to work at the downtown facility was so automatic for him for years.
I’m sure many others had to adjust their “driving to work” routines after the move.
That’s natural.
Four years ago, when we moved our offices at the Tribune from North Park Street to 132 South Water, my parking space in a municipal garage remained the same.
A couple of times, during the first few weeks we were at the new location, I got out of my car in the parking garage and walked to the old office on North Park.  (Actually, the second time I walked only half way before realizing I was heading to the old office.)  

Lack Of Quorum Cancels 
City Council Meeting

Friday, City Clerk Linda M. Swartz informed the public through the media, that “due to unforeseen circumstances, there will not be a quorum for the September 15 Council Meeting and it is cancelled.  The next Council meeting will be Monday, September 29.”
Not having a quorum for a council meeting rarely happens.  
When I chaired the meetings, we would sometimes have two members absent at the same time.
I made sure, on those occasions, that no votes on controversial issues were made by the council.
Even though we always had a quorum, I felt it was better to make those votes with a full council, if possible. 
That way, if the vote didn’t go the way some people wanted it to go, they could not claim that members who were absent would have voted their way had they been there.  
Unless there is a deadline for a vote that has to be met that night, it is best to table a controversial vote until the next meeting -- when the mayor and council members share equally the good or bad response to the vote.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

State Rep. Candidate Mike Bell (R-Edinburg) says he still hasn’t heard from State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) on whether she will agree to take part in debates with him in the 96th District race. 
Bell sent a certified letter to Scherer asking her to join him in three public debates, one in each county contained in the 96th District, Christian, Macon, and Sangamon. 
Bell says that, according to the United States Postal Service, that letter was received by Scherer on Wednesday, August 27th, but Scherer and her campaign have yet to respond. 
Of course, an incumbent is always going to be asked to a debate by a challenger, but a debate is usually more beneficial to the challenger than the incumbent.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, when the incumbent doesn’t respond to a debate invitation, the challenger can then repeatedly imply that he or she is afraid to debate the issues.
I hope Bell isn’t holding his breath until Scherer accepts his invitation to debate -- or his face is going to be very blue due to a lack of oxygen before the election is held.

Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.  



Paul Osborne
Editor & Publisher

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