Posted Online: Feb. 01, 2013, 2:08 pm

Cheers & Jeers

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The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus

Cheers to continued progress on Black Hawk College's nearly $4 million upgrade to the Moline campus' front door.

April is the targeted completion date for a remodeled Building 1 which campus leaders say will provide a one-stop experience for student services.
The two-story, 9,800-square-foot addition on the west side of the building is worthy of this Quad-Cities higher education gem.

"Doesn't that say 'come in?'" Dick Vallandingham, Black Hawk vice president for student services asked reporter Anthony Watt as the pair recently enjoyed an outside view of the addition. He's right. Though it is not yet complete, the addition provides a more welcoming facade.

Just as importantly, the expanded and better organized services to be housed there reflect the colleges' ever-growing and changing mission. Indeed, that always has been one of the community college district's greatest strengths: its willingness and ability to provide what the community needs in education when it needs it. Hats off to all involved.

Jeers to a former member of the state panel charged with ferreting out ethics violation in Illinois government for running afoul of the standards he was sworn to uphold.

The violation will cost Stephen Thurston $2,500, but he wasn't the only one harmed when he violated state law by attending a March 25, 2011 prayer breakfast at which he sang the praises of a Chicago City Council candidate for whom the fundraiser was being held.

The candidate didn't win the election, but Mr. Thurston's presence there and his speech clearly violated the state law barring commissions from not only contributing financially to campaigns but attending events in support of them.
The finding is just the latest black mark on an ethically challenged state government awash in them.

Mr. Thurston reportedly cooperated with investigators, and since he already had left the panel, a fine was the only punishment available to the commission. The $2,500 it levied is half of what he could have faced from a commission, which is charged with conducting administrative hearings on charges of ethics law violations.

Another of its duties is to provide annual ethics law training for employees of the executive branch. It would appear that members of the panel should better avail themselves of those services.

Cheers to gee-whiz technology and the folks who employed it to allow a large crew of Q-C area school children to boldly go where no other students in the Q-C had gone before.

Last week, 250 area second- through ninth-graders took a virtual trip into space courtesy of the National Geographic Giant Screen Theater at the Putnam Museum in Davenport.

From more than 200 miles above the Earth, we suspect NASA astronaut and flight engineer Tom Marshburn, M.D., and astronaut and commander Kevin Ford ignited the spirit of adventure and an interest in man's final frontier in many of the kids who were lucky enough to participate in NASA's "Teaching From Space" program.

The Putnam is one of half a dozen sites t fortunate to get a call from the astronauts aboard the International Space Station in the program's first round of 2012.

With only about 20 minutes to talk, reporter Laura Anderson Shaw said the questions were coming at the astronauts pretty quickly, though not as fast as the mind-boggling 17,000 miles an hour rate that the space Station they currently call home is circling the Earth.

While the sessions are great fun, they also serve a larger purpose. Putnam President and CEO, Kim Findlay says the hope is that this "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity, coupled with Putnam exhibit, will inspire some of these kids to explore careers in the growing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.

It also serves to remind kids that, when it comes to their futures, the sky literally is the limit.

Jeers to downstate's ever-waning influence in the circles of power in Springfield.

For the latest proof, we give you the leadership teams for the Democrats who so thoroughly dominate the General Assembly that it hardly matters who holds power on the GOP side of the aisle. (Take the Senate, for example, where there are fewer Republicans -- 19 -- in the body, than there are standing committees to represent — 21.) That makes all the more important the geographic diversity of the leaders chosen as the most trusted advisers and lieutenants to Chicago Democrats, Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

One might expect many of them to be from the same place that Madigan and Cullerton call home. And since the Chicagoland area makes up a huge chunk of the population, we expected to see the Democrat legislative leadership team tip the Windy City's way. Still, we were shocked to see just how few of these insiders hail from south of Cook County. Indeed, in the House, just two leaders come from outside Chicagoland. Over in the Senate there are three. Yikes!