THUMBS UP … to social servants and mental health experts who are pushing for an emergency hotline number — 988 — for people who experience suicidal or self-destructive thoughts. And thank you to Mike Miroux, leader of the Princeton Depression Ally Meetup group, for talking about the need. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK), isn’t all that easy to remember. For those experiencing a crisis, or frequent crises, and in need of someone to talk to, they might have difficulty remembering or finding the lifeline. The FCC has approved the 988 number but it will take awhile to implement and activate. The sooner the better. A number as easy to remember as 911 for emergencies or 811 before digging a hole in the yard should save lives, especially for someone experiencing a crisis for the first time.

THUMBS UP … to La Salle County Board members Randy Freeman (R-Lostant), Mike Kasap (D-La Salle) and Joe Witczak (D-Peru) for standing up to fellow county board members who made an overly emotional, sweeping vote against recreational marijuana businesses — of any kind — in rural portions of the county. Alas, the three aforementioned county board members were outvoted 20-7.

Some Republicans and conservatives these days regularly criticize government actions that further perpetuate a “nanny state” in America. They’re not always correct.

But Freeman hit the bulls-eye with his rhetoric when he condemned his fellow board members’ votes against marijuana dispensaries or growing operations in unincorporated portions of La Salle County. Freeman said it’s not the county board’s job to behave as “morality police.”

Freeman reminded his peers Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana and that’s not going to change anytime soon. He stands against prohibiting legal business and industry and employment.

THUMBS DOWN … to the La Salle County Board’s complete roadblock to recreational marijuana business of any kind in rural La Salle County.

Taking a stand against having dispensaries or possibly mom-and-pop brownie bakeries, is one thing, we suppose.

But the county made a mistake with its vote against allowing any sort of business —  including cultivators, growers and infusers in rural locations. The sweeping ruling by the county may well cause someone who wanted to build a large greenhouse in La Salle County to go elsewhere.

On the outskirts of Oglesby, on the west side, within city limits, GTI, which already had slowly launched a medical cannabis-growing operation, recently took out a $12 million building permit for facilities for growing recreational cannabis. That’s $12 million worth of construction and configuration work and construction jobs, and jobs at the growing facility will pop up after completion of construction.

La Salle County’s vote will not affect the Oglesby GTI facility and the 40-50 people the business plans to hire.

Why would the county want to stand in the way of an employer like that locating in a rural location? The county doesn’t take a stand against vineyards or growing of hops.

Putnam County has not made the same error as La Salle County. We are not aware of Putnam County standing against Mid-American Growers — the nation’s largest indoor industrial hemp grower — in its efforts to expand into the growing of recreational marijuana in some of its secure greenhouse buildings.

La Salle County should at the very least reconsider whether it should prevent large greenhouses.

If board members are worried that their neighbor who owns a farm next door will smoke a joint, there’s nothing the county can do about that anyway. The new law allows Illinois residents over age 21 to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, up to 5 grams of concentrated cannabis and up to 500 mg of THC.

The law does not allow the growing of marijuana for personal use, other than by medical-marijuana recipients.

THUMBS DOWN … concerning bird counts. Usually the annual Audubon Society Christmas bird counts along the Illinois River are a time of largely uneventful fellowship for avian aficionados while taking stock of feathered friends in our beautiful state parks and other natural areas. While the 2019 edition definitely included the requisite amount of amicability, it would be wrong to say everyone left the three-day event happier for having participated. That’s because a concerning quantity of this cycle’s inventory was outside the bounds of what would be considered normal.

Complete results were not released for the Starved Rock Audubon Society as of this past weekend, but many on the hike did not see some of the species they should have, such as red-headed woodpeckers and purple finches, birds that should be noticeable this time of year. They also saw a couple that normally have migrated south by the holidays. And overall the numbers were just down: not as many birds as would be expected given the weather and our environment. Hopefully these outings were just outliers and the numbers soon will be back to normal, although they do appear to reflect larger global trends. It’s definitely disconcerting and something that ought to inspire closer attention to environmental, chemical and habitat issues.


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