The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans five freedoms that we never should take for granted.
Most people likely could name the first three without giving it much thought – freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The fourth freedom guarantees Americans the right to assemble peaceably.
Two notable examples of the fifth freedom, the right to petition the government, have been in our news pages in recent days.
On today’s front page, senior reporter Kevin Craver tells the story of the Fleming Road Alliance’s successful efforts to preserve the scenic nature of the 2½-mile-long road in Bull Valley that connects Routes 120 and 14.
The road is in dire need of repair, and the McHenry County Division of Transportation originally planned to widen it and make other changes in addition to repaving it. Residents feared the project would jeopardize 200-year-old oak trees and some of the scenic drive’s rolling hills and flowers.
Residents who live along the roadway joined forces, petitioning county government in a variety of ways to repave Fleming Road in its current footprint without harming the natural beauty around it.
By exercising their First Amendment rights, members of the Fleming Road Alliance now appear to have won their fight.
Not as successful in its outcome was a petition by Bernotas Middle School students, parents and teachers. As detailed in a Thursday story by Brett Rowland, the Bernotas group petitioned the Crystal Lake City Council for a special-use permit to allow an electronic messaging sign in front of the school.
Students raised more than $18,000 to pay for the 6.3-foot sign, but the council rejected the request because the school is in a residential neighborhood.
“They are very disappointed,” PTO Board President Lori Stroh told Rowland. “It’s been devastating. Our dream fell apart [that] night.”
It’s easy to understand why the students are disappointed. But those who participated in the process proudly can say they did something that far too many Americans never have done. They exercised their First Amendment right to petition their government, to try to get a rule changed because they thought it would have improved their school.
As with all aspects of life, you win some and you lose some. But you don’t have a shot at winning if you don’t at least participate in the process.
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Welcome back: You might have noticed a fresh perspective on page A2 of Friday’s newspaper or online at NWHerald.com.
Dick Peterson has returned to our pages as a weekly columnist after a five-year hiatus.
Peterson, a Woodstock resident, was Northwest Herald’s Opinion Page editor for many years before moving on in 2007 to pursue other noble opportunities. He now helps the homeless – excuse me, people experiencing homelessness (you’ll have to read his column to know what I mean here; it’s still available online if you don’t have Friday’s print edition anymore) – as a mental health advocate for a local social service agency.
When he served as our Opinion Page editor, Peterson also wrote weekly columns that regularly won awards, and deservedly so.
Until recently, I’d heard from Peterson only sporadically after he left, and usually because he’d found a story somewhere that he wanted to pass along about the importance of libraries.
For some reason, it got into his head that I was anti-library. For the record, I’m not. In fact, I am a card-carrying member of the Crystal Lake Public Library, thank you. My family and I visit the library fairly regularly. (Would it be too embarrassing to admit that we check out about five times as many games, movies and music than we do books?)
He must have gotten that notion because, when we both served as members of the newspaper’s Editorial Board, I was opposed to a tax increase to expand the Crystal Lake library. But being anti-tax increase is not the same as being anti-library. I’m still working to convince him of that.
Anyway, I’m pleased that Peterson is writing for us again, and I’m sure you will be, too. He joins a growing number of Northwest Herald community columnists that also include retired Crystal Lake teacher Mike Penkava (Saturdays), T.R. Kerth of Sun City Huntley (Saturday Neighbors), historian Joseph C. Morton of Crystal Lake (Monday’s Opinion Page), and a slew of chamber of commerce directors and financial experts that appear daily on our Business pages.
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Speaking of business: The expansion of Northwest Herald’s coverage of the McHenry County business community continues today with the inclusion of features that previously had been reserved for our business-to-business publication, The Business Journal.
In April, we added a new reporter to our local business coverage team; we added a standalone Business section Thursdays to go along with our Sunday section; and we expanded our business coverage Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays by adding an additional page.
Beginning today, on page 2 of our Sunday Business section, we will include Faces and Places, a feature that highlights the accomplishments of local businesses and their staffs. We also will publish submitted photos from businesses, including groundbreakings, award presentations and more.
Pull out today’s Business section and read about the accomplishments of Dr. Stella N. Anozie from Centegra Health System, see a plaque presentation photo with members of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce and BMO Harris Bank, and enjoy a column from Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Oslance.
Have a suggestion for a local business story? Call Business Editor Chris Cashman at 815-526-4582, or email him at email@example.com.
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Bridge to somewhere: If you’re a bike enthusiast and you live in the Crystal Lake area, be sure to hop on the Prairie Trail soon and check out the new bridge across Rakow Road. The Prairie trail is a 26-mile, bike/pedestrian trail that stretches from Algonquin in south McHenry County north to the Wisconsin border.
Bikes and runners previously had to maneuver the busy Rakow Road intersection near Pyott Road to cross, but the bridge was added as part of the Rakow Road project. It’s much safer, and you don’t have to slow down or stop.
The bridge opened for business this month.
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.