Thumbs-up: To the nine area football teams – Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove, Huntley, Jacobs, Marian Central, Johnsburg, Woodstock North and Richmond-Burton – that qualified for the Illinois High School Association state playoffs. While the nine-week regular season goes by quickly for the rest of us, the season is a grind for the players and coaches. Between early-season heat, tough schedules and numerous injuries, these teams already have made it through myriad challenges before even stepping onto the field for the first round this weekend.
Thumbs-up: To 14-year-old Makayla Nietzel of Crystal Lake who is training to participate in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. She advanced one step closer to that goal Oct. 20 when U.S. Paralympic swimming high performance director Queenie Nichols told Makayla that if she could match swim times she already met at a USA disability meet, Nichols wants her on the Paralympic B-team. Makayla was born with albinism, a genetic condition that reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in skin, hair and eyes, leading to vision problems. Despite her visual challenges, she continues to swim. She said her goal is to never give up because of her blindness – and she showed her perseverance this summer. Makayla swam a 3-mile race this summer in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, by following the feet of swimmers ahead of her, despite not being able to see the triangular shaped swim path of the lake bound by buoys when she left her prescription goggles at home. Her determination and success is inspiring, and we wish her the best in the rest of her training.
Thumbs-up: To governments working together. This month, the McHenry County Conservation District and McHenry County Division of Transportation were among the agencies honored by the Illinois Association of Park Districts for their work to create a canoe launch on the Kishwaukee River. The area long had been known as a “guerrilla” launch, where people would hack their way through brush to access the river. But working with the Boone County Conservation District and Openlands, the local governments were able to create a new, sanctioned canoe launch. It’s good to see local governments collaborate for public benefit, and we hope more people now will be able to safely access and enjoy the river.
Thumbs-down: To super-expensive elections. The 2018 Illinois governor’s race could be the most expensive contest in U.S. history, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. With multi-millionaire Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner announcing his plan to run for re-election, and Democrat J.B. Pritzker, one of the world’s richest people, among the front-runners for the Democrats, the race could eclipse the $280 million spent on the 2010 race for governor of California. That’s a tremendous amount of money, which undoubtedly could be spent to greater benefit. What’s more, it only underscores the tremendous influence that money has on politics around the country, and raises the disturbing possibility that tremendous wealth will be a prerequisite for any of our future leaders.