La Salle County Board


My last Ottawa Delivered column of 2010:

It’s been a great year to be a political reporter. Whether it was the Capitol Hill wars, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial or any of many interesting election battles, 2010 was notable in the political realm.

By contrast, it was a relatively quiet year on the La Salle County Board front, though the county certainly had its share of notability in 2010. For example, there was the swift rise and fall of the forest preserve; more administrative changes at the nursing home; controversial pay raises; and the dispute centering on the county’s now-former software vendor, Sikich.

Illinois politics created quite a range of news, from our state’s Blagojevich baggage to the close, contentious race between his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Bill Brady, to the free-for-all to replace Richard M. Daley as Chicago mayor. State politics provided a couple memorable moments locally, namely Sue Rezin’s victory over state Rep. Careen Gordon and the surprise resignation of state Sen. Gary Dahl, which resulted in Rezin being named to Dahl’s seat.

The political story of 2010 that is most memorable to me is the 11th Congressional District race that saw challenger Adam Kinzinger defeat incumbent U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson by a runaway margin. Covering the race extensively made it memorable, to be sure, but so did the ramifications of the race. The GOP is clearly grooming Kinzinger for bigger things, giving him some plum assignments for a freshman legislator. It will be interesting to watch what happens to his political career.

Kinzinger will be only one of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’ll be weighing in on matters of national importance – and when it comes to national politics, these are interesting times. The year began with President Obama riding high and pushing his agenda forward, only to be slapped back at the polls in November, and ending with Obama’s apparent comeback via compromise with Republican leaders.

Still, it’s too early to tell if Obama’s supposed comeback is indeed that. I suspect it’s more complicated than it seems, but if the president continues his path down the political middle, then he likely is doing himself a favor looking ahead to 2012. Either way, you can safely bet that 2011 will be another year when it’s worth paying attention to politics.

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As Pearl Harbor Day was commemorated Monday, I couldn’t help but think of Richard Foltynewicz. After all, this was the 68th anniversary of when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but it was the first one without Richard.

Foltynewicz, who died in April, played an instrumental role in getting that infamous date commemorated so future generations would never forget it. So I was pleased to learn that Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2470 held a small ceremony Monday to honor him, along with the many soldiers who died in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

It is ironic he had to work so hard to get Dec. 7 marked as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Consider how quickly Sept. 11 became a national day of remembrance after the terrorist attacks of 2001. It doesn’t seem right that someone as young as me can clearly remember when Pearl Harbor Day finally became an official commemorative day.

Who knew, 15 years ago, that when I heard President Clinton designated the national holiday, I would someday be working in the hometown of the man primarily responsible for getting Pearl Harbor Day that recognition?

While I didn’t start covering the La Salle County Board until after Foltynewicz was no longer a member, I did get to interview him on several occasions, including once for a sidebar to an interview with a Streator resident who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. “Folty,” as I referred to him in my notes, was always a pleasure to talk with, and he always joked that we were kindred spirits because of our long last names.

As for the Pearl Harbor survivor from Streator – Hoby VanDeventer, now 89 and still kicking – he gave me one of the most memorable interviews of my career. He recalled the day of the Pearl Harbor attack in vivid detail and openly shared his memories of it with me. I still feel honored to have spent that afternoon with him at his house, looking through his old military scrapbook and listening to him talk about his Army days.

As the years pass, there are fewer Pearl Harbor survivors left to share their stories with us firsthand. Someday, when they are all gone, the attack on Pearl Harbor will be remembered – thanks in no small part to Ottawa’s own Richard Foltynewicz.

Cheers, Folty.

This column was first published online at OttawaDelivered.com.