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Rodney Davis is still MIA

Rodney Davis has steadfastly refused to hold an in person town hall with his constituents from IL District 13. His constituents even set up a town hall and paid for it, asking only that he attend during his time in district. He refused. Instead he held a "tele-town hall" without any notice and seemed to randomly contact people to "attend" with only pre-screened questions. Without listening to the concerns of the people who voted him into office, he has stated his support for the Republican plan to replace and weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) whose 7th anniversary happens on March 23rd. Under the ACA, his district's uninsured rate has gone from 9.9% to 4.6%. He apparently views this as a negative because he spoke on the house floor about the importance of repeal and replace and posted his speech on his website.

The new Republican plan would potentially cause the loss of insurance for the 14,300 people in his own district who purchase insurance on the Marketplace. The new plan before Congress allows insurers to charge older policyholders 5 times as much for insurance as younger people (under Obama's plan it was 3 times as much) and with much lower subsidies from the government to help people afford it. 12,100 people in Davis' district received subsidies to afford insurance on the Marketplace. That is in serious jeopardy of being greatly reduced with the Republicans' plan. It would be basically a tax cut for the wealthy and a tax increase for the rest of us.

NBC News reports that it is likely that even those 50% of Americans who get our health insurance from our employers could be negatively impacted with this new plan because it is likely fewer employers will offer insurance. The bill being considered also plans to stop paying for services that Planned Parenthood provides to Medicaid recipients — things like birth control, mammograms, pap smears and prenatal care. AARP, nearly all insurers and the American Medical Association have all come out against this Republican bill. This bill would be terrible for our district, our state and our country but Rodney Davis has apparently made up his mind in support of the bill despite the negative ramifications it would have on his constituents and has refused to listen to our concerns.

Perhaps when you have free healthcare for life as a U.S. Representative you don't feel the need to worry about the negative impacts on the people who voted you into office. Please call Rep. Davis' office to let him know your opposition to this bill at 217-403-4690.

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City of Champaign creates household battery recycling program

If you have remotes, smoke detectors, or a Gameboy that you still play regularly around your house, there's a solid chance that you have some used-up batteries lying around, also. Luckily, the City of Champaign (more specifically, their Feed The Thing program) has just created a household battery recycling station at the Champaign Public Works office, located at 702 Edgebrook Dr.

Recycling is open from 7:30 am - 4:30 pm, with the requirement that if your battery is rechargeable (typically made from lithium), they must be taped on the ends before recycling.

The program will run in perpetuity and is just another way that C-U is trying to combat wasteful disposal of products.

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Solar prices drop again as Solar U-C Program starts second round

Last year, residents of CU had the opportunity to learn about solar installations through Solar Urbana-Champaign, and many took advantage of group purchasing to have solar panels installed in their businesses or homes. According to the Solar U-C website, the 80 installations will result in combined energy cost savings of over $67,000 and will offset over 1.1million lbs. of CO2. Now the group is poised to offer 12 more "power hours" across the community where Champaign County residents can find out if going solar is right for them. The first one is happening Thursday evening at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Here is the full press release:


URBANA, IL - March 13, 2017 - The sun is shining for homeowners and commercial property owners across Champaign County, as the Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 program commences March 23. The program allows individual home and commercial property owners to access lower prices for solar installations through the power of volume purchasing.

The City of Urbana has partnered with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to coordinate a second solar group buy in Champaign County, building on the the program’s success in 2016. The advantage of a group buy is the power of volume purchasing, which can significantly reduce the upfront costs of installing solar on your home or business. You do not need to be a City of Urbana resident to participate – the group buy is open to all Champaign County residents and business owners.

“Last year’s group buy resulted in over 80 installations of solar on homes and commercial properties all over Champaign County,” said Scott Tess, Environmental Sustainability Manager for the City of Urbana. “It was one of the most successful programs of its kind in the region. We wanted to build upon the strong interest that we know exists here.”

“For us, the focus is education,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager at MREA. “Last  year we reached 420 individuals with our free information sessions, helping them understand how solar technology works, whether their site is a good solar candidate, and how solar might affect their pocketbook.”

“There are a lot of misconceptions,” said Murphy. “There’s a persistent myth that solar is future tech, that it’s on the horizon but not available today. The truth is, it’s more affordable than ever right now, and the Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 program not only brings the price down, but helps correct some of the misunderstandings.”

MREA issued a request for proposals to solar installers in January. A local advisory committee reviewed proposals based on professional certification, experience, and cost. They selected New Prairie Construction Co., based in Urbana. They were chosen as the solar installer for the second Solar Group Buy because of their high-quality solar installations, building science expertise, and emphasis on customer service. They are uniquely qualified to evaluate a homeowner’s energy needs, provide quality solar installations, and even provide a preliminary energy efficiency assessment for each participant.

"The solar branch of New Prairie Construction Co. is a natural extension of our commitment to providing high quality, environmentally responsible solutions for homes and businesses," says Julie Birdwell, co-owner of New Prairie. "Solar Urbana-Champaign 2.0 provides an excellent opportunity for our community to use the power of bulk purchasing to get premium quality installations for a great price.  We are excited to work with our neighbors to help increase sustainability and energy independence in Champaign County."

The first Solar Power Hour education session is March 23 at 7:00pm at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (2101 S Prospect Ave. Champaign, IL 61820). The Solar Power Hour will last about 60 minutes, and will include an opportunity to meet representatives from the program and from New Prairie Construction. Additional Solar Power Hours are being posted at solarurbanachampaign.com

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The MREA was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1990. MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org or  www.TheEnergyFair.org.

For more information, contact Peter Murphy, MREA Solar Program Coordinator, peterm@midwestrenew.org, 414-988-7963.

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“Camp Billy” is an intensive, extensive training for young thespians

Twin City Theatre Company is producing Billy Elliot the Musical this late this summer at the Harold and Jean Miner Theatre at Parkland College.

The title role is a demanding one, requiring a young actor who can sing, act, and dance both tap and ballet. Finding all of that in someone between the ages of 11 and 16 is going to require more than just luck. 

In order to give more of our community's kids a fighting chance at being Billy, Twin City Squared and Art in Motion will be holding “Camp Billy" on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this spring to refine these skills in anyone who might be considering auditioning for the part. A registration fee of $10 enrolls the interested party in four  sessions of two hours each to cover basic tap and ballet. While it does not guarantee a part in the show, training is training, and learning more never hurt anyone. 

The dates for Camp Billy are March 28/29 and April 4/5 from 7-9 p.m. at Art in Motion at 4010 Colleen Dr. in Champaign.

Rehearsals for the show will start in early July, and the production will run from August 25 - September 3rd, 2017.

Registration is only $10.00, sign up on Twin City Squared's website for a total of 8 hours of instruction. If you have questions please contact Mike at twincitysquared@gmail.com or 217-353-5282

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NIT preview: Illinois vs. Boise State

#2 Illinois vs. #6 Boise State
8 pm
TV:
ESPN

Josh Whitman may have hit the hard reset button on Illini basketball over the weekend by hiring Brad Underwood as the new head coach, but the season John Groce started is still going on. So, Underwood will be a spectator tonight as the Illini host Boise State (20-11) in the second round of the NIT, with Groce's assistant Jamall Walker leading the team. It's unclear how long this weird limbo lasts (especially weird because Walker has not been confirmed as being retained on Underwood's staff), but I'm sure the seniors are hoping it lasts a little longer.

Boise beat #3 Utah 73-68 to get to Champaign and have outscored opponents 75.7 to 71.2 on the year. The Broncos are led by the guard duo of Chandler Hutchinson and Paris Austin, who have averaged 17.4 and 12.5 points, respectively, and have dished out a combined 169 assists. KenPom ranks Boises's offense more highly than their defense (77 vs. 118) but ranks the Broncos lower than the Illini overall (88 to the Illini's 66).

In the first game of the NIT, Illinois responded to Groce's firing really well, beating Valpo 82-57. Can the team keep rolling despite the excitement and distraction surrounding the program? That remains to be seen, but it would be great to see Malcolm Hill move into third all-time in scoring for the Illini (he needs just 8 points to tie Dee Brown).

My prediction: Illinois wins to set up a game in Bloomington against ISU, which I've been drooling at the thought of since the bracket was announced.

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Smile Politely seeking Music writers

We're always seeking new writers at Smile Politely, and the Music section is no exception.

Do you love reading about music on Smile Politely and want to be a part of it? Do you hate reading about music on Smile Politely and think you can make our section better? Either way, we could use your help. Whether you're interested in talking about a touring band coming through, review a local album or show, talk to local bands, and things of the like, let us know.

Not a writer, per se? Well, neither are we for the most part. We're just engaged community members populating a magazine the best way we know how to.

Shoot us an email at music@smilepolitely.com and we can discuss.

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Urbana Hootenanny celebrating five year anniversary Monday night

One of the gems of Urbana is the Rose Bowl, and with that, the Urbana Hootenanny being a staple event on Monday nights. Tomorrow, March 20th, they'll ring in five years of jammin'.

Grab yourself a Lone Star and watch some bands — The Fights, Rebecca Rego & Eric Fitts, and Dewclaw will all perform, then the stage opens up, as it usually would.

Check out the Facebook event here, and the event description below:

Hey Friends, well its been five years of fun for the Urbana Hootenanny! Now it's time to celebrate with some local featured performances, spontaneous collaborations, open stage, free popcorn, imported beer all the way from Texas and good friends. Things get started at 8PM with your hosts, Sam and Dusty warming up the stage. Then the Fights will play a few tunes around 8:40. The stage will then be open to anyone until 9:45. At 9:45 Rebecca Rego & Eric Fitts will take the stage until around 10:20, then the stage will open back up. At 11:00 Dewclaw will take the stage until 11:30ish. Hopefully the house will be full of musicians at the end of the night for a big Hootenanny send off. Thank you all for the support over the past 5 years!!

Photo from the Facebook event.

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Get some corned beef from The Meat Science Lab

The Meat Science Lab on the U of I's campus is one of the best well-known secrets in town. The butcher shop offers all sorts of meats, including bacon and jerky and eggs and sausages. To help you celebrate Saint Patrick's Day, corned beef is available for $6.59/lb, which is quite a good price. 

Today, Friday, March 17th's hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Meat Science Lab is located at 1503 S. Maryland Avenue, Urbana. 

For more info or specifics on what's available, call 217-333-3404.

Top photo by Jessica Hammie. 

Word

Open House at new Urbana Head Start facility happening today

From the press release:

Champaign County Regional Planning Commission to Host Open House at New Urbana Head Start Facility

Increased number of classrooms and kitchen are just two of the improvements helping new center meet the needs of at-risk children and families in the community

URBANA, IL (March 9, 2017) The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission will host an open house at their new Head Start facility in Urbana, Illinois, on Thursday, March 16, 2017. The open house will run from 4pm to 7pm at the facility located at 1603 E. Mumford Drive in Urbana.

Housed in the former Happi House Learning Center, Head Start staff spent several weeks preparing the new location for its official opening to children and teachers on February 27. It provides year-round services to children from six-weeks-old to five years of age. “The importance of this new center cannot be overstated,” says Brandi Granse, director of Champaign County Head Start/Early Head Start. “Not only have we expanded educational hours from three-and-a-half to six, at no cost to families, there is also a 10-hour option available for families eligible for the Child Care Resource Service.”

The new facility includes nine classrooms, of which seven are for preschool-age children and two for infants and toddlers. It also features a kitchen, a multipurpose room for gross motor activities, a library and space for a counseling or developmental therapy room, all elements the previous Urbana Head Start location did not have. Granse adds that the property offers easier and safer access to playgrounds and that there are Champaign-Urbana MTD stops nearby.

Champaign County Head Start/Early Head Start serves nearly 600 children and families in Champaign County. They have been working for more than 50 years to provide a comprehensive early learning experience for at-risk children and families. Expanded federal funding for Head Start and Early Head Start has provided the resources necessary to advance early childhood education, social and health service, and parental involvement critical to promoting a love of learning and future academic success. “Continued funding of Head Start/Early Head Start will help us meet the evolving needs of the most vulnerable children and families in our community,” Granse stresses.

WHAT

Urbana Head Start Center open house

WHERE

1603 E. Mumford Drive

Urbana, IL  61802

WHEN

Thursday, March 162017

4pm to 7pm

CONTACT

Maurey Williamson

Communications and Public Affairs Coordinator

mwilliamson@ccrpc.org

217-819-4090

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About Champaign County Head Start/Early Head Start

Head Start is a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages five and under from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development. The program promotes family strengths for children’s long-term benefit. The mission of Champaign County Head Start/Early Head Start is to support the diverse children and families of the community in reaching their fullest potential by providing comprehensive services and developing partnerships that enhance child and family development, health and education.

About the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission

The Champaign County Regional Planning Commission is an intergovernmental membership organization that provides and administers a variety of planning, community and economic development, early childhood education and community services for Champaign and surrounding counties. As a multi-purpose agency, the commission delivers 100 programs and services with an annual operating budget of about $25 million and a staff of 230 employees. For more information, visit ccrpc.org.