Smile Politely

Reflecting on 2022

An overhead shot of a small park with a green soccer field and concrete basketball court. Cars line the road alongside the park.
Meteorologist Kevin Lighty on Facebook

As we near the end of the year, we’re taking a little time to reflect on the past year. At the end of 2021, we came up with a C-U wishlist for 2022

Did our wishes come true? Let’s take a look.

The COVID landscape

As we were hoping to see every member of our community over the age of five be vaccinated for COVID, it appears that our first wish was a bit lofty. According to the data available on the C-U Public Health website, we’re hanging out at around a 70% vaccination rate in Champaign County — and that is just for the initial vaccination series. 

Currently, CUPHD doesn’t have data for who has received the bivalent booster, but in Illinois as a whole, it’s less than 10 percent of eligible residents. We hoped for a post-pandemic C-U where we could safely attend indoor events and gatherings. People are gathering indoors as if we were in pre-pandemic times, though COVID is still a part of our daily lives. Our current COVID levels are “low,” but they’ve still been “high” within the last couple of months. COVID is still here, but like most of the country, we are taking sort of a free-for-all approach in terms of COVID mitigations.

Gun violence in C-U 

Last year beyond simple surveillance, we called for meaningful action on gun violence. Early in the year, the City of Champaign revealed its broader plans concerning this issue through the Community Gun Violence Prevention Blueprint. It is a step in the right direction. It emphasizes addressing the root causes of gun violence, including “income inequality, poverty, underfunded public housing, under-resourced public services, achievement gaps in schools, lack of opportunity and perceptions of hopelessness, and easy access to firearms by high-risk people.” Currently, the initiative is only funded through 2023. Unfortunately, this is not enough time to attend to such complex issues. We hope that will change. Both the City of Urbana and Champaign County are using American Rescue Plan Funding to, directly and indirectly, fund gun violence prevention. Shooting incidents are below 2021 numbers but are still happening too frequently. 

Infrastructure needs

This Editorial Board has a lot to say about infrastructure. We’ve written about what we’d like to see at  Country Fair Shopping Center and Downtown Urbana most recently. Last year, we specifically mentioned the infrastructure needs in the Garden Hills neighborhood. Thanks again to ARPA funding, there is an expedited timeline for addressing drainage, lighting, and road improvements in Garden Hills — projects that are set to be completed by the spring of 2023. This summer, a temporary pop-up park was placed on Hedge Road ahead of the larger neighborhood project.

Election results

Politics was on our minds this time last year, with redistricting finally ridding us of Rodney Davis as our IL-13 representative. Now we’ve just wrapped up the midterm elections. After years of Republican representation in this district, we’ve elected Democrat Nikki Budzinski, who while not as progressive as we’d like, is a significant improvement. We hoped that J.B. Pritzker would be re-elected to a 2nd term, and he was. At the county level, Dems ruled the day by maintaining all of the county leadership roles, increasing their margins on the County Board, and replacing a Republican circuit judge. After years of holding onto those magnets, Rod was finally unseated. Unfortunately, he was unseated by Mary Miller, a far-right extremist who quoted Hitler in a speech on January 6th. 

Cultural development

We implored Champaign to invest more in public art and cultural venues, and, unfortunately, there hasn’t been much movement. We are seeing an explosion of murals in Urbana and on campus, which is awesome. The folks behind Weird Meat Boyz are opening a restaurant in the former Merry Ann’s space, which will double as a music venue. The former Art Theater remains empty.

On the Urbana side of things, we wished for an expansion of Market at the Square, making it either bigger or with longer hours. That didn’t happen, but perhaps with possible changes afoot in Downtown Urbana, this is a wish we can still hold out hope for. 

As an Editorial Board, we are proud of the work that we’ve done this past year. We’ve expanded our board and look forward to adding more voices into the mix. We will have written 35 editorials in 2022, touching on topics ranging from gun violence to food trucks. As community members with this platform, we feel it’s important to continue to engage in these conversations that affect us in big and small ways.

As always, we are so grateful for your continued support and readership. Happy holidays, and here’s to working toward a more inclusive and just C-U in 2023. 

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Julie McClure, Trude Namara, Patrick Singer, and Mara Thacker.

Top photo from Meteorologist Kevin Lighty Facebook page.

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