As a conservative Republican, I found many of Gary Johnson’s solutions out-of-line with his Libertarian views:

I had the opportunity to hear Gary Johnson speak as the featured guest at an Illinois Policy Institute event held on Wednesday evening, March 23.  Johnson served as governor of New Mexico from 1994 to 2003.

Gary Johnson was introduced by John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute, following opening remarks by Tillman.

Tillman related how Democrats, after Republicans experienced a checkered success in the 2010 November elections, are feeling some pressure (Mike Madigan and John Cullington) in that they are adopting some of the same language promoted by Illinois Policy Institute budget proposals which are now resonating here in Illinois:  1) Pension reform for current employees going forward; 2) spending caps (inflation plus population); and 3) responsible spending.

John Tillman presented Gary Johnson as governor “No” because of his veto record — 750 during his time in office, more than all other governors combined.  Johnson was the first two-term governor of New Mexico in a state where Democrats held a 2-1 edge over Republicans, with the same advantage in the state legislature.

As explained by Gary Johnson, his desire to speak out to groups first started about eighteen months ago when realizing this country was bankrupt and that things couldn’t continue in the same direction.  Johnson does supports the repeal of Obamacare, but at the same time feels that Republicans should offer to repeal their expensive prescription benefit program.

Johnson spoke about the $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities and suggested that the federal budget must be balanced TOMORROW, not with the billions being proposed by Republicans, but by a $1.6 trillion reduction.

Gary Johnson then went on to describe his forage into politics. Having never run for office before, Johnson went to the New Mexico Republican organization to get their blessing and was told that he could never get elected in a state that was so lopsided in party registration.  But win he did!

As a businessman, Governor Gary Johnson was determined to run New Mexico like a business using cost benefit analysis, putting issues first and politics last.   Johnson vetoed not only Democrats bills, but also those crafted by Republicans, finding that Republicans also wanted to grow government.

When elected to a second term by even a bigger margin than the first time around, proving to Governor Johnson that good stewardship was appreciated, Johnson gained the reputation of being more outspoken than any other governor, putting a number of issues on his front burner.

Front burner items during Johnson’s second term included:

1.  Pro-choice in education for charter and private schools.

2. Consideration of the drug problem as the #1 health problem.  Johnson spoke of 2.3 million people who are behind bars in the U.S., the highest in the world, and how 90% of the incarcerations are drug-related.  In 2001 Governor Gary Johnson called for the legalization of marijuana, stating that responsible marijuana smokers must not be arrested, and that the war on drugs is a miserable failure.

Gary Johnson’s solutions to issues this nation faces today:

1.  Cuts in Medicaid and Medicare by 43%, with money given back to states as block grants with no strings attached to create “laboratories of innovation.”

2.   Deal with Social Security which Johnson described as a small problem when compared to Medicare. Social Security must take in more money than it pays out.  Suggested were raising the retirement age, means testing, and reducing benefits.

3.   Pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  The U.S. has 5% of the population, yet spends more on defense than all other countries combined.  Spoke of confusion in Libya as initially creating a no-fly zone to prevent genocide, but now there is a question of who the U.S. is supporting?   Is it a Civil War or are we supporting an insurgency?

Rationale for getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan:  “What good are we to any country in the world if we are bankrupt?”  We are building roads, hospitals, and schools in other countries, when we are in need of the same in this country.  As such we pick up the tab for the rest of the world giving them the where-with-all to invest in high speed rail, etc.

4.   Abolish the Department of Education and give education back to the states.

5.   Government should get out of health care and allow the free market to operate.  What is being established is an insurance entitlement far removed from the free market. Suggested were advertising pricing and creating real competition in the health care field.

6.   Immigration must be about work and not welfare.  Spoke of educating foreign students and then sending them back to their own countries to benefit other countries with their know how.  Johnson spoke of immigration as being good.  Work visas should be easy to obtain with a background check and a SS number.  Eleven million illegals must be given a grace period to get a legal work permit.  Does not mean a green card or amnesty.  Notion of a fence or the National Guard on the southern border is a waste of money.

7.   Legalization of marijuana under the assumption that border violence would disappear if money were taken out of drugs.

8.   Eliminate corporate taxes which amounts to double taxation.

9.   No limit should exist on giving to candidates, with the condition that there is 100% transparency.

10. Tort reform.  A loser-pays-all system would take care of much of the abuse with frivolous lawsuit filings.

11.  Pensions amount to Ponzi schemes.

12.  Term limits are a good thing.

13.  Good stewardship of taxpayer money works in winning elections.

Gary Johnson’s stated his mission as one to relate ideas to Republicans upon which to grow the Republican Party, believing that only the Republican Party can fix what is wrong with this nation today.


Note:  I wrote this article as a commentary for the Chicago Tribune, recognizing that the probability of it being accepted was near zero.  It was rejected, but I was able to reach members of the Tribune’s editorial staff to let them know how I perceived its editional and article about The Zion Station in northern Illionis, both published on Sunday, March 20th.

My Commentary:  “Zion’s ‘Swan Song’ premature and lacks common sense”

I have been accused of beating a “dead horse during the past several years, given my countless letters to media publications and my numerous overtures to IL legislator in Springfield imploring them to take another look at the dual Zion Nuclear Plant while divorcing themselves from the “pie in the sky” energy sources wind, solar, and ethanol.

Zion, when in operation before its two units were prematurely shuttered before their time in1998, never spewed radioactive particles into the air, nor leaked radioactive particles into Lake Michigan.  Exelon’s given reason for closing the two units was financial in nature.  But If true, why has Exelon refused to release financial evaluation reports.  If profitability was the issue why didn’t Exelon attempt to sell Zion to any party to operate

To the contrary, they were providing safe, environmentally clean, lowest cost electricity to the electrical grids (2100 MW’s) in a seismically approved location, not just to Northeast Illinois, helping to stabilize and possibly drive down the cost of electricity in rate payer’s monthly bills from 1972 until 1998.

Exelon’s stated reason for closing the two Zion units was financial in nature.  But If true, why has Exelon refused to release financial evaluation reports?  If profitability was the issue, why didn’t Exelon attempt to sell Zion to another party who might have succeeded in managing an efficient and profit-making plant?

Knowledge gained through research and contacts with nuclear energy experts would seem to permit me to comment unabashedly on the Trib’s editorial of Sunday, March 16, “Revive Yucca,” as well as the article written by Tribune reporters Julie Wernau and Lisa Black, “Nuclear waste generating new fears,” on the same date.

Credit is to be given to the writer of the Tribune’s Yucca Mountain editorial.  Yucca Mountain should never have been discredited as a safe repository to entomb nuclear waste, nor the procedure developed to transport spent nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain   Unfortunately Yucca Mountain became a “hot potato” politically and radioactive rods of spent nuclear fuel must continue to be stored in large water-filled pools.  The same fate awaits the spent nuclear fuel at the Zion Plant.

Statements made in both the Tribune editorial and the Zion-focused article written by Trib reporters, however, led me to conclude that the writers of both had no understanding of what was meant by a reactor core meltdown or that reprocessing nuclear waste is done in other countries but has been rejected here in America. 

According to an article written by David Warren on March 16, “Fukushima,” he urged the media to use caution  when applying “meltdown” to a nuclear reactor.  Warren spoke of the “meltdown watch” on a Fukushima  nuclear power plant wherein there has been no meltdown, the chances of one are not high, and the effects of such a meltdown would be relatively modest.

It was Tribune reporters Wernau and Black’s who “Matter of Factually ” mentioned that 2.2 million pounds of spent Nuclear fuel at Zion must be dealt with.  

Requests were made of the Tribune to contact David Hollein of Barrington Hills, who was Project Engineer for all Nuclear Plants constructed here in Illinois.  Why David Hollein?  Because he is author of a publications on Nuclear Waste Storage, Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing, and Long Term Nuclear Waste Storage used in corporate and public presentations throughout the world. 

The name of Jay Lehr, Ph.D, Science Director at  Chicago’s Heartland Institute here in Chicago, was also shared with the Tribune as a font of sound and factual information about Nuclear Energy.  Jay Lehr was called upon to comment about the “Fukushima event on numerous radio and TV programs in the week following the earthquake and tsunami which led to the damaged plants.

 To my knowledge, neither David Hollein or Jay Lehr were ever contacted by the Tribune to add credibility to published articles about nuclear energy and The Zion Station, which means so much to me.

I am in sync with the Tribune in that the Japan nuclear event has caused this nation and the world to reconsider the safety of its reactors now in use and the advisability of constructing additional Nuclear Plants.

I do not agree, however, that the Fukushima event was a “nuclear disaster” as described in the Trib’s editorial.   The authentic disaster remains with the aftermath of all the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, as  whole towns were swept over and thousands of lives were lost with likely thousands more deaths resulting.

As anticipated, the Japan nuclear accident is being  blown out of proportion by reporters who have no knowledge of nuclear energy or the terms used to explain nuclear happenings.  The damaged Fukushima reactors have been a God-sent -made-for-agenda-movement for the political Left, fear-mongers and anti-nuke individuals who haven’t wasted time in spreading their false and harmful rhetoric to discredit Nuclear Energy. 

Nuclear power represents a wave into the future.  This nation must catch the wave by building new nuclear plants without delay, and by saving older plants like Zion from decommissioning, or America’s energy needs, lacking foresight and a common sense approach, will be inadequate to supply future energy needs.



The caption beneath Nancy Stone’s photo which accompanied the Tribune’s “The end of death row” editorial on Tuesday, March 9th read,  “With the stroke of a pen by Gov. Quinn, a historic change in Illinois.” 

But what captured my attention and demanded a response were these words which immediately revealed the Trib’s official position, “Quinn makes the right call.”

As a pro-life Tribune reader who believes that every life if sacred, the position expressed by the Trib’s editorial was at odds with the choice of words appearing later on in the commentary: “No government can sanction an instrument of justice that takes such risks with the lives of innocent people.”

Is there any thing more innocent than the life of an unborn baby?”  Has an unborn baby ever been guilty of inflicting harm upon the society in which it is to be born?   

It was the way the bill passed that rankles many Illinoisans.  With arm twisting behind the scenes in the Lame Duck Session of the General Assembly the bill failed and then passed the House on January 6th with only the slimmest of margin, with votes of legislators who would not be seated when the 97th General Assembly convened on January 12th.  The Senate vote was 32-25 on January 11th.

Is is fair for the family of victims, after having living though the aftermath of horrendous acts inflicted upon their loved ones, followed by a long trail where the horrendous acts were relived in detail, to have the worst of humanity — 15 death row murderers — escape from meeting the same fate as their victims?

Those who find joy over the abolishment of the death penalty often reason that life imprisonment is retribution enough.  But is it? 

There is no reason for a convicted murderer to plead for natural life in prison instead of death, if the death penalty is off the table.  Certainly a natural life sentence will not save Illinois money. 

And what if a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in rage kills a prison guard?  Does he have more to fear from another life sentence imposed on top of the one he is serving? 

There are statistics for and against the death penalty as a deterrent against crime.  It only seems logical that fear of death is a more powerful psychological deterrent than facing life in prison?

Unlike the view expressed in the concluding paragraph of the Tribune’s editorial, Illinois is not better off without the death penalty.

At a time when nuclear energy is gaining in popularity world-wide — 65 nuclear reactors are under construction worldwide — will the aftermath of Japan’s most powerful earthquake in history (9.0-magnitude earthquake triggering a tsunami) on March 11 create fear of nuclear energy as a power source similar to what occurred after Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986 and Three Mile Island south of Harrisburg on March 28,1979.

Although the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident is described as the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster and was a tragedy for the people it affected, it also afforded an opportunity to learn from the tragic event. Many individuals who received high doses of radiation that should have resulted in death are doing fine after 25 years. Likewise, many of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are also doing quite well, despite receiving supposedly harmful doses 65 years ago.

At the Three Mile Island nuclear generating station, the most significant accident in U.S. commercial nuclear energy, its TMI-2 unit suffered a partial meltdown but there were no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of nearby communities.

Unlike at Chernobyl, where radioactive clouds spewed out when it exploded in 1986, the Dailchi 1 reactor north of Tokyo expelled only a small amount of radiation as a measure to ensure its stability. It is true that high doses can be deadly, but fear-mongers have for many years been telling the public to worry about doses which do not reach the fatal level. In fact, low doses of atomic radiation are a natural part of the earthly environment.

All total Japan has 55 nuclear reactors. They are designed to work at a high seismic zone. What happened was an event by Mother Nature that was beyond the imagined impact the plants were designed to withstand.

Given the media hype of impending global doom and gloom being expressed in the Tribune over several nuclear power plants that are having some difficulty providing post-shutdown cooling, it is not surprising that anti-nuclear activists see their chance to step forward with longstanding agendas to influence public opinion against a form of energy that is reliable, clean, green, safe and gives the biggest bang for the buck!

Not to be forgotten is that nuclear systems are designed to be strong and resilient; operators have many options to ensure that the public does not get exposed to a dose of radiation that will cause negative health effects.

Oil has already fallen out of favor as an energy source with environmentalists, global warming proponents and with the current administration, whose Environmental Protection Agency has falsely declared oil and coal as pollutants (emitters of life-giving CO2) and contributors to global warming.

It is a pipe dream to believe that wind and solar will ever produce mass amounts of energy. Without substantial government subsidies there would be little incentive to invest in either.

Nuclear power represents a wave into the future. This nation must catch the wave by building nuclear plants without delay, and saving two Nuclear-powered safe, environmentally clean, lowest cost, seismically approved electricity generating plants in Zion, Illinois, or face frequent blackouts because America did not have the foresight to keep pace with its energy needs.

To complement Superintendent Harry Griffith’s lavish salary and compensation package, the Boards of Education for Lake Forest School District 67 and High School District 115 agreed to a lucrative retirement package to carry Mr. Griffith into his sunset years.

Just to recap from the prior two installments, Harry Griffith is the second highest paid Superintendent in the State of Illinois, although he doesn’t seem to have the level of challenge or responsibility other Illinois Superintendents have. Furthermore, the benefit package Mr. Griffith receives from the School Boards exceeds that of many executives in the private sector who live in our community. Mr. Griffith is a civil servant and paid by taxpayer dollars. This distinction seems to be lost on the 14 members on both Lake Forest School Boards who agreed to Mr. Griffith’s retirement package. In the public sector where taxpayer dollars are being used, there is no place for such lavish compensation packages.

Retirement Contract
Mr. Griffith announced his retirement in the summer of 2010 to become effective June 2012. He will collect over $300,000 every year from the Teacher Retirement System in Illinois with guaranteed increases of 3% per year every year thereafter. In addition, he has a lavish annuity of hundreds of thousands of dollars that the school district has purchased for him over the years to augment his retirement income.

Health/Dental Insurance—According to his retirement contract, the Boards of Education of Lake Forest School District 67 and District 115 will continue to pay the full cost of hospital, surgical, major medical, and dental insurance to Mr. Griffith and his family until October 31, 2015. It is most unusual that there are no stipulations as to the maximum cost, the number of plans or any coverage limits in the contract.

Last year alone, Mr. Griffith’s insurance cost the Lake Forest schools and taxpayers $20,000. It is common practice for employees to bear some burden for the rising costs of health care, but Mr. Griffith pays zero dollars to care for himself and his own family-despite his extraordinary compensation. Considering he will be collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (retirement + annuity) of taxpayer money, why did the school board give taxpayer money away so excessively?

In addition, beginning November 1, 2015, the Board shall annually reimburse Mr. Griffith up to $300 per month for any retirement medical insurance or supplemental plan of his choice for up to ten years. Lake Forest schools employed Mr. Griffith as Superintendent. Once he retires, shouldn’t he be responsible for his own coverage like most other Americans when they reach retirement? This commitment seems to be an excessive, undue and an unnecessary burden on our taxpayers.

Life Insurance– The Board provides Mr. Griffith a term life insurance with a benefit of $1 million on his death. This policy continues into his retirement until his 65th birthday, five years from now. Once Mr. Griffith retires, do taxpayers owe him anything beyond his retirement package?

Automobile—As they would say on Let’s Make a Deal, what’s behind door number 3? Mr. Harry Griffith gets a car on the day he retires– a car that the district currently leases for him. Are the two Lake Forest School Boards forgetting that the car Mr. Griffith drives belongs to the Lake Forest Schools and our community of taxpayers? My dear readers, is it right to give a parting “gift” such as an automobile to a civic employee on retirement? Whatever happened to a gold watch? The similarity to the Highland Park Recreation Center scandal of last summer must have had little impact on our Board members.

Home Loan–$75,000 home loan completely forgiven.
This home loan was offered by the District 67 Board of Education to enable Mr. Griffith to purchase a home in Lake Forest, the community where he works.. When unfortunate personal matters required him to sell his Lake Forest house, year after year, the Board continued to forgive the loan even though he relocated to another community–Fort Sheridan. Taxpayers, why have the School Boards continued to forgive the loan even though Mr. Griffith failed to comply with the loan’s original intent?

A matter of trust.
During winter 2010, Mr. Griffith stated publicly in the local press and in a statement signed February 2010 that the School Boards had held administrative salaries flat for both District 67 and District 115 during 2008-09 and would continue to do so again for 2009-10. The Truth: Mr. Griffith received a 6 percent increase to his compensation package across the board for both years.

Source: GAZEBONEWS 2/10: “I know that in my case, I am paid above average for my peers, but each school board is paying far less in actual costs because my compensation is divided in half,” Griffith said. “They are paying less today for one superintendent than they did 10 years ago for two.”
Griffith said District 67 reduced its total staff last year by eight positions, two of which were full-time administrative positions. The board also agreed to freeze administrative salaries with the exception of retiring administrators. And he said that in 2010-11, the administration will lose one full-time position.”

The Facts: Mr. Griffith is not retiring until 2012 and had not announced retirement when he made this statement. Is this more double speak and clever answers from our Superintendent? Furthermore, ten years ago, the two superintendents were compensated as follows: John Lamberson made $178,600 and Harry Griffith made $159,500. Total Compensation was $338,100 ten years ago for 2 Superintendents. Compensation last year at the time of that quote was $348,500. So in fact, Lake Forest was paying more last year for Griffith alone than we were paying for 2 superintendents ten years ago. This year we are paying $364,861–in excess of what we paid for two.

Readers, when Mr. Griffith is asking for patience and sacrifice from his own workforce, shouldn’t he himself exhibit those same qualities? Our teachers are asked to make sacrifices so is it wise for Mr. Griffith to continue to prosper? However, the ultimate responsibility for the contract lies with the School Boards and their Presidents, who negotiated and signed these contracts and those before them. As part of my transparency initiative, I urge my fellow community members to ask questions about how taxpayer money is being spent by contacting those who sit on the board. You can attend the next monthly School Board meeting for:
District 67 on March 22nd or
District 115 on April 12th, at 7:00 p.m.
at the West Campus, 300 S. Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest,
to stay informed on these and other important issues.



Why Nancy Thorner Is a Proud Liberty Leader

by Brian Costin

Recently, we asked some of our more active Liberty Leaders to let us know what they are up to and what has made them successful in their efforts to promote liberty around the State of Illinois. If you would like to share your story please email me at

Below is a Nancy Thorner’s story of why she is a Liberty Leader for the Illinois Policy Institute.

How and Why I Remain a Proud and Dedicated Liberty Leader
Nancy J. Thorner, Lake Bluff

I first became involved with the Illinois Policy Institute and eagerly signed on to become a citizen Liberty Leader, fervently believing in its stated mission of “free market principles and liberty-based public policy initiatives for a better Illinois” when Richard Lorenc was the Director Outreach prior to Brian Costin assuming the role in January of 2010.

The role of Liberty Leader was a perfect fit for me. Years before joining the Liberty Leader program, I had an insatiable inner drive to take stands on issues. I found I could no longer enjoy the luxury of sitting back and watching events unfold before me which were deemed intolerable to me as a citizen and to the public at large.

And write I did! Countless Letters to the Editor were submitted on a multitude of issues, and are still being published, in Chicagland newspapers including the the “Chicago Tribune,” the “Trib Local;” the “Madison/St. Clair Record;” “Illinois Review;” “Champion News;” “GOPILLINOIS;” the “American Thinker;” “Freedom Pub” at the Heartland Institute; and my own local Pioneer Press publication, the “Lake Forester.”

As I became more involved with the Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Leader Program, I became interested in issues that were important to the Institute, such as education, health care, spotlighting government spending, addressing Illinois’s state pension system, its economic reform agenda to get Illinois back on track, and transparency or letting “the sunshine in.”

Letters written in empathy with the Illinois Policy Institute followed and can be noted by checking my blog: In the last few months I’ve been concentrating much of my time and effort on what Rod Adams at his Atomic Insights blog has called a one woman’s crusade.

Countless letters have been written to state legislators, with very few responses back, indicating interest at the fate determined for Zion by Exelon Corporation when Zion was prematurely shut down in 1998 and kept closed until Zion Solutions was given the contract by Exelon to dismantle Zion in September of last year. With the acceleration of the price of electricity, my mission is to spread the word that Zion, with its potential 2100 MW’s of clean, cheap, and green energy, should be refurbished and restarted.

Perhaps my most important mission so far as a Liberty Leader is my continuing investigation into the Lake Forest School Districts #67 & #115. My interest in looking at transparency in my own local Lake Forest School Districts was sparked upon hearing about the Illinois Policy Institute’s “10-point Transparency Project.”

So far I have written two article about “the right for the pubic to know information,” using facts obtained after sifting through countless FOIA responses.

Posted at TribLocal are two articles with more to follow: “Superintendent’s Harry Griffith’s lavish salary” and  “Lake Forest School chief’s extravagant compensation exceeds governor” 

Why do I keep writing as I do which consumes so much of my time? Not only do I find writing an enjoyable experience, finding pleasure as I do in the act of writing, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge my written thoughts are perhaps making a positive impact upon those who read them.

In regard to the Illinois Policy Institute, the organization is one that I can call my friend in many ways. As such I remain a proud and loyal member of the Illinois Policy Institute whenever duty calls.


A Thank You From A Grateful, Dedicated and Frequent Voice of the People letter writer

On Tuesday, March 8, I was invited by Dodie Hofstetter, Voice of the people editor at the Chicago Tribune, to attend a community luncheon.  The March 8th luncheon was attended by ten other invited frequent letter writers as a way for the Tribune to express appreciation. The luncheon was held at Tribune Tower, 435 N. Avenue.  It was my pleasure to be able to meet and speak with Tribune staff from across the Tribune newsroom. 

As co-host Dodie Hofstetter noted in her introductory remarks, journalists often get their best story ideas ideas from people in the community through the letters they write.  Ms. Hofstetter explained how she reads all our letters, but because of the volume of letters received at the Tribune, only a limited number of the letters we submit can be published.  Ms. Hofstetter often conveys to the Chicago Tribune editorial board what stories are on the minds of the people through the letters she receives. 

It was with pride that Dodie Hofstetter announced that tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9, would be her 30th-year anniversary at the Tribune and also the birthday of Bruce Dold, Editorial Page editor, who took the time from his busy schedule to attend the luncheon.  Dodie Hofstetter is wished many more years as Voice of the people editor, a job she spoke of loving more than any other job in her past because she gets to read the shared thoughts of many people through their letters.

The luncheon was informal, but the setting was spectacular.  High up in Tribune Tower it was possible to see the hustle and bustle of traffic below and out beyond to Lake Michigan.  There was even a telescope set up in the outer area of the lunch room to zero in on objects of interest.  Had it been summertime, I would have opted for watch sailboats skim over Lake Michigan.

There was a nice mix of journalists and invited letter writers at each of three tables.  I found myself at a table with Steve Chapman, columnist/ Editorial member, and two young Chicago Tribune interns, Dan Waters, Editorial Board intern, and Meg Crepeau, Editorial board coordinator.  I was extremely impressed with both young interns, which gave me hope that there is a new crop of bright, dedicated and enthusiastic journalists being groomed for bright journalistic futures, maybe even at the Tribune?  I especially enjoyed my lengthy conversation with intern Dan Waters who sat next to me.

I must admit that I’ve had disagreements from time to time with columnist Steve Chapman, and others at the Tribune, over his published views.  Chapman’s libertarian philosophy doesn’t always jive with my conservative Republican views.  Nevertheless, the both of us mutually concluded some time ago that disagreeing in an amiable way was the path to take. 

Especially fun and informative was when each participant, including Tribune staff, was asked to stand up and introduce herself/himself, after which need-to-know information was shared.  Also encouraged was the sharing of ideas about ways to improve the Tribune’s coverage. So many of the guest letter writers were retired.  Boredom after retirement or time on their hands were stated as reasons which gave rise to their writing.

Because of my background in music, having two degrees in music education, I found a shared camaraderie with James Janega who is the Trib Nation manager.  Mr. Janega co-hosted the luncheon with Dodie Hofstetter.  How surprised I was when James described his involvement with music while attending New Trier High School.  James then went on to NIU where he studied music for two years, majoring in clarinet and saxophone and Jazz Studies, before switching over to journalism.  It was good to hear that James still loves music, as does his entire family, and that he hasn’t stopped making music.

Perhaps it is my past experience in teaching public music that has given me the tools needed to write, for writing does take time, dedication and understanding of situations and people that one gains through a lifetime of experiences.

Now a senior citizen, writing has become an essential and an enjoyable part of my life.  Kudos to the Chicago Tribune for giving citizen and non-professional writers like me an opportunity to vent our feelings and for letting  us know that we are appreciated. 

The Tribune need not fear that I will cease to submit letters whenever something I read or hear transmits a compelling signal within me that leaves me with no choice but to allow my creativity to flow through words which are then transformed into letters and articles.

Rod Adam posts almost daily at Atomic
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exelon CEO Thinks Electricity is Cheap and Clean Enough Already – Sees No Need to Encourage New Supply by Rod Adams published a Dow Jones news wire story about a recent talk given by John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, to the American Enterprise Institute. The article headline is Exelon CEO: No New US Laws Needed To Shift To Cleaner Energy, and indicates a rather significant course change for a man who has been one of the most active CEOs in Washington politics for the past several years. Though he has worked diligently for nearly ten years to convince Congress to pass a cap and trade bill – while telling investors how the bill would add close to a billion dollars per year in revenue for his nearly emission free company – he now believes that the market is doing just fine. Here is a quote:

“Unlike most people who come to Washington, in my post-carbon-bandit outfit, I am not here to ask Congress for anything; in fact, I’m asking that Congress do nothing,” Rowe said during a speech Tuesday morning at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

“Electricity,” he said, “like horse racing, gambling and prostitution in Nevada is too much fun to leave to the market.” But Rowe said government mandates should broadly frame the markets and leave the actual outcomes (to) commerce. Natural gas has already “jumpstarted” the U.S.’s transition to cleaner energy and will continue to drive it.

I recognize that Mr. Rowe was just trying to be amusing, but I find it incredible that a man in charge of one of the largest electric power generating companies in the United States puts his vital product in the same category as vices that are not tools for any other productive enterprise in the country. Electricity is too important to leave to the market. People who are only motivated by short term gains make really lousy decisions about systems that require the ability to focus on both the here and now and the ability to maintain a vision for the future.

Despite the fact that Rowe is often touted as a leader in the nuclear industry and runs a company that is a prominent member of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the industry’s primary trade and lobby group, he came down in strong opposition to strengthening the loan guarantee program, one of its primary legislative goals.

Rowe said that Congress should not expand the nuclear loan-guarantee program and should maintain it at $18.5 billion.

I am positive that he will be quoted and re-quoted by the professional opposition to nuclear energy. They love it when someone who is supposedly an industry insider indicates his reluctance to build new facilities. His opposition to increasing the authorized size of the loan guarantee program might confuse some people, but it makes more sense if you understand how markets work. Rowe’s company is not in line for any loan guarantees to assist new plant construction because he has determined that there is already too much supply in the market.

The sufficient supply of electricity is driving down prices and hurting his company’s profits since its operating costs have already been driven down as low as reasonably achievable by cutting staff.

New natural-gas plants or plants converted from coal to gas are the cheapest option for producing cleaner megawatts of energy, Rowe said. Building new nuclear plants, or those involving carbon capture and sequestration “are not economic” because of low gas prices, excess generating capacity and low growth in demand, he said. Nor are wind and solar options economic, he said. All these options cost more than $100 a megwatt hour of energy versus $70 a megawatt hour for gas, Rowe said.
(Emphasis added.)

Zion Nuclear Power Plant

In fact, Rowe is so convinced that there is too much supply that he is doing just the opposite of building new plants. His company is actively destroying the 2100 MWe Zion Nuclear Power Plant, an emission free power source that could be restored at a price that is about 20% of the price of building a new plant with similar capacity.

Rowe and his team are so focused on limiting the supply of electricity to drive up prices and near term profit margins that they are ignoring their fiduciary responsibility to long term shareholders. They are actively destroying an asset based on old financial models without recognizing a substantial future opportunity. In coming years, energy production systems that can qualify as “clean” might be even more highly valued if they can meet the standards that are being proposed. Those standards cast a wider net and recognize the contributions of various forms of technology that can all substantially reduce emissions. Many observers believe that the broader classification is more politically acceptable and might even be able to be passed into law.

Even though they are currently helping to avoid the dumping of more than 650 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year, existing US nuclear plants will not qualify for the standard because they would not reduce the US’s overall emission of CO2 – their clean production is already included in our total. However, “qualified nuclear energy” is a different story.

Under the title of Federal Clean Energy Standard that was proposed in the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2010, “qualified nuclear energy” is defined as “energy from a nuclear generating unit placed in service on or after the date of enactment of this section.”

Since Zion was shutdown in 1998 and its operating license was returned to the NRC, it is impossible to classify it as a nuclear plant that is in service today. A restored and relicensed Zion Nuclear Power Plant would would certainly “be placed into service” after the passage of the act and meet the definition of “qualified nuclear energy”. The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2010 was never passed, but who knows what the future will bring? There is no rush and no regulatory requirement that forces Exelon to destroy Zion now, especially when a little patience might bring some significant long-term rewards.

In my correspondence with representatives of the company, Exelon continues to maintain that the plant restoration is “not economical” and also implies that there is no precedent for getting it relicensed. On February 22, 2011, the NRC hosted a public meeting on the Zion Decommissioning Project to reassure the public that the process would be done safely. Nancy Thorner, the lady leading a one woman crusade to restore the plant, attended the meeting and took the opportunity to speak directly to NRC employees.

The employees she spoke to carefully pointed out that the decision to decommission the plant was Exelon’s, not the NRC’s. Their role in the process is to ensure that the decommissioning is done safely. In response to a question about the feasibility of obtaining a new license, if the plant was restored, the regulator acknowledged that the agency could allow a refurbished Zion to be relicensed, “with the condition that all safety measures would first be met”.

Even without my understanding of the proposed Clean Energy Standard, I have long favored a serious reevaluation of the proprietary economic model that has been used to justify the destruction of what could be a valuable, productive asset. The idea that a well-built nuclear energy facility should be taken apart after just 22 years of operation offends the conservation philosophy of “waste not, want not” that was instilled by my Depression Era parents.

Knowing that the primary reason it was shut down in the first place was to establish management dominance over a recalcitrant union offends the liberal, worker supportive philosophy that I developed during many years of working with sailors and manufacturing employees along with remembering the influence of my mother, aunts and uncles who were all public school teachers and members of the teacher’s union.

Knowing that Zion remains shutdown because the plant owner has determined that selling affordable, emission free electricity is only as valuable to society as “horse racing, gambling and prostitution in Nevada” and should just be a fun, money-making venture simply offends me.

Lake Forest School Chief Harry Griffith's Extravagant Compensation Exceeds Governor

Not only is Mr. Griffith the #2 highest paid Superintendent in the State of Illinois in cash compensation, he has an extravagant benefit package to match.

Harry Griffith certainly knows how to negotiate a contract. On top of his lavish cash compensation, Griffith has a contract to receive benefits and perquisites bringing his total compensation for the 2010-11 school year to over $430,000 Griffith oversees 3,800 students in the 5 schools of Lake Forest Districts 67 and 115. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Harry Griffith’s compensation is more than the Naperville Superintendent who oversees 22 schools and 18,000 students. His compensation package is also more than the Chicago and Milwaukee school chiefs, AND the governor of Illinois!

Not only is Mr. Griffith the #2 highest paid Superintendent in the State of Illinois right now in terms of cash compensation, he has an extravagant benefit package to match. The specific provisions as detailed in Griffith’s employment contract are outlined below:

Annual Bonus: Harry Griffith’s Superintendent contract has a provision that gives the two Lake Forest Boards of Education the sole discretion to pay the Superintendent a bonus of any amount, at any time for fulfilling the goals and indicators set out at the beginning of the year. Griffith has received bonuses every year of up to $19,000. What civil servant and public official is entitled to bonuses in the first place and just for doing their job?

Teacher’s Pensions: Beyond the usual state mandated teacher’s pension contribution, Mr. Griffith negotiated to have an additional $30,000 annually to be contributed on his behalf into the annual Teacher Retirement System, commensurate with the generous salary he receives. As a result he will receive upwards of $260,000 every year of his life from the state pension program once he retires next year.

Annuity: On top of the very generous teacher pension contribution the Boards make in full on Griffith’s behalf, the Boards also pay an annual contribution of $25,000 per year to an annuity or deferred compensation plan to augment the teacher retirement fund. Is the annual $260,000 plus that Griffith will receive from the State pension system after he retires not enough?

Health/Dental Insurance:  Griffith and immediate family get free health and dental coverage totaling about $20,000 per year. Griffith makes no contribution of any kind himself, while teachers are asked to pay between 26% and 78% of the total cost for their health and dental insurance.

Life Insurance: The Board provides Griffith a term life insurance policy with a death benefit of $1 million which Griffith himself makes no contribution toward.

Vacation/Sick: Griffith’s contract provides 27 days of vacation PLUS regular holidays afforded other employees—that’s over six weeks of vacation time.  He receives 13 sick days — almost 3 weeks over six weeks of vacation time. He receives 13 sick days –almost— which accumulate and are carried forward from year to year. If Griffith did not take any sick time during his tenure in Lake Forest, he would have accumulated one full year of paid sick leave by next year.

Purchase of Service Credits: Griffith worked in the Texas school system before coming to Illinois. The credits he accumulated in the Texas teacher retirement system were allegedly purchased by Lake Forest for $19,000, according to sources at the Family Taxpayers Organization.

House Loan: When moving from Texas, the District 67 Board agreed to loan Griffith $75,000 to purchase a home in Lake Forest. The Board of Education has “forgiven” or written off increments over the last 10 years with the final “write-off” of $12,500 during the current 2010-11 school year, one year prior to Griffith’s retirement. Griffith sold his Lake Forest home and now has a residence in Highwood and yet the loan is still being forgiven by the Board.

Car/Travel: The Board provides Superintendent Griffith with a paid automobile lease for a car of his choice. Not only does he get a free car, all gasoline purchased in Lake Forest is free of charge no matter the purpose or destination—business or personal. All maintenance of this car and related insurance is provided by the school district and taxpayers of Lake Forest.  Cost of gasoline, maintenance and insurance benefits Griffith receives are not included in the compensation figures above.

Evaluations: Every year, the Boards evaluate Mr. Griffith based on his progress in achieving “District Goals” as set forth each year by the Board of Education. Interestingly, when circumstances beyond anyone’s control prevent attainment of his goals, the contract permits the Board and Griffith to delete or modify such goals.  If we can be this lenient in our expectations of our school chief, what would happen if we set the same expectations in the academic performance of our students?

These “performance” goals are apparently the same annual Board of Education Goals established each Spring. Since the goals are reviewed as part of Griffith’s annual performance appraisal, the community is NOT privy to a report on the progress or success of the schools because this review falls under the protected confidentiality of personnel matters. Although this assessment relates to the substantial business and function of our schools, by agreeing to this term, the Board of Education is not acting in the best interests of the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff community which calls into question transparency at its most basic level.

This is the second installment in a series of articles to heighten public awareness of the activity of the Lake Forest Boards of Education. To read installment 1, click on this link:

As a Liberty Leader at the Illinois Policy Institute, I am following through with the state-wide transparency project of opening up government to allow the sunshine in. As such I have opted to look at the issue of transparency in my own local Lake Forest School Districts 67 & 115.

Source: District 115 and 67 websites– http://www.lfhsorg/board/sb2270.html and and Performance Based Superintendent’s Contract, Harry D. Griffith, 2010 through 2012.

To Members of the Senate Energy Committee in  97th General Assembly:

The Zion Plant is a valuable energy producing asset here in Illinois, yet few of you have indicated any interest in saving the plant from its planned decommissioning fate by Exelon Corporation in its transfer of The Zion Station and its licenses to Zion Solutions, a subsidiary of Energy Solutions out of Utah.

It is important that you look into the facts surrounding The Zion Dual Nuclear Plant with its capability of producing a massive 2,100 MW’s of electricity if the plant were refurbished and brought up to operating standards as determined by the NRC.   

The information below will get you up-to-speed about The Zion Station and will educate you about the importance of nuclear power here in Illinois in the following ways: 1) How the U.S. is losing the nuclear power race, 2) how many questions remain unanswered about Zion from its initial closing in 1998 until now, 3) and how spent nuclear fuel is anything but waste.

As time is an issue, it is vital that action be taken now to save The Zion Station.  It would be foolish to waste Zion which could become the cheapest source of a significant quantity of reliable, green and qualified clean energy available in the U.S. 

Number of the Week:  According to the European Nuclear Society, there are 65 nuclear reactors under construction world-wide. China has 27 under construction (the World Nuclear Association now reports more than 25), The Russian Federation 11, India 5, Republic of Korea 5, Bulgaria, Taiwan, Japan, Slovak Republic, Ukraine have 2 each, Argentina, Brazil, Finland, France, Iran, Pakistan, and US have 1 each. Please see article under “Energy Issues.” That Japan, the only country to experience the hostile use of nuclear weapons, and that the Ukraine, the country that experienced the greatest nuclear plant disaster, are building nuclear reactors reveals the extent to which nuclear fears control policies in other countries.
Readers in Australia, UK, US may wish to alert their legislators that their countries are losing the nuclear power race with Bulgaria and the Slovak Republic!
“Zion’s dismantling demands legislative and citizen concern”  –  Nancy J. Thorner

As one of a handful of private citizens who took the time to attend a February 22nd. 1:00 p.m. hearing hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at IL Beach Resort and Conference Center near Zion to discuss the Dual Zion Nuclear Station Decommissioning Project, I read with interest the published articles by Long Hwa-Shu in the Lake County New-Sun on Thursday, February 24 and in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday, Feb. 27:  “10-year process for nuke plant cleanup.” 

As noted in Long Hwa-Shu’s article, Zion Solutions, a subsidiary of the Utah-based Energy Solutions, was given the contract to dismantle The Zion Station last September by Exelon Corporation.  Shut down back in 1998, Exelon’s decision for wasting Zion, and keeping it closed throughout the years, has remained the same.  It was a financially-based decision.

For me the NRC Zion Public meeting on Feb. 21st was a glorified PR stunt to pacify and ensure the public that the dismantling would be done in a safe manner.  Most likely the NRC will follow through with its mission of inspecting the work done by Zion Solutions for any dereliction of safety measure that are in place.

Most unsettling was that NRC representatives did not respond to my questions regarding the Zion Dual Plant, yet it is unrealistic to believe that Exelon, Zion Solutions and the NRC representatives are not working together.  A NRC representative, however, did admit that although never done before, Zion could be reopened for operation if refurbished and brought up-to-date by one wiling to purchase Zion from Zion Solution, on condition that all safety measures were met.  It is well known that the Tennessee Valley Authority successfully restarted a large mothballed nuclear power plant that saved consumers hundreds of dollars per year in electric costs under the watchful eye of the NRC. 

These questions about The Zion Station demand answers:

1.  Since it takes many years to satisfy the surrounding population, the seismic requirements, the lawyers, the environmentalists, etc. before one shovel of dirt is moved to begin excavation for a new Nuclear Plant, why tear down The Zion Plant?  It has already been paid for by rate payers along with its $1 billion decommissioning trust fund.

2.  Why didn’t Exelon Corporation attempt to sell the Zion Plant to another party if Exelon found Zion unprofitable to operate?

3.  Why does Exelon Corporation refuse to release its financial calculations as to why the decision was made to shutter The Zion Station in 1998 and then keeping it shuttered, after further audits were done, until the dual Zion Nuclear Plant was transferred to Zion Solutions for decommissioning in 2010?

4.  If considered feasible to construct the Dual Zion Plant, which was fully paid by rate-payers, why after only 24 years and 7 months of  commercial operation for the First Unit and 24 years and 7 months for Unit 2 did Exelon make the decision that both units were no longer needed?  Although the 40-year operational licenses were due to expire in 2012 and 2013, leaving each unit less than 15 years of remaining commercial operation in which to recover the investment required for repair, licenses are now routinely extended by the NRC for an additional 30 years of operation.

5.  What is the hurry to dismantle the two nuclear reactors when up to 60 years is permitted?  A 10-year time frame is way too optimistic for a first-time project of a size never before attempted.

6.  Who is going to look after the interests of the ratepayers to make sure the decommissioning is done at the lowest possible cost in order to protect the ratepayer’s interest in residual (if any) in the decommissioning fund?  Was informed it was not the role of the NRC.  Safety is its only concern. 

7.  Is there a “watch dog” group to observe that the Decommissioning Trust Fund will be spent prudently?  Was informed there is not a “watch dog” group to keep tabs on the fund.

8.  How much of Zion’s 257-acre land front site will be unrestricted and opened to the public when decommissioning is completed?  The representative from Zion Solutions was unable to give me a ball park figure. 

9.  What is the relationship between Commonwealth Edison Company and Exelon Corporation?   Aren’t the two really the same entity as Commonwealth Edison has not split?  There is but one symbol on the NYSE for both Commonwealth Edison and Exelon Corporation.

Where is citizen concern over the wasting of Zion?  It wasn’t apparent at the NRC Zion meetings given the meager attendance at the two Feb. 22nd hearings, less than a handful at each.

The cost and physical limitations of solar and wind are prohibitive and impractical for mass production of energy.  Nuclear is cheap and also serves as an economic stimulus.  When the Zion Plant was closed, the economic situation in Zion went from good to bad. Since then Zion has struggled with budgetary shortfalls.  

The growth in overall U.S. electricity demand is expected to increase by as much as 30 percent over the next 25 years.  Citizens should be outraged and demand answers from their elected representatives, while at the same time advocating to save Zion!

It is insane to waste 2100 MW’s of energy that a refurbished Zion Plant could provide.  Nuclear Plants produce zero emissions of any harmful greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides.  It is a clean energy which gives the biggest bang for the buck. 


SPENT FUEL IS ANYTHING BUT WASTE – ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2011) — Failure to pursue a program for recycling spent nuclear fuel has put the U.S. far behind other countries and represents a missed opportunity to enhance the nation’s energy security and influence other countries, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Dale Klein, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Texas System, said largely unfounded concerns and “long-held myths” about the reprocessing of spent fuel have prevented the U.S. from tapping into an extremely valuable resource.

Spent nuclear fuel, which includes some plutonium, often is inaccurately referred to as waste, Klein said.

“It is not waste,” he said. “The waste is in our failure to tap into this valuable and abundant domestic source of clean energy in a systematic way. That’s something we can ill-afford to do.”

Klein, who also serves as an associate director at UT Austin’s Energy Institute, made his remarks February 20 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Compared to other fuels used in the production of electricity, the energy density of uranium is remarkable, Klein said, noting that 95 percent of the energy value in a bundle of spent nuclear fuel rods remains available to be re-used.

“The once-through nuclear fuel cycle, which is our practice in the U.S., is an enormous waste of potential energy,” he said.

Critics cite the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation as the biggest reason to oppose recycling. But such concerns are largely unfounded, Klein said.

“While it is true that the plutonium in recycled nuclear fuel is fissionable, no country in the world has ever made a nuclear weapon out of low-grade plutonium from recycled high burn-up nuclear fuel,” he said. “It just doesn’t work for a strategic or a tactical nuclear weapon.”

While the U.S. has sat on the sidelines, other countries, including France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, and China have dedicated significant resources toward their reprocessing programs, Klein added.

“U.S. leadership in this area has been lost, and the underlying technological capability and intellectual capital needed to compete internationally have diminished to near irrelevance.”

Reprocessing not only recovers significant energy value from spent fuel, it substantially reduces the volume and radiotoxicity of high-level nuclear waste.

Today, U.S. utilities operating nuclear power plants continue to store spent nuclear fuel rods on site in pools of water, before eventually moving them to dry cask storage. And while there is some debate over whether the casks should be located in one central storage site, the practice is widely accepted as safe and secure.

“That’s another myth — that we don’t know how to safely store nuclear spent fuel,” Klein said.

Establishing a program to recycle nuclear fuel will require a public-private partnership that operates outside normal Congressional appropriations and has a charter to manage the fuel over a period of decades, he asserted.

The government’s Blue Ribbon Commission, chartered by the Department of Energy, is charged with making recommendations for the safe, long-term management of spent fuel. The 15-member commission is to issue a draft report this summer, with a final report to be completed in January 2012.

“At a time when we are seeking ways to limit carbon emissions from the generation of electricity, the recycling of spent nuclear fuel would appear to be a particularly good fit.”