THUMBS UP! To the city of Decatur’s Neighborhood Walk program. This is the second year that Decatur City Council members and representatives of various city departments have taken to the streets to connect with residents. It has turned out to be a valuable experience for all involved. After the most recent walk in the Larkdale subdivision, Councilman Jerry Dawson said nearly every neighborhood walk has allowed the city officials to hear concerns or issues of which they were previously unaware. “I’ve been on two of (the walks) where people came forward with issues and they were very frustrated, and I brought it to the city manager’s attention, and they were addressed,” Dawson said. “... I felt good about helping with their issues.”

THUMBS UP! To Central Illinois’ Lutheran Early Response Team, or LERT. After learning of the devastation wrought on Moore, Okla., by a tornado in May, Decatur’s Stephen Born decided to learn more about disaster response and how to lend a hand in times of great need. A member of Decatur’s Lutheran Missouri Synod community, he traveled to Chicago to earn his own certification for leading a local disaster response team. The LERT team is the result. Members are strictly unpaid volunteers older than 18. “This is largely a ministry of presence, because just being there to offer a listening ear or spiritual counsel can be quite valuable,” said the Rev. John Laux of Trinity Lutheran Church, who described the training as something that practically anyone could do to make his or her community a better place.

THUMBS DOWN! To Dennis Rodman and whatever it is he is trying to do in North Korea as a regular visitor to despot Kim Jong Un. Rodman, an NBA Hall of Famer and former player with Kim’s favorite Chicago Bulls, flew to Pyongyang recently, his second trip to see Kim, whom he has referred to as a “friend” and “an awesome kid.” Rodman is also planning another trip to bring some former NBA players with him. Rodman is undoubtedly well-intentioned, but perhaps a little naive about international politics. We hope his flirtation with diplomacy doesn’t cause harm for him or anyone else down the road.

THUMBS UP! To Charter for Compassion, which lives by the credo, “Let’s make the Golden Rule the rule and not the exception.” Members of the Decatur Initiative of the Charter for Compassion have been trying to encourage development of a local presence since the international movement gained a foothold here two years ago. Members of the Decatur Initiative belong to different faith backgrounds. “There’s an application that you make, and they want to see some kind of measurable change you are making,” Connie Requarth said. “You have to develop your own plan.” The Rev. Miley Palmer added, “It’s not enough to simply to say ‘I’m all for a compassionate community’ — we have to create ways for it to happen.” This is an initiative worthy of support from all sectors of Decatur and Central Illinois.

THUMBS UP! To the organizers and participants in the Cruise 11 to Remember 9/11, a custom car and motorcycle show where the proceeds are handed over to American Legion Post 105 so it can use the money to make veterans lives a little better. This is Cruise 11’s fifth year, and its keynote speaker in Decatur’s Central Park was going to be the Rev. B.G. Nevitt, the pastor of gtChurch, until his death in a motorcycle accident Aug. 17. Rather than try to replace him, Cruise 11 instead held a moment of silence for him. It was then announced that the 11-mile cruise will in future be called the B.G. Nevitt Yellow Ribbon Memorial Cruise, to applause from the crowd.

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