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Playbook for Carbondale’s gigabit future is launched

Leah Williams
Weekend Times

Civic leaders, residents and other community members toasted a plan Thursday at Carbondale Community Arts’ new gallery space that would involve what hopes to be the beginning of a revitalization plan to bring Carbondale into the future.

Carbondale Main Street, the city of Carbondale and Connect SI have collaborated on a revitalization plan that utilizes the city’s growing gigabit infrastructure. The “playbook” unveiled Thursday is the culmination of months of work and meetings and has been submitted in a nationwide contest for small towns and cities to champion for economic community development.

The playbook was created for the America’s Best Communities Prize Competition. The competition previously awarded Carbondale Main Street with $50,000, and that honor now places the not-for-profit organization in the next round. There will be a total of 15 communities selected in this current round, and each of those winners will win a total of $100,000.

Sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, the Weather Channel and CoBank, the contest continues until three grand prize champions have been selected. First place will win $3 million to execute its plan, while second and third will take home $2 million and $1 million respectively.

Steve Mitchell of Connect SI said much work had already been done before the advisory board began collecting information for the playbook. Mitchell also said the playbook is something that could be implemented regardless of how Carbondale performs in the ABC contest.  

“We were able to build on what was already done,” Mitchell said. “Even though we might not make it to the next level, we will not have lost. This is a working document. This is a call to action.”

Among the plans in the playbook is to increase Internet access to all citizens and visitors within the city. According to the playbook, “community collaboration, entrepreneurship and ultra high-speed Internet access should extend to all of Carbondale, particularly to small businesses, schools, community centers, start-up firms and the disadvantaged.”

Dave Sandel, president of Sandel and Associates, called the playbook a “community guide or a road map.” He also said the Internet provides that kind of promise today.

“If we step back and look at the past, say 1870, if we made a playbook then, it would be about how the trains exchange ideas, services and opportunities,” Sandel said.

Meghan Cole, executive director at Carbondale Main Street, told the crowd that everything is coming together to “future-proof” the city into the next phase of development.

“I feel like the stars are aligning for Carbondale,” Cole said.

Mike Brown, founder of Brainzooming, led the champagne toast at the unveiling party and welcomed the crowd to once again view Carbondale with “fresh eyes.” The next phase is to find members of the community — billed as champions — who are willing to work with others in implementing the playbook into practice.

“When it comes to enthusiasm, if nobody does anything about [those ideas], they just go away,” Brown said. “It’s an exciting time. It’s exciting for the people.”

Nolan Wright, a Carbondale resident, said he attended the gathering to learn more about what the future might look like for the city. He said he would like to see more inclusion of the arts scene.

“It’s been shocking to see how little visibility the artists have in Carbondale,” he said. “We have world-class art here. We have world-class artists here. And we have world-class art education here. And it is invisible.”

Carbondale Main Street should find out around Jan. 13 if it has been selected for the next round.

Bryant pushes to reopen IYC in Murphysboro

Weekend Times

Calling the Illinois prison system a “pressure cooker that’s ready to explode,” state Rep. Terri Bryant announced proposed legislation Thursday that would reopen the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro as an adult facility.

Speaking outside the locked gates of the shuttered facility, the Murphysboro Republican detailed legislation she has filed in the Illinois General Assembly to repurpose the facility into an adult correctional center. Former governor Pat Quinn closed the facility in 2013.

Bryant also has filed a related resolution to look further into the effectiveness of work camps on reducing inmate recidivism rates. She said she had several reasons for filing the dual measures.

“One is certainly to relieve the pressure valve we have in the Department of Corrections by reducing population within other facilities, but we also want to see a level of reduction in recidivism,” Bryant, a veteran employee of the Department of Corrections, told the assembled crowd. “We can do that very effectively with work camps, with work release centers, by teaching inmates vocations, by actually producing with them a productive citizen.”

Bryant said Rep. Brandon Phelps, a Democrat, is cosponsoring both measures. The bill to reopen the Illinois Youth Center is HB 4340. The work camp resolution is HJR 105.