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Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up … to City of East Moline for its greater downtown revitalization plan, which is aimed at creating a regional destination for commerce, entertainment and living in the city, unifying the downtown and the Rust Belt and Bend districts. It’s unfortunate the U.S. Department of Transportation did not award the city the $25 million grant it sought to carry out the plan, but a city official tells us they intend to try again — for this and other funding options.

If you haven’t seen the plan, we’d encourage Quad-Citians to go the city’s website and check it out. It would construct a series of streetscapes, infrastructure improvements and upgraded crossings that would connect parts of the greater downtown area that are beginning to spring back to life with new development.

The city’s grant application designated a local match of about $11.7 million, bringing the total cost to just over $36 million.

This plan has so much potential to transform an area that still is suffering from the manufacturing fallout of the 1980s and '90s; it would incentivize private interest and provide for greater connectivity to this part of the Quad-Cities via rail, boat, pedestrian, bicycle and bus traffic.

Even though the Department of Transportation did not have the plan on its grant list Wednesday, we wish the city well in continuing to seek funding. This is a plan that shouldn’t just sit on a shelf.

Thumbs Down … to the Trump administration’s mangling of expectations for a coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Congress this week it would be the middle of next summer before a vaccine would be widely available. Later that day, the White House and President Trump contradicted him.

The president said Redfield misspoke, and later the CDC walked back Redfield’s comments, saying he was referring to when immunizations would be completed.

Trump also said vaccinations could be ready in October, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infections disease expert, said while that time frame is “conceivable” it’s not likely.

Frankly, the administration’s messaging on this issue has been a muddle. And the back and forth between the White House and CDC this week made matters worse.

The safe development of a vaccine and its swift, effective distribution is of vital interest to hundreds of millions of Americans, who have lived with the threat of the coronavirus for six months now. No matter what you think of the motives behind the shifting expectations, it's clear the administration has confused the public on what to expect.

Thumbs Up … to the NEST Café in Rock Island and Heidi Huiskamp Collins, a longtime local investment lead and CEO of Huiskamp Collins Investment. Huiskamp Collins made a $75,000 gift to the nonprofit, pay-what-you-can restaurant whose initials stand for Nourish Everyone Sustainably Together.

As columnist John Marx wrote this week, "NEST Cafe's mission, according to founder and director Laura Mahn, is to nourish bodies and community by providing delicious, sustainably sourced food (whenever available) to all who enter, regardless of their means.”

The $75,000 gift will help greatly the café’s planned opening next spring in the west wing of the old Seaford Clothing plant, which already is home to The House Church and the Closet-to-Closet clothing outlet.

Mahn has been testing the concept over the past several months and has received a lot of encouragement from others, including from Jerry Jones at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

Mahn told Marx there is a lot of work to be done, but she’s confident they’ll get there.

We are certainly hopeful, too. As Mahn put it so well, "this concept has a place in our community."

Thumbs Up... to the continued drop in the unemployment rate in Iowa and Illinois. The states reported this week their August jobless rates were 6% and 11%, respectively.

Both are down from the month before, and markedly lower than they were during the shutdown this spring.

That's good news, but as we've previously tried to make clear, these jobless rates are still unacceptably high. If you factor in those who have dropped out of the labor force, the number who are idled is even worse than it appears. Some economists believe the real jobless rate in the U.S. may be 11%, not the official rate of 8.4%.

This is worth repeating because Congress and the White House can't seem to get their act together to help people who are hurting. Just this week it was reported that 860,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims the week before.

That's a stunning number. In early 2009, new jobless claims exceeded 620,000 and we were astounded then because they had hit a 26-year high.

Well, last week's claims exceeded that figure by more than 200,000. And it was the 26th consecutive week of hitting a pre-pandemic record.

Bottom line: Millions of Americans are experiencing economic pain and uncertainty and they aren't being heard.


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