We’re gonna try something new here — four mini-columns for the price of one. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before by countless other newspaper columnists, and those of you who are active online blog-readers ought to be familiar with the concept.

Rather than beat each one of these ideas into the ground once a week over the next month, I’ll try to be as concise as possible. And it’ll still cost less than a cup of coffee.

Fareway intersection

While driving from Fulton, Ill., to the company softball game at the Ericksen Community Center on Monday, I noticed a funny thing in the middle of the intersection of 13th Avenue North and 11th Street — a stop sign!

After lo these many years of public kvetching, the stop sign, warning signal and four-way flashing red lights finally are installed. I gladly pulled to a complete stop, watched a car headed east execute a nice left turn north onto 11th Street, looked both ways and proceeded west.

All I could think as I drove on was “Why did it take so long for us to get such a simple solution?” I’ll still lobby for a full traffic signal, even if the city has to pay every penny. But this first step in the process was long overdue and ought to be welcomed by all.

Major League Baseball

Speaking of sports involving four bases where my favorite team wears blue and loses all the time, I’ll segue from the Herald squad to the Chicago Cubs.

When news came down Monday that MLB had upheld Cubs catcher Michael Barrett’s 10-game suspension for sucker-punching White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, I added it to my long mental list of totally illogical acts baseball has thrust upon its fans.

Despite how clearly in the wrong Barrett was (and how much fun it was to see A.J. get decked) I have yet to find a reasonable explanation for why he got suspended for 10 games when Sammy Sosa sat just seven days for using a corked bat in 2003.

Randy Johnson just got five games for throwing at someone, which will cost him just one turn in the Yankees’ rotation. How is Sosa’s cheating less of a stain on the game than Barrett thumping on A.J.?

I understand MLB wants to deter other players from fighting, but doesn’t this send a message that certain forms of cheating — knowingly taking steps to unfairly affect the outcome of the game — are more acceptable than losing your temper?

My argument is not that Barrett should sit for less than 10 games. That’s fair at best. But Sosa should have gotten a month off or more, especially given his profile at the time of the incident. Contrite or not, steroids or not, that incident proved Sosa was willing to cheat to win.

And MLB thought a week off was an appropriate response. Hogwash.

Roger Stewart and eminent domain

Did everyone read the column on eminent domain penned by Sen. Roger Stewart, D-Preston, in Tuesday’s paper? Here’s the clip that got me steamed: “I cannot accept the use of eminent domain to take from one private person and give to another private, profit-seeking venture.”

I like Roger a lot, but that’s as big a line of bull as you’ll get from any politician. Stewart — who, to his credit, was acting at the request of his constituents — was one of the voices in the Senate calling for the new eminent domain law to be made effective in October instead of July 1. Why? Because people here told him the Archer Daniels Midland/Metabolix PHA plastics plant could be in jeopardy.

Yes, that plant represents an investment of $290 million with an annual payroll pegged at about $5.1 million. Those are great things. But anyone who has enough conviction to say “It is outrageous to think (private) property could be given to someone else to make a profit on a hotel, office building or health club” ought also to have enough conviction to specify that it is not outrageous if it happens before October.

Roger and I had this argument via telephone while he was in the Statehouse and we agreed to disagree. He’s in a very tough position as a Senator having to make people on both side of the issue happy. But now he finds himself at odds with the Democratic governor, while his Republican opponent, Clinton Mayor LaMetta Wynn, spoke in favor of Gov. Vilsack’s decision to veto the property rights bill. This will be interesting in November.

One final thought

We’ve had a lot of comments since the redesign launch on March 20 about the size of our print. Some things (photo captions, police and court reports) have been made larger to accommodate those concerns, as it should be.

But I want to assure everyone that our regular body copy — the exact type you are reading right now — has not changed at all. I invite anyone who wants real proof of this claim to come down here to look at a new paper and an old paper. A vast majority of our information is entered in this typeface, and we wanted to make sure it did not change.

But three months later, we can’t convince some people it hasn’t. This is the best I can do.

Thanks for your time today. See you next week with just one topic, I promise.

Scott T. Holland’s column appears every Wednesday in the Clinton Herald. His e-mail address is scottholland@clintonherald.com.

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