A Publication of WTVP

A Surprising Deterrent
A recent study reported that cars painted bright or unusual colors are much less likely to be stolen than cars with common shades like black, silver or grey. Car thieves, it seems, do their research and determine how much they would be able to sell a particular vehicle for if they were to acquire it. Turns out there’s not much of a market for yellow or pink cars. So, “if you’re looking to keep your car out of the hands of thieves,” suggests an article from The Huffington Post, “try getting a paint job.”

Top Baby Names recently issued its annual list of the most popular baby names of 2010, with Sophia and Aidan at the top of the list. Aidan is a perennial favorite, having topped the list since 2003, but this is the first year that Sophia has been No. 1. According to site co-founder Jennifer Moss, everything from celebrity babies to popular literature helps to shape these trends. A complete list of 2010’s top 100 baby names and more can be found at

New Year, Less Junk
The holidays can be a lot of fun,  but it often means an overload of “stuff.” In addition to presents, you probably received more catalogs in the past month than you did all year. Those pesky envelopes that congratulate you for being pre-approved for yet another credit card probably increased as well. If you’re tired of the junk piling up, here are some sites you can visit to remove your address from some of the peskiest mailing lists, courtesy of

Smarter Than an Economist!

Certified Turnaround Professional Renee Fellman is an “ideas person.” Back in May 2009, her idea was for a contest to see if any of her blog readers were “smarter than an economist” and could correctly predict when the economy would turn around.

Entrants were asked to determine in which quarter the seasonally adjusted annual rate of real U.S. gross domestic product would increase by at least two percent from the previous quarter, and the month in which the seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate would be the same or less than the same month in a previous year.

One of the 130 entrants and two winners was Jeff Smith of Peoria. In the months following his layoff from Caterpillar in 2009, Smith spent a lot of time online searching for work. He came across Fellman’s contest and “felt confident I could predict the future as well as an economist, since many of them were espousing the idea that this would be a short recession. I was not so sanguine.

“I saw no reason to expect the uncertainty concerning taxes, healthcare and government spending/economic policy to end,” he continued. “The cause of the recession was excessive borrowing for risky real estate mortgages and speculation and derivatives based upon those mortgages. This dried up the investment market; even continuation loans for normal business were hard to get. Nothing the government was doing was alleviating that uncertainty.”

After giving it an hour of thought, he predicted that the recession would bottom out in the third quarter of 2009 and the unemployment rate would decrease when summer jobs opened up in June 2010.

There was a slight problem when the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis changed the way it calculated GDP, which led to two correct answers, so Fellman decided to award both Smith and Gary Ritner of Bellevue, Washington, prizes of $1,000.

Smith was rehired at Caterpillar after a year’s layoff, and currently serves as the Enterprise Cost Reduction Project Manager for Global Purchasing, running projects to move parts from one supplier to another for cost savings.   

A More Visitable World: Steps to Achieving Universal Home Access
by Dassie Rice

By 2050, 21 percent of households will face home access issues dealing with physical limitation. Along with a growing elderly population, this means there will be 21 million non-institutionalized people living with disabilities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition, the Journal of the American Planning Association says 25 to 60 percent of all new houses will have a resident with a long-term or severe mobility impairment over the lifetime of the house. Unfortunately, an estimated 95 percent of new houses do not have fundamental accessibility features.

“Basic access not only affects those with disabilities, but also those who wish to have disabled or elderly people visit their home,” says Melody Reynolds, director of Advocates for Access, a local nonprofit organization promoting independence for disabled individuals. “Building a house to be visitable also allows residents to stay in their homes as they grow older.”

A term that developed on the home construction front, “visitability” includes:

“One of the solutions to cut rehab costs is to position the house on a lot with the zero-step entrance in mind,” says Trevor Holmes, vice president of Becker Construction Company. This precautionary step only costs $100 to $200. For pre-existing homes, a zero-step addition would cost an average of $3,300—significantly more than initially constructing a zero-step entrance.

Adding square footage is not necessary to create accessible passageways. It costs approximately $20 per home (10 doors) to adjust the doorways to the 32 inches needed for wheelchair access.

Only two inches wider than traditionally designed frames, the cost of retrofitting doorframes is about $700 for each interior doorway. “It’s an affordable design approach that supports lifestyle changes and enhances the resale value,” says Holmes. “It also spares homeowners expenses later.”

Not everyone is building a new home, but there are other things advocates of visitability can do to raise awareness. From supplying a local builder with visitability information to encouraging a friend to consider visitability when buying a new house—every contribution to the movement helps. “It requires the effort of thousands of participants to gradually reshape how homes are built in hopes of creating accessibility and independence for all,” says Reynolds.

A native Peorian, Marilyn Voss Leyland served as president of the Peoria Historical Society from 2008 to 2010 and continues on the board as past president. She and her husband, John, are certified PHS guides for the CityLink History Trolleys as well as for custom tours. As a public affairs representative at Caterpillar, she was among the original group meeting to plan the new regional museum.

Favorite Historical Place 
Springdale Cemetery, for its natural beauty as well as the artistry of the memorials, plus the more than 78,000 people and the history they embody. You can learn some of the stories on the Peoria Historical Society’s Springdale trolley tour and from the Prairie Folklore Theatre’s fall walks.

Favorite Historical Story
As told by a Boston newspaper reporter traveling through Peoria in 1847 with Abraham Lincoln: After they had crossed the river from Peoria and ascended the hill on their way to Springfield, they paused and looked back to admire the city. It’s still a beautiful view, especially on a crisp, winter evening with snow on the ground.

Favorite Fact
The Pettengill-Morron House on Moss Avenue was the location for the marriage of actor Jack Lemmon to Peorian Cynthia Stone. My dad was their photographer, and frequently told the story when we passed the house.

Favorite Fact 
Soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 received land along Moss Avenue, including the Pettengill property, (and probably in other areas of Peoria) as payment from the U.S. government. The year 2012 will mark the 200th anniversary of that war, which included the burning of French Peoria and several nearby Indian villages.

Favorite Fact  
Even though Judge John Flanagan of PHS’s Flanagan House never married, he left a legacy in Peoria’s Irish community. So many Irish immigrants established homes on the land he developed in Peoria’s near-north valley that the area was known as “Dublin.” iBi