proposed railway map Passenger rail to the Quad Cities is part of a larger discussion about how a community moves its people. While our transportation policy most often focuses on how to move automobiles from one place to another, alternative transportation has frequently been ignored.

That's shifting. An aging population, traffic congestion, air-travel hassles, high fuel prices, and concern about global warming have all sparked renewed interest in mass-transit options such as passenger rail (getting from city to city) and commuter rail (transportation within a city).

The announcement last week that Cingular Wireless has selected Davenport for a 510-job call center was great news, but with a big asterisk.

There's no denying that the jobs (which will pay an average of just over $21,000 a year) are welcome. They probably won't attract new people to the Quad Cities, but they will provide a substantial number of people with higher incomes.

And a $3.4-million loan from the City of Davenport - to be repaid through taxes from increased property values at the call-center site - seems a fair incentive, given the magnitude of the project and the fact that the jobs will actually be new.

But the location of the call center combined with the size of the incentive gives me pause. These jobs might merit millions of dollars in assistance, but that money should be used to encourage development where it wouldn't happen otherwise. In other words, this is a project that deserved tax-increment financing downtown, but not at the northern-Davenport site Cingular is considering.

Susan Jacoby Both Democrats and Republicans are doing harm to society by invoking religion, author Susan Jacoby argued in a November 29 lecture at Augustana College.

Jacoby's lecture, "Whose God, Whose Trust? Religion, Secularism, & American Patriotism," offered a historical perspective on what she called the "great American paradox" - the separation of church and state. She said that the conflict between secularism and religion is at an all-time high, and that both liberals and conservatives cross a moral boundary when using religious rhetoric to influence the general public or public policy.

During this season of giving, please remember the many charitable organizations that assist people who are less fortunate. In addition to or in lieu of gifts to friends and family, consider a donation of money or needed items to one of the organizations listed below, or to any group that's trying to improve the community. Also consider volunteering at one these organizations.

Last week's announcement that the Rhythm City Casino's parent company, Isle of Capri, was reconsidering its contentious casino-hotel project on the Davenport riverfront tells you all you need to know about the future of casinos in Iowa: It's bleak.

In Quad-City Times articles on Friday, Isle of Capri officials claimed that competition from the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort - which opened south of Iowa City on August 31 - has dramatically cut into admissions and revenues at the Isle's two Quad Cities properties. The Isle of Capri in Bettendorf and Rhythm City in Davenport saw their combined adjusted gross revenues drop by nearly 12 percent in September and October compared to those months in 2005.

From here gaming companies will engage in casino arms races in which they will need to continually build bigger, more extravagant facilities merely to maintain market share.

Editor's note: The following was posted on the River Music Experience (RME) Web site in the days after the organization's president and CEO, Lon Bozarth, resigned.


Over the past 20 months, there has been a purposeful transition of the RME from a museum-based tourist attraction to a mission-based organization that supports the idea that original and diverse live-music performances are a needed component of a modern community.

Ametra Carrol spent the better part of a decade addicted to crack cocaine, and it almost killed her. After completing a detox and rehab program, she found herself unable to stay clean when she returned to her old neighborhood - and the friends with whom she got high.

"Its true what they say: You need to stay away from people, places, and things [associated with addiction] until you get strong enough," said Carrol, now a community activist.

That lesson has pushed Carrol to work with Rock Island leaders to develop the Douglas Park Place recovery home, designed to help Quad Cities-area mothers and their families overcome the challenges she once faced with substance abuse.

Project Vote Smart has given voters in Iowa and Illinois a new tool to scrutinize their state legislators. The State Key Votes Program is a new addition to Project Vote Smart's Web site that will provide the voting records of each member of the state legislature in all 50 states on key issues.

Modeled after Project Vote Smart's compendium of congressional voting records, the State Key Vote Program will allow citizens to monitor their state representatives on issues selected by Project Vote Smart researchers, who reviewed local newspapers, state legislative journals, and initiatives proposed by citizen groups and special-interest groups.

Seen by themselves, the images aren't all that special: A race car. A big apple. The likeness of Bart Simpson.

But then you see the signatures next to the images.

The race car was drawn by Mario Andretti. The big apple by the Big Apple's Donald Trump. And Bart Simpson? By Bart Simpson him/herself - Nancy Cartwright.

These are just three of more than 100 celebrity scribblings available through live and silent auction during the Bettendorf Public Library's biennial Doodle Day event, taking place at the library from 6 to 9 p.m. on October 21. For the fifth time since 1998, Doodle Day offers patrons the chance to own - for a minimum bid of $25 - what library Director Faye Clow calls "an original little artwork" from luminaries in entertainment, sports, and literature, the proceeds from which benefit library programming.

Normally Joe Taylor would be excited about a convention of this size coming to the Quad Cities. This week's National Trails Symposium is even sweeter because it dovetails with the community's strengths.