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January 29, 2015 / jeffnward

May I offer another excellent Left, Right and You…

for your listening pleasure:

That smiling conservative and I want to thank Elgin City Councilman John Steffen for sittin’ between us and providing his opening statement. John is the longest serving city council member so he’s certainly got an interesting perspective!

Steffen2We also took the time to thoroughly explained the Campton Hill’s kerfuffle and what the likely outcome there will be. Talk about some folks making politics a blood sport!

Not only that, but, Larry and I also want to that Chris for calling in to comment on our Internet sales tax and why too many local retailers don’t get it discussion. I don’t want to have to take a bleepin’ test at any checkout counter!

Next week –  Elgin city council contender Kyle Scifert! Until then…

January 29, 2015 / jeffnward

It’s almost Left, Right and You time…

…and personally, I can’t wait for it to come on!

Elgin City Councilman John Steffen will be joining us in the studio to make his city council campaign opening statement. We’re looking forward to hearing what he has to say!

steffen

Then we’ll finally set the Campton Hills petition challenge fiasco record straight! Though I would advise getting out your scorecards for that one folks.

Our next topic will be the Illinois sales tax on Internet purchases that starts February 1st. Where on all the Tea Partiers on what amounts to a regressive sales tax hike? They suddenly seem awfully quiet. And why does it take hours to pay for stuff at my local brick and mortar store? Perhaps if they treated us like customers we wouldn’t go online!

And last, but not least, our “As We See It” segment will cover the perils of social media and politics. If you’re gonna run for U-46 school board, you probably don’t want to get caught using the N-word!

That’s Left, Right and You with me, the curmudgeonly liberal, and Larry Jones, the smiling conservative, today and every Thursday at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM1410. We look forward to talking with you!

January 28, 2015 / jeffnward

For want of a Campton Hills nail…

If you’ve been trying to keep up with the recent Campton Hills electoral follies then you’re probably just as confused as I am. Here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version:

It started with semi-outgoing village president, Patsy Smith, taking issue with four council candidates’ nominating petitions. When the post challenge smoke cleared, even though our Gang of Four made the cut, the village hadn’t sent their paperwork to the County Clerk in a timely matter. So when the documents finally did arrive in Building B, Jack Cunningham said it was too late! And when the Gang of Four sued the Clerk to reverse that decision, Judge David Akemann continued the proceedings to Thursday.

Are you still with me? Because he only thing I’m sure about here is there’s been no resolution to this kerfuffle.

campton

And the various newspaper accounts provide absolutely no help in unraveling this sixteen-hour German opera where everyone dies in the end. While it may be true that Campton Hills politicians never make anything easy, I knew this convoluted tale had to harbor an underlying thread of logic.

So I came up with three questions. First, who’s specifically at fault for the late petition submission? Second, if it’s the village, then why is the County Clerk fighting this lawsuit? And third, why wasn’t this resolved at Monday’s hearing?

Armed with those inquiries, I locked the doors, closed the blinds, donned some dark clothing and went into full Woodward and Bernstein mode. A scant ten minutes later I had all the answers which meant I had to unlock the doors, re-open the blinds and change my clothes.

Alright! Get your score cards out.

When interim Village Clerk, John Strauss, failed to certify and submit those petitions before the deadline, he – and the Village of Campton Hills – were utterly at fault. An impending petition challenge has absolutely no bearing on that process because the law clearly states that you’re on the ballot until you’re off!

Thus, a hopeful can submit the most horrifically error ridden nominating petition ever seen, but until and unless someone challenges it, he’s gonna go forward. The law has always leaned towards keeping candidates in the contest.

And the village’s attempt to complain that the clerk had a pre-Christmas family emergency is just another version of “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Quite frankly, I think the real “emergency” was Mayor Smith “encouraging” the clerk to hang onto those documents in an effort to make the Gang of Four as miserable as possible.

So, if the Gang bears no responsibility for this fiasco, why is the County Clerk fighting them in court?

Because he has no choice. In the law’s eyes, even the most magnificent alibi is utterly immaterial. All that matters is the petitions were late. The Second Appellate Court has been very clear on this; the only way any County Clerk can accept tardy petitions is via court order.

Since this seems so cut and dried, why didn’t the court issue the order on Monday?

Because the Gang of Fours’ attorneys failed to subpoena Village Clerk Strauss. And as Judge Akemann so aptly pointed out, how can they prove that Campton Hills was negligent without their sworn testimony? It certainly is comforting to know that some Kane County judges aren’t willing to throw up their hands and simply take an attorney’s word at face value.

When Judge Akemann asked the worthy counselors why they failed to bring the village into the courtroom, they said something to the effect of, “Well…We didn’t want to.” OK! So now the saga will continue on Thursday.

Are you with me so far? If not, to sum it up:

The Village of Campton Hills illegally failed to certify and submit four nominating petitions. But even though they’re to blame, the County Clerk cannot accept overdue petitions without a court order allowing him to do so. And this debacle would already be over if the plaintiffs’ attorneys “invited” the right folks to the first hearing.

As to how this will end, the Gang of Four will finally see their names on the ballot and the Village of Campton Hills will be on the hook for all their legal fees.

Only in Kane County folks!

January 26, 2015 / jeffnward

Another reason newspapers are dying

As I sit back and watch the ongoing print media carnage – Sports Illustrated just laid off the last of their photo journalists (does that mean they’re just called “Sports” now) – publishers’ capacity to consistently make abysmally poor choices continually confounds me. C’mon man! Even that proverbial broken clock is right twice a day.

In yet another effort to outdo themselves, their latest form of mismanagement is to ask newsroom staff, and especially reporters, to make a massive investment in a company that plans on making absolutely no investment in them.

Many reporters haven’t seen a raise since 2008 despite being asked to take on an ever increasing workload that makes it more and more difficult to do a good job. And as the good reporters inevitably leave as a result, these publishers somehow think that their greatly diminished talent pool will somehow bring their former readers back.

But if you’ve taken a good look at what passes for writing in the local newspapers these days, you can clearly see that isn’t the case.

Because what they’ve ended up with is the latest form of low-paid stringers who don’t have the slightest idea what’s really going in in local politics or anywhere else for that matter. Who else would be willing to work for that miniscule amount of money?

So what you end up getting is one paper reporting that the Kane County Board’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee had new co-chairs which certainly ain’t the case. That same group got the age of a Kane County Board member wrong too. But what’s even worse is, the general level of the writing has gotten so bad that reading a paragraph three times is no guarantee that you will truly understand the author’s intent. Don’t even get me started on all the misspellings and absurd grammar usage.

And the bizarre irony is, if you speak with the reporters who’ve moved on, they will defend that newsroom dynamic to their dying day and go as far as threatening me with death if I use their names to make this point. But then they’ll let something slip like, “It’s finally nice to be working at a job where your bosses truly appreciate your talent.”

So much for maintaining a zealous defense!

Ah! But one reporter finally had the nerve to lay it on the line and the ever vigilant Jim Romenesko picked up on it. Again, I would encourage you to visit JimRomensko.com as often as possible because you’ll find stories like this one. All the featured reporter did was ask his new bosses for an eminently reasonable 3 percent raise and I’m sure you can already guess the ending.

The last line of the reporter’s response to Romenesko is something that’s needed to be said for a long, long time. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s time for newsrooms to unionize.

Goodbye local newspapers, you’re not even going to survive on the Net.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter resigns after publisher says no to 3% raise

Investigative reporter Thomas Caywood received only one small raise in his seven years at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, while his paid vacation benefit went from three weeks a year to two. Invited by new owners to stay at the paper, Caywood told Telegram publisher James F. Normandin that he’d stay put if he received a 3% raise and went back to three weeks paid vacation.

Tim Caywood

Tim Caywood

“The meager raise would barely be noticeable to my finances,” he told the boss, “but it’s vital to me that I see some tangible evidence of this commitment to quality journalism of which you and [T&G owner] GateHouse speak.”

The publisher said corporate wouldn’t let him negotiate, so it was take it or leave it.

“I left it,” writes the 44-year-old reporter.

He resigned last Tuesday without another job lined up.

I asked Caywood about his resignation and he responded via email [with my boldface]:

To answer your questions from yesterday: I have a reasonable savings and no major debt, so I’m not in any immediately jeopardy of destitution. I’ll be looking for work, of course, but I can get by without it for many months with a some austerity measures. I’m not married and don’t have any children, so I was only putting myself at risk when I resigned.

I didn’t leave the Telegram & Gazette with any hard feelings and my departure was not intended as some kind of provocative “fuck you” gesture. The publisher is a likable guy, and our meeting was cordial. I wish him and all my former colleagues well under the GateHouse ownership. I loved the job and was one of the T&G’s most-ardent promoters and defenders in the city. But I just couldn’t avoid any longer the unwelcome truth that I valued the job more highly than the company valued me.

January 22, 2015 / jeffnward

Another Left, Right and You…

…is a wrap!

We’re sorry that we couldn’t bring you Elgin City Council challenger Kyle Scifert today, but as you all know, the life of a police officer is never boring. We hope to have Kyle on a future show.

And speaking of police officers, Larry and I want to thank Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda for volunteering to fill in via text as he drove by the station. Only Left, Right and You could be so fortunate!

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda

Larry and I also covered the recent Elgin OCTAVE candidate’s forum. We thought that the thought was excellent, but the execution was week. And while we love folks who choose to participate in the political process, we reminded that de facto downtown Elgin group that no one is more important than the process.

If you really want to accomplish something, constant shrieking and howling ain’t the way to go about it.

Next week – City Councilman John Steffen Until then!

January 22, 2015 / jeffnward

Please prepare yourself for Left, Right and You!

Coming up at 3 p.m. today on WRMN AM1410, that Left, Right and You smiling conservative and I will talk about the final chapter on the racial makeup of suburban police forces and why Elgin got it right when they went to Puerto Rico.

Shortly thereafter, Elgin City Council challenger Kyle Scifert will join us in the studio to make his 15 minute opening statement. Larry and I are certainly looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

Kyle Scifert

Kyle Scifert

(Kyle really needs to put a better picture out there!)

Then Larry and I will take on one of our pet peeves, those pseudo-political “cliques” that think they’re God’s gift to the process, but really only end up wasting everyone’s time. They’re never wrong about anything and they just love to take offense. And there’s one of those “groups” right here in downtown Elgin!

Even I can’t wait for this show!

January 21, 2015 / jeffnward

“An adult must’ve walked into the room”

That’s what our infamous former managing editor said when I told him that the City of Geneva had finally turned over the police eligibility lists that I’d requested via FOIA all the way back in October. The irony, of course, is, this baseless battle that went all the way to the Illinois Attorney General’s office and cost Geneva taxpayers between $3,000 and $6,000, was rendered moot by a State statute mandating the release of all such eligibility lists and test scores.

And I certainly want to thank the astute reader for pointing that out. Now Geneva has actually posted that list online.

The surprising thing was, there was no surprise. Given their disproportionate reticence, I was convinced the City of Geneva was trying to hide something. But in the end, after comparing those lists to new GPD hires and conferring with my former police chief radio co-host, Larry Jones, it would appear that everything is working exactly as it should be.

It would also appear that former St. Charles and current Schaumberg Police Chief Jim Lamkin was right – minorities are not applying to suburban police departments. I reviewed five separate Kane County eligibility lists and there weren’t a heck of a lot of Hispanic names on them. Granted, using surnames as the determining factor is far from perfect, but it’s also far better than nothing.

C’mon! If your last name is Grabowski, O’Connell, or Heinrich, you’re probably not Hispanic. Again, though it’s eminently unscientific, I’d put the number of minority applicants somewhere between 10 to 15 percent.

So while the process seems to be working, perhaps it’s the process that’s the problem. Much like standardized academic tests favor Caucasians, when you’re looking at 95 plus percent white suburban officers, one has to wonder if we’re seeing the same sort of thing at work here. Perhaps it’s time to review the tests.

But when you consider that Kane County boasts a 41 percent minority population, a potentially unfair testing practice can’t explain that huge hiring disparity. Once again, I turned to my capable co-host who came up with some interesting thoughts on the lack of minority applicants.

And the first was that minorities don’t consider police work a worthy pursuit. Though that’s virtually impossible to measure, considering how they can be treated by the police, it does have the ring of truth. And you certainly can’t hire someone who hasn’t applied.

The second is that the minorities who choose to pursue a law enforcement career believe they’ll have more opportunity to apply those skills in a city like Aurora or Elgin. Again, it’s difficult to measure, but it does sound like a plausible explanation. To a large degree, policing is about giving back to the community and we tend to think about our own backyard first.

I would also add that white police departments beget white police departments. Who wants to be the first or only Hispanic face on the force? This kind of monochromatic reality might make some minorities feel like they don’t even have a shot.

But none of those potential possibilities  matter because, even though the basis for this phenomenon isn’t clear, the solution is – make an effort to attract and make minority candidates feel welcome. Corporations recruit the best minority candidates all the time and here’s one instance where government actually can be run like a business.

The one thing that all of the chiefs agreed on in the Jake Griffin piece that inspired my pursuit is that diversity is a good thing. It’s something to be sought after. So seek it! I’m not saying the smaller departments have to follow Elgin’s lead by going all the way to Puerto Rico, but that recruiting trip certainly did make a massive point.

That kind of effort may take persistence and time, but it’s well worth it.

And lastly, though I’ve probably picked on Geneva a bit too much of late, the FOIA battle required to get their lists belies a bunker mentality that’s far too common among many municipal administrators.

Guard-Public-LibertyThankfully, through my newspaper days, I’ve learned how to effectively fight a FOIA request refusal, but the average citizen is much more likely to give up even when faced with the most bizarre reason for withholding the information. And the continued deterioration of the local press is making it that much worse.

For every South Elgin that will happily provide the data without a formal FOIA, there’s a Geneva and Carpentersville who will simply ignore the statutes if it suits their whim. Geneva’s gone as far as denying city council document requests until I issued a FOIA and sent them to the aldermen myself.

The lesson here is that pays to pay attention! Because if you don’t, there are folks like Geneva’s City Manager who will do their damndest to abuse the truth and try to get away with whatever they think they can.

It may be a bit overwrought (though I’m really good at that kind of thing), but I’ll leave you with a quote from Albert Camus’ classic, The Plague:

“What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest – health, integrity, purity (if you like) – is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter. The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the man who has the fewest lapses of attention.”

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