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April 24, 2014 / jeffnward

I hope it’s not his evil twin!

Some sage physicists posit a theory that, as a direct result of every decision we make, we immediately branch into an alternate quantum Universe that, for better or worse, supports that line of thinking. It’s kinda like a scientific form of Karma. And I think I’ve found  the evidence they’ve been lookin’ for.

Jim Oberweis

Jim Oberweis

Because that type quantum shifting is the only possible explanation for some of the progressive things we’re suddenly  hearing from U.S. Senate candidate, Jim Oberweis, these days.

First, after his head nearly exploded over the Obama increase proposal, Jim just advocated raising the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 for those 26 and older. And’s that right up this author’s moderate Republican alley!

We certainly don’t want the minimum wage to become a job mobility trap, but we definitely need to have some balance restored to the financial force. And this plan will do just that.

Even more shocking, at an April 22 Chicago business conference on immigration reform, not only did Jim apologize for his ill-conceived 2004 Soldier Field helicopter flight, but he firmly declared that undocumented workers should be offered “non-immigrant visas” and he’d support a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally.

Holy crap!

Please don’t get wrong, Jim didn’t exactly go all Rachel Maddow on us. He still doesn’t see much merit in the Senate’s current reform plan, he still believes in stronger border control, and he doesn’t favor citizenship for illegal adults.

But if you had told me this immigration hawk would ever declare, “I regret the harsh tone of my rhetoric ten years ago,” I woulda told your significant other to lock up the liquor cabinet.

Now, before you chalk this off as pure purple state pandering, and even though I sometimes have fun with the State Senator, it would behoove the GOP to sit up and take note. Because for a guy who often steps right in it, Jim’s political stances have proven to be strangely prophetic.

Think about it! Jim was a Tea Partier long before that jackass Rick Santelli managed to get a microphone and anyone had even conceived of the term. I’m not saying that far right GOP swing was a good thing (and it’s still primarily racist), but Jim Oberweis was the trendsetter.

So who knows? Maybe this sudden shift towards the middle will be a harbinger of better Republican things to come. Well, either that or a whole lot ‘em need to be visited by three ghosts.



April 23, 2014 / jeffnward

Who should be the one to serve Elgin – the Final Chapter

Sadly, of the 21 folks who’ve thrown their hats in the Elgin Anna Moeller aldermanic replacement ring, only one will get that final nod. But if the powers that be in The City in the Suburbs do it right, there won’t be 20 also-rans, they’ll have 20 civic minded folks who are willing to step forward and make Elgin even better than it is today.

(I do love you Elgin – just don’t tell my wife.)  elgin city hall

That said, since this ain’t a kindergarten t-ball game, someone has to come out on top. And even though my opinion doesn’t count for all that much these days (and nobody really asked), I’m gonna add my two cents. Of course, some of you aren’t going to like my final assertion, but I’ve long gotten used to hiding in the crawl space until the politically correct storm blows over.

So throwing all caution into the wind, here’s my theory.

As I gaze upon those fervent Elgin city council faces, I’m somewhat blinded by the vast amount of whiteness. (My apologies to Tish Powell for lumping her in with the rest of those Caucasian males). In a great city that boasts a 44 percent Hispanic population, we seem to have a problem. Because, if representative government is supposed to be…well…representative, then we desperately need at least one of those city council bodies to be not like the others.

All things considered equal, I could just as easily go with Craig Dresang, Big Mike DeBrocke, Mitchell Esterino, Mo Iqbal, Julie Ann Schmidt, or John Walters. But, if we were on a level playing field, then we’d already have four Hispanic councilmen.

When certain Elgin constituents voiced the very same concern to Aldermen John Prigge and Terry Gavin, they immediately contracted the kind of severe case of the vapors (a strange southern disease) that only seems to affect old white male politicians in positions of power.

Why, they were aghast that anyone would even consider that they’d consider appointing someone based solely on race.

But the truth is, Ms. Moeller’s good fortune provides Elgin with the good fortune to redress an obvious imbalance. And when you have a group of aldermanic applicants in which eight of the 21 contenders have essentially equal curricula vitae, then maybe it’s time to do just that.

So please allow me to not-so-humbly suggest that the council should narrow their final list down to Alberto Lopez and Rosamaria Martinez. Then they can take it from there.

You may now commence to calling me a racist.

April 23, 2014 / jeffnward

So here’s who wants to serve Elgin – Part 3

Holy crap! Susan (Sarkauskas) and Jim (Fuller), how the bleep do you do it? Aside from a doctor’s appointment, a meeting with one of my many attorneys, and my son’s violin lesson, I’ve literally been writing all day. Please note that I’m equal to the task, but it’s only 3:30 and I’m already hitting the tequila.

I suppose I should take solace in the fact that I didn’t have to attend any governmental meetings that might put you into a lengthy coma like most reporters do.

But I digress. Continuing our biographical journey through the Anna Moeller Elgin City Council potential replacement hopefuls, in alphabetical order, here are the final seven:

15. Fred Moulton

And we come to yet another west side retiree! Fred toiled for AT&T, he’s lived on the west side of Elgin for almost 40 years, and he’s been involved in several neighborhood organizations like CURE (Clean-up and Restore Elgin).

Citing no particular political affiliation, Fred wants to expand his, “scope to serve the citizens of Elgin as a member of the Council.” His passions are maintaining neighborhoods, code enforcement and infrastructure.

16. Franklin Ramirez

Back to the east side! Franklin is a newcomer, arriving in Elgin in 2012.  He works as the liquor department manager of the Cary Jewel-Osco. He ran for alderman in Park Ridge and, having been a 16-year volunteer for the Park Ridge/Des Plaines Peer Jury Partnership, he is passionate about keeping young adults “out of trouble and on the right path.”

He wants to bring that kind of program to Elgin.

Franklin believes his work and volunteer experiences and educational background in organizational leadership “would quickly prove to be a valuable asset to the city of Elgin.” Again, we have another truly impressive resume here.

17. Michael J. Robins

Here’s another name you might know because Michael has previously run for city council and he served on the Elgin Civil Service Commission.

Michael hails from the east side and has been employed by the Cook County Court system for 25 years.

In Michael’s own words, “I have spent a great deal of time on two previous city council campaigns and
received a solid voter base due to my input on city matters. At the same time, I learned a great deal talking to residents in the process of canvasing door-to- door.”

I’m sure he did! He may not finish in upper half of this class, but that’s only because of some really stiff competition.

18. Julie Ann Schmidt

A member of Elgin OCTAVE, League of Women Voters, and the Elgin Township Republicans (precinct committeeman). Julie has lived on the west side of Elgin since 1991 and she works for Everyware, an Elgin Tech company.

As you might imagine, she’s very active politically and serves on the board of the Women in Management of the Fox Valley.

Julie wrote, “I believe my years of professional experience; proven team building and relational management skills with a diversity of people and ideas; strong oral and written communication skills along with a fmancial degree, offer the City a well-rounded, capable individual who can grasp complex information quickly and collaborate with others to enhance the quality of life for all of Elgin’ s residents.”

19. Aaron Sellers

Aaron runs a west side home-based business called Comprehensive Training Solutions and he touts that business background in his city council question. He’s also on the board of Community Contacts and the Ecker Center.

Aaron wants to help bring Elgin “to the next level.”

20. Kevin Sherman

Another tech guy! Kevin is the webmaster at Benedictine University and he volunteers with Verity Dance Company, Side Street Art Studio, and does photography for other non-profits.

In his own west side words, “I have long had a strong desire to serve in local government. Especially with two young children, I want Elgin to continue to grow and develop into a great community they love as much as my wife and I do.”

21. John Walters

And last, but certainly not least, you may recall that John was an Elgin city councilman from 1987 to 2009 as well as a KC circuit court judge. Of course, that means our west side denizen is an attorney who’s practiced law for 36 years.

His community involvement includes the Kiwanis, United Way, Renz Center and the First Presbyterian Church.

But my favorite part of John’s application is his “ability to listen” and “make unpopular decisions in a hostile area.” The latter part sounds just like my life!

And that’s it. If I can get my fingers to stop cramping up and manage to avoid the tequila bottle, I’ll offer an overall analysis of the candidates later tonight!

Thanks for tuning in!


April 23, 2014 / jeffnward

So here’s who wants to serve Elgin – Part 2

Without further ado, lets move on to the second group of seven:

8. Herbert Gross

Hailing from the east side, Mr. Gross is a retired clinical psychologist who currently works for the Elgin Mental Health Center.  You may already know him as a current Gail Borden Library Trustee and he serves on the board of the Kiwanis Club and Congregation Kneseth Israel as treasurer.

He’s lived in Elgin for 40 years and has volunteered for a variety of organizations. And lord knows there are times when any city council could greatly benefit from the presence of a certified mental health professional.

9. Jaime Hjelm

Jaime lives on the west side, owns her own Taxi company, and has a keen interesting in giving a voice to local businesses. In her own words, “My objective is to have an open mind with all people and businesses that have an issue, or are looking to improve themselves within the City of Elgin.”

She received President Clinton’s Outstanding Academic Achievement Award in 1995, and I love the “leadership” section of her resume.  She knows exactly who she is and she wants to serve the city she clearly loves.

She may not make the final cut, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Ms. Hjelm.

10. Mohammad ‘Mo’ Igbal

As he puts it, Mo is “actively retired” and “self-employed.” He’s a retired Walker Parking Consultants attorney and apparently the “active” part of his retirement is doing pro bono work for Prairie Legal State Services.

Again, if his name seems familiar, Mo has also served on the Gail Borden Library Board as well as Elgin’s Human Relations and Image Commissions. His interest is “to have a good city government.”

A west sider, Mo has authored a series of articles and chapters for legal and engineering publications. And you all know just how much I love writers. Given his very impressive resume, I would put him in the top five.

11. Michael Kahn

Kahn runs his own home-based west side consulting business, PCDataNet, which offers IT consulting and LAN support. He’s a Cub Master and volunteers in a CARS ministry at Willow Creek Community Church.

Michael wants, “To use my previous experience working with the community to make Elgin a better place.” He’s probably not a top 10 finisher, but he’s no slouch either.

12. Alberto Lopez

Another west side denizen and veteran (Marines), Alberto currently works with the Wounded Warrior project in Chicago.  He also donates his time to the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin, and the Best Buddies program.

Again, in his words, he hopes to combine, “my many years of being an Elgin resident, my interaction with different groups in the community, as well as my military service and my continued service to the Veteran community; I believe that I have much to contribute to the growth and enrichment of the City of Elgin and its residents.”

All I can say is, upon reviewing his resume, I felt like I needed to get up off my fat butt and do something more for the community. Now, I know this will rankle some folks, but shouldn’t Elgin’s Hispanic citizens be able to enjoy the pleasure of gazing upon one of their own on that city council dais?

13. Rosamaria D. Martinez

Another veteran (Army), Rosamaria, an east side Elgin Native  is retired postal worker currently working for U-46. She’s a former American Legion Post commander, a member of VFW post 1307, a former vice president of the American Postal Worker’s Union and a recipient of Club Guadalupano Community Service Award


And Rosamaria firmly believes that, “a diverse background would be an asset to the City Council.” (So do I!)

14. Maura Wood Maschinski

Maura is 911 dispatcher for the City of Elgin. Her community involvement includes the Gifford Park Association, St. Mary’s Catholic School and Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, and SEIU Local 73.

An east side resident since 1984, Maura would be a strong advocate for historical preservation.

Phew! Fourteen down and seven to go. I’ll see you in part 3.

April 23, 2014 / jeffnward

So here’s who wants to serve Elgin – Part 1

As promised, with applications in hand, it’s time to take a closer look at those folks who want to fill former Elgin Alderman Anna Moeller’s ample shoes. Since the council voted five to three to replace her, Elgin will indeed, have a new Wednesday night face.

And the fact that the Elgin City Council is elected at-large always makes this kind of thing more interesting. So here are the first seven in alphabetical order:

1. Michael K. “Big Mike” DeBrocke

From the east side, Michael has run for city council before, but he didn’t fare too well in the 2013 primary for the two year seat. He works for U-46, graduated from the Elgin Leadership Academy, complete the Elgin Police Academy, and he’s certainly been an active area volunteer.  Mike swears he will be “able to hit the ground running.”

Given his community involvement, Michael is worth some serious consideration.

2. Barry Kevin DeLoncker, Jr.

Another east sider. And how do I put this tactfully…I wish Barry’s application had been more “polished.”  On the plus side, he has a positive attitude, he volunteers at a local nursing home and works at Bluff City Metal and Recycling in Elgin.

I really don’t think he’ll make the short list, but you gotta give him credit for putting it out there.

3. Craig Dresang

Craig was also a contender for that two year city council seat, but he made it through the primary to the general election. But then he then ran into the Toby Shaw buzz saw. Please note that Toby lost the first time, but learned from his mistakes and came back very strong.

And BTW, with Craig, the east side makes it three for three.

I could keep talking, but Craig said it best, “I would bring 20 years of exceptional business acumen and experience as a relationship manager and communications professional to the council. My eight years of work as a neighborhood and civic volunteer reveals a track record of someone who wants to help Elgin be all it could be.”

My guess, he’ll probably make the final three.

4. Mitchell Esterino

And we have our third 2013 city council candidate, but this one’s a 22-year resident from the west side of Elgin. He works for the Visiting Nurse Association, he’s a Lions Club member, a Community Crisis Center volunteer, and a  Boys and Girls Club committee member.

Mitchell also has the best bleepin’ handwriting of any human being I’ve ever seen. He cites his long history of Elgin involvement as his main qualification and that makes him another very strong contender.

5. Gary A. Fagan

We’re back to the west side with Mr. Fagan. Gary works for Harting Manufacturing as an electrical engineer and he would bring a strong facility infrastructure management/code enforcement slant to the city council. He’s also strong in accounting.

I’m not sure if this means anything, but his application submission may well have been the biggest. Being a bike commuter, Gary wants to make Elgin a “more bike and pedestrian friendly.” I gotta say he’s worthy of consideration.

6. Ana M. Gomez

Our first woman! (And a Hispanic one too!) I was getting a little worried there. Ana, who graduated from Elgin High School, manages a $1.4 million territory for Imagine Learning of Provo, Utah selling educational technology solutions to school districts.

Her’s may be one of the more sparse applications, but those Toaists love to say that “less is more” and sometimes there’s something to that.

A west sider, Ana wants the opportunity to “give back and be a part of the city council.”  She’s probably not as strong a candidate as some of the others, but I really like her attitude.

7. Robert Grens

Another west side denizen, Robert is a retiree who volunteers at St. Joe’s Hospital and has served as the 22nd precinct committeeman.  He lists his qualifications as staying “involved through news, magazines and newspapers in what is happening in Elgin and the world.”

Stay tuned for the next magnificent seven.


April 23, 2014 / jeffnward

Mauled by a mall – part two

So yesterday, we discussed why the plan to revitalize the old Charlestowne Mall, renamed, The Quad St. Charles, won’t work. And I want to thank capable DH reporter Jim Fuller for hosting a generally cogent conversation on the topic on his facebook page.

As usual, I found myself in the vast minority as most of contestants, including former St. Charles Mayor Sue Klinkhamer, thought this new retail endeavor was the best thing since sliced bread. But in all the debate, nobody, not even Sue, addressed my main contention.

The development team can consist of the best minds in the country and their redevelopment blueprint can be a stroke of sheer genius, but it doesn’t matter because the basic premise is completely flawed.  So to repeat myself, and staying withing that venerable high school debate team format; Resolved, American shopping malls are dying and will soon become extinct.   deadmall

1. Malls were conceived and born as a result of President Eisenhower’s Interstate system push. This new level of mobility led directly to the one-stop shopping concept. But gas was 26 cents a gallon in the 50′s and even if you adjust it for inflation, it comes to $1.75. Right now we’re paying four bucks a pop and the real driving season hasn’t even started.

2. The whole point of obtaining a driver’s license was to avail yourself of the freedom to meet your friends at the mall. But now I’ve heard it from dozens of parents, “My kid doesn’t care if he learns to drive or not.” Beyond school, teenagers rarely get together anymore. My youngest son regularly “meets” with his friends on Skype, playing Minecraft, and on various video game networks. And once high schoolers aren’t conditioned to go to the mall, they won’t do it as adults either.

3. To reiterate! The big box store concept is on its way out and malls cannot survive without the anchor stores that draw the smaller retailers.

4. Steadily vanishing malls are also a result of the vanishing American middle class. The malls that are making it – and still being built – are those that cater to the 1 percent. The irony there is, those uber-wealthy folks who’ve tilted the financial playing field in their favor are sealing their own business doom. What happens when there’s no one left to buy their products?

5. Malls are generally sterile places with poor customer service and it’s always hard to get into or out of them. When was the last time you heard someone say, “Wow, I really enjoyed my trip to the Mall!” On the rare occasion I visit the Geneva Commons (mostly to Fresh Market or the bank), my goal is to get the hell in and get the hell out.

6. The Internet is the ultimate in one stop shopping. And the lack of sales tax advantage argument is specious because instant gratification still reigns supreme in this culture. The truth is, I can sit in my comfortable home office naked (I bet you can’t get that picture out of your head), find anything I could possibly want at a reasonable price at my fingertips, avoid Randall Road traffic, not spend a dime on gas, dispense with surly salespeople, and enjoy a few shots of tequila in the process. How do you compete with that?

Again, the singular exception are those malls that cater to the 1 percent will succeed. But that’s because it’s kind of like those boxes at the opera that don’t really face the stage. You don’t buy them to see the proceedings, you buy them to be seen.

In Other People’s Money, Danny Devito’s character issues one the best silver screen soliloquys ever. My favorite line is, “And do you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow, but sure.”

That’s why, despite any $20 million city incentive and the best laid mall plans of mice and men, The Kruasz Companies will eventually lose most of the $70 million they’re investing in The Quad St. Charles.  Having wasted all that time and energy,  St. Charles will be the proud owner of yet another large, empty vacant lot that they won’t be able to do anything with.

If it can happen once…

I firmly believe that a great part of the stiff resistance to my assertion is that nobody likes a prophet because they’re so antithetical to our love of wishful thinking. The truth is, I’d love to see this project succeed, but no amount of wishful thinking is enough to overcome a major cultural shift and it’s certainly not enough here.

April 22, 2014 / jeffnward

The contenders for Elgin City Council are…

Though the City in the Suburbs has been having a little trouble with the Open Meetings Act, I firmly believe there was no ill intent when, in closed session, they voted five to three to fill the vacancy left by our newest State Rep, Anna Moeller.

With the aldermanic application deadline being close of business yesterday (4/21), these are the 21 contenders in alphabetical order:

  • Michael K. “Big Mike” DeBrocke  elgin
  • Barry Kevin DeLoncker, Jr.
  • Craig Dresang
  • Mitchell Esterino
  • Gary A. Fagan
  • Ana M. Gomez
  • Robert Grens
  • Herbert Gross
  • Jaime Hjelm
  • Mohammad ” Mo” Igbal
  • Michael Kahn
  • Alberto Lopez
  • Rosamaria D. Martinez
  • Maura Wood Maschinski
  • Fred H. Moulton
  • Franklin Ramirez
  • Michael J. Robins
  • Julie Ann Schmidt
  • Aaron B. Sellers
  • Kevin D. Sherman
  • John N. Walters

And remember, you heard it here first! Tomorrow, we’ll delve a little deeper into their qualifications.


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