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July 29, 2014 / jeffnward

I’m unilaterally calling off the hand-held cell phone ban…

…because no one’s paying any attention to it and ain’t nobody enforcing it either.

Case in point! While waiting for the line of vehicles to pass before I could turn right onto Peck Road at about 6:30 this morning, the driver of the last vehicle, a black pickup truck, was happily chatting away on his cell phone – at 10 miles under the limit, of course.

cell

Since the Great Western Trail isn’t that far away and I will no longer allow something silly like traffic to become a stressor, I simply sat back and mentally prepared myself for the impending run.

But as we slowly approached Bricher Road, one of Geneva’s finest just happened to be sitting at that stop sign and I thought perhaps the errant driver would be pulled over. Given the GPD’s propensity to write warnings, that’s all this would’ve likely come to, but that process still makes a point.

But alas, though the motorist was completely oblivious to the police presence and the officer and I could clearly see he was on the phone, nothing happened. Ah well! The Geneva Police have never been known to be the most proactive bunch. Sitting in the same spot for hours doing speed enforcement is about their speed.

As we continued north, I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be ironic if this gentleman turned into…” And before I could finish the thought, he headed into the Judicial Center parking lot and up the stairs to work.

So why did I even bother to go out and buy a Bluetooth headset?

Of course, one incident does not a statistically significant sample make, but considering how little I drive, it’s amazing how often I see folks gabbing away with their right hand glued to their ear.

And it’s not just the Geneva Police – no one’s enforcing this new law despite the fact that carrying on a hand-held cell phone conversation has proven to be far worse than driving drunk. Ah! But law enforcement will resort to those patently unconstitutional No Refusal Weekends which don’t even begin to make a dent in the DUI statistics.

So why bother with this kind of statutory pretense? Because if we really meant it, we’d adopt those far stricter European drunk driving standards and then we’d follow in the motherland’s footsteps by forcing folks to pull over for any kind of cell phone conversation.

But we’re not serious about it so we don’t. Therefore, in what might be called the equivalent of a citizen’s un-arrest, I’m unilaterally calling off the hand-held cell phone ban. It’s not like any of y’all were driving all that competently to begin with.

 

July 28, 2014 / jeffnward

On ancillary players, conspiracy theories, and why Rich Miller got it wrong

Oh lord! With a full month left to go before that final sprint to November begins, the ancillary players are already out full bloom.

Again, we’re talking about those self-important, but ultimately chicken-shit folks who, under the guise of anonymity, start the vicious rumors, break non-scandals, and generally act like idiots just to keep the political feuds alive.

Since they’ve never managed to accomplish absolutely anything, they want to make damn sure nobody else does either. Eleanor Roosevelt put it perfectly when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

And speaking of ideas, let’s get back to the whole efficacy of conspiracy theories thing because I was surprised to see Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller going for one whole hog last week. Maybe he’s been in Springfield too long.

I may not be his biggest fan, but despite the fact that he’s utterly besieged with those untidy folk, Miller clearly understands the inherent pitfalls of the ancillary players and generally does a decent job of ignoring their petulant white noise.

Of course, all it takes is covering the political process for a short time to discover that the people involved can barely make it to the bathroom in the morning, much less start pulling strings like some Wizard of Oz-esque puppeteer.

in fact, the only person who can pull that kind of thing off is Mike Madigan and it doesn’t require any investigative resources to discern this because he certainly ain’t shy about it.

miller

Miller’s theory is that the Sun-Times (ST) is heavily covering the Better Government Association’s (BGA) legal thrust to render the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) susceptible to FOIAs for self-serving reasons. And even though it’s strange that the Tribune has been mum here, Miller’s reasoning for the logic behind those ST stories – which came from an anonymous Capitol Fax commenter – is suspect at best.

His convoluted concept postulates that ST owners Wrapports somehow stands to gain from a weakened IHSA because they also own a company called High School Cube which provides live high school Net sportscasts. Thus, in order to protect their position and prevent the IHSA from licensing those lucrative local broadcast rights, Wrapports just sicced the salivating stringers on ‘em.

Now you see why you should avoid ancillary players? They have this unique capacity to take any set of unrelated “facts” and somehow create a scenario that proves the only reason we can’t succeed in this miserable life is because the Illuminati are controlling everything. So it’s sad that Miller fell for this bleep when no one but an ancillary player could read that story out loud and take it seriously for more than about two seconds.

To his credit, Miller admitted there was something to the BGA’s attempt to require the IHSA to respond to FOIAs and it was newsworthy. No matter how much they try to deny it, the IHSA operates on taxpayer largesse, membership is not nearly as ”optional” as they make it out to be, and they can summarily stop your son from playing any high school sport anytime for any reason.

And they’re accountable to no one.

So my best guess is, with or without the ST coverage, the BGA will ultimately prevail. But how does that do anything other than require the IHSA to respond to FOIAs? I’m sure we’ll be aghast at some of those sponsorship deals, but how does having to answer FOIAs prevent the IHSA from locking up high school sports broadcast rights – especially if they remit a reasonable chunk of change back to the cash strapped school district?

But here’s the real bottom line. The Sun-Times can barely keep their collective nose above the water, much less make a slew of old school news bosses, middling managing editors, and barely passable novice reporters act in concert without one of them letting the cat out of the bag.

ST talent is fleeing to the Tribune faster than the Palestinians and Israelis can kill each other off, they still owe the Trib millions of dollars in back printing bills, and the only reason their satellite papers are still alive is it allows them to artificially spread costs around which makes the parent company appear more attractive to some sucker willing to buy into a sinking ship.

Why do you think their best columnist, Neil Steinberg, is suddenly pumping a ton of effort and energy into his own blog…?

So somehow, in the middle of this abject chaos, the Sun-Times suddenly has the presence of mind to extrapolate this IHSA BGA FOIA fight out to it’s illogical conclusion and actually conceive of and pull off a plan to help their parent company without any of the ex-employees spilling their guts?

The Trib couldn’t even keep their frat house shit silent!

That’s why conspiracy theories are just that – theories with only the minutest grain of truth behind them – and sometimes not even that.

So my advice to Mr. Miller would be to stop listening to the ancillary players because, just like it is with those HBO zombies, if you get too close to ‘em you’ll become one. Let’s hope Capitol Fax can do better in the future.

July 25, 2014 / jeffnward

The Grand Victoria shouldn’t be paying any rent!

Armed with some COW meeting intelligence accusing Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin of getting even more outta hand than usual after the Grand Victoria asked for a rent reduction, I decided to go right to the tape.

And I’m not really sure if this is a good or bad thing, but while Gavin’s capacity to act like an utter jackass remains intact, there was no discernable difference between his behavior at this or any other city council get together.

That said, and even though I probably shouldn’t go here, I will admit that when that Alderman “asked” Grand Victoria GM Jim Thomason not to insult his intelligence, my first thought was, “It simply isn’t possible to hit a target that small.”

But we digress.

Given their waning fiscal fortunes, the boat wants the Council to cut their rent from about $1.7 million a year to a million flat. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but for all intents and purposes it’ll work just fine for us.

Jim Tomason

Jim Tomason

And even though he was far too subtle in his attempt to make this point, Thomason reminded that governmental gaggle that when the local bars were feeling the economic pinch and begged for video poker, the Grand Victoria did not stand in their way.

I can’t remember the specific year, but back then Thomason said something to the effect of, “What’s good for Elgin is good for us!” Sadly, as is always the no good deed goes unpunished case, that decision certainly came around to bite them in the butt!

Now, I don’t usually like to leap forward and spoil the ending, but it’s important to note that those COW folks did move the rent issue along to the next full council meeting with only Senior Gavin and Toby Shaw casting dissenting votes.

With those supermajority numbers, you can bet your sweet bippie that the Grand Victoria’s lease will, indeed, be readjusted accordingly.

But despite doing the right thing, we’ve run into a massive city council irony that I simply cannot ignore. And it starts with City Manager Sean Stegal mentioning that no other Illinois floating craps game pays any rent. Well…there might be one that remits 50 grand a year, but neither Des Plaines, nor Joliet, nor Aurora pay one thin dime of rent to their host towns.

So where’s the irony you ask? Oh! I’ll tell you! I’ve managed to make it through more bleepin’ county board, city council, and school board meetings than the entire population of Pingree Grove combined. And I can’t tell you how many times  I’ve heard those council folk say something like, “We have to bring this fee/rate/tax in line with surrounding communities.”

Translated, what that really means is, “We need an excuse to raise taxes so we’re going to cite the fact that other municipalities charge more so we can too. However, if we accidentally discover that we’re a bit higher on some other fees and taxes, you won’t hear a peep out of us.”

So when Councilman Shaw argued that paying just 3.5 percent of their profit in rent was a great deal relative to other local businesses, my rebuttal would’ve been, “Yeah! But the other boat’s aren’t paying any rent at all!”

Because if you’re gonna use the relativity theory, then you’re bound by it on all fronts and my argument is really hard to beat. (I still love you Toby, but you’re dead wrong on this one.)

Once! Just once! I would love to Elgin, or any other village board, say, “You’re right! We’ve got to bring this in line with other communities. Jim! [Thomason] You’re off the rental hook!” I completely understand the ramifications of sudden unforeseen budget deficits, but ethically and philosophically, it would’ve been the right thing to do.

Of course, I’m sure Terry Gavin would responded to that sentiment with something like; “It’s not our fault you signed a really bad lease agreement and you’re just gonna have to live with it.”

But that’s why he’s an unrepentant braying jackass! Because even though he’s correct on a mere technicality, considering how the Grand Victoria and Pritzker Family have always made it a point to work with the community – instead of against  them – why wouldn’t you give them the same consideration?

Why does this relationship have to be so adversarial?

For better or worse, the fate of the City of Elgin and the Grand Victoria are inextricably intertwined and if the council doesn’t hold up their end of that implicit social bargain and things go too far, I guarantee you the Pritzkers will bail out and the next owners won’t be nearly as magnanimous on so many levels.

For lack of a better analogy, this relationship is just like a good marriage and that means you always try to do your best and go the extra mile. C’mon man! You got a good thing going! Please don’t tell me the thrill is gone or I’ll have to get out my B. B. King records and really annoy the crap out of the neighbors.

Not only should Elgin reduce the boat’s rent to zero on pure principal, but the Council should direct the appropriate city folks to consistently go out of their way to promote Festival Park events because a reinvented Grand Victoria is good for everyone.

And please try to remember that all this is coming from a staunch pain in the ass columnist who doesn’t believe in legal gambling anywhere. That said, how many goddamn billionaire families have the social conscience of the Pritzkers?

You wanna know what the really scary thing is? If I’m the smartest person in the room here, then we’re all in fucking trouble.

July 24, 2014 / jeffnward

Here’s the 7/24/14 Edition of Left, Right and You…

… for your listening pleasure:

Julia McClendon

Julia McClendon

Larry and I want to thank 14th District Democratic Congressional candidate Dennis Anderson for calling in and providing a rational view on how democracy is really supposed to work. Randy Hultgren’s is in trouble. I’m still waiting for someone – anyone – to name one of Hultgren’s accomplishments other than occupying a chair.

Another big thank you to Elgin area YWCA CEO Julia McClendon for enlightening us as to that agency’s efforts to get women more involved in the local political process. Not only do Larry and I encourage this kind of thing, but yours truly will be speaking at their October seminar.

Enjoy the show!

 

July 24, 2014 / jeffnward

Dennis Anderson can beat Randy Hultgen

As a result of a previous post outlining just how 14th District Democratic Congressional nominee Dennis Anderson can beat incumbent Randy Hultgren, I ended up sitting down with Mr. Anderson and one of his staffers for about 45 minutes last week.

But despite coming into that conversation already convinced the candidate would stick to the common campaign scheme and wouldn’t even consider my alternative conclusions, I left our meeting feeling confident he had a real shot.

And trust me, that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, this might be the very first time it has.

Anderson2

The one thing Anderson had going from him before he walked through the door was a decent 2012 showing. Some folks say that was the result of running in a presidential cycle, but Barack Obama had no coattails that go around. The Democrats were avoiding him like Ukrainian airspace.

So a 41 percent tally his fist time out while spending only a hundred grand against a Republican incumbent is the kind of showing that bodes very well for the future. Add the fact the 14th is becoming more Democratic with every breath and you’ve got the basis for an upset.

After we shook hands, the first thing I noticed about Anderson is, unlike Bill Foster, he actually has a personality. And If Hultgren could only manage to pull 51 percent of the vote against a generally listless 2010  Foster, imagine what a personable guy can do if he applies those talents appropriately.

Of course, what generally keeps Foster in politics is the fact he can finance himself. So what remains to be seen is exactly what kind of fundraiser Anderson turns out to be. Sadly, the national Democrats incorrectly assume the 14th is a lost cause so they certainly won’t be pouring any kind of cash into the race.

But what really surprised me about Anderson is his capacity to sit silently for long stretches and then carefully consider what you had to say. And I say “surprised” not because of anything I’d previously heard about the candidate, but because most office-seekers make up their minds early and can’t wait to show you just how much they already know.

It is truly a rare phenomenon when a candidate not only seeks out advice, but actually considers it.

But the thing I liked most about Anderson might surprise you! His entire self-image and ego wasn’t completely tied up in winning a Congressional bid. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll be thrilled if he pulls it off, but he clearly understands that life goes on long after the election is a distant memory.

You all know I’ve been saying this for years. The people who so desperately desire to assume the mantels of power are the very last ones we should put there. The reason so many political campaigns get so dirty is neither contestant can bear the thought of coming in second.

Ah! But the capacity to stay unattached in the face of pressing possibilities is a powerful position which will allow Anderson to make those often necessary quick campaign adjustments and serve his constituents instead of his own self-interest.

Meanwhile, this is the best gig that Randy Hultgren has ever had and he’s so desperate to hang onto it that he’ll gladly throw his lot in with the obstructionists and accomplish absolutely nothing just to get that fat paycheck. Can anyone tell me anything Randy has done? Other than lobby pork for a local science facility that’s long past its prime, that is.

We’ll talk more about him later.

Please understand that I’m not ready to predict an Anderson victory quite yet, but I am encouraged. If Dennis continues to stay this calm and he follows the blueprint laid out at our meeting, we might all be surprised.

And don’t forget! Dennis Anderson will be on today’s (7/24) edition of Left, Right and You where we’ll talk about this topic and more!

July 23, 2014 / jeffnward

What isn’t news part 3 – ya gotta ask yourself, “So what?”

Though I never intended this topic to become a trilogy, ya gotta go where the evidence takes you. But before we continue down this path, let me clearly state for the record that my recent critique of the local press is an effort to ensure their survival and not to seek the opposite.

Because if those smaller newspapers really do fade away, all those suddenly elated city councils will immediately revert to freezing out the public and doing whatever the bleep they want.

Of course, the irony is, those charged with “encouraging” elected officials to improve their behavior generally don’t take it very well whenever that constructive criticism is redirected at them.

So, just to be on the safe side, before I put fingers to keyboard, a former long-time managing editor and I discussed what we’re about to discuss for a full 45 minutes. And even though we came at it from two very different directions, we both ended up in the same place.

I said the local press doesn’t know how to pick their battles and he said, “Forget the five W’s – who, what, where, when, why and sometimes how – too many journalists forget to ask the question, ‘So what?’”

Both statements basically amount to the same thing.

But moving on to the subject at hand, this time we’re talking about the out-of-the-blue Courier-News story on the Attorney General’s determination that the Elgin Council did not violate the Open Meetings Act when they went into executive session to decide whether they’d fill former alderman Anna Moeller’s vacant seat.

Hearing-ECN-112011

The first problem is, I read that piece four times and, with no context, couldn’t figure out what the heck the reporter was trying to say. Part of it was the writing, but it seemed kinda strange to answer a question that nobody asked.

In pursuit of clarity, I called Mayor Kaptain who explained that, as a result of Councilman Terry Gavin’s “persuasion,” the Courier and Daily Herald questioned the City as to whether it was appropriate for the council to go into executive session to discuss the process of appointing an alderman.

While the Open Meetings Act certainly allows you to kick everyone out of the room to discuss a person or persons, you cannot close that door to debate policy or take a final vote.

Elgin Corporate Counsel Bill Cogley did his best to convince both papers that the council did, indeed, discuss specific aldermanic applicants, but that didn’t stop one or both of them from going to the Illinois Press Association (IPA). Though, oddly enough, the Courier makes no mention of who actually took it to Lisa Madigan’s office. One would assume it had to be the IPA.

And the fact that all of that information was missing from the story is somewhat strange.

Then, once the Courier and/or Daily Herald picked this battle, they refused to fight it. I suppose you could choose to take something to the IPA based solely on the fact you think it’s a violation, but given the papers’ precarious staffing situation, that seems like a waste of time.

So you read the story and say “So what?”

Ah! But if you realize that real battle was the Elgin City Council majority probably used the letter of the Open Meetings Act law to minimize Councilmen Gavin and John Prigge’s insistent chest thumping, self-aggrandizing, and time wasting efforts by taking it indoors, well, now you’re on to something.

To be perfectly clear, were I on that city council, I would’ve done the same goddamn thing because what regular folks don’t understand is you have to fight blatant obstructionism with every goddamn tool in the book. And this executive session was a great way to do it.

But without being willing to stake your claim and provide that background, once again, before you pursue this “violation” – or run a story on it – ya gotta ask yourself, “So what?”

And for the City to be exonerated of all charges with no real newspaper context ever being offered makes the local press look kind of inept.

Enlightened by our three day analysis, I can suddenly see why politicians and elected officials are so frustrated with the local newspapers. Stories run that aren’t really news while the real news doesn’t get covered nearly enough. Bad news generally gets hyped while the good news doesn’t make it in and reporters’ efforts sometimes seem somewhat random.

So my short-term final word to all those hardworking reporters and their editors out there is to pick your battles. And, as my former editor friend said, the best way to do that is, whenever you’re considering a story, forget about the five W’s and ask yourself, “So what?”

And if you can’t answer that question…

July 22, 2014 / jeffnward

It’s time for the 7/24 Left, Right and You promo…

…and you can listen to the voice version right here:

For you folks who prefer going the text route, we’re thrilled to have 14th Congressional District Democratic nominee Dennis Anderson join us for the first part of the show. Larry may disagree, but it’s time to dispense with incumbent Randy Hultgren who doesn’t really have anything to offer. We look forward to hearing what Dennis has to say!

anderson

Then, Elgin YWCA CEO Julia McClendon will come on to discuss her agency’s effort to get women to run for local office. I’ve been saying that for years because women generally aren’t as crazy as men. Why, they’ll even be offering an October seminar on the subject with yours truly as one of the speakers.

So please join Larry Jones and me on WRMN AM1410 from 3 to 4 p.m. this (and every) Thursday for another insight packed episode of Left, Right and You!

You won’t be sorry.

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