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September 17, 2014 / jeffnward

Turn out the lights – the party’s over!

It’s amazing – and bleepin’ hilarious – to watch all the Republican rats flee the sinking ship.

Conservatives, who put Rauner over the primary top and proceeded to hold their breath as they fervently prayed that he actually had a shot, are now taking shots at him for shifting towards the center left as his electoral fortunes furiously fade.

Blue dog Democrats, the very folks upon whom the Rauner campaign has pinned all their hopes, aren’t buying his brand new “regular guy” persona either. That commercial with blowhard Mike Ditka was as unmitigated a disaster as the Bears season opener. Way to appear wishy washy Bruce!

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To add insult to injury, Libertarians, those nerdy voters who think they’re cooler than everyone else, wouldn’t even consider casting their lot with Rauner.

So despite a Democratic opponent who’s raised taxes, completely failed to resolve the pension crisis, regularly cowers in the shadow of Mike Madigan, couldn’t effectively lead a girl scout troop, and has the all the charisma of a German Catholic nun, Bruce Rauner – the man with more money than God – is about to go down in the kind of flames that will make Bill Brady look like a genius by comparison.

But don’t listen to me! Go ahead and ignore my prescient June prediction, because all you really have to do is consider two recent polls to come to the same Bruce Rauner end is near conclusion.

The first, a telephone survey conducted September 4th through 7th by Early and Often, showed Quinn and Rauner in an essentially a margin of error dead heat. The second was a September 3 to 12 poll performed by the Chicago Tribune in which Quinn trounced Rauner by 9 points.

Of course, Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller, who managed to get up off his sick bed (translated – he’s recovering from another two week bender) to claims the Trib erred by hitting only registered voters – not those most likely to vote – and skewed the results by polling a lopsided 43 percent Democrats, 24 percent Republicans, and 28 percent independents.

Perhaps Rich should avail himself of the latest 2014 Gallup research which shows, though it certainly has slipped, Illinois Democratic voters maintain a 17 point advantage over their GOP counterparts. And if you add 17 to those 24 percent Republicans, you come up with 41 percent Democrats which is eminently close enough to that Tribune Democratic number.

But the truth is, none of that statistical squabbling really matters. Let’s throw standard deviational caution into the wind by saying Miller was sober long enough to get it right (I know that’s a stretch) and, correcting for that bias, the second poll is also dead even. That still relegates Rauner to runner up status because, for any Illinois GOP challenger to beat a sitting statewide Democrat, they have to be up by at least 10 points with a scant two months left to go.

Unless you’ve hired Eric Cantor’s campaign crew, you can count on all statewide races narrowing in favor of the incumbent as election day looms large. This is why incumbents tend to get reelected and Bruce’s latest mailer is all about early voting.

Thus, in order for a statewide challenger to prevail, they have to build a reasonable lead before that homestretch phenomenon takes hold. And this kind of untimely tie really is just like kissing your sister.

What’s so much worse is, without a commanding lead to rally the troops, all those conservative Republican factions who make a sport out of turning on their own party, now fearing a loss, will try to save face by claiming they never supported this mope to begin with.

And then they will savage him.

I suppose it’s possible that Quinn could still go all Dan Rutherford on us, but given past history, the far better bet is Rauner will be the one to stick his foot in his mouth. Oh! I don’t know, something like barring 12 Columbia College journalism students from your latest press conference because they weren’t “working journalists.”

Yeah Bruce! “Regular guys” do that kind of thing all the time. (Though there is something to be said for the probability that, anyone who willingly chooses to be a journalism student right now is probably completely out of their fucking mind anyway.)

Of course, in the face of those dire poll numbers, Bruce is lending himself yet more money and desperately trying to get some scandal to stick to Quinn. So now he’s blasting patronage at IDOT. Patronage at IDOT??!!. Be still my beating heart – that almost always happens.

Meanwhile the Guv hasn’t begun to break a sweat. Just wait till he brings out the big guns like the GTCR nursing home fiasco. Old folks actually vote and they will not be amused.

Even Miller put the bottle down long enough to cite a current federal lawsuit claiming Rauner’s company sold APS Health Care, a $223 million “lemon,” after engaging in a “deliberate campaign to conceal the truth.”

Meanwhile, while Bruce was at the GTCR helm, that same subsidiary “incorrectly” invoiced the Georgia Medicaid program and, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, who hit them with a $13 million fine, APS “Took Medicaid’s money for itself and left some of our most vulnerable citizens without the aid they deserved.”

Nice! Women, who also tend to vote more often, won’t soon forget that one.

So folks! It really is all over but the shouting. Once again, instead of nominating a candidate who could actually win, conservative Republicans went with the wacky flavor du jour and, thanks to them, we’re about to end with four more years of Pat Quinn.

Kirk Dillard would have run away with this race. Does anyone have his number? Is it too late for a write-in candidate?

September 16, 2014 / jeffnward

What happened to the local news? – part II

Yesterday we covered how the Tribune generally fails to cover the local news. Maintaining that proud tradition, today their page 2 piece is on breadsticks while another columnist waxed poetically about Radio Shack on page 3. At least we’re spared Kass on Tuesdays. If I have to avoid reading one more column on just on how heinous the President really is, I’m gonna hurl.

All that said, it can get worse – much worse – as the Daily Herald just went out of their way to prove.

Though I hate to regurgitate this kind of abject BS, if things are going to make any sense here, we must note that a former Carpentersville resident was just arrested in Mississippi and charged with the murder of his five children, ages one to eight, in South Carolina.

Though this kind of morbidly voyeuristic coverage is not nearly relegated to the DH, I would love for someone – anyone – to explain how this kind of far from random tragedy is actually news.

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The fact that newspapers choose to normalize this aberrant behavior by insistently covering the aftermath of every mentally ill or deluded individual who finally goes off the deep end, says far more about the managing editors than it does about the criminals.

It’s not news when a mother drowns her kids. It’s not news when some moron who, unable to cope with his own shortcomings, goes on a shooting spree. It’s not news when a father takes out his entire family.

What is news is, having faced down and surmounted the vast array of challenges and stresses that permeate this often difficult existence, the vast majority of folks who somehow manage to persevere and make a better life for their kids.

But not only did the DH cover this non-local tragedy, they took it an absurd step further by going out of their way to make it local. This, of course, begs the question, who, in their right journalistic mind would seek out this assassin’s former roommates just to obtain their expert opinion on his character?

Short of a mental illness, is there really any doubt as to the disposition of someone who just murdered five of his own children? It’s not one of life’s great mysteries.

And what the hell did the DH think these two geniuses were gonna say? “Yeah! We weren’t the least bit surprised by it! The three of us used to go out, get tanked, and beat the crap out of hookers. And that was on a good day! We had an office pool on exactly when this guy was gonna go off and Frank is pretty excited about winning the 150 bucks!”

Of course, one roommate said “He fooled us,” while the other concluded, “I don’t think he should make it out of prison. It’s pretty heinous stuff.”

No shit!

That’s going out on a limb. Did we really need two regular guys from Carpentersville to confirm this guy probably shouldn’t be walking the streets? I didn’t realize that DH readers were the kind of forgiving bunch who might “accidentally” think this guy should get a second chance.

And now that his former friends have finally waded in on this horrific crime, we can all finally sleep at night. Please don’t forget to mention that police found maggots in the defendant’s SUV.

On what planet is the opinion of two formerly local mopes who, through blind happenstance, bumped into a potential murderer in his early twenties, worth printing? Perhaps the real insights might involve how his life unraveled after he was kicked out of his house as a teenager.

But no! That would actually take work! It’s much easier to cite his youthful drug use and criminal record as the obvious and inevitable basis for this kind of eminently predictable multiple homicide. Why, if only the DH was aware of this guy ahead of time, just like in the movie Minority Report, they could’ve prevented it from happening.

So now we can all breathe a sigh of relief and feel far better about ourselves because, by not managing to murder our children, we’ve gotta be far better than this guy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go interview the third cousin twice removed of the brother of the chauffeur who worked for Kourtney Kardashian in the mid 90’s. He lives right here in Maple Park and I’m sure he’ll provide the kind of fascinating family insights that no one else possibly could.

September 15, 2014 / jeffnward

What happened to the local news? – part I

It’s like watching a good friend light up another cigarette. In your heart, you know it’s nothing more than an ugly method of slow suicide, but you also understand that he’s completely addicted to the process.

So as you sit there, the question becomes, at the risk of concerned overtures being perceived as incessant nagging, which is never an effective tactic, do you point out the folly of his deleterious ways in hopes he’ll finally give it up, or do you simply keep your mouth shut?

Clearly, I fall into the former group which may well explain my vast popularity.

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So even though my attempts to enlighten my newspaper brethren have clearly crossed that carping threshold line, and there really isn’t all that much hope left at this point, I refuse to stay silent because local newspapers’ survival is far too important.

While zipping through the main section of the Sunday Tribune, much like the late Clara Peller, I found myself suddenly shouting to no one in particular, “Where’s the beef?” The paper started off well enough with a great headline story on Bruce Rauner’s rapidly fading electoral hopes, but then the rest of it broke down like this.

The two remaining front page pieces were medical stories. There’s anything wrong with medical stories, but unless you’re covering a cure for cancer, they clearly belong in the magazine or features section. Neither one had anything to do with Chicago either.

Page two provided yet another opportunity for John Kass to go off of on the President. Apparently he doesn’t think his 739 previous pieces on the same tired old subject have had any effect whatsoever. Yes John! We get it! Barack Obama is the very embodiment of the Anti-Christ. So now can you finally write about something else?

Then, to cap it off, Mary Schmich’s page three column considers a quandary that weighs heavily upon all our shoulders – whether or not to publicly shame a public park smoker. Personally, I’d be a little more concerned with keeping the bullets, drugs and wilding mobs out of Chicago parks.

Call me crazy, but if cigarette smoke is the worst thing you have to contend with, you’re way ahead of the Chicago curve.

In summary, of the 15 total stories between the front and Perspective pages, two covered valid Illinois issues (Rauner and IDOT), while only three had something to do with the city of Chicago. Of that trio, one was Schmich’s inane piece and another covered two new pedestrian bridges on the south lakefront

Be still my beating heart.

Only the article on the lingering toxic tank rail car threat was a real Chicago news story and it was kinda buried!

It’s not that some of the other pieces weren’t newsworthy. But again, a charity event, a teen founded website for the mentally ill, first ladies’ role in presidential libraries, and a family squabble over a Skokie photographer’s legacy all belong in the magazine or Lifestyle section.

Where’s the inside look at mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti? Rick Pearson would do a phenomenal job on that one. Where’s the story on Rahm’s reaction to his uppity 2nd Ward Alderman challenger? How will Darth Madigan figure into that contest?

Bruce Rauner and Jim Oberweis aside, what about all those state rep races? Where’s the story on the new Chicago FBI headquarters follies? How about an in-depth piece on how the CPD’s inability to effectively contend with a splintered street gang structure is the proximate cause of so many murders?

They didn’t do any of that, but the Trib did do a page three piece on former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s recent parting from his former Argentinian “soul mate.” For a minute there, I thought I was reading the Enquirer.

I don’t care what anyone says, the Chicago Tribune is a local newspaper. Their “local” may be a little bit bigger than most of ours, but the bulk of their readers share a common reality. And the one thing for which those remaining print media readers regularly clamor is, hyper-local news. It’s a very simple concept.

I’m not saying the Trib shouldn’t cover national and international news stories, but there’s a separate section for that. C’mon! I used to savor the front page portion of that paper and it’s inevitably pithy contents, but now I’m done with it in five minutes.

What the bleep happened to the local news?

And Mike Royko, who’s doing 3600 rpms in his final resting place, thought Rupert Murdoch was the worst of his worries!

September 12, 2014 / jeffnward

A guide to the local political board species of Illinois

In two separate conversations, a couple of Kane County politicians and I found ourselves lamenting how difficult it is to accomplish anything whenever there’s some sort of board involved. Whether it’s a library, park, school, fire protection, township, village, or county board, despite their best efforts to build a horse, they inevitably come up with the camel that Mark Twain warned us about.

And woe be to any chairman, elected official, or citizen who doesn’t fully comprehend the variety of species likely to inhabit the boardroom habitat. As the Bible put it, “Blessed are the board chairmen who don’t understand the concept of herding cats, for they shall inherit a spastic colon.”

At least I think that’s what the Good Book said.

KCB

So just like that venerable National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, in an effort to classify your basic board member phyla, I’ve come up with a field guide of my very own. So here goes:

1. The karma chameleon.

These are the folks who were always the middle school teacher’s pet. You know, the ones who, as you were about to dash out the door unencumbered, reminded the teacher that she forgot to give out the homework assignment.

Having never emotionally developed beyond the seventh grade, they simply apply that same principle to the boardroom where they’ll do anything to get on the chairman’s good side including acting as their hatchet person. And they’re usually pretty good at it.

The problem is, they’ve never had an original idea in their lives, they never seem to accomplish anything, and the other board members don’t take them very seriously.

2. The failed karma chameleon.

These board members think they’re karma chameleons only to discover they suck at sucking up. So when the political winds suddenly shift in an unsympathetic direction, they can’t understand why the chairman generally ignores them and they no longer land on the plum committees.

Unable to accept their fate, they proceed to whine, moan, go the press, obstruct, throw a temper tantrum and pout for the remainder of their term. You can always identify them by their crossed arms and consistent scowl.

3. The Quincy Wagstaff Adamser.

Whatever it is, they’re against it!

This is the most difficult and loudest of all boardroom species. They tend to be a disgruntled former karma chameleon (some chairmen do catch onto them) or someone whose political fortunes shifted so dramatically, they no longer feel the need to make an effort to govern or play well with others.

On rare occasion, it’s someone who believes they’re the rightful heir to the chairmanship, so they’re morally opposed to anyone in that position who isn’t them. Short of getting buck nekkid in the middle of a meeting, they will do absolutely anything to get all the attention including, but not nearly limited to, driving the meeting directly into the ditch.

The good news is, just like it is with Sith lords, there tends to be only one of ‘em. The bad news is, almost every board has one and there’s really no recourse but to wait for the next election cycle.

It’s important to note that the Adamser is also a favorite of the ancillary player because their cloying sympathetic interaction sets up a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which they make each other believe they’re the only righteous folks in the city, district or county.

4. The guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in the room but clearly isn’t.

This is the second most heinous type of board member species and it’s important to note that they’re almost always male. The truly terrifying thing about them is, upon first contact, like Cliff Clavin, they come off as knowledgeable, thoughtful and friendly.

But when you’re exposed to them on a regular basis, you can quickly identify them by their bizarre meandering call which changes with whatever they’ve been thinking for the last five minutes. Possessing no introspective capacity whatsoever, they consistently come up with the strangest theories, the silliest ways to spend money, and a personal reality that’s bears no resemblance to any other board member’s and is invincible to any factual argument.

And you don’t dare respond to them because it will only lead to six hour board meetings.

5. The guy who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else in the room and probably is, but it doesn’t matter because he’s so bleeping annoying.

Again, we’re talking a predominantly male breed here, who can be identified by his insistent condescending professorial tone whenever he decides to wade in on something which, unfortunately, is quite often.

Instead of Cliff Clavin, this one is far more like an oblivious Sheldon Cooper who believes the rest of the board is merely an ornamental group to whom he has have to explain the very basics of everything. Instead of simply voting on whether to spend money on a consultant, they’ll have to explain what the word “consultant” actually means and how the concept of paper money changed western civilization forever.

6. The woman who’s entire self-worth is tied up in her board position.

Since we’ve already picked on the men, it’s only fair to point out the frailties of the feminine board species. And this one is a combination of Sally Field’s, “You really like me” Oscar speech and the Big Bang Theory’s Amy Farrah Fowler.

She can’t believe she actually got elected and, having never been a part of the “in-crowd” from elementary through high school, now feels a dire need to make up for lost time. You can generally identify her by either her constant look of utter shock or always overly serious demeanor.

They fancifully flit between the ancillary players, their fellow board members, and “adoring” constituents while accomplishing absolutely nothing, or worse, making it impossible for the rest of the board to get anything done.

Woe be it to the chairman who appoints one of them to a subcommittee chair because the words “delay” and “obfuscate” will take on entirely new meanings.

Though I won’t name names (yet), there are two prime examples of this species currently serving on the Kane County Board.

7. The wishy washy board member who acts like the weight of the world is always upon them.

Again, we’re talking mostly females here. And for some strange reason their last names almost always fall at the end of the alphabet so whenever at tight vote comes down to them, they act as if they were just given Sophie’s choice.

They’ll grimace, bow their heads, and frequently elicit heavy sighs until a fellow board member reminds them they’re only voting on what to have for lunch. Even if the vote is already a lopsided 22 to 1, they’ll dither over their decision like a football replay official who has to decide if the potential game winning touchdown catch was out of bounds.

8. The out of sync board member.

Equally male or female, not only is the out of sync board member almost always docile, but they’re often quite humorous as well. You can identify them by their capacity to ask a question on an issue that was resolved 20 minutes ago. Undaunted by the exasperated looks from their colleagues, they’ll take the entire proceeding right back to that previous point regardless of the fact that it’s no longer subject to a vote.

Realizing they’re impervious to logic and the meeting will go nowhere until the issue is re-resolved, their fellow board members will do their damndest to provide the Reader’s Digest condensed version so they can go home and eat dinner.

9. The tardy or invisible board member.

The tardy board member invariably waltzes in 45 minutes into an hour long meeting. Then they’ll immediately commence to asking all the questions that have already been answered and providing all the points that have already been made.

The invisible board member ran for the gig with the foolish notion that part-time political offices really are part time. Overwhelmed by family and job commitments, they end up missing the majority of meetings. They’ll even miss meetings after the entire board has changed their schedules just to accommodate them.

Of course, the real answer is to step down and give someone else have a shot, but they convince themselves they’ll start showing up as soon as they get a handle on whatever drama is currently dominating their lives which never happens.

10. The narcissistic droner.

This is actually a subset of all of the previous categories. This species is in love with the sound of their own voice and will offer their opinion on any topic just so they can hear themselves talk. They’ll even interrupt the motion to adjourn just to get in that last fix.

You can always identify the narcissistic droner by the horrified looks from the press table whenever the chairman gives them the floor. The best example of this particular breed is Terry Gavin, who currently serves on the Elgin City Council.

So there you have it! Your own field guide to the fascinating and exciting world of governmental boardroom inhabitants. Who knows! If you ply me with a bottle of Cuervo Gold, you might actually get me to start naming names!

September 11, 2014 / jeffnward

This is the 9-11-14 edition of Left, Right and You!

Larry and I want to offer a huge thank you to Kane County GOP sheriff nominee Don Kramer for coming into the WRMN studios and talking with us. Given their busy schedules, our guests often have to resort to the cell phone, but there’s nothing quite like sitting down and having that face-to-face conversation.

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Don certainly answered our to-the-point questions and now you, the listener, have more ammunition to make your final polling place decision. We also want to thank our caller for asking a great question on the current heroin scourge.

Then my esteemed former police chief co-host provided some very unique insights as to the difficulties in getting qualified minority candidates to apply for suburban police department positions. There’s a reason I brought Larry Jones on as my co-host.

Next week! Kane County Democratic Sheriff nominee Willie Mayes will join us in the studio. Until then, thank you for listening to Left, Right and You!

September 11, 2014 / jeffnward

U-46 just can’t catch a break

Though most of the people on the planet will swear it doesn’t work this way, the vast majority of the BS that befalls us is entirely self-inflicted. That said, when I turn my attention to the U-46 school district, I gotta wince at some of the chunks of sky that have fallen directly on their heads.

First it was the messy departure of an eminently questionable superintendent followed by a good one who decided it was time to move on. Then that insipid No Child Left Behind brand of federal government meddling made the measurements of success utterly meaningless. To make matters much worse, an ambulance chasing law firm decided discrimination was their ticket to a massive payday.

And now the district is bearing the brunt of a Kane County Clerk’s office error that placed a temporarily undue portion of the property tax burden on those DuPage County folks who happen to reside within the district’s purview.

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While it would be fair to say the district may have had a hand in making some of those aforementioned misfortunes a little bit worse, they had absolutely nothing to do with this particularly taxing situation.

Basically, the Clerk’s office made a very simple, but significant error by under-calculating the total U-46 Kane County property tax value. And just as it is in Newtonian physics, there was an immediate equal and opposite reaction sending DuPage County tax bills soaring.

More simply put, DuPage County U-46 residents are subsidizing their Kane County compatriots this year, but as soon as the appropriate remedy can be legally applied, the converse will hold true next year. In 2016, balance will finally be restored to the taxation force.

If you’d like to further delve into the details, Courier-News reporter Dave Gathman’s done a really good job of explaining a very complicated situation.

With the absurd complexity of the Illinois tax statutes, the vast number of taxing bodies, and all those overlapping boundaries, this kinda thing actually happens more often than you’d think. The problem in this instance is, the miscalculation is greatly magnified by the sheer size of the school district.

Harkening back to the title of this piece, armed with all their pitchforks and torches, instead of directing their dismay at the Kane County Clerk’s office, those exceptionally unhappy DuPage County residents are aiming all their vitriol at those “spendthrift” U-46 administrators and the board.

There’s already been a rather raucous August 12 town hall gathering. Of the late August school board meeting, Gathman reported, “It was one of the angriest and most unruly crowds of any meeting I have covered.” (And that means a lot coming from Dave.) There was another somewhat more sedate Bartlett Town Hall last night.

Look, no one understands that these kinds of mistakes can be made better than me, so the fact that they happen doesn’t surprise me. But what does surprise me is that no one from the Clerk’s office has taken to that podium to explain exactly why the error occurred and just how it will be redressed.

There was a County Clerk staffer in that town hall audience last night, but she didn’t step up to take any questions.

Meanwhile, through no fault of their own, U-46 is facing the very real prospect of an incorrectly energized portion of their tax base coming after them with one of the worst collective cases of ADHD I’ve ever seen. Glenn Beck is the only one who could possibly come up with wackier theories.

When those adjusted tax bills come out next year, given the far greater percentage of U-46 Kane County residents, it’s gonna be exponentially worse.

But the real complication could be, if this sudden burst of angry taxpayer energy coalesces into anything like the blowhard taxFACTS gaggle who relentlessly harassed the Geneva School Board for years to no positive effect, Katie bar the door, it’s gonna get ugly. At least that Geneva school board brought some of it on themselves by going a little crazy with all the new school buildings.

In this case, U-46 did absolutely nothing to deserve the current onslaught.

Perhaps the Clerks’ office will send an emissary to the U-46 September 15 school board meeting to diffuse this semi-volcanic situation. I’ll keep you posted.

September 11, 2014 / jeffnward

Here’s the September 11, 2014 Left Right and You promo!

Today, Larry and I welcome Kane County GOP sheriff nominee Don Kramer to the WRMN studios. We’ll ask him, should he prevail in November, how he plans on handling one of the biggest and most complex offices in the county. It certainly ain’t no cake walk.

If you have a question for Don, please give us a call at 847-931-1410. Democratic nominee Willie Mayes joins us next week!

Don Kramer

Don Kramer

Time permitting, we’ll also cover that great DH piece on the lack of racial diversity in our local police departments. Former police chief Larry will provide his unique insights into the difficulties involved in attracting qualified minority candidates.

So please join that smiling conservative and myself today at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM1410 because no one covers the local political scene like Left, Right and You!

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