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May 23, 2017 / jeffnward

The Speaker is no overnight sensation

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the responses to yesterday’s letter to U-46 CEO Tony Sanders if for no other reason than it proves my wife isn’t the only one who reads my stuff. But what semi-baffles me is all the folks who declared, “Michael Madigan has got to go!” as if that simple sentiment was good enough.

It’s not that I necessarily disagree. It’s those commenters’ failure to begin to understand how the Speaker got there that bothers me.

You see, it took a mere 30 years of masterful maneuvering while he consistently applied an astute political strategy as he took advantage of a general Illinois Republican incompetence and complicity.

A mere bag of shells, right?

Madigan

And now that he’s ascended to these lofty heights, he ain’t going anywhere. When his appointed time finally comes, he’ll be wheeled out of that House chamber still clutching that gavel to his chest.

Saying “Madigan has to go” may make you feel good, but it doesn’t change a damn Illinois thing. Since we always have to start with where we are, as was once said of the Eternal City, all Springfield roads lead to the Speaker.

And if y’all don’t understand that history, not only will nothing change, but we’re doomed to repeat it.

Before we get back to that history, let’s use a football analogy to demonstrate how silly this simple anti-Madigan statement sentiment really is.

Tom Brady became the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001 and he’s won a record 25 playoff games since then. That’s more post-season wins than 28 NFL teams have managed in their entire history. Don’t forget about those unparalleled five Super Bowl rings, either.

But can you imagine football fans ever saying something like this?

“The Patriots are bad for the NFL! They’ve got to go!” To some degree, that’s true. Overly dominant teams are bad for the game because fans lose interest. NFL ratings were down 10 percent across the board in 2016.

“The Patriots cheat and play dirty!” Yep! So does every other NFL team, but New England does it better. And when they get caught and lose draft picks and/or Brady gets suspended, they win anyway.

“The Patriots don’t care about other teams or the NFL!” Of course they don’t! All they  care about is winning Super Bowls and making money.

“The NFL should never allow a team to become this dominant!” First, the Patriots generally play by the rules. Second, it took decades for the organization to develop into this finely honed machine. And third, when you have the best coach in NFL history, a scouting combine that rarely misses and a general manager who knows his stuff, you amass wins through impeccable drafts, despite being saddled with the last pick.

“The NFL should do something about the Patriots. It’s not fair!” Roger Goddell would love nothing more than to slap those New Englanders down. He knows a rising parity tide lifts all boats. But you can’t penalize a team for doing everything exponentially better than their closest competitors.

Though there’s a certain logic to our anti-Patriot arguments, given the Lombardi theory regarding the only thing that matters, my fondest wish is you see just how ridiculous these contentions really are. Are the Patriots that good or is the rest of the NFL that bad?

To wit, if you want to compete with the New England Patriots, study their methods and do it better!

The same thing goes for Michael Madigan!

“Madigan and the Democratic super-majority are bad for Illinois! They’ve got to go!” You’re right! No one should be have that kind of unbridled power. But flapping your gums ain’t gonna change a damn thing (Allen Skillicorn!).

“Michael Madigan plays dirty!” Yes he does! But if Republicans were in the same position, they’d do the same gerrymandering thing. My favorite Madigan tactic is, knowing he’s vulnerable in his two-year district, he has subordinates sit in David Orr’s office with ready-to-go nominating petitions from black, Hispanic, Polish and all sorts of other candidates. The second a challenger tries to sneak in a last minute run, they dash to the front desk to suddenly make it a four-way race. That’s how you do it folks!

“Mike Madigan doesn’t care about the State of Illinois!” No he doesn’t! All he cares about is wealth and power. And he’s done an amazing job of amassing both too. Please tell me how that differs from most Illinois politicians?

“Illinois should never allow a State Rep to become this dominant!” Perhaps! But the Speaker generally follows the rules, it took thirty years for him to get this far, he’s the most effective politician in Illinois history, his campaign ground game borders on perfection and despite being regularly excoriated, he simply keeps his mouth shut and wins elections. Don’t hate him because he’s beautiful!

“Somebody should do something about Michael Madigan! It’s not fair!” Illinois Republicans would love nothing more than to slap the Speaker down. But they’ve hung their hats on so many silly social issues like same-sex marriage, their ground game sucks and their messaging is so bad they can’t buy an election in a state that’s fiscally insolvent.

If you really want to “get rid of the Speaker,” then dispense with the gum flapping, study what he’s accomplished and start building the kind of team it takes to takes to beat him at his own game. Any other conclusion belies the kind of abject political immaturity that put Illinois Republicans in the super-minority in the first place.

At least Mr. Madigan was willing to put in those countless political hours, are you?

May 22, 2017 / jeffnward

A letter to Tony Sanders

U-46 CEO Tony Sanders is one of my favorite people. Not only does he make an incredibly difficult job look easy, he never seems to lose his love for gig that would make me homicidal in a scant 48 hours.

One must also give him credit for the leadership role he’s taken in putting the pressure on Springfield to pass a bleepin’ budget. Considering his already insurmountable duties, he’s been on this one like white on rice!

So I can’t tell you how much it pains me to have write this letter to Tony explaining that, as long as Bruce Rauner is governor, there will be no budget. So here goes!

Sanders

Tony Sanders

Dear Tony,

The entire U-46 School District applauds the fact that you managed to meet with Darth Madigan and Sith Lord Rauner to insist they sit down and strike a budgetary deal. But sadly, your semi-Herculean effort will never amount to the irresistible force that can move the intractable object.

Because that immovable object is Governor Rauner.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Speaker, his policies or the fact he’s managed to amass as much power as he has. But this kind of Rome wasn’t built in a day and the “Shake up Springfield” guy knew exactly what he was getting into. When questioned by the papers, he declared that he could work with everyone.

But Bruce Rauner can’t work with anyone! It’s why, in an unprecedented move, the Sun-Times, Tribune and Crain’s all rescinded their endorsements.

I’ve said it before, I’m not a big biblical passage fan, but there is one that always seems to ring true:

“I’ll say it again–it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

What Jesus meant was, since rich folks have the wherewithal to create and live in their own reality, they never experience the connectedness that Jesus referred to when he said:

“You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”

Thus, Governor Rauner doesn’t even listen to his own advisors because, in his closed mind, he’s always right. The only way the Governor will finally shed this reality is when he’s badly beaten by Chris Kennedy or J. B. Pritzker.

But the damage to the state will have already been done.

You see Tony, the Governor thinks he’s winning this budgetary battle and no one can tell him otherwise. He even believes his Lucy strategy is working! Every time he declares a deal is near, and it’s been four separate times, the Governor pulls the football away firmly believing voters will blame the Democrats for the ongoing stalemate. And he’s so tone-deaf he has no clue that’s not the case.

C’mon! The man is already running campaign commercials that claim he’s actually accomplished something.

So when you told Governor Rauner that, without a budget, U-46 will shut down around Thanksgiving, he wasn’t the least bit concerned, because it’s exactly what he wanted to hear. The Governor has convinced himself that doing serious damage to state universities, school districts and social service agencies will finally incite the kind of anti-Madigan revolution that he believes is one small spark away.

His political immaturity is so pronounced that, not only does the Governor think he can get everything he wants all at once, but the voters won’t hold him accountable for failing to make some sort of deal.

When those shutdowns do occur and Republicans take the brunt of the blame, the Governor still won’t get the voter message. Since he’s never wrong, he’ll simply double down. Bruce Rauner doesn’t care if he has to destroy the state to “save it,” because he’s rich enough that he doesn’t have to care.

I’m not saying you should give up the “we need a budget now crusade,” Tony. I’ve been wrong before. But considering the massive amount of evidence supporting my contention, I’d start preparing for the shutdown.

I wish I had better news.

Your Friend,

Jeff

May 18, 2017 / jeffnward

Ron Hain officially announces for sheriff

Though my recent workouts have taken a toll, I hoisted my tired butt out of the home-office chair and headed over Kane County Sheriff candidate Ron Hain’s campaign kickoff press conference in front of the Regional Board of Education in Geneva at noon today.

Not only did about 20 of his supporters show up, but at time when the Press has no bodies to spare, it was gratifying to see the DH’s Sue Sarkauskus, the Chronicle’s Renee Tomell and a couple of photographers in attendance too.

Hain Conference.jpg

In his brief commentary, Hain told reporters his administration would focus on:

  • Getting heroin off the streets by attacking it at the source
  • Creating a Heroin Hotline to better address the scourge
  • A Break the Cycle jobs program to reduce recidivism by 20 to 25 percent
  • Moving the Public Safety Division into the modern world
  • Substance abuse referral programs to help addicts get and stay clean
  • A consulting partnership to investigate and prosecute online child predators
  • Better communication with the County Board and local law enforcement agencies

All-in-all, I have to say this semi-jaded journalist was impressed with Mr. Hain and I do look forward to watching his campaign develop.

For background purposes, Kane County Sergeant Ron Hain will be facing off against Lieutenant Willie Mayes, who lost to Don Kramer in the 2014 general election. Though he hasn’t announced yet, with Chairman Chris Lauzen’s backing, it appears that bomb squad leader Kevin Tindall will take on Don Kramer in the Republican primary.

2018 is approaching faster than you think!

May 17, 2017 / jeffnward

The Geneva Report – May 17, 2017

Worst reality show ever!

If any of y’all tuned into Monday’s Geneva city council meeting I’m sure you felt the same irresistible urge to gouge your eyes out that I did. I’d rather be forced to watch an episode of ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” at gunpoint, than go through that again.

The central theme of the get together was the impending St. Charles Prairie Winds 200+ apartment development coming in behind the Randall Road Lowes on Bricher Road. And 10 to 20 of my north Fisher Farms compatriots were on hand to protest the inevitable traffic complications.

Prairie Winds

The Prairie Winds Apartments

Though I have to say a great part of the off-the-rails meeting problem was that city attorney Chuck Radovich clearly shares my capacity to aggravate the crap out of people, but my saving grace is I do it on purpose. Chuck’s school marm mien and inability to effectively communicate with regular folks made the meeting last much longer and become much more contentious than it had to be.

In Mr. Radovich’s defense, there is no IQ test requirement to move into my fascinating subdivision.

Firmly believing the City was selling them short in regards to a 1990’s intergovernmental agreement, those Fisher Farmians spoke in the kind of anti-apartment circles that made Donald Trump’s Andrew Jackson soliloquy actually make sense.

Kudos to Fourth Ward Alderman Jim Radecki for coming the closest to saying what really needed to be said, which was this:

1. Intergovernmental agreements are generally boiler plate contracts that no one pays attention to because there’s nothing to pay attention to. I know this, because I saw and archived hundreds of ‘em during my tenure at the Kane County Clerk.

2. The reason these agreements are so basic and consistent is we can’t have municipal government playing tit-for-tat over developments on their borders. That would quickly descend into a Hatfield and McCoy-esque quagmire.

3. What those agitated Genevans were essentially asking was for those 1990’s city councils to have been prescient enough to predict that the great recession would lead to a retail collapse, the subprime mortgage fiasco would make mortgages tough to come by, and Millennials would have no interest in home ownership, all of which would make apartments much more attractive.

4. If those alderman could make those kinds of predictions, they’d be working for a federal think tank, not getting 300 bucks a month to listen to their constituents complain.

5. If retail went into that space, as it was originally zoned, the traffic problems would be ten times worse, so Fisher Farms actually dodged a bullet!

C’mon! If they had the power, don’t you think the City of Geneva and/or the city council would stop that development to avoid taking all this heat?

 

But it could’ve been different!

What those fine Fisher Farms denizens failed to understand is, while we couldn’t hold St. Charles hostage over some simple intergovernmental agreement housekeeping, we could’ve forced some major Prairie Winds changes if city administrators didn’t sign off on the traffic study.

Burns

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns

You see, that very same intergovernmental agreement stipulates that, for any Bricher Road border project to move forward, St. Charles must provide Geneva with a professional traffic study, and Geneva must approve it.

But that traffic study never made it to the city council, and here’s why:

1. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns didn’t trust that non-rubber stamp gaggle to do the “right thing.”

2. The Mayor does trust city staffers whose loyalty has been purchased through top-of-the-line salaries and benefits packages.

3. When the traffic study arrived last March, Burns was battling Tom Simonian in a mayoral death match and the last thing he wanted was something this contentious to come before the council.

So Burns told staff to take care of it and, since they don’t have a constituency to answer to, they did. To be fair, as a professional campaign manager, I would’ve have advised my client to avoid the potential mess by either putting St. Charles off or having staff take the heat.

But now, with that golden opportunity squarely in the rearview mirror, Geneva can do nothing but sit back and watch those buildings go up.

 

Burning bridges

Rogina

Ray Rogina

If you did watch Monday’s city council meeting, you may have taken note of Mayor Burns’ brief summary of his terse Prairie Winds conversation with St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina.

“I did notice that Jeff! And I thought that, considering the benefits of intercity cooperation, suburban mayors would be a lot friendlier with each other.”

They generally are, but through his infamous inclination to unleash his ample ego, Mayor Burns has worn out his welcome with many Kane County elected officials. Any other Mayor might have had a shot with his St. Charles counterpart, but not this one.

 

A growth project

This is the Geneva school superintendent’s front lawn which hasn’t been touched since the summer of 2016 so it’s a foot high in spots. I’m looking forward to the mail order goats’ arrival because they’ll be a vast improvement over most of my neighbors.

Mutchler Lawn.jpg

May 15, 2017 / jeffnward

All my Kane County Judicial Center children

Now, I will admit I’ve had a couple of shots of tequila this evening, but that’s the only way anyone can cover the Kane County justice system and make any sense of it whatsoever.

Of course, I wrote the words “Kane County Justice system” with the full understanding that the word “oxymoron” doesn’t begin to do it justice. The only thing more incestuous than this group of judges, prosecutors and attorneys would be a Trump family reunion.

“But Jeff! Aren’t you about to embark upon the kind of boring insider baseball BS that makes the average ADHD reader immediately descend into a three-day sugar and video gaming binge just to compensate? Perhaps! But that’s never stopped me before.

Kane County Judicial Center

There comes a time when regular folks need to know how the sausage is made.

So when we last left off, I’d already covered the various iterations of the Daniel Rak murder trial, which included a lengthy hearing on a slew of ill-gotten public defender emails at the hands of an out-of-control Kane County States Attorney’s office.

Public Defender Kelli Childress was doing her damndest to get the charges tossed based on the proposition that prosecutorial overreach is never a good thing. But the hitch in her legal giddyup is, the standards the KCSAO regularly applies to us, never seem to apply to them. That’s why there’s no bathroom mirrors at Route 38 and Peck Road.

Since this is clearly a tale told by an idiot (me, if you had any doubt), full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and all the world really is a stage, I thought the best way to proceed would be to cover all the players. Though this certainly ain’t no Midsummer’s Night Dream, the word I’m really looking for does rhyme with Puck.

1. Judge D. J. Tegeler

When he wasn’t busy treating female public defenders with the utmost contempt – one of the many perks the black dress confers – he ruled that the state’s attorney’s email conduct wasn’t “egregious” enough to change anything. Apparently, a prosecutor has to kill a defense attorney in open court before they cross that line.

And there’s no one I’d rather play poker against either, because a scant two minutes into that first hearing, I knew exactly how the Judge was gonna rule. I also know those humorless Second District appellate court judges will slap him upside the legal head if the case ever gets that far.

Not to worry Your Honor! Judge John Dalton always seems willing to go out of his way to make his peers look good by comparison.

2. Public Defender Kelli Childress

Is one of the most brilliant and perceptive attorneys I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in action. But when it comes to applying that considerable skillset to herself or her own cases, she has all the vision of Stevie Wonder.

Being a purist barely pays when you’re a bleepin’ columnist, much less a PD who serves at the behest of the all-male 16th Circuit judicial chorus. The only thing more painful than watching those hearings was having to sit my bony white butt on those unforgiving gallery benches.

It’s why I gave up Catholicism for Lent.

It’s not that Childress did a bad job. No! Her grasp of databases truly impressed this former 20-year programming consultant. It’s that, instead of reading the judge and simply moving on to a murder trial that has more holes than the Circuit Clerk’s new computer system, she bet too much on this illicit email longshot and went down in the kind of inevitable flames that make North Korean missile launches so much fun.

So after Tegeler stopped berating her long enough to issue his ruling, she had to ask for a continuance to prepare that defense, which failed to amuse the judge, which will make her client’s life that much more difficult.

On a side note, though we desperately need more people like you in that PD position Ms. Childress, we’re I in your heels, I’d start considering other options. With some notable exceptions, Kane County judges love a zealous defense until it comes from a PD with a uterus.

3. Rak Prosecutor Alex Bederka

How does one sum up my favorite assistant state’s attorney? Again; what’s the difference between God and Alex? God doesn’t think he’s Alex Berderka! But at least Alex can take solace in the fact that his marginal courtroom capacities are light years ahead of his failed attempts to become a real boy.

To wit, the KCSAO probably spent as much as six figures on Hinshaw & Culberston, Joe McMahon’s old law firm, to defend an email motion that was doomed from the Judge Tegeler start. Even Alex couldn’t have screwed that one up. To hell with the Kane County taxpayers, right!

So now Bederka and the SAO are going forward with charges that should never have been filed in the first place. Even someone with my minimal intelligence, surly manner and lack of bar accreditation could instill enough reasonable doubt.

4. Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon

Whose chances of being appointed to that coveted Northern Illinois Federal Prosecutor position are dwindling day by day, in great part, because he’s letting the inmates run the asylum.

If any defense attorney, public defender or police officer “accidentally” obtained similar privileged information, the fat lady wouldn’t even bother warming up. But in McMahon’s magic kingdom, all prosecutor Deb Lang had to do is wave her I-didn’t-read-those-emails sworn statement magic wand, and it’s all good!

She certainly knew which emails needed to be deleted from the subpoena response, didn’t she?

And McMahon’s insistence on setting up that errant email aggregation system in the first place seems to have no bearing on anything. One can only hope those federal prosecutors have been paying attention.

But the real Peter Principle irony here is, most of the applicable Kane County politicians are so fed up with Joe and his office, they want to help him move up just to get rid of him.

 

As for me, after navigating the Kane County justice system as the victim of a Class X felony and paying particular attention this case, in the words of that great philosopher Billy Joel, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun – and more honest too.”

(OK! So I paraphrased!)

This is Kane County justice folks! Daniel Rak would have a better shot on The People’s Court or by simply rolling the dice. And that’s the only part of this story that doesn’t make me laugh. At least with sausage, I get to enjoy the end product.

May 13, 2017 / jeffnward

You can’t touch this!

You know what I’m talking about people! We all have that friend who has to top every story we tell.

If you had a great vacation, they met Nelson Mandela on their 1978 South African tour. If you found a sawbuck on the street, they’ll regale you with the tale of the time they found a bag of C-notes. If you got a great deal on that Marchesa Notte evening gown, they could’ve gotten it for you wholesale.

These “you can’t touch this” folks exhibit a relentless and inexorable drive to assuage their vast insecurities by making you feel small.

So, despite her incredible accomplishments – not the least of which is earning this writer’s undying respect and admiration – it is with great sadness that I must report that Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman is one of those you-can’t-top-me kind of people.

And y’all know I always tell the truth!

It all started with me making the Channel 7 news as I was getting my picture taken with new Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin at his Paramount Theatre inauguration. It was a fun thing. Being a sex symbol may be difficult, but it does have its moments!

But Kristen just had to top it!

And sure enough! Just two days later, my favorite police chief’s photograph graced the WGN evening news with the caption “Kristen Kiefer.”

Not Kristen!

Of course, Kristen Kiefer is the Fox Lake resident who set off a massive manhunt by falsely claiming to have encountered the Gliniewicz “killers” early on in that investigation. WGN was covering Ms. Kiefer’s two-year probation and $20,000 restitution sentence.

One could ask the question, “How the bleep could WGN possibly confuse a Fox Lake civilian with the police chief of the second largest city in Illinois?”

Perhaps the woman wearing a police uniform shoulda tipped someone off. Did no producer consider the possibility that a police officer probably wouldn’t make a false report just to get national attention? Perhaps it’s something as simple as WGN thinks all white women named Kristen look alike.

But I’m convinced there’s something far more nefarious to this! In an effort to steal my Richard Irvin coverage thunder, Ms. Ziman conspired with WGN to get her picture on the nightly news by any means possible. C’mon! No news editor could possibly be this incompetent.

It’s the only logical explanation.

So yes, Kristen Ziman! Apparently the fact that you’re one of just two female police chiefs in Illinois; the fact that your law-enforcement track record is as about good as it gets; the fact that you’ve gained the respect and admiration of your peers in a male dominated profession without sacrificing anything you stand for; the fact that “Calm” is your middle name; the fact that I never hear anyone say a bad thing about you; and the fact that you can out-write me, isn’t nearly enough for you.

You just had to beat my, “Look Ma! I was on the news!” story, so you did just that. All I can say is, I truly hope you get the help you so desperately need soon!

May 12, 2017 / jeffnward

Quick Hits – The May 12, 2017 Geneva Report

Ya gotta love Genevans part one

Unless you’ve served on a city council or covered as many board meetings as I have, most folks have no idea just how powerless local governing bodies can be!

One alderman gets one vote. If they can’t consistently form a consensus among their peers, they get nothing done. And I bet you didn’t know the vast majority of Illinois mayors only get to vote in the case of a tie.

Yes! These boards can dictate zoning, enact ordinances and set all sorts of village standards, but if they go a scant millimeter over the line, they will be sued and they will lose. Worse yet, non-Home Rule communities like Geneva cannot be stricter or looser than State statute in many cases.

So when I found this flyer attached to my mailbox this morning, all I could say to myself was, “This is why I’ll never run for alderman!” Trust me, Monday’s city council meeting is gonna be one for the ages.

No Prairie Wind

You see, despite this anonymous missive’s dire declaration; “Don’t let St. Charles dictate your day,” St. Charles can do exactly that and there’s not a damn thing Geneva can do about it. The Prairie Winds apartment complex is a done deal!

For the uninitiated, Prairie Winds is a 250 plus apartment development which will be built behind the Meijer – Loew’s mall at Randall Road and Rt. 38. And the only way in and out of the complex will be via Bricher Road.

So, of course, my the-sky-is-always-falling Fisher Farms compatriots are up in arms about having to leave for work two minutes early to avoid the imminent Dan Ryan-esque traffic jams. And they’re directing their ire at Fourth Ward Aldermen Jim Radecki and Jeanne McGowan as well as Mayor Kevin Burns.

Welcome to municipal government Alderman McGowan!

As long as St. Charles follows all the applicable laws – and they have – the apartment complex is coming in. But even Ms. McGowan seemed kinda perplexed by this very basic concept at Monday’s (5/8) city council meeting.

It would require a St. Charles rebellion of vast proportion to derail this project and that isn’t about to happen because that location doesn’t affect any of ‘em. Don’t even think a about a lawsuit because either, because it would go down in flames. Lastly, those businesses will be thrilled to have the extra customers.

So while I would never dissuade anyone from showing up at City Hall to wail and rend their garments, it will accomplish absolutely nothing. Much like Geneva has the right to develop within their borders as they see fit, so does St. Charles.

 

Ya gotta love Genevans part two

Because everything we already discussed also applies to the potential redevelopment of the old Campana building which, at Rt. 31 and Fabyan Road, lies squarely within Batavia’s boundaries.

Campana Building

To fill in those blanks, Evergreen Real Estate Group has petitioned the City to redevelop that building into 80 apartment units, 64 of which would designated as “affordable.” In real estate parlance, that means “low income.”

And I haven’t heard Genevans shriek and howl this much since the East Side CVS ran out of Spanx!

Facebook has been literally littered comments like, “the trash this will bring in,” “those people,” “freeloaders” and “blight.” And we all know the term “those people” doesn’t refer to Swedes!

If Aurora is The City of Lights, can Geneva be “The City of Whites?”

There’s nothing quite like good Christian Republicans, is there? As least they’ll have something to talk about in the St. Peter confessional.

Once again, Batavia has all the power and, since there aren’t any nearby Batavians to protest. So, unless the requested parking variance does it in, the development’s coming in.

Your family may have to listen to your unfounded and semi-bigoted rants, but the Batavia City Council does not!