In praise of a local politician

Since I have no intention of making Illinois’ Second City jealous with my excessive doting on Elgin, it’s time to turn my attention back to the City of Lights. After all, my major newspaper kick start came in covering our southern Kane County neighbors.

To that end, in my ongoing effort to get back into the swing of things, last weekend I revisited some of the more recent Aurora news stories and spoke with some old friends. And one of the names that kept coming up in a positive light was former city councilman and current 84th District State Rep Stephanie Kifowit.

Stehphanie Kifowit

Stehphanie Kifowit

Because despite having to endure the kind of contentious campaign that might make some folks politically gun shy, Ms. Kifowit is making a point of putting herself out there. She certainly doesn’t seem to be content to simply sit around the state capitol drinking bourbon with Rich Miller.

Just this month, she’s hosted an informational community meeting with the Fox Valley Park District, a seminar to help senior citizen avoid identity theft at the Oswego Holiday Inn express, A spring cleaning recycling event at her Montgomery office, and a series of coffee shop stops to meet constituents.

Legislatively, the Oswego State Rep sponsored a bill to protect victims of domestic abuse by allowing GPS tracking of those charged with domestic violence or kidnapping related crimes. She also went to bat for disabled veterans by moving to provide them with property tax relief and her bill to ban “revenge porn” made it through the House.

That’s not too bad for a month’s work.

Given that she’s only been at the gig for a year, there something to be said for getting the basics right. I look forward to seeing where her political career might go.

Another mall view

Since we always encourage dissenting opinions here at the FirstWard, and even though I don’t agree with his basic mall premise, I thought this comment by reader Todd Martin was so well done that it deserved a more prominent posting.

So here goes:

A few points in favor of an indoor shopping mall. 1st, the Internet will never replace brick & mortar. People want to touch and try on things. 2nd, people prefer 1 stop shopping, which explains Super Walmart, Super Target, and an Indoor Mall is bigger with more choices than either. The success of Walmart & Target is due to pricing rather than convenience. I’d take an indoor mall shopping experience over a Walmart trip in a heartbeat! I also prefer an indoor mall to walking from store to store in someplace like the Arboretum (especially in Winter or bad weather). The trick to success & profit in competition is providing Value rather being the low cost provider. That value may be found in lots of ways. It could be vanity, the mall can be more prestigious than Walmart. After all, people buy luxury cars. It could be customer service. People will pay more if there is a sales clerk that is available, knows the product, and is nice to people. It could be convenience in bundling a movie theatre, fine dining, or other attractions to your shopping day. There are lots of ways to bring value.  

Todd Martin

Todd Martin

Randall Road is a success today because of traffic count & the lower cost of building out on former farm land. These factors may be fleeting. As each stoplight is installed, the time it takes to travel on Randall increases. Eventually, it is like a downtown and no one drives there anymore.

For an indoor shopping mall, that means making it a desirable destination. Woodfield Mall is a roaring success; the size, scale & diversity of stores appeals to a broad range. There’s a lot of niche stores you won’t find elsewhere. I love the Lego store. Spring Hill mall has a play area for kids. My kids love the mall because of that. The St. Charles mall is a beautiful structure and can have those same ingredients. The names of anchor stores may change, but big box isn’t dead. Maybe they get a Home Depot instead of a JC Penny’s.

St. Charles mall went through a negative feedback loop. Losing tenants begets losing more tenants. That’s a hard truth. Equally true is that positive feedback loops work as well. As you add value and content, you gain more and more shoppers. I wish the luck with the re-development and will give them a try once they have tenants again.

And Elgin Republicans could use an Hispanic candidate too!

During the course of a rather rousing Sunday afternoon conversation with a favorite political friend of mine, we covered my previous blog contention that Elgin and/or Kane County Republicans really oughtta field a worthy Hispanic candidate to take on State Rep Anna Moeller in that 43rd District November race.

Per my previous post, not only would reaching out to the Hispanic community encourage the kind of engagement that could only improve the sad state of the Illinois GOP, but it would send a message that they  really are a party of inclusion (even though we all know that’s not really true).  KCGOP

But in failing to elect even one State House Rep since  1983, the only message they’re sending is that the GOP prefers blonds.

We all know Moeller is going be a tough nut to crack no matter who’s slated, but instead of making an effort to be competitive, local Republicans are falling back on that tried and true tactic of going with the same old familiar faces, all of whom happen to be white and all of whom have no shot.

But when they were pressed on the very possibility we’re discussing, they immediately resorted to shrieking and howling something to the effect of, “we would, but we can’t find a reasonable Hispanic Republican candidate.”

Oh really?

Since people love to say I’m nothing but helpful, then please allow me to be of assistance one more time.

Because the last time I looked, four Hispanic candidates – with anything from reasonable to exceptional resumes – just threw their hat in the vacant Elgin city council seat ring. And the odds are they’re all not nearly Democrats (especially the veterans) and even if they are, switching parties has always been a favorite Kane County political pastime.

Beacause only one of these 21 already civic-minded contenders can be chosen, that means that either Alberto Lopez or Rosamaria Martinez will shortly become available. If you recall, It was Mr. Lopez’ impressive resume that caused me to nearly drop the F-bomb on the air.

So with the applications of these fine folks who long to be part of the process firmly in hand, all the Kane County GOP has to do to be competitive in the 43rd is take advantage of this amazing opportunity by allocating some campaign cash and giving me a buzz. I will happily pass those resumes along.

Who wants to place bets on whether they actually make the call?


Why I still believe Elgin needs an Hispanic councilman

Since Sundays tend to be a little more philosophical at The First Ward, and those airborne allergens driven by the prevailing 30 mph east wind are making me reconsider running, perhaps it’s time to answer two excellent commenter questions.

Cary J. Collins’ almost unassailable rebuttal of my need for an Hispanic city councilman theory was, “It seems to me if the Hispanics wanted representation on the City council that 44 percent of the residents in Elgin could elect a Hispanic.”

I was wondering when someone would note that we seem to have no trouble electing Hispanic county board members – four to be exact.  Elgin-01

Then Gail Borden Library Board Trustee and replacement city council candidate, Herbert Gross, posed this cogent query, “Why is it that you feel only a minority member can represent a minority. There are good and bad politicos of every race and creed.”

Not only will I tip my hat to these two gentlemen for continuing the conversation, but I also applaud the civil manner in which they applied their logic.

We’ll start with Mr. Collins.

Please let me first point out that, for reasons I cannot fathom, virtually no one participates in the Elgin electoral process. When I toiled for the Courier-News I repeatedly chided Elginians for their fondness for the couch on election day. But that doesn’t really answer the question.

To me it boils down to a which came first question – the representative or the representation?

Democracy functions best when everyone participates. The perfect example of it heading right off the rails is the Tea Party’s co-opting the GOP and driving them them to almost unelectable distraction. It’s not that conservative folks shouldn’t be represented, but when 20 percent of the party holds implicit veto power and Rand Paul warns of Texas turning blue, we have a problem.

But here we have a rare opportunity to invite that kind of participation from an underrepresented group. Just one Hispanic city councilperson would likely have a kind of Nichelle Nichols effect by encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.

Please note that, were it not for this appointment opportunity, as Mr. Collins suggests, I’d keep my mouth shut and leave it up the 5 percent of Elgin who actually vote in consolidated elections. But since the possibility has presented itself, perhaps it’s time to restore balance to the force by blatantly encouraging Hispanic participation.

Now, on to Mr. Gross.

And he’s dead on. There are folks like Jesse Jackson (the elder) who abuse their position as a minority spokesperson in order to maintain the reins of power. There are also folks like former Cook County Clerk Chief of Staff and State Rep Clem Balanoff. Though he’s every bit as white as I am, former Sun-Times columnist Vernon Jarrett once referred to him as “the only real black candidate in the race.”

Some folks called Bill Clinton the first black president.

That said, the underlying point I’ve been attempting to convey (see last week’s Left, Right and You) is that, if you’ve never been a minority, then you really don’t know what it’s like to be a minority. And if you don’t know what it’s like to be a minority, then can you truly represent them?

The example I used on last week’s show was the time my wife and I visited the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Though none of the Native Americans said anything the least bit suspect, it was abundantly clear that we weren’t welcome.

Before that day, I had no idea what it meant to be summarily dismissed because you weren’t like the others. It was an experience I will never forget! And I got to go right back to that eminently comfortable Caucasian world!

White folks don’t understand what it’s like to be pulled over for driving in the “wrong neighborhood.” We don’t know what it’s like to have someone follow you around a store, to have the economic deck stacked against you, to be stopped and frisked, to consistently have to prove you’re legal, and to have to endure “compliments” like, “you’re so well-spoken,” and smile.

Therefore, though this may get me in even more trouble (if that’s possible), since only an Hispanic citizen can truly understand what it means to be Hispanic in Elgin, only they can accurately represent that experience.

Please also allow me to reiterate my second radio show contention which was that I do not believe in restoring balance by creating another imbalance. You will recall that I insisted upon using the term “all things being equal” in the sense that, out of the eight to ten exemplary city council appointment candidates, none of us possess the Solomon-esque wisdom required to choose the best one.

So armed with an opportunity to give some generally voiceless folks that important voice, the choice suddenly becomes a lot more clear.

Thank you!

One of the concepts I’ve been trying to embrace at my advanced age is the capacity to avoid worrying about what I don’t have and to be grateful for what I do.  It’s  in that very spirit that I’m hitting the keyboard so early this morning.

You see, yesterday, the blog crossed the 1,000 24-hour hit mark for the first time and I’m eternally grateful for all the readers who find my prose worthy of their time. There’s is nothing better in this earthbound existence  than being granted the opportunity to do what you really love.  gratitude

And if nobody noted what I had to say, then it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

I’m eternally grateful for all the friends, former newspaper column followers, Patch readers, and politicians  who, upon learning of my newly found freedom, told me they’d missed my work. Though your encouragement completely dashed my original plan to do nothing by sit on my ass for about a month, I don’t regret a minute of it.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to make my readers laugh because the sad truth is, sometimes I have no idea where some of this “humor” comes from and I end up laughing right along with you.

I’m grateful for all my facebook friends who’ve allowed me to unabashedly abuse their pages to promote my point.  You’re the reason the thousand hit mark came so soon.

I’m grateful for all the folks who’ve taken the time to leave a comment here, especially those who’ve disagreed with a contention, but have done so in such a civil manner. You’ve proven that a debate doesn’t have to turn into a fight to the death. You’re part of the reason people keep coming back.

Let’s continue the conversation!

The real reason they don’t want a new Elgin councilman

John Prigge

John Prigge

Not being quite as slow as some of you think I am, I’ve noticed that every single vote regarding Anna Moeller’s aldermanic replacement has fallen along the same 5 to 3 lines. And I’ve also noted that the three dissenting councilmen are always the same; Toby Shaw, John Prigge and, you guessed it, Terry Gavin – a group better known as the “conservative faction.”

Now, to to be fair, applying the term “faction” isn’t exactly accurate. It may be true that those three ran on the same ticket, but Prigge and Gavin don’t really get along and lumping Shaw, a real conservative, in with that faux conservative duo would do him a great disservice.

Toby makes independent decisions with a fiscally conservative filter based on what he thinks is best for Elgin. Prigge and Gavin make their decisions based on pandering to a specific constituency they believe will further their political aims.

So with those facts in consideration, I did some digging, and it didn’t take long to prove my theory correct. Though they’d really like to make you to think it’s the case, the real reason Prigge and Gavin, are so vehemently opposed to filling that vacant seat has nothing to do with any kind of lofty principle or altruistic tendency.

Terry Gavin

Terry Gavin

It has everything to do with the fact they only want to see a conservative face in Moeller’s place.

And the mere thought of an Hispanic appointee sends them into complete conniptions, not because they’re paragons of racial equality and they want the “best person for the job,” it’s because they firmly believe someone with the surname of Lopez or Martinez will be a guaranteed liberal voice.

To make matters worse, since Elgin’s at-large tendencies tend to favor incumbents, those two feel an appointment would give that candidate a huge 2015 leg up. Ah! But if they can stave off this devilish leftist scheme, they believe they can slate a conservative who will prevail in the upcoming election.

Who’s gonna be the one to tell them that their endorsement won’t be nearly as positive as they might think?

So when Prigge told reporters, “The picture’s been painted. Watch what happens,” what he really meant is, “Our plan to take home field advantage away from the dastardly “liberal forces” is being foiled by that pesky rule of law.”

And when Gavin said, “It’s hubris for five to think they know what’s best,” what he really meant is, “But it’s not hubris for one alderman to try and subvert the process with angry platitudes because he really knows what’s best. ”

By the way, I would hardly call councilmen Steffen, Dunne, Kaptain, Powell and Rauschenberger liberal, but when you insist upon always carrying a conservative hammer, then everything becomes a leftist nail.

But back to our main point. Ya know what! The truth really does set you free!



Maybe if St. Charles called it Darth Mall…

It would appear that some St. Charles constituents are just as nervous about The Quad St. Charles as I am. And it would also appear that prospect is making at least one alderman even more nervous.

Upset with DH reporter Jim Fuller’s 4/22 take on the impending mall revitalization deal between the City and California based The Krausz Companies, 2nd Ward Alderman Rita Payleitner demanded a retraction.

Rita Ann Payleitner

Rita Ann Payleitner

Which begs that age old Zen koan question, how do you retract something that was never there in the first place? The correction Payleitner wanted was the removal of any allusion to Krausz issuing an ultimatum regarding their impending $20 million sales tax break.

Before we continue, and even though it’s giving away a company secret, I would humbly advise all Kane County politicians (even aldermen) to avoid “demanding” anything from a columnist, blogger, reporter, or editor. To quote the late, great Sam Kinison as he admonished a heckler, “Trust me, the last thing you really want is my complete and undivided attention.”

On the other hand, most editors will listen to reasonable requests and they almost always allow a reasonably written guest view.

The obvious irony in all this is, even though Jim never used the word, it actually was an ultimatum! To quote the developer himself as he referred to the massive city concession, “We believe this is an all-or-nothing proposition,” Krausz said, “We don’t see a halfway solution. Radical transformation is going to be expensive.”

Mr. Fuller even went as far as going back to Dan Krausz to determine if any of his in-print declarations were misrepresented in any way, shape or form. The end result of that conversation is there will be no correction.

Look, if I put myself in those STC city council shoes, I too would have a hard time voting against this project. They’re getting an empty mall torn down for “free,” there’s no upfront risk, and it allows that governmental group to wax poetically about “possibilities.”

But the truth is, there’s always a risk. When you look at the eyesore known as the former St. Charles Mall and you look at the stalled First Street project, St. Charles is developing a reputation as a City that sucks the life right out of retail. And a third failure might just make that permanent.

Not only that, but just like it is with mediocre baseball free agents, once some lunatic GM pays one of ’em $10 million, the rest are going to ask for the same thing in arbitration – and get it! (To prove my point, Edwin Jackson’s getting $15 million!)

I’m not saying politicians shouldn’t take risks, but if, like me, you believe the mall business model is dead, then there’s your answer. And even though I know it’s the worst kind of wishful thinking, I will continue to believe that city councils should do the right and not the expedient thing.