To quote the great Jay-Z, “If you’re having facility problems I feel bad for you son, we got 98 capital projects but a new coroner building ain’t one.”
I may be taking some literary license there, but if anyone’s even mildly surprised that the recent Kane County capital plan has no plans for a new Coroner’s facility, then I have a landfill I’m willing to part with dirt cheap.
Having learned nothing from his plethora of previous political faux pas, like that allegorical male bovine in a Wedgwood establishment, Coroner Rob Russell immediately took his losing battle to the press by declaring, “I don’t understand how anybody could think that this office is not in need of a new facility. I’m very concerned about the possibility of ADA or OSHA violations in this building.”
Since “enlightenment” is my middle name and I’m always willing to share my vast wisdom, please permit me to explain just where the Coroner went wrong. And we’ll do it Jeopardy style as in, “I’ll take ways to aggravate the county chairman and virtually seal your political fate for 200, Alex. ”
1. With the other elected officials holding the fiscal line, insist upon a 25 percent budget increase your first year in office.
Yes! It is the indisputable truth that former Chairman Karen McConnaughay placed a bullseye squarely on former Coroner Chuck West’s back and then did her damndest to underfund the office. But as any politico worth their salt knows, redressing that kind of political imbalance takes time – typically four years to be exact.
But instead, during a time of vast economic uncertainty, Russell demanded the entire enchilada upfront and made no attempt to mediate it behind closed doors until the very last minute.
2. When you don’t get your way right away, be sure to be seen sitting with Ken Shepro at the next board meeting.
The basic implication there being a budgetary lawsuit is beginning to brew.
Please understand that I’m not trying to pick on former McConnaughay attorney Shepro. First, it’s far too easy, and second, we actually have something in common with our support of Judge D. J. Tegeler. But because associations always mean everything in political circles, choosing to send that kind of blatant message always comes with consequences.
And most county chairmen have very long memories, especially this one.
3. When your freezer breaks down over the long Thanksgiving weekend, make sure your first call is to the press.
As anyone who’s ever owned a Jaguar knows, things break! And in the grand scheme of county things, a $3,500 emergency freezer repair is but a mere blip in the rich pageant known as local government. This is exactly why someone came up with the concept of capital funds in the first place.
So when his deep freeze went down, did Coroner Russell call Chairman Lauzen? Nope! Did he call eminently affable Finance Committee head John Hoscheit? Nope! Perhaps unwilling to deal with the Chairman, did he call Vice-Chairman Drew Frasz, who will pick up his cell phone even when in the shower? Nope!
Russell, the only person on the planet who’s more in love with seeing his name in print than I am, did not phone a friend, he went directly to the papers using the unfortunate opportunity to demand a new building.
Of course, failing to peer even five minutes into the future, the national press picked up on the not-at-all-politically-embarrassing story of a re-purposed Jimmy John’s freezer failure leading to “liquefying” bodies.
At the time, all I could think is, this really oughtta be a reality show, but “Here comes Honey Boo Boo” was already taken.
4. When other elected officials reach out to help you, ignore them!
Many of those fine Kane County public figures were actually sympathetic to the Coroner’s plight and they made a massive effort to help Russell redress those previous blunders. Why, some even offered to intervene on his behalf. But when you make it clear that you know more than anyone else, that position tends lead to a to a rather lonely existence.
5. What ever you do, don’t give up! Keep asking for a new building at every turn and be sure to do it publicly.
For better or worse, politicians generally aren’t like a sleep-deprived parent who gives in and gives their wailing toddler a cookie just to shut him up. Though the Chairman left the door open to a new building, the fact that it’s nowhere to be found in the current five-year capital plan is a clear message that will likely be completely lost on the Coroner.
But what’s even more baffling than all this is the fact that a new facility really oughtta be the least of Russell’s worries. Because if I’m thinking about running in 2016, those fiscal indiscretions have given me all the ammunition I need to unseat the unhappy incumbent.
Worse yet, if by his consistently choosing to aggravate the Chairman, the Lauzens determine it’s time to put their considerable campaign weight behind whomever his opponent might be, then it’s sayonara Rob Russell.
Please note that I’m not passing judgment on the one Republican trying to unseat another conundrum (this time) – I typically prefer the “why can’t we all get along” methodology. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them.