A day late and a dollar short!

Nobody loves a citizen David versus governmental Goliath story more than I do! My radio co-host, Larry Jones, and I consistently encourage our listeners to get out there and get involved. And there’s nothing quite as exciting as watching one determined individual change the world.

But the only thing worse than not getting involved is getting involved in the wrong way. Not only will you utterly fail to accomplish anything, but you’ll end up doing more damage to your cause than good.

So there I was sitting at last Tuesday’s county board meeting when a patient group of five citizens finally got their turn to speak. By then, most of the crowd had departed, but I stuck around to hear what these concerned Carpentersvillians had to say.

KC BoardBut my boundless enthusiasm quickly turned to abject dismay when it became clear this group was trying to quash the Longmeadow Parkway Fox River bridge slated to pass through Algonquin, Carpentersville, Barrington Hills, and unincorporated Kane County.

You see, these sudden citizen activists’ fervent pronouncements and overzealous comportment was all for naught because the fat lady had long since sung before the first one of ‘em got up to speak. To wit, the Longmeadow bridge, an infrastructure improvement that’s been in the works for two bleepin’ decades, is well into its second engineering phase. In the more common vernacular, it’s a done deal!

So, in the end, these overeager folks were engaging in the moral equivalent of trying to get Kane County to ban cell phones. It’s kinda cute, but you’re not gonna get anywhere. And the fact that they hadn’t been paying attention did nothing to deter this group from pressing their agenda. One of ‘em tried to tell the board this county endeavor hadn’t been in any of the newspapers!

Now, you know I’ll be the first one to chide the local tabloids for their sometimes fascinating coverage choices, but not even I can find fault with them this time because this project has been in the papers – ad nauseam – since I relocated to these parts some 15 years ago.

It’s been all over the County website. It’s been discussed at many a city council and county board meeting. And it’s been the subject of many heavily advertised public hearings. Why, if I were subjected to a Freudian word association session and the therapist said “longmeadow,” without hesitation, I’d respond “bridge!”

But when confronted with their Rip Van Winkle tendencies, one of the women said “so what!” and claimed they were just gettin’ started. She said they were going to do whatever it takes to derail this bridge folly and then she demanded to come on Left, Right and You to make her point.

I don’t often feel sorry for those governmental gaggles because no one forced them to run, but after dealing with this group for a mere five minutes (thank you for rescuing me Monica Silva), the County Board has my deepest sympathy.

All I can say is, I’m glad it’s you and not me.

So, since simply telling people to get involved seems to have invited some interesting and unintended consequences, here’s Jeff and Larry’s getting involved checklist:

  1. Don’t show up 20 years after the fact. Occasionally read a newspaper or simply avail yourself of your county board or local city council meeting agenda which will be prominently placed on the Net at least 48 hours in advance. If you don’t know what’s going on in this social media day and age, then you have no one to blame but yourself.
  2. Don’t show up 20 years after the fact and demand that any board accede to your wishes NOW! That’s not how government works. In order to accomplish anything you have to build a consensus which typically starts with enlisting your specific county board or city council member.
  3. Don’t show up 20 years after the fact just to read overly long and flowery speeches in which you ask board members to imagine they were a particular species of bird. Trust me, those folks are crazy enough as it is and if they start acting like birds, those meetings will never end. And, holy crap! The last thing anyone should ever do is encourage T. R. Smith to be even nuttier than he already is.
  4. Don’t show up 20 years after the fact and behave so obnoxiously that a radio show host and the head of the Transportation Committee simply walk away from you. Your utter unwillingness to listen doesn’t help this or any future cause you may espouse. Local representatives generally respond to well-reasoned and well-articulated arguments, not bullying.
  5. Don’t show up 20 years after the fact and somehow believe your viewpoint is more important than all the folks who put countless hours and a vast amount of input into a project that’s been discussed since some board members were in junior high school.

And lastly! Please don’t relegate yourselves to a pain in the ass status by fighting against something that, through a boatload of hard work and a massive amount of consensus building, will go forward despite your best efforts. Being a pain in the ass is my job.

Here’s the February 12, 2015 edition of Left, Right and You!

Larry and I want to thank Ancel Glink’s Derke Price for explaining Illinois’ Internal Control Statute and where the Sheriff and County Board showdown is likely to go. This is going to be a fascinating one to watch folks. A $2.5 million deficit ain’t small potatoes.

LRY2And speaking of fascinating, we also covered the conservative Elgin City Council candidate who, despite running on a platform of less regulation, asked South Elgin for more taxi regulations. Unfortunately for Ms. Hjelm, South Elgin didn’t quite see it her way and now they have no taxi regulations. Who said conservatives were boring!

Until next week!

Please prepare yourself for the next thrilling…

…episode of Left, Right and You!

Ancel Glink’s Derke Price will join us again to the explain the intricacies of the Internal Control Statute by which elected officials can run their office as they see fit. But what happens when a Sheriff decides to cut his revenue by $2.5 million? What action can the County Board take to mitigate the damage?

Jeff and Larry2Then Larry and I will discuss the irony of a less government Elgin City Council contender who went after more taxi cab regulations and came up with less. This, of course, begs the question, why are so many conservative Elgin candidates so  willing to go out of their way to entertain us?

And we look forward to your calls at 847-931-1410 as well.

That’s Left, Right and You with me, the Liberal Curmudgeon, and Larry Jones, the Smiling Conservative, this and every Thursday at 3 p.m. on WRMN AM 1410. Trust me! You don’t want to miss this one folks!

Youth sports? It’s all about the cheating!

Though I feel terrible for the kids, the fact that Jackie Robinson West was just stripped of their U.S. Little League championship, for what amounts to recruiting violations, doesn’t surprise me in the least. Much like the doping epidemic during Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France tenure, cheating is the norm in all youth sports.

Put another way, compared to youth sports coaches and officials, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are mere pretenders.

cheat

And the reason all those recently interviewed coaches continue to insist there are only a few bad youth sport apples is, if they told the truth, they wouldn’t be coaching for very long. Just like cockroaches, the leagues and clubs can’t stand it when you turn on that kitchen light.

After four years of coaching youth soccer, and despite the fact that the Tri-Cities Soccer Association (TCSA) is better than most clubs, I was shocked whenever I came across a coach who didn’t cheat.

Northern Illinois’ biggest and oldest youth soccer club, Sockers FC, were bleepin’ blatant about it. And the reason they got away with it is they also ran the Northern Illinois Soccer League which is the only game in town. (No conflict there!) If you dare to complain – your club is out of the league. Good luck finding opponents!

It isn’t limited to youth soccer either. Given my previous newspaper columnist history, parents still come to me with all kinds of horror stories. So here are just a few examples:

  • We’d play most travel teams twice a season. And it would always amaze me how the rosters of losing teams would be completely different the second time around. This was especially true of the Sockers who’d simply round up the best players from their higher level teams to “right the ship.” Meanwhile the marginal kids just sat on the bench.
  • Teams would consistently “sandbag” or essentially place themselves in less competitive brackets to assure wins. The result was frequently getting blown out by double digits. Though this practice was another Sockers specialty, everyone did it – especially in the tournaments.
  • Another fun thing about tournaments was, we consistently had to face 6 foot tall 13 year-olds who clearly had to shave. While one out-on-the-end of the bell curve 13 year-old player wasn’t unreasonable, there were entire teams where their smallest player was bigger than our biggest player. The Lincolnshire Lightning were the masters of beating the age requirements.
  • And speaking of the Lincolnshire Lightning, despite a massive 2 percent Hispanic population in the area around that city. Their best teams were 100 percent Hispanic. They simply robbed the nearby Hispanic clubs of their best players because they couldn’t compete with them financially.
  • Indoor winter soccer was the worst. Travel teams would sign up to play in the recreational leagues so they could run the table. And my 13 year-olds were frequently pitted against high schoolers. And the folks at Sportsplex didn’t give a bleep as long as they got those team entry fees. I did force them to admit one team was cheating when I took pictures of their players with my cell phone.
  • Each soccer club hires their own referees, and again, with the exception of the TCSA, they make it clear that those refs won’t be on the pitch very long if they don’t make the “right calls.” The Sockers were notorious for this. Many TCSA coaches begged the club to retaliate, but they wouldn’t. It was one of the very few times I’ve seen any youth sports club stand up for fair play.
  • But let’s not get too crazy about the TCSA either! Their trainers, some of whom were amazing former soccer stars, were instructed to tell the kids they were all “A” level players regardless of the truth. It was all about keeping the cash rolling in. And as long as you had the cash, your child would be placed on a TCSA “Premier” team without any regard for their true talent level.
  • Much like Lance had to dope to compete with other dopers, more than one TCSA official encouraged me to cheat to level the playing field.
  • A slew of Tri-Cities Little League parents have told me that talent has no bearing on making a travel baseball team. It’s who you know, what subdivision you live in, and how much money you’re willing to put into tall the club’s various training programs.
  • In all youth travel sports, coaches consistently try to steal other teams’ best players which is a blatant violation of club rules. By expanding their boundaries, all JRW did was attempt to “legalize” that kind of poaching.

And the parents couldn’t give a flying bleep about any of this. As long as the clubs continue to dangle the prospect of a college scholarship, not only are they willing to go along with all of it, but they’ll howl like stuck pigs if you dare bring any of this dysfunction to light. It’s a lot like a self-fulfilling feedback loop in which the parents, coaches, and the clubs all pretend and convince each other that everything’s alright.

The only difference between all those other Little League teams and JRW is that JRW got caught.

So the cheating doesn’t surprise me at all. What does surprise me is that someone actually had the cojones to come forward – and trust me – that Evergreen Park league VP will pay dearly for that. Because the only thing these clubs won’t put up with is “squealers.”

The reason this revelation came to light so late is, though all the local JRW league officials and coaches knew about the boundary scam, they said nothing. It took someone from another Little League organization to call them out.

In the end, we should all tip our hats to Little League International, the ruling body, who thoroughly investigated this situation and made the correct call. That doesn’t happen much in youth sports today.

Ya really gotta love conservative candidates…

…especially those running for Elgin City Council. I have yet to see a group so willing to go out of their way to entertain us.

Don’t get me wrong! There are capable conservatives like my crack radio cohort Larry Jones who actually smiles, doctors can locate his heart without an MRI, and he clearly understands the concept of cause and effect. But Larry’s the exception to the rule because the right-leaning city council contenders are showing their true colors faster than a Polaroid picture. (Look it up kids!) And as we say in the radio biz, it’s like manna from heaven.

The follies started with former Elgin OCTAVE board member and conservative ideologue, Julie Schmidt, trying to throw fiscally conservative candidate Kyle Scifert off the ballot on a petition technicality. You see, Ms. Schmidt fervently believes in less government until bringing the full weight of the government down on an opponent serves her purpose.

Thankfully, Mr. Scifert survived the challenge and Ms. Schmidt will lose yet another election.

Then we have mayoral opponent Joe Galvan who’s running a campaign that employs a middle school girl methodology. Offering no real platform of his own, Galvan’s biggest contentions are, not only did Mayor Kaptain ignore him at a public event, but the mayor had the temerity to dis his BFF councilman Terry Gavin.

Mr. Galvan will be lucky to get a third of the vote.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more fascinating – it does – thanks to our third conservative council candidate, Jamie Hjelm.

Jamie Hjelm  (courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Jamie Hjelm
(Courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Let me clearly stipulate that, having met Ms. Hjelm, she seems like a reasonably intelligent and engaging individual. She may be a bit straight to the point, but so am I! But none of that stopped her from being hoist by her own conservative petard.

Please allow me to explain!

You see, in addition to harboring political ambitions, Ms. Hjelm owns the Elgin-based A1 Cab Company and she’s running in great part because “The Man” – in the form of Elgin city code enforcers – has come down on her cab company more than once.

The latest bone of contention was a rather disorderly Villa Street garage which she tried to explain away by claiming her father kept antique cars. And to say the relationship between the A1 Cab Company and the Elgin Police Department is strained would be the most massive of understatements.

You know how good conservatives can’t stand the police!

As the Bard once wrote, “here’s the rub.” Despite running on a fiscally conservative and less selective enforcement of city regulations platform, Ms. Hjelm has been doing her damndest to encourage more municipal regulations.

Faced with stiff competition from those app enabled Uber folks, Hjelm has been lobbying a host of local municipalities for stricter ride sharing regulations. Without going into great detail, given that Uber drivers are just regular folks like you and me, her proposed ordinance would give A1 a vast competitive advantage.

Imagine if those part-time drivers were forced to pay to have their vehicle painted like a cab – which by the way – isn’t a even an Elgin requirement.

You know how good conservatives loathe the free market.

In a most delicious irony, when Ms. Hjelm recently brought her ride share regulations before the South Elgin Village Board, instead of granting her wish, they voted 5 to 1 to do away with their taxi code completely. So now it’s even easier for an upstart South Elgin cab company to compete.

And the City of Elgin is seriously considering the same move. So let’s just say Ms. Hjelm wasn’t too happy with this outcome telling reporters, “Getting rid of the taxi ordinance makes no sense.”

What’s that old saying about sleeping dogs and leaving well enough alone?

But I think Ms. Hjelm should be thrilled with her effort because, as a mere candidate in an entirely different city, she did what most conservative city council members can only dream of! She managed to single-handedly deregulate an entire South Elgin industry!

So chin up! This is a massive victory for conservatives everywhere. So what if it was utterly unintended! The fact that Ms. Hjelm didn’t mean to do it should have absolutely no bearing on the impending celebration. Where’s Fox News? A conservative finally accomplished something!

God I love conservatives! I can’t wait to see how Jason Dusenberry plans on topping this one!

—-

P.S. I want to give the Daily Herald’s Elena Ferarrin credit for her continuing coverage of the Elgin City Council race because it makes my life a lot easier and she scares me.

There is no other side to this story!

So now that we’ve settled the newsroom dynamic that drives reporters to unerringly seek out the most far-fetched other side of a story and thus, slowly lose their capacity to tell the truth, (see my previous blog post) let’s move on to my main point. And that point is, when it comes to Kane County Sheriff Don Kramer’s self-inflicted $2.5 million budget deficit – a feat he single-handedly accomplished in less than 30 days in office – there is no other side of the story.

And those local reporters who are doing their damndest to pretend there is are only doing themselves and their ever dwindling readership a massive disservice. It may be somewhat rare in this existence, but some things really are cut and dried.

If you recall, Sheriff Kramer unilaterally sent about 100 U.S. Marshal’s prisoners packing the result of which is the aforementioned $2.5 million corrections budget hole. In a massive case of closing the barn door long after the horse got out, the Sheriff attempted to justify his malfeasance by claiming the Kane County jail is unsafe.

kramer2In an effort to be “fair,” the papers are giving this blatantly bogus excuse credence despite the fact that it holds even less water than another California drought. Should you require more details, please avail yourself of this blog post.

Meanwhile, here are the facts:

1. The Sheriff had no right to terminate the U.S. Marshals contract

…Which was signed by former Chairman Karen McConnaughay. And this indisputable fact means the debate should end right here. Let me say it again! Sheriff Kramer had no legal right to end the contract.

Whatever after-the-fact excuse he’s managed to come up with is utterly immaterial because nothing on the planet can mitigate this illegal action.

2. If the jail is “unsafe,” the Sheriff shoulda brought it before the Board

Because that’s the way it works. Aside from the Marshals, the only group with the power to cancel that contract is the Kane County Board. Not even the Chairman could terminate the contract. Provided the opportunity, perhaps the Board could’ve mitigated any potential safety issue.

3. But the Kane County jail is not unsafe and it never has been unsafe

If the jail was unsafe, it wouldn’t have passed every single annual Illinois Department of Corrections inspection. If the jail was unsafe, it would not have passed every single U.S. Marshals inspection. If the jail was unsafe, the Marshals would never have signed the contract to begin with.

If the jail was unsafe the problem would’ve appeared somewhere in the last eight years of Judicial and Public Safety Committee meeting minutes. If the jail was unsafe, the past Chairman and members of the Judicial Committee would’ve said something.

If the jail was unsafe, corrections officers would’ve been attacked far more than once or twice in eight years. If the jail was unsafe Kane County wouldn’t be the beneficiary of 250 regular volunteers who minister to the inmates right there in the pods.

And lastly, if the jail was unsafe, Sheriff Kramer would never have attempted to reinstate that contract before the Marshals told him exactly what he could do with his piece of paper.

4. It never pays to aggravate a U.S. Marshal

Apparently Sheriff Kramer never watched The Fugitive with Tommy Lee Jones. Obviously irritated by his surly attitude and flip-flopping ways, the Marshals decided to remove all of their prisoners which increased that deficit from $1.4 to $2.5 million. Sheriff Kramer may prefer to call it a “federal drawdown,” but the truth is, it’s the Marshal’s not-so-subtle way of saying “fuck you!”

5. Other counties covet these federal prisoners

In the words of Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird, who’s making a play for these prisoners, “This will generate revenue for the county. Our intent is to work with the federal government and maximize our resources here in Kendall County.”

6. The Sheriff is solely responsible for his budget hole

Having been in office for only two weeks and utterly failing to comprehend the consequences of his action, Sheriff Kramer illegally terminated a contract and, by doing so, dispensed with $2.5 in revenue. The fact that he’s blaming everyone but himself doesn’t change anything.

7. Kane County doesn’t have the cash to cover this

For argument’s sake, let’s say we’ve slipped into some sort of parallel Universe where Sheriff Kramer actually has a leg to stand on. The current $1.6 million Kane County contingency fund ain’t nearly enough to cover a $2.5 million hole.

And that contingency fund is never supposed to go to just one department. So should Chief Judge Brawka and State’s Attorney Joe McMahon be forced to cut their budgets to cover the Sheriff’s inability to understand the concept of subtraction?

8. It took me just 20 minutes to get three sources to tell me the truth

Sheriff Kramer, who has a well-known penchant for speaking his mind in the present moment, essentially said, “I’m going to get rid of every last vestige of Pat Perez and it starts with the Marshals’ contract.”

And so he did!

Going back to Klosterman’s original contention, the fact that our local reporters, and especially their editors, consciously choose to give merit to the Sheriff’s ex post facto argument is beyond the pale and further erodes whatever credibility their papers may have left. Because no one within the sound of my voice could possibly interpret this series of events any differently than I have.

The sad thing is, it’s so simple to dismiss the Sheriff’s claim. All you have to do is call former Sheriff Pat Perez and ask if the jail was ever unsafe. But only one Courier-News reporter made that call and she couldn’t get the story straight if it bit her in the butt.

She’s already reported that the Judicial Committee has co-chairs and that no one from the Sheriff’s office attended the recent Finance Committee meeting when I was sitting right in front of two of ‘em – one in uniform. So I wouldn’t be holding your breath for that one.

Newspapers have got to start printing the truth and stop worrying about both sides of the story when one “side” is clearly pure and unadulterated BS. The least the local papers could do is run an editorial demonstrating they have a modicum of collective common sense in this case.

But that hasn’t happened either. We’ll see what happens going forward.

How most reporters eventually lose their credibility

Since I have no intention of boring you with a 2,000 word post, what we’re gonna do is set up today’s main blog piece on why their coverage of the Kane County Sheriff’s self-inflicted $2.5 million budget deficit makes local reporters look like they’re completely clueless.

To prove that very point, we will, once again, turn to the great Chuck Klosterman and his excellent book, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs in which he uses subtle humor to explain this phenomenon in a way that I never could.

Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman

So without further ado, here’s Mr. Klosterman on reporters:

“Meanwhile, individual reporters – the drones who do all the heavy lifting – tend to be insane. Being a news reporter forces you to adopt a peculiar personality: You spend every moment of your life trying to eradicate emotion. Reporters overcompensate for every nonobjective feeling they’ve ever experienced; I once got into a serious discussion over whether or not the theft of a live fetus from the womb of a of a kidnapped pregnant woman could be publicly classified as a “tragedy.” What civilians in the conventional world need to realize is that journalists are not like you. They have higher ethics and less common sense. For example: Let’s say somebody was trying to pass a resolution that created stricter pedophilia laws. Most normal people would think to themselves, “Well, I’m against kids being molested and so is everybody I’ve ever met, so – obviously – if I was asked to write a story about this resolution, I’d make sure people understood it was a positive thing.” Reporters never think like this. A reporter would spend the next three hours trying to find an activist who’d give them a quote implying it was unconstitutional to stop people from performing oral sex on fie-year-old boys. Journalists aren’t trying to tell you their version of what’s right and what’s wrong, because anyone who’s been a reporter for five years forgets how to tell the difference.”

Mr. Klosterman continues:

“…let’s say [our reporter] leaves the office and swings by Stop-N-Go. While walking toward the counter with his beverage in hand, a crazed loner walks into the store and shoots the convenience store employee in the face, killing him instantly. The reporter watches this shooting happen. The crazed loner then begins screaming like a maniac, and two cops rush in an apprehend him. And as a consequence, he calls up his editor on a cell phone and volunteers to write story about the event. And he probably writes something like this…

RANDOM CITY, USA – The owner of a local Stop-N-Go was killed tonight in a brutal act of seemingly random violence. The alleged perpetrator was immediately taken into custody but firmly denies his involvement in the crime. “I never shot nobody.” Said the alleged gunman, who is also wanted for murder in seventeen other states.

Actually, I’m sort of exaggerating: I’m sure a copy editor would undoubtedly feel obligated to remove the word “brutal.” But by and large, this would be seen as a reasonable account of the events. This is why all reporters eventually go insane: Even if you see a guy shoot someone – in fact, even if a guy shoots you in the face and you watch the bullet come out of the chamber of the .38 he’s holding – the event needs to be described as an “alleged” crime, and that alleged criminal needs to allege that he had no part in anything that allegedly happened.”

And let me tell ya folks, that is about as perfect an explanation of any human dynamic you will ever see anywhere. It’s dead on! Though I do wish Chuck had made it more clear that it’s really the editors who do their damndest to inculcate and enforce this bizarre method of thinking.

Most reporters really do know what’s going on – at least they start off that way – but after just a few years of having to pay heed to a side of a story they know to be patently untrue, it begins to take its toll.

Then, one of two things happen. The reporter either avoids getting to the heart of a matter because they don’t want to have to print the “other side,” or the story becomes secondary to pitting the protagonists against each other.

In either case, the truth no longer matters.

And since most newspapers readers are generally intelligent and older moderates, the reporters, the editors, and the paper itself loses all credibility and people simply stop reading.

Don’t get me wrong! This leveling the playing field at all costs philosophy worked when print was the only game in town, but that hasn’t been the case for a long, long time. Even though Fox News regularly takes the art of “truth telling” to a new low, they’re raking in the cash because, as stilted as their “observations” are, they provide the kind of “insights” that the viewer might not have otherwise have gleaned.

There are reporters who can pull this kind of thing off without compromising their journalistic integrity, but it’s a really short list. The Tribune’s Rick Pearson, former Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney, the Elgin Courier News’ Dave Gathman, and, on occasion, the Daily Herald’s Elena Ferarrin all do a great job getting to the heart of a story.

But despite the Dylan-esque floodwaters rising around them, managing editors refuse to veer from this trajectory because they will always do what they’ve always done because they’ve always done it! So, once again, the inescapable underlying truth is, most print media wounds are self-inflicted.

And now it’s on to our main story.