Quick Hits – The Rak murder trial begins

This piece was originally supposed to run yesterday (7/18), so I’m going to run it a little earlier today (7/19) because the Rak trial is now officially underway.

In fact, I’d be there this morning (7/18), but all they’re doing is jury selection and it would be far too depressing to watch that race to the bottom of the American genepool. Nothing shrieks ‘Idiocracy’ (it’s a movie – look it up) like voir dire.

Kane County Judicial Center

Kane County Judicial Center

In his highly underrated follow up to cheers, Ted Danson’s Becker M.D. character can’t figure out how to get out of jury duty. Then he discovers they’ll let him go sooner if he actually serves on a trial, but his efforts to do so are met with insistent rejection.

As he’s being voir dired again, Danson’s “I was reading a book…” response was interrupted by a sharp “Next!” and then you hear a loud “Damn!” as the camera fades out.

Jury of my peers my ass! But I digress.

Once the opening statements start coming, you can bet your sweet bippie I’ll be there as often as time permits, because this already fascinating case is bound to get even better. The local press certainly doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

Meanwhile, let’s review the players:

1. Judge D. J. Tegeler

The eminent irony here is, His Honor’s obvious disdain for female public defenders means he tends makes up his mind up before hearing the whole story, which means we already have two clear cases of reversible error.

And those Second Appellate Court judges have a reputation for applying the letter of the law, too. The problem is, if it does get to the appeal point, it becomes a de facto two- to three-year jail sentence for defendant Daniel Rak.

Meanwhile, somebody needs to tell Tegeler that the black dress doesn’t automatically confer the right to become a bully. Oh wait! I did that and His Honor took the private note to the State’s Attorney in an effort to have me charged.

We journalists get no love!

2. Prosecutor Alex Bederka

Who has the legal acumen of Cliff Clavin and all the personal skills of Peter Francis Geraci.

Though he doesn’t get to make the final call, in typical KCSAO fashion, this case harbors all the kind of reasonable doubt that means murder charges never should have been filed.

How is anyone going to prove that a blackout drunk with a laundry list of major medical problems died due to any one specific reason? But since Alex has no heart, KCSAO Criminal Division chief Joe Lulves has no brain, and KCSA Joe McMahon has no courage, the trial will go forward.

As long as the defense has the slightest grasp of the fading art of letting the other side hang themselves, justice should prevail, because, given the opportunity, Bederka will utterly alienate the jury.

Not only that, but when it comes to crunch time, Alex has a propensity to cut and run as demonstrated by his last minute “withdrawal” from a celebrity boxing match with Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin. Not only did he chicken out, but he left the charity standing high and dry.

Richard would’ve kicked his ass, but that’s not the point.

3. Public Defender Kelli Childress

Who may well be the only attorney who can make Bederka look likeable!

Don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the most brilliant defense attorneys I’ve ever watched work – and this writer rarely applies that adjective. But her propensity to let her passion for the job and her clients get the best of her almost always backfires.

“But Jeff! You’re one of the least likeable people I’ve ever met. Isn’t this a vastly ironic case of the pot calling the kettle black?”

First, I love your use of the word “ironic.” Second, I alienate people on purpose because I generally don’t like them. And third, I don’t have defendants putting their freedom in my hands.

In essence, a defense attorney is “campaigning” for their client. That means crafting a “message” that resonates with the jury, which is simple, direct and repeatedly hammered home.

To make those messaging matters much more difficult, as it is with the voting public, the average American juror is the equivalent of an off-meds ADHD sixth grader coming off a three-day sugar and video gaming binge.

Why do you think “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” worked?

So, if the defense wastes the jury’s time, ignores their limited attention span, or battles the judge and the prosecutor to the point they become unlikeable, they’re gonna lose regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

So now that I’ve set the scene, it’s time to watch the trial unfold. As I like to say, I’ll keep you posted!


Post Script:

I was there for the opening statements today and:

  • Bederka was brief.
  • Childress, who bleepin’ knows how to connect with a jury, was a bit longwinded as she took a risky position that could pay dividends.
  • And Judge Tegeler finally reminded me of the guy who was my attorney and friend for 12 years.

Perhaps justice will prevail!

Quick Hits – July 17, 2017 – DH reporter Harry Hitzeman tries to assault Jeff Ward

You have to understand that I was utterly intent on running a column covering the start of the Daniel Rak murder trail. But that effort was preempted by Daily Herald reporter Harry Hitzeman’s insistence upon demanding my complete and undivided attention.

Harry Hitzeman

Daily Herald reporter Harry Hitzeman

The irony being that a reporter who calls all sorts of folks out for all sorts of reasons was so thin skinned, he came damn close to assaulting me in a Kane County Judicial Center elevator. Why, I even had to ask court security to intervene.

Before any of you bleeps say, “There’s gotta be another side to this story,” it was all captured on videotape. So lying would do me no damned good. I’ll run the Rak story tomorrow., but since I suddenly seem to be famous, we’ll go with my statement to the Kane County Sheriff’s Office for now.


Kane County Sheriff’s Witness Statement Report

On July 17, 2017 at approximately 2:45 P.M., the following series of events took place at the Kane County Judicial Center at 37W777 IL-38, St Charles:

1 I, Jeff Ward, of Geneva, Illinois, in my capacity as a journalist, was attending the voir dire process at the Daniel Rak trial in courtroom 311. About 2:40, Daily Herald reporter Harry Hitzeman showed up and, when directed to sit next to me in the only available seat in the last row, Harry asked everyone else to move down. I was fine with that decision.

2. Five minutes later, Judge Tegeler declared a recess and asked court security and his bailiffs to clear the courtroom. Since I was at the far east side of the last bench, I was the last one out of the courtroom. When I exited 311, Hitzeman was leaning against the opposite doorway watching everyone as they walked out. He was intent on a confrontation. We did catch each other’s eye, but I simply walked by to the third floor elevator.

3. As the southern elevator door opened, I heard running or very quick walking directly behind me. As I turned around, I noted Hitzeman jumped into the elevator. I wouldn’t say he charged me, but he was intent on making his presence known. We were the only two people in the elevator the entire way down.

4. I simply leaned against the back wall and looked up ignoring Hitzeman. As the doors closed Hitzeman asked, “What’s your problem – what’s your fucking problem with me.” He was agitated, red-faced and shaking, but I wasn’t about to back down or it would be open season on Jeff Ward. So I simply said:

  • You’re a piece of shit
  • You can’t get a story right
  • You don’t hold yourself to the same standard you hold the people you write about

So then he goes off even more and starts mildly advancing toward me. At this point, I’m ready to defend myself, because I’m clearly alarmed and disturbed that a professional reporter would confront me in public in this manner. That shouldn’t happen on any planet and, since he’s gone this far, I’m wondering where the situation might be headed. Could I have completely shut up? Sure! I wasn’t agitated at all, but again, if Hitzeman could claim he backed me down, it would be open season on Jeff Ward.

5. The elevator reached the ground floor and I quickly moved towards court security asking the officers if they’d intervene in the situation. Hitzeman comes around the corner shouting, “Well there’s one story I got right. It’s the one about you using County money and getting fired from Jack Cunningham’s office.” Hitzeman is slowly advancing towards me, getting redder and shaking even more which is clearly making court security nervous, so they start moving towards him.

6. At that point I turned around a move toward him saying, “Harry you can’t even get that one right – I resigned from the County Clerk’s office.” Then Harry gets even louder yelling “you were fired” over and over again while Court Security intervenes and asks us both where we’re going. I said something to the effect of, “I’m leaving, but I don’t need him following me.” Heitzman said he was going back up to courtroom 311. So he specifically followed me downstairs to confront me about some perceived slight.


As you might imagine, I found this entire interaction alarming and disturbing – especially on the part of what’s supposed to be a professional reporter – and unless I make Hitzeman an example by filing disorderly conduct charges against him, this will be only the beginning. It’s one thing if readers confront me, because that’s to be expected. But I cannot do my job if other reporters start calling me out.

Thus, I think it’s critical to press disorderly conduct charges against Harry Hitzeman.

Quick Hits – July 14, 2017

I wanna be a rock critic

I’m going to indulge my inner Greg Kot here and do a brief review of last night’s Queen with Adam Lambert concert at the United Center.

It was fucking great!


And though you know I love Driver Tom, there was a bit of a mix up so it all started with Tim and Round Trip Car Service getting us there right on time and ended with them swooping in to pick us up just as we walked out of the venue. (You can find Round Trip at 331-222-7195.)

Then it was up to the Stadium Club for an excellent high-end pre-concert buffet dinner. I particularly enjoyed the Cajun strip steak and sundried tomato risotto.

I will admit I was a bit taken aback by the $30 programs and $55 t-shirts, but that in no way deterred a flock of fans from snapping them up.

Then, with no opening act (massive hint to all the other bands), Queen took the stage at 8:18 and ripped through hit after hit until 10:20. And they performed all of the classics:

  • Killer Queen
  • Fat Bottomed Girls
  • Bicycle Race
  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • I Want it All
  • Somebody to Love
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • Under Pressure
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (with Freddie Mercury)

Then they encored with ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We are the Champions.’

Look, no one can replace Freddie, but I gotta tell ya, Mr. Lambert completely owned those songs and completely kicked ass. And it certainly didn’t hurt that one flamboyant gay male replaced the other.

Before you hit “send,” when Adam came out in a magenta sequined three piece suit, his first comment was, “Isn’t that the fuckin’ gayest thing you’ve ever seen?” Regardless of anything else, Lambert is a massive stage presence that did justice to one of the most legendary catalogs in the annals of rock and roll history.

Meanwhile, spry 69 year-old guitarist Brian May can still make his “red special” do exactly what he wants and Roger Taylor hasn’t lost a step on the drums. One of the evening’s highlights was a duel between Taylor and backup drummer Rufus Taylor of The Darkness.

What I’m sayin’ is, if you have the opportunity to see Queen with Adam Lambert, you’d be a fool to pass it up.


And speaking of Greg Kott

Though I sometimes think his best albums of the year list are beyond pretentious, a journalistic friend told me just how generous our Tribune rock critic can be.

KotApparently, he wrote Greg during his high school years asking for advice on how to become a rock critic. Not only did Mr. Kot write back, but he invited our young hopeful down to the Trib for a day of learning the ropes firsthand.

And that’s aces in my book.




And speaking of Tribune writers

You know I generally hate people because, well, with some notable exceptions, they generally suck. The best evidence of this hypothesis is my Facebook blocked list just hit the century mark. Now my goal is for that list to exceed my friends list, but for some strange reason, y’all keep insisting on friending me, which makes that proposition much more difficult.

So, stop it!

Meanwhile, because I don’t despise absolutely everyone, I’ve had the best email conversation with Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens. She’s smart, funny, she’s one of the few journalists who can pull off conversational writing and, most of all, she seems to find me somewhat amusing.

Heidi Stevens

And that’s not a word that’s typically associated with Jeff Ward. Heidi even went as far a promising she’d never tell anyone I’m a nice guy.

But what I don’t get is why someone as delightful as Heidi Stevens regularly receives the kind of hate mail that makes this columnist so jealous. So, stop it! The next person that sends Heidi a dire missive is going to have to contend with me.

And by “contend” I mean having me crash on your couch for a month – and I drink a lot of tequila. Trust me! It won’t be pretty, so be nice!


A fidget spinner that makes me fidgety

Enduring an upper back problem that’s made it impossible to run combined with the kind of ADHD that doesn’t respond to medication has made me a bit bitchier than usual.

Yes! It actually is possible.

So, in an effort to stave off familial disaster, my thoughtful 18 year-old son bought me a really nice Chicago Cubs fidget spinner. This, of course, begs the question, “What if your fidget spinner makes you fidget?”

Cubs FidgetYou see, the Cubs kinda suck this year because Manager Joe Maddon has completely lost his mind, the players don’t have that same 2016 swagger, and it’s truly difficult to repeat a championship in any sport, especially baseball. So, in order to enjoy my new fidget spinner and possibly stay married, here’s what I need Theo Epstein to do:

  • Get rid of batting practice pitcher John Lackey. If he can’t figure out he’s got to resort to finesse at the ripe old age of 38, in the words of a famous White Sox announcer, “He gone!”
  • Don’t put Jon Lester in the game until the second inning, because he certainly can’t handle the first. From not being able to throw to first base to this BS? And people think I have issues? He’s nothing more than a $22 million a year mental case.
  • Trade Jake Arrieta while you can still get something for him. At 34, he’s not nearly going to be worth the $29 million a year he’ll be asking on the free agent market. And he’s starting to suck too.
  • Get rid of Pedro Strop who doesn’t begin to understand that keeping the ball up at Wrigley Field never works out too well.
  • Trade Ben Zobrist while some other GM is still stupid enough to go for it. Watching that man attempt to “surround” a fly ball is even more terrifying than watching Donald Trump try to shake hands with world leaders. And even I could hit better than .214 against today’s MLB pitching.
  • Keep Jon Jay – NOT ANTHONY RIZZO – in the leadoff spot against right handers. What could possibly be wrong with a .385 on-base percentage? It’s certainly better than Dexter Fowler’s .336. (The Cardinals and Cubs really oughtta stop signing each other’s players because it never works out well for either team.)

Meanwhile, the trade for Jose Quintana was a great one. Now, all Theo has to do is follow the rest of my advice and I’ll be fidget free. Is that too much to ask?


Quick Hits – July 12, 2017

A vast immaturity

During a recent debate with a local Democratic elected official, my contention was, all insipid governors aside, most conservatives weren’t nearly as bad as he is, and some sort of compromise in the post-apocalyptic Illinois budget battle was inevitable.

Meanwhile, my friend was arguing that this started with the Koch brothers, it’s become a national ideological battleground with no logical underpinnings, and it’s gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.

But sadly, as I’ve gauged the Illinois-finally-has-a-budget reactions of even my generally wise and intelligent conservative friends, I’m going to have to utter those rare words that always make my wife so happy – “I wuz wrong!”

Rauner Madigan

Don’t get me wrong! I understand the need to vent and I understand nobody’s happy about the long shadow Michael Madigan casts over the State. But I also understand that, much as the Governor just discovered, throwing a three-year temper tantrum while expecting the impossible generally doesn’t work out too well, either.

The singular statement that always seems to stop my office holding friends dead in their tracks is, “You don’t govern that way! You don’t govern by tantrum, pettiness and obstruction.”

So, since I still have faith in humanity – even in the political variety – I will, once again, repeat the political axioms that are blatantly true whether you believe them or not:

1. I’m not happy with the havoc the Speaker has wreaked upon Illinois, but conservative bitchin’ ain’t gonna change a goddam thing. If Republicans want to beat the man they have to develop the kind of ground game that’s proven so effective. The reason Mr. Madigan enjoys a supermajority is he gets people elected. Make no mistake, if the Speaker died tomorrow, another Democrat would keep the electoral ball rolling. The problem is, it’s a lot of hard work – something many conservatives seem to be allergic to.

2. Michael Madigan didn’t occur in a vacuum. It took him 30 years to get this far and it’s going to take a lot more than two to undo the damage.

3. Nobody gets 100 percent of any political deal. Nobody! Despite the baseless conservative bitching to the contrary, the Democrats put some real offers on the table this time. I could not believe the concessions Rauner wrung out of them! In his own words, the Governor said he got 90 percent of the education reform deal and he still wouldn’t budge. Boxing matches don’t have one round for a reason! When you make something an all or nothing proposition, you almost always end up with nothing.

4. What truly baffled me is the abject conservative willingness to destroy the state rather than compromise on anything. They’d rather deny the speaker his “prize,” than take the necessary small steps always required to affect political change.

So, the real traitors are the bible thumping conservative Republicans who would destroy the social service agencies that serve the least of our brothers and sisters, destroy the hopes and dreams of those attending our State universities, and destroy our bond rating so we could no longer effectively borrow money. The heroes are State Rep Steve Anderson and the Republicans who voted for a budget, because it was exactly the right thing to do. Aren’t they supposed to represent the majority of their constituents?

5. And trust me, those Springfield Republicans secretly LOVE the Speaker. They have absolutely no intention of mounting any real effort to defeat him, because he makes their lives so much easier. They don’t have to accomplish anything, they don’t really have to work and they know their constituents won’t hold them accountable for their failures. All they have to do is shriek “Madigan sucks” on a regular basis and they’ll get reelected. He’s the perfect pandering foil.


So now, in an effort to double down, Governor Rauner just hired Breitbart contributor and Illinois Policy Institute loon Kristina Rasmussen as his chief of staff, because that kind of pointless ideological divisiveness is exactly what we need right now.

Yes! Illinois desperately needs change and, for the last 11 years, I’ve been the first one to give the Democrats shit when they deserve it. But in order for that change to come, an awful lot of conservatives have to grow up first.


A few good (alder)men

In an effort to put my political money where my mouth is, I’m looking for five candidates to run for Geneva City Council in 2019 – one from each ward. You see, Geneva desperately needs change too! I’ve tried working within the system to affect that change, and I’ve had some success, but it’s not nearly enough, because Genevans are still facing down:

  • A city council that never met a fee, utility or tax increase they didn’t like
  • City administrators who dole out the kind of salary and benefit packages the rest of us would drool over
  • A mayor who’s been in office for too long and no longer has the interest of Genevans at heart
  • A police department that’s out of control internally and publicly (see Delnor)
  • An electric utility that can’t keep the power on for more than an hour at a time
  • Electric and water rates that border on the absurd
  • A city manager who firmly believes we’re there to serve her

So it’s simple! I’m looking for five candidates with the cohones to put on the fiscal brakes, and perhaps even reverse some spending, while they hold city staff accountable when it’s appropriate to do so.

But just like I don’t want to have to witness the State of Illinois’ demise, I’m not talking about “destroying” Geneva, either. All I’m talking about restoring balance to the city council force through a cooperative spirit and the kind of good government that always puts constituents first.

So here’s the deal! You come up with the money for mailers, door hangers and signs and I’ll do all the design work, get you the best prices and manage your campaign at no cost. Those interested in serving Geneva can email me at jeffnward@comcast.net. Let’s talk!

Quick Hits – July 10, 2017 – The anti-hoax issue

Jayden K. Smith ain’t gonna eat your children (but I wish he would)

Though I truly admire the chutzpah of anyone who can roil the entire Internet with something so singularly stupid, the fact that so many of my smart friends fell for it has me even more depressed than a Trump tweet.

C’mon people! There isn’t some silly hacker out there dying to friend you just so he can secure the names of all the Facebook hookers you’ve secretly friended. Please think about it for just 10 bleepin’ seconds.

Jayden Smith

First, though it’s correctly spelled “Jaden,” that’s the name of actor Will Smith’s son.

Then, there are 2 billion active Facebook users and somehow this nefarious hacker found you? To put that in perspective, you are 2,857 times more likely to be stuck by lightning, seven times more likely to win that Powerball jackpot and 549 times more likely to die in a terrorist attack, and that stat includes 9/11 victims.

Then pray tell, how is this hacker, who manages to get around more than Santa Claus, going to break into your account merely by means of being friended? As long as I know your email address, I can try to break into your Facebook account right now – especially if your password is “password” or “12345678.”

Then, even if Mr. Smith managed to use your “about me” data to correctly deduce your password, he couldn’t even get your credit card number. The best he could do is lock you out of your own account and hit your friends up for money.

C’mon! Real hackers are looking for the big score by finding a back door into corporate computer systems that provide thousands of credit card numbers. They don’t give a flying bleep about little old you.

And as The Bard once said, “Ain’t that the real rub!” All of these hoaxes start with the notion that we all think we’re special. Somehow, we’re the one in two billion Mr. Smith chose to target.

It’s why people believe, without even bothering to enter, they just won a lottery sponsored by a Nigerian prince. It’s why people believe Donald Trump’s blatant lies. It’s why people will open random emails with an “I love you” subject only to spread a virus throughout their entire organization.

The reason I never fall for any of this shit is, I live by the sage words of that late, great philosopher B. B. King, who once said, “Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin’, too!”

It’s why fear and pandering by conservative Republicans works so well. The unwashed masses are “taking” from you. The terrorists are aiming directly at you. The gays are coming to recruit you!

But none of that’s the case. Considering what I’ve seen out here in my Geneva south Fisher Farms neighborhood, gay folks have much better taste.

So, trust me, you’re not special! Beyond the vagaries of the kind of probability that makes a lighting strike seem imminent, nobody’s coming for you. Jayden K. Smith is the mere figment of a fertile imagination. It’s nothing more than some guy who exploited the “I’m special” self-esteem movement mindset to set off the kind of digital landslide that’s making him laugh his ass off.


All voter data is public record

To continue with today’s anti-hoax-ish theme, when the Trump administration asked all 50 states for various iterations of their voter data, I haven’t seen so much liberal keening (look it up!) and rending of garments since Whole Foods stopped carrying organic jicama.

Normally rational people went completely batshit crazy as they decried the kind of jackboot thuggery that made this nothing more than a National Socialist move. But the truth is, with the exception of whom you vote for, everything else is public record, including:

·         Your birthday

·         Your address

·         How you voted – early, absentee or on election day

·         Every primary ballot you pulled – Republican or Democrat

·         Every district in which you can vote

and much more! It does not include the last four digits of your social security number, but since it contains everything else, no one really needs that. And how many corporate and medical folks already have your entire social security number?

Voter Data

I think I’m one of the few people who won’t give it out under any circumstance.

All it took to acquire voter data for the entire state of Illinois was forming a political committee at no cost, and paying the Illinois State Board of Elections $500 for the privilege. If I wanted something simpler like collar county data, it would have been a mere $150 and even less for the City of Aurora.

Similarly, if Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham likes you, he’ll give you Kane County voter data for free – committee or not. (And if he doesn’t like you, he’ll provide outdated or incomplete data.)

Not only that, but both parties maintain killer databases that include far more information. They’ll even “score” you by partisan issue. The Democrat’s version is called “Votebuilder,” and it’s the tool that helped President Obama win nine out of nine 2012 battleground states.

Since they don’t play well with each other, the GOP has three separate databases and, while none of ‘em can quite match Votebuilder, they’re more than enough to get the average candidate elected.

Which is exactly why people pay to obtain this data – they either want to get elected or they want to get someone else elected. So the irony of the Trump administration’s request is, they’re too stupid to realize they already have access to the voter information they’re so desperately seeking.

If, for some strange reason, you still doubt me, please provide your name and current city in the comments section and I’ll be happy to post your entire voting history going back to the year 2000.

So liberals! Calm down! You’re really starting to annoy the bleep out of me. The Brownshirts aren’t coming to steal your voting history – they don’t have to.


On a good note!

Now, this one isn’t a hoax! Though it wasn’t easy getting it done, according to Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt, his mother came through the angiogram with flying colors. As Terry put it, “It was the best outcome we could’ve hoped for.”

So he and I would like to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers and I’d like to remind you all of exactly what can happen when we positively put our minds together!


Quick Hits – No shirt, no shoes, no PDs?

Attorneys are strange and mystical creatures who can be found furtively darting down dark hallways, speaking in strange tongues and issuing things called “motions” that generally don’t move anything along. Why, over the millennia, many famous folks have said many famous things about attorneys

Clarence Darrow quipped, “The trouble with the law is lawyers.” Will Rogers – the man who never met a man he didn’t like – said, “The only way you can beat the lawyers is to die with nothing.” Let’s not forget what Oliver Wendell Holmes said; “Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.”

Then there was that famous line by The Bard, but even I tend to think that offing them all would be a wee bit extreme. The truth is, everybody bitches about lawyers until they actually need one – or in my specific case – at least three (Thanks Jeff, Amanda and Brick!)!

Why, some of my best friends are attorneys, but they’ve asked me not to list them here because being associated with a humor writer is so much worse.

As you know, I already have a particular predilection for public defenders, or “PDs”  as they’re more colloquially known. These fine and mostly female folk eschew legal fame and fortune to see that the least of our biblical brothers and sisters get a fair shake in a system that’s generally stacked against ‘em.

So I was exceptionally dismayed when I learned about what happened to a Kane County PD at a North Aurora eating establishment called The Little Red Schoolhouse.

Red Schoolhouse

To set the stage, during a previous visit, our PD struck up a conversation with a bartender in which her occupation came up. No big deal, right? There’s certainly nothing unusual about a barkeep and patron chewing the fat. In fact, our PD even bought Little Red Schoolhouse t-shirts for herself and her son.

But when our intrepid PD showed up at The Little Red School House last weekend with her husband in tow, that same bartender explained that, since she was a public defender, and since a PD defended an individual charged with a crime against her friend, as the sign on the wall said, she refused to serve her. Then she asked them both to leave.

Really? Not only is that one hell of a stretch, but the right to refuse service is not nearly the absolute that some folks think it is. Refusing to serve an unruly group or individual is, indeed, a right, but banning an entire group based on any kind of blanket prejudice never ends well – just ask Denny’s what happened when they tried to stop serving black folks.

Oh! And if you’re gonna refuse service to a group based on some absurd and overly delicate sensibility, It probably shouldn’t be one that litigates for a living. That generally won’t work out too well, either.

Our PD did attempt to rectify the situation with someone purporting to The Little Red Schoolhouse’s owner or manager, but he or she politely told them to pound sand before they blocked her. Being privy to that private conversation, I approached the same individual in an attempt to bring balance to the force, but my efforts were similarly and summarily rebuffed.

So this is where we are in 2017?  Not only do PD’s have to suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous 16th Circuit all-male judicial choir fortune, but now they can’t get a burger and fries without being grilled?

I understand this story has a certain Monty Python-esque quality to it, but if you were the one banned from a restaurant because you were union, a village trustee, a Democrat, or God forbid, a humor writer, it wouldn’t be nearly as funny as you were the one being escorted out the door.

I’ll say it again! When the criminally charged have to face the full weight of the people, our entire justice system depends upon their right to a zealous defense. Anything less puts us on a par with North Korea where trials are mere theater.

How many innocent men have been freed from Illinois’ death row?

So here’s what’s going to happen!

First, I don’t plan on visiting The Little Red Schoolhouse anytime soon and I hope you join me in that regard.

Second, because this isn’t the North Aurora I know and love, I will make the Village Board and Mayor Dale Berman aware of this unfortunate situation. That means the North Aurora Liquor Commission will have all the details as well.

Remember, a liquor license is a privilege – not a right.

And third, I hope that PD, or one of her scurrilous attorney friends, sues this restaurant’s pants off. Sometimes freedom of speech can get very expensive.

I’ll certainly keep you posted on this one!


Quick Hits – July 6, 2017

I’m not gloating!

Despite whatever Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt might say about my thoughts on the apparent end of the state budget impasse, I’m not gloating. (And BTW how ‘bout some prayers for Terry’s mother who’s undergoing an angiogram today.)

Make no mistake, the 16 Springfield Republicans who broke ranks with Governor Rauner will be primaried – it’s already in the works – and it’s always depressing when good people have to pay a price for the doing the right thing.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve been talking to both sides and if you think this impending budget deal has done anything to douse the partisan anger, you’re dead wrong. In fact, the rancor seems to be getting worse than ever.

To make matters worse, if the Governor doesn’t get behind the budget, i.e. make sure the money goes where it should, fills vacant positions, etc., Moody’s will downgrade the State to junk bond status anyway. And the Governor has shown absolutely no willingness to compromise on anything, thus far.

All I’m saying is, this is what I’ve been saying for the past three years:

1. No one gets 100 percent of a political deal, and if you go for broke, you typically end up with nothing.

2. Regardless of what you think about Michael Madigan, you can’t undo 30 years of his presence in just two or three.

3. If, before this all started, someone told me that the Democrats would come up with kind of concessions they have throughout this difficult budget process, I would’ve insisted that their significant other lock up the liquor cabinet.


C’mon, Governor Rauner admitted he got 90 percent of what he wanted in that school reform bill and he still vetoed it as “not enough.” Ninety-percent wasn’t enough? What politician ever gets 90 percent?

So sadly, while I certainly enjoyed that 24 optimistic hours, Illinois ain’t nearly out of the junk bond woods yet folks.


Why some Republican broke ranks

If you go down that list of 15 state reps and the one state senator who voted for the new budget, you’ll note that most of them represent districts that are home to a state university or other state run facility that’s critical to the local economy.

Bob Pritchard

State Rep Bob Pritchard

I’ve been saying that Governor Rauner has been using the budget crisis to shut down schools for years, because he falsely believes it will reflect poorly on the Democrats. But insiders told me the Governor doesn’t think it’s necessary to fund state colleges. Rather than have that discussion, he’s using the stalemate as a kind of a political natural selection which would weed out the weaker ones like Eastern and Western Illinois.

While shutting down a state school in the Chicago area would cause some hardship, to do it in a place like MaComb, Carbondale or Charleston would be devastating. Without those economic engines those communities would decay and die.

So, when faced with two forms of political suicide, those Republicans chose the one that would best serve their constituents. Isn’t that the way it almost always should be?


The IPI has real class

Look, I understand tempers are flaring over all this budget bullshit, but the Illinois Policy Institute truly hit a new low when either they or a commentor :

  • Released State Rep Steve Andersson’s cell phone number to the public, and
  • Released State Rep Anna Moeller’s saying it was Andersson’s when Steve turned his off.

And then they refused to take it down. Nice!

Illinois Policy Institute

I’ve always believed the folks at the IPI were nothing more than ultra-partisan bullies who have no regard or concern for the State of Illinois or its citizens, and now there’s no doubt.




They’re not the enemy!

As the question of the Elgin Math and Science Academy heads into the Illinois Charter School Commission’s hands, I gotta tell ya, I’m more than a little dismayed by just how far that debate has descended.

Between chance hallway meeting encounters and the conversation on Facebook, it would seem like we’re considering something along the line of ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ not whether the U-46 School District would benefit from a charter school.


As I stated before, I’ve considered the proposal, read all the news reports, studied other charter school scenarios and we had EMSA Committee Chairman Kerry Kelly and an opposition viewpoint come on the Ward & Jones Radio Show. So my conclusions are well-thought out and fairly straightforward. I’m not convinced:

·         The charter school will offer anything the district doesn’t already offer

·         Funding can be secured for the school in the long-term

·         A 60 percent at-risk student population can be recruited and maintained

·         It’s worth pulling $4 million away from other U-46 schools

Please let me remind some of you that, having done my due diligence, it’s not up to this journalist to prove the EMSA folks mathematically wrong. It’s up to them to convince the School Board, and now the Charter School Commission, that their proposal is based on fact and not fancy.

But the fact that I’ve come to those conclusions has no bearing on the merit or the character of the excellent individuals who brought the EMSA proposal forward. All it means is we disagree.

So, when I hear about normally rational people having it out in hallways or see regularly reasonable people turning it into a blood sport on Facebook, it bothers me because neither “side” comes close to approaching the evil incarnate that these conversations tend to make them out to be.

Disagreeing with their proposal by no means means I question the motives of the group that brought it forth. I firmly believe they believe they’re doing what’s right for the district. I know it’s difficult not to counterattack, for EMSA supporters to summarily dismiss or try to intimidate objectors doesn’t help their cause at all, either.

Please, please, please! As we wait for the results of their appeal to the State, let’s tone down the rhetoric before someone goes too far.

Quick Hits – It ain’t capitulation!

My good friend, and a stellar member of my crack legal team (it takes much more than a village when it comes to Jeff Ward), Jeff Meyer, lamented the impending Illinois budget/tax hike as “capitulation” during our most recent conversation. And while I certainly understand his thought process, I fervently believe that’s not the case.

Please let me be perfectly clear that when I said “lament,” that really is the correct word, because, unlike the plethora of conservatives who demanded a property tax freeze, balanced budget, term limits and even more right out of the gate, Jeff understands that cuts alone could not save us from the current Illinois fiscal quicksand.

You can bitch about where we are and how we got here to your heart’s content, but it ain’t gonna change a goddam thing.

Because he has at least a half a brain, Jeff was far more concerned with what motivated those 15 Republicans to break ranks with the Governor than he was with pointing fingers.

Meanwhile, my response to that conservative plethora, the folks who can’t even spell the word “compromise” is, I’d like a 68 Dodge Charger, the winning Powerball ticket and a 22 year-old female French exchange stu… (let’s omit that third one), but none of that’s going to happen today, either.

It’s the Governor’s insistence on getting everything “right now” that put him in the position of getting nothing at all.


To make matters so much worse, the Republican/conservative refusal to take any responsibility for the state of the State is terrifying and beyond baffling. I’m gonna say it again, the Madigan phenomenon did not happen overnight. It took 30 years and a lot of Republican complicity for the Speaker to wield this much power.

To wit, please read today’s Phil Kadner Sun-Times column!

And a great part of that GOP complicity was, while you all were busy hanging your hats on soon-to-be moot social issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and gun control, the Speaker was developing the kind of electoral ground game that the Illinois Republican Party can’t begin to compete with.

As a result, not only does the GOP fail to regularly win elections in a virtually bankrupt state, but the constant conservative I-want-my-cookie-now temper tantrums makes the situation so much worse.

Really? We should let the utterly immature Bruce Rauner take the State to junk bond status, because, like Nero, it would be better to watch Illinois burn than it would be that to begin to apply the long-term fix our state so desperately requires?

Do you know what junk bond status means? It means the institutions who can afford to buy our debt won’t be able to, which means issuing bonds would be kinda pointless, and then we truly won’t be able to pay our bills. Who needs state universities anyway, right? C’mon! I don’t want a tax hike either, but this budget does contain $3 billion in cuts.

It’s a start.

I’m also going to keep repeating the irony that Springfield taxation pales in comparison to what kind of havoc our local county, village and particularly school boards regularly wreak upon us. With rare exception, those spendthrift collar county school boards are 100 percent Republican.

But despite that all-too-obvious fact, conservatives want to blame the Democrats while failing to apply that fiscal standard across the board because it makes them feel better. So, my answer to all their insistent whining will always be, “When’s the last time you attended a school board meeting?”

Another irony is that Rauner could’ve wrung the kind of concessions out of the Speaker that no Republican governor has ever been able to. But instead of aiming for the possible, his vast ego made it an all-or-nothing proposition, with “nothing” being the outright and irrevocable destruction of Illinois as a functioning fiscal entity.

I’ve asked at least 30 conservatives to prove we could dig our way out of this budget mess by cuts alone, and not one – not even 66th District State Rep Allen Skillicorn – could show me the math.

What Governor Rauner was trying to do was the equivalent of winning the first baseball game of the season, and then, immediately turning to the Commissioner and saying, “Alright Mr. Manfred, we’re ready for the World Series!”

But that’s not the way it works. You have to win up to two-thirds of your games over the slog of a 162 game season in which you’ll lose one-third of your games no matter what you do. And even if you manage to do that, you can still get picked off by a wildcard team that got hot and squeaked into the playoffs at the last minute.

Given their abject failure to learn anything from experience, the eminently ironic conservative immaturity continues. Now they want to throw folks like State Rep Steve Andersson under the primary bus because their delicate middle-school sensibilities have been offended. But Steve is exactly the kind of elected official who ACTUALLY CAN instill some conservative fiscal ideals in the state capital over the long term.

When the children refuse to behave by insisting on going for broke, it’s incumbent on the adults in the room to intervene. So, we were just saved by a group of brave Republicans, who put us and the State, before themselves, the party and their jobs. And God bless each one of ‘em for it. With some of the stupidity finally out of the way, let’s get down to the real, long-term business of undoing all of that Madigan damage.

But sadly, considering the current conservative mindset, I’m thinking that last statement is nothing more than wishful thinking. Apparently, I really do need to repeat the wisdom of the late, great cartoonist Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”