Quick Hits – August 30, 2017

Give the ESO a break!

Apparently, there are mixed feeling over the City of Elgin forgiving $161,000 of a $183,000 loan to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. I get it! At a time when taxpayers are at the breaking point, the last thing any city council should do is turn away black ink.

I also understand the ESO has had their moments over the last six or seven years, none of which we really need to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that regularly dealing with artists is a lot like trying to herd squirrels across Larkin Avenue just as the high school inmates are being released.

To say they’re certainly not political folk is a massive understatement.

ESO

But I’m OK with letting the loan go because the ESO has truly has made an effort to turn things around. New CEO Dave Bearden has brought balance to the fiscal force, calmed those former turbulent musician waters and attendance has grown to almost 1,000 patrons a performance.

And I don’t see that $161,000 as a gift as much as it is an investment.

With that debt off the books, that ESO balance sheet will be far more attractive to those all-important grant givers, which means any future City bailout will be far less likely.

Then there’s the fact that the ESO truly is a jewel in the crown of The City in the Suburbs (I still hate that motto). They’re a world class ensemble that puts on stellar performances for eminently reasonable prices. And a slew of the folks who make it to The Hemmens avail themselves of Elgin’s eating and drinking establishments before and after performances.

So with the ESO self-sufficient, bringing in outside grants and boosting the local economy, that $161,000 is money well-spent. At least Elgin ain’t being blackmailed into paying for a new stadium to benefit a $500 billion NFL team!

All that said, were I an Elgin City Councilman, a terrifying prospect if there ever was one, I would add a loan forgiveness clause that made it clear that, if the ESO goes off the rails again within the next five years, that loan balance gets reinstated. And “off the rails” would be determined by a council majority vote.

As for me, I love the ESO! My wife and I got to meet Leonard Nimoy after a performance some five years ago and I still haven’t washed the hand he shook. Considering some of the previous dire proclamations, I’m glad this one’s working out.

 

Get out of my way!

On the grand scale of things that truly matter in this existence, this probably wouldn’t make the top 500. But we all have our pet peeves and some situations are simply symptomatic of a greater cultural epidemic.

To wit, the act aggravating me most lately is grocery and big box store employees who not only get in your way, but block you from getting to something you were looking for.

It happened this month at the Batavia Trader Joes. I was heading down the frozen food aisle when a young woman carrying a box of light breakfast items made a 90 degree turn and put herself and the box right in front of me. I had to stop short not to run into her.

It’s a common occurrence at the St. Charles Meijer, too. Why, this week, one of the staff was so mesmerized by his cell phone, I had to leap out of his way as he plowed down a main aisle.

Though this should be a matter of common courtesy, since parents no longer impart manners, someone’s got to make these employees understand that, without customers, they wouldn’t get paid. Sure! If someone’s rolling a huge stack of carts in or wheeling a ton of boxes down an aisle, I’ll step aside. But the customer should get the right of way in all other cases.

And that includes moving boxes and their conveyances out of the way if we’re trying to get at something.

Most customers understand this principle and apply it themselves. I’ll patiently wait for senior citizens, give mothers with children a break and generally let women go first because that’s the way I was raised.

It’s a very simply concept. Within the bounds of reason, defer to the folks who make that paycheck possible. Thank you for hearing me out.

 

LSAT prep!

Former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge, who actually can write, and I were engaged in a fascinating journalistic philosophical discussion when he asked if I’d read his latest piece. When I replied I was too busy trying to sell my children into white slavery and doing LSAT prep, he said he’d “like to see a picture of that.”

I asked “which one,” and John replied that it didn’t matter.

So, since the whole white slavery thing could get me in trouble with the Feds, I thought it would be more prudent to go with the LSAT photographs.

For the uninitiated, and those who simply haven’t been paying attention, one must take the LSAT to get into law school, a place I will be heading in the fall of 2018. NIU to be more specific.

And I have to say the LSAT is a fascinating proposition. It’s nothing like the SAT, ACT or any other standardized test I’ve ever taken. One of my favorite Kane County attorneys likes to say this about the LSAT, “Preparing for a test that fails to reliably reflect the future lawyering skills it purports to gauge is big business.”

She’s dead on!

To her point, I would scream at those sample test questions because:

  • They often bear no resemblance to any reality I’ve ever encountered.
  • Some of the reading comprehension passages are so poorly written they make Daily Herald reporters look good.
  • Some questions contain the kind of factual inaccuracies that make it hard to get past them to the multiple choice answers.
  • The LSAT folks employ college logic class terms that no one uses in real life.
  • The LSAT folks truly enjoy trying to trick test takers.

And I’m guessing they don’t want people to suddenly start shrieking and swearing in the middle of the test. But once I realized that:

  • You have to suspend reality and approach those questions as if they are the truth.
  • You need to low your way through those passages despite and problematic prose.
  • The test is designed to determine whether 21 year-olds can construct and deconstruct the basic building blocks of an argument.
  • Three of the five offered answers can almost always be eliminated right away.

I started doing alright!

And wouldn’t you know! Being an 11-year journalist finally has a benefit in that it prepares you for LSAT questions, especially those in the reading comprehension sections. Silly me! I was beginning to think that writing would never pay off!

It also doesn’t hurt that, Dave Killoran, the author of the PowerScore suite of LSAT prep books, responds to email question regarding overarching test theories. He’s been very helpful.

So, thank you for asking, John. It’s actually going quite well!

 

Taking some time off!

Speaking of law school, since I will be visiting the NIU hallowed halls version and sitting in on a class or two on Friday afternoon, there will be no Friday Quick Hits.

You never know, I could be inspired by something, but it looks like I’ll be relaxing on Labor Day as well.

But I guarantee you I’ll be back next Wednesday with more great stories!

Quick Hits – August 28, 2017

It’s called “leadership,” Governor!

Before he made it big, Boz Scaggs would fire his entire band on a yearly basis, because they had to be the reason for his lack of mainstream success. Not only does this mentality belie the kind of immaturity that means you never have to take responsibility for yourself, but if you do make it to the bigtime, does that mean you owe it all to your band?

I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Scaggs never make that leap of logic.

So, after he went all-or-nothing on the pointless budget battle and lost, Governor Rauner fired his entire senior staff. You know, the ones he never listened to in the first place because he knows everything about everything, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t their fault!

I’m not sure I followed that sentence, and I wrote it.

no-rauner

Not one to learn from experience or his mistakes, Rauner immediately replaced those canned folks with a slew of alt-right ideologues straight outta the Illinois Policy Institute. What could possibly go wrong with that?

I’ll tell you what went wrong with that!

In a press release response that anyone but the Governor could’ve easily predicted, those IPI fanatics cited the Governer’s “whiteness’ as the reason for his lack of condemnation of a racially charged political cartoon.

This, of course, did not reflect well on the Governor, so he fired them, too!

That ain’t governing folks! And anyone who thinks it is, is just as immature, egotistical and petty as Bruce Rauner insists on painting himself on a regular basis.

Look! I understand that, whether we’re talking mayor, county chairman, or governor, it’s a very difficult proposition. You don’t get a vote, at least 50 percent of the aldermen, board members or generally assembly are fucking nuts, and you get blamed for pretty much everything that happens.

But Bruce! Not only did you choose to “interview” for the position, you spent untold millions of your own dollars to get there. So to say I have no sympathy for you whatsoever is the most massive of understatements.

You chose to be a leader, so lead!

 

Kojzarek gets it right?

Ever since the upside down tattoo incident (don’t ask), I’ve been biding my time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to bring the wrath of God down on Kane County Board member Kurt Kojzarek.

If anyone deserves it, he does!

For example, if Kurt ever decides to run for pope, I’d bring up the whole stripper thing (Go ahead and ask!). But not only has Kurt failed to provide me with that kind of opportunity, he did a really good thing recently that I just can’t let go.

Kurt Kojzarek

Kane County Board Member Kurt Kojzarek and not a stripper

My least favorite county board member put forward the notion that, with Elgin’s Grand Victoria gambling boat hemorrhaging profits from the proliferation of video gaming machines to the point where their charitable grant to the county is at an all-time low, the municipalities who approved video gaming should receive no further riverboat grants.

To be clear, this proposed ban DOES NOT include social service agencies. Kurt simply, and correctly, concluded that municipalities who allowed video gaming can now use their own cash to cover those former riverboat bases.

For example, the City of St. Charles recently received $71,000 in riverboat cash for creek improvement. But if Kurt’s measure passes, since that city allows video gaming, they would no longer be eligible for it.

This isn’t a punitive thing, it’s simply a matter of accepting the consequences for your choices. If you reduce the total amount of grant money by competing directly with the boat to benefit your municipality, then you shouldn’t receive anything more from the boat.

All that said, I can’t tell you how much it pains to have to admit that Kojzarek was finally right about something. I suppose I should be grateful it doesn’t happen very often.

 

Wishing Michael Butirro the best

Larry Jones and I played host to a number of memorable radio show guests over the years, but one that sticks out in my mind is Elgin’s Chooch’s Pizzeria co-owner Michael Butirro. Mike approached us to discuss his quest to bring legalized sports betting to Elgin.

And while I don’t remember much of that conversation, I do remember Mike’s kindness, his unrelenting support for the city he loves and a personality that drew you in like a magnet. Michael Butirro is the kind of guy I’d love to be, but before y’all get your hopes up, I ain’t never gonna be.

mike-butirro

You see, for every ten Mike Butirros, there’s gotta be at least one Jeff Ward. I think it’s in an equation found somewhere in Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

Sadly, after his brother suffered a stroke in November, Mike shut down Chooch’s at the end of business last Saturday evening. As he put it, “It’s time to sell and take care of the family.”

Mike! Though this isn’t setting the bar nearly high enough, you’re a better man than I’ll ever be. Larry and I wish you nothing but the best as you move on to these newer challenges. Your family’s gain is Elgin’s loss.

 

A unanimous Daily Herald verdict

Y’all are really starting to scare me!

As one of my great former managing editors used to say, “Jeff! You can’t get 10 people to agree the sky is blue,” yet the responses to my column castigating the Daily Herald for covering Elgin City Councilman, John Steffen’s daughter’s Washington D.C. protest arrest have been utterly unanimous.

And it’s a truly terrifying prospect to consider!

You all think that attacking me, calling me names and generally applying your rabble tendencies will eventually get my goat, but nothing could be further from the truth. I actually love that shit! But if you start being civil and generally agreeing with me, I may have to reevaluate my entire approach to life.

In any event, it was gratifying to see so many of you understand that what the DH did to Councilman Steffen was pure unadulterated bullshit. Not that they’ll learn anything from it.

 

 

 

 

Quick Hits – August 25, 2017

Sometimes the KCSAO gets it right

The contentious Tri-Cities topic du jour seems to be the lack of charges filed against the young Aurora woman who killed a 57 year-old Batavia father of two as she sped through a red light. Not only is the topic all the buzz on social media, but local elected officials are fielding calls from constituents unhappy with a perceived a lack of zeal on the part of Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon.

To fill in the blanks, at about 8:30 a.m. on July 9, Noel Lounsbury, 28, was heading north on Randall Road when she ran the  red light at McKee Street, colliding with and killing Terry Starck as he made a legal left turn onto Randall Road. Lounsberry was doing 53 mph at the time.

The reason this story supplanted the Campana Building in our collective unconscious is Lounsberry made a social media point of bragging about regularly getting out of speeding tickets. And when you consider what she has been cited for, she ain’t exactly a stellar driver.

Prior to Starck’s untimely death, since 2006, Lounsbury has received five traffic tickets, two for going 15 to 20 miles over the limit, and two for driving without insurance. The other was a seatbelt violation, and that’s just Kane County.

Lounsbury is also an attractive woman, which makes you wonder just how many speeding tickets she talked herself out of. So, that means this one is also on all the officers who let young women go because they bat their eyelashes so nicely at them. Male police officers have got to stop pulling this shit – just write ‘em up!

At least she had insurance this time.

Given her inappropriate social media posts, the pitchfork and torch rabble is demanding her hide in the form of reckless homicide charges. But that’s a really high standard. You have to engage in the kind of gross negligence that means you’re behavior reasonably could cause someone’s death.

And being a consistently bad driver ain’t it.

McMahon was dead on when he told reporters, “These are the appropriate charges. There was no evidence of drugs, alcohol, texting, driving at an excessive speed or recklessness. This traffic crash had horrific results and the driver cited was at fault, but she did not commit a felony.”

McMahon

The truth is, when I do 53 down Randall Road, by the other drivers’ reaction, you’d think I just murdered one of their children.

But Lounsbury ain’t nearly out of the woods, either! While the police and prosecutors can’t take prior bad acts into account when filing charges, the judge can when it comes to sentencing.

And there are any number of civil remedies available to Mr. Starck’s family, too. I’m betting her insurance won’t cover the inevitable damages and, though I’ve gotten really good at it, civil litigation is no fun, either. Whether she declares bankruptcy or not, her credit will be destroyed, she may never have a house in her name, insurance will be difficult to come by and Starcks’ children can sue her for the loss of their father – after she declares bankruptcy.

I understand that’s a very small consolation, but I’d much rather face criminal consequences and be done with them than to have to deal with that slow civil drip for the rest of my life. And I don’t care who you are, it won’t be easy living with a man’s blood on your hands.

This was a tragedy borne of the arrogance and immature stupidity of a 28 year-old poor excuse for a human being that shouldn’t have a driver’s license, but it’s not reckless homicide. Joe McMahon got this one right.

 

The DH does it again!

Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the journalistic water, the Daily Herald somehow manages to sink to a new low. Considering the depths to which that paper has already descended, I didn’t think it was possible.

Apparently, Elgin City Councilman John Steffen’s adult daughter – who lives in Rhode Island, no less – was charged with felony rioting, misdemeanor assault on a police officer and destruction of property as a result of participating in an anti-Trump inauguration protest in Washington D.C. Those protesters broke the windows of a Bank of America, Starbucks and McDonald’s.

First, 200 people were charged with exactly the same thing, which means the younger Steffen probably had no hand in the actual violence. They simply charge everyone with everything, a favorite Fed tactic, to prevent guilty pleas and get the protesters to rat each other out.

Daily Herald Building

Second, contrary to all the stupid – and I do mean stupid because no other word fits  – newspaper and social media commentary, the prosecutors actually have to prove she did those things. Until then, she’s innocent.

Third, while the Enquirer…I mean DH, was busy running this non-new story, they completely missed the fact that, while the Orangeman-in-Chief blatantly uses federal officers to quell legal dissent, he repeatedly advocated violence against protestors at his own campaign rallies.

Fourth, even if she is found guilty, when do the sins of the daughter ever apply to the father? (And vice versa.) Put more simply, why does the Daily Herald feel such a great need to embarrass Alderman Steffen?

Lastly, where’s the news value here? It’s as close to porn as you can get without the nudity. And what local story did the DH fail to cover by going with this one? One of my favorite former managing editors called this “complete bullshit.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Since we all know the DH didn’t figure this one out on their own, it makes you wonder who spilled the beans. Though, to tell you the truth, I’m not wondering at all.

For the Daily Herald to go after lower hanging future fruit, they’re going to have to start digging holes under apple trees. Please cancel your subscriptions to that paper people so something else can rise in its place.

Repeat after me, the Daily Herald sucks!

Quick Hits – Aurora privatizing DUI prosecutions? Nope!

And this one ain’t gonna be quick despite saying only half of I really wanted to say. I’d promise a part 2, but I haven’t been very good in that regard so we’ll see.

 

This is yet another column that requires a number of stipulation to correctly set the stage, so let’s get them out of the way right away:

1. Not only is Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman one of the best there is, but, in the eight years we’ve known each other, I’ve never questioned her law enforcement intentions for a second. And that’s still the case.

2.  Municipalities are under immense pressure to stop balancing their budgets on the backs of the taxpayers.

3. Contrary to conventional wisdom, when a local ticket winds up in a Kane County courtroom, the issuing municipality gets a very small portion of any fine.

4. When, as is the City of Aurora’s fate, you must send officers to four separate county court buildings to prosecute cases, it gets expensive to the tune of 100 grand of overtime a year.

5. Most Kane County municipalities have already hired private attorneys or law firms to prosecute city ordinance violations.

6. We need to get chronic drunk drivers off the street.

Though I’m not prone to slippery slope arguments, with all those stipulations issued, the City of Aurora’s push to hire a private law firm to prosecute DUI cases makes me very, very nervous. It’s not that I doubt Mayor Irvin, the Chief, or the City Council, because I don’t. It’s the language they’re using and the conflict of interest they’re missing that makes me suspect.

To wit, 9th Ward Alderman Ed Bugg said, “Nearly all municipalities are going to this,” to which my sainted mother would’ve replied, “And if all your friends wanted to jump off a cliff, would you do it too?” The fact that everybody’s doing something is never a good reason to do something. In fact, my experience has been it’s always a clear sign that you shouldn’t do it.

As I’ve also frequently pointed out, city councils love to use that argument when it means more revenue, but they never seem to employ it when means making a tax cut.

Then,Chief Ziman said this move would “save the city money and bring more money in.”

That makes me even more nervous. I understand she meant that officers would avoid all that travel and Aurora would get a bigger chunk of those hefty DUI fines, but finances should never be the first consideration when discussing anything regarding our justice system.

APD

My favorite TV judge’s favorite saying is, “Lo barato sale caro,” or “the cheap comes out expensive.” Just ask the State of Kansas why they can’t hire enough teachers to staff their classrooms, and I’ve never heard of a happy Yugo owner.

Privatizing things isn’t always the answer, either. Just ask the Illinois Lottery Board or consider how the City of Chicago’s red light camera program turned out.

Then, just to make me sweat a little bit more, Kim DiGiovanni, the principal of the law firm that would take over those Aurora DUI prosecutions, noted that Elgin DUI arrests were up 38 percent the first year they took over their cases.

While I’m all for DUI arrests, that kind of statistically significant leap makes me downright skittish. Part of that can be attributed to DiGiovanni training officers how to better handle drunk driving arrest, but I hold Elgin police officers in the highest esteem and I can’t imagine how they could possibly have been that “off.”

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s office may have fallen greatly in my estimation as of late, but there’s still a sense that justice is served whenever you’re dealing with “The People.” Of course, those public prosecutors pay attention to their conviction rate, but the best of them tend to take things on a case-by-case basis.

Conversely, a private attorney’s performance review will consist solely of that conviction rate and the ensuing revenue stream. So some poor schmuck with a perfect driving record has one too many at the office Christmas party, and they won’t nearly get the same consideration they’d get from a KCSAO prosecutor.

But here’s what really bothers me!

DiGiovanni maintains a criminal law practice in Kane and DuPage Counties. Though her firm is barred from defending DUI cases where she’s a contract prosecutor, she’s still using her DUI defense knowledge and case experience to help municipalities make more arrests and get more convictions. Meanwhile, in cities where DiGiovanni is not a prosecutor, she uses her knowledge and experience as a DUI prosecutor to get her criminal defendants off the hook.

It’s the abject worst kind of playing both ends to the middle. It reminds me of Michael Madigan writing the Illinois property tax laws, and then reaping millions as his law firm gets their clients all sorts of exemptions.

But it gets worse!

Aurora was smart enough to bar the DiGiovanni firm from defending any criminal case in that jurisdiction, but not every municipality is that smart. So, through their DUI training and all those prosecutions, the DiGiovanni firm is consistently building relationships with the arresting officers who will be witnesses in non-DUI criminal cases.

And, as anyone who’s ever set foot in that eminently incestuous building at Route 38 and Peck Road already knows, those relationships are EVERYTHING. So, the DiGiovanni law firm defendants will enjoy an automatic leg up.

If that firm was willing to give up all criminal defense clients everywhere, I might be OK with this. You see, I like it when my prosecutors are prosecutors and my defense attorneys are defense attorneys. You can’t be both.

Again, I want to compliment Chief Ziman and the Aurora City Council for their faithful stewardship of the taxpayer buck, and I love the Chief’s notion of using those savings to start a DUI prevention program. It’s unfortunate that Aurora sits in four counties, but the critical nature of our justice system means that some things are always gonna be expensive.

And ain’t real justice worth it?

Having private attorneys prosecute misdemeanors? It’s not a perfect solution, but I can live with it. Having private attorneys prosecute DUI cases? It’s a really bad idea. Perhaps a better solution would be for the City of Aurora to assume the bulk of a KCSAO prosecutor’s salary, who would then toil in that local Aurora courtroom.

Though I fervently believe I’m spitting in the wind for the 762nd time, y’all know I’m right!

 

 

P.S. I did reach out to Ms. DiGiovanni in a number of ways only to get no response. That says quite a bit, doesn’t it?

(DH reporter Sue Sarkauskus contributed to this story in a significant way.)

 

 

Quick Hits – The concert critic version!

Another great GVC concert

And it may well be the best concert I’ve ever been to.

Of course, we’re talking about the Yestival last Saturday evening at Elgin’s Festival Park featuring Carl Palmer, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Todd Rundgren and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, Yes! And all three of those amazing rock icons clearly showed that if you avoid the worst of the partying and reasonably take care of yourself, age is no barrier to putting on a good show.

Yestival

The 67 year-old Palmer attacked the drums like a man one-third his age with something to prove. It was fascinating to see the drummer be the center of power trio with no vocalist, too. In fact, I enjoyed the instrumental version of ‘Lucky Man’ so much that I didn’t catch the absence of lyrics until my wife mentioned it.

As the opening act, Palmer only got a half-hour to perform, so we’ll have to catch him when he comes around as the main act.

Then, Todd Rundgren was un-fucking-believable. The 69 year-old Pennsylvanian absolutely commanded the stage as he moved around about like he was still 25, occasionally dancing in perfect unison with his two young backup singers/dancers.

While I would’ve liked to see him perform all of his standards:

·         Bang on the Drum All Day

·         We Gotta Get You a Woman

·         I Saw the Light

·         Can We Still Be Friends?

in the end, I didn’t mind that most of the set came from his eminently political 2015 ‘Global’ album. Since the show, I have to say that I’ve been listening to ‘Rise’ quite a bit. The answer to that eminently old fart question; “where has all the good music gone?” is Todd Rundgren is still doing it!

Rundgren did do a jazzier version of ‘Hello It’s Me’ and ‘One World’ from his Utopia days, but the bottom line is, if he comes around as the main act, I’ll be there.

And what can one say about Yes? I know it’s hard to imagine them without Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman – and that breakup certainly was a sad one – but John Davison handled that countertenor role with aplomb and the rest of the group was unbelievably tight on the most complex of those complex Yes songs.

Back in those Evanston St. Nick’s early ‘70s school days, if you listened to ‘Roundabout,’ you were cool. And I’ve purchased every Yes piece of Vinyl to come out since that time. I’m not saying that loving Yes makes you more popular – especially in my case, but perhaps it does make you suck a little bit less!

 

Give the GVC credit too

The truth is, I haven’t been to a bad concert at Festival Park, but this one was exceptionally good. I’m starting to think those Grand Victoria folks have somehow figured out how to order up the best weather, too!

Given Manchester, everyone’s a bit more circumspect about concerts these days – especially open-air venues, but the GVC employed just the right amount of caution so that attendees felt safe, but didn’t walk away saying, “This was even worse that the TSA!”

The metal detecting wands and backpack searches slowed entry down a bit, especially for the lawn seat folks, but the crowd understood and the minor delays led to some interesting in-line conversations.

grand victoria

Between the City of Elgin and the Casino, Festival Park is always in great shape, there’s enough space to move around, there were enough porta-potties, the concessions lines never got too bad and the memorabilia and food prices weren’t ridiculous, either.

I picked up an Carl Palmer autographed  ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ LP for just 30 bucks and a really nice 100 percent cotton embroidered Yes baseball cap for $25. A bottle of water was only $2 and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade was just seven bucks.

Meanwhile, a light beer was $13 at the Soldier Field U2 concert.

Best of all, the sound was virtually perfect, and that’s a real bonus when you’re listening to an intricate band like Yes.

The 3,500 person crowd was great, too. Happy, polite, considerate and we old folks actually got to sit throughout the entire show.

I wish the GVC would put on more concerts, especially those of the classic rock variety, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Perhaps if the state of the State of Illinois ever improves, they’ll finally get that permanent stage.

But for now, here’s to people who know how to put on a concert!

 

 The EPD was great

Yes! (Pun intended!) The acts have to be good, the venue has to work and the sound system is important too. But a great police presence puts the icing on the concert cake, and those find EPD folks somehow strike the balance between making their presence known, but not deterring anyone from having a good time.

EPD

To wit, the EPD:

·         Makes it so easy to get in and out of the park.

·         Regularly smiled and greeted concert goers.

·         Always responded to a cheery “Hello!” in kind.

·         Were circumspect about dealing with folks who may have had one too many

Best of all, though they don’t make it obvious, a trained observer can see their constant vigilance as they survey the crowd for any signs of trouble.

Look! We all know that you can’t cross the street without the potential for being a victim of a terrorist attack these days. And after Manchester, we know that going to any concert carries a certain risk.

But when you combine a police force that understands they can’t be perfect, with a crowd that appreciates their efforts and is willing to take that risk, it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Let’s not forget the City of Elgin

For example:

  • Parking is plentiful, simple, safe and free!
  • There are enough officers and community service officers on hand to do the job.
  • They clearly work hand-in-hand with the casino folks for smoother sailing.
  • They understand exactly what these events do for the local bars and restaurants.
  • The noise limitations are more than reasonable
  • They understand we’re all there to have a good time.

I’ll keep on saying it! These GVC/Festival Park concerts are a win-win situation for everyone!

Quick Hits – August 18, 2017

On to Illinois Idiocracy!

I suppose I should take some solace in the fact that my Republican friends aren’t abjectly rejoicing over State Rep Steve Andersson’s recent retirement announcement. Considering his role in breaking the budget deadlock, they may not be unhappy to see him go, but they all admit he’s a good guy, a good politician and they greatly respect him.

Steve and I did have a brief conversation yesterday and as he’s publicly put it, “there’s just no room for moderates in Springfield.”

steve_andersson.png

Though I desperately wanted him to stick with the gig, and I think I could’ve run the kind of campaign that would’ve worked, I couldn’t bring myself to apply my most humorous persuasive possibilities. Who, in their fucking right mind would want to serve in the Illinois General Assembly right now?

I’ve watched that gig turn State Rep Anna Moeller into the kind of person I have no intention of dealing with for the foreseeable future.

Look at all the other excellent Springfield politicians who are also retiring:

·         57th District State Rep Elaine Nekritz

·         49th District State Rep Mike Fortner

·         66th District State Rep Mike Tryon

·         64th District State Rep Barb Wheeler

·         104th District State Rep Chad Hays

·         70th District State Rep Bob Pritchard

·         101st District State Rep Bill Mitchell

·         47th District State Rep Patti Bellock

·         45th District State Senator Tim Bivins

I’m sure I missed a couple, but that list is way too long as it is. In short order, with all due respect, we’re going to be left with ideologues like State Rep Allen Skillicorn and State Sen Jim Oberweis, who have no interest in actually governing.

Their specialties are pandering and constantly campaigning.

And the irony is, most of the people on that list – especially Steve Andersson – were the kind of astute public servants who could’ve created the kind of compromise reforms that Illinois so desperately needs. They actually understood that political goals are always a marathon and never a sprint.

But no! The current conservative mindset, the one that most closely approximates a two-year old with a dirty diaper and no nap, insists that they get their cookie NOW! Of course, the irony is, when you act like a spoiled two year-old you get tossed in the crib with the door shut while the adults actually craft a budget.

Mark my words, as we continue to watch the good guys go, this bullshit is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

You see, even if Michael Madigan gets wheeled out of the house chamber on a gurney – with that gavel firmly clenched in his right hand tomorrow – his successor will carry on that proud supermajority stranglehold tradition.

And just like Messrs. Oberweis, Skillicorn, Brady and their ilk, the zealots who replace our retirees will shriek, howl, gnash their teeth, rend their garments and make all sorts of fascinatingly impossible pronouncements as they accomplish absolutely nothing.

What further proof do you need than conservative Republicans currently control the U.S. Senate, Congress and the White House, and they still can’t get a goddamn thing done. And now the top guy is supporting Nazis, while conservatives are suddenly silent!

You really gotta love folks who are so stupid and oblivious that they utterly fail to see they’re their own worst enemies. And trust me, this ain’t Steve Andersson’s loss, it’s ours.

 

Mike Royko’s ode to the end of summer vacation

Though he wrote it regarding the demise of the Chicago Daily News, my all-time favorite Mike Royko passage echoes my youthful sentiments on the end of summer vacation. I despised that final vacation day even more than school itself. So, to all you teachers, students and similar staffers heading back to the grind next week, enjoy!

“When I was a kid, the worst of all days was the last day of summer vacation, and we were in the schoolyard playing softball, and the sun was down and it was getting dark. But I didn’t want it to get dark. I didn’t want the game to end. It was too good, too much fun. I wanted it to stay light forever, so we could keep on playing forever, so the game would go on and on.

That’s how I feel now. C’mon, c’mon. Let’s play one more inning. One more time at bat. One more pitch. Just one? Stick around, guys. We can’t break up this team. It’s too much fun.

But the sun always went down. And now it’s almost dark again.”

Quick Hits – The Kane County State’s Attorney edition!

A new KCSAO motto

I love Latin mottos. Just like an English accent gives any statement a not-necessarily-deserved gravitas, a Latin motto lends an air of dignity to any institution so imbued. It gives it a certain je ne sais quoi! (Look it up!)

Doesn’t Chicago’s motto, Urbs in Horto, conjure up the image of a “City in a Garden?” It’s a lot better than Anas which roughly translates to “Duck!”

Aurora University has a great motto; Sapientes Abscondunt Scientiam, or “Wise persons will carry away knowledge. Even the Kane County Coroner’s office is a member of this exclusive group with their Honor, Veritas, Servitium or, “honor, truth, service” motto.

But would you believe the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office doesn’t have one?

Kane County Judicial Center

Kane County Judicial Center

So, since I’m nothing if not generous in nature, I’ve been poring over those ancient Roman texts in an effort to come up with the perfect Latin slogan for State’s Attorney Joe McMahon’s bunch, and I think I’ve finally done it!

Contemptibilem, Parvis, et Superbus

The literal translation is, “contemptible, petty and arrogant,” and I think it has a certain truthful ring to it. You see, those fragile folks at Route 38 and Peck Road consistently engage in the kind of shallow and mean-spirited behavior that’s earned them that sobriquet. To wit:

1. Despite being warned it’s downright libelous, the KCSAO insists on posting a pre-verdict Sun-Times story claiming Daniel Rak murdered his father. And it’s libelous because the jury said that’s not the case in no uncertain terms.

2. Despite being warned that removing comments from a taxpayer funded social media site is blatantly illegal, the delicate flowers at the KCSAO have regularly removed mine, as well as those of expert Rak defense witness Dr. Douglas Miller. If you don’t want public commentary then don’t have a Facebook page!

3. Dr. Miller told me that, throughout the proceedings, Rak prosecutor Alex Bederka:

  • Called his office “under false authority” in an attempt to gain information to which the judge had already denied his motion.
  • Lied to him about a non-existent Rak confession.
  • Lied to the court about Dr. Miller “refusing” to speak to him a second time.

Apparently, working for the State’s Attorney means never having to say you’re sorry – or follow the law you were sworn to uphold. Bederka shouldn’t be handling parking ticket disputes, much less murder cases.

Meanwhile, the KCSAO gets away with all of this because Daniel Rak is in no position to sue the County. He’s still waiting to be sentenced on the aggravated domestic abuse charge, he just spent 1.5 needless years in jail and lawyers cost the kind of money he probably doesn’t have.

So there you go. Contemptibilem, Parvis, et Superbus. It works for me!

 

But that doesn’t mean they’re all bad

The fact that an agency or institution is generally headed south doesn’t mean all the lemmings are willing to jump off the cliff. There’s usually an “‘in” group that’s behind those self-destructive tendencies, while the “outsiders” do their damndest to right the ship without putting their jobs at risk.

I’d list some of those fine folks, but I don’t want to ruin their careers.

And this is of all government offices. The majority of the important positions are patronage hires, so it’s very difficult to fire those folks and they know it.

Don’t get me wrong, I utterly agree with the great Bill Daley when he said, “Not all patronage is bad.” But if it goes too far, as it has within the KCSAO, it does become a problem.

mcmahon

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon

So,  the “in” State’s Attorney’s cabal – the ones running the show – believe they’re never wrong, they’re above the law and they tend to forget they serve the people. Regularly determining folks’ fate can become a heady proposition.

Meanwhile, there is a core group of KSCAO staffers who signed on because they understand that bringing the full weight of the people to bear against an individual is a proposition that’s always fraught with peril. They believe in justice, and they’ve never forgotten they’re merely an extension of you and me.

And it’s the members of the latter group who’ve lately been reaching out to me.

Because it’s so difficult to fire government employees, most countywide elected officials curry this kind of divide and conquer competition. Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham is as a master at this game.

You see, if those two factions are too busy fighting each other, they don’t have time to come after – and perhaps, even run against – the boss.

Unlike Cunningham, McMahon doesn’t actively encourage this kind of infighting, but he doesn’t discourage it, either. Sadly, as is often the case in this existence, the folks with only their own self-interest at heart win that battle – until they go too far.

And that’s exactly where the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office is headed right now.

So, what’s the solution? Read on!

 

A few good men or women

Since the buck for this kind of office-wide dysfunction always stops at the top, I’m looking for a 2020 Republican Kane County State’s Attorney candidate to primary Mr. McMahon (if he runs again).

I know it’s not easy to beat an incumbent, but there are all sorts of mitigating circumstances here, not the least of which are Joe McMahon’s:

  • Previous battle with Chairman Chris Lauzen
  • Blatant leveraging of his position to get a better gig
  • Taking on the LaQuan McDonald prosecution after he asked for a slew of new hires
  • Filing ridiculous First-Degree murder charges against Daniel Rak
  • Letting the unqualified inmates run the asylum
  • Essentially being an absentee boss

And they’ve all greatly weakened him.

Better yet, McMahon has never had to mount a real campaign and it’s not that difficult, nor is it too costly, to win a Kane County Republican primary. To sweeten that pot, I’d throw in the friends and family campaign manager discount rate.

“But Jeff! We’re talking about 2020 here. Why so soon?” Because that’s the nature of countywide campaigns these days. I’d explain more, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets!

Qualified candidates should:

  • Be willing to right the KCSAO ship
  • Have the courage to regularly do the right thing
  • Understand that they represent the people
  • Be more interested in justice that a better gig
  • Be more interested in this job than another one

It’s not that difficult to find me, so let’s talk! Democracy truly is a wonderful thing!

 

 

Quick Hits – There will always be predators

As I observe the fallout from the confrontations and the blatant murder of a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, I’m struck by the fact that the vast majority of commentary is aimed at the white supremacists and politicians who instigated these kinds of abhorrent acts.

I hate to tell you folks, they’re not going to change.

Yes! Donald Trump is culpable for this unabashed display of hatred, and neither the President, nor the majority of his Republicans supporters, have truly condemned the actions of a group they’ve tacitly supported for years.

charlottesville

But even if the President and his Republican allies did unite to denounce this despicable act, it wouldn’t change much, because it’s impossible to convince evil people that they’re evil. White supremacists, by their very definition, are impervious to logic.

(As to Donald Trumps second statement on this issue, I don’t believe a word he said.)

Furthermore, these bigoted predators have always been with us they always will be. It’s the nature of this existence. These are simply sad people who need a constant supply of victims to give their fragile self-definitions meaning. The President didn’t create them, he simply tapped into their vast anger over their own failures and he reinforced the illusion that someone else is always to blame.

Donald Trump certainly isn’t nearly the first “leader” to pull that off. It’s that whole doomed to repeat history thing, right?

Before you hit the send button, I firmly believe that prayers make a difference and it warms my heart to see Facebook light up with so many statements against such abject evil. But, in the words of the great Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” and social media declarations are literally the least we can do.

So, since we can’t eliminate predators, our only hope is to stop becoming victims. That’s exactly what those Charlottesville counter-protestors were doing. It’s never an easy task, it almost always requires a long-haul effort and, as Heather Heyer and her family just discovered, it often comes at a rather high cost.

But, just like cockroaches, these racist bullies always scatter when you shine a light on them long enough. That’s why the KKK wears hoods. That’s why these white supremacist are suddenly backpedaling as result of their pictures being plastered all over social media.

That’s how you beat these folks. You stand up to them in no uncertain terms and regardless of the risk. And by “stand up to them” I mean right here, right now. These very same predators can easily be found in our families, neighborhoods and churches.

It’s those Tri-Cities denizens who use racist code words to denigrate and disparage apartment dwellers. It’s the person in the next pew – or perhaps even the pastor – who goes on an anti-gay rant. It’s that neighbor who makes racist jokes about the black family that just moved in down the street.

Whenever predators go unchecked; whenever they smell fear; whenever we just “let it go,” it’s us – you and I – who create next Charlottesville. This ain’t just on Donald Trump, we have to choose not to be victims. Those white supremacists marched in Virginia because they’ve never had to face the consequences of their beliefs before.

I understand there’s a price to pay for standing up to these kinds of bullies. I’ve spent a lot of money, time, and aggravation dealing with the fallout from publicly taking on predators for 11 long years.

But I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I will continue to do it simply because it’s the right thing to do. Not to mention there’s that incredibly high Christian standard that demands it.

The mistake progressives consistently make is they believe these bullies can be beaten. But they can’t be defeated. The Civil Rights movement didn’t do it, Barack Obama couldn’t do it, and those counter-protesters can’t do it either. The best we can do is drive them back into their dark holes until the next opportunity for them to emerge presents itself.

And there will always be another opportunity for bigots to wreak their specific brand of hatred.

The required high school book that had the most effect on me was Albert Camus’, ‘The Plague.’ The final passage from that novel describes exactly the kind of vigilance I’m talking about:

“And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know, but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.”

It’s up to us to stop this kind of hatred, people – not Donald Trump.

 

Quick Hits – On turning 59

I told y’all we were gonna get a bit more philosophical and that’s certainly where we’re headed today.

But before we go there, please let me stipulate that I utterly understand I’m about to break former Beacon-News managing editor Rick Nagel’s major caveat against what he called, “navel gazing.” In my defense, the last time I did something like this was 10 years ago when I turned 49, and even Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive more often than that.

Oddly enough, turning 30, 40 and 50 didn’t bother me at all, so I can’t imagine the six decade mark is going to mean all that much, either. It was 29, 39, and 49 that made me take pause and reconsider some things.

What I’ve recently discovered is that facing 59 may be the most significant milestone of them all. Perhaps it’s some sort of male tipping point.

The biggest surprise is that I’ve made it this far! My family tree is fraught with the kind of rampant alcoholism and heart disease peril that appeared to make 50 the upper limit. My unique capacity to aggravate vast swaths of people could’ve cut things short, too.

But I’m still here and it doesn’t look like I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.

That said, the suddenly stark 59 year-old reality is that most of my life is behind me. You can fool yourself into thinking you’ll live to 100 at 49, but you can’t fudge the fact that 120 ain’t gonna happen to anyone.

59

But upon that end-of-the-decade reflection, the truth is, I’m fine with there being a bit more in the rearview mirror than there is through the windshield. It’s not nearly the worst thing that could happen.

If you’ve learned from your mistakes, and I’ve made ‘em all, old age really is its own reward. You see, George Bernard Shaw was wrong! Youth isn’t wasted on the young, it’s that you have to be physically stronger and a bit more stupid to survive all that bullshit.

Would I do some things different? Sure! Who wouldn’t? But it’s only through overcoming those mistakes that I have no regrets and I’m enjoying this existence more than ever. Given the choice to go back to 29 and do it over or face 60, I’ll stare that senior citizen discount straight in the eye.

And the best part is, the Irish priest, poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, was right when he said, “You’re as young as you feel.” If you take reasonably good care of your body and exercise your mind, they are very forgiving mechanisms.

I physically feel like I’m 30 and folks are all too ready to point out that I harbor a middle school mentality. So, I’m good!

One of my favorite friends likes to tell me I have no fear, and fear is life’s great self-imposed limiter. But after you’ve survived some of the worst this existence can throw at you, you realize that worrying is a complete waste of time. The irony is, the things we do to ourselves are far worse than anything we could possibly fear.

Put more simply, if you believe in life, it will believe in you.

I finally got smart enough to let go of people, situations and things that only dragged me down. It’s amazing how many items I’ve crossed off my “what’s really important in life” list from ate 20 to now. Give me a Bass Ale, a sunny September afternoon and a humorous conversation with a friend who “gets it” and I’m good.

I particularly enjoy the people who dare me to be better.

By the way, it’s the folks who accompany you on this destination-less journey – even for the briefest of times – that make it worthwhile. Enjoy those relationship while you can people! The frequently fade too quickly.

Another immeasurable benefit of experience is, I enjoy everything I do. Life is too short to do something you hate. Retire? Why would I retire from doing what I love? I’m not saying there aren’t ups and downs, but I get to give voice to voiceless, I get great candidates elected, I enjoy being a curmudgeon and putting fools in their place is more fun that you could possibly imagine.

And being able to laugh at yourself throughout the entire process only makes it even better. In the words of the great author Hugh Prather, “There are better ways to go through life than to be dragged through it kicking and screaming.

By no means does this mean that I’m done learning, growing and making mistakes. To redress the single regret I do have, if the LSAT goes well in December, the plan is to start NIU Law School in September of 2018.

What can I tell you? The thought of practicing law in my 60s fires me up!

It took me far too long to realize that the only reason we’re here is to solve problems – our own and others. Every time we successfully put one of them behind us, it only gets better. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop coming. And I’m certainly going to enjoying solving the next one.

In the end, I guess what I’m saying is, bring on 59. I’m ready!

Quick Hits – August 9, 2017

Soft drinks are for socialists!

So, Kane County Board member Kurt Kojzarek’s Facebook post decrying the nanny state in regard to Cook County’s new soda tax went viral. That post essentially invited Cook Countians to do their grocery shopping, and thus, make their soft drink purchases in Kane County.

As Kurt put it, “Man! I really think people love their soda.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not big on taxes or this nanny state BS either. I don’t need the government telling me what to do – that’s my wife’s job. And as you may recall, I’ve frequently come out in favor of letting natural selection take its course.

No Soft Drinks

But what frosts my cookies is these “Give me Pepsi or give me death!” conservatives will be the first ones to run to the socialist side when their bad habits finally come home to the health care roost. You see, the carnage soda wreaks on our bodies includes, but is not nearly limited to:

  1. Just one can of Coke a day puts you at a 26 percent greater risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  2. A Harvard University study found that each 12-ounce can of soda increases the odds of childhood obesity by 60 percent.
  3. Just one Pepsi a day increases the risk of a heart attack by 20 percent.
  4. Soft drinks, and especially diet soft drinks, are so acidic they destroy bones and teeth leading to osteoporosis and massive tooth decay.
  5. Artificial sweeteners are suspected of causing cancer and MS.
  6. Ironically, in many cases, soft drinks actually make dehydration worse.

And when y’all get sick from prolonged consumption of something this bad for you, you’ll run right to your doctor – or end up in the hospital – and then all of our insurance rates go up. That’s about as socialist as it gets.

Why should I pay for your refusal to take personal responsibility for your well-being?

So here’s the plan! All you conservative soft drinkers can prove your dedication to the non-nanny state principle by pledging that, should you suffer from the ill effects of your poor choices, you will pay for any ensuing health care costs yourself and leave the insurance companies out of it.

I always come up with the perfect solution, don’t I!

 

Could Tri-Cities school parents become any more entitled?

In general, Tri-Cities school enrollment is down to the point where the Geneva and St. Charles school districts are talking about closing schools. But as is always the case with that big picture math, there will always be statistical anomalies that buck the trend.

For example, D304 (Geneva/Mill Creek) recently experienced the kind of southwest side population bump that forced them to consider reworking the Fabyan and Mill Creek Elementary School student balance.

Now, it would seem that D303 (St. Charles) is facing a fourth grade bulge forcing them to increase the average 24 student class size to 28 or 29. To quote the great Marlon Brando in ‘Apocalypse Now,’ “The horror!”

Corron

So, Corron Elementary School parents want the district to hire another fourth-grade teacher so their children can enjoy the same amount of classroom “space” as all the other children. In fact, the Daily Herald talked to a Corron parent whom, upon asking her son about his class size, got this response:

“It’s just really crowded. When we go down to the rug and talk to our teacher, we don’t all fit on the rug. We have to alternate who gets cold on the tile.”

And the mother, who shall remain nameless because she’s clearly embarrassed herself enough already, immediately started rending her garments as she told the reporter, “That almost put me in tears. They are just getting bigger and bigger. There’s going to be more not fitting on the rug.”

First, fourth-grade is about the time that rug sitting stops. Second, those kids will only be in Corron for one more year. After that, it’s middle school with no rug sitting at all. Third, hiring more fourth- or fifth-grade teachers will only solve the problem for a year. And fourth, as Superintendent Jason Pearson pointed out, unable to play favorites, they’d have to hire 25 fourth-grade teachers at a district-wide cost of $1.6 million.

And that ain’t chump change.

But I think these vastly over-entitled parents really need to do is hoist their whiny butts off the couch long enough to visit an East Aurora classroom or take a tour of one of the “poorer” U-46 elementary schools. That’d shut ‘em up real quick.

They have to sit on the tile floor? I sleep on the bleepin’ floor because it’s cold, hard and my back loves it. I’d sleep on the front sidewalk if it weren’t for the coyotes and the fact the police might pick me up for vagrancy.

So, I will sum up this story in the words of my favorite female comic, Katherine Ryan, “White people!”

 

It’s a honey of an idea

Anyone who owns an above ground swimming pool knows they attract wasps – especially during a dry summer. So as my wife was headed out to the pool a few years ago, I shouted, “You really need to check for wasp nests before you get in.” But since women never listen, I watched her run back into the house in tears a scant five minutes later.

Foolishly racing to be by her side, I got both barrels for “predicting” what would happen to her. I tried to explain that my warning was merely coincidental, and I didn’t cause the wasp stings, but I don’t think I ever won that argument.

I did find the offending nests and they were quickly eliminated.

Beehive

But the real answer to our pool and wasp conundrum would be backyard bees! You see, honeybees are generally docile creatures until wasps or yellow jackets invade their territory. Then they become the just like a Canadian going after the puck.

Not only that, but considering Monsanto is killing off bees as fast as they can, home hives help to restore those depleted populations. But, despite the fact that bees actually reduce the danger of being stung, you can’t have backyard beehives in Geneva because they’re illegal.

Ah! But those fine folks on the Elgin City Council will shortly take up this very question. And if they’re nearly as smart as I think they are, this no-downside proposition should be a no-brainer.

Perhaps I’ll approach the Geneva City Council in the same regard! I’m not sure I could survive my wife getting stung again.