Quick Hits – October 6, 2017

Whoa! I got so involved with LSAT practice questions I almost forgot to put this Quick Hits edition up. But here is it!


I wuz wrong!

About the U-46 charter school appeal denial being a slam dunk! And I really don’t like being wrong. Sure, I said Donald Trump would never become president, but I usually get the local stuff right – unless I miss a major variable, that is.

In this case, I firmly believe I missed a matter of pure unadulterated political clout. With the ideologues and all the partisan bickering that currently dominates the Illinois political process, you don’t get to see clout in action nearly as much these days. That’s not an excuse, it’s simply an explanation for my mistake.


Oh! For reference purposes, The Speaker is way beyond clout. What he does is called ruling with an iron fist.

No! Clout is having the kind of relationships that come from carrying the party’s water long enough that you can persuade five out of eight charter school commissioners to overturn that original U-46 School Board vote. And trust me, that’s exactly what happened here, because when you consider:

1. The charter group’s financial plan has more holes in it than our proposed border wall. The commission as much as said they don’t have faith in their fiscal flight of fancy, but they wanted to give ‘em a shot anyway.

2. Ditto on the facility planning. The charter folks said they were unimpressed, but it didn’t stop them from approving the school over U-46’s objection.

3. The Elgin charter group resorted to the kind of backpack bribery and unfortunate propaganda that typically turns a governing board against you. But it certainly didn’t matter here.

So someone knew someone who was owed or promised a favor, times five, it’s that simple.

And please! When I use the word “clout,” it never applies to the likes of former State Senator Mike Noland and his lovely wife, U-46 School Board member Veronica Noland. Veronica could’ve had clout, but her fascinating husband has actually created a clout deficit.

Yes! He has a small but loyal posse, but everything they touch turns into an unmitigated political disaster. So it had to be someone else.

After speaking with a number of sources, I discovered the Steffen family – as in Elgin City Councilman John Steffen and his wife Kerry Kelly, who heads the EMSA group – have deep roots in the Illinois Democratic Party.

And though I have no specific proof to support this clout claim, it’s the only thing that would explain the charter commission’s schizophrenic appeal ruling.

The problem with using clout is, it’s almost always a double-edge sword. The clouters have to either hope no one’s looking, or they have pull their plan off in such a competent way that ijt leaves their doubters scratching their collective heads.

It’s not that I want the Elgin Math and Science Academy to fail, it’s just that I don’t see how it’s going to succeed. And when it does fail, plenty of people are poised to pounce, and when they do, it’s not gonna be pretty.

All I can say is, this will be fascinating going forward.


But I wuz right about this one!

So, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, a man who never left his heart in Kane County, is gearing up for an Attorney General run.

For the past six months I’ve been saying that Joe’s been using his appointed position to land a better gig and he’s become an absentee boss as a result. First, he aimed for that Northern Illinois federal prosecutor position, and when that failed, he took on the Laquan McDonald case to boost his Illinois profile.

Now, with current Attorney General Lisa Madigan “retiring,” Joe seems to think he can land that lofty statewide gig. But I couldn’t disagree more for the following reasons:

1. He’s never had to win even a contested countywide election, much less a massive statewide effort. And trust me, he’s not prepared for that kind of political long haul. Had he won something as small as an at-large Elgin city council race, I might have more faith.

2. Presumptive GOP attorney general nominee Erika Harold has a massive campaigning and ground game head start and, as a rare black Republican female candidate, the Illinois regulars have wholeheartedly embraced her.

3. Ms. Harold is a charismatic former Miss America and, like me, Joe McMahon is just another old bald white guy. Do I need to explain that any further?

4. McMahon has absolutely no name recognition outside of Kane County and it will be very difficult to overcome that deficit in five short primary months.

5. The Democrats are not about to concede that critical seat to the other party. Even if McMahon managed to somehow squeak through the primary, the Madigan Machine would eat him for lunch and spit him out before dinner.

And the kick in the head is, if he does run, considering the rigors of a statewide campaign, he’ll be in that Route 38 and Peck Road office even less than he already is now.

My two consistent McMahon contentions have been that he’s totally tone deaf and political naiveté is his particular specialty. The fact he’s actually considering this run is all the evidence we need.

But as more than one Kane Countywide elected official told me, “Please don’t dissuade him from running, we’d like to see him preoccupied with something other than us.”


Stop covering him already!

With no clear motive for the senseless slaughter of 59 concert goers, it would appear that our Las Vegas shooter’s sole purpose was to go out in a blaze of glory. I know he had an escape plan, but even if he made it out of that hotel, he would’ve been caught in very short order.

The problem, as I see it, is, the press is more than willing to carry out his “I want to go down in history” final wish. To be fair, the Daily Herald ain’t nearly the only one to offer this this kind of perpetual coverage, but they are one of the worst.

Of course, the papers had to cover the incident itself, but since that story, it’s been an interview with any local person connected to the shooting in any way, interviews with family members of the dead or injured, tracing the shooters every move, speculating on what survivors will have to endure, speculating as to whether it could’ve occurred here, and so on and so on.

The only thing this eminently morbid slow-drip coverage does is give the next on-the-fence mass shooter the notion that, he too, can get the media equivalent of 72 virgins upon the event of his untimely death.

Meanwhile, the NFL and Major League Baseball got it right. They were dead on when they told their broadcast teams not to show any video of anyone drunk or stupid enough to run onto the field during a game. And I can’t remember the last time I saw someone pull that stupid stunt.

I’m not saying this tragedy is the media’s fault or that they can prevent the next mass shooting.  But I am saying that covering this sad story ad nauseam makes it a much more appealing prospect to the next guy with 20 assault rifles and a death wish.

8 thoughts on “Quick Hits – October 6, 2017

  1. Look at it this way, Jeff:

    It took an election to the state senate to get Karen McConnaughay out of Kane County government.

    If elected, McMahon would be gone. too.

    • Observer,

      True, but there’s no way Joe McMahon beats a statewide Democratic candidate.

      • I found the Friday, Oct. 6 front-page article on McMahon’s plans (or NON-plans) to run (or NOT run) for Attorney General rather strange.

        First he says “I’m CONSIDERING a run for Illinois Attorney General.”
        THEN he says “I have people circulating my petitions.”

        WHICH IS IT, REALLY? Is he IN, or NOT?

        He says “I would be a BI-PARTISAN Attorney General,”
        THEN he says, “I would be a NON-PARTISAN Attorney General.”

        And this guy somehow got a LAW DEGREE?

        I now understand why no politician gets prosecuted in Kane County.

  2. Regarding EMSA Approval, just a few notes: First, the EMSA team has more than just the Steffens for support on the team. It was a team effort and whatever goodwill expended or risked on this effort from the EMSA team members was out of honest, dedicated public service to the community.

    I don’t believe anyone on the team has been doing this to build a political career. Rather, this is WHY someone gets into public service in the first place (to help children, the community, and an educational system caught in structural limitations). You’re right that there are risks. Nothing like this is ever easy or guaranteed.

    Second, you forget that this isn’t Pat Quinn’s administration in the State anymore. Rauner, his appointees and his flunkies are Charter supporters.

    Lastly, I’ll point out that EMSA has a Million dollar start-up grant, a $1 a year lease for the campus, and will get 100% funding from U46 for each student. That’s not a bad start. With state approval, EMSA can now build on that foundation for additional funding. There is an awful lot of work ahead; a roll-up your sleeves and tackle it task by task is recommended over worrying about clout-blowback.

  3. Todd,

    Yes! They had quite a bit of support (and opposition), but support had nothing to do with this one. Someone called in some favors. I don’t think the EMSA team was completely altruistic either.

    And I agree with your recommendation, it’s just that I don’t think they – or anyone – will be able to pull this off.

    • Anytime someone votes on something and uses the word, “reluctantly,” they are granting someone a favor in exchange for their reluctant vote. Busted.

      Sounds like a hops and barley page out of the Elgin city councilmember’s playbook recently when a few said they didn’t care either way about videotaping their special Saturday council meetings but… voted “no” to videotaping them, anyway. Picking a lane is tough when you are afraid, I guess.

      EMSA got what they wanted – their own school on a Gilligan’s Island location away from the diversity they so trendy-like preach in the NENA neighborhood. Anyone else in U-46 want your own oasis? Build your own greasy slide Streamwood, Hanover Park, Bartlett, etc. But in the meantime, get out of NENA’s way. They run the city of Elgin now and will tell the council what EMSA buildings they will fix and when. With now an all-liberal city council, it’s a NENA show at least until 2019.

    • Jeff, you are using your public platform to make allegations on some fine people without any evidence – just your “gut feelings”. Why? Personally, I believe EMSA was approved because this time they had a $1 lease agreement from the City, a $1 Million start-up grant, a Republican Charter friendly State Commission, and an initial approval from U46 that got the 5 votes. There is no need to throw stones.

    • Todd,

      Accusing someone of applying clout is not an allegation. That kind of think happens everyday in Kane County. I’m simply offering the most logical explanation for approving a charter school plan that can’t possibly work.

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