Quick Hits – November 29, 2017

Local race roundup – Part One

As is traditional here at The First Ward, with the first of the 2018 nominating petitions in the hopper, let’s review the impending Kane County electoral battlegrounds as they stand right now.

59dbed8df2f48-image

1. Sheriff

This is currently the most contested major local race with primaries in both parties. And all of the contestants come from the same office. Incumbent Don Kramer will face Deputy Sergeant Kevin Tindall on the Republican side, with Sergeant Ron Hain and Lieutenant Willie Mayes squaring off for the Democratic nomination.

Considering that Kramer blew out his budget just two weeks in office, the continuing fallout from the Delnor hostage debacle, and the Sheriff is frequently heard saying “I don’t need this,” I’m kinda surprised he’s shooting for a second term.

But make no mistake, while that office has clearly challenged Kramer’s leadership capacity, he is a tireless campaigner who can never be counted out. Those 215 signatures sheets, the most I’ve ever seen from any Kane Countywide candidate, clearly prove that point.

That said, though we know taking on an incumbent is always an uphill climb, Tindall is very well-liked, he appears to be up to the challenge and he has no political baggage. The key to his campaign success will be who he choose for his campaign team.

On the Dem side, though he hasn’t turned in his nominating papers, Mayes will take a second bite of the electoral apple after a dismal 34 point showing against Kramer in 2014. I am surprised Mayes conceded the coveted first ballot spot to Hain, but there is a school of thought that says turning in your signatures sheets at the last minute makes it more difficult for an opponent to mount any kind of a challenge.

Meanwhile, Hain, who needed just 518 signatures, amassed over 1600 to match Kramer percentage step for percentage step. (Republican candidates needed 726.) Clearly, neither one of these candidates will be outworked, but if I had to pick a winner (and I do happen to have a stake in this one), it will come down to Hain and Kramer, with Hain pulling it off on the basis of a truly solid Sheriff’s office platform.

2. County Clerk

The Republican primary pits four-term incumbent Jack Cunningham against his former Chief Deputy and Montgomery village trustee Stan Bond. There is no Democratic challenger at this point and I don’t think that will change.

To quote a frequent First Ward metaphor, this contest is pretty damn close to that choice between Scylla and Charybdis.

First, no one should serve more than four terms in any office. Second, not only is Cunningham recovering from colon cancer surgery, but five separate sources told me he’s suffering from the kind of dementia he can no longer hide.

Given the stress involved in running that office, if Cunningham is reelected, I don’t see him serving the entire term. That said, having worked for Cunningham and with Bond for 1.5 years, I don’t think Stan can run that office.

To wit, Republicans regularly ask county board member Kurt Kojzarek to take a shot at that gig, but Kurt’s smart enough to immediately call me to talk him out of it – and that’s never a difficult endeavor.

Considering the clerk’s Responsibilities – elections, vital records and all the county records – it’s more difficult than anything the sheriff, circuit clerk or chairman have to contend with. I wouldn’t want that job for twice the $100k salary.

So in the end, Cunningham will win a fifth term on the basis of:

  1. His incredible name recognition.
  2. Elections have run smoothly even after the departure of Director of Elections Suzanne Fahnestock.
  3. With his particularly egregious 2015 tax error a distant memory, there’s no issue to separate the candidates.
  4. Bond’s campaign manager loses at least 80 percent of his races and generally resorts to the kind of dirty tricks that hurt his candidates far more often than they help.

 

3. The Judges

I’ve already extended my congratulations to Clint Hull and Rene Cruz regarding their swift judicial victories, but, of course, both correctly countered that, since the filing period runs through December 4, it’s far too soon to start celebrating.

Should no one else apply, the applicable Party could slate a candidate, but they’d have to be an attorney and they’d still have to come up with at least 500 signatures. Since no Democrat could win in Hull’s Fourth St. Charles Subcircuit and a Republican couldn’t get 20 percent of the vote in Cruz’ Aurora-based First Subcircuit, that’s not gonna happen.

Given that the average voter’s judicial ADHD means the first ballot spot can confer a 5 point out-of-the-gate margin, the fat lady’s already singing this one out!

The good news is, Cruz and Hull will continue to do Kane County proud. Congratulations Your Honors!

4. More to come

On Friday, we’ll cover all the county board races. There’s a lot of competition there folks!

 

And speaking of judges…

There has been a semi-widely reported rumor that a 16th Circuit judge will retire at the last minute to give his protégé a leg up on the limited electoral window that kind of sudden abdication provides.

And it could still happen.

Were one of our men or women in black to step down by December 4, it would trigger a 2018 countywide primary in which the hopefuls would have to acquire at least 500 signatures between December 18 and 26.

Trying to mobilize the volunteers required to get the recommended 1,000 signers in a week is no easy task any time of the year, but it’s exponentially more difficult over the Christmas holiday. So, if some lucky contender knew about this vacancy beforehand, they’d be prepared to hit the ground running.

I do have some thoughts as to whom the next retiring judge will be, but I’ll keep them to myself for now. The most frequently mentioned “lucky” candidate was Kane County Public Defender Kelli Childress, but if that was the case, it’s not anymore.

Meanwhile Betsy Flood, another great judge, has made it abundantly clear that she’ll run for the next circuit-wide opening, and Judge Robert Villa seems to have similar sentiments. Though I don’t believe either one of them are in on this backroom deal.

What I can tell our judicial timing schemers is – if they actually exist – there are two candidates poised to set loose the kind of ground game that could get those signatures in a mere five days.

And rest assured, the State Board of Elections will make me aware of any 16th Circuit judicial vacancy the second it comes through the Illinois Supreme Court. You see, I’m looking forward to adding some names to that previously published list of good Kane County judges (and removing others from the bench entirely).

Quick Hits – November 27, 2017

It ain’t that hard to tell ‘em apart

Batavia has struggled with them; St. Charles seems to be overrun with them; and now Oswego is considering all sorts of regulations to contend with them. And the “them” in this particular case is “those” kind of massage businesses, or as they’re known in popular parlance, “massage parlors.”

But while our local city councils dither and debate about how to determine the difference between legitimate and not-so-legitimate spa businesses, if they just took a small step outside that municipal forest, those aldermen might see that the State of Illinois has things well in hand.

massage-parlor-2

Put more simply, with the necessary laws already on the books, it’s simply a matter of local law enforcement applying them.

As far as identifying the “spas” that offer those “extra” services, it really isn’t rocket science. So, in the vein of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck,” here goes:

1. If the massage business has an Asian or single letter name:

Shangri La Spa and Sauna

  • Lotus Spa
  • Golden Spa
  • Lucky Massage
  • Jade Massage
  • U Spa, M Spa or T Spa

It might not be a legitimate business.

2. If the massage “therapists” are all young to middle-aged Asian women, it might not be a legitimate business.

3. If their ads and literature primarily target men, it might not be a legitimate business.

4. If the front door is always locked and you have to make an appointment to get in, it might not be a legitimate business.

5. If the “spa” is located in a low-end strip mall, it might not be a legitimate business.

6. If the “spa” is open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., it might not be a legitimate massage business.

7. If there’s an ATM in the lobby, it might not be a legitimate massage business.

8. And here’s the big one! If the front windows are tinted black or they’re sealed tighter than a year old jar of pickles, it might not be a legitimate business.

So, now that we’ve identified the obvious offenders, how do municipalities get rid of them? Easy!

Illinois requires real massage therapists to be licensed. That means fingerprinting, a background check and a diploma from a legitimate massage school which generally takes two years of intense study.

So, whenever one of those “businesses” pops up, all the local gendarmes or code enforcement officers have to do is pop in and ask for a copy of those licenses which must be kept on the premises at all times.

If the owner can’t come up with the paperwork, then you can arrest the “therapists” and shut down the business – no undercover police sting necessary. And if you make those visits on a monthly or quarterly basis, that’ll be the end of massage parlors in your town!

The problem is, whenever city councils get together to further regulate massage enterprises, like the proverbial camel designed by the committee aiming for a horse, the new rules always seem to hurt the legitimate businesses.

 

Too little, too late Bruce!

It’s actually kind of an innovative campaign commercial that rotates through our neighboring Republican governors who proceed to thank Speaker Michael Madigan for sending Illinois businesses their way.

Rauner commercial

While there’s a certainly some truth to that ad, and it certainly would’ve worked the first time he ran, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has displayed absolutely no capacity to work with or beat Mike Madigan on absolutely anything.

And with his Democratic challengers similarly beating up on the Speaker, Rauner’s re-messaging attempt falls completely flat.

I’ll ask it one more time, who the hell is advising this guy?

 

But it gets worse

While Rauners’ ad is inconsequential, just when you thought his messaging couldn’t get any worse, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy’s current TV effort is downright cringe worthy.

Robert Kennedy

Using his assassinated father, Robert Kennedy, as a backdrop, the candidate promises to put an end to Illinois gun violence. While that’s certainly a laudable endeavor, using a dead Kennedy to make your point might not provoke the kind of visceral response the campaign is looking for.

Maybe it’s just me, but viewing that commercial for the first time left me with a post fingernails scratching down a blackboard kind of feeling.

All I can say is, it’s infuriating to watch Kennedy and Democratic competitor Daniel Biss race to the electoral bottom. They’ve actually managed to make charisma-less frontrunner J. B. Pritzker look good by comparison.

Can’t we come up with better candidates than this?

 

Well done!

All Tri-Cities sports rivalries aside, I have to tip my hat to those Batavia Bulldog football players who pulled off a 21 – 14 overtime win against Lake Zurich in the Class 7A state final Saturday at NIU’s Huskie Field.

Class7a-CST-112617-27.JPG

Considering the massive wear and tear of the average football season, any team with the mental fortitude to pull out the big game in overtime after surrendering a 14 point lead deserves a lot of credit.

Well done, boys!

Quick Hits – November 22, 2017

Showing gratitude is important!

Instead of applying my vast capacity to effectively bitch about shit, on the eve of my favorite holiday, I thought it would be fun to list all the things for which I’m truly grateful.

It’s actually an exercise I do on a regular basis so why not put it in print! Here we go! I’m grateful for:

1. My wife!

I’m still baffled there was at least one woman on the planet who actually wanted to marry me and she’s stuck by me for 26 years. Even I don’t want to have to deal with me for that long – and I’m me. And she’s always supported my writing despite some rather deleterious side effects.

2. My sons

Because I’ve generally worked at home, it’s been a real privilege to get to watch them grow into exemplary young men every single step of the way. I wouldn’t trade that long-term experience for any amount of cash.

3. Doing what I love

In light of all the folks who toil at gigs that only seem to beat them down, it’s a real privilege to be able do what I love every single day of my life. Whether it’s writing, giving voice to the voiceless, taking on the bullies, managing a great candidate’s campaign, advising the best of our public servants, or framing a message correctly, I love what I do. It doesn’t get much better than that!

4. Good health!

At the ripe old age of 59 I’m running better than I ever have, my asthma is a distant memory, I wear the same size pants I did on the day I married my lovely wife, and aside from some perceived mental issues (my readers tell me this), I’m doing alright for an old man.

Sure, I work at it, but I’ve managed to avoid cancer and all those other dire diseases that can befall anyone at any time.

Thanksgiving

5. Friends

My father said, “If you have one really good friend, you’re lucky.” I’ve been blessed with at least 15. To all those folks to whom I regularly speak, you make life far more meaningful (and bearable)! Considering my unique bearing and mien, it’s beyond cool to have a group of friends who truly accept me for who I am.

6. My support team

When it comes to Jeff Ward, it really does take a village. So, I’m particularly grateful for my attorneys, my law enforcement supporters, and all those political friends who regularly run the kind of interference that keeps the wolves at bay. I do prefer not being in prison!

7. This country

Say what you will about our compatriots’ often strange choices, though I’ve certainly suffered some fascinating consequences as a result of regular truth telling, there are a plethora of regimes that would lop my head clean off for that kind of thing. I do enjoy the First Amendment.

8. Financial stability

Whether it’s luck, a great brain, or simple perseverance, I’ve never had to worry about money, and that’s a great position to be in. Nothing is better than the capacity to make real choices.

9. Dogs

While cats taste like chicken, I can’t imagine life without canine companionship. They’re better than most humans.

10. My readers and sources

There’s a reason I get so many stories first, and that wouldn’t matter if there was no one there to read them. As I like to say, let’s continue the conversation!

11. Life itself

For all the foibles and flaws of this often fascinating existence, it’s kinda fun to be here. After all, it turns out that the destination has always been the journey.

So, there you have it. On this Thanksgiving eve, these are the things I’m thankful for. Tomorrow, I’ll be thankful for turkey, tequila, pumpkin pie and naps. I hope yours is equally enjoyable.

 

No Friday Quick Hits

With my father-in-law in and that December 2 LSAT looming large, Quick Hits will be taking a Friday break. We’ll be back on Monday!

Quick Hits – November 20, 2017

Show me the money?

I understand the rabble readily embraces conspiracy theories in an effort to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility for their own plight, but it’s kinda disheartening when our elected officials and county department heads do the same damn thing.

Aren’t our esteemed local public servants supposed to be a cut above? Apparently not, because the BS surrounding the release of the Kane County efficiency report (we discussed it on Friday) has me reaching for the Xanax – again.

According to some, the surest signs of Chairman Chris Lauzen’s latest nefarious scheme are:

  • The report was only released to certain people
  • It wasn’t marked “draft” even though it was a draft
  • It’s “riddled” with inaccuracies

The conspiracy theorists eminently logical conclusion was that those inaccuracies doomed the entire report and the Chairman must be squirreling county money away in offshore bank accounts so he can punish any county official who displeases him.

Right!

First, the report was released to all the applicable folks, including the entire county board, by email. It’s just that some of ‘em didn’t bother to read it, and whose fault is that?

ar-170729345

Was it mistake to omit the word “draft?” Yep! But that error is making the consultants’, the finance department’s, and the Chairman’s lives much more difficult. So if this was some sort of conspiratorial plot to quash dissent, it’s a really bad one!

Third, did the consultant make a mistake by getting their information solely through independent sources? Yep! The ensuing inaccuracies led to a mini rebellion in which a number of electeds and department heads now trust neither the document, the finance department, nor the Chairman.

And that makes their lives more difficult, too!

C’mon! Do you really think it’s the dream of every county board and chairman to have to ask surly and recalcitrant public officials to voluntarily reduce office expenditures to cover a deficit?

I’d rather run barefoot over a mile of broken glass.

I’ll say it again! That efficiency report had no impact on the requested 3.6 percent across-the-board 2018 county budget cuts. It was solely intended to be used as a yardstick against which the board could measure further potential 2019 cuts should revenues continue to decline.

Since it is a draft, and the 2019 budgeting process is a year away, rather than running around in circles screaming the sky is falling, perhaps those officials could work with the finance department, board and chairman to correct those errors instead of endlessly bitching about it.

Because the vast irony is, that report clearly indicated that three of the four offices shrieking the loudest should actually get more money! Call me crazy, but if I was one of those folks, I’d go with the report even if my name was spelled wrong and it questioned my lineage.

But instead of pulling together as a team for the common taxpayer good, they’d rather be right. Can the chairman be difficult? You bet! But some of y’all are startin’ to make him look like Mother Theresa, and that’s no easy feat!

To our four most outspoken dissidents, I would offer this advice:

1. Sheriff Don Kramer

Dude! In a Trump-esque effort to erase all memory of former Sheriff Pat Perez, you blew out your budget just two short weeks in office by sending those U. S. Marshall’s inmates packing. If you had retained that $2.4 million annual contract, you’d be sittin’ pretty.

So, if you have any issues with your bottom line, I’ d be glad to direct you to the nearest bathroom mirror.

Furthermore, that report said the Sheriff’s office needs more money, but since you’ve completely dismissed it, what do you think will come of that now?

2. Coroner Rob Russell

Though you didn’t blow your budget, my advice to the Sheriff also applies to you. Did you note the efficiency report stipulated you could use more cash, too? I think you need a new office as well.

The sad thing is, I’ve seen you and the Chairman work cooperatively firsthand, and prior to this kerfuffle, you seemed to have reached some sort of détente. But because you listen to the wrong people, you’re right back to square one.

3. Chief Judge Clancy Boles and Court Services Director Lisa Aust

Considering the report says your office is as bloated as I’ve proven it to be, wouldn’t a better long-term strategy be to pay heed to former Chief Judge Judith Brawka’s example? She worked cooperatively with the Chairman and board to give taxpayers the best bang for their buck.

And she tended to get what she wanted as a result.

You could start that process by making your judges – the highest paid elected and appointed officials in Kane County – actually work a full day like the rest of us.

4. Public Defender Kelli Childress

You may be one of the best litigators I’ve ever watched work, but that report explicitly declared that your office desperately needs more money, too. So what was the point of excoriating the board over its inaccuracies and firing up the rest of the malcontents? Sometimes it pays to leave the lawyer shit behind.

 

Meanwhile, this Thursday, I’m going to be thankful for having the kind of basic wisdom and intelligence to scratch running for public office off my bucket list. I clearly lack the capacity to be that self-centered and utterly illogical.

 

Who am I to judge?

You may have noticed I’ve been doing my damndest to right the Kane County Justice system ship, especially in regards to those 16th Circuit men and women in black. The fact that so many of the folks sworn to uphold the law seem to think they’re above it really frosts my cookies.

But as I consistently like to point out, that overarching theme doesn’t mean we aren’t blessed with some exemplary judges. It’s the whole baby and bathwater thing.

Clint Hull

Judge Clint Hull

The reason I don’t point that out nearly as much as I should is, as county board member and soon-to-be-former friend, Kurt Kojzarek likes to say, “Jeff, your endorsement just cost me 10 points in the next election.”

While it’s certainly fun to make Kurt squirm (he loves strippers), I generally don’t want the good guys to have to suffer on the double-edged sword of a Jeff Ward compliment. But in light of the impending holiday, I’m going to make an exception!

Thus, I am grateful for the efforts of the following Kane County Judges in no particular order:

  • Clint Hull
  • Rene Cruz
  • Betsy Flood
  • Keith Johnson
  • William Parkhurst
  • John Barsanti
  • Mark Pheanis
  • Robert Villa
  • Christine Downs

Joe Grady was a great judge, but a number of sources have said the death of his wife and age are catching up with him. Though I sometimes question D. J. Tegeler’s judgment, he probably puts in more hours than any of the others. And David Akemann does have a great legal mind, but that legendary ego overshadows it.

To be fair, I haven’t heard much about some of our judges, so any omission does not necessarily mean they’re on the naughty list.

Meanwhile, to all the men and women on the nice list, if I just ended your legal career, I apologize!

Quick Hits – November 17, 2017

A technicality knockout?

In what can only be described as soap opera turn of events, it would seem the Campana Building redevelopment project at Fabyan Parkway and Route 31 in Batavia is dead in that nearby Fox River water.

At least for now.

To fill in the blanks, the Evergreen Real Estate Group is seeking to turn the former Campana factory into approximately 20 regular and 80 Section 8 apartments. As you might imagine, those Eaglebrook subdivision Genevans are rending their garments, gnashing their teeth and weeping uncontrollably over the prospect of poor brown children attending THEIR D304 schools.

The rest of ‘em aren’t too happy about brown people living next door, either.

Campana_Factory_(Batavia,_IL)_01

Please note! I stand by my prediction that this project was a done deal as that 9 to 5 Batavia City Council committee of the whole vote clearly indicated. It’s just that, while the four vote margin hasn’t changed, but the rules have!

In yet another fascinating Tri-Cities irony, after all sorts of citizens tried to derail this conversion based on bad windows and a lack of access, someone discovered the kind of zoning technicality that means the project suddenly requires a two-thirds city council supermajority.

If you do the math, you’ll note it’s suddenly one scant vote short.

There are just two Tri-City non-attorneys who could’ve come up with this kind of technical challenge, and since it wasn’t me, I’m 99 percent sure of who the culprit is. But since he or she hasn’t provided their express written consent, I won’t be divulging their identity today.

So, here’s how it worked!

Robert Byrnes, the owner of the adjoining property at 1950 and 2000 S. Batavia Avenue (Route 31), filed a zoning protest just three days before the Batavia City Council was to take that fateful final vote. Since the Campana Building and his office plaza share more than 20 percent of the frontage, that gave him the right to issue the challenge.

And when the Batavia city attorney deemed it valid, it triggered the two-thirds majority vote requirement.

So Evergreen asked the city council to table the motion in the desperate hope of swaying one of those five nay voters, but insiders tell me they’ve been utterly able to do so. If the status quo remains, much to everyone’s surprise, this project will not fly.

This is why I love politics people! It’s always a fascinating proposition.

 

It’s just like herding cats

Every now and then I get the hankerin’ to run for office and I’ve discovered the perfect antidote for that kind of horrifically misguided thinking is to attend any Kane County Board or committee meeting.

So, in anticipation of a possible showdown between Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles and those judicial and public safety committee members over the demise of the criminal defendant home monitoring program, I put down the LSAT prep stuff long enough to haul my bony white butt down to Building A.

When everyone basically behaved, I started wondering if it was gonna be another hour-and-a-half of my journalistic life I’d never get back. But just when I was about to pack up and leave, leave it to Public Defender Kelli Childress to make it all worthwhile.

During her turn to speak, Childress lashed out at the committee over the $150,000 efficiency study the County commissioned to determine how they might trim that former $6 million deficit. “It’s wrong. It’s just wrong,” Childress said, “I’d like to know who the sources are for this information.”

She pointed out inconsistent comparisons to the wrong collar counties, incorrect employee head counts and that the number of annual cases her office handles was off by a thousand. She called the report “misinformation” and “totally inaccurate.”

Of course, that tirade incited Court Services director Lisa Aust, Coroner Rob Russell and Sheriff Don Kramer to join in the fractious festivities which put Chairman Chris Lauzen and those committee members in a really good Thursday morning mood.

Childress 2

Kelli Childress

Yes! For that amount of cash, that report should’ve been a wee bit more accurate. But the bottom line is, the Chairman asked every department and every elected official to make the same 3.6 percent budget cut, so those inaccuracies didn’t matter. There was a financial hole to fill and that’s what it took to fill it.

It’s not as if that kind of temper tantrum would make that missing revenue magically reappear.

As I’m prone to noting, we have two massive ironies here that make it difficult to focus on those LSAT logic questions.

The first is, the efficiency report concluded that the PD’s office should actually get MORE money. But when Childress took on the committee – again – one of the board members pulled me aside and said, “Oh well! If she asks for more money, we’ll cite that ‘inaccurate’ report as the reason not to give it to her.”

And the second one is, because I hold the PD’s office in such high esteem, I’ve been working on the Chairman and a couple of board members to restore their funding – and I’d actually been making headway. After all, a well-functioning public defender’s office is critical to justice being served.

But Childress aggravated absolutely everyone to the point that my budgetary crusade completely crashed and burned. Not even my amazing charisma and perpetually polite and professional personality could sway those folks now.

It’s called politics for a reason people!

Quick Hits – This one’s on you Judge Boles!

The Democrats attempted a budgetary coup at yesterday’s county board meeting that fell just two votes short of reinstating Kane County’s criminal defendant home monitoring system. The plan was to raid the entire $700,000 “rainy day” fund to do it.

That’s never a good idea, by the way.

And when I use the word “Democrats” here, rest assured, it’s never a clear demarcation on that always fascinating governing body.

To wit, dissident GOP board members Mike Kenyon, Maggie Auger, Phil Lewis and Mark Davoust – or the Gang of Four as I like to call them – tend to vote against any of Chairman Chris Lauzen’s initiatives because he regularly offends their delicate sensibilities.

Meanwhile, “Democrats” Deb Allen and Penny Wegman support him more often than not, because they’re really not Democrats. To be fair, the Gang of Four really aren’t Republicans, either, as their consistent tax and spend voting record would indicate.

To the uneducated observer, it would seem the catalyst for this kerfuffle is a home monitoring system higher ideal, but nothing could be further from the truth. Much like the global conflicts the U.S. consistently mires itself in, this is just another political proxy war played out on the backs of an almost always unsuspecting public.

And it all starts with those Kane County Republicans who spend so much time taking swipes at each other they fail to realize that 10 of those 24 county board seats are occupied by Democrats. And if the Gang of Four votes with them…

Am I the only one who’s noticed that Kane County gets one to two percent more Democratic with every even-year election?

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but politics absolutely despises them. Thus, the main reason the Dems are flexing their new muscles is a lack of real leadership on the part of Chairman Lauzen. They want to see just how far they can get, and yesterday, they almost got there.

Word is, the Dems thought they had this one in the bag. If Kenyon hadn’t voted with the Republicans on two issues, including the home monitoring program, those outcomes could’ve been very different.

So, while there’s never any innocent bystanders on the Kane County Board, if I had to lay the bulk of the dysfunctional blame at someone’s oxford shoed feet, it would be Lauzen’s.

I will continue to extol his virtue for that six-year tax levy freeze, but it would seem that his role as a 20-year Springfield Senate outsider has rendered him incapable of the more subtle kind of coaching that a 24 member body requires.

Remember! The Chairman only gets to vote when there’s a tie.

Meanwhile, he’s falling prey to the same traps his beleaguered predecessor did by battling the Internal Control Statute, alienating countywide elected officials, and running candidates against board members who fail to amuse him.

It’s the whole doomed to repeat history thing, right? Former Chairman Karen McConnaughay actually had the board pretty much cowed until she started primarying the protestors. That tends to make them lose their fear and become kinda cranky. She didn’t last very long after that.

And that’s exactly what Lauzen is doing to a number of Democratic (and Republican) board members right now. C’mon! That’s not how you govern Chris!

Lauzen’s heavy handed approach with county offices that don’t report directly to him hasn’t helped matters either. While it was certainly reasonable to ask for 3.6 percent across-the-board budget cuts, sugar would’ve been far more efficacious application than vinegar in that regard.

When you consider our preponderantly pretentious judges’ paper thin skin and Director of Court Services Lisa Aust’s capacity to comport herself like Lauzen’s twin sister, the Chairman’s generally combative approach doomed any cooperative fiscal effort from the start.

But with all those stipulations issued, make no mistake, the demise of the home monitoring system boils down to Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles’ vast arrogance and nothing more. She thought she could play politics when it’s clearly not her strong suit.

Boles 3

Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles

Despite whatever shortcomings befall the Chairman, former Chief Judge Judith Brawka would’ve worked with him to hit that 3.6 percent point without sacrificing any worthwhile program. As we’ve already discussed here, the Kane County court system is beyond bloated because it’s the least efficient circuit in the collar counties.

But instead of improving those lagging efficiencies, which would’ve saved the program,  Boles thought she could hold it hostage by imperiously declaring that if home monitoring was cut, the county board would be the ones to blame – not her. She believed that declaration would incite board rebellion and court services could have their cake and eat it too.

But yesterday, those board members correctly called her bluff.

When board member Kurt Kojzarek pointed out the error of her illogical way, she still tried to blame the board after the Chairman called upon her to speak, but it didn’t work.

The truth is, armed with Ms. Aust’s bad advice, Judge Boles chose not to work cooperatively with the board. She chose to avoid trimming the real fat and she chose to put the home monitoring program up as a sacrificial lamb, figuring no one would be willing to draw the first blade.

So, no one else is responsible but her! That’s why the word “Chief” comes before “Judge.”

As board member Davoust noted at that very same meeting, “It only takes one of those 102 people in the program to do something bad, and then you’re on the 10 o’clock news answering questions about why you cut this program.”

There’s a simple solution to that Mark! Just hand Chief Judge Clancy Boles the microphone.

Quick Hits – November 13, 2017

The TSA really sucks…

At anything other than making flying an absolutely miserable experience, that is. I’ve been covering their vast incompetency going all the way back to my Sun-Times days, and it apparently ain’t getting much better.

TSA

In a recent series of undercover tests of multiple airport checkpoints conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration screeners failed to detect “smuggled” firearms and explosives 80 percent of the time!

To put that momentous feat into some sort of perspective, the worst Major League Baseball position players are successful just 20 percent of the time. But I suppose that’s better than their beyond dismal 95 percent test failure rate in 2015.

Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers’ massively understated response to TSA head honcho David Pekoske was, “This agency that you run is broken badly, and it needs your attention.” Attention!!??? The whole thing needs to be burned down so it can be completely rebuilt!

So, essentially we’re being massively inconvenienced by an incompetent government organization that couldn’t catch a cold. That sounds about par for the course!

 

And speaking of sucking

Back in 1978, instead of taking a knee to run out the clock, Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik inexplicably handed the ball to Larry Csonka who uncharacteristically fumbled. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards pounced on the loose pigskin, returning it 26 yards for the winning touchdown.

fox-bears-hat

Giants’ offensive coordinator Bob Gibson was fired the next day and he never worked in the NFL again.

Yesterday, with the ball called down on Green Bay’s four yard line, Bears coach John Fox issued a replay challenge that awarded the ball back to the Packers on a touchback.

Why the bleep is he still employed?

 

You heard it here first!

God bless St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina for – tactfully – calling out the Krausz Companies for their utter lack of any action in regards to the old Charlestown Mall.

You see, after wringing all sorts of concessions from the St. Charles City council by promising them sure fire dreams of retail glory, Krausz has managed to attract all of one business – a restaurant – to the dilapidated location.

Count ‘em; one!

So now, in a turn of events my former radio co-host Larry Jones and I predicted three years ago, the Krausz Companies just told the mayor they’re taking that property residential. The self-admitted hitch in their giddyup is that they don’t know how to build townhomes and condos, so they’re reaching out to a “large, national residential developer.”

9718310096_32f742f213_b

Just like they had all those large retailers chompin’ at the bit to come into a dying mall, right?

C’mon St. Charles! Krausz Companies has played you like a fiddle by applying delaying and deliberate obfuscation tactics to get the residential development they wanted all along. And now you’re going to let them get away with it?

I understand you don’t necessarily want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but most of these development agreements include some sort of stipulation as to exactly when the developer has to start “performing.”

So, use that escape clause to send Krausz packing. It may cause some short term development disruption – though it’s not like they’re doing shit now – but allowing a company to manipulate you in this obvious a fashion would set a far worse long-term precedent.

 

The City of Geneva never met a tax hike it didn’t like

This is my email to the Geneva City Council who are not only raising taxes, but they’re about to hire a very expensive assistant city manager:

Dear City Council,

Please explain why we need a sales tax OR a places for eating tax hike, but not raising taxes at all isn’t an option? There is so much bloat in the Geneva City budget that you all should be insisting on tax cuts. Remember! You represent us, not city employees.

St. Charles has kept their levy flat for nine straight years and Kane County has done it for six. As city staffers love to say, “We need to bring Geneva in line with surrounding government bodies!” If you need me to appear at a city council meeting to explain where those cuts can be made, I’d be happy to do so.

Burns 2

Another tax and spend “Republican!”

But then, to make matters so much worse, while you’re choosing between Scylla and Charybdis, tonight, you’re going to vote on whether to hire an assistant city manager to the tune of 200 grand in salary and benefits. Once again, considering “surrounding communities,” neither St. Charles, Batavia, South Elgin, Elburn, North Aurora, nor West Chicago require an assistant city manager.

And most of those municipalities are significantly larger than we are!

So why do we need one? The simple answer is, we don’t! And the consultant, bought and paid for by Geneva staffers, contention that those other towns simply call assistant city managers something else is patently wrong. Geneva has all those kinds of employees, too!

As is my right as a citizen of this often odd city, I will recruit a 2019 or 2021 opponent – and manage their campaign at no charge – to run against any alderman who votes for an assistant city manager or another tax increase. And I’m way better than Joe Stanton at getting people elected (though that’s not nearly setting the bar high enough.)

It looks like I already have a mayoral candidate (it’s NOT Tom Simonian).

What the City of Geneva really needs are tax cuts, and we don’t need an assistant city manager for a mere 21,700 residents. Thank you!

Jeff Ward

Since one of the aldermen invited me to this evening’s Committee of the Whole festivities, I’ll be there to convey those very thoughts.

Quick Hits – November 10, 2017

It ain’t always harassment!

Nobody should have to put up with workplace harassment of any kind, period! That clearly applies to those Cook County public defenders who just filed suit to force corrections officers to keep inmates from performing certain acts during legal conferences.

But in their blind rush to demonize all men, too many women are embracing sexual harassment “victims” who really aren’t victims at all.

FX 'Better Things' TV show panel, TCA Summer Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 09 Aug 2017

If comedian Louis C. K. invites you up to his hotel room at midnight, it’s probably not for tea and crumpets. And when he asks if he can perform a different kind of solo act while he’s disrobing, that’s about the time you get up and leave.

If that event did occur, it’s not harassment – there was no power dynamic involved and no one was unlawfully restrained – it’s just a really bad come on. Let’s save our sympathy for the real victims.

 

Under his skin

Whether it’s a trial, a nominating petition challenge, a civil case, or advising a government body – and I’ve covered it all – I’m consistently confounded by the average attorney’s lack of legal skills, not to mention their repeated failure to correctly read a situation.

It’s almost as if the justice system works in spite of them,

So when you run across stellar lawyers like Brick Van Der Snick, Jeff Meyer, Amanda Wielgus, or Tom Hartwell, you tend to take notice. And it’s in that very vein that I’ve become quite enamored of the Motta and Motta Law Firm out of Chicago and Aurora, Illinois.

For background purposes, Alison and Robert Motta are defending Scott Turyna, 66, of St. Charles, against attempted murder charges.

If you would kindly recall, it was last May when St. Charles School Superintendent Steve Spurling and his wife were walking their dog when a bloodied Mrs. Turyna ran out of her garage and fell onto the driveway. Scott Turyna emerged from the house shortly thereafter and began firing a pistol at her. Spurling was hailed as a hero for disarming the gunman before he could wound or kill his wife.

And the pre-trial motions are getting more and more fascinating.

In an All My Children-esque twist, Turyna claimed he had no memory of the event back in June, but the defense didn’t ask for a trial fitness test until five days before the October proceeding was about to commence. And that late motion clearly got on Judge D. J. Tegeler’s last good nerve.

tegeler

Judge Tegeler

When Tegeler heard Alison Motta mutter something under her breath at one of those hearings – a tactic for which she’s quite famous – he threw the kind of temper tantrum that makes yours truly look like Mr. Rogers on a good day! Nothing offends a judge’s delicate sensibilities like a whispered epithet.

When Tegeler did accede to that request by ordering a Kane County Diagnostic Center evaluation, the Motta’s objected claiming that the county’s psychiatrist would be biased.

Having purposely stoked the flames of discord and dissent, though they knew it would never fly, the Motta’s filed a petition for a new judge claiming, “For whatever reason, our team has upset the judge to the point where my client will be prejudiced.”

“He was very loud. He was shouting at me. He was glaring at me,” Ms. Motta added. I gotta say that certainly does sound like Judge Tegeler.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Judge John Barsanti swiftly denied that motion, noting that Tegeler pretty much gave the Mottas everything they’d already requested.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here laughing my ass off at how two attorneys have thrown the entire 16th Circuit into complete conniptions. Who needs Pheasant Run when you can head over to Route 38 and Peck Road to watch this kind of theater for free! I thought I was the only one who could completely aggravate people in this kind of amusing manner. Apparently I was wrong.

You see, the Motta law firm motto, as described on their website is:

When your enemy is weak expose their weakness, when your enemy is strong delay the battle, and when your enemy is angry, make them angrier because mistakes are sure to follow.

(They really do need to hire a good editor because I had to add the last two commas.)

And it’s fucking brilliant. It’s Sun Tzu at his bleepin’ best (look it up). If more attorneys had this eminently basic understanding of human nature and how court systems really work, I wouldn’t be bitching about ‘em nearly as much as I do.

The Motta’s know they have an unwinnable case. A former school superintendent as the prosecution’s star witness? That’s virtually impossible to overcome. So, their underlying strategy is to delay the process until they see an opening. And they’re trying to create that opening by making the judge, not their crazy client, the issue.

And nothing makes a judge angrier than an attorney with the temerity to move to replace him on a high profile case. And when Judge Tegeler gets angry, he makes all kinds of mistakes. The Mottas have concocted a patently brilliant strategy and Tegeler has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

I’m not sure they’ll get Turyna off, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they did. They’re certainly going to get the best deal they possibly can.

Perhaps I’m gonna have to get off my bony white ass and head over to courtroom 311 sometime soon. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks! They really oughtta sell popcorn at the Kane County Judicial Center.

 

You can thank Brick

Brick 2Between Comcast’s inability to keep the Net up for more than 2 minutes at a time, and a Windows update error as a result of those sudden outages, I had to waste three goddam hours with the cable company and restoring my computer back to a previous configuration this morning.

So I was gonna give up on Quick Hits for today until I remembered how disappointed Brick Van Der Snick would be if there was no Friday edition.

This one’s for you, sir!

 

Quick Hits – November 8, 2017

Give it a rest guys!

Despite massive referendum failures in 2015 and 2017, utterly undaunted, the Fox River and Countryside Fire/Rescue District, covering unincorporated St. Charles, Campton Township, Wayne and Campton Hills, is gonna give that tax hike another shot.

FRCR

This time, they’re asking for a mere 50 percent increase and FRCFR attorney and partial architect of this complete disaster, Ken Shepro, is threatening to close stations on a rotating basis if voters don’t cough up the cash.

Silly me! I thought he was a Republican!

“The problem is, you’re basically telling people to schedule their heart attacks on the days the station closest to them is open,” said Shepro, blaming residents for the district’s sad plight. But it ain’t the residents Ken!

Both you and former FRCFR President Jim Gaffney flipped then Mayor Don DeWitte and St. Charles the figurative bird by saying your breakaway district could name that tune in one note. You said you could provide the same services for just a third of the cost, and the voters bought it.

But it turned out you couldn’t and the voters aren’t about to let you off the hook!

So, it wouldn’t matter if FRCFR was asking for a scant one percent increase. It will be voted down just like the last two attempts. This ain’t like a Hall of Fame ballot where that semi-legendary third baseman missed it on his eighth try by two percent.

Those 2015 and 2017 FRCFR referendums went down in two-to-one flames, which makes it statistically impossible to close that gap in one scant year. I know Shepro thinks it’s funny to threaten residents’ safety, but I’m bettin’ they don’t find him amusing at all.

You’d think Ken would’ve figured out that voters don’t respond very well to threats by now.

To put this fiasco in perspective, for all its fiscal foibles, the State of Illinois has never had to step in and dissolve a fire protection district. But when this one won’t be able to keep their stations open on a daily basis, it will be time for the adults to take over and put us out of their misery.

 

Blinded by the white

You’d think after their last thrashing, the Daily Herald wouldn’t go there again. Bu no! Their completely Caucasian editorial board just ran another editorial chiding the U-46 School District (Elgin, Bartlett, Streamwood, Hanover Park, South Elgin) for not hiring enough black teachers.

Daily Herald Building

And while seeking diversity among educators is always a worthwlhile endeavor, it kind of falls flat when that clarion call comes from an entity whose management team consists entirely of old white men.

Wouldn’t you think a company like Paddock Publications would seek the same sort of racial and ethnic balance they thrust upon everyone else? Sheesh! At this point I’d be willing to accept a short, near-sighted woman with a mild sunburn.

What do you say Paddock?

 

A bad day for Republicans

Both New Jersey and Virginia elected Democratic Governors yesterday, and in the most delicious political irony ever, Virginia sent transgender former journalist Danica Roem to their legislature replacing Bob Marshall, the author of that state’s divisive bathroom bill.

Almost as ironic, black, Democratic candidate Ashley Bennett beat white, Republican incumbent John Carman in their Atlantic County, New Jersey, Freeholder race. If you recall, Carman gained national notoriety when he wrote, ““Will the women’s protest end in time for them to cook dinner?”

171108-danica-roem-mc-1105_a4303ac95d162817ddfc3b42bf786060-nbcnews-fp-1200-630

Danica Roem (center) celebrates an election day victory

He said he was just joking, but the women who voted him out clearly weren’t. Apparently he’ll have plenty of time to cook dinner now.

Democratic candidates generally did well across the country as voters finally mounted a concerted effort to repudiate Donald Trump and his divisive policies.

So, like I said on Monday! You may as well start calling him Governor Pritzker now because he’s gonna win.  And those 2018 Republican candidates, firmly wedged between Scylla and Charybdis, are going to have to cut Trump loose or risk the same kind of backlash.

The truly terrifying thought in all of this is, could Democrats finally be getting their fippin’ messaging act together? I’m not sure I can handle that.

 

They’re catching on!

Texas authorities made it clear they will no longer mention the Sutherland Spring church shooter’s name. Though it’s not nearly as effective as reasonable gun control, it’s a step.

 

High times

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey says he has enough board support to get sponsor March 20 advisory referendum asking residents if they think legalized marijuana would be a good idea.

If all those Cook Countians put down their joints and Doritos long enough to make it to the polls – and if they can find them – unlike the FRCFR question, this one should pass faster than an impatient I-90 rush hour driver.

When Cook County legalizes pot – and they will – despite whatever law enforcement or prosecutorial objections remain, the state will too.

It’s about time!

 

They don’t make ‘em like that anymore

Though I’m gonna go a little far afield here, y’all know I harbor a vast love for music of all denominations. As my beloved radio show co-host Larry Jones used to say, I have the most eclectic musical taste he’s ever seen.

I even like my 18 year-old son’s EDM stuff, so you can’t accuse of muttering that old man’s screed, “That’s not music!”

Ertegun

Ahmet Ertegun

But as I was listening to ‘We Just Disagree’ (Dave Mason), ‘Dirty Work’ (Steely Dan) and ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ (Blind Faith) on my morning dog walk, I caught myself thinking, “We’ll never see this kind of really great music like this again.”

Generally, I like the playing field leveling propensity of the Internet, but it hasn’t served the music industry well on a number of levels.

To wit, I find myself longing for the days of legendary Atlantic Records founder and President Ahmet Ertegun, who brought us talent like Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles, Yes, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Cream, AC/DC and many more.

Don’t get me wrong, I just bought vinyl albums by Jason Isbell, The War on Drugs, Manchester Orchestra and Brand New. And while I certainly enjoy their music, it doesn’t send my soul soaring like ‘Fastbuck Freddie’ (Jefferson Starship), ‘Wondrous Stories’ (Yes), ‘Living in the Past’ (Jethro Tull) and ‘Higher Love’ (Steve Winwood).

I don’t care what you say, it’s more than just a youthful longing. Without that big money music machine behind them, fewer and fewer groups will hit the stratospheric level of some of their ‘70s counterparts.

And that my friends, saddens me.

Though my mother was dead wrong when she said, “I’m worried you’ll never have any rock ‘n roll standards,” now I’m saying the same thing to my son because I don’t think there will be any more great musical standards.

Quick Hits – November 6, 2017

You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction!

Just when you think the Democrats have cornered the market on abject political obliviousness – and obliviousness is always worse than stupidity – the Republicans swoop in to snatch that title as if to say, “We gotta be good at something because it certainly ain’t governing!”

So, when The First Ward announced Rauner wasn’t running again, given my impeccable sources and the fact that he’d just expanded taxpayer-funded Illinois abortions, I’m convinced that was the case. But our governor, who’s more mercurial than a middle school girl who just lost her BFF, changed his mind – again.

Since Newton’s Third Law always applies to politics, that equal and opposite reaction consisted of conservative ideologues, who’ve completely co-opted the Illinois Republican Party, to abandon the Governor in droves.

Never mind those less-government folks completely fail to see the vast irony in having old bald white guys tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. They also seem to miss that Rauner has always been a Democrat, but that’s a story for another day.

So now, Sate Rep Jeanne Ives (R Wheaton), the right wing’s current scion and savior du jour, is gonna primary the Governor. C’mon! She has a better chance of getting elected Pope. But with Dan Proft and his regular right wing crazies supporting her, that contest will swiftly descend into the kind of name calling quagmire that makes a Trump – Kim Jong Un tweet war seem mild by comparison.

Ives

Illinois State Rep Jeanne Ives

This means that Rauner will limp into the General Election and, in a par for the course move, those disappointed true believers will simply take their electoral football and stay home. Not only does that mean a huge win for impending Democratic gubernatorial nominee J. B. Pritzker, but those on-the-bubble Democratic General Assemblymen will also have a massive leg up.

(No, it won’t be Chris Kennedy in the finals because I can’t remember a more mediocre statewide candidate. Who the bleep is advising this guy?)

So, the more things change…

Which leads us into our second biggest irony, since they insist on having their cookie RIGHT NOW, those unyielding conservatives fall for candidates who either can’t get elected or can’t govern. And that sets up the very scenarios they claim to loathe. Michael Madigan will continue to rule with an iron fist as defined by an even stronger Democratic supermajority.

God forbid a Republican candidate turns out to be anything short of ideologically pure! Then their “adoring” throng will turn on them faster than Harvey Weinstein on a recalcitrant starlet. And as they say on those shampoo bottles, Republicans are more than happy to rinse and repeat.

It may be entirely self-indulgent, there are times when I lean back in my home office chair, close my eyes, and wistfully ruminate on what a former Treasurer Dan Rutherford or former State Senator Kirk Dillard gubernatorial administration might have meant to the State.

Sigh!

Republicans! Ya gotta learn, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!

God, conservatives suck!

 

Eve of destruction part 2

To prove I’m a man without a country, I’ve been taking a bit of heat for Friday’s piece on the abrupt demise of DNAinfo, a hyper-local news experiment brought to New York, Chicago, LA, SF, and Washington courtesy of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the Cubs family patriarch.

In spite of the kind of hint that makes Blues Clues seem like a 400 level college course, when the New York office officially voted to unionize, Ricketts shut down the entire shebang just one week later.

And 116 journalists are out of journalism because those jobs don’t exist anymore.

bad-decisions-are-the-best-teachers-sachin-mittal-1

So, some folks called me heartless, others accused me of being anti-union and the Tribune’s Heidi Stevens and Eric Zorn waxed poetically about the untimely death of yet another Net news organization. Why, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio went as far as calling Ricketts “a coward.”

Goddamn Democrats!

First, if holding the folks who hold us to a higher standard to the same standard is “heartless,” then I’m thrilled to be guilty as charged.

Second, when Ricketts refused to negotiate with the Writer’s Guild back in February, what the fuck did those New Yorkers think would happen when they forced the issue? DNAinfo NEVER broke even, much less turned a profit, and even though Zorn briefly touched on it, when did Democrats start demanding corporate welfare as a God-given right?

It doesn’t seem to appear anywhere in the Constitution.

So, now I’m suddenly beginning to understand the absurd level of malice conservatives  harbor for your average liberal, who fervently believes no one should ever have to face the consequences for their bad decisions.

Not to mention that DNAinfo generally paid their people far more than new hires at the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, or the Daily Herald would ever get. To wit, the Daily Herald is offering employee buyouts to the tune of a paltry one week’s pay for each year of service. Ricketts is providing three month’s severance to all of those former DNA employees.

I know this was mainly the result of the 25 New Yorkers who voted to unionize, but the other 89 DNAinfoers had to have some sense that the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t salvation, but an oncoming locomotive. Much like I lobbied that Joliet union to make the necessary concessions for the 2013 sale of the Sun-Times, perhaps they could’ve done their damndest to enlighten their brethren about the realities of a truly bad decision.

Then, to make matters so much worse, my conservative friends are patting me on the back for my “anti-union stance,” which annoys the shit out of me. My wife is union, two of my brothers are union, and I regularly work with unions to get good candidates elected.

There’s a time and place for union intervention, but it IS NOT at a company that’s being subsidized by a gentleman who generally believes that doing the right thing is more important than making money. As conservative as the Ricketts family is, instead of engineering Fox News Lite, Joe insisted that DNAinfo report the news with as little bias as possible.

And now he’s getting excoriated for shutting down a money pit that makes that fixer-upper situated on that old Indian burial ground look like a real bargain. I don’t know about you, but if someone was subsidizing my very existence, despite whatever imperfections they may have, I’d go with gratitude instead of rebellion.

Meanwhile, Stevens wrote about all sorts of GoFundMe campaigns designed to augment that three months of severance. Really? So now, in the face of folks facing real need, we’re rewarding some truly unconscionable and inexplicable decision making?

God, liberals suck!