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?

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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!

10 thoughts on “Quick Hits – November 20, 2017

  1. U.S. Marshal’s prisoners are subject to certain Federal regulations that are costly. both in money and deputies’ time, such as medical care by personal physicians and transportation to and from it.

    When this subject came up months ago, Sheriff Kramer informed me that the cost of compliance with Federal regulations for these prisoners, both in money, aggravation, and deputy work time, cost more than the contract was worth.

    Maybe you should discuss it with him.

    • Observer,

      Actually I discussed the subject at length with Pat Perez and that $2.4 million only cost the County $600 – $800,000. And the county had to fill in that $1.5 million-ish gap.

      Don is not being forthcoming because he wants to save his own ass. He actually did not understand that his budget had an asset side.

      Not only that, but things were going so well with the Marshalls that the revenue was going up every year!

      Jeff

  2. How about if the juvenile and adult drug courts were managed by an experienced, independent arbiter? Like a licensed psychologist, someone actually trained to help those with a dependency? Right now, you have 2 judges @ 400k/yr. plus staff. Pretty expensive babysitters. And those judges cherry-pick the lucky few getting into the program, while the unwashed masses, the one’s needing the most help but having the least money, lose out. I have never seen any mention of recidivism in the program, other than the judges spouting some national averages about cost savings and relapse, which is just more BS. And these same judges work a few hours at night, while traveling the country on the taxpayers dime to attend “training” classes. Start with these two and keep cutting.

    • John, I hate to harsh your buzz, and we both know there are judiciary cuts to be made, but the state pays the judges’ salaries so we can’t make that argument.

  3. And county governments pay part of the cost of financing circuit court operations. Counties provide office and courtroom space, maintenance, and support staff to assist the circuit court judges. Get rid of it, and maybe staff can be reduced, too.

    • I don’t disagree, but the number of judges in any circuit is determined by the Illinois Supreme Court so cutting those positions would be tough – but not impossible.

  4. Jeff, this has to be one of the best of your blogs in recent times. While my admittedly limited knowledge/experience, my not yet totaling failing memory, as well as the much more vast experience and leadership skill-set of that guy who occupies the other side of the dinner table from me probably don’t qualify for a gold star, the first part is exactly on point. In regard to the second part on the judiciary folks, I do know some of those names. In particular both Joe Grady and Judy Brawka are folks I had been on the campaign trail with and witnessed their professionalism with great respect for both. Oh, and it was nice to see your smiling face at the grocery store the other day. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Linda,

      That’s high praise coming from a former Kane County Director of Elections. As I like to say in regards to the first story, I have a keen perception of the obvious!

      And I really miss Judge Brawka.

      It was fun seeing you and Jim at the store as well!

      Jeff

  5. Jeff you always mention your campaign manager skills. i’ve read your column over the years but have never found a need to comment until now. I’m considering an independent run for a county board seat and am looking for a qualified manager. Other than Tao Martinez, who’s campaign have you worked on? It’s always interesting to see who supports who and why and that person’s qualifications

    • Beatrice,

      That’s a great question and I’d love to answer it. Here’s my campaign managing/consulting history:

      1. Chris Lauzen vs. Kevin Burns for Kane County Chairman in 2012

      I was tasked with keeping the Chairman from blowing up and getting bogged down in petty battles. This was one of my toughest challenges as Chris has a well known propensity to strike back. But my strategy worked and Chris beat Burns by 40 points.

      2. Greg Marston for Mayor of Pingree Grove

      I did this one for free. Greg managed to get on the wrong side of a number of local folks who had some political pull. So I shifted the messaging and honed the voter data set down to exactly the right folks. But at the last minute Greg decided not to send out the second mailer I’d designed for him and he lost by two votes. The folks who opposed him were shocked he came that close.

      3. Tao Martinez for Kane County Coroner

      You know about that one. The problem with that campaign was that Tao’s brother was murdered in Mexico and I lost him to depression for four months, so he never knocked on any doors.

      But despite that lapse and a shocking Trump victory, the Hispanic Democratic candidate managed to pull within 5.2 points of the white Republican incumbent when people were saying we’d lose by 20 points! This was a case where an accurate voter data analysis made a huge difference. Had Tao been in a position to knock on doors he would’ve won.

      4. Richard Irvin for Mayor of Aurora

      I was Richard’s messaging and strategy consultant and the key here was to shift his message from the angry black man to, as I put it, the preacher.

      Then my strategy was to get Mike Saville to endorse Richard, to let Linda Chapa LaVia continue to message poorly without interference and to target older white conservatives and it worked.

      5. Corey Dixon for Elgin City Council

      I simply provided Corey with the only statistical path to victory and he followed the plan perfectly. Considering how hard it is to unseat city council incumbents, this is one of my favorite victories. Numbers matter and they work.

      6. Rich Marks Geneva alderman

      This was a really tough one. With Tom Simonian running the kind of campaign that alienated voters at every turn, we had to stick to a basic ground game strategy that generally tended to work.

      In the end, Rich was the only incumbent that survived that bloodbath. I’m still trying to convince him run for mayor in 2121.

      7. Taylor Egan for D304 (Geneva) School Board

      This was my favorite campaign. I really like Taylor, and after running a disastrous first school board campaign she listened and did everything right. The result was she was the top vote getter in a field that included four incumbents. That doesn’t happen very often.

      I’m running a countywide sheriff campaign right now.

      As far as a county board race, a lot of it depend on whom you’re running against. Some of them cannot be beaten.

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