Quick Hits – December 22, 2017

A reminder!

Unless a really big local story breaks or I feel particularly inspired, Quick Hits will be taking Christmas through New Year’s Day off. Between the LSAT and all the recent writing, I’m really looking forward to a mental break.

And after that brief respite, given the need to contend with a heightened campaign season and an April 2 ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book rollout, Quick Hits will likely move from MWF to Tuesdays and Thursdays, with some sporadic content thrown in in between.

 

This is flippin’ hilarious!

A Dayton, Ohio, family came up with the perfect holiday gift for their son Jake’s teachers! It was bottles of wine emblazoned with his gleaming visage, bearing the inscription, “Our child might be the reason you drink, so enjoy this bottle on us!”

Wine Bottles

This incredibly funny and self-deprecating gesture has fully restored my faith in my fellowman, at least through Christmas week, after which, I’m sure somebody somewhere will do something stupid enough to remind me why that faith was utterly misplaced.

 

Yes! It really is a travesty, Your Honor!

Judge D. J. Tegeler said it was an “absolute travesty” that attempted murder defendant Scott Turyna could not be placed under the now defunct Kane County court GPS monitoring system. And I agree! But probably not for the same reasons

Briefly, Turyna, who was disarmed by then St. Charles School Board President Steven Spurling, fired five shots at his wife who lay bleeding in their driveway.

tegeler

Judge D. J. Tegler

But Yes! It certainly is a travesty that Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles and Court Services Director Lisa Aust used the GPS monitoring program as an ill-advised bargaining chip in a battle to avoid the 3.6 percent budget cuts that virtually every other department head went along with.

Former Chief Judge Judith Brawka didn’t have these kinds of problems because she was smart enough to work with the County Board, and not arrogant enough work against them.

Even now, instead of maintaining their own fiefdoms, if those 16th Circuit Judges voted to implement our previously discussed DeKalb County-esque courtroom efficiencies, the GPS program could be brought back in a flash.

It would also be nice if they actually worked a full day for those 200 grand salaries (To be fair, Tegeler puts in more hours than most judges.)

But that aint’ about to happen, is it Your Honor? And that’s the real travesty.

 

Do I really have to say it again?

Look, I love the whole journalism thing, and I love (most of) my readers, too. Why, I frequently propose to the women AND men who manage to come up with a cogent point or counterpoint. But lately, some of y’all are starting to drive me crazy – not that it’s a very long trip.

And that includes one high-ranking KCSAO prosecutor who, under the guise of anonymity, insists upon leveling personal attacks through this blog. Apparently, wielding the full power of the people isn’t nearly enough for some people.

For folks who regularly put people in jail, the average prosecutor’s ultra-thin skin is a most magnificent irony.

Considering the vast amount of unpaid time that goes into producing Quick Hits, and the fact that it doesn’t help my business – it actually hurts it , there’s certain shit up with which I will not put. And that list includes:

1. Don’t make me the story. If you want to bitch about my dismal IQ, my lack of moral fiber, or my lengthy criminal record, pry your lazy white ass off the sofa long enough to start your own blog and build your own audience. Because you’re not going to do it on my time or in my space.

2. If you actually have an idea, by all means, agree or disagree with me as vigorously as you like. If, like State Rep Anna Moeller, you refer to me as “rude and obnoxious,” I’ll give you bonus points for creativity. But if you insist upon engaging in the kind of stupidity I simply cannot condone, not only will you be prevented from commenting on the blog, but you will be added to my already lengthy 140 person Facebook blocked list.

Put more simply, since you can’t fix stupid, I’m not even gonna try.

3. This really is a subset of point 2, but if, after I make a well-reasoned argument while providing a reasonable amount of evidence, and someone demands that I provide more proof while failing to offer anything other than, “I think you’re wrong because that’s what I think,” you’re gone!

And that’s especially true if you continue to press me after I explain that the time I spend on Quick Hits has to be finite.

Again! Pry your lazy white ass off the couch long enough to do your own damn homework and logically rebut my point, or perhaps you can pay me to research the requested data. But to demand that I perform your due diligence at no charge? All I can say is the entitlement mentality of some of ya’ll is way beyond the fuckin’ pale.

4. Before you go after me, please consider my entire body of work. The fact that we’ve agreed 75 percent of the time – or even half the time – should count for something. But if you’re one of those folks who insists that I think in lockstep with you – something that would certainly give me a migraine – you’re gone!

With that out of the way, let’s continue the conversation.

 

Yikes!

Apparently, I’m not going to get to that why the U-46 School District should be broken up conclusion today. We’ll save that for the New Year, which will give me plenty of time to re-gird my loins for even more annoying responses.

Quick Hits – December 20, 2017

U-46 really is too big – Part 2

Despite the imminent pitchfork and torch armed mob’s arrival, let’s continue the conversation regarding the fact that U-46 should be broken up into two or three smaller school districts. Since I’m shocked I’ve made it as far as 59 anyway, I have absolutely no problem diving into the whole angels and fools thing.

What’s particularly amusing about this debate is, everyone asks me to provide all sorts of proof, but they fail to offer the scantest support for their bigger is better theory. Of course, my best evidence is twelve years covering government entities of all shapes and sizes and, with rate exception, the bigger they are, the more problematic and difficult they are to manage.

u46

Put more simply, without casting any aspersions on anyone in U-46, there are limits to what one central team in one central office can accomplish on behalf of 40,400 diverse students spread out over 90 square miles. That’s why it’s called the law of diminishing returns.

And when I say “diminishing returns,” as it is with any profession or business, I also mean the pool of truly talented individuals only runs so deep. And this statistical reality puts any extra-large school district at yet another distinct disadvantage. By virtue of its very size, U-46 is frequently forced to settle for various shades of mediocrity.

I’ve seen it firsthand!

To make that matter so much worse, the people who prefer being a small cog in such a large gear tend to be those who embrace a lack of accountability. Have you ever tried to get a large corporation to admit who actually made the mistake? Given the opportunity to become a U-46 or St. Charles administrator, I’d choose D303 every time.

All that said, an alternative to a district breakup would be to implement the kind of borough-like system New York City uses to make administering that behemoth much more manageable. U-46 could install three sub-superintendents with offices in Elgin, Streamwood, and Bartlett, all of whom would report back to the CEO. It would be far more efficient than the current setup, and whatever extra salaries would be required would be offset by the new efficiencies.

But the best reason U-46 should be downsized is the district’s size inexorably turns it into a proxy war battleground.

To wit, U-46 is the largest Illinois school district in which board members are elected and not appointed. Since school boards deal with two of our most precious commodities – children and money – U-46 has become an unofficial arena for board members on both partisan sides to push an ideological agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with student performance and welfare.

Would the Edgar County Loons have descended upon U-46 if it weren’t for its size, the potential publicity, and certain board members’ propensity to resort to a purely political divide? Nope!

Think about all the time wasted on pointless overflow board meetings, pointless board bickering by both factions, and carpet baggers trying to turn the district into a self-serving ideological war of attrition.

Name another Illinois school district where this kind of insipid warfare has raged on for three long years? Don’t bother trying, because you can’t do it.

Some folks did reasonably argue that, were U-46 to be divided, it would cost them the Larkin Academy and a few other benefits only large districts can offer. Why? Since the Great Recession, to keep property taxes down, municipalities are cooperating on heavy equipment purchases like snow plows, fire trucks and specialized police vehicles. And they’re putting on multi-municipality fireworks displays, too.

Then a couple of people asked, “What if these new districts don’t cooperate?” That’s not evidence, that’s fear, and fear never gets us anywhere. I’d like to think that the folks who teach our children to cooperate would be able to adhere to the same low standard.

Other folks argued that property taxes would skyrocket if the district was divided, but they cited Bartlett’s earlier attempt to secede from the district, which was an entirely different proposition.  I’m sure costs would go up in the short run, but if it significantly improves the prospect of student success – as I strongly suspect it would – isn’t it worth that temporary short-term cost?

Bleep! I’m going overtime again. That means you can look forward to my conclusion in part three on Friday.  (If I live that long.)

Quick Hits – December 18, 2017

Going forward…

Considering campaigns will soon start heating up, the due diligence required to bring you the kind of stories the newspapers can’t handle, my business coach (Brian Basilico) is correctly kicking my ass to move forward with Forward Communication, and I desperately need to get my ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book out there, Quick Hit’s might be a little more sporadic going forward.

I may shift it to Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I’ll definitely be taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s off.

Meanwhile, please keep those stories coming! There’s a whole lot of you, but only one of me so I always appreciate your willingness to reach out.

 

Get Matt Brennan’s book!

With the above stipulation issued, I thought it would be fun to start with a purely positive piece.

Yesterday, former suburban Sun-Times reporter Matt Brennan and I were engaged in yet another interesting political discussion, when I asked him how his new book was doing.

You see, instead of bitching and whining about the downfall of local newspapers, Matt, who toiled for the Courier and Beacon-News at the same time I did, built a new career as a Marketing Copywriter. In that very regard, in May, he published a book called ‘Write Right – Sell Now, How to Create Content That Will Grow Your Business’

Write Right - Sell Now: How to Create Content That Will Grow Your Business by [Brennan, Matthew]

It’s a book I highly recommend to anyone who needs to get their Net messaging right – an often-daunting proposition. Please don’t mistake the fact it’s a short and easy read for a lack of pithiness, because that’s clearly not the case.

I forget the name of the astute writer who said this, but truer words than this were never spoken; “Oh! You want it short? That’ll cost you twice as much!”

“My business has also been going well,” Matt said, “Essentially, I help businesses and organizations tell stories that sell. Over the last year I’ve had an increase in technology clients, whether it’s some sort of app development, IT, or tech hardware.”

Please pick up a copy of his book, and here’s where you can find Matt if you need him!

 

Ain’t that the truth!

The opening spoken word line on N.E.R.D.’s first song off their current album, ‘No_One Ever Really Dies,’ is, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Yep!

 

U-46 really is too big!

So, yesterday I foolishly entered the Facebook fray regarding conservative Illinois State Rep and GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives’ assertion that the U-46 School District needs to be broken up. She said some smaller districts needed to be consolidated as well.

I’m happy – and pleasantly surprised – to report that it was a generally civil debate, despite the fact that the always fascinating ultra-rightwing U-46 school board member, Jeanette Ward, openly supports Ives’ theory.

Ives Ward

But all inspirational civility aside, I was confounded that I was the only one sitting squarely on the break it up side. It’s actually something I’ve fervently espoused since my family lived in Streamwood from 1991 to 1998.

But before we go there, let’s make a point of leaving the Chicago Public School system out of the mix. They’re an utter anomaly because the statutes governing Cook County bear no resemblance to what’s required of any other Illinois county. And CPS is a massive mess, too.

Back to the issue at hand!

U-46 regularly contends with 40,400 students, making it 41 percent bigger than the next largest school district, Rockford 205. And any time you can say “41 percent bigger” in regard to what’s ultimately a management quandary, it becomes a problem by default. There’s a reason no other Illinois district crosses the 30,000-student boundary.

Yes! CEO Tony Sanders does a great job, a caveat Larry Jones and I regularly repeated on the radio show. But we’re not always going to have Tony. Having to manage that many schools and that many students, by its inherently unwieldy nature, is going to be problematic for all but the top-of-the-line of CEO’s and superintendents.

Remember, we’ve all seen that not all leaders are created equal.

Look no further than former Superintendent Connie Neal and whomever had the gig when my family lived in Streamwood in the mid 90’s. The district essentially descended into the kind of civil war that I haven’t seen before or since. We moved to Geneva on the sole basis of being utterly unwilling to send our sons to U-46 schools.

Former Superintendent Jose Torres was certainly a vast improvement over Neal, but even someone of his great intellect had trouble holding it all together. Even though he certainly has the communications skillset, Tony Sanders does it by working the kind of hours that would kill most mortal men.

Because of the challenges that size brings, U-46 consistently runs the risk of hiring a CEO or superintendent who’s doomed to fail them. There’s a reason we four-wheelers can’t simply step up and drive a semi with that CDL license. Breaking up U-46 would go a long way towards mitigating this indisputable and unnecessary risk.

Not only that, but the needs of the students U-46 serves are so disparate, they’d be better served if it was split into three separate districts:

  • Bartlett, South Elgin, Wayne
  • Elgin
  • Streamwood, Hanover Park, Schaumberg, Hoffman Estates, etc…

Granted, that’s a vast oversimplification that doesn’t take facility age into account, but think about it! Three 14,000 student school districts would be a far more manageable proposition. Heck! Two 20,500 student school districts would be a far better option.

Holy crap! I’ve already crossed the 1k word mark! We’ll continue this U-46 conversation on Wednesday.

Quick Hits – December 15, 2017

It ain’t over until the men and women in black sing

Alright my socially liberal brothers and sisters! Let’s all take a deep breath in 2…3…4…5; hold it 2…3…4…5; and exhale 2…3…4…5!

Better? Good! Now, trust me, the sky isn’t falling.

dont-tread-on-net2

I know the scurrilous Orangeman just dispensed with Net Neutrality, but within a mere hour of that errant FCC ruling, the appropriate lawsuits were already filed. Since it’s going to take quite a while for those cases to wind their way up to the Supreme Court, there’s no need to start hoarding bandwidth just yet.

Furthermore, every public utility – and the Net is a public utility – has had to fend off this kind of blatant corporate monopolistic power grab in its time. And thankfully, the courts almost always rule in favor of the public.

Remember when SBC, as they were called back then, tried to force their competitors to pay for using “their pipes” as they put it? Considering it was the consumers who paid for those “pipes” via a tax on every phone bill, that effort didn’t go too well for one of my least favorite companies.

So, buck up my progressive compatriots! That Hulu episode of Dr. Who ain’t gonna slow down and start pixelating just yet. And when you consider our President’s vast capacity to shoot himself in various body parts, he may be gone long before the loss of Net Neutrality brings darkness down across the land.

 

If there was any doubt before…

There ain’t any more. Even Donald Trump called newly elected Alabama Senator Doug Jones to congratulate him on his upset victory. But Roy “God is always in control” Moore still refuses to do the right thing and concede.

Think about it! Our generally belligerent and tone-deaf president was more gracious than our failed senate candidate. That’s something I never thought I’d say!

roy-moore-2e10d9314e8607a9

Moore is clinging to the beyond false hope that a mere 1,500 outstanding military ballots will someone offset Jones’ 21,000 vote lead. Of course, when you consider the women he “dated,” Moore never was very good at math.

There may not be many of ‘em left, but one of the few remaining political niceties is congratulating your opponent when they’ve won the race. Moore’s outright refusal to perform that simple task speaks volumes.

It may be terrifying to some, but I say it’s fascinating to watch the national Republican Party implode under the weight of its capacity to sink lower than anyone ever thought they possibly could.

 

A new Kane County Board attorney

In yet another non-news story, the Daily Herald reported that Kane County Board attorney Patrick Kinnally is moving on. While it’s certainly worth noting that Kinnally consistently preformed admirably in the face of a situation that most closely resembles herding cats, that clearly wasn’t the DH’s focus.

No! Once again, their local reporter used this “opportunity” to take yet another shot at Chairman Chris Lauzen. Of course, when Karen McConnaughay was Chairman, this reporter completely failed to make any mention of the fact that Ken Shepro was her personal attorney, the County Board attorney, and he represented developers who did business with the county.

lauzen 2

I’m convinced Ken’s real middle name is “Conflict of Interest.”

So, in an effort to get the Daily Herald to finally cover some real news, let’s, once and for all, stipulate that Chairman Lauzen:

  • Doesn’t always play well with others
  • Tends to take things personally
  • May not be the most forgiving at times
  • Doesn’t like to hear the word “no” from an attorney

But he has managed to keep the property tax levy flat, and all of those bullet points tend to apply to yours truly, as well as most of his detractors.

Using Kinnally’s quiet departure to attack the Chairman – again – is the worst kind of low hanging fruit journalism. What’s next? Lauzen cuts the tags off mattresses and rebroadcasts games without Major League Baseball’s express written consent?

Meanwhile, of today’s 24 main section DH articles, only nine of them cover local issues. If you take out the two Crystal Lake stories which really don’t apply here, that makes it just seven.

As one of my favorite former editors likes to say, “The Daily Herald is a mile wide and an inch thick.” Yep!

 

Ives has NO shot

So, all the sudden all the newspaper pundits are trying to tell us that State Rep Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) not only has a shot at unseating Governor Rauner, but she might just get by the Democratic gubernatorial nominee as well.

I can tell you the answers to those two suppositions are a definitive “no” and “no!”

Ives

And I can tell you this because Illinois Republicans are so mired in that Einsteinian definition of insanity that they simply keep doing the same thing over and over again. And the same thing is:

1. The Democratic governor either goes to jail or does something so stupid it opens the door to a Republican candidate. (Who might just end up in jail, too!)

2. The electorate, fed up with Illinois politicians, falls for all that “government should be run like business” bullshit and elects a businessman.

3. But since political progress always depends upon consensus building, running it like a business inevitably fails, and the faithful start to lose faith in their messiah who was somehow going to save them from themselves.

4. Then, when their “conservative” candidate develops a chink in their Republican social issue armor, despite a host of previously ignored shortcomings, the faithful rise up and demand yet another true believer come forth to supplant the infidel.

5. And one always does! But though they might successfully primary the pretender, running on a social issue platform in a purple state damns them to defeat at the hands of whatever dismal candidate the Democrats manage to come up with.

6. Then we’re right back to the same kind of supermajority shit that got us into this fiscal mess in the first place.

Like the shampoo bottle says, then it’s “rinse, lather, and repeat.”

When are Illinois Republicans and Republican voters going to wise up and get smart? On second thought, don’t answer that question. It would be far too depressing.

Quick Hits – December 13, 2017

A win for common sense – I think!

I’m not sure if I should be shocked that Democrat Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in that infamous Alabama race, or shocked that a pedophile lost a senate seat by a scant half-percent (21,000 votes).

171210-roy-moore-doug-jones-se-900p_f5af78faf6030d564f913984253e3f21

But all fence-sitting aside, that in no way changes these truths:

  1. That Donald Trump “magic” is wearing off faster than anyone expected.
  2. The average “Christian” voter is finally catching up with some GOP candidates’ blatant hypocrisy.
  3. This Alabama race bodes very poorly for all 2018 Republican candidates, especially if black voters continue to turn out at that 30 percent clip.
  4. Women still matter in Alabama.

But I would advise all those flexing-their-new-muscles Democrats to hold off on the celebratory backslapping, because voters did not embrace their platform, they simply repudiated Trumpism.

So, while this special election and the Virginia governor’s race are certainly auspicious signs, the current Democratic messaging machine reminds more of a 1987 Yugo with 346,000 miles on it than a 2018 Mercedes S-Class Sedan coming straight off the lot. If Democrats truly want to be the party of inclusion, that includes finding a way to reach all those working-class folks who felt the Party left them behind.

The fact that Moore came that close shows the Republicans are way ahead in the spin game.

All that said, considering this almost impossible Alabama result, real Republicans need to take their party back now, or risk having nothing to take back. The fact that a sitting president, Christian ministers and a slew of Republican Congressmen supported, and even endorsed Moore, should not have been tolerated for even ten seconds.

And if the GOP doesn’t stop pandering to their rabid old white male base, the Republican Party will die right along with them.

 

A Republican that gets it!

As a result of Elgin Community College Trustee Jeff Meyer’s leadership and capacity to build consensus, that board just voted to keep their property tax levy flat for the foreseeable future. Jeff explained the fiscal math, but you pretty much need an accounting degree to understand it.

Jeff Meyer

So, while the Tea Party rants and raves about social issues, and those Springfield politicians pay particular homage to the ever deepening partisan divide, Jeff Meyer successfully brought a fiscally conservative policy to fruition.

Take note Republicans! Regularly shrieking about the falling sky ain’t the answer. This is the only way that true political progress ever transpires.

 

This isn’t the real danger

If you read the papers this morning, you probably saw the story about the 43 year-old Chicago man who attempted to abduct a 13 year-old St. Charles girl as she walked home from the school bus stop. God bless the young woman who escaped her attacker by biting him.

Earlier in the week, as an 11 year-old Naperville girl exited her school bus, she was approached by a motorist who asked if she needed a ride. That smart girl ran to adult who immediately reported it to the police.

stranger danger

These rare incidents are certainly the stuff of parental nightmares, but I want to remind everyone that 85 to 95 percent of sexual abuse victims were “groomed” by their eventual attackers, who turned out to be family friends, an authority figure or a relative.

So, while it’s certainly worthwhile to teach our children about stranger danger, it’s far more important to apply the kind of spider sense that automatically notes when an adult is paying far too much attention to one of our children. A suddenly withdrawing child is another danger sign.

The bottom line is, though those newspaper reports tend to make us fear and believe otherwise, the real sexual abuse threat to our children almost always comes from within.

 

It only seems to get worse

Insiders are telling me that Lark Cowart’s impending departure from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s juvenile division is sending that already troubled group into a complete tailspin. I want to be clear that my sources do not include Ms. Cowart, who hasn’t had a negative thing to say about her soon-to-be former employer or co-workers.

McMahon 2

The problem, once again, goes back to absentee State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, who’s far more interested in using his position to move up than he is in serving the people who elected him.

Since juveniles have no political power, and juvenile justice generally doesn’t make the right headlines, McMahon seems all too ready, willing and able to let that division twist in the wind at a time when it really requires his undivided attention.

Thankfully, there’s still time to right the ship, and considering what’s at stake, I certainly hope that turns out to be the case.

Quick Hits – December 11, 2017

A few good candidates?

Apparently, that’s too much to ask, because when I look at the gaggle running for Illinois governor, I automatically reach for two or three Xanax.

Bruce Rauner has been a dismal failure at a time Illinois can’t afford another dismal failure. Considering that the National Review just called him “the worst Republican governor in the country,” I’m actually starting to feel somewhat sorry for him, but not sorry enough to shed a tear when the voters inevitably send him packing.

Oh! And apparently he’s not in charge, either.

biss-kennedy-rauner-pritzker-combo

State Rep Jeanne Ives is, once again, going out of her way to prove that Republicans can’t let go of the social issues that consistently doom their electoral hopes in this solidly purple state. She may make it out of the GOP primary, but she has absolutely no shot against whomever the Democratic nominee might be.

And speaking of Democratic nominees, that’s exactly what J. B. Pritzker will be, but to quote the great Harry Chapin, “He’s nothing yet to make the folks write home.” The only reason Pritzker is leading this sad Democratic pack is he has more money than any of the other contestants.

His entire platform, “I’m not Donald Trump” and “I’m not Governor Rauner who is Donald Trump,” hardly builds much confidence. Granted, platitudes tend to win campaigns, but I’d like some idea of how he plans to work with Mike Madigan to pull us back from the fiscal abyss.

Can anyone tell me why Chris Kennedy is running? Even he doesn’t seem too terribly excited about it. Considering his money and the family name, his may well be the worst gubernatorial campaign I’ve ever seen.

Scott Lee Cohen with his “I didn’t know my girlfriend was a prostitute” slogan ran a better race than Kennedy has.

Daniel Biss? Though I’ve heard he’s actually a decent candidate, if you can’t get the running mate part right, what makes you think we should trust you to run the state?

All I can say is, God help the Land of Lincoln!

 

It gets worse

Given their abysmal track records, there’s nothing more I’d like to see than 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren and his 6th District counterpart, Peter Roskam, be sent home by the voters – to some other state. But despite the current Trump solicited Republican vulnerability, neither possibility will come to pass.

Why not you ask? Because there are seven Dems running for Roskam’s seat and five are taking a crack at Hultgen.

prrhpt33016-1024x576

Not only is it incredibly difficult to find your way out of that kind of primary pack, but if you do, you’ll have burned whatever limited campaign funds you have, and your message tends to get lost in the crowd. And if any of them go negative before March 20, a likely possibility, they’re only doing the Republicans’ dirty work.

Meanwhile, with no primary challengers, Hultgren and Roskam simply get to sit back and watch the festivities.

My fondest wish is that the Illinois Democrats could’ve somehow picked the two candidates most likely to pick our errant Congressmen off. Beyond the basic pack mentality problem, most of them have absolutely no shot at winning those seats in two generally Republican districts.

When you consider the time, effort and money that goes into a Congressional campaign, it’s hard to watch these hopefuls bang their heads against the political wall.

I’ve said it before! Not all backroom deals are bad. The problem is, the Republican Party is much better at this game and, until the national Democrats catch up, Roskam and Hultgren will continue to rack up election victories.

Five or seven primary candidates is not the way to beat an incumbent folks!

 

It ain’t just the Democrats

In what can only be described as the equal and opposite reaction to Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen running a number of candidates against sitting board members, Wayne attorney Ken Shepro was just appointed chairman of the Kane County Republican Party.

Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell stepped down from that position last week because you can’t run for judge and hold a party office.

ar-160319754

If you recall, Shepro was the board attorney under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay, and, in an effort to keep him from focusing on the Coroner’s race, he was Lauzen’s primary opponent in 2016.

Shepro will hold the GOP Chair until at least until March when the party precinct committeemen will take the official vote.

Perhaps I’m beyond naïve, but even though they clearly aren’t on each other’s Christmas card list, I’m fervently hoping these two eminently intelligent men can put their past differences aside and work for the betterment of the Kane County Republican Party.

Because if they can’t find a way to come together, or at least peacefully coexist, the Democrats have a real chance of flipping the county board this round.

It’s not that I have a dog in that fight – some of my best friends are Democrats – I’m simply reporting on a possibility as I perceive it.

Quick Hits – December 8, 2017

Political odds and ends

With all the nominating paperwork in and hopeless write-in candidates the only remaining option, let’s quickly cover the stragglers who turned their nominating petitions in at the end of the filing period.

As expected, Jack Cunningham filed his paperwork on Monday to limit the possibility of a challenge. It was a smart move as he has been thrown off the ballot before (and no one caught his major 2014 error).

 

This time, Jack’s signature sheets are rock solid, so he will face his former Chief Deputy, Stan Bond, in the March 20 primary. Again, I think Cunningham will win this one without breaking much of a sweat.

Meanwhile, though I typically applaud anyone with the cojones to throw their hat in the ring, Nicolas “Nico” Jimenez also entered that race on the Democratic side, making Don Quixote’s capacity to tilt at windmills pale by comparison.

If you recall, Nico, tried to unseat 18th District County Board member, Drew Frasz, in the abundantly Republican Blackberry Township, and he lost big. Considering the still Republican leaning Kane County voters, whether it’s Bond or Cunningham, the result will be the same.

One of the cardinal rules of running for office is to pick a race you can win. With today’s 24/7 news cycle, two losses, and especially two large losses, in a row makes it almost impossible to win the next one. So, while I certainly appreciate his enthusiasm, my fervent wish is that Mr. Jimenez had chosen a bit more wisely.

Treasurer Dave Rickert also submitted his paperwork on Monday, but that timing is immaterial because, even if he had an opponent, he’s virtually unbeatable. He’s done a great job with that office and, considering all of his input into my impending ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book, he’d be a tough target regardless of his record.

 

But no PCs!

This one continues to baffle me.

The Tea Party’s biggest mistake, among many, is their abject failure to get precinct committeemen elected. They didn’t even bother to slate very many! They were so busy with their silly social issue stances, they never quite figured out where the real political power lies.

Granted, our light speed media culture has rendered the old-school PC worker bee somewhat obsolete, but they, and only they, elect the local party leaders. And if you control the party leaders, you control the party.

Despite this all-to-obvious reality, with the exception of Aurora and Elgin, every even-year election sees a precipitous drop in the number of folks willing to get the 10 signatures necessary to serve as precinct committeeman.

To wit, there are 169 non-city of Aurora/Elgin precincts and, right now, only 69 have GOP PC candidates, while a mere 47 PC candidates are running on the Democratic side. Were I elected chairman of either party – a prospect that terrifies me even more than Donald Trump – that’s the first thing I’d attempt to address.

 

Crain’s gets it right!

Fed up with trolls and stupid people, and there are plenty of both, Crain’s Chicago Business just eliminated all reader commentary on their website. This eminently smart move eliminates the impossible tasks of enforcing non-anonymity rules and trying to keep the worst offenders from regularly destroying the conversation.

Crains-Chicaog-Business-logo

Readers can still comment on Facebook where’s it much easier to block and moderate the chicken shit readers who can’t seem to muster the courage to use their real names.

Crain’s, the last Illinois bastion of real journalism, did the right thing.

 

It must be something in the water

All Kane County cities have an overarching personality. Though I’m not terribly fond of the motto, Elgin really is The City in the Suburbs. Aurora’s is based on the kind of diversity that being Illinois’ second largest city brings

Geneva is the City of Whites, St. Charles embodies a mature calmness, and Batavia always seems to feel like the lost Tri-Cities stepchild. Sugar Grove, Elburn and Pingree grove are experiencing growing pains. North Aurora is a bit insular, Carpentersville is the working man’s town, and Gilberts and Maple Park have retained their rural flair.

But Huntley is fucking nuts!

Huntley

Don’t get me wrong, every municipality has issues, but Huntley’s most recent claim to fame is three well-reported racist attacks revolving around the high school since last February. One of them included blatantly bigoted pamphlets taped to lockers.

That wouldn’t normally be enough for me to dismiss an entire town, but when you add my experience as a travel soccer coach, all this negative news doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The parents were nuts, the coaches were more nuts and the players, especially the middle school girls, were downright petulant and nasty. Then they’d all concoct the tallest of tales to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their boorish behavior.

This, of course, begs the question, can you prescribe Prozac to an entire village?

Quick Hits: December 6, 2017

A sad sight to see

As I’ve previously explained, despite whatever my “fan club” might say (And they do say it!), my regular critiques of local papers aren’t a matter of spite, they’re an effort to get those folks to wake up and dispense with the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

Considering the current climate, we need solid local journalism now more than ever.

But, as is almost always the inexorable local newspaper death march case, those prospects just dimmed a bit more as the Elgin Courier-News quietly cut back to three print editions a week – Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.

Courier

And we all know going Net only isn’t an option, because those ads don’t bring in one-tenth of their print counterparts. But what I don’t get is, why would the Tribune (Tronc) purchase these former Sun-Times properties only to watch them bleed out?

Considering the lack of any real Elgin competition, had Tronc put any effort or even a meager amount of cash into their new holding, it would’ve stabilized the situation, and perhaps even reversed it.

But letting them twist in the wind like this has made their intentions abundantly clear.

So, to all the folks who worked so hard to make the Courier-News what it once was – Mike Bailey, Paul Harth, Dave Gathman among so many others – I feel your pain. It’s sad to see a once vibrant newspaper simply fade away.

 

The worst kept secret in Kane County

As The First Ward predicted (though I got the judge wrong a couple of times), former Kane County State’s Attorney and 16th Circuit Judge David Akemann filed his retirement paperwork with the Illinois Supreme Court on Monday, the last day that would trigger a circuit-wide judicial primary.

courtjudgegavel

Had His Honor filed those documents a scant day later, the Supreme Court would’ve had to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the next even-year election. But since judges can’t keep any secret whatsoever, everyone was aware that one of ‘em was gonna bow out at the last minute.

Given the plethora of entries in this newly necessary election, I can’t say for sure who was intended to be the beneficiary of Akemann’s suspect timing largesse, but if I was a betting man, I’d say it was Associate Judge Betsy Flood, who seemed to know the specific details about this impending vacancy before anyone else did.

The advantage of that early warning is, the in-the-know candidate could assemble a campaign team and have them ready to hit the ground running to get the required 500 signatures by 12/28 – not an easy thing to do over the holidays.

Of course, my sources at the Illinois State Board of Elections and Supreme Court immediately informed me of this development, and I in turn, made Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell and almost former head KCSAO juvenile prosecutor, Lark Cowart, aware as well.

So, they’re well on their way to submitting their nominating paperwork as we speak.

The Republican contestants beyond Hartwell include, Judge David Kliment, and the aforementioned Judge Flood.

 

Considering Kliment sentenced an 18 year-old who firebombed two separate properties to just 15 days, the only real GOP choice is Tom Hartwell. Having been invited to be a part of his campaign team, I will be working diligently on his behalf.

Though I tried to convince her to run as a Republican, Cowart will face former Elgin State Senator Mike Noland in the Democratic primary. You remember Mike! He’s the guy who:

  • Got thrown out of a Carpentersville polling place by the police
  • Got stopped for speeding while he had a ticket for no insurance
  • Got caught stealing his opponent’s yard signs red-handed, and best of all
  • Got caught plagiarizing a JFK speech on the Springfield Senate floor

Trust me, the last thing we need is John Dalton and Mike Noland as sitting 16th Circuit judges. That prospect frightens me even more than Donald Trump carrying the nuclear football.

BTW, one of the reasons Lark Cowart is one of my favorite people on the planet is she sticks to her guns no matter what the personal cost. She too, would make an ideal judge.

Given my predilection toward prognostication, Hartwell will win the Republican nomination and Cowart will easily dispense with Noland. Then, as that great philosopher and staunch Cubs fan Tom Hartwell said, “Let the chips fall where they may.”

 

Methinks he doth protest too much

When news of his sudden retirement hit the press, Judge Akemann was quoted as saying:

I felt quite strongly I wanted to give everyone interested an opportunity to run and let the people decide on their next judge. It’s time to move on to something else. It’s a privilege and an honor and will remain so to serve as a judge.”

ar-710129949

Judge David Akemann

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked David and I’ve always enjoyed our journalistic conversations – he has a great legal mind. But as my favorite TV Judge likes to say, “Not even you believe yourself.” Well, either that or, “I wouldn’t believe you if your tongue came notarized.”

So, what the Judge is saying is he “accidentally” retired on the last day to launch a primary? Oh no he didn’t! Had Akemann truly wanted a level playing field, he would’ve stepped down BEFORE November 13, which would’ve given everyone an ample opportunity to truly compete.

And he knew he was going to retire as early as September.

To quote that great philosopher, Paul Simon, “Who do you think you’re foolin?”

 

An ethical canon conundrum

I bet most of you weren’t aware of this, but running a judicial race requires a specific kind of candidate comportment. To wit:

  • Beyond their legal or judicial track records, they cannot speak ill of an opponent – even through third parties.
  • They cannot raise campaign funds directly, they must appoint a fundraising committee.
  • They cannot take a contribution that would create any kind of conflict of interest.
  • They cannot engage in any behavior that would reflect poorly on the judiciary.
  • They cannot put the word “judge” before their name or wear a black robe on any campaign material unless they actually are a judge

And the stakes are pretty high, too! Any violation of those precepts can result in disbarment, which makes it impossible to serve as a judge.

Though I won’t name names, (Mike Noland), I’m convinced some of our candidates won’t abide by those stipulations.

noland

Mike Noland

So, to quote an infamous president, let me make this perfectly clear. I’ve asked my spies, and they are everywhere, to report back any instance of direct fundraising by any candidate, which will immediately be reported to the Judicial Inquiry Board or Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

That will mean the swift end of that candidate’s campaign. So let’s all behave, shall we!

Quick Hits – December 4, 2017

Local race roundup – Part three

Alright readers! We’re heading into the home stretch with the second half of the Kane County board open seats analysis and one other interesting issue. So, without further ado:

2018-elections

District 13

This one pits three-term Republican incumbent, Phil Lewis, against primary opponent Steve Weber, also of St. Charles.

Like I’ve previously said, three terms is more than enough for any board member and, considering his long tenure, Lewis still fails to grasp the basic rules of order, any Kane County political or financial reality, and some of the stuff he comes up with makes you want to bang your head against the nearest wall.

There’s the monorail, his bizarre plan for randomly cutting county staff, and he continues to cling to a doomed-to-fail building permit fee increase as the panacea for the recent budget cuts. To say he’s in over his head after 12 years would be the mildest of understatements. I don’t dislike Phil, but he’s become a political embarrassment and it’s time for him to go.

The thing is, it’s virtually impossible to beat a Lewis in St. Charles, and while he’s certainly aggravated his peers, he hasn’t done anything to directly aggravate the voters, because they’re generally not that smart either.

If anyone does have a shot, it would be Weber, who’s backed by Chairman Chris Lauzen. And though I still believe chairmen should avoid trying to unseat board members, this is the one case where I’m more than OK with it.

I’d actually like my board member to actually be able accomplish something.

There is no Democratic candidate in this demonstrably Republican district.

 

District 15

Let’s move on to this Campton Hills based district in which five-term incumbent Barb Wojnicki has two Republican primary opponents, Robert Koonce and Austin Lawler. This three-way dynamic, of course, virtually guarantees her reelection.

With Lauzen supporting Koonce and Lawler’s late Friday afternoon entry, my suspicion was Wojnicki “encouraged” Lawler to enter the race as a “spoiler” who would split any vote against her. This morning, when I saw that Lawler’s signature sheets were notarized by 16th District board member, Mike Kenyon, those suspicions were confirmed.

The irony is, under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay’s reign, Wojnicki and Kenyon were on vastly different sides of the political fence. But when Kenyon got the Forest Preserve chairmanship over Wojnicki, she and Chairman Lauzen started drifting apart.

Enter Kenyon who, tired of being in the anti-Lauzen board minority, is helping a former enemy on the basis of her willingness to more frequently break from the Chairman. Those shifting political sands certainly make for some rather strange bedfellows, don’t they?

So the Chairman set up a Wojnicki primary opponent only to be trumped by another savvy political move. Though it means giving up that coveted first ballot spot, there’s often merit in waiting until the last minute to turn in your paperwork – it eliminates spoilers.

The thing is, though I’ve always liked Barb, the county board wasn’t meant to become a career. Like I said, she’s already served five terms, becoming less effective with each one. It’s time to give someone else a shot.

And former nuclear submarine captain Koonce is a magnificent candidate.

But between her successful opposition to the proposed Maxxam rehab center and two primary opponents, Wojnicki will easily win a sixth term.

Meanwhile, in a clear case of political insanity, two Democratic contenders have entered the 15th District fray, Gerald Palmere of Elgin and Lucas Strom of Maple Park. While I certainly applaud the intestinal fortitude of anyone willing to throw their hat in the ring, and I’ve learned that Mr. Strom is an excellent candidate, no Democrat will EVER win any Campton Hills based seat of any kind.

I hope I wasn’t too subtle there.

 

District 17

Now, we swing around to Elgin where four-term incumbent Deb Allen faces newcomer Janice Bennett in the Democratic primary.

Once again, four terms is one too many (and Deb really isn’t a Democrat), but Bennett is supported by that wacky Elgin Township Democrat group, who are, in turn, supported by the former State Senator Mike Noland, Judge John Dalton and legend in his own mind, Rich Jacobs, posse.

And the last thing we need is any more of that group in any government position anywhere. But my opinion is immaterial here, because no one’s gonna beat Deb Allen – EVER!

She successfully switched parties when her district was remapped, something most candidates can’t pull off on their best day. She’s also a tireless worker who actually likes knocking on doors, and as I note in my impending ‘So You Wanna Win a Local Election’ book, Deb is the politest politician I’ve ever met.

And that’s an unbeatable combination.

She’s so engaging and so nice that, after one brief meeting with Deb, you’ll offer to start mowing her lawn for free.

There’s no Republican challenger in the heavily Democratic 17th District.

 

District 19

This northern Kane County district features two-term incumbent Kurt Kojzarek on the Republican side, and three Democratic candidates – Mohammed ‘Mo’ Iqbal, John ‘Jack’ Shales and Thomas Gibbons.

Iqbal has absolutely no shot because, having run for almost everything else and lost, he’s been tagged with the dreaded “perennial candidate” label. His name doesn’t help him either. Before you call me a racist, yet again, I don’t make the rules, I just report them.

Though the Shales name carries some weight in Elgin (Shales Parkway), John Shales is only distantly related to his more famous family member, Jack. His father, Jim, also ran for a number of offices, including county board, and lost. So, the “perennial candidate” albatross will likely hang around his neck as well.

He may be able to find his way out of this primary field, but he’ll never beat someone of Kojzarek’s campaign caliber in that still Republican district.

Other than the fact he lives in Elgin, I don’t know Mr. Gibbons, but considering his competition, if he works hard enough, he could just as easily win the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, Kojzarek ranks right up there with John Hoscheit and John Martin as one of the most effective Kane County Board members I’ve ever seen. He deserves a third shot after which he will likely aim a little bit higher.

 

District 21

With Becky Gillam stepping down, Gilbert’s Cliff Surges is the only Republican in the running, as is Democratic Dundee Township resident Tara Jacobsen.

If you recall, Surges did reasonably well against former Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay in the then newly formed 33rd State Senate District, so he shouldn’t have much of a problem here.

That doesn’t mean I’m casting any aspersions in Ms. Jacobsen’s direction. Even with her staunch anti-Longmeadow Parkway bridge platform, it will be very difficult for any Democrat to win against a reasonable GOP candidate in that generally Republican district.

 

District 23

Phew! The last one!

Maggie Auger is also stepping down, which opens the door to Republicans Jim Patrician of Algonquin and Jonathan Radke of Carpentersville. Algonquin resident Christopher Kious is the lone Democratic entry.

This may be the only Kane County Board district in which either political party has a shot and, since I really don’t know any of these candidates, this race will likely go to the one who works the hardest. And from the number of signatures they acquired, it looks like Mr. Radke might have the upper campaign work ethic hand.

 

Either tomorrow or Wednesday…

Despite warning the men and women in black that I was onto them, I’d bet my life savings that Judge David Akemann will retire today, which will trigger a countywide judicial primary, which is leading to a very interesting primary field.

We’ll cover those festivities either on a special Tuesday Quick Hits or on Wednesday.

 

Quick Hits – December 1, 2017

Local race roundup – Part two

Having covered the countywide and judicial races on Wednesday, let’s move on to the Kane County Board contests, because there certainly are plenty of them, In fact, with all of the odd numbered district seats up in 2018, none of ‘em failed to generate some sort of challenger.

And the applicable phrase for these electoral showdowns, boys and girls, is “proxy war!” Can you say “proxy war?” I knew you could!

585811d742126-image_

District 1

This Aurora District pits two-term incumbent Myrna Molina against challenger Blanca Rodriguez.

Molina is a rather unique and quiet board member whom I’ve never quite been able to figure out. But since every board needs that kind of dimension, I’ve never had a problem with her, either. She also has a razor sharp wit which I’ve always appreciated.

Meanwhile, Ms. Rodriguez, who generally votes in presidential election cycles only, is clearly supported by Chairman Chris Lauzen. How do I know this? Her nominating petition signature sheets are signed and notarized the political operative with whom Lauzen tends to work.

But when you add Molina’s incumbency to the fact that most folks really don’t care about who their county board member is, if she’s willing to work the district, Myrna will run away with it.

Chris! If you’re going to run candidates against sitting board members, a practice I don’t recommend, you really shouldn’t be this obvious about it. It always motivates the other side.

By the way, there’s no Republican candidate in this one.

 

District 3

This is another Aurora race with incumbent Don Ishmael facing challenger Anita Marie Lewis.

Considering how much the gig aggravates him, I can’t imagine why Ishmael, my Chinese Jewish brother from another mother, would want to endure a second round, but he does. I appreciate Don’s ornery temperament (the world needs a lot more ornery), but it doesn’t work well in the kind of governing body that always requires a consensus

That said, the curious thing about Lewis is, not only do the Party databases tag her as a “Strong Republican,” an appellation that’s hard to earn, but she’s pulled a GOP ballot in every primary since 2006. That hasn’t stopped her from running a Democrat, however.

So, I firmly believe the Chairman is behind her candidacy as well.

The bottom line is, Ishmael is one of the few board Kane County politicians who truly knows how to campaign, so if he wants it, the seat is his.

Again, there’s no Republican candidate in this race.

 

District 5

Incumbent Bill Lennert will face Democrat Sandra King in November. I’m ready to call this one for Lennert right now because, all Trump bullshit aside, no Democrat will EVER will this Sugar Grove and Big Rock county board district.

Please understand, I have nothing against Ms. King and I applaud her for running. It’s just that you can’t ignore some political realities.

Bill’s done a pretty good job, too.

 

District 7

We’re back in Aurora again with two-term incumbent Monica Silva being challenged by the politically active Brian Gravenhorst who, according to his very lengthy voting record, is even more Republican than Ms. Lewis is.

So, we all know who’s supporting him in this Democratic primary.

I’ve always been fond of Monica and I’ve watched her grow into the kind of strong, independent, Latina board member that we could certainly use a few more of. But sadly, after a few disagreements, with the Chairman, he’s targeting her, too.

Aside from not being a Democrat, the most interesting thing about Gravenhorst is he got none of his own signatures, which doesn’t bode well for his work ethic. If Monica knocks on the right doors (and, trust me, she will), that third term will be hers.

There’s no Republican candidate in this one either.

 

District 9

Now we’re headed all the way out to Hampshire, Burlington and Pingree Grove. With incumbent T. R. Smith term-limiting himself after three rounds, we have two new Republican faces entering the fray, Tom Koppie and Connie Von Keudell.

Once again, you can tell from that notary stamp that Koppie, a former Rutland Township road commissioner, is Chairman Lauzens choice, and I will give him credit for getting all of his 82 signatures himself.

Von Keudell is a former Chairman Karen McConnaughay holdout whose shown no capacity to win an election or comport herself in anything close to the kind of political manner that gets results. The last thing Kane County needs is to go back to the days of my favorite pay-to-play chairman.

With Smith’s endorsement – especially in Del Webb – considering his work ethic, Koppie should win.

Since no Democrat could win this district, none is running!

 

District 11

Board member John Martin is running against Democratic newcomer Jody Kalikula. Again, I harbor no ill will towards Ms. Kalikula, but John has proven to be one of the best board members I’ve ever encountered anywhere and there’s no way a Democrat wins in that Geneva based district.

John has clearly earned a second term.

 

Yikes! With the LSAT looming large tomorrow and relaxation the order of my day, it looks like we’ll have to save the second half of the County Board race analysis for Monday. Until then!

 

Say it ain’t so Lark!

C’mon! The good guys shouldn’t resign!

Head Kane County Juvenile prosecutor, Lark Cowart, a 14 year KCSAO staffer, just gave her notice today. She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure a smooth transition.

Lark

As my regular readers know, I hold Ms. Cowart in the highest esteem and frequently point to her as an example of the best our State’s Attorney’s office has to offer.

She is a brilliant attorney, one of the most perceptive people I’ve ever met, she actually has a conscience, but most of all, she has a heart in system that doesn’t reward having a heart. She’s so dedicated to Kane County children that she’s regularly worked on the kind of abuse cases that would reduce most of us to a pile of microwaved Jello.

Her commitment to real justice is one of the reasons I’m going to law school. In fact, I’ve been so blown away by her right-end-of-the-bell-curve competence, that I’ve successfully recruited her to run for judge – when the time is right. And she’ll be a bleepin’ great judge.

In the end, Lark Cowart’s sanity gain, is Kane County’s massive loss. She is truly irreplaceable.