Quick Hits – January 8, 2017

Does he know he’s runnin’ for governor?

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Chris Kennedy’s gubernatorial campaign descends to a level of confusion that baffles me beyond anything I thought possible.

First, there was the commercial featuring a vignette of his late father, Robert Kennedy. I understand areas of Chicago are beset by the worst kind of gun violence, but it only affects a very small percentage of voters, and there’s not much a sitting governor can do to change that gang-based dynamic, either.


Since that clearly wasn’t enough, now he’s going after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for using “gentrification” as a means of making minorities scurry outside those Second City limits. This, of course, begs the question, has anyone told our foundering candidate he’s not running for Mayor of that city?

C’mon! People have been complaining about yuppies pushing minorities out of Chicago neighborhoods since I called Rogers Park my 1980 home. It’s nothing new. And despite what anyone might think, it’s market forces, not any mayoral agenda, that drives this kind of wholesale neighborhood overhaul.

Buoyed by the Alabama special senate race turnout, the Kennedy campaign is clearly throwing their lot in with black voters. But whatever they think they’ll gain there will be more than offset by unnecessarily aggravating Rahm, who doesn’t have a dog in that race – well…not so’s you’d notice.

Even when you consider the average smaller primary turnouts, and even if black folks come out en masse, Chicago’s African-American community will not nearly be enough to propel Kennedy to a March 20 win. He may not be setting the world on fire, but J. B. Pritzker has a much better grasp of what these anti-trump mid-terms will bring.

Not only that, but a known commodity like Evanston-based State Senator Daniel Biss will split whatever Cook County black primary vote there might be, which makes the Kennedy campaign’s go-after-Rahm “strategy” even more suspect.

In 2014, Former Governor Pat Quinn got 92 percent of the Chicago African-American vote and even that wasn’t nearly enough to beat Bruce Rauner. So, I’m gonna say it again! Who the heck is advising this guy?


It’s “climate change,” not “global warming!”

Though liberals are truly going out of their way to annoy the shit out of me lately (see Chris Kennedy), if, in reference to our recent cold snap, one more conservative says something like “So much for global warming,” I’m going to beat them to a bloody pulp with a hardback copy of ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump Whitehouse.’


Though the planet is steadily getting warmer, the immediate climatic response is to swing from one extreme to another. For example:

  • Hurricanes four times larger than anything we’ve ever seen
  • Erie, Pennsylvania, getting 67 inches of snow in one sitting
  • he south, including Tallahassee, Florida, suddenly seeing regular snow
  • Wildfires in California unlike anything we’ve seen before
  • The east coast getting blasted by blizzards
  • And a record-tying two-week cold snap in the northern portion of the country

So, can we finally put this one to bed, or do I have to start administering the beatings?


Opening your mouth and removing all doubt!

If, in response to the critics who question your mental competence and intelligence, you say, “I’m a very stable genius,” you’re only proving their point.


Brown’s Chicken? Really?

A scant three months after the October Las Vegas massacre prompted the Daily Herald to boldly declare their news coverage would no longer glorify mass murderers, Sunday’s front page was rife with a detailed recap of the 25-year-old Palatine Brown’s Chicken homicides.


Why? Can anyone tell me what the point could possibly be? All it does is serve to provide yet more notoriety to the killers, open old wounds and generally play on peoples’ fear of events that really are rare.

And this isn’t a case where everyone else did it, either. Only the Daily Herald and CBS News chose to “celebrate” this horrific anniversary.

Just when I think the local media can’t sink any lower they insist on proving me wrong.


Accidents aren’t news, either

Unless the press has caught onto a trend a local governing body should address, or there’s a serious violation of the law involved. But those all-too-obvious caveats haven’t stopped even the suburban Tribune papers from filling their already limited space with basic accident reports.


Living within earshot of Randall and Keslinger Roads intersection, as well as the one at Peck and Keslinger Roads, I can tell you with certainly that accidents happen all the time. I can also tell you that printing “stories” about crash related injuries or deaths will not be nearly enough incentive to get some of y’all start driving like you actually know how to do it.

So why not take a stab at some real news for once!


Well done, Ms. Tennell!

In an attempt to end this edition on a positive note, I want to extend a hearty Quick Hits congratulations to 19 year-old Carpentersville figure skater Bradie Tennell for winning the women’s national championship, a feat which vaulted her directly onto the U.S. Olympic team, set to compete in South Korea next month.


Despite figure skating’s failure to be a real sport, the necessary effort to get this far at such a young age is certainly something worth noting.

For future reference, if they allowed the other skaters to defend the ice during their competitors’ routines, I would be willing to move it to a real sport status.

Just a thought!

Quick Hits – January 5, 2018

Elgin! We have a problem!

Ain’t it always the case! A scant week after I chide former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge for taking yet another shot at Elgin – on Christmas day, mind you – the City does something that makes it much more difficult to defend their honor.

Armed with City Manager Rick Kozal’s approval, Elgin just paid $6,015 for current City Councilman, Rich Dunne, to attend Harvard’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program. If you recall, former City Manager Sean Stegal and current Police Chief Jeff Swoboda have attended the same seminar.


But here’s the thing! While I certainly laud Councilman Dunne for his willingness to improve himself, I can’t believe Elgin’s tuition reimbursement program was ever intended to cover elected officials. After all, they tend to be an ephemeral bunch!

Stegal was a 16-year management employee while the Chief has served on the Elgin Police force for 26 years, so the local citizenry stood to see a return on those investments. As Mayor Dave Kaptain aptly pointed out, “This is supposed to be a long-term investment for our employees, not something to help out someone’s political career.”

Dunne explained that he took time off from work to head east and, because he filled a last-minute slot, the city paid less than half the normal tuition.

That’s all good and well, but the proposition is flawed from the start.

It’s not that the Harvard program wouldn’t be a valuable addition to any elected official’s governing arsenal, it’s that the taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for it. C’mon! People endlessly bitched about Prigge’s weekly Elgin Public House lunch meetings with Stegal – a practice I wholeheartedly defended – and this one doesn’t even begin to pass that test.

Rich! You know I’ve always liked you, but this time you’re wrong. Please do the right thing and reimburse the city as soon as you can.


Elgin! We have another problem!

Elgin resident Greg Schiller’s heart is certainly in the right place! In fact, he may be one of the few folks that takes that biblical “least of my brothers” caveat seriously. But his efforts to be his brother’s keeper have run afoul of those diligent Elgin code enforcers.

Last winter, Schiller offered his garage as a refuge to some local homeless folks until first responders had to be called for a man with a heart condition. After the City explained the garage was not suitable for that particular use, during our current cold snap, Schiller has been, as he put it, holding homeless “slumber parties” in his basement.


Of course, the City of Elgin was equally unamused by this turn of events and threatened to condemn his house if he didn’t immediately abandon the practice.

“While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community,” Elgin spokesperson Molly Center said, “Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and insufficient exits in the event of a fire.”

As I’m sure you can imagine, with absolutely nothing better to do, the local conservatives leapt at the opportunity to excoriate liberals for “progressive over-regulation and big government” as well as “deciding for private property owners how to be compassionate.”

Trust me! The irony of these letter-of-the-law folks’ sudden willingness to ignore a series of statutes isn’t lost on me. The fact that Elgin could be sued for allowing these “slumber parties” to continue truly is a serious consideration.

Most homeless folks are utterly harmless, but there are a minority who, due to addiction or mental illness, can get violent. And Mr. Schiller is clearly not the least bit prepared for that possibility.

So, while I certainly understand the City’s concerns, I wish Elgin wasn’t so bleepin’ heavy handed about addressing the issue during what will likely be a recording tying traditional Chicago cold snap.

Given my vast love for The City in the Suburbs, I hate to see their good name being dragged through that national roadside slush, as it certainly has been in this case.

Serving him warrants and giving him 24 hours to return the basement to it’s original storage intent or they’ll condemn the house? It sounds like some folks really need to watch Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ a few more times.

I agree that Mr. Schiller’s efforts are misguided, and I also agree that he hasn’t always been cooperative with those who enforce city ordinances. But I really gotta give the guy credit for going beyond what 99 percent of “good Christians” are willing to do. This should’ve been a feel-good story in which the City and Schiller found some common ground through a reasonable compromise.

Then it would’ve been another feather in Elgin’s cap.


Quick Hits local athletes of the year awards

In an effort to play off Monday’s column in which we discussed how to put together a sustainable New Year’s resolution workout program, I thought it would be kind of cool to cite two local athletes who’ve embraced that very notion.

The first is my favorite running friend, Oswego’s Mary Drew.


Mary is the one on the right!

Mary, a relative newcomer to the running ranks, crossed the 1,000-mile running mark this year and it took persevering through our recent balmy winter weather to do it. Not only that, but Mary placed in her age group in three 5ks, one 4-miler, and one 10k, while finishing four half-marathons.

How did Mary do it? Besides my expert coaching and unyielding faith in her, you mean?

She started running just four short years ago with reasonable goals that made the required consistency a far more plausible possibility. Sure, she’s had to work through some minor injuries – all runners have – but she’s avoided the major afflictions I’ve previously embraced by trying to prove I’m still 25.

I also like the fact she celebrated the 1k mark with a bloody Mary, which has a certain symmetry to it.

Our male award winner is none other than Kane County Director of Transportation, Carl Schoedel. In his tenth year of bicycling to work – often in the kind of inclement weather that would melt mere mortal men’s souls – Carl racked up 3,050 cycling miles.


The face of determination!

To put that kind of distance in perspective, had he started out in New York City and kept going, he would’ve made it to Seattle and been well on his way back to Kane County.

Again, his reasonable, consistent and utilitarian approach to an exercise regimen has paid huge dividends. As long as Carl avoids errant pavement gravel, I don’t remember him ever mentioning any kind of injury and, though I’m sure this will go straight to his head, he is in great shape.

That’s how you do it New Year’s resolutioners!

So, here’s to Mary Drew and Carl Schoedel, our Quick Hits athletes of 2017.

Quick Hits – January 3, 2018

U-46 really is too big – Part 3

Alright! Let’s finally polish this sucker off because not even I want to hear myself talk this much. To recap, U-46 should be broken up into smaller school districts because:

  • It’s 41 percent bigger than the next largest Illinois school district and that’s always a red flag.
  • I’ve never seen a case of “bigger is better” when it come to a government entity of any kind.
  • It takes an exceptional CEO/superintendent to effectively manage such a large district and, as U-46 has demonstrated over the years, exceptional superintendents are hard to find.
  • U-46 student needs are so disparate, they would be better served by smaller districts that could more effectively meet those needs.
  • Accountability is a much more difficult proposition in a 40,400 student district spanning 90 square miles.
  • The district’s size makes it a proxy war battleground for ideologues on both sides, which does nothing more than waste everyone’s time

Of course, some reader will inevitably ask me to provide all sorts of numbers to further back up my theory, but they really need get off their lazy bleepin’ asses and do it themselves, because I’ve clearly made my point. (And if anyone does that they get blocked!)


Other than the specious “We’ve always done it this way because we’ve always done it this way” contention, nobody has effectively refuted any argument I’ve made here. Yes! It might cost more to break the district up in the short run, but it’s more than a wee bit ironic that the folks who generally think we never throw enough money at education are suddenly turning into fiscal conservatives.

What’s really going on here is, most U-46ers don’t like board member Jeanette Ward – who is nuts, and because she backs Illinois State Rep and very conservative gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives’ thoughts on too-large and too-small school districts, they’re automatically against anything that comes out of their mouths.

Apparently, they don’t understand the broken clock analogy.

One reader went as far as stipulating that, “You can’t agree with Jeanette Ward or Jeanne Ives and be right about anything.” Though that’s certainly a fun fascist thought, as previously stated, I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with anyone here.

I came to this U-46-is-to-large conclusion all by myself when my family lived in Streamwood in the mid ‘90s. I’ll never forget watching the district descend into a virtual civil war over a school funding tax referendum. So, Ms. Wards’ (no relation) and Ms. Ives’ thoughts – though correct – had absolutely no bearing on developing my own theory.

U-46 CEO Tony Sanders simply asked me to explain why the district should be split and that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Just like the Olympics throws out the highest and lowest scores in skating competitions, there’s an inherent logic to breaking up school districts that are clearly too big, and consolidating those that are clearly too small.

And I don’t mind the fact that so many people disagree with me on this – with the exception of those who consistently fail to make any effort to come up with an original thought. But what does bother me is the capacity for generally thoughtful people to dismiss an idea simply because they’re offended by the source.

It’s just another sign of the rise of the liberal tea party. And those newly energized folks best be careful before they become exactly what they’ve loathed.

We don’t have to agree on everything!

Quick Hits – A New Year’s Retrospective

With KDOT Director Carl Schoedel aptly making fun of what I used to call “the dreaded New Year’s Resolutioner,” I thought it would be fun to reprint my original piece on that subject in all it’s satirical glory. But sadly, since the Tribune bought those former Sun-Times properties, the old Net content actually did disappear.

But thankfully, my Patch columns still stand! So here’s the column I wrote after getting excoriated for making fun of those folks who’s workout program inevitably comes to a crashing halt after Valentines Day.


How To Make Your New Year’s Workout Resolution Last

You barely claw your way through the ever-expanding holiday season by clinging to the promise of Jan. 2, and then it gets worse. Much worse! Because the first month of every year brings out a life form those of us with long-term gym memberships fear even more than Michelle Bachmann.

Yes! We’re talking about the dreaded New Year’s Resolutioner, or as a good friend likes to call ’em, “the six weekers,” because 90 percent of them will disappear by Valentines Day, never to be heard from again.

Completely clueless and armed with utterly unrealistic expectations, they descend upon Patchland health clubs like locusts with the sole intent of making the rest of our workout lives miserable.

Though they desperately try to hide it, any athlete who can actually point to their quads can pick ’em out faster than Donald Trump at a Hairclub For Men holiday banquet. What’s worse is, these folks think “Gym Etiquette” is the French guy who hosts an aerobics show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

But sadly, it turns out that New Year’s resolutioners can be a tad sensitive and rather surly bunch. Why, that stodgy crowd completely failed to appreciate my wonderful sense of humor in a previous Beacon-News column describing their interesting proclivities in detail.


So, rather than taunt my newbie gym brethren with tales of their endlessly circling through the parking to find the closest spot, racing me in the swimming pool, or standing in the middle of the running track just to gab, I thought it might be prudent to take a slightly different tack.

Instead of turning to the dark side (even though it’s far funnier), I will endeavor to use my journalistic powers for good. Perhaps, armed with the appropriate information, these out-of-shape, resolution-driven folks might last long enough to, in turn, make fun of next year’s New Year’s resolutioner crop.

So here we go!

1. An active life is a mindset! If you dread going to the gym, it won’t work out, and neither will you. Being active is its own reward, so don’t relegate exercise to the gym. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk the dog twice a day. Park at the far end of the Whole Foods parking lot. Run/walk one mile every other day.

These kinds of small-but-significant steps are more enjoyable, they reinforce your new mindset, and they build the kind of base that leads to greater things. Any therapist will tell you that small changes tend to take hold, while wholesale shifts almost always fall flat.

I’m not saying there aren’t days when I look forward to that last lap, but if you’re not enjoying yourself to some degree, you will never stick with an exercise program.

2. Have a plan! Running five miles the first time out is a recipe for disaster. You’ll either burn out, get injured, or both. This week, an overweight, 40-ish resolutioner was trying to run an eight-minute indoor track mile and I’ll give you 10-to-one he’s gone by Feb. 1.

It’s always judicious to err on the side of caution when considering a new exercise routine. And the best way to develop a reasonable plan is with the expert assistance of a personal trainer. Most gyms provide PTs at very reasonable rates (avoid the drill sergeant types) and even if it’s only an hour or two a month, it will be well worth your while.

If you can’t afford a trainer or a gym, there are a plethora of books with complete exercise plans targeting the novice athlete. Jeff Galloway’s books on running and Chris Carmichael’s treatises on cycling are perfect examples.

3. Recovery! One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was a good workout plan always incorporates rest days. This is especially true for us middle-aged folks. If you don’t take regular breaks, you will break down.

“No pain no gain” may work for elite athletes, but it’s a really bad idea for the rest of us.

4. Drink! And I don’t mean Irish whiskey.

We’re already a dehydrated culture, and working out makes it worse. Thirsty muscles tend to pull, strain and tear.

Active athletes should drink two-thirds of an ounce of water per pound per day. Thus, my 185-pound frame requires 15 daily 8-ounce glasses of water. I will admit it felt like I was chained to the bathroom at first, but your body quickly adapts, and it will thank you for the effort.

I always have a water bottle by my side.

5. Don’t diet, but watch what you eat! Studies show that workout novices almost always fall into the “reward trap” and end up gaining weight. They rationalize, “I just worked out, so I’ll have an 18-inch pizza, four beers and half a chocolate cake.” Then they get discouraged when the scale begs for mercy.

Again, don’t go crazy. Diets don’t work, but you’ll find, as you continue to work out, your body won’t tolerate junk food nearly as well. Again, small steps lead to bigger things.

6. The competition is with yourself. Don’t compare yourself to other athletes. Unless you’re sprinter Usain Bolt or marathoner Meb Keflezighi (even they lose races!), there will always be someone who’s better or faster than you. The question is, can you get the most out of what you’ve been given?

Again, the resolutioners who are the first to fail are the ones who insist on racing me on the indoor running track. I just love to kick in the afterburners and watch ’em suck air in a corner. Stick to your pace and your plan!

7. Find a workout companion! The best ways to beat the motivation blues is to join a group like the Fox River Trail Runners, take a spinning class, or get a friend to workout with you. Contrary to my first few paragraphs, most experienced athletes are happy to field your questions, especially if you make any effort to adhere to gym etiquette.

I know what you’re thinking! But just because I was a bit nicer this round doesn’t mean I’ve changed my ways—far from it. I’m sure this column is nothing more than a temporary lapse, and you can look forward to a swift return to my surly and sarcastic form next week.

Happy freakin’ New Year!