Quick Hits – April 11, 2018

Beyond the pale!

Silly me! When the Tribune-owned Courier-News “reported” on the mere six citizen complaints Elgin officer Chris Jensen accrued over a long 20 years on the force, I thought that was as low as that newspaper and that “reporter” could possibly go. I truly didn’t think local journalism could sink any further into the abyss.

But I was wrong!

Because today, the Courier ran a “story” covering the knife wielding attacker involved Elgin police shootings – all flippin’ four of them – since 1969. Yes! You read that correctly – they went back 50 years to find cases somewhat similar to the events that led up to the recent DeCythinia Clements shooting.

Of course, that newspaper and the Tribune are ignoring stories like:

  • The rampant sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • The inmates are running the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles
  • Chief Judge Susan Clancy-Boles’ attempted coverup of her brother’s involvement with Anjum Coffland
  • Judge John Dalton’s consistent bullying of female and minority plaintiffs/defendants

Nope! This “reporter” settled on a 1969 EPD shooting in which a 16 year-old wife was threatened by her 19 year-old AWOL husband who’d already stabbed her in the leg the previous day. When he went after her again in her grandmother’s mobile home, the EPD correctly shot and killed him.

Hazelwood

But wait! There’s more!

This “reporter” tracked that woman down to O’Fallon, Missouri, only to con her into asking the 50 year-old question, “Why did they have to shoot?” (That’s the Courier-News headline today, by the way.) Oh! I don’t know! This is just a wild guess, but perhaps the fact that he’d already stabbed you and came at you with a knife a second time might have had something to do with it!

They didn’t have all the non-lethal options back in 1969, either.

This isn’t a case of going after the low-hanging fruit, it’s a case picking the rotting fruit up off the ground. Please tell me how this piece of bleep attempt at journalism adds to, or advances the Clements story in any way shape or form?

Is the Tribune actually trying to inflame Elgin tensions just so they have more to write about?

So, now the newspapers, reporters and editors are officially worse than the people they cover. I wonder what it’s like to have absolutely no shame and to be utterly incapable of embarrassment?

I’d ask you to cancel your Courier-News subscription but y’all already have!

 

Like a bad Bond villain…

… the Fox River and Countryside Fire Protection District keeps coming back to take one more swipe at us. Despite losing yet another tax increase referendum, FRCFPD architect and attorney Ken Shepro is claiming a truncated ballot question led to the most recent 32 vote defeat and he’s gonna fight “the man” to overturn those scurrilous results and put the question right back on the November ballot.

Where it will lose for a fourth time.

FRCFR

If Shepro and those FRCFPD trustees spent nearly as much time running the district as they have asking the voters for more money and making excuses for failed policy and referenda, they’d have a budget surplus.

Don’cha just gotta love those tax and spend Republicans? Shepro and from District President Jim Gaffney said they could do it cheaper and faster, but they clearly can’t!

Word on the street is the Illinois Fire Marshall is already working on dismantling the paramedic portion of the FRCFPD, and their fire suppression services will be next. Finally!

 

And speaking of being unable to accept a verdict…

Down by 44 votes in her race for a full circuit judicial seat, Kane County Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood continues to refuse to concede to Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell THREE WEEKS after the election claiming, “I owe it to my campaign to see the certified numbers before making any final decision to concede or request a discovery recount.”

No, your honor! You owe it to the people you serve, the black robe, and the electoral process to do the right thing, pull on your big girl panties, act like an adult and concede. Even lowly water reclamation district candidates understand this dynamic.

What’s she waiting for? All of the absentee ballots have been counted and a discovery recount won’t change a damn thing.

Flood

Considering Flood lost, in great part, because she utterly ignored Aurora, any error in that jurisdiction will likely go against her. Not only that, but the State ran an audit of those 2018 Aurora Election Commission vote totals ON ELECTION NIGHT with plenty of interested poll watchers keenly observing the process. That means those votes have already been counted twice!

As far as the rest of the County goes, I’ve said it before! Having worked for the Kane County Clerk, I can attest that their E-slate voting machines either work or they don’t work – there’s no gray error area possible.

The best evidence of all this is, despite all sorts of legal machinations by losing 2014 judicial candidate Marmarie Kostelny, D. J. Tegeler’s seven-vote margin of victory never changed!

This is yet another case of a standard bearing public official, upon whom it’s incumbent to set the example, doing exactly the opposite. Voters will forgive (too) many things but being a sore loser isn’t one of them. And I’ll be there to remind you of this unjudicial conduct when Flood inevitably decides to run again in 2020.

The arrogance of some judges is beyond even the Courier-News kind of pale!

So, here’s my plan! The next time I’m in front a judge – an always likely prospect – if I don’t like the verdict, I’m simply going to declare that I owe it to myself to ignore it until I’m convinced his or her honor got it right!

I’m sure the judge will have no problem with that.

 

Child sex abuse is on the rise in Kane County

State’s Attorney Joe McMahon recently noted an “alarming” increase in sex abuse crimes against children under 6 years-old. Kane County saw 111 cases in 2015, 125 in 2016 and a whopping 185 in 2017.

mcmahon

While the State’s Attorney is correct in saying that parents, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies must be more aware of the signs of sexual abuse, what I want to know is, how will McMahon even begin to solve this problem when he can’t handle a massive sexual harassment scandal in his own office?

I think I already know the answer.

Quick Hits – April 9, 2018

Hanging separately

Oh my! When someone posted a Facebook comment complimentary of Deerfield, Illinois’ recent assault gun ban, by the conservative responses you’d a thunk he:

  • Had children with three different women
  • Bragged about cheating on three wives
  • Paid for sex with a porn star
  • Declared bankruptcy four times
  • Colluded with Russia to rig an election
  • Married an illegal immigrant
  • Bragged about groping women
  • Dodged the draft
  • Sent the national debt skyrocketing

wait a minute…

Yep! These great Christians – and we know they’re great Christians because they say they are – hurled epithets like “libtard,” “snowflake, and “traitor” in an effort to prove they truly did manage to graduate from the third grade.

Gun Control

Some of the less acerbic gun nuts defiantly dismissed the new assault gun statute claiming an NRA backed lawsuit would overturn it forthwith. But it won’t, because when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Washington D.C.’s 2008 blanket gun ban unconstitutional, they also made it clear that the Second Amendment is far from absolute.

Not only that, but a federal judge just ruled that assault weapons and large capacity magazines fall outside of the Second Amendment while upholding Massachusetts ban on both. So, Deerfield will prevail.

Another commentor threatened to unseat that scurrilous Deerfield city council, but all I can say to that thought possibility, “Give it your best shot!” Politicians everywhere are taking note of a rapidly shifting electorate, and as soon as it’s no long expedient to kowtow to the NRA, they won’t!

Those rapidly shifting political sands mean that now is the time for reasonable gun owners everywhere to come forward and help craft the kind of reasonable legislation that benefits everyone. Because, if they and the NRA don’t reasonably compromise, unreasonable compromise will be thrust upon them.

I can’t tell you how much I love watching conservatives hang themselves. I’m still waiting for Barack Obama to take my Glock!

 

Associate judges part III

Sorry for the delay on this final installment, but when we last left off, we were talking about a pool of 40 attorneys, prosecutors and perhaps public defenders who’ve applied for a soon-to-be vacant associate judge position.

Since the odds of eight of the 14 Kane County circuit judges agreeing on a selection right off the bat are slim to none, that group will start winnowing the field. And as we’ve already discussed, the most talented candidates tend to carry the most baggage, so they’re almost always eliminated in the first round.

It doesn’t help matters that, while each circuit judge has a favorite choice, those often-arrogant folks don’t play well enough with each other to strike the kind of deal that would get one of the better candidates appointed.

By the time that gaggle gets cut in half, the circuit judges start discussing concerns like:

  • We need another woman on the bench
  • It’s time to appoint an Hispanic judge, or
  • The northwestern part of the county isn’t well represented

That’s when the race to the bottom really starts to gain momentum. It’s not that those aren’t worthwhile considerations, but more often than not, the continued application of this least objectionable candidate dynamic eliminates the above average attorneys, too.

So, now we’re left mediocre choices at best, and if a poor candidate happens to have enough connections, they might just slide through. That’s how we ended up with associate judges like:

  • David Kliment
  • Divya Sarang
  • Kathy Karyannas
  • Keith Johnson
  • Katherine Moran
  • Alice Tracy
  • Christine Downs, and
  • Sandra Parga

none of whom were good attorneys and they shouldn’t be wearing the black dress on their best day.

So, now that you know how the process works, I’m not sure what the answer to getting better associate judges is. Let me think about it for a while and talk to some folks and I’ll get back to you!

 

The Blackhawks owe us nothing!

I’ve gotta get that regular sports podcast with KC Auditor Terry Hunt going, but until that time, I’ll occasionally convey my local sports scene thoughts right here. Lucky you!

And my latest consideration is that all these chickens with their heads cut off concerns about the Blackhawks missing the playoff for the first time in a decade are absurd! Why, the Chicago Tribune went as far as wasting a ton of newsprint on various “experts” weighing in with all sorts of quick fix possibilities.

C’mon people! The Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015, a feat not many NHL teams have managed to accomplish. What that means is the men in black and red don’t owe us a damn thing!

Blackhawks

The only thing you can be assured of in professional sports is an organization on top of the world today will see fans with paper bags over their heads, sooner rather than later and vice versa. Even the Cubs couldn’t keep on losing forever!

Your team ages, the other teams get better, and everyone gun for the top dog. Why do I suddenly feel like breaking into “Circle of Life?”

So, let’s all take a collection deep breath and let GM Stan Bowman and Coach Joel Quenneville – both proven commodities – do their rebuilding thing and the Blackhawks will be back on top before you can say “Tony Esposito.”

Quick Hits – April 6, 2018

On the border

We typically don’t cover Donald Trump here because his variety of vast stupidity doesn’t require the kind of subtle analysis we tend to specialize in at The First Ward. But I can’t pass up his latest move to rally his rabid base by sending troops to the Mexican border to stop an immigrant invasion that ain’t.

Much like Argentina invading the Falklands, this is nothing more than a misdirection strategy aimed at distracting us from a completely failed administration. And only despots, tyrants and dictators are stupid enough to give that kind of hollow effort a shot.

Just two more years folks!

 

It’s called climate change for a reason!

If, in reference to our abjectly cool spring, I hear one more conservative loon say, “So much for global warming,” I promise I’m gonna get kinda violent. Though the general trend is, indeed, global warming, the short-term symptoms are meteorological extremes.

To wit, while we’re facing the kind of spring the Chicago area can be famous for, our friends over in Asia are dealing with record breaking heat. Furthermore, in January, we tied one record with 12 straight days of sub 20-degree highs and another with nine straight days of measurable snow.

The fact that it’s cold for a day – or even a week – proves nothing other than conservatives generally aren’t very smart.

 

Congratulations to Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda

For being named Fort Collins Colorado newest police chief! After 26 years of rising though the EPD ranks, the Chief is ready for a new challenge and Fort Collins’ gain is certainly going to be our loss. He starts the new gig June 4.

Swoboda 2

It’s hard to believe there was a time when Jeff wasn’t the Elgin chief and it’s even harder to believe there was a pre-2010 time when the EPD was not that well-regarded. He deserves a lot of credit for that turnaround and implementing the kind of transparency that’s become legendary.

As for this journalist, not only am I losing a friend to the vagaries of distance, but I could not have asked for a better relationship than what I’ve had with Jeff and Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman. That’s exactly the way it should be, but rarely is.

Before he goes west, I’ll endeavor to sit down with Jeff and perhaps do a lengthy podcast on 26 years of his law enforcement thoughts. Like I like to say, I’ll keep you posted!

 

Associate judges part III

Due to a meeting with the Hain for Kane Sheriff campaign brain trust, part three of our series on selecting associate judges will have to be postponed until Monday!

Quick Hits – April 4, 2018

Much ado about nothing

It took the Elgin Symphony Orchestra a mere ten fundraising days to close their $140,000 budget gap and ensure the show will go on. I wish my political candidates could raise money at that kind of rate!

So, all the keening, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth by the usual suspects, who seemed certain the City would have to save the symphony, were all for naught. Not that that will prevent them from going into the same kind of conniptions next time.

ESO 2

But here’s what really bothers me about this story.

I’d love to give the Daily Herald credit for providing the kind of publicity that led to this errant balance sheet turnaround, but I can’t. Because instead of giving the ESO management kudos for pulling that organization back from the brink, they, once again, took the contentious tack by reminding readers that Elgin had already forgiven a $160,000 loan to the ESO.

The newspaper’s insinuation was this “deadbeat organization” would have to rely on taxpayer largesse one more time. And like I said on Monday, the folks who tend to run with that kind of thing did just that by unfairly labeling the ESO as something they clearly aren’t.

Improvement should always be acknowledged!

And speaking of pots and kettles, I’m still waiting for the Daily Herald to put their diversity money where their mouth is by adding just one minority member to that Paddock Publications old white male management team. Like I said before, I’d settle for a slightly sunburned, near-sighted, short Caucasian woman.

The bottom line is, the ESO is gonna live long and prosper despite this minor blip.

I still haven’t washed my right hand since I shook Leonard Nimoy’s at one of their finer performances.

 

If it involves the word “synthetic…”

…it’s probably not a good thing.

Synthetic turf is just another way of saying you’re playing football on concrete, and we all know the Bible’s eternal damnation stance on synthetic fibers (Get back thee polyester!). So, why would anyone in their right mind choose to use any form of synthetic marijuana that comes straight from the bowels of a suspect Chinese factory?

Russian roulette with a two round magazine would be a less risky proposition.

The proof of what I speak is the 70 separate central and northern Illinois cases of severe bleeding, including at least two deaths, from rat poison laced synthetic pot in the last 30 days. And when I say “severe bleeding,” I mean from the eyes, gums, coughing up blood, and bloody urine because that’s exactly how rat poison works.

Of course, our brilliant legislators will make this latest batch of artificial cannabinoids illegal only to find that our enterprising Chinese friends have tweaked the formula into yet another legal option. Trying to keep up with synthetic drugs is like trying to stay ahead of Donald Trump’s propensity for making really stupid statements.

Though I’m generally one for letting natural selection take its course, this recent hemorrhaging plague is another reason we need to legalize regular marijuana. Not only do two recent studies show that medical marijuana puts a huge dent in opioid use, but nobody ever died from inhaling the real thing.

The worst-case scenario there is a late-night call to a former flame and/or a penchant for purchasing Doritoes – if the subject can manage to make it off the couch. Not to mention that Colorado and other legalized marijuana states are raking in a tax bonanza as their crime and incarceration rates plummet.

Until that happens, might I suggest avoiding the synthetic variety unless one of your lifelong ambition had been to slowly bleed out.

 

Associate Judges

Settle down class! We covered the elected circuit/appointed associate judge dynamic on Monday, so now it’s time to explaining why the associate judge selection process is so fraught with peril.

The first problem is, despite a hefty $187,000 salary, it’s the kind of pay cut that top private practice attorneys will not endure. So, we’ve eliminated the cream of the crop right off the bat.

That leaves us with prosecutors, public defenders and mediocre attorneys for whom that salary is, indeed, a massive raise.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been blessed with some great prosecutors and you all know there’s a special place in my heart for public defenders, but they tend to come at the black dress with a tunnel vision borne of their narrow experience.

Put more simply, the best judges tend to have had a well-rounded private practice.

Though ironically, prosecutors often turn out to be more lenient, while former PDs can become some of the toughest folks on the bench.

If an associate judge is booted by their peers or they retire, any attorney in good standing can apply for that seat. That typically amounts to about 40 applicants in Kane County.

On rare occasion, a well-respected and well-regarded candidate will fly through the appointment process. Judge Clint Hull was the latest candidate to pull that kind of thing off. The more likely occurrence is a slow process of winnowing down that too-large field to the least objectionable candidate.

As the Bard once said, “Aye, there’s the rub. Because the best attorneys, prosecutors and public defenders make enemies by virtue of doing their job well and they to get eliminated quickly. But the least objectionable judicial candidates ineffectively plod along while doing their best not to offend anyone and they tend to kind of slide by unnoticed.

Put more simply, the associate judge selection process quickly degenerates into a race to the bottom.

Holy crap! Apparently, I’ve talked too long again today (go figure!). So we’ll finish up what turns out to be a three-part series on Friday,

Quick Hits – April 2, 2018

Judge for yourself!

When I mentioned the possibility of a piece or two on how our 16th Circuit associate judges are appointed, I was convinced it would be met with a rousing chorus of yawns. But not only was there some real interest, but a couple of you asked why we’re electing a judge who’s already a judge.

That is a very good question!

courtjudgegavel

So, without further ado, in what likely might be a two-parter, let’s examine the process of electing and appointing Kane County judges.

1. Full circuit and subcircuit judges

Are all ultimately elected. Full circuit judges run countywide, while the subcircuit variety run in one of the four judicial districts centered around Elgin, St. Charles, Aurora and western Kane County.

Once elected to a six-year term, circuit judges no longer face electoral opponents, but they do have to run for retention which requires a 60 percent “yes” vote. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion as I can’t remember the last time a circuit judge was booted from the bench in any county.

Should a circuit judge retire around an even-year election day, like David Akemann just did, that seat immediately goes on the ballot. If they step down between major elections, the Illinois Supreme Court appoints a replacement pending the next even-year election. Like it is with most incumbents, the appointee generally has the upper hand.

The advantages of a being a circuit judge include:

  • Getting a little more money – $198k vs. $188k
  • Having more say over their courtroom destiny
  • They can’t be “fired” by their peers
  • Voting on appointing associate judges
  • They don’t necessarily have to be on call for off-hour hearings

The problem with this process is, if you get a semi-politically savvy candidate with a small power base in one of the smaller subcircuits, they can get themselves elected despite a lack of reasonable qualifications. That’s how Kane County got a bully and bigot like Judge John Dalton.

Since they only answer to the voters, circuit judges can essentially ignore the chief judge and their peers and pretty much do exactly what they want.

2. Associate judges

Are appointed by the 14 circuit judges and they serve until and unless those same folks vote them out, a very rare phenomenon. Since the late ‘90s, the only Kane County associate judge to be removed was Judge William Weir who got caught forging nominating petition signatures.

He wasn’t exactly booted either. Associate judges who’ve fallen out of favor are typically given an opportunity to “retire” before they’re voted out, which is exactly what Weir did.

Because of the aforementioned advantages, many, but not all, associate judges run for circuit seats as they become available. That’s how you get a sitting judge running for judge. Associate judges don’t have to give up their seat to run for a circuit or subcircuit position, either.

On Wednesday, we’ll discuss the associate judge appointment process and why it tends to lead to substandard choices.

 

I still love the ESO!

Despite a $140,000 budget deficit that’s provided the usual suspects with an opportunity to turn that organization into a political football, once again, I still love the ESO. That shortfall is basically the result of a small family foundation declining to renew a $150,000 grant.

ESO

My current favorite Facebook argument is that the Elgin Symphony Orchestra could bring in non-union musicians to cut costs. But as anyone who understands or has ever been a part of the Screen Actors Guild, Equity, or the Chicago Federation of Musicians knows that’s not the way it works.

Given the vast number of folks who want to enter the preforming arts, these unions essentially ensure that the artists are treated fairly and won’t be subjected to substandard working conditions.

They don’t begin to come close to the more fascinating laborer or public employee unions who can make it difficult to do business or balance a budget in Illinois.

Despite a certain ex-city councilman’s proclamations, the ESO has not asked Elgin for further financial support, stating that they’re mounting a fundraising effort to get back in the black, instead.

And I certainly hope they succeed because the ESO truly is a feather in Elgin’s collective cap. I’d really hate to see them disappear.

Furthermore, since coming on board in 2012, CEO Dave Bearden has done a phenomenal job of bringing that group back from the fiscal abyss at a time some folks thought the fat lady was about to sing the curtain down.

Were I an Elgin taxpayer, if the City did end up chipping in a bit, I’d be OK with it based on that great resuscitation effort. Meanwhile, if, like me, you firmly believe the ESO adds a great deal to the amazing gestalt that is Elgin, Illinois, go ahead a make a donation. That’s exactly what I’m going to do!

 

It was a great run!

But the Loyola Ramblers finally fell to those scurrilous Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. With the exception of the Kansas State game, the Ramblers singular tournament shortcoming was failing to put a team away when they had them down by 10 points.

Ramblers 2

But I firmly believe coach Porter Moser will be back as will the core of this fantastic Final Four team. Add an interesting incoming recruiting class and I think Loyola will be in the thick of tournament next year.

But regardless of any future possibilities, the Ramblers made this March one I’ll certainly never forget. I’ve never been so proud to be a Loyola graduate. Go maroon and gold!