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.


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!


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.


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!