Quick Hits – September 12, 2018

I’m the chairman and you’re not!

To quote that great newscaster Chevy Chase.

But as simple as that statement is, some normally erudite Kane County elected and public officials don’t seem to get it. And not only do they get that wrong, but they fail to comprehend that, when budget time rolls around, being on good terms with the Chairman never hurt anyone.

Conversely, if an elected or public official fails to apply a basic battle picking wisdom, asking for a budgetary increase probably won’t go over very well. Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon may have been correct when he told Chairman Chris Lauzen, “How I run my office is none of your business!,” but setting the State’s Attorney’s budget is exactly the Chairman’s business.

C’mon! It’s bleepin’ politics 101! Even middle schoolers understand this basic concept.

County Chairmen may not have much power – they only vote to break ties – but they can make your fiscal life miserable if you choose to go out of your way to aggravate them. Just like it is with baseball managers, the chairman doesn’t have to get along with you, but you do need to find a way to get along with the chairman if you want to succeed.

So, when you consider the futile KC feuds we’ve observed over the past few years, I simply sat back in stunned silence as the State’s Attorney’s office and Court Services came hat-in-hand to the County Board – knowing the County is facing a $5.1 million 2019 deficit.

The term “overly optimistic” never applied more.

But before I get yet another comment calling me a Lauzen shill, I fully understand that he doesn’t always play well with others and he can be quite difficult to deal with. Not only that, but I’ve advised the Chairman and regularly written that his public battles with elected officials and department heads are almost always counterproductive.

But the truth is, there’s no significant difference between Chris Lauzen and his collar county counterparts Dan Cronin, Scott Gryder, Jim Moustis, Aaron Lawlor, and especially Jack Franks. Effectively dealing with board members and elected and public officials, the very definition of cat-herding, frequently requires the use of an unrelenting political force.

And if you’re incapable of regularly applying that kind of leverage, it’s gonna be a very flippin long four years.

So! With this PolySci 101 concept in mind, let’s move on to two perfect examples of what we’re talking about.

 

Political naivete personified – part 1

Considering how contentious their relationship has become, most of y’all probably don’t remember what sent Chairman Lauzen and Joe McMahon down the primrose path. It all started when civil division head, Joe Lulves, arrogantly dismissed the Chairman’s waste to energy and cell phone amplifier revenue generating initiatives.

We’ve previously discussed that Lulves is basically incompetent and lazy, so he simply says no to anything that might require his or his staff’s due diligence.

 

Unhappy with being so unceremoniously brushed off, the Chairman did an end run to get his own legal advice on those projects, but when a board member complained about those expenses, the State’s Attorney reprimanded him for exceeding his powers.

Sensing they were on the precipice, any savvy State’s Attorney would’ve met privately with the Chairman, apologized for his underling’s undue brusqueness and failure to understand his job, and offered a solution that would make everyone happy.

We all know that state’s attorney’s seat is ultimately a political position. Well…almost all of us understand it.

But instead of being the adult in the room and solving the problem, to issue a public rebuke of Lauzen was the height of political naivete. It’s hard to fathom how Joe McMahon could be that inept.

Due to that very basic failure, their relationship went directly into the Krapper with letters-to-the-editor, stupid tit-for-tat bullshit, the Maxxam rehab center settlement debacle, public confrontations, and the current kerfuffle over McMahon and his staff spending 14-hour days on Cook County’s Jason Van Dyke prosecution.

So, when the State’s Attorney’s office basically asked for a 5.3* percent 2019 budget increase, to say it rendered me speechless would be the most massive of understatements.

And it ain’t easy to render Jeff Ward speechless!

It doesn’t matter who the chairman is or what county we’re talking about. No chairman is going to take that kind of utterly unnecessary public attack laying down. If, beyond getting elected, you can’t figure out how to play politics as a countywide elected official, then it’s time to step down and give someone else a shot.

The bottom line is, not only will the KCSAO be getting no new funds, but they’ll be asked to make the requisite cuts to put that $5.1 million deficit to bed.

 

Political naivete personified – part 2

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse than the KCSAO, it does! Because when it comes to the race to the political bottom, Kane County Court Services always seems to eke out a victory.

 

You see, Director Lisa Aust and Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles had the nerve to ask for a massive 12.5* percent budgetary boost. They may as well have gone for broke and asked for Bentleys for senior staff because the end result is going to be the same.

While the McMahon/Lauzen thing has basically been mutual combat, Aust and Boles went well out of their way to bring the Chairman into their abjectly dysfunctional dynamic. So, here’s how you can insure no budgetary increase in three easy steps:

Step one! Instead of going along with the Chairman’s 2018 cuts, as almost every other department/elected official did, threaten to drop the GPS home monitoring system because you think you can play chicken with a 25-year political veteran.

Step two! Out of sheer arrogance and imperiousness, preside over the first probation workers strike in Illinois history such that the union drags the Chairman into a fight that isn’t his.

Step three! Because you’re so busy screwing so many things up, ignore previous grant and other outside funding to the tune of a $600,000 decrease in department revenue over 2018 to 2019.

So, court services won’t be seeing any budgetary bump, either – they’ll be making cuts right along with their KCSAO campus neighbors. And the only place they’ll be able to make up that kind of cash will be by reining in all of those unnecessary judicial amenities. It’s gonna be a lot of fun to watch those 16th circuit judges endlessly shriek and howl when they actually have to work a full day and share courtrooms.

Poor babies!

 

Conclusion

My long-time readers already know my theory on incompetence versus nefariousness. You can fix one, but not the other. As a friend and I were discussing at a local business this morning, the level of incompetence and naivete between the KCSAO and court services makes us long for the company Trump supporters.

 

* The budgetary increase numbers are calculated by adding the departmental decline in revenue to the requested 2019 spending increase.

10 thoughts on “Quick Hits – September 12, 2018

  1. This seems like a “Stay Tuned In” moment.. Cannot wait to see how this plays out in the end.

  2. I dunno, Jeff…it take two to tango, and I don’t think it’s very mature of Lauzen to use the county budget–i.e., taxpayers’ money–to settle his personal grudges.

    • And what politician has that statement stopped? None. Using political pressure by using money is as old as it gets, whether it’s mature or not.

    • Pan,

      Whoa, whoa, whoa! It isn’t a matter of grudges. As I stipulated in the piece, county chairmen, in general, don’t respond well to being taken to task in public.

      And as I also noted, the chairman doesn’t get to vote on these things, the board does. Thus, the only way the Chairman can wield a little fiscal power is if he or she has enough votes.

      I may have applied a little too much hyperbole in this column, but the real points was, elected officials and department heads must make an effort to get along with the county chairman if they want a budget increase.

      Jeff

      • Pan,

        I re-read the column and I think you’re reading too much into it. It really is a simply Politics 101 primer. Find a way to get along with the chairman – regardless of who he or she is – or your department/office will suffer.

  3. what is the difference between a public and elected official?

    • Roger,

      Court Services Director Lisa Aust is a public official. Though she (purportedly) serves the citizens of Kane County, she was hired by the judges and not elected.

      Susan Clancy Boles is an elected official because she had to run for that full circuit judicial position. You could still call her a “public official” as well, but I differentiate for my blog purposes.

      Jeff

  4. It strikes me that it isn’t just a matter of political naivete. It’s just plain common sense that you don’t come in asking for such significant increases knowing the county has that big a deficit. Of course I guess in their minds since it’s the taxpayers’ money $5 mil is just pocket change.

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