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.

Quick Hits – Trump supporters have always been with us!

‘Grapes of Wrath’ author John Steinbeck, then a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, wrote this to his best friend in 1943, “All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins – it never will – but that it doesn’t die.”

Exactly!

So, whenever I see reasonable friends’ over-the-top, terrified and/or horrified reactions to something those unyielding Trump supporters said, I get far more horked off at them then I do with Agent Orange’s glee club.

For our purposes, when I say “Trump supporter” I’m talking about the diehard base variety who fervently believe the President operates under a veil of papal infallibility and nothing can convince them otherwise.

Trump supporters

The reason I get ticked off at these fine friends is they’re the smart ones. They should know better. They should understand that, like a plague bacillus, these fear-driven, angry-at-the-world sad people have always been with us. They may bide their time in the dark political corners during the good times, but when some charismatic leader, economic disaster, or major cultural shift comes along, they emerge en masse to spew their venom and try to take control.

And as that great philosopher Meatloaf once said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” You see, we’re currently presiding over death of the white majority and Donald Trump knows how to play those fears like a concertmaster with a Stradivarius.

Like that ubiquitous Big Bang background radiation, no matter where you look, 33 percent of our fellow Homo Sapiens are always ready, willing, and eager to hop on the next dictator’s bandwagon. And that ride lasts until good people finally wake up and beat them back into submission, only to have their doomed-to-repeat-history children fight the very same fight.

It’s just like Steinbeck said.

This dynamic starts with people who, instead of developing an inner strength they can depend upon in dark times, look outside themselves for self-definition. And as it is with all such self-worth substitutes, external validation becomes a voracious addiction that no political circumstances can possibly satisfy.

Since most of our lives are beyond our control, every negative possibility becomes a direct attack on these individuals, who can’t take responsibility for their lives because any misfortune is always someone else’s fault. Eventually, those perceived attacks put them in a state of perpetual panic where anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what they believe is perceived as a threat.

It’s a very elaborate mental self-defense construct which would be quite remarkable if it wasn’t so destructive.

The best example is the Koch brothers who, despite vast wealth, won’t be happy until every last one of us are poor. And if that was the case, with no one left to go after, they’d turn on each other.

That’s how addictions work.

Though she correctly identified them as “deplorables,” not only did Hilary Clinton fail to connect with that 33 percent (and far more), but her unfortunate statement drove them ever deeper into the Trump camp. The President may harbor an amoral fifth grade mentality, but like that occasionally accurate broken clock, he’s the master of exploiting this external validation game because narcissists implicitly understand how to do it.

Journalist Fareed Zakaria compared Trump supporters to a cult, but though I greatly respect the man, he’s dead wrong. Cults revolve around an etched-in-stone central theology, require a strict hierarchy, and thrive on law and order. While that certainly describes Scientology, it certainly ain’t Donald Trump who’s all over the bleepin’ place – on the same day!

But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because as long as Trump feeds his rabid base’s validation addiction with proclamations like:

  • Build a wall
  • Mexicans are rapists and murderers
  • Fake news
  • Muslim travel ban
  • Haitian immigrants all have aids
  • African shithole countries
  • NFL players should stand for the anthem
  • White supremacists are very fine people

there is no amount of logic that will dissuade them from canonizing him in their minds. Since surgically removing their lips from his ample ass won’t work either, it’s time to stop putting any energy into his followers, because it’s a waste of time and it only makes them dig in further.

Ah! But there is a newer meme floating around the Net that finally gets it right. It states that, while we’ll never change Trump supporters’ minds, we generally rational people greatly outnumber them. And come November, that’s all that really matters.

If we bring our numbers to bear, we can strip Trump of his Congressional support in 2018 and defeat him in 2020.

The truth is, the nefarious people on this planet are always in the minority, it’s their insistent anger and fear that motivates them act more often than the rest of us. It’s only when the good folks flag in their intentions that the 33 percent rear their ugly heads – again.

Since Trump supporters will always be with us, the key, according to existentialist philosopher and author Albert Camus, is to maintain a “constant vigilance” such that they remain in their dark corners. I couldn’t possibly put it better than he did in the last paragraph from, ‘The Plague:’

And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

Vigilance my friends! It’s the only thing that ever works.

Quick Hits – September 7, 2018

It never hurts to broaden your municipal horizons

The day will come when former Elgin City Councilman and good friend, John Prigge, will write something positive about the city he once served, but it will not be this day!

One of his latest bones of contention is the $10,466 the City spent to send three police officers and one staffer to Scotland to study non-lethal strategies for subduing folks armed with knives and similarly edged weapons.

elginlogo-3color

I’m sure I don’t have to explain why they’re taking this eminently reasonable step.

And sure enough, a number of folks jumped on the Prigge bandwagon by questioning whether Elgin had to go half way around the world to get that kind of training. One commenter suggested our traveling quartet simply avail themselves of Skype or Google for the same kind of enlightenment.

Call me crazy, but I’m not so sure I’d want to avail myself of a 3.5-minute Youtube video and immediately attempt to disarm a knife wielding drunk without some sort of supervised practice first.

No to mention the officers’ expenses were covered by drug asset forfeiture funds, so all the City Manager’s office had to cough up was a scant $2,520 to send Assistant City Manager Laura Valdez along with them. So, the taxpayer impact was negligible.

In addition, as Mayor Dave Kaptain noted, when international law enforcement agencies want to better understand community policing, they come to Elgin. Since most UK officers don’t carry firearms, who better to turn to for non-lethal methodologies?

But the best reason to go is these kinds of trips build the kind of relationships in which the potential dividends can’t be quantified. To wit, Elgin sent a pretty impressive group to the UK and I’m sure their discussions ranged over many more topics than suspect subdual strategies. It’s not at all difficult to imagine future business opportunities and international partnerships arising from this venture.

Successful municipal management always requires a careful combination of bottom line spending and investment, and the failure to invest wisely always ends up costing the taxpayers far more in the long run. Look no further that the State of Illinois’ disastrous mental health policies which mean the untreated least of our brothers often end up in jail.

And incarceration costs ten to twenty times more than treatment does.

So, not only am I’m good with this UK adventure, but I firmly believe that Elgin frequently finds that bottom line/investment balance more often than not.

 

PETA sucks

Or as I like to call that fascinating group, “Liberals Gone Wild.”

Their latest beyond bizarre initiative was to get Nabisco to remove the cages from the front of their classic Barnum animal crackers boxes. Of course, my response to that symbolic gesture is a fervent wish that PETA was equally as imaginary as the “animals” they think just “saved.”

animal crackers

The only people who eat animal crackers are very young children who generally don’t catch the nuance of cookie boxes. But that didn’t stop a PETA spokesperson from declaring, “The new box for the animal crackers reflects that society no longer tolerates the chaining and caging of wild animals,”

No sir! The only thing it reflects is you and your ilk’s consistently misaligned priorities that do more damage to your organization than good. What’s next? Getting Tony the Tiger out of his overly onerous contract with Kellogg?

Some white folks really do have too much time on their hands.

 

Anti-panhandling ordinances are an exercise in futility

So, both Elgin and Aurora have recently come under ACLU fire for the overly onerous anti-panhandling ordinances. Elgin bans begging in roadways, at bus stops, and in city-owned parking lots, and the ordinance also precludes “aggressive” panhandling anywhere. Aurora outlaws the practice completely.

And my two favorite Kane County towns may as well wave the white flag because our fine friends at the American Civil Liberties Union have never failed to get the judge to side with them on this issue.

When the Supreme Court ruled that begging was basically free speech in 2015, Elgin tried to tweak their ordinance, but defining “aggressive panhandling” as touching, the use of profanity, or intentionally blocking a right-of-way ain’t gonna cut it. Put more simply, you can’t regulate one form of “speech” without similarly regulating the rest.

Though I generally applaud the ACLU’s unyielding constitutionally driven efforts, especially in the era of Trump, this is one area in which I think their efforts are misguided. And I say this because there are basically two types of panhandlers.

Panhandling

The first involves the chronically mentally ill and/or addicted and giving them money does nothing more than assure their downward self-destructive spiral. I’d much rather support the Community Crisis Center, Hessed House, Lazarus House, or Mutual Ground who do their damndest to get these folks back on their feet.

Then there are the more plentiful professional panhandlers. You’ll see them holding up cardboard signs with tales of woe at busy intersections or in parking lots. Then, a short half hour later, you’ll find them exiting Meijer with cell phone minutes cards, Starbucks, Cheetos, and cigarettes, as they get into a late model car with their waiting significant other.

For all the obvious reasons, I don’t give anything to either variety.

Since panhandlers go where the people are and legislating them into the next town is a constitutional impossibility, why can’t Elgin and Aurora embark upon the kind of educational campaign that would prevent kind-hearted folks from abetting this nuisance and making the homeless’ plight worse.

They could use social media and target the prime panhandling areas with signs and flyers describing the options available to the homeless. They could further explain that forking over cash only keeps these folks in the same sad situation, and that many of these beggars are simply preying on people’s kindness. The icing on the case would be strategically placed donation kiosks with the proceeds going to the aforementioned social service agencies.

When their cash supply dries up, so will the panhandling, and the homeless who really do need our help will be much more likely to get it. Problem solved!

Quick Hits – Rahm ain’t runnin’?

Upon rolling out of bed yesterday morning, had you told me that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would bid adieu to the impending electoral festivities, I would’ve told your significant other to lock up the liquor cabinet.

I don’t care what the polls said at this early point. C’mon! This is a man who’s already raised $10 million to fend off 12 challengers who wouldn’t have much of a shot in that kind of crowded field. Democrats don’t seem to understand that, when it comes to primaries, more is never merrier.

Rahm

Though he served for eight long years, Rahm was never suited to that kind of bringing people together dynamic required to succeed as Second City mayor. His specialty has been kicking ass and taking names. In fact, I firmly believe it was his departure that doomed the Obama presidency to utter second term ineffectiveness.

The truth is, being mayor of any city is an exceptionally tough gig but heading up a Machine-less Second City is a virtual impossibility. There are too many powerful factions requiring constantly conflicting obeisance to get the job done. Think about it! You have to placate:

  • An often-loony city council
  • The Chicago Public School System
  • The CPS teacher’s union
  • Unions, unions, and more unions
  • The perpetually unhappy Chicago Police
  • Violent splinter gangs that no one can control
  • A slew of “enthusiastic” activist groups besot with tunnel vision
  • Insistent unfunded state mandates
  • A population that’s beyond diverse
  • Property taxes that make Geneva, Illinois’ look sane
  • Crushing debt on all fronts

I could continue, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying the Daley bred Chicago Machine days were better, but they kinda were. Because whenever you have this number of absurdly diverse interests consistently clashing with each other, you must be capable of, on frequent occasion, ruling a predetermined political hierarchy with an iron fist if you want to get anything done.

And no one pulled that off like Richard J. Daley.

There’s a reason they called Chicago “The City that Works” because the elder Daley had the political muscle to make damn sure it did. The late, great Mike Royko called it “clout!” You certainly didn’t want “Hizzoner” to become too terribly unamused with you or you’d find yourself exiled to Elmhurst. And who the bleep wants that?

I’m sure Rahm could’ve done it back in those days, too, but the times, and the Machine, have “evolved.” Once those Democratic regulars got a taste of political freedom and minorities took their rightful place at the table, a strong mayoral hand was no longer the answer. And when it came down to the new necessity of coaching and finding common ground, Rahm was never comfortable with peace, love, and understanding.

The best example of the Machine’s waning influence is 12 separate Democratic mayoral challengers on the 2019 ballot – so far! That kind of outright insolence would’ve never have been tolerated in 1973.

“I’ve decided not to seek re-election,” Emanuel said, “This has been the job of a lifetime, but it is not a job for a lifetime.”

Amen brother!

Anyone who wants to be da Mayor of Chicagah should automatically be disqualified by virtue of mental defect. It’s a level of insanity to which even I couldn’t possibly ascribe.

And if anyone thinks any mayor can bring an end to the violence plaguing Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods, as that great philosopher Steven Tyler likes to say, “dream on!” No man or woman on this vast rocky sphere can single-handedly end the war on drugs or address the economic blight that leads to gangs and gang warfare in the first place.

And all the unyielding special interests make that prospect even more untenable. There are thankless jobs and then there’s being mayor of The Windy City. It’s a circle of Hell that Dante couldn’t possibly have conceived.

As far as what the looming consolidated election will bring, an incumbent-less field of that magnitude typically means the candidate with the best combination of name recognition and reputation will win the day. And, right now, that would be former Chicago Public Schools CEO, Paul Vallas. With the right message and the right campaign team, this election is now his to win.

Though he was an eminently round peg trying to fit in a determinedly square hole, I’m going to miss Rahm if for no other reason than I will always harbor a vast affinity for all of my ass-kicking compatriots regardless of how ineffective they might be. And I always got the biggest kick out of his unique management style.

So, Rahm! You made the right decision and both you and your family will be far better off for it. Eight years in hell is more than enough public service for any politician. Now you get to laugh as the next mayor comes to terms with the Sisyphean nature of the task.

Put more simply, from one asshole to another, I wish you the very best in your future endeavors. Don’t ever change, baby!

 

 

P.S. I want to thank Driver Tom for delivering this news scant seconds after the press release was issued.

Quick Hits – Supplemental

Oops! I forgot to post that I wouldn’t be posting on Labor Day for all the obvious reasons. So the next real Quick Hits will be coming tomorrow, Wednesday, September 5. But lets catch up on a few brief items first!

Please keep George and his family in your meditations and prayers

For those of you who don’t know, former Naperville Mayor, George Pradel, 80, is currently in hospice care. When George recently went to the doctor for severe neck and back pain, tests revealed a large malignant tumor and that the cancer had already spread throughout his body.

Pradel

George, a former Officer Friendly, who reined over the city he loved from 1995 to 2015 was an immensely popular mayor.  Though he’s in too much pain to receive visitors, his family set up this website where family, friends and fans could post their thoughts and anecdotes.

We’ll be covering George’s tenure more thoroughly in an upcoming Quick Hits installment. Meanwhile, this is my favorite Real-world Example from my impending ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election’ book:

In 2015, George Pradel, the Mayor of Naperville, Illinois, stepped down after 20 years of public service. That tenure is no small accomplishment when you consider that Naperville exploded from 100,000 to 145,000 residents during that time.

Some worthwhile candidates challenged George over all those years, but he dispatched each and every one of them without breaking a sweat.

George was very amicable, he knew how to connect with voters, he avoided the typical political pitfalls and, best of all, he was Naperville’s Officer Friendly for years. All those school children became voters who have very fond memories of George’s visits.

George never let a handshaking opportunity go, either. I’ll never forget the day he showed up to pass out the awards at a 5K race in which I placed third in my age group.

From 1995 to 2011, any Napervillian with mayoral aspirations was SOL (bleep out of luck). No amount of money, no amount of name recognition, no amount of negative campaigning, no amount of positive campaigning, no amount of time and no amount of door-knocking mattered. Had Jesus Himself returned to run, he would not have beaten George Pradel.

I’ll say it again, running against an undamaged incumbent at the local level is political suicide.

You really think that’s a good thing, Joe?

Just when you think an elected official can’t possibly be any more politically naive, they almost always manage to prove me wrong.

With the Jason Van Dyke trial looming large, both major Chicago papers have taken turns covering defense attorney Daniel Herbert and special prosecutor and Kane County State’s Attorney, Joe McMahon.

In the Sun-Times piece, McMahon brags how he and his top prosecutors routinely spend 13 to 14 hours a day on the case. “It’s whatever it takes, he said, “Sometimes, those days are very long.”

After claiming there’s no net taxpayer loss to taking on a Cook County trial, he basically admitted that Kane County voters aren’t getting the benefit of his $170,000 pay, or the six-figure salaries of his top lieutenants.

So, why run for State’s Attorney if you have no intention of doing the job? If you want to take on a special prosecution of this magnitude, go ahead, but take a leave of absence to do it – don’t bilk the taxpayer for it.

What this boils down to is McMahon is getting all sorts of positive state-wide press, and you and I are footing the bill.

Continuing with his unique brand of naivete, when the Sun-Times reporter/columnist asked bout his recent five-round bout with Chairman Chris Lauzen, McMahon said, “The criticism has really come from a single person. The board members who have communicated with me about this have been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Right!

First, the board members who don’t appreciate Lauzen’s unique leadership style are going to tell him whatever he wants to hear. It’s the whole enemy of my enemy thing.

Second, from the beginning, board members who’ve spoken with me consistently called McMahon’s judgement into question for taking on a case he can’t win. If he wins, his relationship with law enforcement is permanently damaged. If he loses, every Chicago activist will be out for his head.

And third, since the Maxxam rehab center lawsuit settlement disaster, the bloom is completely off McMahon’s county board rose. Most board members are furious with him for his failure to address that situation early on. That means Joe is going to have a very rough time going forward – especially when it comes to his recent budget increase request.

Considering his fascinating track record, I bet he still thinks that’s gonna happen!

The right way to stage a protest

I’m not going to get into the vagaries of traffic blocking anti-Chicago violence protests – we’ll save that for a time we can talk about it in more detail. But I will say that Monday’s attempt to block I-190 and temporarily close O’Hare Airport worked out well on all counts.

The protester’s 50 person presence was vastly overshadowed by three times the number of State Police officers, who explained they would not stop the group from walking onto the highway, but any interloper would be arrested and hit with a $120 pedestrian on an expressway fine.

When Twelve of them, including organizer the Reverend Gregory Livingston crossed the line and walked onto I-190, the were peacefully arrested, processed, and released.

In the end, the protesters got national press, O’Hare airport operations continued unimpeded, and everyone shook hands and went home. Sometimes life is good!