Quick Hits – Elgin needs to work on conscious bias, too!

If, like me, you had the misfortune of reading the Daily Herald’s recent report on the status of Elgin’s diversity program and subsequent unconscious bias training, then, like me, you’re clearly more confused than ever.

How that reporter can so consistently get it wrong – right down to restaurant names – is beyond baffling. But I suppose we should give her credit for a unique kind of effort and consistency.

To fill in those background blanks, diversity consultant Denise Baretto, a real piece of work, engaged in the kind of inauspicious social media commentary that should’ve had her ass summarily canned. But since race relations is a touchy topic in The City in the Suburbs these days, her company remains employed.

Baretto

To be more specific, one of Baretto’s utterly unconscionable posts read, “If white women tried as hard to eliminate white supremacy as they try to lose weight, white supremacy would be ended.” Because all white women are fat and oblivious, right? And suddenly we’re all white supremacists, too!

I’m thinking the term “white privilege” would have been a wee bit more appropriate.

Not one to rest on her social media laurels, Baretto added, “We interrupt our amazing #fashionweek to officially tell people mad about Kap, Nike etc. to fuck yourselves.”

Nice! I’m thinking Ms. Baretto is the perfect choice to write an updated edition of “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” “Kap,” of course, was shorthand for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

In that same piece, Baretto told the Daily Herald that she’s “being more careful with swear words on social media.” Ya think? That certainly makes her a leading candidate for The First Ward’s annual “Keen Perception of the Obvious” award.

As to the white women post, Baretto added, “I understand that people were offended, and I get it, but calling out racism is not racism. They are not equivalent.” No, they’re not! Because what she said – as an Elgin diversity consultant – is exponentially worse. At least unconscious biases are just that, unconscious. But Ms. Baretto left no doubt as to whether she’s a conscious racist.

Since no one could possibly make heads or tails of that DH article, I had an enlightening conversation with Elgin Communications Specialist, Molly Center. She explained that one of Baretto’s associates was finishing up the unconscious bias training wrapping up on 12/10, and her company’s contract with the city expires on 12/31.

I asked Center whether Elgin would rehire Baretto and she said, “One of our goals is supplier diversity, so issuing an RFP is always a possibility when considering new contracts, but that would be a council decision.” That’s code for, no, they won’t be bringing her back.

Upon offering my theory that, since EPD officer Jason Lentz was fired for a much milder social media post, wasn’t Baretto’s continued employment a double standard, I didn’t get much of a response, which was probably the correct response.

Reading between the lines with a number of off-the-record Elgin insiders, it would seem that, in the era of the Cynthia DeClements shooting, high level administrators are particularly nervous about Traci Elli’s reaction to that kind of firing.

Of course, Traci Ellis is the former disgraced U-46 school board member, self-appointed spokesperson for black folks everywhere, fiction author, and the woman who compared the American flag to toilet paper. Ellis does have a small, but very vocal posse who did their damndest to commandeer Wednesday’s city council meeting over an utterly untrue rumor (we’ll discuss that on Monday).

So, while I was about to chide Elgin for their disturbing lack of cojones in this regard, as my crazy-ass mother liked to say, “Discretion is always the better part of valor.” Perhaps letting Baretto simply fade away is the wiser choice, after all.

Meanwhile, I’m going to, once again, call on my favorite Illinois City (please don’t tell Aurora) to drop this unconscious bias training bullshit once and for all. Even if done correctly, it only puts folks directly into a bunker mentality that destroys staff morale, and it only makes them further dig in.

Not to mention that, as this diversity training debacle clearly demonstrates, it only supplants one set of unconscious biases with another.

Quick Hits – Conservatives still take the outrage cake

Just when I thought the liberal outrage machine had all but sewn up the 2018 self-righteous indignation trophy, leave it to conservatives to snatch the title away with a scant 32 days left in the year.

In the midst of a somewhat heated Springfield House discussion regarding attorneys’ involvement in the ongoing lawsuits over the terrifying deaths of 13 residents at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy, Democratic Aurora State Rep Stephanie Kifowit said the following to outgoing Republican counterpart Peter Breen:

“I would like to make him a broth of Legionella and pump it into the water system of his loved one, so that they can be infected, they can be mistreated, they can sit and suffer by getting aspirin instead of being properly treated and ultimately die. And we are talking about our nation’s heroes.”

As you might imagine, wishing pestilence, suffering and death on a peer’s family didn’t go over very well, with the exception of it going viral and being picked up by every bleepin’ media outlet in the country.

Kifowit

Stephanie Kifowit

Of course, those General Assembly Republicans had a field day indulging in all sorts of shrieking, howling, and rending of garments as they called for Kifowit’s head. Not to be outdone in the outrage festivities, their conservative lackeys demanded Kifowit’s resignation as they compared her to Hitler, Stalin, and gasp, Hillary Clinton.

Was it the right thing to say? Of course not! And when Jeff Ward says it’s the wrong thing to say, it’s the wrong thing to say!

Did our State Rep initially err in trying to convince folks she was misinterpreted when it was etched in stone in the official House record? Yes, she did!

Was it a mistake to wait a day before finally issuing an apology? Yes, it was! But she did apologize.

But is it utterly disingenuous for Republicans and the conservative rabble to get completely bent out of shape over what they damn well know was a poorly chosen metaphor? You bet it is!

Under the guise of being the taxpayers’ flag bearer, Breen got a little flip when, in regard to the Quincy Home lawsuit issue, he quipped, “And, yes, we know the personal injury lawyers are going to make out like bandits, which they tend to do anytime they come to the General Assembly.”

Breen

Peter Breen

Hey Peter! There’s nothing quite like reducing 13 veterans’ deaths from blatant neglect to a financial equation, is there? You’re lucky Kifowit rescued your smart ass BS by saying something much worse.

It was at that point that Kifowit, a former marine who holds veteran’s causes near and dear to her heart, took offense at Breen’s cavalier attitude and issued her ill-chosen remark. Though I’m not defending her, and I’ve taken Ms. Kifowit to task on a number of occasions, because I actually have a brain, I understand why she said it.

We’re talking about a criminal investigation which may well result in murder charges against some high-level Rauner officials. Do you know what it’s like to die of pneumonia from Legionnaire’s disease? You basically drown in your own lungs. It’s a horrifyingly slow and painful death.

Furthermore, my good friend, decade long debate partner, and head of the Pro-Life Action League, Eric Scheidler, clearly understood what Kifowit was trying to do. He said, “Was she stating an actual intention? Of course not. This was hyperbole. But it crossed the line, and she should apologize.”

Exactly! And if Eric and I can finally manage to agree on something, it’s gotta be the truth! This was an error in judgement borne of passion, an apology should’ve been immediately issued, and that should’ve been the end of it.

But no! Republicans and conservatives just had to prove they can outdo the liberal Taliban.

Though it certainly doesn’t justify her comment, Agent Orange has issued a slew of similar proclamations, not the least of which was inciting violence against journalists. And the resounding silence from Republicans and conservatives everywhere has been quite deafening.

Make no mistake, that kind of silence is complete complicity.

I hold Kane County Auditor Terry Hunt, my State Rep Keith Wheeler, and my State Senator Jim Oberweis in the highest esteem, but I’ve been waiting two long years for  them to disassociate themselves from the plethora of President Trump’s similarly uncivil declarations, but it never seems to happen. Yet they had no problem piling on Ms. Kifowit yesterday.

I’m beyond disappointed in all of them.

You think you’ve seen everything in 12 years of journalism, but then you suddenly realize that’s not the case. I never thought I’d live to see the day when Republicans and conservatives would be exponentially more outraged by a politician’s utterly misguided statement than by the needless and criminal deaths of 13 veterans at the hands of the Rauner administration.

My fondest wish is, someday, those folks will redirect their artificial outrage into the same kind of passion Ms. Kifowit has for veterans’ well-being.

As it stands now, Republicans clearly love children until they’re born, and they love soldiers until they come home.

Quick Hits – Postponed!

As a result of pursuing two stories all morning, Quick Hits will be postponed until tomorrow at which time we’ll discuss State Rep Stephanie Kifowit’s truly unfortunate use of a metaphor and the state of Elgin’s unconscious bias training program.

Until then!

Postponed

Quick Hits – The liberal Taliban strikes again!

I’ll say it again – I’m a man without a country. While I’m certainly no social conservative, every time my liberal brethren and sisteren speak, like a football fan embarrassed by his team’s dismal performance, I want to put a paper bag over my head so I can’t be identified as a fan.

This time, the progressive perpetual outrage machine targeted Sarah Michelle Gellar of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fame. Apparently prone to Thanksgiving overindulgence, Ms. Gellar tweeted she’d post the ensuing 2007 photo of her semi-scantily clad self at various locations around her house to fend off that overeating urge.

Sarah

And then the liberal Taliban immediately attacked her, accusing the actress of downright fat-shaming her overweight compatriots. One leftist loon responded thusly:

“Projecting the idea that we should restrict ourselves from eating food to be skinny is a dangerous and damaging mindset which clearly plagues the minds of many, including celebrities as it’s pretty apparent here.”

Oh, holy bleep, it’s called a flippin’ sense of humor. Hasn’t Donald Trump taught us that not every Tweet is a harbinger of impending social collapse? She wasn’t talking about “restricting food,” she was talking about not overeating.

First, if I was Ms. Gellar, I’d walk around naked everywhere, and I mean everywhere! The house, grocery store, post office, McDonald’s, Walmart, the symphony, and the DMV because something that magnificent should never be covered up. Before you hit the send button ladies, I’ve seen you swoon at a shirtless Chris Hemsworth faster than Donald Trump wilts at the sight of Vladimir Putin.

So, don’t give me any of that misogynistic crap – you’re just as bad!

Second, it was a joke intended to encourage herself and others to consider their health before going at the turkey like a starving leopard on a wounded wildebeest. And it was funny, too! The fact that she had some fun with the fact she’s not 30 any more makes her that much more adorable.

But no! The liberal Taliban, always ready for a new and interesting way of taking offense, just had to chime in and accuse Ms. Gellar of being the only reason young women have eating disorders. As is par for the course, Gellar issued the following mea culpa:

“I love Thanksgiving and unfortunately my eyes are often bigger than my stomach, and I tend to eat so much I make myself sick. This was a joking reminder to myself not to do that. I’m terribly sorry that people were offended by my attempt at humor.”

And we spiral down into the least common denominator one more time.

When 60 percent of American women are obese or overweight, and obesity is a leading cause of death, a humorous and self-deprecating reminder that moderation and reasonable exercise aren’t a bad thing can’t possibly be a bad thing.

Unless you’re a member of the liberal Taliban that is. Then you insist upon putting a figurative burka on Ms. Gellar because folks who don’t understand when to put the fork down might be offended.

This isn’t about fat shaming, it’s about being healthy and not dying before your time. Of course everyone should accept themselves for who they are because that’s the only place change starts, but an amusing reminder that we can all be a little bit better certainly isn’t cause for a verbal stoning.

To be offended by that tweet and photograph takes that special kind of Taliban entitlement mentality which demands that no one dare hurt my delicate feelings, even if it clearly wasn’t their intent. It demands the kind of bland sameness to which burkas always reduce their wearers.

I used to tell my conservative friends that the left wasn’t nearly as bad as the Tea Party, but I was wrong. And we somehow still manage to believe we’re so much better than the countries that marginalize women in that way. Trust me, we’re not, and this is all the evidence you need.

God, liberals suck!

Quick Hits – Happy Thanksgiving!

The ghost of journalism past

So, last night we went to see author and humorist David Sedaris at Aurora’s splendiferous Paramount Theater. If you haven’t enjoyed the rare privilege of watching Mr. Sedaris masterfully apply satire, I would heartily encourage you to leap at the very next opportunity.

And I do love the Paramount, but I digress.

Only my longer-term readers will truly understand the irony of this, but as we turned right from our seats into the main aisle after the show, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with none other than former Kane County chairman and former state senator Karen McConnaughay.

McConnaughay 3

For those who don’t know, Ms. McConnaughay may not have invented the art of pay-to-play, but she certainly perfected it, and former Beacon-News reporter Dan Campana and I exposed the former chairman for exactly who and what she is.

And the pallor that quickly engulfed her face as I stood a mere two feet from her was a clear indication that she was not at all happy to see me at all. And I’m such a nice guy, too!

The other unmistakable irony is, Mr. Sedaris’ dry and piercing wit is not unlike my own, but Ms. McConnaughay utterly failed to appreciate it when it was applied to her.

 

I’m thankful that the conversation continues

I know there are days I want to move on from this non-paying journalistic endeavor, but as my favorite holiday rapidly approaches, even after 12.5 long years of going at it, I’m incredibly grateful that you, dear reader, are still interested in what I have to say.

Thanksgiving

Not only that, but my favorite former managing editor called me yesterday to say the recent comment-based blog conversation was, as he put it, “superb.” And whether we agree or disagree, isn’t that the entire point?

Like so many of you, I’m bleepin’ tired of all the partisan shrieking, so it’s kinda nice to have a venue where the discourse is rational, civil, and frequently fascinating. And I certainly couldn’t do that without you!

So, it’s in that very vein that I must insist you all have an exceptional Thanksgiving. Quick Hit’s will resume Monday, November 26.

Quick Hit’s – Anatomy of a Teachers Strike – Part Three

I swear this is going to be the final installment of this already-too-long three-part series even if we have to go into overtime!

To briefly review, in part one we covered the series of events that put the Geneva Teacher’s Union at the brink of a strike. Part two considered some of the letters D304 teachers sent to the School Board. As promised, part three will examine a real solution to a problem that needlessly pits teachers against taxpayers.

Geneva Teachers

But before we go there, I’d like to clear something up first. A couple of blog commenters challenged me to point out the 2015 contract paragraph that stipulated the end of step and lane.

But that’s not what I said!

I simply noted the clause by which the union and board agreed to discuss the current D304 salary structure. That conversation, by definition, infers change because there’s really no need to negotiate an issue that’s already settled.

And the fact that the committee managed to get nowhere in 18 months of deliberations certainly seems to indicate some disingenuousness on the union’s part.

With that out of the way, onto the solutions:

1. Decouple school funding from local property taxes

This is the heart of the issue! This is what Geneva, and all Illinois teachers, should really be fighting for. Five Illinois counties – Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kendall and Kane – are ranked in the top 30 property taxed counties in the country, so when I said “we’re all taxed out” in part two, there’s all the evidence you need.

If Michigan and Indiana can make a major shift in the funding reform direction, then so can we. We have a Democratic governor beholden to no one who enjoys the kind of General Assembly majorities to finally get the job done, too.

Perhaps the proceeds from legalized marijuana could ease property tax pain. It might mean a state property tax, too, but I’d take that over the current broken system hands down. A statewide property tax (with a healthy reduction in the local tax rate) would also provide a much more equitable school funding mechanism.

2. Break up the student loan-college tuition Ponzi scheme

And that’s exactly what it is – a Ponzi scheme by which colleges and universities can send tuition soaring as a result of an abundance of government backed money loaned to students at usurious rates.

As a college education continues to become less critical to future earning earnings, this “system” will eventually collapse under its own weight. But that doesn’t help the educators drowning in a sea of student debt right now.

Some federal Democrats have tried to get the loan reform ball rolling, but those recalcitrant Republicans have consistently blocked them. Ah! But there’s a new Congressional crew on their way to Washington and, as those midterm results indicated, anti-GOP sentiment is at an all-time high.

I’m not advocating for complete forgiveness, but there are several bills on the table that would greatly reduce the financial burden on those 44 million Americans facing $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

This is another battle cry teachers should be taking up.

3. Market forces are in your favor

Though this isn’t the kind of solution where a collectively applied willpower will work, it’s worth noting that fewer teachers seeking jobs means salaries will naturally rise.

When my wife was hired by East Aurora in 2013, the district could pick and choose from up to ten candidates. Fast forward to 2018, and they can’t hire teachers. It’s gotten so bad that my wife was moved from math intervention to honors classes with a long-term sub taking her old spot.

Considering how conservatives love to use teachers as a punching bag, Texas is putting up interstate billboards to try to lure teachers to that state, Kansas can’t find enough teachers to fill their classrooms, and California is offering $7,000 bonuses plus moving expenses for educators willing to go west.

 

Our point three will have to unfold naturally, but were I a teacher, you better believe I’d be fighting for property tax and student loan reform. And teachers have the kind of unions and lobbyists that can really get that ball rolling. Just ask outgoing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He may have broken that state’s teacher’s union, but it was those well-organized educators who certainly had the last laugh.

It doesn’t necessarily take unions and lobbyists to effect that kind of change, either. When my wife was attending National Louis University, a Tribune expose on errant early graduation practices incited Illinois into banning the practice where a student could graduate one class short of a master’s degree.

The statutory shift was so devastating that a number of her classmates quit without finishing their degree. They knew that diving into the teacher pool with a master’s in the aftermath of the Great Recession was a great way to stay unemployed.

Not one to give up without a fight, one of my wife’s classmates and I worked very closely with NLU President Nivine Megahed to get Springfield to reverse course. And much to our surprise, they did!

Now, I’m sure other folks and other schools entered the fray, but it still amazes me how we made such an impact. Considering what Wisconsin teachers just did, and if a determined trio can pull off that kind of thing, I’m sure Illinois teachers are more than up to the task.

Because the teachers’ real enemies are an antiquated education funding mechanism and a student loan industry that’s more than willing to saddle college student with unsupportable debt. They certainly aren’t the Geneva School Board, whom I believe are doing their best, or the Geneva taxpayer, who’s already tapped out.

The truth is, teachers, taxpayers and school boards should be working toward the common goal of ensuring our children have the best possible educational opportunities before they walk into a global economy and deal with dizzying 24/7 digital world.

The bottom line is, after almost 3,000 words on the subject, I hope Geneva teachers are smart enough to find a way to avoid a strike. Because, like I said. the real battle has yet to be fought.

Quick Hits – The arrogance of the KCSAO is beyond the pale

My regular readers are well aware of the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request battle I’ve been waging with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office since May. To be fair, a miscommunication between the Attorney General’s Office and myself caused some delay, but Civil Division head Joe Lulves is responsible for the rest of it.

mcmahon

My goal is to get 200 pages – that’s right 200 pages – of sexual harassment complaints against a particular former prosecutor, who was terminated for his misogynistic behavior only when I finally caught onto him. Of course, the KCSAO is doing their damndest to keep those documents out of my hands.

The good news is, I’m winning the legal fight. The Public Access Counselor arm of the Attorney General’s Office found my appeal of the KCSAO FOIA denial so compelling they took the case under review.

To wit, you can find the KCSAO’s FOIA appeal defense here, and my rebuttal here.

And while it’s utterly fascinating to regularly beat Mr. Lulves on his own legal playing field, I want you to pay particular attention to the last paragraph of his appeal defense:

To be clear, this office will not release and does not authorize the release, of any of the document encompassed by Mr. Ward’s request for sexual harassment complaints absent a court order.

What Mr. Lulves is essentially saying is, should the Attorney General find in my favor, he will completely ignore that ruling and force me to take the KCSAO to court. Please think about that for a little while…

My entire theory about the KCSAO has been that they believe that, since they apply the law, it doesn’t apply to them. And that single sentence in Lulves’ reply says it all. They don’t give a rat’s ass if the Attorney General finds in my favor, they’re gonna do exactly what they want to do.

Of course, when you, my fellow Kane Countians are facing criminal charges, the KCSAO has an entirely different view of the situation. So, the next time you find yourself in a Kane County courtroom, I would encourage you to use my case as a defense. Because if the law doesn’t apply to them, then it certainly doesn’t apply to you, either!