Quick Hits – 2019 endorsements!

Since I’ve been somewhat remiss in covering many of our local races, let’s tie up a few loose ends before those April 2 election day festivities commence.

Election 2019

U46 School Board

Thankfully, this is the last of the local ideological battlegrounds with two very disparate slates of four candidates squaring off. Though I firmly believe the outcome is a foregone conclusion, I do want to remind you of what a partisan nightmare this board has been for the last four years.

Disgraced former board member and legend in her own mind, Traci Ellis, was the worst of the liberal bunch, but crazy conservative incumbent Jeannette Ward comes in a very close second place. Ellis is already gone, and Ward should also be sent packing.

Ms. Ward (no relation) has gone out of her way to prove she firmly believes that being a board member has nothing to do with the teachers, taxpayers, or students and everything to do with pressing a ultra-conservative agenda that has no place in a school district.

Swept in on the coattails of a major County Clerk Jack Cunningham tax error which has long since been rectified, she will be hard pressed to retain her seat. I’d list Ward’s greatest hits, but neither one of us has that kind of time.

U-46 is far from perfect such that even the bloom is falling off CEO Tony Sanders’ rose, but as I frequently remind myself, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” It’s in that very vein I’d recommend:

  • Kathleen Thomas
  • John Devereaux
  • Eva Porter
  • Susan Kerr

In addition to finally restoring balance to the board force, my fondest wish is these worthwhile folks will provide the kind of strong and independent voices that will propel U-46 onto bigger and better things.

 

Elgin City Council/Mayor

Given my regular coverage of that body, there’s no need to mince words here. The best city council candidates are:

  • John Steffen
  • Rose Martinez
  • Toby Shaw
  • Fred Moulton
  • Steve Thoren

Though I think I’m, once again, spitting into the wind, considering her premature lynching of Elgin Police Lt. Chris Jensen, please put Councilwoman Tish Powel out of our collective misery.

With Elgin doing quite well on all fronts, Mayor Dave Kaptain has most certainly earned another term.

 

Aurora 6th Ward

This race has suddenly become a bit more fascinating!  Someone provided the Beacon-News with evidence of perennial candidate Matt Harrington “purchasing” his heavily promoted degrees from a “school” shut down for being a diploma mill.

Ain’t politics grand?

But the truth is, God Herself could come down and She wouldn’t wouldn’t beat Mike Saville. And no one is going to beat an incumbent in a crowded field of four.

I have spoken with Mike many times over the years and he is exactly what an alderman should be. He has my unflinching endorsement!

 

North Aurora Trustee

  • Mark Guethle
  • Mark Carroll
  • Laura Curtis

North Aurora is consistently in the black, this trio regularly keeps costs down, and I’ve worked on a number of campaigns with Mark Guethle, so give these incumbents another shot.

 

Geneva D304 School Board

With the Geneva Education Association already sending out three mailers supporting their pro-union slate, I want to remind my fellow Genevans to vote for the three candidates who will put the taxpayer on equal footing with the teachers:

  • Mike McCormick
  • Jessica Breugelmans
  • Al Gaston

The most surprising thing about this race is, in a field of nine, Breugelmans is the only one who canvassed my south Fisher Farms neighborhood. That alone would get my vote.

BTW, an astute reader noted the irony that it’s actually the Geneva Township taxpayers who underwrote those mailers. Think about it! We collectively pay those educators’ salaries and the teachers, in turn, pay union dues, which paid for those mailers.

As D. L. Hughley would say, “Ain’t that a bitch!”

 

Geneva 4th Ward Alderman

Though I certainly have nothing against Gabriel Kaven, I’ll be pulling that ballot trigger for Paula Merrington. She’s one of the few candidates who knocked on our front door, her yard sign effort has been more than reasonable, and she sent a small, but effective mailer to Fourth Ward voters.

Typically, the candidates who prove they can run an effective campaign turn out to be the most effective city councilmen.

 

Geneva Library Board

Again, not a lot of due diligence expended here, but I will certainly be voting for Dana Hintz a second time.

 

And last but not least, PLEASE get out and vote. These odd-year races may lack the panache and pizzazz of their even-year compatriots, but city councils and school boards do more to determine your tax burden than federal and state government combined.

Quick Hits – This ain’t “the Chicago way!”

Buckle your seatbelts folks! This is gonna be a long one.

My friend Paul Stukel said it. Real Clear Politics said it. And, of course Tribune columnist John Kass said it. But they’re all wrong! Whatever prompted the players to give ‘Empire’ buffoon Jussie Smollett a free felony pass had absolutely nothing to do with “The Chicago Way.”

The Chicago Way may baffle and befuddle folks from backward burbs like New York, LA, and anywhere in Indiana, but in the end, it always makes sense in all sorts of majestically peculiar and wondrous ways.

Alderman Marty Quinn’s minions trying to erase 2,609 non-existent signatures from a competitor’s nominating paperwork is the Chicago Way. And his city council competitor turning out to be a white supremacist Trump supporter could only happen in the Windy City.

Speaker Mike Madigan’s lackeys lying in wait to insert last-minute candidates of the appropriate ethnicity to doom the hopes of anyone with the temerity to run against him is the Chicago Way.

And two of those lackeys mysteriously “disappearing” right before their lawsuit deposition could only happen in the City that Works. There’s a reason the renowned Second City comedy Troupe launched here and not in Podunk towns like Atlanta, St. Louis, or God forbid, Milwaukee. Chicagoans have a sense of humor!

For the cave dwellers among us, gay black ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett, unhappy with his $20,000 an episode salary, staged a hate crime against himself complete with two MAGA cap wearing friends accosting him in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood at 2 a.m. on a polar vortex February night.

Why this criminal mastermind thought an assault would mean a raise and anyone would buy this bilge is beyond me.

Given her ties to the Smollett family, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself and her second-in-command brought down the hammer in the form of 16 felony disorderly conduct charges. Put more simply, Smollett was looking at real jail time.

Fox Smollett

But then, in what can only be described as a bonafide biblical parting-of-the-Red Sea epic miracle, the CCSAO not only dropped every single charge, but they expunged Smollett’s record and the judge sealed the case. It’s the kinda thing that puts that mystical Monopoly get out of jail free card to abject shame.

Oh! But he did have to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Poor baby! As you might imagine, this bizarre turn of events has Roger Stone, El Chapo, and Robert Kraft begging to have their cases heard in Chicago. Who could blame them?

But despite the bizarre nature of this pre-trial acquittal, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Chicago Way. Here’s why:

1. Kim Foxx is finished

When her recusal didn’t work out quite the way she thought it would, Ms. Foxx clearly came storming back to take control of the proceedings. And dropping 16 felonies is going to stick to her with far more magnetic zeal than the Laquan McDonald coverup did to predecessor Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

And we all know that ended their political careers.

Somebody must’ve offered Foxx one hell of a job to get her to commit this kind of public political suicide.

 

2. Toni Preckwinkle is done

Much like Machine guilt by association doomed Susana Mendoza’s mayoral hopes, now it’s Ms. Preckwinkle’s turn. All previous Teflon qualities aside, with Kass that Foxx is a Preckwinkle protégé, that’s all it’s gonna take to turn what was supposed to be a tight Chicago mayoral race into a rout.

Unless Preckwinkle harbors the same kind of suicidal penchant that would make her a willing part of this, what would make Foxx turn on her patron and mentor in this heinous a manner? This marks the beginning of the end of Preckwinkle’s political career and that certainly ain’t the Chicago Way.

 

3. I wouldn’t want to be a Cook County prosecutor right now

From their budget right down to misdemeanor cases, a state’s attorney’s office relies upon the good graces of local law enforcement and political leadership to be effective. I never thought I’d see the day a sitting Chicago mayor and Police chief stand in front of the cameras and call out the CCSAO in no uncertain terms.

That image renders me completely speechless and, trust me, there will be hell to pay for this incomprehensible decision.

 

4. He didn’t even have to allocute!

Had Smollett said something like, “This was a serious error in judgment for which I take full responsibility. I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done, and I promise I will make this up to the people of Chicago, my coworkers, and most of all, anyone who’s been the victim of a real hate crime,” it would’ve gone a long way towards mitigating his free pass.

But no! Smollett used his immense good fortune as a platform from which to attack the Chicago Police Department. And no CPD office on the planet – past or present – will ever forget that kind of indecency. Were I a member of the Smollett family, I’d be hightailing it out of Chicago as we speak!

 

5. Smollett ain’t got that kind of clout

‘Empire’ had two good years, but ratings have since plummeted to the point where there probably won’t be a sixth season. If the show is somehow renewed, considering the cast members’ reaction to Smollett’s shenanigans, he role will be recast or dropped. Then he’ll be Hollywood poison.

Ed Burke getting handily reelected in the face of federal charges is “clout.” But these people sticking their political necks out for a low IQ actor is beyond comprehension.

 

6. The Obamas were not involved

Yes! Smollett’s attorney was Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff, but what could make the former President and First Lady risk their reputations on a C level celebrity? Not even crazy conspiracy theorist John Kass promoted that possibility.

And what kind of power does an ex-president really have? Everyone involved in this mess already had A level connections and most state’s attorneys would laugh at an ex-president who tried to pull those kinds of strings.

C’mon! The Obamas’ mayoral endorsement wasn’t enough to propel Preckwinkle over the top against a political unknown.

 

None of this is the Chicago way – it’s not even close! Perhaps all that Chicago River green dye has some sort of deleterious long-term side effect. That certainly would explain a lot.

But fret not dear reader, that Lyric Opera fat lady is only clearing her throat. It would seem that Smollett availed himself of the U.S. Postal Service to perpetrate this fraud against the people of Chicago, and that misstep caught the eye of those Dirksen Building federal agents, who don’t share our wonderful sense of humor.

So, Smollett’s free pass may well turn out to be the worst thing that could happen to him. And that kind of fascinating political karma has always been a part of the Chicago Way. Just ask Ed Burke.

Quick Hits – March 25, 2019

Another anonymous note!

Perhaps I shouldn’t have referenced that previous nameless missive informing me of just how scurrilous Geneva aldermanic candidate Tom Simonian really is. First, I already knew that, and second, every last accusation turned out to be false.

It’s kinda aggravating that someone actually thought I’d simply take it at face value. The First Ward ain’t one of the local newspapers, we actually perform our due diligence.

But I digress!

Discussing that first note only seems to have encouraged another semi-anonymous reader to personally place a three-page diatribe against all levels of government in my snail-mailbox. So much for being difficult to find.

Given the Xeroxed nature of the mostly cursive manifesto, at first I thought everyone in the neighborhood received one. But after a swift investigation it became clear that yours truly was the singularly lucky recipient.

Though I firmly believe the individual involved is harmless, the difficult-to-follow rant asserted that the federal government was applying new mind-reading and mind-control technologies on a global scale. The author also provided a letter to her family that stipulates:

If anything should happen to me – I have been a victim of a covert character assassination that involves a torture ring of Freemasons and higher ups that run the towns of St. Charles and Geneva IL.

Though that theory might explain Trump supporters, and the current Geneva administration does like to torture us with regular tax and fee hikes, I’m not so sure my hometown has the capacity to launch the requisite satellite our conspiracy theorist referenced.

As my favorite TV judge likes to say, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you,” but all kidding aside, this is clearly the work of an individual who could use a little help. And though I don’t know where they’re located, she mentioned a couple of family members who I would encourage to intervene.

To wit, we have got to start taking mental illness more seriously, and by that I mean funding the kind of social safety net that not only keeps these folks from falling through the cracks, but gets in front of them on the rare occasion they might turn violent.

This is a case where an ounce of fiscal prevention is far better than the current incarceration pound of cure.

 

Another anonymous note – part 2!

It would seem that I’m not nearly the only who’s had to contend with an anonymous letter these days. Six separate sources informed me of a flyer making the rounds in Elgin that’s even more fascinating than my own nameless note.

I’m not sure exactly who received it, but the letter basically states that my esteemed Elginites should vote for mayoral candidate Carol Rauschenberger because she’s a devout Muslim who “understands the true nature of the Prophet.”

Fascinating! Who knew “Rauschenberger” was an Arabic name? I thought it was German!

Carol Rauschenberg

Not only does the author contend Carol is a card-carrying member of the 1.8 billion faithful, but her brother and former State Senator Steve also belongs to the very same flock. Though I’d have to say that all that smoking and beer drinking would make him a very bad Muslim.

Steve always was a rebel! I wonder where he hides his prayer rug?

C’mon! This is clearly a classic case of the campaign redirection strategy applied by the opposition who attempt to define a candidate through what is ostensibly a positive “attack.” They want people to believe Rauschenberger really is a Muslim in the hope they’ll freak out and vote for incumbent Dave Kaptain.

The problem is, no one in their right mind is going to believe anyone in the longstanding Elgin Rauschenberger family has converted to Islam – not that there’s anything wrong with that. That said, you certainly have to give the writer credit for creativity.

To clear, we know the Kaptain campaign had nothing to do with this because they’re not nearly that stupid and they understand that anonymous charges almost always backfire in local elections. This one will, too! I’m not saying it’s enough to get Carol elected, but it certainly will help her cause.

That said, I’ve long suspected Mayor Kaptain, much like myself, is a passionate Pastafarian, so you might want to consider that possibility.

The odd thing about all this is, it’s the least contentious Elgin mayoral race I’ve ever covered, and as I’ve previously stipulated, Carol and Dave are essentially the same person. There’s very little separating the two candidates, so this is the last thing I expected in what’s been a very civil campaign.

Never a dull moment, right Elgin!

 

The GEA steps in it – again!

Before we get to the main point, I have to say I’m always amused by the column stipulations that set people off. A couple of union friends were about to chide me for covering the Geneva Education Association’s (the teachers’ union) difficulties with campaign finance reporting until they learned the GEA printed their recent mailers at a non-union shop!

Then they went beyond ballistic! Why, I haven’t had to endure those kinds of detailed four-letter word tirades since that last Mel Gibson voicemail went public.

Former Batavia High School teacher and current School Board member, John Dryden, put it best – and a little more sanguinely – when he wrote, “A union that does not always support every other union is not worth the effort. They don’t get it.”

No, they don’t. And last Friday, they made it worse.

GEA

In another what-the-bleep-were-you-thinking moment, an eyewitness told me the GEA had all sorts of doorknob hangers and walk lists delivered to the Geneva High School main office. And let’s just say some of those staffers were not at all amused!

Apparently, D304 teachers will be canvassing various neighborhoods during this week’s spring break on behalf of the union-backed slate.

If you recall, a St. Charles School Board member was just found guilty of violating their ethics policy simply by soliciting petition signatures after a board meeting. The basic premise being that school board candidates cannot conduct campaign business on district grounds.

To be fair, this GEA faux pas is another minor violation, but much like it is with the Geneva Police, when you add up the totality of their errant ways, it belies the kind of arrogance that demonstrates they believe they’re above the rules. So why should their students follow their classroom edicts?

Meanwhile, a Facebook reader admonished me for covering “More First World Geneva woes!” While that was kind of funny, it indicates that we’ve generally forgotten who’s responsible for the preponderance of our taxes. Conservatives loved to rail about President Obama and progressives love to attack President Trump, but the truth is, our school boards account for the bulk of our tax burden.

And this D304 election will likely determine our property tax direction for the next decade. If you want to pay more, vote for the union slate. If you want a school board that truly considers the taxpayer, vote for Mike McCormick, Jessica Brueglemans, and Al Gaston.

Meanwhile, let’s all get down on our knees and fervently pray that the GEA finally manages to “get it!” Yikes!

Quick Hits – The GEA strikes again!

Leave it to former TaxFACTS co-founder Bob McQuillan to make an already interesting Geneva School Board election even more fascinating.

On March 15, McQuillan filed a formal complaint with the Illinois State Board of Elections alleging the Geneva Education Association failed to form a campaign committee and disclose its spending on behalf of their three endorsed school board candidates.

Of course, the Geneva Education Association is the D304 teachers’ union.

For background purposes, those lucky Land of Lincoln candidates are bound by some of the most eclectic election law on the planet. To wit, while the vast majority states insist political hopefuls form a committee before they start circulating those signature sheets, Illinois stipulates that only candidates who take in or spend five grand, in any combination thereof, are required to do the same.

Given that an honest campaign finance lapse could provide your opponent(s) with an all sorts of ammunition to use against you, and forming a political committee doesn’t cost a dime, I invariably instruct my clients to get the committee ball rolling regardless of what they think they’re gonna spend.

Gannon

GEA President Kevin Gannon. The proud “union member” didn’t use a union print shop!

McQuillan claims the GEA crossed that reporting line with what turned out to be the first mailer supporting their school board slate. And if you refuse take GEA head Kevin Gannon’s word for it, something I would generally recommend, he might be right!

It’s also important to note that the GEA sent the same mailer a second time after McQuillan’s complaint was filed.

So, let’s do the math, which starts with an 8.5 x 11 full color mailer sent to GEA members and Geneva Township residents who voted in at least one previous odd-year election. Depending upon whether they used a 2015 or 2017 voter universe, we’re talking 2,500 to 5,500 households.

Thus, a small 5,000-piece print run of a high-end campaign mailer that size generally runs about 70 cents a pop. And postage for that oversized mailer to 2,500 households would cost approximately 50 cents each.

That means the GEA paid $3,000 to $6,000 for just the first round.

That also means when Gannon said “the union spent about only $1,500 on the mailer” he wasn’t exactly telling the truth. No surprise there! But to be fair, if the GEA came out on the lower end of that range, there would be no reporting requirement.

But that’s not all!

The ISBE also requires candidates and contributors to report what they refer to as “in-kind donations,” also subject to that five-grand threshold. For example, if a restaurant owner provides a rent-free party space for a fundraiser, the fair market value of that room is considered a campaign contribution.

And one of the union-backed candidates made the mistake of bragging about everything the GEA has done for them to one of my sources. That included website design, social media help, and campaign material design, which, if reported correctly, probably puts them over that magic number.

But even if it didn’t, that second GEA mailer clearly put them over the reporting top.

So, while it looks like McQuillan’s complaint will be sustained, unless they have previous infractions, the worst the ISBE will do is hit the GEA with a minor fine. But if they simply followed the rules – something they demand of their students – there would be no complaint and I wouldn’t be writing about them – again.

And there’s nothing quite like being put squarely back on your heels with a little more than a week before election day.

I’ll say it again, if you want a school board that puts the taxpayers on an equal footing with the teachers, please vote for Mike McCormick, Jessica Breugelmans, and Al Gaston.

In a final fascinating irony, the GEA did NOT use a union shop to print those mailers, likely because they’re more expensive. We know this because the indicatory “union bug” is nowhere to be found on either piece.

I mentioned that little faux pas to a staunch union friend and his rather terse response was by no means fit for a family blog post.

So much for the GEA standing on principle, right?

Quick Hits – Baldemar Lopez is wrong for Elgin!

Without further ado, here’s why that two-year city council seat candidate should be at the bottom of your ballot list:

1. He’s a carpetbagger

Mr. Lopez’ tells us that he was “born in Elgin and raised by a single mother,” he “attended U-46 schools,” he “graduated from “ECC,” and he eventually “returned to the area.” What he doesn’t say is that he was raised in Elgin, he attended Elgin schools, and he lived in Elgin for any significant length of time.

Because he hasn’t!

There’s nothing wrong with moving back to Elgin to run for city council, but being blatantly disingenuous about it raises a real red flag. Haven’t we endured enough disingenuous politicians?

Lopez

2. He’s steeped in the Chicago Machine

How may Elgin city council candidates have held fundraisers in downtown Chicago? And how many of them prominently featured the names of Chicago State Rep Chuy Garcia and former Alderman Juan Soliz on those fundraising invites?

Lopez says he has the “vision” to move Elgin forward, but I’m thinking he’ll do his best to take it back 20 years.

 

3. An entitlement mentality the size of Montana

While that’s certainly a common thread among city council candidates, Lopez particularly excels in this regard. I’ve heard many stories extolling his vast arrogance, but here’s my favorite!

When he approached a citizen’s group for an endorsement, they explained that he’d have to fill out their candidate questionnaire before they’d bestow their blessing. Lopez replied that he didn’t have the time for that kind of thing because he was going to win anyway, and when he won, he’d “remember the people who supported him.”

Shades of Rod Blagojevich! While that’s certainly how most politicians think, most of ‘em are smart enough not to say it out loud. Apparently, Mr. Lopez adheres to the Ed Burke school of winning friends and influencing people.

 

4. He’s supported by the Castro-Dalton-Noland Cabal

And that’s a good enough reason not to vote for anyone!

Though, I’m still personally fond of State Senator Cristina Castro, she’s quickly worn out her welcome in Springfield and she’s doing her damndest to apply those Madigan-esque tactics right here in Elgin.

Not only that but, Judges like John Dalton and Mike Noland are expressly forbidden from engaging in any kind of political activity whatsoever. But the fact they’re openly supporting Lopez just won them another Judicial Inquiry Board complaint.

 

5. The Castro and Lopez people are threatening Rose Martinez supporters

This is the one that really frosts my cookies! I’ve always admired City Councilwoman Rose Martinez for her capacity to engage in independent thinking. It doesn’t happen very often in municipal government.

So, ain’t nobody gonna bully Rose – but that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

When Castro and Lopez realized she would not support their slate, they embarked upon the kind of smear campaign that accused Rose of being “anti-immigration” and claimed she referred to those regular anti-Chris Jensen city council speakers as “felons.”

Of course, neither one is the case, and when that didn’t work, they took it a step further.

When they’re not stealing her signs outright, they’re threatening people who post Martinez signs, including, but not nearly limited to some now nervous senior citizens. Like I said, it’s Mike Madigan and the Chicago Machine at its best!

The next thing you know Lopez, an attorney, will be soliciting business from Burger King owners.

 

I offered Mr. Lopez every opportunity to respond to a serious of questions, but he ignored my entreaties.

Steven Thoren and Jerri McCue, also competing for that two-year seat, are far better candidates and much better individuals than Mr. Lopez could ever hope to be. They’re also far more invested in Elgin than their opponent has ever been.

Elgin and the Elgin City Council are both propositions that work. Let’s keep it that way!

 

Quick Hits – Geneva! Vote McCormick, Breugelmans, and Gaston

With early voting underway, it’s time to weigh in on a couple of local elections and we’ll start than the Geneva School Board. In the aftermath of a rather contentious teachers’ strike, there are nine candidates running for three seats. It’s a wide-open field with Mike McCormick as the only incumbent.

I’ve spoken with a number of that group and every one of them said the first question those front door voters ask is, “Who do you support? The teachers or the school board?” And while I certainly understand that post-strike logic, it’s sad to think this race will come down to an us versus them mentality.

Because the truth is, regardless of their platform, anyone with the gumption to run for school board deserves a hearty pat on the back, or perhaps a full mental evaluation. These contests generally cover more area than a mayoral race, there’s no salary involved, and if any of them think the campaign is the hard part, just wait until that first board meeting!

It’s an utterly thankless job involving parents’ two most precious commodities – their children and their wallets. And the only time the press pays any attention to you is when you screw up or you’re forced to deal with a grueling scenario like labor negotiations.

I advised a school board candidate in 2017 and my favorite threat to use against them is, “Do you want me to help you get reelected?”

So, the fact I’m supporting three candidates in no way relegates the rest to some sort of Anti-Christ status. It simply indicates that I disagree with the lack of balance in their D304 world views.

That’s all there is to it. I want to see those three seats filled with folks who understand that, whether the public shows up to board meetings or not, the taxpayers deserve the same consideration that district administrators and teachers do.

Mike McCormick was the first board member to sound the capital debt alarm and his consistent low-key leadership has been instrumental in the board attacking that major challenge head on. Two terms are generally enough for any politician, but I’d really like to see McCormick continue his fiscal work.

McCormick

Mike McCormick

The Daily Herald was dead on when they endorsed Jessica Breugelmans, noting she “stands out from the crowd.” I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Jessica (Don’t make me spell her last name again!) a couple of times and I’ve been more than impressed with her intellect, her capacity to get to the heart of an issue, and her desire to serve.

If elected, she will certainly bring some badly needed balance to the D304 force.

Our third candidate is Wildwood Restaurant manager Al Gaston. Though he’s running a semi-unconventional campaign – you won’t see him on social media or find him on the Net – that doesn’t mean he isn’t worthy of your consideration. In his own words:

Being a homeowner in Geneva for over 15 years, I would look to not increase property taxes any more than necessary. The school board has done a good job bringing down the debt created back in the early 1990s and I would work to continue that progress and process.

That’s all I ask! Ideological perfection is not the goal. It’s the capacity to see the big picture and act in a way that ultimately benefits everyone involved that really matters. There’s only “us” and no “them,” and these three candidates are pro-D304, not pro-teacher or pro-taxpayer.

Breugelmans

Jessica Breugelmans

Meanwhile, the other six hopefuls, and especially the trio endorsed by the Geneva Education Association, are decidedly pro-teacher as demonstrated by the educator signatures that dominated their nominating paperwork. They believe the 5 percent raises Geneva teachers are receiving for the next four years aren’t nearly enough.

When was the last time you got a raise, much less anything approaching the 5 percent mark?

The three union-backed candidates are:

  • Alicia Saxton
  • Katherine Frye
  • Robert “Larry” Cabeen

Again, my wife is a middle school teacher and I know educators often get the short end of the salary stick. But with the Collar Counties already facing the highest property taxes in the nation, the education funding paradigm must shift such that Illinois teachers and taxpayers aren’t locked in an eternally bitter fiscal struggle.

It’s hardly a radical thought to decouple property taxes from education, but by those educators’ general reaction to that argument, you’d think I’d threatened to force them teach driver’s ed!

Of course, the three GEA supported candidates are the most sympathetic to their cause, and most Genevans, especially our senior citizens, cannot afford a return to the days of unsustainable school board incited property tax hikes. And that’s exactly what will happen if those candidates are elected.

Gaston

Al Gaston

Not only that, but unless your last name is “Dryden,” I have a real problem with former teachers serving on school boards. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but exactly how do Frye and Saxton set aside the fact they’re former teachers? And Cabeen’s wife was a long-time D304 high school teacher, so he’s in the same boat.

Considering their history and that union endorsement, I’m not willing to take that chance. And with three stellar school board candidates like McCormick, Breugelmans, and Gaston, there’s no need to. This isn’t a case of voting against somebody.

I know consolidated elections lack the glamor of their even-year counterparts, but considering the taxpayer stakes, please get out and vote by April 2nd. The Geneva teachers’ union will certainly be getting their people to the polls.

 

Quick Hits – How can anyone remain Catholic – Part 2

A great part of the reason I persevere in this journalistic gig is, you, the reader. We may not always agree, but I enjoy the conversation, especially those ongoing debates and discussions that take place behind the scenes.

And What’s Happening in (City Name) Facebook pages owner, Paul Stukel, and I have been deliberating over the title subject since last August. It’s not as much an argument as an asymptotic approach towards some sort of mutually objective reality.

Put more simply, like that plotted curve that eternally moves closer to a straight line but never quite gets there, we will likely never agree. So, the value is in the discussion and not some ultimately unattainable conclusion. We’re basically daring each other to stop defending our position.

What makes that conversation even more fascinating is Paul and I are both equally steeped in the Roman Catholic tradition.

Though recent revelations may have put him on the ropes, Paul maintains that the Church is still a “fixable” proposition, while I’ve long since given up on it. Paul believes the faithful should put their energy into a solution, while I contend the Church hierarchy doesn’t nearly deserve that kind of loyalty.

I understand traditions never go gently into that good night, but I’d go as far as saying that tough Christian standard demands separation.

What prompted the revisiting of this subject was a recent piece by Washington Post columnist George Will, who asked the question, “Has the Catholic Church committed the worst crime in American history?”

I kinda think they have.

Catholic sex abuse

Focusing primarily on Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation into the sexual abuse of 1,000 victims at the hands of 300 predator priests in just six dioceses, Will paints a horrifying picture of institutionalized child predation that clearly isn’t the case of a “just a few bad apples.”

Seven months after that bombshell grand jury report was released, Shapiro said the Church’s “cover-up” continues as they “resist discovery motions” and challenge the Attorney General’s jurisdiction “every step of the way.”

He added that “the bishops are still involved” in that “stonewalling” process.

It’s happening right here in Illinois, too. Former attorney general Lisa Madigan said Illinois bishops and cardinals refused to release the name of 505 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse.

We all know it’s not relegated to the U.S., either. In addition to a slew of worldwide child sexual abuse charges, Catholic nuns in India, Africa, South American and Asia just came forward with terrifying tales of their own sexual abuse at the hands of priest and bishops. The reason they finally went public is the Church ignored their private pleas.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Shapiro said his investigation “is only in the third or fourth inning” and that 45 other Attorney Generals have reached out to him regarding how to conduct similar investigations in their own states.

If the Church showed any remorse, repentance, or made any meaningful effort to face this scourge head on, I’d probably find myself in Paul’s camp. After all, the history of humanity ain’t one for the faint of heart.

But a November convocation of American bishops in Baltimore, as Will put it, “was neutered by the Vatican,” and Pope Francis’ worldwide February meeting produced no definable results.

The Church did recently defrock a couple of the worst American Cardinals, but that’s the quintessential drop in the bucket and it only happened after they were allowed to wreak havoc for decades.

So, whenever I drive by St. Peter in Geneva or St. Patrick in St. Charles on a Sunday morning, I want to stop and ask those exiting parishioners how they can possibly have any faith in a Church that’s shown itself to be downright evil. I want to ask them how they can financially support a Church that not only refuses to address the rampant sexual abuse scandal, but continues to do their best to obfuscate it.

I want to ask them, in light of all the incontrovertible evidence, doesn’t the Christian standard demand they fully hold their Church accountable or, failing that, move on to something else.

Please don’t get me wrong, much like it is with my evolving polemic with Paul, these aren’t accusations. They’re questions borne of an intent to deepen my understanding of how the remaining faithful stay faithful.

I have some very fond memories of my nine years at St. Nick’s in Evanston. I enjoyed being a altar boy. I own a cross crafted from the wood of the original chapel pews. I have framed Kafka and Donne quotes beautifully done in calligraphy by a Catholic nun. I occasionally talk to a couple of the priests, former nuns, and teachers from that time, too.

But with the exception of a funeral or wedding, I will never darken the doorway of Catholic Church again. And though we’ll never agree on my basic premise, I do look forward to Paul’s and my continued deliberations.

Quick Hits – March 13, 2019

It’s my biggest fear

I may not have many, but the fear of encountering an impaired or texting motorist – especially one approaching from behind – while road biking ranks right up there with inadvertently bearing witness to a neighbor taking advantage of World Naked Gardening Day.

It’s a particularly terrifying notion because there’s not a damn thing you can do about it but pray that your helmet does its job.

And that fear hit quite close to home yesterday as my good friend and Director of the Kane County Division of Transportation, Carl Schoedel, was picked off that Route 64 shoulder by an errant motorist yesterday morning.

Carl Schoedel

For those of you who don’t know Carl, he regularly racks up 2,000 plus annual biking miles primarily by riding between his Geneva home and the KDOT building at Burlington and Empire Roads in Campton Hills. And he generally perseveres in that effort regardless of the weather conditions.

Had it been spring, summer, or fall, Carl would’ve taken the Great Western Trail west, but our wonderfully wet winter weather has rendered that option impassable. So, the accident occurred as he was heading west on that eminently wide Route 64 shoulder, something so safe that I’ve successfully navigated it many times myself.

According to eyewitnesses, an impaired driver swerved onto the shoulder, hitting Carl from behind. He stopped for a few seconds only to speed off in the wrong lane until he finally hit a tree at which point the Sheriff’s deputies caught up with him.

Thankfully, a number of beyond distraught motorists, including a Turano Bread truck driver, immediately pulled over and Carl was whisked away to Delnor Hospital where he spent most of the day in the ER.

Miraculously, because his helmet did its job, Carl’s wounds amounted to a potentially broken nose, a set of stitches across the bridge of his nose, and another series above his left eye. The deputies took his helmet as evidence and Carl has yet to retrieve his bike from the Wasco Fire Department.

Hopefully, it’s a simple replacing the rear wheel.

As you might imagine, Carl is pretty shaken up, he has little memory of the accident, and he’s reconsidering whether he wants to continue his daily commute. But if I know my fellow cyclist as well as I think I do, he’ll be back on the road as soon as he recovers.

Meanwhile, I advised him to buy a lottery ticket today.

Cyclists! This is why we wear helmets. There’s simply too much beyond our control to make any other choice. And I’m convinced Carl’s still with us because he did!

 

Can’t we all just get along?

Though all bets are off when it comes to folks driving under the influence, with cycling season rapidly approaching, let’s see if we can start it off on the right foot!

So, cyclists:

  • Ride as reasonably close to the right side of the road as you can
  • Wear the kind of clothing that makes you eminently more visible
  • Wear a helmet
  • Don’t use earbuds while riding
  • Do your best to obey stop signs and traffic signals
  • Don’t make motorists pass you twice, wait in line at red lights
  • Unless it’s a large group ride, don’t ride two abreast
  • We may have the right to ride on any road, but that doesn’t mean we should
  • Most motorists respect cyclists, so let’s treat them with the same respect

And motorists:

  • Cyclist have the right to ride on any road
  • Bike paths are not safe for real cyclists as my formerly shattered wright wrist will attest
  • Illinois law mandates a minimum a three-foot buffer when passing a cyclist
  • Most of us behave while riding because we know we’ll come out on the losing end of a confrontation with a ton of rolling steel
  • We want to get you on your way as quickly as possible
  • Please don’t let a minority of rogue road bikers define the rest of us
  • Remember, a cyclist means one less car on the road and they don’t damage them, either

Now, wasn’t that easy!

Quick Hits Supplemental – Just Dance!

It doesn’t happen nearly enough, but on occasion I run into a Tri-Cities business that knocks my socks off. Considering those rapidly shifting brick-and-mortar retail sands, it’s always a pleasure when it does happen, and it’s even more fun to get to share it with you.

Having accused my wife of becoming a bit too sedate, and somehow surviving that endeavor, (wives generally don’t take too well to constructive criticism from their husbands) her first thought was, “let’s take dancing lessons.” My immediate response, despite my obvious and eternal Caucasian-ness was, “Why not?”

So, after embarking upon a serious dance studio crusade, we discovered Vargo’s Dance at Route 38 and Second Street in Geneva, and we started taking the Friday night beginner swing classes in December.

The cool thing was, there was no contract, no enrollment fee, and no commitment necessary. For a mere ten bucks a head, you’re in! That small fee includes a 45-minute lesson with another 20 to 30 minutes of practice time with some really great music thrown in for good measure.

Vargo's Dance

I’ve kinda become partial to Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, but I’m just as good with Van Morrison or Ray Charles. C’mon! How can anyone possibly sit still when that bouncy base piano beat indicates ‘Hit the Road Jack!’ is about to come on?

You don’t need to bring a partner to participate, either. Much like a massive volleyball tournament, the leads, typically but not always the men, rotate with the followers, typically but not always the women, such that everyone gets to dance with everyone else.

That kind of variety really keeps you on your toes, too (no pun intended).

And just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it does! Friday night swing is one of the Vargo BYOB classes where you can enjoy a glass of wine before and/or after the lesson. Not to worry! If you can’t polish off that entire bottle of pinot noir, the studio provides law-enforcement approved sealable bags to safely transport the remnants back home.

Having done dance in her youth, my wife took to it right away, but as an absolute beginner, I was a bit intimidated at that first lesson. But those fears quickly proved to be unfounded because swing instructor Carl Linder breaks dance down in such a way that it’s very easy to catch on.

You see, dancing is based on the same 4/4 time that anyone who’s ever played a musical instrument implicitly understands. And once you have that timing down, everything else tends to fall into place.

Carl also harbors the kind of irreverent sense of humor that made you fall in love with yours truly in the first place. And that type of levity goes a long way towards dispelling any of those dancing doubts, too. My personal favorite is his reasonably accurate Geraldine impersonation (please look up Flip Wilson).

I won’t spoil the rest of the joke.

Carl Linder

Carl Linder

Meanwhile, studio owner Jamie Vargo, who floats on air like she’s been dancing since the day she was born, roams the studio assisting students who require minor adjustments. The fact that she and Carl play off each other so well makes the class even more entertaining.

Jamie is also eminently available to answer all manner of questions during the practice period, and the other students, always a supportive bunch, are willing to help out as well.

As you might imagine, with that easy payment methodology, the excellent instruction, and a generally great time, the studio sees quite a few repeat customers with a some fresh faces thrown in each week for good measure. Regardless of their skill level, the Friday night class draws a great group of people that I look forward to seeing every week.

“Wait a minute! What! There’s a group of people that Jeff Ward actually enjoys?” I know! I know! It surprises me as much as anyone else! But let’s just keep that between you and me – I do have a reputation to maintain.

Jamie Vargo

Jamie Vargo

But the best thing about taking these classes is, whenever The Reverend Al Green, the Staple Singers, or Modest Mouse come through that Google Music kitchen speaker, I can now break into the kind of dance that won’t have fearful onlookers believing I was suffering some sort of seizure or stroke.

Perhaps I’m not nearly as white as I thought I was!

I’m not saying Mikhail Baryshnikov should start looking over his shoulder, but it certainly makes cooking dinner a far more delightful proposition. And if after all these years I finally discover I can dance, then trust me, you can, too!

As their schedule indicates, Vargo’s Dance offers much more than just swing. Whether it’s salsa, the Charleston, hustle, waltz, or slow dancing, there’s something for everyone at every skill level.

So, what have you got to lose? In the words of that great philosopher Howard Jones, “Throw off your mental chains,” head down to Vargo’s Dance in the heart of downtown Geneva, and enjoy a fun evening learning something new, moving not sitting, and meeting interesting new people.

Let’s just say it really doesn’t get any better than that!

Who knows guys! Perhaps if you take your wife dancing you might just get…well, either that or she’ll faint at the mere prospect, which could be equally as entertaining.

 

P.S. Rest assured! As is always the case, I do not receive any consideration for recommending a local business. But I certainly enjoy the opportunity whenever it presents itself. If there’s a local business you love, let me know and I’ll be happy to add it to the column list.

Quick Hits – March 11, 2019

The conservative movement is officially morally bankrupt

Had Barack Obama bear hugged the American flag and subsequently solicited applause for the death of a Republican war hero, conservatives would’ve lost their fricken’ minds. There would’ve been a special Fox News hell to pay, too!

Remember the infamous “mom jeans” scandal of 2014?

Image result for trump hugging flag

But no! Failing to heed Edmund Burke’s exhortation for 394th time, conservatives’ silent complicity speaks volumes. And I’m not talking about those nebulous somewhere-out-there Republicans, either. I’m talking about the Kane County variety with whom I interact on a regular basis.

If there is a Christian God, something conservatives love to use as a club, She’s not gonna be too happy about that kind of moral turpitude when you’re finally face-to-face with her. And please remember! I’m not the one that set that lofty standard, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy applying it!

 

Conservatives can’t do math either

While liberals regularly apply critical thinking, they somehow manage to consistently come up with the wrong answer. But at least there’s hope they’ll improve. I wish I could say the same for my conservative cohorts, but the truth it, they couldn’t infer their way out of an open, wet paper bag.

And the perfect example of this Tea Bagger lemming herd mentality is all the shrieking, howling and rending of garments at the mere mention of Illinois Governor J. B. Pritizker’s new graduated income tax. All that matters to the perpetually perturbed people is that it came out of J. B.’s mouth. Then, in their best Quincy Adams Wagtaff fashion, whatever is it they’re against it.

Pritzker tax plan

From the Illinois Policy Institute’s over-the-top reaction, you’d think all their tobacco-based funding just dried up.

First, to quote a famous conservative politician or perhaps Tina Fey, let’s take a look at the tax rates of those states we can see from our front porch!

We’ll start with that failed Republican experiment known as the State of Wisconsin:

4.00 percent – up to $15K

5.84 percent – up to $30K

6.27 percent – up to $329K

7.65 percent – above $329K

Unless you’re below the poverty line, Missouri’s income tax rate is 6 percent. Iowa gets really complicated with nine separate brackets, but most folks will fall into the top four:

6.50 percent – $24K plus

6.89 percent – $32K plus

7.90 percent – $48K plus

8.98 percent – $72K plus

Kentucky has a 5 percent flat income tax which means no deductions. Minnesota has a really complicated tax system based on family status, but most Minnesotans pay 7.05 percent, with the wealthiest citizens checking in at 9.85 percent.

Most of our previously mentioned states have higher corporate tax rates, too.

Meanwhile, under Pritzker’s plan, 97 percent of Illinois residents would be at a 4.9 or 4.95 percent rate with the wealthiest being taxed at 7.75, 7.85, and 7.95 percent.

I know math hurts your heads Republicans, but that means, with the exception of Indiana – and who wants to live in Indiana – Illinois will have the lowest middleclass tax bracket in the Midwest. In fact, J. B.’s plan will amount to a tax cut for that same 97 percent of lucky Illinoisans.

And it brings the top rates into line with most of our neighbors, too.

Even the Sun-Times editorial board wrote that it “puts the middleclass first,” but conservatives, who aren’t happy unless they’re bitching about some sort of liberal plot, somehow believe this will put the final fiscal nail in Illinois’ rapidly closing coffin.

No, my friends! It was Bruce Rauner who almost managed to pull that off!

 

Does it get any worse than the Batavia Post Office?

I’d rather spend another night in jail that have to darken that facility’s doorway again.

There I was, on the way to the Batavia, Illinois, Target with just two small pieces of mail and I errantly thought, “How bad can it possibly be at 10:45 on a Monday morning?” But it was bad enough that I walked out and drove to La Fox.

Back in those portable insulated laptop desk days, incurring that 40 grand in annual postage fees made me somewhat of a domestic and international shipping expert. So, I know what Media Mail is, but the Batavia Post Office does not.

Vinyl record albums are, indeed, media mailable and don’t try to tell me otherwise!

Image result for batavia post office

The glee with which the generally surly staff likes to try play the gotcha game is not the least bit endearing. Nor is watching two of the three window clerks simultaneously go on break when the line is already out the door.

And don’t bother trying to talk to a supervisor because they care even less than the clerks.

You’d think, with the Post Office on the verge of extinction, they’d make an extra effort to make your visit a pleasant one, but their vast entitlement mentalities seem to prohibit that kind of thing. Though workplace shootings have sadly become commonplace, the original term for them was “going postal” and it’s not too terribly difficult to understand why.

As for me, I’m sticking with the La Fox Post Office where I’ve never had a problem. If you similarly decide to go west, I promise that Zelfa will take care of you!