Quick Hits – As the Geneva turns!

It’s been awhile since I’ve received an anonymous snail mail missive and I can’t say it’s something I’ve missed. Those letters, typically penned by a crackpot former columnist who single-handedly destroyed the Kane County Chronicle, go to great lengths to extol just how scurrilous a cad I really am. Who knew?

Why can’t Lucy Liu be nearly as obsessed with me as he is?

And this reader managed to mangle my address, too! So, I’m not sure if I should be thrilled my standing is such that it made it to me anyway, or nervous about being that easy to find. I guess I can always take solace in still possessing my attorney’s Kevlar vest.

As long as they don’t aim for the head!

Though I applied the word “reader” to this “Concerned Genevan,” I’m not so sure that’s the case. Because he – and the writing style was indeed masculine – seems to believe I’d somehow support Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and City Manager Stephanie Dawkins.

My regular readers know Burns places second in my worst Collar County mayor ever contest, trailing only former Carpentersville Village President Bill Sarto. And Dawkins, bar none, is the least competent city manager I’ve ever encountered.

She’s beyond imperious, she’s the only small-town city manager who requires an assistant city manager, and, on at least three separate occasions, I’ve had to FOIA documents to turn over to the City Council because she illegally refused to do so.

The communique proceeded to excoriate former alderman, mayoral hopeful, and current city council candidate, Tom Simonian, including some rather amusing accusations against him. It’s not that I don’t believe he’s a brute force legend in his own mind, but I refuse to repeat anonymous allegations because they generally aren’t worth paper upon which they’re printed.

That doesn’t mean I’m not checking their veracity as we speak. And if one of them does pan out I will certainly let you know!

Burns Simonian

But our letter writer was dead on when he admonished me for a “lack of coverage” of the current Kane County city council races. All I can say is, without the backdrop of the radio show, I have not applied my typical due diligence. Not only that, but I’m heavily involved in county politics, and getting one book published while writing a second is a far more than a full-time proposition.

But the Burns/Simonian feud does sit squarely within my journalistic wheelhouse, and to quote that great philosopher Sting, Geneva certainly is, “Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis.” (Look it up!) So, get out your scorecards my fellow Genevans!

Mayor Burns greatest hits include, but are not nearly limited to:

  • Enjoying the kind of police reports that make mine look like the work of a rank amateur. And that’s with the Geneva and Batavia Police trying to protect him!
  • Running a car off Fabyan Parkway and coming at the victims with his mayoral badge. He bought his way out of that one.
  • Using the entire City workforce as his private campaign team on company time. That’s why he gives them whatever they want at contract negotiation time.
  • Using the Geneva Police as his private paramilitary arm. He was behind one of his daughter’s gleeful use of the GPD to harass the family of a boy who wouldn’t date her.
  • Sliding on as many as eight DUIs. Three separate eyewitnesses, including a former Geneva Police officer, told me exactly how it happened.
  • Despite political friends providing all sorts of employment opportunities. He can’t hold a job for more than a year.

That same former officer also said, when he questioned former GPD Commander Julie Nash as to the efficacy of letting a drunk driver repeatedly go, Nash replied, “This is the man who gives us our jobs.” And the catalyst for one of the police-involved kerfuffles with his ex-wife was that she wouldn’t let him have a girlfriend on the side.

Put more simply, he’s a real piece of work.

But the only reason Tom Simonian is marginally better is because it’s virtually impossible to be worse! His highlights include:

  • Making a great deal of his money through patent hijacking.
  • Running the kind of horrific 2017 mayoral campaign that managed to get him slaughtered against a very unpopular incumbent.
  • Taking half the city council with him on the way out, too. Alderman Rich Marks was the only bloodbath survivor and he’ll be happy to tell you why.
  • Spending over 40 grand just to get trounced.
  • Speaking at city council meetings after that loss in a manner that actually made the Mayor look better.
  • Gaining a reputation – deserved or not – for being the only Genevan who can outdrink Burns.

And this is just the proxy war! The real fight will come in 2021, when Simonian aims for  mayor a second time.

For now, Simonian is running against long-time 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra to better position himself for that impending run. While Maladra is certainly a nice guy, he walks in lockstep with the Mayor having never met a tax increase, fee hike, or Cadillac union contract he didn’t like. He’s also served for WAY too long.

Apparently, Simonian is backing two other city council candidates as well.

But just when I started feeling a little sorry for my beleaguered hometown, no one showed up for Wednesday night’s League of Women Voters forum. And the folks that did appear tended to disappear before the school board candidates had their say.

Considering that contentious teachers’ strike and the fact the union is running a slate of board candidates who firmly believe four years of five percent raises aren’t nearly enough, you’d think my overtaxed compatriots would show a little more interest.

Perhaps they deserve both Burns and Simonian.

Quick Hits – The freedom to perpetually feel good?

I don’t remember seeing that one in the Bill of Rights. Did they slide a 28th Amendment in there when I wasn’t looking? Perhaps I should take some solace the fact that the left and right finally have something in common.

And that commonality is the belief they have the inalienable right to a self-definition that should always be reinforced and never challenged.

For conservatives, that feel-good sensation comes in the form of President Trump’s unyielding string of outright lies. I’ve previously mentioned that Internet meme correctly claiming that all the President has to do is say the wall has already been built and, despite whatever satellite imagery to the contrary, his adoring throng would hail it as a great victory.

But there will be no wall, Trump is presiding over an administration far worse than any criminal enterprise, and he and his followers are so morally bankrupt they actually cheered the death of Senator John McCain at the CPAC conference last week.

For reference purposes, McCain is the kind of war hero who refused to be released from a Hanoi prison out of turn only to endure more torture at the hands of the Viet Cong. And Donald Trump had bone spurs!

Bill of Rights

But progressives are no better.

In a Mister Roger’s-esque turn, our institutions of higher education are providing “trigger warnings” as a preface to difficult material and they’ve created “safe spaces” where those delicate student sensibilities won’t be offended. And now my liberal compatriots, infuriated by one questionable 1971 interview, are insisting that Orange County, California, change the name of its John Wayne Airport.

What have I said about applying a 2019 standard to someone who grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s? It’s patently unfair. Enlightenment is never a retroactive proposition. Should we rename Columbus, Ohio, too?

But, rather than deal with the dichotomies and dilemmas life loves to hurl at us, since the existence of John McCain and John Wayne impugns on those ends-of-the-political-bell-curve folks right to feel good, they want to eliminate any trace of them. Who knew the movie ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ would be quite so prophetic?

Especially in light of the recent Cook County State’s Attorney’s ruling clearing Elgin Police Lt. Chris Jensen of any criminal charges in the DeCynthia Clements shooting, this feel-good dynamic has even infected Elgin’s liberal clergy.

The fact that CCSAO Kim Foxx cleared Jensen of any wrongdoing in the era of Laquan McDonald really says something. Had there been the slightest prospect to hang their hat on, they would’ve been out for blood.

But there was no criminal act to consider, and similarly, the City of Elgin could’ve saved 50 grand if they’d simply listened to yours truly. Any rational human being already knows the civil consultant’s review of any EPD protocol violation will also come up empty.

Let me be clear that I love my conversations with readers, and it’s been fascinating to read their take on this tragedy. But the responses to my column in this situation have been rife with opinion with no basis in fact.

Some said Jensen had no right to resort to lethal force. But the CCSAO settled that issue once and for all. Others said Clements didn’t lunge at the officers with a knife, she stumbled out of her vehicle.

So, now officers are supposed to determine whether someone’s lunging or stumbling with split second timing? That’s not going to happen.

Some Elginites claimed the police should’ve deployed tasers. But they don’t work on the intoxicated and there’s nothing in those EPD procedures that requires the use of a taser – or any other non-lethal method – in any specific situation. To do so would unreasonably put police and civilian lives at risk.

Another theory was that Clements was mentally ill and should’ve been given more consideration. So, now officers will be required to effectively diagnose distressed folks in the middle of an I-90 standoff? I’ve been one of the biggest advocates for the mentally ill around and even I think that’s patently absurd.

A recurring theme at city council meetings has been that Jensen has proven to be a danger to his city. Really? Please explain how a stellar 20-year record is suddenly rendered meaningless? If there’s no criminal act and no violation of protocol, how can he be a “danger?”

In the end, those contentions are nothing more than opinion, conjecture and supposition. They’re based on feelings and not fact, and when it comes down to that final determination, your feelings don’t matter.

Watching that video made me feel terrible, but while that’s certainly understandable, that emotion should never cloud a critical analysis. I’m sure you’ve noticed this life is fraught with shades of gray and that kind of thing will always be somewhat unsettling

But contrary to the current collective belief, there is no 28th Amendment guaranteeing good feelings. There is no inalienable right to avoid distress. Even the Constitution calls it the “right to the pursuit of happiness,” and not simply the state itself.

Lt. Jensen will be cleared, and he will be back. And if that makes it more difficult for you to feel good, it’s not the City of Elgin’s problem, it’s yours!

Quick Hits – Be careful what you wish for Batavia!

With cycling season rapidly approaching (I think!), Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke wants the BPD to start ticketing cyclists who run straight through stop signs to the tune of $105 a pop! My first thought was, he might want to consider issuing citations to motorists on McKee and Wilson who do the same damn thing.

But I digress!

Now, before you hit the “send” button at this early stage, my 13-year readers know just how hard I’ve been on my road biking brethren and sisteren. Regularly calling them out in print and in public for their blatantly bad behavior has rendered me the equivalent of a man without a country. To wit, I have just two road-biking friends left.

I’ve also been particularly hard on a Batavia bicycle store co-owner who gets furious at errant motorists, but frequently lets his cyclists slide.

In fact, I’ve become so dismayed by the entire cycling situation that, resorting primarily to running, I haven’t ridden very much in the last three years. Though with my sports Doc’s anti-impact encouragement, I do have a hankering to get back to it this year.

While I’d love to see some of the more arrogant road bikers slapped with any number of three-figure fines, this is a situation in which the proposed cure will be far worse than the purported disease. Please allow me to explain:

Cyclists 2

1. Eighty percent of the stop signs around downtown Batavia are illegal

“A stop sign can be illegal?” Yes it can! As a result of municipalities like Westchester placing a red octagon on almost every residential corner, the State of Illinois has implemented stringent rules for exactly where those traffic measures might be installed.

And most of Batavia’s and Geneva’s don’t make the cut.

I’m betting some of ‘em are grandfathered in, but it would be fascinating to see how many Batavia stop signs would survive a legal challenge. Considering the cost of a road bike, the sport tends to attract the kind of affluent crowd that certainly could pull that kind of lawsuit off.

 

2. Are you solving a problem, or creating a new one?

Most of the group rides I’ve participated in make the same stop sign effort that most motorists do. If there’s no opposition, we slowly roll through them, but we will stop if traffic requires it.

The irony is, when we do stop, the vast majority of drivers wave the entire group through. It’s almost as if they believe in my contention that whoever’s getting the most exercise should have the right of way. And ticketing them for enjoying that kind of largesse would be patently unfair.

But let me tell you, what nobody really wants is a group of 30 cyclists individually stopping at every single Batavia stop sign. It would turn into the kind of nightmare that would tie up traffic in three separate directions for at least five blocks as the group tries to reassemble.

Trust me, I understand the mayor was talking about the riders who blow through stop signs at full speed, but most Collar County police departments aren’t regaled for their prudent application of discretion.

We’ll talk about the obvious solution in a bit.

 

3. Why don’t those consarned riders start off further west?

That was Daily Herald reporter Sue Sarkauskas’ suggestion, as she ran the original story. And that’s exactly what I do. It’s a small jaunt from the west side of Geneva to an isolated Campton Hills park and I’m home free from there!

That way, I’ll run into a mere six stop signs and six Sunday morning cars on a 30-mile ride.

But the problem with that theory is, the bike shops that sponsor these regular group rides do so, in great part, to get customers in the door. So, moving the staging point west would defeat the primary purpose. And if the BPD starts ticketing cyclists for minor violations, it’s really going to hurt those businesses.

Let me be clear that in no way absolves those shops for any failure to keep their riders in line.

 

4. While we’re talking…

Beyond stop signs, another major motorist cycling concern is groups that ride more than one abreast. Please rest assured, I’m not talking about the oblivious nitwits who take up an entire lane sending every motorist in either direction into complete conniptions. Those folks should be ticketed for outright stupidity.

I’m talking about those bike shop organized rides that tend to be better behaved.

The first, and lesser reason, for this formation is practice. Real bike races present the kind of challenge that means you’re three inches from the wheel in front and a mere two inches from the handlebars on either side. And if you aren’t accustomed to that kind of claustrophobic riding, your fellow racers are risking serious injury.

The greater reason is a string of 40 single-file riders heading back into town on Main Street would bring Batavia cross-traffic to a screeching halt, especially if they stop at every stop sign. It’s much smarter to double up in a tight formation that allows motorists to pass the group with ease and doesn’t tie up traffic.

 

And now for the promised solution!

It’s simple! Rather than threaten to ticket cyclists to induce good conduct, the Mayor, the Batavia City Council, the bike shops and cyclists should get together to create a minimal westward stop sign route that will get riders into and out of downtown Batavia as quickly as possible. That kind of cooperation would solve most of the problem and it would certainly be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Let’s also not forget that, while riders need to be responsible, the law also dictates that motorists must give cyclists three full feet of leeway when they pass them. So, if they’re gonna ticket us, then they need to ticket those folks, too!

Quick Hits – March 1, 2019

This ain’t the way to “end corruption!”

Considering my eminently fascinating life, one of my favorite declarations tends to be “They have yet to fashion the stake that can kill this vampire.” So, when Donald Trump finally fumbles the nuclear football, all that’s gonna be left is cockroaches, Keith Richard, Cher, Driver Tom, yours truly, and former Kane County Chairman and 33rd District State Senator Karen McConnaughay.

You remember Chairman Karen!

McConnaughay 3

After then Beacon-News reporter Dan Campana applied his vast due diligence, we regaled our readers with tales of her amassing a $350,000 campaign war chest at the hands of those county vendors who understood a shakedown when they saw one. And 80 percent of them were all too happy to “contribute.”

As a state senator, in that traditional Burke-ian fashion, she had no problem explaining that her assistance would require some sort of bribe, I mean “contribution.” Why, she even told those erstwhile Grand Victoria folks she’d only talk about securing a permanent concert venue after they coughed up the correct amount of cash.

And she made it quite clear that payment would, in no way, guarantee a result.

Tiring of the political tide turning against her and aging to the point where her feminine wiles no longer open doors, she used her vast crony connections to get a well-paying gig with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America where, just like her tenure as a Kane County Board member, she’ll show up whenever she feels like it.

The saving grace was, at least she put herself out of our misery – or so I thought!

But just like a bad Bond villain who somehow survives to take one more swipe at the end of the movie, McConnaughay just landed a $31,426 seat on the Illinois Tollway Board. That breaks down to $2,618.83 per monthly meeting and we all know she’ll miss at least half of ‘em.

J. B. Pritzker, a governor for whom I once held high hopes, somehow managed to say this about his new tollway appointees with a straight face:

It is a new day for the Illinois tollway. Our new leadership will uphold the highest ethical standards, deliver the value to taxpayers and serve Illinoisans in every corner of our state. I’m proud to usher in a new wave of transparency and accountability at this critical agency.

No J.B! It’s right back to politics as usual. Ms. McConnaughay will continue to suckle at the taxpayer’s teat!

 

And the public stoning continues

Believe it or not, I am the kind of duly ordained Pastafarian minister who, for a nominal fee, is available to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms, exorcisms, and light yard work. And let me tell you, nothing is quite as invigorating as a good exorcism!

But I’m convinced those pastors and clergyman who insist upon showing up to every Elgin City Council meeting just to cast the first stone similarly got their M. Div. from the Net or perhaps even a cereal box.

They certainly seem to have no compunction about judgers eventually being judged themselves.

Though this Wednesday’s anti- EPD Lt. Chris Jensen festivities were sedate compared to previous meetings, some of the usual ecclesiastical suspects still showed up to prove just how unchristian they really are. To wit, Bethlehem Lutheran Church Pastor Carol Book made the following demand:

I want to say very clearly, we have not changed our minds regarding Lt. Jensen’s return to work regardless of the outcome of upcoming this investigation. We do not feel Lt. Jensen should be allowed to return to work for the EPD under any circumstances or in any capacity. We stand together on that. … We believe Lt. Jensen showed a lack of judgement regarding the use of force in the shooting death of DeCynthia Clements.

Image result for pastor carol book elgin

Carol Book

I will say that if anyone is an expert in the “lack of judgement” category it would be Pastor Book. Who knew John 13:15 really went, “I have set you an example, but you should do whatever it takes to make you and your congregation feel good, instead.”

Did the song really go, “They’ll know we are Christians by our capacity to summarily judge and dismiss our fellow man?”

Not one to be outdone, Elgin resident Gena McNamara also advised the council “My son was recently involved in a car accident. His insurance increased substantially. He is now a liability to that insurance company. Officer Jensen has now become a liability to the Elgin police department.”

Doncha just love false analogies!

Because the truth is, the police investigated her son’s accident to determine who, if anyone, was at fault. That police report was passed along to his insurance company where the claims department performed their own thorough internal investigation. Only then did they finally determine that her son was at fault as evidenced by his “substantially increased” rates.

And if her son remains accident free for three years, that little faux pas will actually fade from his record.

It’s too bad Ms. McNamara refuses to give Lt. Jensen the same consideration.

 

The Phillies are nuts!

Just when I thought baseball owners and GMs were finally coming to their senses, the Philadelphia Phillies signed former Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper to a record 13-year $330 million contract.

That $25.4 million a year deal makes the 26-year-old Harper a Philly through 2032, well past the generally accepted Major League prime playing age of 29.Image result for bryce harper strikes out

Though Harper has certainly acquitted himself well, he’s not nearly that good. He did have a career year in his 2015 MVP season, but he hasn’t come close to those numbers since. And that was in a Nationals lineup with plenty of power hitters to protect him.

His .388 career on base percentage is clearly his best feature, but the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are right up there with him. Meanwhile he strikes out 120 times a season and the most telling stat is, despite his expected 26 home runs, he’s only hit the RBI century mark once – knocking in exactly 100 baserunners last year.

For comparison purposes, Rizzo has 100 plus RBIs in each of his last four seasons. That’s a clear indication that Harper is not a clutch hitter. Not only that, but in two of the last three years, he didn’t even crack the .250 batting average mark. And despite the Nationals being perennial playoff contenders, Harper has never provided the kind of leadership that put them over the top.

We all know what generally happens after a signing of this magnitude, too. In an effort to justify that massive salary, the player puts so much pressure on themselves and they vastly underperform (Yu Darvish). Or, with no more incentive to perform, they don’t (Jason Heyward).

To make matters so much worse, Philadelphia fans have many “virtues”, but patience isn’t one of them. So, if Harper starts off this year like he did the last, those rabid devotees will flippin’ eat him alive.

Mark my words, this will turn out to be the kind of albatross signing that will handcuff the Phillies for years to come.