For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
While that proverb is a perfect illustration of what we’re about to discuss, for what it’s worth, I could’ve gone with a little Buffalo Springfield instead:
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
The truth is, both passages accurately describe the State of the City of Elgin right now and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.
But if I had to pick the postulates that truly apply here and most deftly describe most underlying political dynamics, I’d resort to those Newtonian Laws of Motion with a little Aristotle thrown in for good measure:
- A politician will either remain at rest or in a uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force.
- For every political action, there is an equal and opposite political reaction.
- Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum.
Of those three postulates, understanding the third is most critical to any successful political endeavor. To wit, the current inexplicable Elgin leadership vacuum will continue to have vast repercussions for years to come.
Just like our lack of a nail allegory, the abject absence of any visible support for Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen, or the kind of leadership required to craft and stick to a reasonable message in regard to the tragic Decynthia Clements shooting, has created the kind of vacuum that has all sorts of political factions rushing in.
And that kind of reactionary politics is never a good thing.
It means you’ve completely lost control of the situation, and by “control,” I mean what you can control, like your response to what you can’t control. It’s a subtle but very important political concept.
First, Mayor David Kaptain never should have allowed Elgin City Council meetings to turn into keening sessions – by either side. I’m convinced he thought that by allowing folks to vent, it would ameliorate the rawest emotions but that only works when your husband leaves the toilet seat up at night, not for racially charged issues like this one.
Both the U-46 School Board and the Kane County Board have adopted rules stipulating if you’re simply going to say the same thing the last speaker just said, it’s a pointless waste of everyone’s time. Letting absolutely everyone speak on the Jensen question certainly hasn’t made the situation any better.
Second, especially in light of the reasonable reaction – by both sides – to the Cook County State’s Attorney clearing Jenson in early March, the City should’ve unequivocally declared he’d be back and that would’ve stopped the bleeding. They could’ve noted that his new role would be somewhat determined by the results of the pending internal investigation.
But no! Because the Elgin City bird should clearly be the ostrich, their head in the sand messaging methodology – where’s City Manager Rick Kozal? – created another vacuum allowing the anti-Jensen folks to rush in in the form of a 1,600-signature petition demanding his head and a billboard asking for “Justice for Decynthia.”
In turn, the Mayor’s and City’s failure to effectively respond to that message by offering even a modicum of support for Jensen produced yet another vacuum which saw the local Police Benevolent and Protective Association rush in with their own pro-Jensen Billboard.
So now, both sides are taking the competing billboards personally and all hell broke loose on social media complete with name calling, threats, absurd declarations, and a general failure to even begin to consider logic and reason. And that’s just a microcosmic harbinger of what’s to come in Elgin.
With the 2021 city council campaign season a scant year away, you can bet your bottom dollar both sides are mobilizing to take over the city council, and those kinds of bitter personal political campaigns and agendas never work out in a city’s best interest.
And it’s a particularly tragic turn at a time when Elgin is making real economic strides. So, a beyond contentious 2021 election and a fractured city council is the last thing the city needs.
But what really frosts my flakes is, all that was necessary to prevent this eminently predictable spiral into the abyss was for the City Manager to have the cojones to reinstate Jensen immediately after the CCSAO’s ruling. That’s when that political capital was at its highest. But no! Kozal has been scarcer than Waldo and that opportunity has passed.
And it’s about to get a lot worse, too.
My sources tell me Jensen will be back sometime in the fall, but he’ll be relegated to desk work for the rest of his EPD tenure. Ah yes! The proverbial horse designed by a committee always turns out to be a camel.
Am I the only one who realizes this is NOT a circumstance that demands compromise? With three separate agencies clearing him of any criminal charges, either you bring him back or you don’t, and if you don’t, then you suffer the legal consequences. Anything else is a chickenbleep response. Any football player will tell you the prevent defense doesn’t prevent a damn thing.
Whatever happened to doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do? Did you get elected to make the difficult calls or simply to stay elected? And let me tell ya, when Jeff Ward is the adult in the room, that really says something, doesn’t it?
“For want of a nail?” That describes Elgin to a T.