Beware the dreaded New Year’s Resolutioner!

New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions. – Mark Twain

So! We’ve made it through Halloween, somehow survived Thanksgiving, and suffered through Christmas, but the ordeal isn’t nearly over. No sir! Because New Year’s Day is rapidly approaching and those fine fit souls who regularly avail themselves of a health club are about to face a creature far more terrifying than anything the mind of Stephen King could possibly concoct.

Yes! It’s the dreaded New Year’s Resolutioner, or as a friend likes to call ‘em, “the six weekers,” because 90 percent of them will vanish by Valentine’s Day, never to be seen or heard from again.

Completely clueless and armed with utterly unrealistic expectations, they descend upon health clubs everywhere like a horde of January 2nd locusts whose sole intent is to make the rest of our workout lives as miserable as possible. They believe “Gym Etiquette” is the guy who hosts the French cooking show on PBS, and if they succeeded nearly was well at working out as they do at wreaking health club havoc, they’d be a force to be reckoned with.

Resolutioners

It starts in the suddenly crowded parking lot with the kind of jockeying for a prime spot that would make Kyle Busch jealous! The new folks fail to understand that the entire point of joining a health club is to get a good workout, so why not start with the walk from the car?

But no! They’d rather run over a slew of senior citizens than have to take those five extra steps to the front door. And it doesn’t get any better once they’re inside the building, either! Let’s start with the running track!

How difficult is it to grasp the notion that walkers ply the inside lanes while speedsters take to the outside? Posting signs to that effect seems patently pointless, but that regular annoyance pales in comparison to the resolutioners who:

  • Stop to gab with friends smack dab in the middle of the track
  • Switch lanes like a squirrel trying to cross a six-lane metropolitan highway at rush hour
  • Walk right out onto the track completely oblivious to the runner coming directly at them
  • Run three across while maintaining a loud conversation so everyone else has to slow to their pace
  • Run in the wrong daily direction oblivious to the fact that everyone’s coming directly at them

But my indoor track favorite is the mostly males who persist on proving their machismo by “beating” you in some sort of self-imagined race.

You see, the regulars always have a specific plan. A recovery day might require 9:30 miles, a tempo run could entail 8-minute miles, and a sprint/interval day might mean a 6:30 to 7-minute pace. Unless it’s a particularly crowded day, we’ll stick to that plan regardless of what anyone else does.

So, I won’t soon forget the forty-something gentleman who, taking offense at my repeatedly passing him, insisted on besting my 7-minute pace only to collapse in the corner after pulling every muscle south of his waist upon exiting the first curve. I never saw him at the gym again.

The same phenomenon happens in the pool, too!

But while those track and pool foibles are mildly amusing, the weight room festivities will make you downright homicidal. Those include, but aren’t nearly limited to:

  • Failing to understand what a set of “reps” really is such that they co-opt the machine for three straight days
  • Loudly grunting as they struggle to do 10 reps with a weight stack that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger nervous
  • Gabbing with a friend for 45 minutes while sitting on the bench press machine the entire time
  • Failing to wipe their sweat off the machine despite the insistent signage instructing them to do just that
  • Regularly letting the weight stack crash down such that it becomes a fascinating form of Chinese water torture

And let me tell you, despite the most diplomatic of overtures, our not-so-erstwhile resolutioners don’t take kindly to constructive criticism, either. I’m sure their surliness has something to do with the fact they’d rather enjoy a colonoscopy than endure a 90 second walk from the parking lot.

When you politely ask them to relinquish a weight machine or follow the posted running track rules, by their over-the-top responses you’d think you just told them ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ had just been canceled.

Our newbies do fare much better in any variety of the spin, aerobics, or yoga classes most health clubs offer, because their deleterious effect is diluted and the teachers generally keep them from destroying themselves. So, there is hope for some of them.

But just when you think a few of ‘em will crack that magic 45-day mark, falsely believing they’ve created a catastrophic calorie deficit, they start capping off their workouts with a visit to the candy machine or snack bar. And when that junk food binge adds up to a quick ten-pound weight gain it demoralizes them to the point where they decide that working out is an exercise in futility (pun intended).

Thankfully, unlike most of the trials and travails that plague this planet, as previously stipulated, this New Year’s resolutioner scourge always seems to settle down around Valentine’s Day when most of ‘em go right back to their sedentary ways.

If the plethora of tragedies that consistently befall curmudgeons had a similar expiration date, life would be that much more bearable.

 

The Christmas letter I’d actually like to get

Sending Christmas cards is a good way to let your friends and family know that you think they’re worth the price of a stamp. – Melanie White

Just when you think you’ve made it through the most unbearable of all seasons with only minor emotional scarring and that last trip to the mall didn’t quite put you over the edge, they start to infest your mailbox. And then those violent holiday urges resurface one more time.

I’ve tried to be so good this year, too! Not one fruitcake returned though a thoughtless friend’s front window, I haven’t “removed” any Christmas decorations from a neighbor’s front lawn, and I’ve managed to avoid setting the dogs on a gaggle of terrified carolers. I kinda miss watching them scatter and slip on the ice.

Don’t act like you don’t know what we’re talking about, either. It’s those overly optimistic yuletide missives extolling the fictional virtue of your un-special family intended only to make our pathetic lives pale in comparison. Don’t pretend you don’t send ‘em, either, because we know you do.

Does anyone really care if baby Timmy mastered the art of toilet training at the age of 3 weeks (unless he’s at my house)? Trust me, our lives would remain complete if we never learned that little Suzy managed to translate the Bible from the original Aramaic, and what made you think we really wanted to hear about your family vacation to a high falutin’ locale like Dollywood?

You really wanna make me happy this holiday season? Don’t even think about sending me a Christmas missive, or better yet, how about penning a holiday communique that makes us all feel a little bit better about ourselves. I’m thinking something along the lines of this:

Christmas Letters 2

Stop it!

Dear Friends and Family,

We’d apologize for sending you this impersonal form letter, but you’re not nearly important enough for us to take the time to write a personal letter. Moving on!

We did it! We finally got the indoor facilities installed in the doublewide. No more running across Route 38 to the Shell station in the middle of night for Ethel. She got pretty peeved when her butt froze to the seat last January and she had to sit there until I went over with a crowbar the next morning.

As I like to say, nothin’s too good for my blushing bride!

And speaking of Ethel, I’m sure her on that episode of ‘Cops’ chasing me down the street in her underwear, cast iron frying pan firmly in hand. She wasn’t too happy about catching me messin’ around with her sister, but I’m proud to say I’m the one who bought her those “If you can read this I must be drunk” panties last Christmas.

Yep! I’m still working with the decontamination crew down at the nuclear plant, but it ain’t so bad. With all those glowing body parts, Ethel says if I take my clothes off and she hangs a few ornaments on me, it’s more festive than a fake silver tree.

And we’re proud to say the trailer’s gonna get a little more crowded next year. That’s right! It’s hard to believe our 14-year-old Latoya is expecting her sixth child. We think we know who the baby daddy is this time, but she’s still trying to sell that alien insemination story to the National Enquirer.

Thank the Lord Jesus! Jermaine will be out on parole just in time for Christmas Eve. He swears he was just helping out when the police caught him running from the Suds ‘n Duds with all those wet clothes. Some folks say that boy won’t amount to much, but we think he’s got a real future in politics.

More good news! Little Tito is finally coming home from the hospital. You may have heard about the unfortunate “Deaf Leopard” tattoo incident. The infection set in soon after he tried to make the corrections with a soldering iron.

Cross your fingers! This year could be the charm for young Marlon – we’re confident he’ll finally move on to middle school in the fall! At just 27, he’s poised to become the scholar of the family, but he still says those six years of fourth grade were the best time of his life.

We’re also thrilled to report that Uncle Joe is recovering from his recent surgery, but it’s taking him awhile to adjust to life as a woman. I suppose it would be tough having to come up with a whole new wardrobe when you’re 6-foot-8 and 456 pounds. For now, we hear he’s borrowing clothes from his younger sister.

But the highlight of our year was the family trip to Branson, Missouri. What an amazing place! That Elvis impersonator got me so choked up I went right out and had “hunka hunka burning love” tattooed right across my right butt cheek. Long live the King!

As I sit here thinking about all the trials and tribulations our wonderful family endured last year, I can’t help but find comfort in the thought that we don’t have to see any of you this season, and we’re still not nearly as bad as the Kardashians.

Your’s Truly

Billy Ray

 

Not only would I be proud to be a part of such an intriguing family, but one can’t help but step a little lighter after reading something as uplifting as that letter in the middle of another absurd holiday season.

So, unless you can come up with something similarly sinister, stop sending me bleeping Christmas letters! If you don’t, I’ll tell Billy Ray and Ethel where you live!

A Curmudgeon on Christmas!

I hate Christmas. The mall is full of nothing but women and children. All you hear is, ‘I want this,’ ‘Get me this,’ ‘I have to have this’… and then there’s the children. And they’re all by my store ’cause they stuck the mall Santa right outside ringing his stupid bell. As if you need a bell to notice a 300-pound alcoholic in a red suit. ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ all day long. So, nice as can be, I go outside, and ask him to shut the hell up. He takes a swing at me. So, I lay a hook into his fat belly and he goes down. Beard comes off, all the kids start crying and I’m the bad guy.

– Al Bundy, Married With Children

 

That has got to be the best bleepin’ Christmas quote ever!

Religious holiday my ass! The only real Christmas miracle is that curmudgeons everywhere don’t rise up and embark upon the kind anti-yuletide revolution that would have extroverts barricading themselves into their homes along the lines ‘The Walking Dead.’ Well…that, and the fact that my alcoholic family refuses to have anything to do with me, which may well be a real Festivus miracle.

It starts with Black Friday where white folks storm retail establishments at 2 a.m. only to get into fistfights that make ‘The Purge’ look tame. And it’s all in an effort to secure the latest must-have toy, which their overly-spoiled progeny will discard or destroy in less than a week.

And that’s the best part!

With no time to catch your breath, it’s on to Fox News’ “War on Christmas” affront du jour, which typically involves whatever is or isn’t on a Starbucks’ cup. I don’t know about you, but all I care about is whether I miss that overly small cardboard ring which means searing at least four fingertips clean off.

It’s not that I have a problem with someone wishing me a happy Hanukah, happy Kwanzaa, merry Christmas, whatever Muslims celebrate, or, god forbid, happy holidays. It’s the implied requirement to be jolly or merry that bothers me.

What if I’m perfectly happy being unhappy? Ebenezer Scrooge was really on to something.

Trust me! I’m just fine indulging in that curmudgeonly disdain for anything artificial, commercial, religious, or simply annoying, thank you very much! And Christmas is the holiday that meets all those criteria and more! Anything that brings the rabble out in public en masse can’t possibly be a good thing.

Mistletoe

All these insipid winter solstice celebrations are just that – artificial. Not ones to be bound by convention, those newfangled religious leaders concocted the current holidays to compete with those nature-worshipping and fun-loving pagan celebrations. And the further down the religious road you go, the wackier those holidays become.

Speaking of “wacky,” I wonder how Scientologists celebrate the season? Festive and fanciful hand drawn pictures of Xenu? On second thought, don’t tell me! I’m sure it would be far too depressing.

Perhaps if we revived the whole fertility festival thing, I might not be so cranky.

And just when you think you’ve recovered from those absurdly macabre Halloween displays, you’re completely blinded by the 1.2 billion candlepower cornea searing dioramas your overly competitive neighbors insist upon erecting just to prove they love the baby Jesus, Rudolph and Frosty more than you do!

Has any American anywhere ever considered the possibility that less is really more? Don’t answer that question because it would be far too depressing.

And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it’s time to spend “quality” time with your family. What could possibly go wrong with that, particularly when alcohol is involved? SNL’s ‘drunk uncle’ bit doesn’t come close to any actual Christmas reality. Where’s the four-letter epithets, the requisite recriminations, and all the passing out?

The only thing worse than that terrifying scenario is having to fly somewhere to endure your “loved ones.” Talk about adding insult to injury. That kind of grim determination requires a sadomasochistic streak along the lines of serving as Donald Trump’s Chief-of-Staff.

I would rather be catapulted 1,200 miles through the upper reaches of atmosphere in the hope of landing on a stack of twin-size mattresses than to have to contend with another airport, get on another plane, and endure those surly sky waitresses. And I mean the male variety, too!

It takes a concerted effort to make flying that kind of miserable, but they’re more than up to it. Personally, I’d rather take my chances with the terrorists. By the way, has the TSA managed to catch just one?

Even if you don’t go anywhere, you’re not nearly off the hook. What on God’s green earth gave generally semi-rational human beings the notion that anyone would want a gaggle of their neighbors showing up unannounced at their front door to sing the same sad Christmas songs we’ve been hearing at Target since early July?

Neighbors tend to be enough of a nuisance already. And if I wanted to have to suffer through random people poorly singing, I’d invite the Osmonds over for Christmas dinner. Do Mormons celebrate Christmas? And if they do, do they have to visit all their wives?

Then the fruitcakes start arriving with happy notes! Where were they when I needed those denser-than-a-neutron-star horrors to use as projectiles which would send those errant carolers scattering into various backyards where they’d be forced to cower for days.

They won’t ring my damn doorbell during dinnertime again, will they!

And it’s not nearly over, either!

The next sign of the imminent yuletide apocalypse is when the Christmas missives start infesting your mailbox. If I haven’t made that less than minimal effort to contact you through Facebook before December, what makes you think I want to hear from you now? And what makes you think I’m the least bit interested in you or your family’s eminently mundane lives?

Finally, despite having developed a full-blown retail- store-ophobia, it’s time to trudge back to the mall to return all the stupid shit your friends and family bought you because they put no thought into it whatsoever.

Thank you so much for that Donald Trump Chia Pet; I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with the $15 donation to the Society for Homeless Skunks in my name; and I don’t know how I ever got by without an electric spatula.

Oh! And engraving it so I couldn’t return it was a nice touch, too.

And this year, I’ve given up booze! Please pray for me!

 

Quick Hits – December 20, 2019

Fake news?

Though I’ve come to despise that term, I understand why it’s caught on. Borne of eternally receding newsrooms, local newspapers don’t even pretend to apply the ethically required due diligence anymore.

To wit, when I read the coverage of the 41-year-old St. Charles certified nursing assistant who was just convicted of felony aggravated assault for purportedly “punching” a long-term care resident, it sounded like something straight out of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s mouth.

A middle-aged white woman punching an old man in what amounts to a nursing home? It doesn’t happen! So, I decided to dig, and sure enough, it took two scant five-minute phone calls to determine the truth.

The male resident, known to be violent as a result of dementia, was being led back to his room after taking a shower when HE punched the nursing assistant. Not only did two independent witnesses confirm that fact, but they testified that the nursing assistant’s response was to slap him on the hand.

It wasn’t the best  method of dealing with the attack, but it certainly wasn’t anything remotely approximating a punch.

To the State’s Attorney’s credit, they did offer her a misdemeanor plea bargain, but she and/or her attorney refused to take it. Sure, it would’ve been a conviction, but then she would’ve simply lost that job. Now, with a felony conviction, she won’t be able to get a job.

And I can’t begin fathom why they chose to go the jury route when this case screamed for a bench trial. This felony aggravated battery to a senior citizen statute bleep is just another fine example of the Illinois General Assembly going out of their way to remove any last vestige of prosecutorial and judicial discretion as they insist upon trying to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer one more time.

Trust me, anyone who can’t get out of jury duty won’t even begin to understand the nuance involved with these kinds of laws. This woman made a stupid mistake which doesn’t amount to a felony.

But my fake news problem is this! Both the Daily Herald and Kane County Chronicle simply regurgitated the prosecutors’ press release without questioning any part of the story. And if all you’re gonna do is be a shill for the State’s Attorney, then don’t report the story.

It took me just ten minutes to get to the truth, but apparently the Daily Herald and the Chronicle couldn’t be bothered with that absurdly minimal effort. So much for journalistic standards.Nurse violence

Why do we accept women being assaulted in the workplace?

The fact that local papers have become nothing more than glorified police blotters doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the school districts, hospitals, and nursing homes who hire women with an implied job requirement of regularly being assaulted.

We’ve already covered the Burlington School District bus aide story where the violent special needs repeatedly attacked his female school bus drivers and aides. And I’m sure the nursing assistant in the previous story is not nearly the only one who’s been attacked by a violent resident in that facility.

Of course, the worst case of this utterly unacceptable reality is the Delnor nurse who was taken hostage, tortured, and raped at the hands of an escaped convict. While that story made national news, the American Nurses Association reports that 25 percent of their membership will be assaulted by a patient on the job, and their bosses expect them to simply shut up and take it.

Please tell me when this kind of violence, primarily against women, became acceptable?

I understand the difficulties in raising a special needs child, but if he or she is violent, then that shouldn’t fall on the rest of us. If your son can’t handle the school bus, then you need to drive him to school. And if he’s repeatedly abusive and violent, then the school district should send him packing.

Long-term care facilities know Alzheimer’s patients can become violent as a result of the disease, so those for-profit institutions really need to hire the appropriate security staff such that those folks are reasonably contained. And if they can’t be contained, then they need to remove them from the facility or put them in restraints.

No nurse should EVER be punched while walking a patient back to his or her room, period!

Our “non-profit” Delnor Hospital generally makes a 200 percent “profit” every year. SO they they most certainly have the resources to hire the male orderlies and security staff required to keep their nurses safe.

If a patient attacks a nurse simply because they’re unhappy, they should be charged. If a patient assaults a nurse for any reason, they should be restrained so they can’t do it a again, and a security guard should accompany any nurse who has to further deal with that patient.

I understand that drugs, anesthesia, and certain diseases can do terrible things to people, but that doesn’t mean a nurse should have to expect being assaulted at work. There’s absolutely no reason hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities can’t take every reasonable precaution to minimize these incidents, and if they don’t, they should be statutorily required to do so.

Do I have to say it again? No woman should have to go to work with the expectation of being assaulted!

 

Happy Festivus!

Since I purchased my own Christmas gifts, I know I’m gonna have a great time next week, and I certainly hope all of you do just as well as I know I will.

Meanwhile, I’m more than likely to dive directly into my traditional Christmas through New Year’s Quick Hits hiatus. If something particularly piques my interest, I may write about it, but the more feasible prospect is posting chapters from my in-process ‘Curmudgeon’ book.

So, let’s be happy, safe and get ready to move on to 2020!

 

Quick Hits – In memory of Mike Donahue

Journalism is a very strange profession. It’s a lot like sitting at a desk with a typewriter on a rock in the middle of an extraordinarily wide river as the inexorable flow of water surrounds you. Since you can’t see a stationary object, you’re never quite sure if it’s the rock or the water that’s moving, and even though you become inured to that insistent flow, you know you’re never in the same river twice.

Most of the time the water moves at a leisurely pace, but there are times you feel like you’re shooting some Class V rapids. The only thing you can count on is the river will always be there, and it rarely freezes over.

But yesterday it did just that.

Upon opening the Chronicle’s morning update, the news of former Kane County Board Member Mike Donahue’s death brought me up short. It’s not that he and I were friends; we were more like bemused political adversaries; but it still struck me harder than I thought it would.

Perhaps it’s that politicians seem to be eternal and that younger folks aren’t supposed to die before you do. Mike was a mere 57. I’m sure that feeling also had something to do with the fact I didn’t even know he was sick.

Mike Donahue

So, I called County Board member Drew Frasz, a lifelong Genevan as Mike was, to get some perspective on the death of his peer. And it was Drew who asked me to, as he put it, write  “a good send off.”

Like it is with everything else, I warned him I wouldn’t sugarcoat it, and when he said he wouldn’t expect anything less, I decided to give it a shot.

The truth is, as a politician, I wasn’t all that fond of Mike. Aside from his amazing vision for the Settler’s Hill project and his penchant for renewable energy, his blind faith in people in power – particularly if they’d grown up with him – was beyond frustrating.

I’ll never understand his steadfast support of Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and former Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay, two of the most corrupt elected officials I’ve ever covered. I always believed he harbored the kind of intelligence and insight that meant he should’ve known better.

And at that 2011 time, Mr. Donahue often employed the kind of massive ego that allowed him to dismiss you without a second thought. Not even Ms. McConnaughay could pull it off quite like he could.

But our “relationship” wasn’t truly adversarial, either. My favorite Mike Donahue memory involves the time he counterattacked me on the local Patch websites. Few people have had the nerve to take me on in print, and far fewer have done it as well as he did.

I basically accused him of contracting an acute case of the “Municipal Mindset Syndrome” and Mike went along with that “diagnosis” by applying the kind of satirical response that would’ve made Jonathon Swift applaud.

And he could actually write, too!

His column – it’s still on the web – makes me laugh out loud to this day. Though when I re-read it this morning, the unintentional prophetic nature of the piece is more than a bit unsettling.

It was only after his single county board term expired that I become a fan of Mike Donahue the man. And that shift came in the form of his personal and financial support of the failed 2014 “Show Kane Cares” referendum, a proposed 0.1 percent tax increase that would’ve better supported our physically and mentally disabled brothers and sisters.

I was working at the County Clerk’s office at the time, and Mike showed up with the Association for Individual Development folks to submit the 33,000 signatures required to get the question on the ballot. The stack of signature sheets, bound with bolts, was more than two feet tall. I had to congratulate both he and them for accomplishing what can only be described as a Herculean task.

Mike risked some Republican friendships by backing that effort, too.

Sadly, that was the last time I saw or spoke with him, but I regularly noted that his ongoing charitable endeavors went well beyond AID, and he continued to be quite the pioneer in the field of solar energy.

Apparently, three years ago, Mike was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. So, of course, Drew and I discussed how he dealt with the prospect of having his body betray him in one of the worst ways I could possibly imagine.

Mike kept up his charitable endeavors, not the least of which was playing a pivotal role in the 2019 Marklund Schools expansion. The Marklund Schools serve children and adults with severe developmental disabilities.

He didn’t let his disease slow him down, either. Mike acquired a specially equipped van to get around and I understand he continued to enjoy his Naples, Florida, boat whenever possible. He kept up with old friends, too. I’m convinced the reason this reporter didn’t know he was sick was because, according to Drew, he refused to complain about it or feel sorry for himself.

I’m not sure I would’ve handled it nearly that well.

To his wife Carol, all I can say is condolences are not enough. There are no other words for it – this sucks! No one should have to endure that horrific disease, and no one should have to endure the pain you and your family have been and are most certainly going through now.

The only possible solace I can find in Mike’s too-short life is, if the ultimate question is, “Did you leave this planet a better place than when you found it” – and I believe that’s the only question – then Mike Donahue can answer it with an unequivocal “Yes!”

Rest in peace Mike.

 

Quick Hits – We expect way too much of our schools

As a result of my December 2, 2019 column on the Tribune’s and Pro Publica’s take on Illinois school district quiet rooms, Montgomery, Illinois, State Rep, Stephanie Kifowit, and yours truly got into one of our more fascinating no-holds-barred social media deliberations.

kifowit

Stehphanie Kifowit

You see, I fervently believe Ms. Kifowit harbors a vast capacity to forget that she’s a card-carrying member of the General Assembly and she possesses all the power that comes along with that. Through, it can be quite amusing to sit back and watch our State Rep play the role of outraged citizen.

She does harbor a certain charm!

During that first debate (there’s been a second since), we got into it about the unfunded mandates she and the General Assembly regularly thrust upon our school systems. And you know me, rather that relying on flapping gums like the rest of the rabble, I resorted to U-46 CEO, Tony Sanders, who quickly provided me with the three most cumbersome unfunded mandates Illinois’ second largest school district faces.

So, let’s get started!

1. Carbon monoxide detectors

As is par for the politician course, particularly among the Illinois variety, they tend to lack a necessary keen perception of the obvious. So, when disaster inevitably strikes, they swiftly move from doing absolutely nothing to diving directly into being the worst kind of Geneva, Illinois, helicopter parent.

After a faulty exhaust pipe sent 150 downstate Girard middle school students and staff to the hospital in 2014, our illustrious Illinois legislators’ oblivious response was to require every last district to deploy a plethora of CO detectors in various locations throughout every last building – even though that Girard incident is the only one of its kind in Illinois history.

Of course we should protect students against this threat. But while I understand the necessity to put smoke detectors in every classroom, given the likely areas of first exposure, my residence has a single carbon monoxide detector sitting at the confluence of the basement and inner garage doors.

And our school districts should have been similarly asked to address this possibility. They don’t need to go everywhere!

But no! Springfield’s predilection to run around screaming the sky is falling at every turn means a huge purchasing and maintenance expense for which the General Assembly has failed to provide one thin dime.

Unfunded Mandates

2. Daily PE

Look! I realize the term “morbidly obese” doesn’t begin to describe us as a nation and physical education is critical, particularly for boys who have difficulty sitting still all day. But, once again, why do we reflexively look to our schools for the fix?

Don’t parents share some responsibility for their corpulent children? And how are schools supposed to fix that?

If U-46 is forced to offer daily PE, the current lack of space and staff will quickly add up to a semi-repeating $7 million in associated annual costs. Sure, we had everyday PE back at Evanston Township High School in the 70s, but that was at a time the State felt obligated to put their money where their mandated mouth was.

This Springfield gaggle gets the biggest kick out of telling educators what to do, slapping each other on the back for having done so, and then just walking away. How is U-46 supposed to come up with that kinda cash – a couple of bake sales?

No! Something will have be cut or your property taxes will go up!

3. Defibrillators

I’ve written about this pet peeve before.

If you look up the definition of the word “life” in that dogeared old family Merriam-Webster, it simply says “risk.” Well, not really, but it should, because the Sword of Damocles hangs over each and every one of our heads and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

Again! I’m not saying we shouldn’t take reasonable precautions, and well-placed CO detectors are a reasonable precaution, but despite our best efforts, children die, and they  continue to die every day. Short of rolling them in bubble wrap and locking them in the downstairs closet, which might you in trouble with DCFS (or maybe not), there is nothing we can do to change that sad reality.

No one wants to see a parent lose a child, but since speaking with Mr. Sanders, I’ve asked at least ten teachers and administrators to tell me the last time a district defibrillator was used. None of them could come up with a single instance.

And if you think carbon monoxide detectors can get expensive, the average (non-refurbished) cost of a defibrillator is $1,300 and that doesn’t include the recurring related training expenses.

 

Again! If the State of Illinois wants to foist these mandates upon our hapless school districts, then they need pony up the cash, and they need to it without raising taxes. But they don’t because they’ve got a great scam going. They enact absurd statutory requirements which require raised taxes, and who gets the blame? That’s right! The school boards and not the mopes truly behind it.

So, here’s a crazy thought! Why don’t we get back to having parents take responsibility for their children, taking reasonable precautions in our schools BEFORE tragedy strikes, and simply letting our educators educate.

I know that’s quite a radical thought, but that’s just the kind of guy I am! And I’m guessin’ this column means a third debate with Ms. Kifowit.

Don’t worry! I’m up for it!

Quick Hits – December 13, 2019

Can you say “perjury?” I knew you could!

It took a rather circuitous FOIA route from the Elgin City Clerk’s office to the Kane County Clerk, but I finally did manage to obtain a copy of the 2018 Economic Interest Statement filed by Elgin City Councilman Baldemar Lopez prior to his city council run.

You can see it for yourself right here: Lopez EIS

To make a long story short, nowhere on the form does he disclose he’s a lobbyist, and that my friends is perjury!

Lopez Files Paperwork

Baldemar Lopez files his nominating paperwork

For example, line item 1 on the EIS asks the candidate to list “any entity” that does business with “a unit of local government” where the fair market value of that “entity” is $5,000 or more. Lopez does call what Strategem Consulting does “government relations,” but after WBEZ’s report, we all know it’s really lobbying.

Meanwhile, all kinds of business analyst websites report Strategem brings in $254,000 a year, well above that $5,000 mark. Though they go out of their way not to name their clients, sources tell me Strategem lobbies for the Village of Hanover Park among other government propositions.

So, that’s perjury number one.

Moving on to item number 3, where Lopez is required to note the nature of professional services rendered to non-government entities who paid him more than $5,000. Thanks to WBEZ, we already know that Com Ed paid Stratagem Consulting $60 grand in 2019.

So, in light of Strategem’s quarter million-dollar annual income, I’d bet my bottom dollar that all manner of private and public business paid him more than $5,000 to perform, as Mr. Lopez puts it, “government relations” in 2018.

That’s perjury number two.

Since all lobbying efforts must be disclosed, it will be more than fascinating to see Lopez’ 2019 Economic Interest Statement. The same County Clerk FOIA request also determined Lopez has a scant three weeks to file that document and fulfill that statutory requirement.

On to item number 7! That’s where Lopez must list any “unit of government” that  employed his firm in the previous calendar year. His response is “None,” which makes it perjury number three.

During Mayor Dave Kaptain’s recent annual state of the city address, he said he wanted the council to adopt an ethics ordinance that, like Chicago, would prohibit councilmen from engaging in any lobbying activities. Lopez’ response wasn’t “Of course I’m not a lobbyist,” it was that he was taken by surprise by Kaptain’s initiative.

Now, before you get too excited, the odds of Baldemar sharing a jail cell with Blago aren’t good. The maximum penalty for filing a false EIS is $1,000 and/or a year in the pokey, and I’ve never heard of a candidate going to jail for that kind of thing. But I do think fining Lopez a grand would be more than appropriate.

All I can say is, I can’t wait to see his 2019 EIS edition!

 

A turkey of a giveaway

So, Elgin City Councilman Corey Dixon just prattled on about being committed to being the best imperfect person he could possibly be on social media. Given my magnanimous nature and the fact his flaw list is longer than mine, I’m more than willing to provide some assistance in his quest for improvement.

And it starts with eliminating self-aggrandizing giveaways that are really nothing more than an attempt to buy votes.

Turkey Giveaway

Last year it was a backpack giveaway, moderated by the Councilman himself, and this year, it’s free turkeys being provided under the same random conditions.

My first question is, how does Councilman Dixon purport to determine who truly needs a free turkey or a free backpack? He certainly hasn’t disclosed that screening criteria. So, can anyone show up for a free Turkey? If that’s the case, rest assured that City Councilman Terry Gavin will be the first in line.

And our first point leads directly to the second question, which is, why not bring the U-46 PTO in to pass out those backpacks and Elgin’s Community Crisis Center to distribute the turkeys? That simple move would ensure an equitable process and that everything’s on the up-and-up.

But that would mean Councilman Dixon would have to share the glory, now, wouldn’t it?

So, in an effort to help Mr. Dixon be more imperfectly perfect, particularly in regard to the faith he so fervently cited, I want to remind him of the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. For reference purposes Dictionary.com defines “Pharisee” as “a self-righteous person; a hypocrite,” and Luke 18:14 admonishes the following:

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I’m always happy to help you out, Corey!