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!

Quick Hits – December 11, 2019

With the local races covered, let’s catch up on some old stories!

The walls are closing in on Judge John Dalton

Throughout my coverage of that poor excuse for a human being, I’ve consistently encouraged people to report Judge Dalton to the Judicial Inquiry Board and reasonably reach out to the press in an effort to expose his continuing courtroom antics.

Dalton

And I’m happy to report that the press is beginning to pick up on this story. PJ Media’s Megan Fox reached out to me last week, we had a 40-minute conversation, she spoke with other sources, and then she wrote an excellent piece explaining exactly why Dalton should be removed from the bench.

You can read that column right here. She even quoted me correctly!

But I’m even happier to report that, as the result of this new scrutiny and yours truly regularly planting his butt in courtroom 101, Judge Dalton is suddenly behaving. You see, it’s never been a question of whether he could be reasonable, it’s always been a question of whether he chooses to be reasonable.

And with his job is on the line, apparently, he’s quite capable of letting the sadistic schtick go. Keep the pressure on him people and the JIB will have to do something.

 

Put recording equipment in every Kane County courtroom

In a previous column I insisted that, as soon as he was situated, brand new Kane County Chief Judge Clint Hull should insert a court reporter in Dalton’s courtroom. My theory was, if former Chief Judge Susan Boles could put one in Judge Joseph Grady’s courtroom after he allegedly made one racist comment, considering Dalton’s vast horror stories, it’s a no brainer to do the same thing to him.

But there’s an easier solution!

I was talking with one of my favorite attorneys yesterday, and she noted that DuPage, Kendall and DeKalb Counties all record all courtroom proceedings, and then a pool of court reporters transcribes it later.

Clint Hull

Judge Hull

I’m only in the preliminary inquiry stages, but I haven’t been able to ferret out the reason this hasn’t happened in Kane County.

Not only would this technology end Dalton’s reign of terror, but it would actually save money in the form of fewer court reporters. So, I’m, once again, encouraging Judge Hull to apply this generally accepted technology sooner rather than later.

I’m already approaching the County Board to see that this happens and I certainly hope His Honor understands just how serious I am about this.

 

Naperville City Councilman Kevin Coyne speaks!

So, first we had the Buffalo Wild Wings incident, and then, a scant three weeks later, a Naperville Central High School freshman was arrested and charged with a hate crime for posting a Craiglist “slave for sale” ad complete with photographs of a black classmate.

Oh no! Naperville isn’t racist at all.

Kevin Coyne

Considering his very public demand for Naperville State Rep Anne Stava-Murray resignation after she took her hometown to task for their “white supremacist policies” on social media, I asked Councilman Coyne to respond to the second major Naperville racist incident in just three weeks.

Here’s what he had to say unedited in any way:

I believe Naperville is one of the most welcoming and safest communities in America. There have been a few terribly unfortunate racial incidents of late which must be, and are being, dealt with. The perpetrators of these hateful incidents rightfully suffered significant consequences for their actions (job loss and/or criminal prosecution). Their terrible actions do not define our community. 

I had my say and now Councilman Coyne has had his. The rest is up to Naperville.

 

An Elgin City Council ethics Ordinance?

So, suddenly becoming aware of new-ish Elgin City Councilman Baldemar Lopez’ registered lobbyist proclivities, Mayor Dave Kaptain is asking the City Council to consider an ethics ordinance correctly claiming, “Elgin should prohibit city council members from engaging in lobbying activities.”

Like myself, the Mayor has a keen perception of the obvious.

But what’s kind of strange about this becoming an issue now is, I knew Lopez was a lobbyist in March long before WBEZ exposed his Com Ed connection. How did I know? Because I used his Cook County registered lobbyist photo in one of my columns. This is that photograph:

Lopez

I didn’t think much of it at the time because I figured, if I knew, then the City of Elgin must know too, because it had to be disclosed on the Economic Interest Statement Lopez was required to file with his nominating paperwork.

C’mon! No candidate would be stupid enough to omit something that obvious. But then it struck me! What if he didn’t disclose it on his EIS? That would be exactly the kind of perjury that would open him to criminal prosecution.

Unfortunately, the Elgin City Clerk doesn’t post City Council candidate petitions online, so I’ve just issued a FOIA in that regard. And if Mr. Lopez did not disclose that important fact, I will have what can only be described as a fascinating conversation with the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Stay tuned!

Quick Hits – Election 2020 Part 3!

Alright! Let’s finish this series off because I got other bleep to write about. To that end, today we’ll be discussing all the state rep and senate races that are worth mentioning. But before we go there, I will, once again, note that many of the Dem primary races are fraught with candidates despite the existence of a Democratic incumbent.

Taking a cue from the bizarrely large presidential field, it would seem that today’s Democratic hopefuls believe they can win any race.

To wit, Democratic 12th State Rep Sara Feigenholtz has five, count em, five primary opponents. It’s a strange sight to see, first, because there’s clearly no respect for the incumbency, and second, it virtually guarantees her a win. Meanwhile, Democratic 40th District State Senator Patrick Joyce has four primary opponents, and he’ll dispense with all of them, too.

Onward!

election 2020 3

12th State Rep

Speaker Michael Madigan has no opponent which will make the 2020 election a lot less fascinating than it could be. Where’s David Krupa when you really need him?

 

43rd and 44th State Rep

Anna Moeller and Fred Crespo are currently running unopposed because it would be beyond difficult to beat them at this point.

 

49th State Rep

Democrat Maura Hirschauer will attempt to follow in the departing Karina Villa’s electoral footsteps. Villa is now vying for the 25th State Senate seat.

There are two somewhat interesting Republican entries in this race, well-liked North Aurora Trustee Laura Curtis, and former Geneva aldermanic candidate Doug Warlick. Doug doesn’t stand a chance, and while you can’t completely count Curtis out, not only has that district turned blue, but there’s no way Darth Madigan is going to let that one go in the midst of a boatload of anti-Trumpism.

Hirschauer will win by a comfortable margin.

 

50th State Rep

I’m kinda surprised GOP incumbent Keith Wheeler is, so far, unopposed. First, I heard he’d have an opponent early on. And second, I firmly believed terrible Democratic candidate Jim Leslie’s surprising 2018 45 percent showing against Wheeler in what has been a deep red bastion would encourage some sort of Democratic opposition.

Though I have no knowledge of it, I fully expect the Dems to slate someone here.

 

65th State Rep

After finally winning an election in 2018, Mo Iqbal is disingenuously attempting to abandon his Kane County Board constituents to run against Republican incumbent Dan Ugaste. But he’ll have to beat primary challenger Martha Paschke first, a very unlikely possibility.

Iqbal has lost more races than I can remember, his campaign ethic has always been suspect, and with the exception of one initiative, he tends to blend in with the boardroom wallpaper. To make matters worse, the 65th, my district, ain’t ready for any candidate whose full name is ‘Mohammed Iqbal.”

Before you hit the “send” button, don’t forget, I don’t make the rules, I only report them!

Ugaste, in turn, will crush Paschke because the 65th is about as Republican as it gets.

 

66th State Rep

In a case of déjà vu all over again, the GOP primary pits my former radio show co-host Allen Skillicorn against McHenry County Board member Carolyn Schofield. There are folks, like me, who think Allen has drifted far too far to the right.

But Schofield ran a terrible campaign and lost last time, she’s not the brightest bulb in the pack, and I see no evidence that dynamic will change anytime soon.

However, Allen’s not out of the woods yet! When you consider Democrat Nancy Zettler’s 43 percent 2016 showing against one of the hardest working candidates I’ve ever met, there’s a distinct possibility that newcomer Dems Jim Malone or Suzanne Ness could beat him.

In the words of the great Bob Dylan, “The Collar Counties, they are a-changing!”

 

81st State Rep

Incumbent Democrat Anne Stava-Murray is facing off against Republican newcomer Laura Hois in what is basically a Naperville district. With the inevitable 2020 tTrump backlash, Hois doesn’t stand a chance.

 

83rd State Rep

Considering her beyond lethargic campaign ethic, it comes as no surprise that Linda Chapa LaVia’s handpicked successor, Barbara Hernande, has drawn a primary opponent. And it also comes as no surprise that, Juan Thomas, the leader of the rival Aurora Hispanic faction is that candidate.

I’m sure you remember the dual Aurora Township government electoral follies, brought to you in great part, by the always fascinating Mr. Thomas. Considering he’s a more polarizing figure than yours truly, Hernandez’ supporters will put every effort into seeing she’s reelected, and she will be.

While I’ve previously been hard on her for her general apathy, her failure to interject anything at Kane County Board meetings, and her poor political comportment, she actually is showing signs of life and competence as a State Rep.

Believe it, or not, then Hernandez will have to face off against Republican general election opponent, Donald Walter. Clearly, there’s a reason he and Don Quixote share the same first name. Not even Saint Jude could help him in that demonstrably Democratic district. (Look it up!)

 

84th State Rep

As expected, Democratic Incumbent Stephani Kifowit is running unopposed.

 

Let’s move on to the State Senate where there really ain’t a whole lot to report!

22nd State Senate

Considering the “hope springs eternal” 2020 Democratic electoral theme, I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised that Elgin State Senator Cristina Castro drew a primary opponent in Streamwood Park District Board Commissioner Rae Yawer.

Despite my current disappointment with Senator Castro and particularly the company she keeps, given her willingness to knock on the same door three times, I’d typically dismiss Ms. Yawer outright. But add Yawer’s vast volunteer history to the fact she got 200 people to show up to her campaign kickoff and Castro may have a real battle on her hands.

It certainly will be more than interesting to watch an Asian and Hispanic woman square off against each other.

And I’m willing to sweeten that pot, too! In light of my recent columns on Ms. Castro’s poor choices, much like I’ve connected with 14th District Kane County Board hopeful, Steve Oscarson, I’d like to make Ms. Yawer the same offer!

Should she choose to sit down with me, I would be more than happy to explain exactly how one wins a Democratic primary.

And Cristina, may I politely suggest that you and your husband avoid threatening people this time because I’ll be watching – closely!

 

25th State Senate

This one pits Dem State Rep Karina Villa against two familiar Republican challengers, former Tim Schmitz legislative aide Beth Goncher, and former U-46 School Board member Jeanette Ward – no relation to this writer.

Despite Goncher’s keen capacity to lose elections as the result of a poor campaign ethic – she was still getting signatures last week – she will beat the hyper-rightwing loon Ward. Ward has no money and no name recognition in the heavily Republican western and southern portions of the district where that kind of thing really matters.

To wit, just four people showed up to a recent Ward meet and greet.

But a combination of Goncher’s unwillingness to work, a campaign team that loses 70 percent of the time, and Ms. Villa’s ground game skills will turn the 25th over to the Democrats for the first time in its lengthy history.

 

49th State Senate

I’m somewhat loathe to comment on this one because I really don’t know the players, but with incumbent Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant stepping down to run for Will County Board Executive, three Democrats and one starry-eyed Republican have thrown their hats in the ring.

The only thing I can tell you about Michael Crowner, Larry Hug, and Meg Loughran Cappel is that one of them will win the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, I wish I had either whatever drug presumed Republican nominee Thomas McCullagh’s is taking, or his unbounded Ned Flanders-esque optimism because no Republican will ever win that dyed-in-blue district, much less do it in 2020.

 

That’s it! Now that we’ve discussed the local races I feel competent to comment on, it’s time to move on to other things, like how the walls are closing in on Kane County Judge John Dalton. We’ll discuss that on Wednesday.

Quick Hits – Election 2020 Part 2!

Alright! Now that we’ve covered the Kane County only races, let’s move on to their higher compatriots:

Election 2020 2

14th Congressional

You’d a thunk Republicans would’ve learned something from the utterly overcrowded Democratic presidential field where you have to be particularly nutty just to get noticed. C’mon! Corey Booker thinks Barack Obama wasn’t liberal enough?

But no, because they didn’t learn a damn thing, it would be far more expedient to list the Republicans who aren’t running for this seat than to cover those who are. But let me give it a shot in alphabetical order:

  • Anthony Catella
  • Jerry Evans
  • Ted Gradel
  • Catalina Lauf
  • James Marter
  • Jim Oberweis
  • Sue Rezin

Reader John Lopez encouraged me to determine the merit, or lack thereof, of each of those candidates, but who has that kind of time and why bother when the outcome is inevitable.

Whenever you have a field that large, either the craziest candidate or the candidate with the most name recognition always wins. And in this case, Jim Oberweis is both. His only real challenger is Mr. Marter who clearly couldn’t win an election if he ran unopposed.

So, Jim will trounce that field only to be trounced by incumbent Lauren Underwood who will have that job as long as Donald Trump is President. Word is that Mr. Oberweis thinks this one is in the bag, which has even his closest friends scratching their heads.

But what bothers me is about this race is, I consider Jim to be a friend, and watching him suddenly toeing the Trump line, something he’d never do privately, is more than discouraging. I certainly won’t be voting for him.

 

6th Congressional

Fresh off her GOP gubernatorial primary loss, a race that was hers to lose, now Jeanne Ives is running for Congress. As Chief O’Hara used to say on the 60s Batman TV show, “Saints preserve us!”

Ives is just another garden variety right-wing loon that already over-permeate that nation’s capital and we certainly don’t need one more.

Though she’s a terrible candidate – she sent a small book as a campaign mailer last time – Ives will beat Gordon Kinzler who has a rather nasty habit of losing elections. But then Ives will be handily dispatched by incumbent Sean Casten.

 

8th Congressional

Just when I thought it was those 14th District Republicans who were a banana short of a bunch, the Democrats managed to top them! Please tell me why Raja Krishnamoorthi is being primaried, not by one, not by two, but by three separate candidates?

No one’s ever come to me with a negative story about the Congressman, so I can’t imagine why these numbskulls are running. Raj will defeat them without breaking a sweat and he currently has no Republican opponent.

 

11th Congressional

Bill Foster, a man who makes Sheldon Cooper look normal, will beat primary challenger Rachel Ventura. Foster has too much money and he understands ground game math better than most candidates.

 

17th Congressional

Again! Why does Cheri Bustos, a politician with an exceptionally bright future, have a Democratic primary opponent? That said, it would be far more expedient for him to throw all that campaign cash directly into the Mississippi River, because there’s no way Spanky Edwards – his real name – is gonna win.

And Bustos will easily dispense with any of her three Republican Challengers.

 

U.S. Senate

Dick Durbin, my least favorite Illinois politician – and that’s really sayin’ something coming from me – has five Republican and one Independent challengers. Though he’s served for far too long (since 1996), he will be reelected.

 

Since I gotta get other stuff done, it looks like we’ll move on to the State Rep and Senate races in part three on Monday! Until then…

Quick Hits Special Edition – Kane County Elections 2020!

To quote that great philosopher Frank Barone, “Holy crap!” I ain’t never had so many people seek my sage counsel than after the County Clerk posted the final candidate nominating paperwork yesterday afternoon.

Though there certainly weren’t a lot of surprises, the few revelations we do have make up for that lack of quantity with some real quality. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Election 2020

1. Chris Lauzen will bow out to support Dave Rickert

Many of you astutely noted that both the Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen and Treasurer Dave Rickert filed the paperwork to run for chairman. The burning question was, “Is Dave really running against Chris?”

And the answer to that fascinating query would be a resounding “no!” Chairman Lauzen, who always said he’d serve just two terms, will gracefully withdraw in support of Rickert’s candidacy.

The second kind-of-smoldering question was, “Jeff Ward! You scurrilous cad! How long have you been sitting on this knowledge?”

To be honest, for at least six months. And people have the nerve to say I can’t keep a secret! Well, actually they don’t say that, but it was a lot of fun to refute it anyway!

Why did I keep that epiphany under wraps? Because the last thing I wanted to do was sit back and watch the rest of the GOP rabble swarm into that race, as County Board members Mike Kenyon, Mark Davoust, and/or Doug Scheflow certainly would’ve done. You see, even if we combined their “political skills” into one candidate, that candidate still wouldn’t qualify to serve as a PTA bake sale chairman.

Though to be fair to Mark Davoust, his wife Melanie would have had to retrieve the “family jewels” from the mason jar she keeps in a locked cabinet before Mark could run for chairman, so he may never have become an issue.

The bottom line is, Dave Rickert is the best choice by far.

If Mike Madigan can apply this kind of electoral strategy, then why can’t the Republicans? I’ve been sayin’ the Illinois GOP should take a page from The Speaker’s playbook for years. So, now Dave’s path to the General is free and clear, and he’ll likely face Democrat Greg Ellsbree in the general only to make mincemeat out of him.

No sane flat-tax-levy-loving voter would ever want a high-ranking union official to be their County chairman. And I’ll be regularly reminding you of that!

As a voter bonus, not only will Dave follow in the Chairman’s fiscally sane footsteps, but unlike Chairman Lauzen and yours truly, he’s bound to be a little more diplomatic, too.

 

2. And speaking of Mark Davoust…

He has a primary AND a general election opponent, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

Steve Oscarson filed his paperwork for the 14th County Board District Republican nomination, and as far as I can tell, none of the usual suspects put him up to it. To further support that theory, Steve and his family collected all 72 signatures!

Considering Davoust’s greatest hits would amount to one blank disc – I dare you to name a single accomplishment – I think Mr. Oscarson has a real shot.

To increase those odds and repay an old political debt, I would be more than happy to offer Mr. Oscarson my reasonable campaign consulting skills at absolutely no charge (I’m at jeffnward@comcast, Steve).

Like Phil Lewis before him, I know exactly how to beat Mark Davoust.

Meanwhile, even if there was a “Blue Tsunami,” no Democratic will win that district for the foreseeable future.

 

3. You served the board and Kane County well John!

The second surprise, though it’s not all that shocking when you really think about it, is 12th District County Board member John Hoscheit won’t seek reelection. The truth is, I wouldn’t have lasted one term, much less serve on that often-challenging board since 1997!

John, also a successful former KC Forest Preserve Chairman, is exactly what every local politician should be. He’s smart, he’s politically savvy, he has no ego, he consistently avoids the partisan pitfalls, he plays well with others, and best of all, he never forgot that it’s always about his constituents.

John is one of the few members of that body who can walk away on his own terms and with his head held high. It will not be easy to replace him.

 

4. Miscellany

If 10th District Republican County Board member Susan Starrett, survives primary challenger David Brown – an unlikely proposition – considering that district’s blue shift, Democratic general election opponent Mary Kay Crantz will probably send her packing. (I love alliterative names!)

Aside from the sheer number of signatures, the notable thing about Mr. Brown’s paperwork is 2nd Ward Batavia Alderman Allan Wolf secured one sheet. So, Dave is willing to work, and he has some local support.

Meanwhile, Mark Kay acquired all 90 autographs herself, which also demonstrates no fear of knocking on doors.

Brenda Rodgers is running for recorder again, but incumbent Sandy Wegman is unbeatable.

We already know about Penny Wegman for Auditor and Theresa Barriero for Circuit Clerk, and if the Republicans aren’t VERY careful, they could win.

Jamie Mosser will beat Junaid Afeef in the Dem State’s Attorney primary and Mosser will go on to prevail over former Appellate Court Judge Bob Spence in the general.

If North Aurora Village President Dale Berman doesn’t fall prey to overconfidence, he’ll replace Ms. Barriero in County Board District 2, and Ron Ford should beat Matt Hanson in County Board 6.

Then Randy Hopp and a host of the usual suspects are running in the remaining Democratic board races, but who cares?

On the Republican side, St. Charles Township Republican Chairman Ken Shepro is running to replace Hoscheit, and he will win, but considering he’s survived some serious medical issues, I don’t understand why he’d embrace that kind of stress.

Other than that, there aren’t any GOP board races of note.

 

This column will substitute for Wednesday’s Quick Hits, and we will likely cover the State Rep and higher offices on Friday.

Quick Hits – What are our schools supposed to do?

Let’s open this one by issuing a few caveats cause I know you’re a bit ornery about having to go back to work after a four-day break.

First, I am the proud father of a special needs child. And while I’m eternally grateful he isn’t violent, absolutely nothing about his education has been easy. From having to sit on his ass – even now in college – to dealing with the Geneva School District who clearly believed an IEP plan was a mere suggestion, it’s been a fascinating proposition.

So, I don’t want to hear any of y’all say I don’t know what it’s like, because I do. For those who don’t know, an IEP or “Individualized Education Plan” is a legal contract between the school district and the parents of a special needs child.

Second, I tend not to tackle topics unless I’m convinced the coverage has a reasonable potential to better the situation. If not, I’ll attempt to bring balance to the force quietly.

But leave it to the Chicago Tribune, and particularly the rank amateurs at Pro Publica, to insist upon making matters much worse, as they just did with their coverage of Illinois school districts’ “quiet rooms.”

“Quiet rooms,” to be blunt, are the educational equivalent of solitary confinement for prisoners. Originally intended to be utilized only when student safety became an issue, many districts banished children without supervision simply for being incorrigible. We’re talking about things like swearing, failing to finish classwork, disrupting class, or talking back.

Quiet Room

While I agree it’s not a perfect solution, what are our schools supposed to do? Let the inmates run the asylum? Corporal punishment is correctly out, and when teachers or administrators correctly call parents to criticize their destructive little darlings, all bleepin’ hell breaks loose.

In an effort to keep tabs on an errant Kane County family court judge, I regularly sit in the back of his courtroom, and most of the parents who appear before him shouldn’t be allowed to raise a hamster, much less a flippin’ child.

So, now teachers are being forced to raise our children which brings us all down to that least common denominator. When I was a database consultant, I regularly advised clients like Wrigley and Philips Electronics that they could not let one percent of the possibilities turn into 33 percent of the programming. The same logic applies here.

And that’s just the challenge with “normal” children. Illinois’ unfunded mandate to “mainstream” violent, impossible-to-control, and well-out-on-the-spectrum students has become an utter and unmitigated disaster.

How are teachers, aides, and administrators supposed to contend with these difficult children while doing their damndest to be sure the rest of the students get a good education?

Though the story went national, those of us who live in Kane County, Illinois, just saw exactly what can go wrong in the form of the Burlington bus aide story.

No school bus driver should EVER have to go to work with the expectation of being regularly assaulted. No aide, who has absolutely no training in this regard, should have to deal with a child who can’t begin to handle boarding a school bus, and resorts to biting them as a result.

Again, I give those parents vast credit for enrolling their son in two special needs schools first, but having been asked to leave both, how the heck are the public schools supposed to contend with him?

If I was the D301 superintendent, I’d explain, in no uncertain terms that, until the child can handle being on a school bus, the parents will be driving him to school, and if they threatened to sue me, I’d respond, “Bring it on!”

So now, due to the Tribune’s and Pro Publica’s “fine work,” school districts are simply sending these children home when they get out of hand, despite the fact that solution puts single parents’ jobs in jeopardy. Sorry! But with no realistic option left, that’s exactly what every principal should start doing.

Meanwhile, Governor Pritzker, never the brightest bulb in the pack, instructed the State Board of Education to change their rules such that quiet rooms must be manned by an adult, the door is to remain unlocked, and they can only be used for therapeutic reasons, not as a punitive measure.

And I’m sure he’s gonna dip into his vast personal fortune to provide the funding to add the personnel required to meet this state-issued imperative.

I’m not saying these children should be abandoned, but it’s abundantly clear they need to be in educational facilities specifically designed to deal with the difficulties involved. Where is the money going to come from? The Tri-Cities school districts, and others, get far more state funding than necessary, and if we eliminate unnecessary programs like golf, dance, bowling, cheer, and wrestling, that’d be a great start.

Were there quiet room abuses? Yes! But they were borne of a state government that consistently fails to comprehend they’re asking far too much of our schools. When Aurora State Senator Stephanie Kifowit, a person I consider to be a friend, jumped on the Tribune quiet room bandwagon, I immediately wanted to encourage her to take a look in the bathroom mirror first.

And I wasn’t nearly the only Facebook respondent who chided her for that, or complained that the expectations thrust upon our school districts are patently unfair.

The fact that she’s a member of the Generally Assembly Democratic supermajority means she has the power to address the root cause, though our educational system needs so many fixes it’s beyond embarrassing.

And lastly, I would encourage the Tribune and Pro Publica to consider the possibility of a greater good before breaking a story, because they both just made an already untenable situation that much worse. I suppose it’s par for the course.