The First Ward Report – The Batavia bomb material possession case resolved!

And when I say “resolved,” I mean resolved on two levels, but we’ll only cover the first one today. And that one is, who is the “news media.”

Batavia High School

Before you get too terribly excited, the 16th Circuit didn’t really answer that question, but not only does their new ruling have merit, it is an excellent foundation to build upon.

Harkening back to a time before the plague era commenced, this journalist was collaboratively working with 16th Circuit Chief Judge Clint Hull to determine what the statutory definition of “the news media” should be. More specifically, we were pursuing that answer in regard to who can attend a generally closed juvenile hearing.

Before this new order, only reporters with major newspaper affiliations were allowed to attend those hearings, but given my previous coverage of this case, I wanted to hear the Kane County prosecutor’s transfer argument for myself. I wanted to understand why she believed the Batavia high schooler charged with possession of bomb making material should be tried as an adult.

True to his word, with a little help from his black-robed friends, Chief Judge Clint Hull and presiding juvenile court judge Kathy Karayannis issued their ruling well before the May 28th hearing. So, here’s a summary of what it contains:

  • The order applies to all journalists and not just bloggers.
  • Any journalist who wishes to attend a juvenile court proceeding must submit an officially court stamped request to do so at least seven days before the hearing.
  • Once filed, the journalist must provide copies of that request to the prosecutor and defense attorney involved.
  • Those attorneys have may file a written objection to the journalist’s courtroom presence within that seven-day window.
  • If there is no objection, or the judge hearing the case denies all objections, the same judge will make the final attendance determination.

That certainly works for me!

Because the inevitable result of Internet opening the door to a vast democratization, is that anyone can call themselves a journalist. But the truth also is, with perhaps one exception, I’m exponentially more of a journalist than anyone at the Daily Herald or the suburban Tribune newspapers. Just ignore my adoring throng’s incessant protests to the contrary.

The Edgar County Watchdogs would like you to believe they’re journalists, but with absolutely no standards and no ethical foundation, they’ve become nothing more than schoolyard bullies with a voice.

Then there’s a cooking blog I adore because the author’s approach to communicating her craft is beyond journalistic.

So, to some degree, they’re all “journalists,” but does that mean they should all be allowed to participate in a juvenile court hearing? Clearly, the only realistic alternative is to vet everyone each and every time.

And I have no problem with that!

Ah! But the irony here is (And there’s always an irony with Jeff Ward, isn’t there?), all the local newspaper publishers, editors, and reporters I live to correctly criticize have a new and far more fascinating reason to loathe me.

As if they needed another one!

Though I have to say it’s more than amusing to hear how newly furious they are because my eminently simple court ruling request forces them to take those additional steps.

As it is with any attempt to provide a statutory answer to a philosophical question, the order will require improvement. It should include at least a basic definition of what a journalist is and the Court needs to be far more specific regarding the grounds on which a prosecutor, defense attorney, or judge can object to a journalist’s presence.

I know it’s hard to believe, but some 16th Circuit judges aren’t too terribly fond of me. And I’m such a nice guy, too!

But since it’s all wine and roses this round, I want to thank Chief Judge Hull and his counterparts for this cooperative effort to answer the “Who’s a journalist?” question. This is a perfect example of how the media and the courts can avoid those far too frequent pitched battles.

In a final irony, I did not attend yesterday’s hearing because a courtroom is the last place I’d ever want to be during a pandemic, and I suspected a plea deal was the works and it was. We will discuss that agreement on Monday.

All I can say is, all those self-proclaimed good Christians, you know, the readers who so easily dismissed this young man, are gonna have quite a bit to answer for when it’s their time to be judged.

 

 

The First Ward coronavirus report – Better yet!

So, I wuz wrong! But only in the mildest and best way. My previous contention that the numbers are what the numbers are gonna be for quite some pandemic time was summarily dashed by a rather surprising improvement in our coronavirus outlook.

Facts Not Fear 3

But while we’ve certainly stomped the bejesus out of the Illinois curve, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, as the real experts have been saying all along, all we’ve really done is postpone the inevitable second wave until fall and winter when the disease will be that much more insidious.

And herd immunity is coming whether we like it to, or not! Perhaps you’ve observed that eating and drinking establishments are reopening with or without the Governor’s express written consent. Not only that, but my spies tell me Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was so packed with fleeing FIPs that sardines were pointing and laughing.

(If you don’t now what “FIP” stands for please avail yourself of any Wisconsin or Michigan friend.)

But let’s get back to the numbers before I get lost it yet another infamous rant! And this time we have nine, count ‘em, nine data points:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

5/1     56,055            5.6          3,137         14,821       1 in 4.7       2,457

5/2     58,505            4.3          2,450         15,208       1 in 6.2       2,559

5/3     61,499            4.8          2,994         19,417       1 in 6.5       2,618

5/4     63,840            3.8          2,341         13,834       1 in 6          2,662

5/5     65,962            3.3          2,122         13,139       1 in 6.2       2,838

5/6     68,232            3.4          2,270         14,974       1 in 6.6       2,974

5/7     70,873            3.8          2,641         17,783       1 in 6.7       3,111

5/8     73,760            4.0          2,887         20,671       1 in 7.1       3,241

5/9     76,085            3.1          2,325         16,617       1 in 7.1       3,349

5/10   77,741            2.1          1,656         13,653       1 in 8.2       3,406

5/11   79,007            1.6          1,266         12,441       1 in 9.8       3,459

5/12   83,021            5.0          4,014         29,266       1 in 7.3       3,601

5/13   84,698            2.0          1,677         17,688       1 in 10.5     3,792

5/14   87,937            3.8          3,239         22,678       1 in 7          3,928

5/15   90,368            2.6          2,431         26,565       1 in 10.9     4,058

5/16   92,457            2.3          2,089         23,047       1 in 11        4,129

5/17   94,191            1.8          1,734         20,295       1 in 11.7     4,177

5/18   96,484            2.4          2,293         21,297       1 in 9.2       4,234

5/19   98,030            1.6          1,546         18,443       1 in 12        4,379

5/20 100,418            2.4          2,388         21,029       1 in 8.8       4,525

5/21 102,686            2.2          2,268         29,036       1 in 13        4,607

5/22 105,444            2.6          2,758         25,113       1 in 9.1       4,715

5/23 107,796            2.2          2,352         25,114       1 in 10.6     4,790

5/24 110,304            2.3          2,508         25,675       1 in 10.2     4,856

5/25 112,017            1.5          1,713         21,643       1 in 12.6     4,884

5/26 113,195            1.0          1,178         17,230       1 in 14.6     4,923

Illinois has purportedly tested 769,564 of its citizens, the mortality rate, currently at 4.3 percent, has been flatter than a pancake for well over a month, and we’re sitting squarely in third place in the national COVID-19 state rankings.

But since they’re so much more fun, let’s move on to the surprises!

The first is a record low 1 percent daily new case increase percentage. Though it’s likely more a result of our overdue spate of late spring warm weather than any human effort, it does mean the disease is dead in its tracks – for now.

The next, and very pleasant, turn of events is the plummeting death toll. This indicator is so good

5/18       57

5/19     145

5/20     146

5/21       82

5/22     108

5/23       75

5/24       66

5/25       28

that even Governor Not-the-Brightest-Bulb-in-the-Pack had to admit the COVID-19 peak is well behinds us, but only after he tried to extend it twice. And yesterday’s 28 deaths, another record low, is something we haven’t seen since the pandemic first reared its ugly head.

But what’s our favorite number class? That’s right! The prevalence further regressed to an astonishing 1 in 14.6 on Tuesday. But before we celebrate, I’m sure you remember we’ve been discussing three possibilities for that vast retreat:

  • Un-sick people are suddenly being tested
  • COVID-19 has become less contagious
  • Herd immunity is progressing apace

But not even I had the temerity to consider that the Governor and his insane state public health director were fricken’ fudging the numbers! What have I been saying about truth and fiction?

A McHenry County accountant reached out to Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Mark Konkol to explain he’d been adding up the individual Illinois county testing numbers since May 4 and they fell far short of the reported totals – to the tune of 40,000 phantom tests.

That would, beyond any and all reasonable doubt, partially explain the sudden prevalence shift we’ve been so earnestly covering.

When confronted with this anomaly, the incompetent Dr. Ngozi Ezike claimed it was a “glitch” borne of her agency’s inability to handle the “mountain” of incoming digital data. And as long as “glitch” means artificially inflating the total number for political gain, then I’m in!

C’mon! Illinois has all of 102 counties, and as a former 20-year database consultant, I can fully attest those county totals are automatically fed into a central system with no human intervention whatsoever. So, the only way that testing total could be that far off is through human intervention.

Worse yet, not only did the Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, and the rest of the fake news media fail to catch this blatant BS, but they ignored it even after Konkol reported it. The truth doesn’t get you “hits,” does it?

So, as that crank Dr. Phil would say, “How’s trusting the ‘experts’ workin’ out for ya?”

Thankfully, the prevalence drift has been so significant that our errant test number doesn’t begin to account for it.

Meanwhile, with testing settling down, the five-day moving average is starting to regain meaning, and given their newly abrupt whipsaw nature, I’m convinced someone’s playing with the COVID-19 occupied ICU beds and ventilators, too. That said, both trends remain generally down.

Oh crap! We were supposed to get to Sweden and the efficacy of herd immunity, but I’ve already rambled on for far too long! The bottom line is, it’s all good!

But if I may be so bold as to offer one final prediction, it would be that we’ll see those daily testing numbers continue to decline as fewer people seek to be tested.

Stay safe!

 

The First Ward Report – Quick Hits is Back!

The reasons we’re briefly returning to my former short news story roots is, I’m more than ready for another reporting break and I think we’re all getting a completely coronavirused out! What that means is, I’ll be taking Monday off and likely returning with another COVID-19 update on Wednesday the 27th.

 

A too-brief moment of gubernatorial sanity

My original plan was to write an opinion piece on the Geneva Bria nightmare where I would juxtapose the lack of State long-term care facility oversight with Governor J. B. Pritzker unilaterally issuing an emergency order making it a Class A misdemeanor to prematurely open a small business prematurely.

But before he could even take a breath, facing a gale force entrepreneurial pushback wind, and before I could put virtual pen to virtual paper, the Governor repealed the edict. Apparently even he’s beginning to understand his new dictatorial powers only go so far.

That said, I cannot fathom how Pritzker could threaten to fine and close a downstate biker bar because patrons were allowed to eat at outdoor picnic tables spaced ten feet apart, but there’s been absolutely no investigation into how 48 percent of Illinois COVID-19 casualties somehow managed to occur in nursing homes.

Considering what those Bria sources said in Wednesday’s column, there certainly seems be a strong case for filing criminally negligent and reckless homicide charges there. But the Geneva Police couldn’t possibly handle that kind of investigation and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office obviously can’t be bothered. So, were I an aggrieved Bria resident family member, I’d go directly to the Attorney General’s Office.

 

So much for the “experts!”

Before the What’s Happening In comments were mercifully turned off on my posts, the most frequent complaint I received was that readers would ignore me and “rely on the experts,” particularly the Center for Disease Control, or the CDC.

As that bleep Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Per The Atlantic, “We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus.”

Un-bleepin’-believable!

CDC Failed

A favorite businessman’s apt response to this revelation – most of which can’t be printed in a family blog – was any self-respecting corporation would immediately terminate those responsible for this unconscionable blunder. But we know that’ll never happen because working for any level of government means never having to say you’re sorry.

So, as disappointed as I am with every last Democratic state shutdown governor, and though I’m not so sure more accurate numbers would’ve mattered, they have been operating under the guise of an inflated coronavirus case count.

Put more simply, relying on “experts” in no way absolves us of our responsibility to regularly resort to critical thinking!

Meanwhile, there is no longer any question that the truth is so much stranger than fiction!

 

A brief COVID-19 report

We’re only gonna focus on the prevalence retreating to an astonishing record 1 in 13 yesterday, because that’s the only number that really matters right now! To put that in perspective, a month ago, a 29,000-test day would’ve resulted in 6,500 new cases, but it only turned up 2,268 on Thursday.

Since no one believes the disease is getting less contagious, and I can’t imagine asymptomatic folks are driving to and waiting hours in line to be tested at the overly popular I-88 Outlet Mall site, I ran my herd immunity theory by an infectious disease expert and he agreed that it had to be the case.

That also makes sense when you consider the amazing number of asymptomatic COVID-19 sufferers eventually uncovered in New York and Iceland. Most of us didn’t realize we had the disease, we quickly recovered, and now we’re immune to it.

But the only way to prove that hypothesis is to start randomly testing folks for those coveted coronavirus antibodies, but despite my best journalistic efforts to be a guinea pig in that regard, no one seems to be offering that post-disease testing.

All that said, if any of my crack deputy statisticians can come up with another evidence-based argument for why the prevalence has lunged from 1 in 4.5 to 1 in 13 in 30 short pandemic days, I’d absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts.

What about the rest of our indicators, you ask? As we already suspected, they’re simply bouncing around a bit because this is as good as it’s gonna get until we either acquire that herd immunity, or an effective vaccine is made available to every person on the planet.

 

A Memorial Day wish!

Here’s to all the brave men and women who gave everything so I can publish these columns and you can readily read them. Particularly considering the times, let’s never take the freedom for which they so selflessly sacrificed for granted.

Holy crap! This was supposed to be a short column! Oh well, I guess I had more to say than I thought. Thank you for reading my stuff and have a great Memorial Weekend!

 

The First Ward Report – What went wrong at Bria

Having covered this pandemic from a mathematical perspective for over two months now, the only number that really shocks me is that 48 percent of Illinois coronavirus casualties have come in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Remove those utterly unnecessary deaths and the Illinois mortality rate would plunge to just 2.3 percent. That’s not a great number either, but it’s a heck of a lot better than our current 4.4 percent rate.

Considering how those Italian doctors sounded the early warning that the average age of their coronavirus victims was 79.5, and 99 percent of those unfortunate folks had a serious medical condition that greatly contributed to their deaths, you’d think U. S. nursing homes would’ve instantly sounded the red alert.

But the numbers tell a different story, don’t they?

Given the ample press coverage, I’m sure you already know that Bria on Geneva, Illinois’ ease side, is one of the hardest hit Illinois facilities. As of Friday, they reported a frightening 122 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths.

Bria Geneva 2

But despite the glare of that extended press spotlight, no reporter has adequately explained why so many cases and deaths occurred there. Left unchallenged, Bria administrators are claiming they’ve implemented the appropriate safeguards all along.

But that’s not what a surprising number of sources either posted on Facebook or told me directly. Here’s what they’ve said:

1. Staff wasn’t tested or even minimally screened (temperature taking etc.) for the disease until residents’ family members publicly complained about it in mid-April.

2. When employees alerted Bria management they’d been exposed to a friend or family member with the virus, they were told to come in to work anyway.

3. Janitors, food service staff, and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) weren’t provided with any real form of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) until mid-April.

4. Bria allowed staff and family members to have direct contact with residents despite the clear threat of transmitting a disease with an exceptionally contagious R-naught of 2.3. For comparison purposes, the average annual flu’s R-Naught is just 1.5.

5. When residents started developing obvious COVID-19 symptoms, most were never tested, leaving the coroner’s office to determine if decedents had the disease post-mortem. One of the most frequent complaints I heard was that Bria never told the families their loved ones were sick.

6. Each resident’s room should have been stocked with masks, gloves, gowns, sanitary wipes, and bleach wipes from the pandemic start. But Bria didn’t even provide the typical hand sanitizer stations you see at doorways in virtually every medical institution.

7. A Batavia Holmstad source said that even their food service employees are required to change scrubs and PPE whenever they move from one resident’s room to another. But Bria didn’t implement that important protocol until the press started asking questions.

8. Whenever staff discards PPE or scrubs, they should be promptly deposited into a clearly marked and sealable red bio-hazard container. But Bria staff were told to simply toss those items into regular laundry hampers.

9. Food service containers and trays should be similarly treated to prevent cross contamination, but Bria didn’t take that precaution, either.

10. My Holmstad source also explained how exhausting it is to change scrubs and PPE every time you enter another resident’s room. But Bria made that critical safeguard virtually impossible to carry out by having just 15 CNAs on shifts that, by their own policies, required at least 30. That would go a long way towards explaining those 122 coronavirus cases.

11. Since these inexplicable lapses speak for themselves, my goal is to adopt a more dispassionate disposition this round. But when I learned that Bria made no effort to stop staff from throwing obvious biohazards like dirty diapers, soiled gloves, and toilet brushes into open plastic garbage cans and laundry hampers, I was more than appalled.

Meanwhile, the Holmstad applies a double team standard by which a designated janitor stays outside the room, while a cleanup crew member heads in wearing bleach whites. Any biohazard laundry or waste is quickly double-bagged and handed to that janitor, who deposits it directly into the appropriate red container. Once full, those containers are sealed to prevent any undue COVID-19 transmission.

The bottom line? While Bria’s coronavirus numbers are off the charts, the Holmstad hasn’t reported a single case.

As is always the case, I provided Bria with two full days to address my sources’ concerns and they have failed to take advantage of that opportunity.

So far, two wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by devastated family members, and if I was a betting man, I’d say Bria will soon face 20 more. My guess is they’ll file for bankruptcy before the smoke finally clears.

With the hard reporting out of the way, the corresponding opinion piece will run on Friday. In that column, we’ll discuss the all-to-obvious reason that Bria let their residents down, as well as the Governor’s vast hypocrisy for threatening to pull business licenses, while doing nothing about the industry responsible for half of all Illinois coronavirus deaths.

The First Ward coronavirus report – Still the same!

To quote the great Bob Seger! And when it comes to pandemics, “still the same” is a very good thing, too! This time we have seven data points to examine:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

5/1     56,055            5.6          3,137         14,821       1 in 4.7       2,457

5/2     58,505            4.3          2,450         15,208       1 in 6.2       2,559

5/3     61,499            4.8          2,994         19,417       1 in 6.5       2,618

5/4     63,840            3.8          2,341         13,834       1 in 6          2,662

5/5     65,962            3.3          2,122         13,139       1 in 6.2       2,838

5/6     68,232            3.4          2,270         14,974       1 in 6.6       2,974

5/7     70,873            3.8          2,641         17,783       1 in 6.7       3,111

5/8     73,760            4.0          2,887         20,671       1 in 7.1       3,241

5/9     76,085            3.1          2,325         16,617       1 in 7.1       3,349

5/10   77,741            2.1          1,656         13,653       1 in 8.2       3,406

 

5/11   79,007            1.6          1,266         12,441       1 in 9.8       3,459

5/12   83,021            5.0          4,014         29,266       1 in 7.3       3,601

5/13   84,698            2.0          1,677         17,688       1 in 10.5     3,792

5/14   87,937            3.8          3,239         22,678       1 in 7          3,928

5/15   90,368            2.6          2,431         26,565       1 in 10.9     4,058

5/16   92,457            2.3          2,089         23,047       1 in 11        4,129

5/17   94,191            1.8          1,734         20,295       1 in 11.7     4,177

Facts Not Fear 3

Illinois has now tested 581,944 of its citizens, and as a result of 26 percent better testing, we did move past Massachusetts into third place in the national rankings. Meanwhile, the mortality rate, currently stuck at 4.4 percent, has been flat for a month which means it won’t likely change anytime soon.

And yes! On May 12 we did set a new daily case record, but that’s clearly the result of a record 30,000 test results. We also saw a spike in coronavirus casualties between the 12th and 15th, but as has previously been the case, they quickly fell to a cyclical low of just 48 yesterday.

If you’d asked me to predict how those deaths would plot on a graph at the outset of the pandemic, I would’ve bet they’d eventually come to to some sort of equilibrium, but that clearly not the case here. I’m not sure why those deaths move in waves, but that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Considering that Illinoisans are not staying home and they’ve completely given up on social distancing, that generally flat but slowly declining new daily case percentage is a really good sign.

But the better news is the continuing downward ICU bed trend:

Date   ICU Beds     %+     Ventilators      %+

5/5         1,266        2.7            780               2.2

5/6         1,231       -2.7            780               0.0

5/7         1,253        1.7             766             -1.8

5/8         1,222       -2.4            727             -5.0

5/9         1,215       -0.5            739              1.6

5/10       1,232        1.3            709             -3.9

5/11       1,248        1.2            730              2.9

5/12       1,215       -2.6            730              0.0

5/13       1,208       -0.5            714             -2.1

5/14       1,132       -6.2             689             -3.5

5/15       1,129       -0.2             675             -2.0

5/16       1,135        0.5            653             -3.2

5/17       1,144        0.7            735             12.0

That number has gone up the last two days, but it’s still well below our April 28 1,290 high. It appears there was a massive spike in ventilator usage, but past history would indicate an unprecedented 12 percent jump is likely a result of human error. If we see an equal and opposite plunge today, that will tell the tale.

But the best news is, what class? That’s right! The prevalence backed off to a rather shocking 1 in 11.7! Again! That means it took almost 12 tests to get one positive result. And the fact that      a whopping 20,295 tests produced only 1,734 positive results is huge!

Considering its former tight range, the last time we talked, that retreat made me a little nervous in the sense that it seemed too good to be true, but not only has that trend persisted, but it seems to be accelerating, so it wasn’t an anomaly after all.

Just two weeks ago, 20,295 tests would’ve meant 3,123 new COVID-19 cases! Again, there are only three prevalence possibilities here:

  1. We’re testing a lot more asymptomatic people
  2. The disease has become less contagious
  3. We’re developing a herd immunity despite the Governors worst efforts

I have no evidence either way, but I find it hard to believe that a generally well person would head over to the perpetually crowded I-88 outlet mall and wait in a very long line to be tested. And with limited test availability still being the norm, I’m sure hospitals and doctor’s offices aren’t about to waste those precious resources on patients without symptoms.

Since we know the disease hasn’t become less virulent, that leaves us with option three, which again, is a very good sign. As we’ve previously discussed at length, the only way to beat this pandemic, while still maintaining some semblance of an economy, is through herd immunity.

The best evidence for this theory’s soundness lies with those epidemiologists who went nuts when Florida opened their beaches and Georgia opened the entire state. But in the end, none of those portents of doom have come close to fruition. Left to their own devices, people will take the appropriate COVID-19 precautions with or without the State’s heavy-handed “encouragement!”

For the third time in two months, that 30,000 result day and a new 23,300 daily testing average have rendered our five-day new case moving average somewhat meaningless:

Date         5-day M Average

5/5                   2,609

5/6                   2,436

5/7                   2,474

5/8                   2,453

5/9                   2,449

5/10                 2,356

5/11                 2,137

5/12                 2,430

5/13                 2,187

5/14                 2,371

5/15                 2,526

5/16                 2,690

5/17                 2,234

but even though it’s certainly bouncing around a bit, the trend is still down.

So, though I will continue to publish at least one coronavirus report a week, aside from the prevalence, until we have a vaccine or develop that vaunted herd immunity, I don’t see any significant statistical shifts going forward.

The mortality rate and new daily case percentage will both stay flat, and with one exception, our new daily case range seems locked between 1,600 and 3,000. With the prevalence consistently retreating, it would seem that range will apply even if the average daily testing number makes another leap.

So, like I said last time, at this flattened curve stage of the Illinois pandemic, our most recent two-week numbers are as about as good as it’s gonna get! Aside from falling in love with their new emergency powers, I can’t understand why the Governor and Chicago Mayor are insisting on wreaking economic havoc by refusing to lift the shelter-in-place order.

But they’re certainly not asking me for my opinion. Please stay safe!

 

The First Ward Report – Under cover of the Coronavirus – Part 2!

When we last left off, under the guise of those rampant coronavirus restrictions, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns was determined to make a city council end run to surreptitiously sell the eight-acre parcel bordered by Kaneville Road, Lewis Road, Caldwell Lane, the UP tracks, and Kaneville Court.

Once sold, his handpicked developer will swiftly get the green light to build 45 low-income rental-only townhomes without hizzoner ever having to endure input from the constituents he’s sworn to serve.

Burns

To put that in perspective, that’s just like cramming 45 homes, at least 225 people, and 135 vehicles into a space the size of Soldier Field, and what could possibly go wrong with that?

Oh! And as a result of Wednesday’s column, four readers informed me that our recent two-day three-inch rainfall means that land is currently underwater. One of ‘em, a Kaneville Court worker, said that’s always the case. I suppose a basement swimming pool could be a rather unique selling point.

But back to the issue at hand!

The question on everyone’s mind is, since our eminently narcissistic mayor couldn’t even manage to spell the word “altruistic,” and ramming this development down city throats is essentially the same as committing political suicide, what’s in it for him?

Where’s the quid pro quo?

Because trust me! There are three things you can count on in this life. Death, taxes, and Mayor Burns will never do anything out of the goodness of his tiny little heart!

The first possibility aligns with the folks behind this potential project, the Burton Foundation, an ostensibly non-profit group that plans and produces senior and affordable housing developments. Apparently, the Mayor went high school with Burton President Tracey Manning and/or her husband.

People close to Kevin Burns consistently explain that he perceived his mayoral seat as nothing more than a steppingstone. But when his Congressional and county chair runs dismally failed, and his five terms haven’t produced as much as a McDonald’s cashier job, he’s come to loathe being a small-town mayor and he despises his constituents even more!

To wit, I just FOIA’d his recent email rants excoriating any Genevan who had the temerity to even mildly question Governor Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order, and I’ll certainly share them with you! The Mayor always was a charmer.

Though it’s just speculation, it wouldn’t surprise a soul if, after all is said and done, Burns “falls’ into a cushy six-figure position with the Foundation. After all, disgraced former Speaker Denny Hastert “rewarded” him for dropping out of that Congressional race with a plum job with those fine U.S. Olympic Figure Skating fundraising folks.

Another possibility revolves around Burns’ recent and blatant Democratic shift. Though he’s always run as a Republican, the Mayor is suddenly sporting all sorts of progressive colors, not the least of which is this affordable housing initiative.

Some sage sources say it’s all part of his master plan to land a high-profile job with the Pritzker administration, and that’s not as far-fetch a theory as you might think.

There was a time when Kevin Burns and I were friends, and the mayor I knew would NEVER so callously throw those Third Street merchants to the wolves. In fact, he would’ve been the first to stand up and defy the Democratic Governor’s unconstitutional order.

But now he’s telling those curious constituents, in no uncertain terms, that Geneva will follow the law of the land regardless of the economic impact. Fascinating, isn’t it? What the Mayor doesn’t understand is, no such patronage position will ever materialize because his dubious reputation always precedes him.

I’m sure there are other fascinating possibilities, but these are the two scenarios that come up more than any other.

As is always the case, not only did I reach out to Burns for comment, but I also provided Ms. Manning with every opportunity to have her voice heard, which is more than ironic when you contemplate how the Mayor is doing his damndest to silence those Sterling Manor subdivision voices.

Since no amount of lipstick will make a pig any cuter, neither responded to my more-than-reasonable overtures.

Lastly, I also performed some Burton Foundation due diligence, and while their senior housing gets rave reviews, once built, former residents say they their affordable housing projects are simply left to rot.

That certainly doesn’t bode very well, now, does it?

But now that this doomed-to-fail cat is fully out of the bag, the only way to accurately sum it up would be with the words of the late, great Warren Zevon, “Send lawyers, guns and money, the manure has hit the fan!

As always, I promise to keep you posted!

The First Ward Report – Under cover of the Coronavirus!

Before we get started, please permit this classic liberal to stipulate that, while the City of Geneva would certainly benefit from the diversity an affordable housing project would bestow, a beneficial end can never justify a nefarious means! Just like it is with any other municipal endeavor, statutory processes and procedures must be followed before that first silver shovel hits the dirt.

And following those rules is particularly important when the discussion involves something as controversial as low-income housing. But as he’s demonstrated so often in the past, Mayor Kevin Burns is making it clear that the rules don’t apply to him.

What the Mayor wants to do is cram 45 townhomes into the small eight-acre parcel behind the old Chronicle building bordered by Kaneville Road, Lewis Road, Caldwell Lane, the UP tracks, and Kaneville Court. Yikes!

Under the guise of coronavirus restrictions, the Burns cancelled all May city council meetings even though many other municipalities have successfully adopted the digital alternative. Then he used that unnecessary downtime to quietly lobby the six alderman required to move this project forward.

Burns 2

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns

His plan was to push this through when the shelter-in-place restrictions ease on Monday, June first, and the City Council reconvenes. With public participation at a pandemic minimum, the development would almost certainly be approved six to four.

The Mayor’s most fervent wish was that word wouldn’t get out until it was a fait accompli, but as evidenced by the flurry of potentially affected residents who reached out to me, that plan went over about as well as the President attempting to field simple coronavirus questions.

With that hope dashed, now he’s praying that Genevans are so preoccupied with, or terrified by, the pandemic, they wouldn’t notice or care that the public hearing requirements are being ignored.

But that scheme didn’t work, either, because the fine folks in the nearby Sterling Manner subdivision have made it clear they want their collective voices heard. And that is their right!

Then there’s this!

Given my seeming-eternal coverage of all manner of municipalities, this seasoned journalist is somewhat convinced that a development like this requires at least a two-thirds vote. But because I’m clearly off his Christmas card list, the Mayor failed to respond to my request for clarification.

So, the FOIA has been issued.

But as perilous as those procedural breaches are, they pale in comparison to the inherent issues with this affordable housing project itself. Can you say, “Doomed to fail?” I knew you could!

Every last not-doomed-to-repeat-history urban planner will tell you that stacking that many lower-income folks in a naturally segregated small space means an inexorable spiral into the kind of municipal nightmare from which you never quite wake up.

Naperville’s similar townhome initiative can only be described as an abject morass that’s been a consistent drain on city resources.

And just like the legendary Chicago alderman Paddy Bauler once warned, Geneva ain’t ready for reform – or at least an affordable housing project of this scope! Considering the city is 95 percent white with a median household income of $105,000, wouldn’t it be far more prudent to start with a small-scale project that’s integrated into an established residential area so folks can get used to the idea?

Isn’t politics always the art of the possible?

Particularly if you involve local churches, the more modest semi-public housing scenarios are the ones that tend to succeed.

To make matters much worse, like Naperville, these rental-only townhomes will surely attract Section Eight residents who have no investment in the community and almost always turn out to be a disaster of varying proportion. I’ve had a slew of friends and readers hit me with Section Eight horror stories over the years, and trust me, they’d curl your toenails.

But before you start referring to me as a closet Klansman, the Section Eight demographics break down like this: 49 percent Caucasian, 33 percent black, and 13 percent Hispanic. So, it’s actually a matter of income and not race.

The truth is, Section Eight is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American public. Not only has it failed the folks it purports to serve, but it attracts scammers, and history has proven you can’t pluck an economically disadvantaged family from a distressed urban neighborhood and plunk them down in the middle of Geneva.

The inevitable culture shock leads to an insoluble friction that only makes everyone’s lives that much more miserable. If you don’t believe me, talk to any former Aurora Jericho Circle resident.

It’s like expecting me to somehow succeed as the next Cubs centerfielder. I’ve played the game, I understand the game, and I’m in pretty good shape for a 61-year-old man, but I’m not nearly prepared to face an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

Put more simply, this affordable housing project is cursed on so many levels, I can’t believe the City Council is even considering it. There are so many better options.

On Friday, we’ll discuss the Mayor’s motives for pulling this procedural fast one, the worthy but misled enterprise behind it, and how, even if the vote goes through, the fat lady’s only warming up!

Till then!