The First Ward Report – It’s time to elect a new Mayor, Aurora

Some folks long for fame, fortune and glory, but not me. My fondest wish is my capacity to get candidates elected will someday translate into actually being happy with those candidates once they are elected.

It ain’t all bad! Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain is doing a great job and Rich Marks is the only Geneva Alderman who has the nerve to do the right thing. But Elgin City Councilman Corey Dixon has been a pointless pandering nightmare and Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin is a disappointment of epic proportion.

And I don’t care whether you call it ego or skill, but I’m the one responsible for putting Irvin in that position. While his “campaign manager” was off vacationing in Vegas during that all-important sprint to the finish, I convinced Richard to seriously shift his message and shut up long enough to let Linda Chapa LaVia talk her way out of the primary race.

Were it not for those professional intercessions, Rick Guzman would be the Mayor of Aurora right now.

It’s not that erudite folks didn’t warn me about him – they did. But Richard tells a great story and he has a remarkable capacity to look you squarely in the eye while making the kind of a “heartfelt” promise he has absolutely no intention of keeping. My preeminent disappointment with him is I thought I got a conservative mayor elected – at least that’s what he claimed to be during his campaign. But he’s not even close as primarily evidenced by his vast predilection for COVID-19 shutdowns.

You see, everything’s always all about Richard, and since he contracted a particularly nasty case of the coronavirus, he’s publicly proclaimed his full support for even future economically disastrous closures despite the lack of any science supporting them.

Yes! I also know the Mayor’s power is far more limited than most people think, but the “leader” always sets the political tone and the office wields an inordinate amount of influence within and well beyond the City of Light. But instead of making the case for in-person learning for Aurora students, the Mayor ignored all the inevitable developmental damage and didn’t do a damn thing.

I’m not saying he could’ve necessarily prevented that possibility, but we’ll never know now, will we? The truth is Mayor Irvin doesn’t do much of anything.

When I explained exactly how Aurora’s Family Counseling Service regularly rips off minorities, considering the issue, I thought the Mayor would at least have someone look into it. But no! He was far too busy hiring former girlfriends to six-figure city hall gigs to deal with it.

Here’s how the scam works. The court orders an anger management or domestic violence class evaluation at Family Counseling Service, but through a phony intake process and regardless of a judge’s specific recommendation, FCS forces every last one of those mostly minority defendants directly into their four-figure 26-week course. (We’ll be covering that story in greater detail soon.)

Two of my former managing editors know this, former Kane County prosecutors know this, and even some 16th Circuit Judges know it, too, but Richard just couldn’t be bothered with it.

Then there’s the City of Aurora’s inexplicably horrific response to the recent downtown looting. Despite stellar State Police, Sheriff’s, and APD intel laying out exactly what was going to happen, instead of ramping up the law enforcement presence and heading off the known agitators as Batavia did, Irvin did nothing but sit back and watch downtown businesses burn.

Correction! Irvin did pay lip service to it the following day.

But the Irvin issue that should truly frost your cookies is his propensity to put former girlfriends in cushy City jobs. That list amounts to four with one making $132,000 a year in an utterly unnecessary position created just for her.

Had I known that sleeping with Richard could land me that kind of gig, I might have given it a shot.

It gets better, too! In what has to be the worst-kept “secret” in Kane County, Irvin had twins with long-term former girlfriend and attorney, Brittany Pedersen. To be fair, Richard is a part of their lives and he pays a reasonable amount of non-court ordered child support. But guess who’s paying at least a portion of that trios’ insurance bill?

That’s right! They’re insured through the City which puts the fine citizens of Aurora squarely on the hook. To be clear, Richard’s love life is none of my or anyone else’s business until and unless he starts using taxpayer money to placate his ever-growing harem.

Now Irvin’s promoting and helping Pedersen run for Kane County judge when her comportment and general track record clearly indicate she shouldn’t judge a third-grade science fair. We need more judges like her opponent, Elizabeth Flood, not fewer of them.

This would typically be the point at which I’d encourage you to vote for Irvin’s 2021 opponent, Alderman Judd Lofchie, but I can’t because Lofchie’s interminable ego and legend-in-his-own-mind status makes Donald Trump look like a rank amateur. That said, one of Richard’s biggest flaws is consistently misjudging his level of voter and political support. So, if I had to make a prediction, given Lofchie’s work ethic and Irvin’s lack of one, Aurora will have a new Mayor next year.

And I certainly won’t be shedding a tear over his loss. I promise I’ll get better at choosing candidates.

The First Ward Report – Aurora University’s bait and switch – Part 2

If you require the previous pieces to this story, may I humbly suggest you resort to Wednesday’s part one. With that caveat issued, let’s move on!

The next in a long line of issues I have with Aurora University is, not only did they completely fail to warn parents and students about the move to fully remote learning, they’ve made no attempt to support their sudden switch with any form logic or evidence.

Despite all the nanny-state progressives’ (I’m a classic Evanston liberal) howling about the risks of returning to the classroom, the FACTS tell us something completely different. And if you take the time to review the Illinois Department of Public Health website, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

As of this morning, 38 Illinoisans age 1 to 29 have perished from COVID-19. And while every death diminishes us, also according to the IDPH, in 2018 1,525 Illinois 1 to 24-year-olds died in accidents, 366 were murdered, 201 took their own lives, and 91 died of cancer.

Considering that leading cause of young deaths, why haven’t we banned cars or shut down the roads?

Moving on to professor age (30 to 69) Illinois individuals, 2,479 have succumbed to the coronavirus, and according to the Kane County Health Department, 90 percent of them had a “co-morbidity” factor, or a serious underlying medical condition that played a major role in their demise.

Meanwhile, for Illinoisans aged 25 to 64 in 2018, 7,125 perished from an eminently preventable  form of heart disease, 6,512 died of cancer – 45 percent of which were preventable (Cancer.org), 3,618 were killed in accidents, 1,059 committed suicide, and 619 became homicide victims.

The very definition of life is risk management, and until pandemic panic porn became this politicized, that’s a reality we generally accepted. The truth is, according to a study by the National Center for Biology Information, “People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon.”

Put more simply, there’s absolutely no evidence that supports Aurora University’s bait and switch money grab.

As a brief aside, in my capacity as a campaign manager, I’m privy to polls most folks aren’t, and with the possible exception of the presidency, these heavy-handed progressive efforts have eliminated any November “Blue Wave.” And if the nanny staters persist in this remote learning and shutdown bovine manure, they will get Donald Trump reelected because parents neither have the time nor inclination to become teacher’s aides.

Illinois pays some of the highest property taxes in the country so our schools can do their jobs. And the fact we suddenly have to take on that task is a clear indication that, for the vast majority of students, remote learning doesn’t work.

A couple of readers duly noted that online classes worked for their sons, but they chose that route because their children were predisposed to that method. My family didn’t choose remote learning and in spite of a Herculean effort, I’ve watched D131 struggle with every last aspect of that process from consistent connection issues right on up to getting students to actually log in.

Worse yet, cable systems and their collective bandwidth model are bogging down under the strain because they were never meant to handle all that simultaneous streaming.

Even if remote learning worked, we send our children to school, in great part, because of the critical social development classroom aspect. So, in an effort to “save” them, progressives are permanently damaging our sons and daughters, instead.

The “cure” has clearly become so much worse than the “disease.”

When you consider the FACTS, given my pro se courtroom track record, if I had standing, Aurora University would already be on the receiving end of a slam dunk fraud and breach of contract lawsuit.

But my son, who’s not nearly equipped to handle the legal process, is over 18 which counts me out. My fondest wish, however, is that enough aggrieved AU students and parents do see fit to file the class action lawsuit that forces AU to reopen their classrooms or forces tuition discounts. And I’d be more than happy to provide what ever support I can in that regard.

I know some really good attorneys, too!

Lastly, maybe I’m just a bit slow, but someday I might finally understand that arguing with a blatant narcissist like AU President Rebecca Sherrick is patently pointless. I would expect better email responses from a sugar-addled toddler throwing an epic tantrum because they didn’t get their afternoon nap.

It never fails to amaze me how narcissists consistently manage to wrangle their way to the top education and local government positions. We’ll get to Ms. Sherrick her and those fascinating emails in an upcoming column.

To sum it up, paying full tuition for poorly conceived remote classes sucks, but we’re stuck with it. The most difficult part of this AU bait and switch for this journalist is my general capacity to create social and political change is severely limited here. My only solace is we weren’t duped into paying that six-plus grand in dorm and meal fees (just one semester) only to have our son sit solo in a tiny room and watch his classes on a small laptop screen.

A good friend told me to tape a large copy of the Serenity Prayer to my home-office desk, and even though he’s right, the thought of having to regularly recite it makes me want to beat the crap out of someone. And I’m thinkin’ that kind of thinking tends to undermine that passage’s underlying intent.

The bottom line? Given a karmic replay, I wouldn’t send my child to Aurora University if they paid me for the privilege!

 

On Monday, how Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, a man I got elected, has been more than disappointing in this and so many other regards!

The First Ward Report – Aurora University’s bait and switch!

For purposes of full disclosure, our eldest son currently attends Aurora University and our decision to send him there is one I deeply regret. In an effort to get parents to show them the money, like a slew of savvy used car salesmen, they’ll tell you whatever they think you want to hear, including, but not nearly limited to promising student services they’ve never provided.

And my son enrolled there based on those assurances, but then after one bad sophomore semester, those commitments evaporated faster than Agent Orange’s vaunted health care plan.

Furthermore, as much as I like to think I set my own issues aside whenever I take to the keyboard, were I you, Dear Reader, I’d take this particular prose with a reasonable grain of salt. I truly believe the facts fully support me, but to say I’m unhappy with the University would be the most mildest of understatements.

Then there’s the not-so-subtle appearance of fighting my personal battles in print, something I have not and will not do here.

You see, my son has less than a year of college left, so I’ve resigned myself to realities that clearly won’t change. Even if AU provided students and parents with any manner of timely warning, a senior year transfer is a proposition perpetually fraught with peril.

Put more simply, sometimes you find yourself in a position where your only choice is to bend over and take it. Ah! But there are plenty of AU parents and students who can avail themselves of the options my family cannot. This is for them.

This sad bait and switch story starts with AU President Rebecca Sherrick sending regular summer emails to parents and students in which every last one of ‘em gloriously described the development of an ostensibly reasonable hybrid teaching plan. They sounded so good they actually had me rethinking my disdain for that institution.

But, as it turns out, to this very day, AU has never truly declared they’ve moved to fully remote learning.

In President Rebecca Sherrick’s final August 17 summer email she wrote, “Soon undergraduates will hear from faculty members teaching remote fall semester classes…” Yes! Students will hear from those professors who opted for remote teaching.” There’s certainly no cause to believe anything had changed.

And when I privately called her out for this intentional obfuscation, not only did she claim her intentions were abundantly clear, but that their webpage was ever clearer. But it isn’t! Today, it still stipulates that, “In late July, Aurora University announced revised plans for the 2020 fall semester that include class instruction via enhanced remote delivery.”

Oh! And by “enhanced remote delivery” they mean Zoom, which crashed nationwide on the first day of “class.”

Again, any reasonable parent would understand “that include class instruction” to mean as a part of a greater hybrid plan because that’s all that had been previously discussed.

Conversely, when the East Aurora School District announced their shift to remote learning, they sent an email to every parent clearly specifying, “We’re going fully remote until November,” so there was absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind. It’s really not that difficult, is it?

And when we’re talking about a college rife with professional communicators, this deception by omission clearly was intentional. As that great philosopher Judge Judy likes to say, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!”

So, as you might imagine, a scant 24 hours before his first in-person class, while we were working out the family vehicle logistics, my son received two emails from two professors explaining that their classes were now fully remote. To say I was “peeved” would be yet another massive understatement.

C’mon! Everyone within the sound of my voice knows that President Sherrick and AU pulled this last-minute bait and switch money grab because, had they provided ample remote learning warning, those inevitably unhappy parents and students would’ve made other arrangements, and all that tuition money would’ve vanished along with them.

Even if I give Sherrick her errant assertion that we were adequately warned in late July, that’s not nearly enough notice to make other arrangements, and she knows it!

And we know this is a money grab because they’re not shutting down the dorms or their associated cafeterias. In fact, at the very same time they were closing all those classrooms, AU was gleefully ushering incoming students into their residence halls. So, now parents are paying to have their sons and daughters take Zoom classes in a tiny room while they get fed bad college food.

Call me crazy, but couldn’t those same students have done the same thing at home while enjoying better meals without having to take out another student loan to pay the $6,165 in AU dorm and meal fees? Oh! And that’s just for the fall semester, too!

At least we didn’t get suckered into that bovine manure, but my heart certainly goes out to all those families who fell for this slimy tactic.

All those dorm dwellers will religiously practice the best kind of social distancing, too, because that’s what college students are renowned for, right? When I mentioned this prospect to one of my favorite appellate court judges, his eminently keen-perception-of-the-obvious response was, “Social distancing in a dorm is considered to be wearing a condom.”

But the best part is, unlike many other colleges, AU refuses to provide any kind of tuition discount for suddenly offering a vastly diminished university experience. And my updated job description now includes Teacher’s Aide as I’ll be making sure my son isn’t nodding off or playing video games during his “classes.”

On Friday we’ll discuss:

  • How the science and FACTS don’t support classroom closures
  • How remote learning is a complete farce
  • Why students and parents should bring a class action lawsuit against AU
  • Why I somehow still haven’t learned that arguing with a narcissist is pointless

Until then…

The First Ward Report – Pritzker is so much worse than Trump

And when I say “worse” I mean exponentially worse, because while Agent Orange may be a megalomaniacal narcissist of epic proportion, he isn’t stupid. But as a good friend who worked with Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker before he became a politician so understatedly put it, “He’s not nearly the sharpest blade in the pack.”

It certainly shows!

But what’s even more depressing than his shocking lack of competence is, like Trump’s mindless minions, how his progressive and even liberal supporters regard him as virtually infallible. I can’t tell you how much I miss the days when those fine blue folks would regularly take on their own.

To be clear, we’re not talking about the common insipid political differences between Bernie and Joe supporters, or the battles between the loonier Republican factions. We’re talking about the capacity to call someone out because they either suck, or they just did something that sucks!

And J. B. Pritzker certainly sucks.

In the immediate aftermath of A. J. Freund’s brutal murder, we wept, we shrieked, we howled, we gnashed our teeth and we demanded change. And those Illinois Democrat legislators paid attention just long enough for that vast progressive ADHD to fade and let them completely off the hook. Then two more toddlers died last spring despite DCFS investigating those families for more than a year.

But all Pritzker and the preceding Democrat governors do is replace one crony DCFS director with another one to the tune of 15 leadership changes in 16 years. And while progressives love to shout “not one COVID-19 child death,” just 5 Illinois children under 19 have died from the virus but 123 children died in 2019 under DCFS supervision.

So, where were all the progressive and liberal voices on those eminently preventable deaths? I’ll tell you where! When I took on Aurora State Rep Stephanie Kifowit for her personal DCFS failures, her supporters went after me. It truly sucks to be the messenger.

I guess child abuse deaths don’t matter anymore.

Then there’s the Illinois Department of Employment Security which makes the DCFS debacle look downright defensible! They’ve tried three crony directors in the last two years and it only makes it worse. And what did the Governor have the flippin’ neve to say when 1.4 million Illinois applied for unemployment benefits as a result of the spring shutdowns? “Our Illinois Department of Employment Security was unprepared for the onslaught.”

Really? Those of us with just average intelligence refer to it as “cause and effect.” What the bleep did he think would happen after all manner of restaurants and small businesses were forced to close – some permanently? Even months later IDES continues to be beset by hourlong hold times, applicants who should be getting benefits hitting brick walls, and just more lame excuses from their leadership.

Haven’t you noticed that these lapses overly effect those young and minority workers who can least afford this while their supposed progressive “patrons,” who somehow believe they’re protecting them, work remotely out of their comfortable Geneva homes.

Fix it Governor Pritzker!

Oh! But I’ve saved the best for last! Because every time I see one of those absurd “Governor Pritzker, Thank you for saving Illinois lives” yard signs I want to hurl, because he’s actually cost 4,000 Illinoisans there’s!

That’s right! Of the 7,880 Illinois COVID-19 deaths, more than 4,000 have come in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. And those folks weren’t exactly out dancing nightly at Chicago bars, either, so, there’s no excuse for these contemptible and needless deaths.

What was J.B.’s answer? Despite being warned against it, he put recovered hospital patients back in nursing homes to die. And the Tribune, finally doing their job, just reported that after three months of insistent complaints about Illinois nursing homes, the Pritzker administration entity responsible for investigating those reckless homicides hasn’t moved on a single one.

Not one!

But my fellow liberals and all those insane progressives still somehow believe the Governor is doing a good job which, as previously submitted, makes them every bit as bad as Trump supporters.

I hope you can live with that.

The First Ward Report – Random thoughts!

I’m not sure whether it’s 2020 fatigue, but I’ve been enduing a rather strange stretch in which I’m not sure what I’m gonna write about until my fingers finally hit the keyboard. The truth is that I’m typically about five to ten columns out in my head.

So, when I woke up this morning with that late summer slothiosity sitting heavily upon me, and, in the words of that legendary philosopher Chuck Berry, “with no particular journalistic place to go,” I considered taking the day off.

But then I had an epiphany! How could I possibly let my adoring throng down in such a heinous and callous manner? If they don’t have a Jeff Ward to excoriate and a column to rail against, their already empty and miserable lives would be swiftly rendered completely meaningless and how could I possibly live with that lack of ink on my hands?

Just like it is with that ageless Peter Parker, great power always confers great responsibility.

And while I was smack dab in the middle of this interesting internal dialog, for some unbeknownst reason, I remembered that, on occasion, the great former Sun-Times columnist, Roger Simon, would compose a collection of his most recent random thoughts and I always enjoyed them.

What could possibly go wrong with a semi-autistic, massively ADHD, and somewhat outspoken opinion columnist revealing the most inner workings of his consciousness in real time? So, without any concern for my Cancel Culture safety, and since I’m always willing to concede to the rabble’s demands, off we go!

Maybe I’m getting soft in my advanced years, but Fox Sports and Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman should not forfeit a blemish free 26-year career because he cavalierly uttered the f-bomb homophobic slur when he thought his mic was off.

A suspension, yes, but does erasing Brennaman mitigate homophobia in any positive way? Were I a member of the LBGTQ community, I’d answer his heartfelt apology with forgiveness and turn it into an inclusive and invaluable teaching moment.

Considering their third best team in baseball status, I’m willing to stipulate that, as myself and the great Terry Hunt frequently mused, former manager Joe Maddon was clearly the problem with the post-2016 Chicago Cubs. Maddon may be the best managerial influence on young players in the game, but once imbued with the strident belief that he’s smarter than the game, he’s horrifically “cute” with veterans, and that dog won’t hunt!

Put more simply, he didn’t “try not to suck” nearly hard enough.

Having read his fascinating book, David Ross was my managerial replacement pick, and aside from the failed Kris Bryant leadoff experiment, Grandpa Rossie is doing a great job. Go Cubs!

To all the progressives who went nuts over Ryan Reynolds’ and Blake Lively’s 2012 Southern plantation wedding, in an effort to demonstrate your seriously “woke” sincerity, I want you to immediately issue a quit claim ceding your home to whatever Native America tribe treaty land it’s sittin’ on.

That would go a lot further towards demonstrating that you’re a lot more than all that pointless shrieking, howling, and rending of garments.

I mean, I liked Ryan in Deadpool, but does anyone really care all that much about what either one of ‘em did in 2012? I didn’t think so!

And speaking of progressives, if you react to every last Trump maneuver as if you’ve just been stabbed in the groin, it makes you every bit as bad as his mindless minions. To wit, I’m surprised random mailboxes still exist anywhere in in the 21st Century. When you consider the USPS’s dire fiscal straits, the recent mass removal of what’s left of them in some cities doesn’t surprise me one bit.

In fact, I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s a single non-post office bound mailbox left in all eight square miles of Geneva. And as one who keeps track of these things, of the 170,000 likely Kane county November voters, only 27,000 of ‘em have taken the Clerk up on his invitation to apply for a Vote by Mail ballot.

If you do choose to vote by mail, it’s not too terribly difficult to drop the ballot off at your nearest post office or local election authority. So, in the words of that great thinker, Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Just chill ‘til the next episode.”

But Trump certainly doesn’t make it any easier on himself when he issues absurd proclamations like he’s gonna send sheriffs to secure all of our local polling places when it clearly can’t be done.

County sheriffs’ offices are covered by a loose gaggle of laws collectively known as the “Internal Control Statute,” which, beyond allowing a city council/county board/state legislature to set a reasonable budget, prevent any governor/chairman/mayor from interfering in another elected official’s office process.

Put more simply, Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen has no power to instruct Sheriff Ron Hain to embark upon, or not to embark upon, on any direct course of action. He can ask politely, but that’s about it.

So, Donald Trump certainly can’t tell them what to do, either.

The courts are the only entity that can issue an edict that the Sheriff, or any other elected official, must comply with. So, what did Snoop say about chillin’ ‘til the next episode?

Given my persistent fascination for nature, I want to thank St. Charles Park District naturalist and Kane County Chronicle columnist, Pam Otto, for always graciously answering my often-off-the-wall bird-based inquiries.

The latest question revolved the startling absence of August geese, starlings, and red wing blackbirds. I thought perhaps 2020 was trying to top itself in yet another other regard, but it appears we’re having quite the quiet avian molting season.

Thank you Pam!

Coming back around to Mr. Brennaman, the happiest man in that on-air slur regard has to be former Cub all-star and current Marquee Network color man, Mark Grace, who thrice referred to his ex-wife as a “dingbat” during a game.

Of course, that led to an unofficial five-game suspension with former cub pitcher Ryan Dempster filling in for now.

Perhaps it’s because I’m such a cad, but I thought it was kinda fun to hear that rather unique word resurrected. But despite the obvious All in the Family reference, my wife thought saying it more than once was a bit offensive.

But truth be told, don’t cable TV stations hire colorful folks like Gracie and former NBAer Charles Barkley because you never know what they’re gonna say next? This ain’t nearly the first time Mark Grace has opened mouth and inserted foot.

As an inveterate runner, not only was I beyond saddened to hear about the female Texas cancer researcher’s murder while jogging, but I was astonished to learn that 43 percent of women have experienced harassment while running.

What? Almost half? That kind of abject bovine manure has got to stop. Just when I think Homo Sapiens have actually managed to scratch out a few millimeters of progress, I realize just how far we have to go.

No protesting on her block? The bloom is certainly off Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s rose isn’t it?

Sister Jean turn 101 this week! God bless her and go maroon and gold!

Is it just me, but after the whole George Soros and liberal prosecutors trope kerfuffle, hasn’t Tribune columnist John Kass taken an unusually high dive off the deep end? He wasn’t a scion of logic to begin with, but reading snippets of this weeks’ offerings was a lot like trying to decipher a set of twin’s private language.

I firmly believe I have a better shot at cracking the highest levels of Chinese military encryption than I do of understanding today’s piece on Pritzker potentially appointing himself senator. His attempt at applying satire to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Fox fell flat, and his theories on violence in Democrat controlled cities bore no resemblance to any reality I’ve ever encountered.

I suppose if you speak only in Gollum-esque riddles, you can’t possibly get yourself in trouble!

 

Well, that was fun. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime!

The First Ward Report – Sometimes you’re wrong!

And sometimes you get it wrong despite your best journalistic effort and applied due diligence! Two cases in point!

Lopez did file his EIS!

The first – and not nearly the only – problem with my August 5 Quick Hits entry on Elgin City Councilman Baldemar Lopez’ Economic Interest Statement was, unbeknownst to me, Governor Pritzker had, indeed, extended the late filing deadline from May 1st to August 3rd.

In my defense, I did email the County Clerk’s vital records department prior to that piece to determine whether there was any kind of official extension. And when I failed to get a timely response, I simply assumed there wasn’t. C’mon! The entire filing process is electronic, so there’s no good COVID consideration for granting elected officials an extension.

Silly me!

My first lapse was believing Pritzker applies any real logic before undertaking a course of action, and the second was not persisting past the Clerk’s office to get a final EIS deadline answer. Trust me, I won’t make either mistake again.

In their defense, the Clerk’s office did respond – four days later – explaining that they had not yet posted the 2020 statements and it would require a FOIA to determine if Lopez had filed his. Of course, I’d been relying on the errant belief that those Clerk EIS portal people were keeping up in the posting regard when they clearly were not.

I won’t make that mistake again, either.

So, I dutifully dashed off the requested FOIA request only to receive a quick response instructing me to look up Lopez on the EIS portal one more time. I’m not sure why I had jump through all those hoops to get there, but we all know that local government is a perpetually fascinating proposition.

Sure enough, there it was! And it had inexplicably been filed way back on February 25! Why it took a FOIA – at their behest – to “encourage” the Clerk’s office to post it more than four months after the fact is completely beyond me. It’s a conundrum along the lines of attempting to explain why the Theory of Relativity utterly falls apart at the quantum level.

But despite that comedy of errors, my basic Lopez EIS contentions remain sound!

First, the Councilman was, indeed, late and fined $15 for filing the document after December 31. And second, his current EIS bears almost no resemblance to the previous year’s in which he failed to note his official Springfield lobbying efforts.

That effectively makes his 2019 document an exercise in perjury, but I’m not going to bother with a complaint because EIS’s violations are not a huge priority in the coronavirus era, and even if the Councilman was found guilty, the fine is barely more than a grand.

Given the unnecessarily twisted Illinois EIS question wording, I also had my doubts about the efficacy of his 2020 filing, particularly Lopez’ use of the term “government/public relations.” But after running it by my favorite municipal attorney, the verdict was it met the absolute minimal filing requirements for an elected official who can clearly be considered a lobbyist.

But even though I had to face down some rather unusual resistance here, there’s no excuse for blowing the due diligence process as badly as I did. So, now I’m gonna have to tell my wife I’m not nearly perfect.

Oh, the ignominy!

 

The one that got away!

This journalistic phenomenon occurs every two- to three-years, and it’s always quite depressing when it does.

It starts with more than one stellar source coming forward with a story that could clearly cost some public and elected officials’ their heads! Then, just to be absolutely sure about something this big, you reach out to other likely sources and they confirm everything you already know.

That doesn’t always happen, and trust me, it tends to get the big story salivary glands going!

So, you start down tracking down the likely paper trail, and initially, that process looks really promising, too! But immediately after you triumphantly issue the appropriate FOIA requests, the story starts to fall apart, and it falls apart quite quickly, too.

Because when you finally put all the pieces together, you realize that, though your sources’ hearts were in all the right places, none of them were aware of all the facts, and the totality of those facts clearly indicate that nothing untoward took place.

Everything played out almost exactly as it logically should have.

Then, just for good measure, and perhaps in the hope that there’s something’s there, you bring the story to one of your favorite local experts who swiftly puts that nail in the supposed “scoop’s” coffin.

So, you issue a deep sigh, you curse the journalistic deities for ten wasted hours, and though the story never went public and your intentions were good, you have to somewhat apologize to the folks whom you may have pressed a little bit harder than you probably should have because you were convinced you were really onto something.

It’s always a lot of fun!

So, why tell you about the one that got away? Because I thought it was important to note that not every potential story turns out to be one. And unlike it was with the Lopez EIS, this time all that applied due diligence turned out exactly as it should have.

You win some and you certainly lose some!

 

The First Ward Coronavirus Report – We’re still good!

Since we haven’t done a coronavirus report in a while and this is gonna be a long one, let’s get right to it:

Date  Cases          % Inc      N Cases      Tested     Prevalence  Deaths    M%

7/29   175,124          0.8          1,393         38,187       1 in 27.4     7,462       4.2

7/30   176,896          1.0          1,772         41,134       1 in 23.2     7,478       4.2

7/31   178,837          1.0          1,941         49,782       1 in 25.6     7,495       4.1

8/1     180,476          0.9          1,639         39,809       1 in 24.2     7,503       4.1

8/2     181,943          0.8          1,467         38,945       1 in 26.5     7,517       4.1

8/3     183,241          0.7          1,298         28,475       1 in 21.9     7,526       4.1

8/4     184,712          0.8          1,471         42,598       1 in 28.9     7,545       4.0

8/5     186,471          0.9          1,759         46,668       1 in 26.5     7,573       4.0

8/6     188,424          1.0          1,953         41,686       1 in 21.3     7,594       4.0

8/7     190,508          1.1          2,084         46,869       1 in 22.4     7,613       3.9

8/8     192,698          1.1          2,190         48,016       1 in 21.9     7,631       3.9

8/9     194,080          0.7          1,382         41,354       1 in 29.9     7,636       3.9

8/10   195,399          0.6          1,319         32.353       1 in 24.5     7,637       3.9

8/11   196,948          0.7          1,549         41,362       1 in 26.7     7,657       3.8

8/12   198,593          0.6          1,205         42,098       1 in 34.9     7,672       3.8

8/13   200,427          0.7          1,474         46,006       1 in 31.2     7,696       3.8

8/14   202,691          1.1          2,264         49,541       1 in 21.8     7,721       3.8

8/15   204,519          0.9          1,818         44,414       1 in 24.2     7,726       3.7

8/16   206,081          0.7          1,562         37,089       1 in 23.7     7,744       3.7

Illinois has officially tested 3,366,851 citizens as a result of that daily process regularly topping the 40,000 mark. With that stipulation, let’s move on to our official statistical analysis:

1. There is no spike!

And we know this because, despite the Governor’s consistent crying wolf, the prevalence continues to revolve around 1 in 25. If Illinois tests 1,000 people, they get 40 positive results, and that FACT hasn’t changed since July 15.

That means our social unrest, Illinois bars and restaurants reopening, and the utter lack of social distance anywhere have had absolutely NO effect on our COVID-19 case numbers which are as flat as they’re going to get.

2. Transmission rates remain low

Yes! We managed to hit the 1 percent new daily case percentage increase mark for the first time since June third. But a 1.1 percent transmission rate is nothing to fret about, particularly when you recall it was once over 100 percent.

3. We are not “going in the wrong direction”

Pritzker’s newest favorite proclamation is patently false. The only reason we’re seeing a minor daily new case increase is the Illinois testing average for this data period rounds out to a rather robust 42,000. There was a time we thought 6,000 tests was something just short of a miracle.

4. The Illinois mortality rate is plummeting

In fact, it’s fallen right off the cliff from a high of 4.8 percent on July 3rd to just 3.7 percent last week. And when you consider that over 50 percent of Illinois COVID deaths have come in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, that puts our real mortality rate a lot closer to 1.5 percent.

That may be nothing to write home about, but it’s not nearly as bad as the pandemic panic porn press would have you believe. I’m sure there’s more than one factor involved here, but I’m going with the European doctors who believe the pathogen has far less bite that it once did.

5. The five-day moving average is quite flat

Thanks to reader Tom, I now know the terms “moving”, “rolling” and “running” average are interchangeable. And while it may look like our five-day average is trending up:

Date                Cases

7/29                 1,334

7/30                 1,403

7/31                 1,483

8/1                   1,565

8/2                   1,643

8/3                   1,624

8/4                   1,564

8/5                   1,527

8/3                   1,624

8/4                   1,564

8/5                   1,527

8/6                   1,590

8/7                   1,713

8/8                   1,892

8/9                   1,874

8/10                 1,786

8/11                 1,529

8/12                 1,384

8/13                 1,563

8/14                 1,664

8/15                 1,662

8/16                 1,665

it’s not! If you correctly weighted that Illinois’ increased testing, you’d quickly note this indicator is even flatter than our local Northern Illinois terrain.

6. Someone’s playing with the COVID occupied ICU bed numbers

Date   ICU Beds     Ventilators     

7/29          353             149

7/30          346             148

8/1            334             148

8/2            339              126

8/3            347             132

8/4            365             125

8/5            368             129

8/6            346             132

8/7            333             125

8/8            338              135

8/9            322             114

8/10          352             138

8/11          336             127

8/12          357             129

8/13          383             127

8/14          345             126

8/15          330             127

8/16          345             116

And we know something’s wrong because, after the ICU bed indicator permanently dropped below 400 on July 1st, it generally hasn’t increased or decreased by more than ten a day. But suddenly since August 4, we’re seeing 30 bed swings, and it just doesn’t work that way.

Patients who have a severe enough COVID case to go into the ICU don’t just come out the next day. And it ain’t a result of people dying, either, because the average daily Illinois death toll during this data period is just 15.6.

But the icing on my fudging-the-numbers contention is the ICU bed and ventilator numbers are no longer nearly as correlated as they’ve been since the beginning. With the exception of the obviously incorrect August 9 ventilator number, we’re within easy striking distance of tying or breaking that record low, while coronavirus ICU bed usage has ticked slightly upward.

I’m not sayin’ someone’s doing something on purpose, and it could simply be a matter of a new counting criteria, but that bed number ain’t right right now!

But even if that stat is a bit off, those hospital indicators have dropped by a whopping 73 and 85 percent, respectively. Remember! Before this pandemic got so fricken’ political, our collective goal was to prevent the Illinois health care system from collapsing under the weight of COVID patients, and despite our Governor’s worst efforts, we’ve succeeded magnificently.

So, when you consider this plague isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the Governor’s new goal seems to be a wreaking a vast economic destruction for no good reason. At this point, there’s no reason not to reopen the state with the understanding that people will inevitably do what’s right for them.

But if you continue to beat them over the head they will continue to rebel!

With the eminently loony Dr. Fauci recently declaring the first iterations of any vaccine will only be marginally effective, much as Sweden has, we need to get on with herd immunity as soon as reasonably possible because this overly absurd “cure” has become so much worse than the disease.

It certainly appears that Sweden got their pandemic plan right!

To sum it up:

  1. Not only has there been no Illinois coronavirus spike, but I’d bet some serious money that those back-to-school naysayers will turn out to be wrong – again.
  2. Illinois is not moving in the “wrong direction!” In fact, as we predicted, the pandemic isn’t currently moving in any direction. If you test 1,000 Illinoisans, 40 will have the plague.
  3. The mortality rate is declining at an almost statistically impossible rate, which bodes quite well going forward.
  4. Unless the pandemic inexplicably becomes exponentially more pernicious, the Illinois health care network has been beyond spared. That should mean mission accomplished.

But aside from our howling and shrieking progressive nanny-staters’ blind determination to blatantly ignore the facts, combined with their deep and irresistible desire to regularly declare what’s right for the rest of us, can anyone tell me what the Illinois pandemic plan is at this point?

Because I’d really like to know!

 

The First Ward Report – The process of government sausage making – Part 3!

I’m sure you’ve taken note of the part three title change! It’s the result of one of my favorite readers expressing his appreciation that “someone is watching the sausage making that is our politics around us!” I liked that abjectly apt metaphor so much I applied it here!

And while I certainly appreciate that compliment, and I enjoy sharing my unique local government insights, the sad truth is, these are consistently my least popular pieces. I’m sure it’s a combination of watching-paint-dry excitement and the fact that folks would rather howl about their scurrilous local elected officials than understand the process.

Meanwhile, in part one we discussed the inevitabilities that occur when mayors, chairmen, and village presidents move into their second term. That conversation included the five categories board members/city councilmen/trustees tend to fall into as the proceedings start to become more contentious.

Part two presented a perfect example of how that dynamic plays out in the form of the “Kane Mutiny” which saw our Board rise up and demand the coronavirus relief fund distribution process be handed over to them.

Today, we’re gonna cover how the strange, and frequently overlapping, supervisory roles of the “followers” and the “leader” can lead to all sorts of friction.

You see, most people don’t understand that, aside from setting the main meeting agenda, the leader has no real power. With a few notable exceptions like the City of Elgin, leaders don’t get to vote on anything unless the followers’ vote is deadlocked.

So, when it comes to supervising high level municipal/county staff and department heads, technically, the leader can only do so with the advice and consent of the followers.

But it rarely works out that way because “followers” like aldermen are eminently part-time propositions, while leaders are expected to put much more effort into the gig. That means the leader generally plays the direct supervising role by default, with the followers  simply going along for the ride.

And that dynamic tends to work quite well until the second half of the leader’s second term when the previously described growing friction becomes so great that the followers begin to demand their supervisory rights, which throws six years of reasonable cooperation directly into the crapper.

That’s exactly the case with Chairman Chris Lauzen, those fun-loving ADHD County Board members, and the Kane County Workforce Development Board.

But before we continue, since I have not delved into this iteration of the KCWDB, I won’t be casting any personal aspersions on that group. We’ll only consider the Chairman’s issues with WDB Director Scott Berger.

For background purposes, it’s also important to note that, particularly under former Chairman Karen McConnaughay, the WDB became the perfect patronage receptacle for all manner of questionable crony hires. So, watching Chairman Lauzen shine a light on that typically dark area doesn’t bother me at all.

But when the Chairman asked why the WDB assistant director was allowed to work from Minnesota and why Berger hadn’t scheduled a required compliance meeting since May of 2019, normally reasonable board members John Hoscheit and John Martin dashed off a dire missive explaining how Lauzen was overstepping his statutory powers and he should back off forthwith!

BTW, for some absurd reason, local governing bodies just love to send each other scathing letters such that it begs for some sort of hilarious Monty Python send up. Of course, that letter was sent to every County Board member, as well as State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, just for good making-it-much-worse measure.

While Hoscheit and Martin were absolutely correct about the Board, and not the Chairman, being responsible for supervising the WDB, my response to that letter would’ve been, “Well then, bleepin’ supervise them!” Though that would certainly be a first, because, in 14-plus years of covering that gaggle, I’ve never seen ‘em successfully supervise something as simple as a backyard pool party.

Yes! I, as a taxpayer take issue with $125,000 a year employee (salary and benefits) working from two states away. I understand working remotely from Elgin in the plague era, but how does one successfully “assistant direct” from 400 miles away? It can’t be done.

As far as the lack of compliance meetings go, considering the WDB is a vastly federally funded entity, that lapse will eventually come back to bite Kane County is the ass. It may take awhile for the feds to finally catch up, but when they do, they better not find any fiscal surprise or it won’t be pretty.

So, because the board members – and most “followers” – consistently fail to supervise, the Chairman stepped in to supervise, and then he was excoriated for supervising by a couple of suddenly self-righteous board members. Why does the term “Catch-22” suddenly come to mind?

I’m really starting to think Yossarian got it right (look it up)!

And we’re not talking about a poorly paid group of village trustees here, either. Kane County Board members make 25 grand a year and they get a Cadillac benefits package on top of that (not everyone takes the benefits) for a “job” that, for at least half of them, takes no more than six hours a month.

In conclusion (finally, right?), borne of what I call “second-term-itis” brought on by the eminently thin-skinned followers who fervently believe they should be the leader, and now taking every perceived leader slight as a mortal wound, at that point, local governing bodies tend to descend into a cat herding endeavor without nearly enough litter boxes to deal with the increasing manure problem.

And with a new Chairman coming in after November, the process will start all over again. To quote that great philosopher David Byrne, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it EVER was!”

The First Ward Report – Same as it ever was – Part 2!

When we last left off, the Joker and his henchman had Batman and Robin trapped in the abandoned warehouse…wait a minute! I may have gotten a wee bit off track here! Though in the end, that classic 60’s Batman analogy may turn out to be far more applicable than you might think!

Kane County Board

We were actually discussing how easy it is to predict the persistent propensities of local governing bodies based on the length of time the “leader” (chairman/mayor/president) has served. Please refer back to part one if you require a quick refresher.

Then, after some in-depth coverage of that phenomenon, we moved on to a couple of recent Kane County Board kerfuffles that certainly seem to support our theory.

The first fight began with the original Kane County Task Force’s June effort to develop a reasonable distribution plan for the $93 million the County received in federal coronavirus relief funds. And if that isn’t a proposition fraught will all manner of political peril, I don’t know what is!

The opening salvo was fired by one of those eminently predictable Cindy Brady board members who just had to run to State’s Attorney Joe McMahon and tattle on Chairman Chris Lauzen for a perceived Open Meetings violation.

But unlike President Trump, the Task Force, headed up by crack Kane county Auditor Terry Hunt, wasn’t bypassing the Board so they could dole out money to friends and family. No! They were appropriately endeavoring to narrow the possibilities before handing the process off to the Board’s Executive Committee as the law requires.

And those kinds of non-binding private group deliberations are NOT prohibited by the Open Meetings Act.

Of course, as is par for the course, our “hold-my-beer” State’s Attorney couldn’t help but issue yet another stern missive, this one warning the Chairman of the dire consequences of any OMA infraction. And as you might imagine, this utterly unnecessary move sent the proceedings directly into a cacophony of contentiousness.

The kinda fun irony there is, if the Board wants to blame anyone for that supposed secrecy, they need look no further than little old me! With a more-than-reasonable grasp of the OMA and FOIA statutes, I’m the one who advised the Task Force that they were well within the bounds of the law and to keep their cards as close to their collective chests for as long as possible.

Consider all the shrieking and howling the would’ve ensued had the Task Force tried to convince each of those 24 board members of the efficacy of their $93 million allocation plan before it was complete! It would’ve descended directly into the kind of abject nightmare that would’ve made the Chicago riots pale in comparison.

Convinced this supposed “secrecy” was the surest sign of foul play, and prodded by the usual anti-Lauzen louts…I mean…suspects, this early July Kane Mutiny saw the Board rise up to demand the distribution process be handed over to them forthwith!

Ironically, this mutiny occurred just as the Task Force was ready to turn it over to the Board, and when they saw Hunt’s well-considered plan, they got kinda quiet and thanked him for his hard work.

That swift 180 is quite reminiscent my favorite Emily Litella catch phrase, “Oh! That’s very different. Never mind!”

But now, through a vast board ego, a failure to understand procedural rules, an inability to grasp the enormity of the task, an infinite animosity towards the Chairman, and an absurd lack of faith in some fine elected officials, the Kane County Board not only embarrassed themselves, but expended an immense amount of unnecessary time, effort, and agida in the process.

It’s this kind of self-serving public positioning that drives board and city council “leaders” to a certain “crankiness” in their second term. To wit, go back to those board meeting videos and watch Theresa Barreiro regularly blurt out potential press quotes until the Chairman was forced to threaten her with removal if she persisted in purposely ignoring protocol.

And the Chairman’s supposed to be the problem?

Then, after all the dire proclamations about the need to swiftly disburse these COVID funds, this new seven-board-member committee, generally directed by the State’s Attorney, are taking their own sweet time in finalizing the process.

With our third irony failing to go unnoticed, some of their peers are now referring to that gaggle as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” with McMahon playing the title role. Perhaps they’d get a lot more done if they stopped whistling while they worked! I’d point out which board member is playing which dwarf, but since some of my best friends are board members, I’ll leave it to your imagination.

In the end, all this repeating-the-same-thing-while-expecting-a-different-result insanity is the result of an absurd antipathy towards a second-term leader on the part of the followers who, harboring no self-reflective capacity whatsoever, don’t begin to realize they’re behaving far worse than anyone else involved.

This is why, until they legalize homicide, I WILL NEVER run for office.

Yikes! It looks like this is gonna turn out to be a three-parter. That means we’ll cover the morass known as the Kane County Workforce Development Board and the related fracas on Friday. Until then…

The First Ward Report – Same as it ever was!

Considering my considerable coverage of all manner of governing bodies, all you have to do is give me the length of the mayor’s/president’s/chairman’s tenure and the number of councilmen/board members/trustees involved, and with no other details, I will tell you, with alarming accuracy, the dynamic that pervades that particular electoral ensemble.

Unless the “leader” is a significant problem from the get-go, the first two years of their first term almost always consists of a cooperative honeymoon phase. It’s during the second half of that term when the proceedings start to get a little more contentious.

After that, this certain to decay process is typically driven by the “minions” as they inevitably fall into five predictable categories:

  1. The Follower  – They tend towards the center of power and generally go along with the leader.
  2. The Lone Loon – This typically male minion ardently believes every word he utters is divinely inspired and, thus, he should be revered and adored above all others. The love to single-handedly take meetings directly into the dumpster.
  3. The Wannabes – These are the folks who, though they didn’t run for leader because they lack that skill, become completely convinced they should be the one in charge and they work to undermine the leader at every turn.
  4. The Why-Did-I-Runner – These candidates had no clue about all the hard work involved, so they simply show up (sometimes) and rarely say or add anything material as they pray for their term to come a quick and merciful end.
  5. The Good Ones – These rare birds give it their best, put in the required hours, and make a real effort to consider their constituents in the continuing decision-making process.

Now, add the ironic fact that, despite surviving some of the most contentious local races on the planet, these elected officials harbor some of the thinnest skins on the planet. That makes them the catalyst for the leader’s second term descending into something somewhere between merely contentious and completely careening off the rails.

I suppose I could’ve summed up that entire preamble up with the traditional “familiarity breeds contempt” aphorism, but it’s too late now! Then it’s simply a matter of rinse, lather, and repeat.

“Jeff! Why are you bringing this up now?” I’m glad you asked! As Chris works his way towards that Building A exit one last time, our current County Board is rapidly descending into that second term cat herding category.

But before his no-account “adoring throng” attacks me for being his mouthpiece one more time (What fun!), please allow me to stipulate for the record that Chairman Lauzen doesn’t always play well with others such that even he and I have had it out at times.

The truth is, whether those board members or countywide elected officials like it or not, the Chairman is the “manager,” and it’s up to them to effectively deal with him, not vice versa.

First, that sometime surly mien is far from rare when it comes to board leaders, and second, the best baseball managers – Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, Leo Durocher and the great Billy Martin – consistently won because they were of the demanding sort. Much as it is with a MLB roster, the Chairman has to contend with 24 disparate board voices and, as Leo the Lip once accurately noted, “Nice guys finish last!”

Flaunting fear is not option because the 2’s and 3’s (see above list) will eat you for breakfast and spit you out for lunch.

Building A

And it’s two recent board rebellions that incited me into maintaining that this governmental gaggle really needs to get over themselves and consider growing up. Not that this abundantly constructive criticism will make much of a difference, mind you!

The first attempted coup, or the Kane Mutiny as I like to call it, involved the entire Board revolting –  and “they certainly are revolting ” to quote another great philosopher name Marx – back in early July. With pitchforks and torches in hand, they insisted the Chairman disburse that $93 million in federal COVID relief funds, NOW!

Just to whet your journalistic appetite, this journalist may have played a part in that possibility, too!

The second and semi-ongoing insurrection revolves around the Chairman’s attempt to rein in the perpetually rogue and patronage heavy Kane County Workforce Development Board. The absurd written response from Board Members John Hoscheit and John Martin in that regard reminded me of the time Latka Gravas warned alter-ego Vic Ferrari not to come back or he’d “call him a name!”

It’s certainly not the kind of thing that wins friends and influences people.

Of course, no errant Kane County effort would be complete without State’s Attorney Joe McMahon making an unnecessary appearance, because we all know Joe never misses an opportunity to make things worse. It’s part of his vast charm.

But because brevity isn’t my bailiwick and I have other things to do (hard to believe, right?), you’re gonna have to wait till Wednesday to read the thrilling final conclusion to this fascinating tale. Same Bat time, same Bat channel!

I can hardly wait!