Quick Hits – On being a Kane County major crime victim

For those of you who didn’t see yesterday’s personal Facebook post, Sue Sarkauskus did a good job explaining the background of my pickup truck firebombing as well as yesterday’s court proceedings in which the adult offender was sentenced. You can read her report right here.

Since I chose not to be in court yesterday, the following is an email I sent to Judge David Kliment and Chief Judge Susan Clancy Boles in lieu of proving what would’ve been a victim impact statement that would’ve been summarily ignored.

This is a cautionary tale, because if this is what happens to a major Kane County crime victim with a voice, I can only imagine what transpires for all you regular folks. So, when I say there’s no justice in the 16th Circuit, I speak from observational and personal experience.

castelvecchi mugshot

Dominic Castelvecchi – arsonist

Your Honor,

I wasn’t in court yesterday for the Castelvecchi plea and sentencing because:

1. I was warned by KCSAO insiders that if I said what I really wanted to say, you’d quickly find me in contempt and I’m convinced they were right.

2. Unlike the two juveniles involved, Mr. Castelvecchi is a lost cause who will be back in your courtroom before too long. He’s still drinking, by the way. And when I make that statement, please remember that I’m a well-regarded Kane County investigative journalist. Of course, considering the state of things, that’s like saying I’m the best judge in the 16th Circuit.

3. Given the abject bullshit I’ve had to put up with from Prosecutor Alex Bederka, I probably would’ve said something about him that would’ve made point number 1 even worse.

So I’ll have my say here and on my popular blog.

Prosecutor Bederka failed to follow the victim’s rights checklist every single step of the way. All I ever received from him was a form letter three days before the hearing stating that there might be a guilty plea on the 19th. To that end, going down the victim’s rights form checklist:

1. Aside from Victim’s Rights Advocate, Judy Bland, I was never treated with fairness, respect or dignity throughout this entire adult offender prosecution process. In fact, it’s been just the opposite. And your bailiff referring to me as a “stupid motherfucker” under his breath during the only hearing I attended, was the icing on the cake, too. Yes, as a journalist, I’ve learned to read lips, although anyone who’s ever watched a sporting event can discern those epithets without much effort.

2. I don’t consider a three-day notice as “timely notification of all court proceedings.”

3. Bederka regularly refused to respond to emails and phone calls. And when he did respond – about 50 percent of the time – it was typically two weeks late and he was generally abusive in those responses. To be fair, I happily returned that favor at one point.

4. Timely disposition? Over a year-and-a-half later this case is adjudicated? Right! That was nothing but a ploy by defense attorney David Camic to get this worthless kid working and in school so you’d go easy on him, which is exactly what you did. I thought you were smarter than that, your honor.

5. Reasonably protected? The bail judge and clerk didn’t even bother to check off the “don’t contact the victim” and “no alcohol” boxes on the form. And the vandalism and harassment by his friends continues. Please see the attached video. I have many more videos, but the files are too big so send via email.

6. Per number 5, my family’s safety has never been considered at any point in our journey through the system as victims, and it’s still not being considered. He gets to serve just fifteen days with good behavior? Yep! That’s justice.

7. I’ll never see a dime of restitution from this kid. Did I say he’s still drinking? I still have Mr. Castelvechhi’s post-arrest tweet stating, “I am the liquor.”  It’s exactly the kind of individual he is.

8. I was never provided the details of the plea agreement beforehand and Mr. Bederka never provided an opportunity for me to have input as the victim’s rights agreement clearly stipulates. The only reason Bederka suddenly reached out to me two days in a row (10/18 and 10/19) is he’s seen the effect my journalistic efforts can have on a public official’s career. Before that, he never reached out to me one day in a row.

9. This plea agreement is the kind of abject bullshit that doesn’t come close to justice for me or my family. Did I say the seven-year harassment by Mr. Castelvecchi’s friends continues? It could be him in that video, your honor. Perhaps you might want to order a voice analysis. This has been an utter farce in which, you sir, are a willing partner. I’ve covered all sorts of court cases over the past 11 years, so I know the drill.

Lest you think I’m just being a dick, please ask Judge Parkhurst, prosecutor Lark Cowart and defense attorney Gary Johnson about my victim impact statements regarding the two juvenile offenders. Those kids, one of whom I coached in soccer for 3 years, are retrievable. Not only did I say as much in court, but I’ve been keeping tabs on both of them and even offered to speak on behalf of the one who was just arrested in Indiana for drinking – again. His parents hold me in the highest regard.

As far as your Bailiff goes, even as a journalist, I hate being late to morning court calls. It’s disrespectful. But on that spring day, the line to get through security was out the door and, as usual, one of the Judicial Center elevators wasn’t working and the line for the other one was down the hall. So I ran up the stairs to get to your courtroom and started taking off my coat and hat ASAP. But before I could completely remove my hat, your bailiff began to berate at length for not doing it quickly enough. When I responded “I am removing my hat,” he called a “stupid motherfucker” under his breath as he walked away. I’ve since learned that kind of thing is his specialty.

So, given your short temper as described, and your bailiff’s surly demeanor, I decided not to attend further court hearings because I wouldn’t take that kind of abuse a second time. And if I spoke up, I would’ve suffered the consequences, not the bailiff. It’s so much fun being a victim in the 16th Circuit.

So no! I do not agree with this plea bargain, to which I had no input, in any way shape or form.


Susan Clancy Boles

Fifteen days when he could’ve received 15 years? And then he gets to serve his jail term on his terms? That certainly wouldn’t have happened if the defendant were black or Hispanic – a point I’ll be making going forward.

That pickup truck was parked under my and my younger son’s bedroom windows. Had I not gotten up so quickly and put the fire out with a garden hose, the gas tank could’ve gone off killing both of us. My only solace is, like I said, Mr. Castelvecchi will offend again, and he will be back in jail again. A felony conviction is no small matter either.

In conclusion, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my former friend Joe McMahon. Did you know I advised him – in writing – on how to handle Chairman Lauzen during that difficult time with him where they were essentially threatening to sue each other?

I’m even more disappointed in Mr. Bederka. I understand his mother was murdered in a truly horrific fashion when he was just 18, but even that kind of loss doesn’t entitle you to treat people like shit for the rest of your life. I can go into far more specific detail and provide emails in that regard at your request.

And I’m disappointed in you sir! You’re clearly not a very good judge on a number of levels, but compared to some of the others, I suppose… I would rather go through the Kane County justice system as a felony defendant than as a victim. And doesn’t that say it all, your honor?

Oh! And since Chief Judges Boles’ response to a previous email regarding this lack of justice was to block me from the entire KCSAO and 16th Circuit email servers, I’ll send this via another email address and snail mail, as well.

Jeff Ward


Quick Hits – October 18, 2017

Not all of ‘em are scurrilous

Illinois politicians, that is.

I know, I know! On days we don’t measure up we make ourselves feel better by cursing our elected public servants for being a number of evolutionary steps below pond scum. But the truth is, in their single-minded crusade to get Internet clicks, the papers only cover those politicians who’ve disappointed us.

But if you take the time to think about it, the State of Illinois has played or plays host to some truly exemplary public servants. In my adult lifetime, that list would include:

·         Jim Edgar

·         Judy Baar Topinka

·         Dan Rutherford

·         Kirk Dillard

·         Peter Fitzgerald

·         Michael Frerichs

·         Susana Mendoza

·         And, of course Jesse White

Jesse White 2Not only did Mr. White put the kind of fear of God into those local DMVs that forced them to vastly improve, but his 2007 graduated driver’s license program cut teenage driving fatalities by 50 percent! To wit, 155 16 to 19 year-old drivers perished in 2007 while just 76 died in 2016.

Granted, one teen driving death is one too many, but anytime you cut problem deaths by 50 percent, you’re doing alright!

So, despite the prospect of exposing my naked head, my hat’s off to our Secretary of State for doing what can only be described as an excellent job.


More of the same

As we predicted, the Tribune Company, or Tronc as they’re now known (someone had to be drunk), just announced a new round of mostly editorial layoffs. And you need look no further than Sunday’s paper for the answer to this painfully slow bleed out death.


The ads that WERE NOT in that paper include:

·         Best Buy

·         Lowes

·         Menards

·         Kohls

·         Home Depot

·         Meijer

·         Office Depot

·         Carsons

·         J. C. Penney

·         Gamestop

With Net advertisements bringing in just 5 to 10 percent of their print counterparts’ revenue, this ain’t gonna be the last round of layoffs, either.

And yet, mired in the midst of the Einsteinian definition of insanity, those Tronc folks keep doing the same thing in the flagrantly false hope of soliciting a different result. There must be no bathroom mirrors in the Tribune Tower.


Wrong again!

Given the time, I could do a separate blog that simply corrects all the stories that the Daily Herald gets completely wrong.

For example, today’s DH covered County Board member Drew Frasz asking for a zoning variance extension that would allow him to continue to store excavating equipment on the acreage attached to his just-west-of-Geneva home.

daily herald

First, this wasn’t a story worth the ink, and second, they got almost everything wrong.

They claimed “a neighbor” ratted Frasz out for violating the zoning ordinance when it was actually one of the local labor unions that snitched.

Then their addled “news team” reported that an “organization funded by local contractors” showed up at the Kane County Development Committee meeting to oppose Frasz’ request.

We real journalists call “organizations funded by local contractors” unions!

As it so happens, Frasz and the unions have been battling each other since time immemorial, and the reporter who wrote this “story” damn well knows that.

Meanwhile, board member Brian Dahl, the Director of Membership Services for Aurora Painters District Council No. 30, voted in favor of the extension which conclusively proves the DH is now officially a supermarket tabloid – that doesn’t sell very well.

Mike Brown and John Lampinen, you must be so proud!


Thank you!

To all the readers who’ve come forward with Kane County Judicial Center stories. I’ve been able to confirm every single one.

Considering I’m generally just one guy providing this service at no charge, I truly appreciate all the extra eyes and ears. There will be a lot more to come on this subject!


Is there an app for that?

Oh my bleepin’ lord! Apparently we need an app that spellchecks retail store signs.

Walgreen's Sign

C’mon people! Learn how to spell!


Coming up!

In the words of the great Sir Paul McCartney.

1. As soon as I dot a few i’s and cross a few t’s, next week, the First Ward will explain the connection between the St. Charles father who shot his wife and murdered his two daughters and the suicide of a prominent Kane County attorney.

There’s been a lot of speculation and judgement cast on this story, and with three separate sources in hand, it’s time to clear it up.

2. Meanwhile, Judge John Dalton is back to his old habit of making it up as he goes along. The long awaited part two of that column and news of my anti-retention campaign will be forthcoming within the next couple of weeks.

3. My journey through the Kane County justice system as a major crime victim will come to an end tomorrow morning – without me – because I refuse to participate in this kind of abject farce. But rest assured, though I generally don’t like fighting my own battles in print, we will be talking about just how much it sucks to be victim of a class X felony in Kane County.

Quick Hits – All my judicial center children continued!

When we last left off September 8, I was decrying the fact that, with justice so difficult to come by in Kane County, the exceptionally incestuous nature of our Judicial Center makes balancing those blind scales a much more perilous proposition.

The very point of that piece was to explain how the extracurricular affairs that go on throughout that building lead to all sorts of problems, not the least of which is having one of them end badly. So, since I’m nothing if not magnanimous, I gave those judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors 30 days to clean up their act or I’d do it for them.

You can’t say I didn’t warn ‘em!

Shortly after that, a number of sources reached out to tell me that Kane County Public Defender, Kelli Childress – the head honcho – is currently dating the former Rak murder trial jury foreman. And this news comes after she set Daniel Rak up to stay at her previous boyfriend’s estate in Wayne after the trial.


To briefly fill in the blanks, Daniel Rak, 31 of Burlington, was acquitted of first degree murder charges in the death of his father after a week-long trial in July. The younger Rak was convicted of the lesser aggravated domestic violence charge for which he was sentenced to time served and probation.

One of the more fascinating aspects of that case was, Childress and her team put on such a great defense the jury deliberated just three hours before rendering a verdict. Given the State’s Attorney’s vast overreach and the fact that I observed most of the trial, I’m convinced that’s actually the case.

Though I generally don’t give a flying bleep about anyone’s dating habits, for those folks who weren’t in that courtroom, the revelation that Childress has been “seeing” the Rak jury foreman calls the entire proceeding into question.

Think about it? How do you prove exactly when the relationship started? If they were “dating” before and/or during the actual trial, that’s what we call a serious breach of ethics. But even if this relationship started after the verdict, the moral and ethical ramifications are almost as bad:

1. Does any prosecutor, defense attorney or public defender want to develop a reputation as someone who dates jurors? That would become an immense distraction going forward as the opposition will likely bring the next judge into it and use that knowledge to throw our amorous attorney off their game.

2. When you’re in a position that requires calling out the KCSAO and judiciary for their moral lapses (the KCSAO obtaining privileged Rak emails, for example), you really need to be somewhat clean yourself or it’s that much easier to dismiss those arguments.

3. By breaking this blatantly obvious ethical boundary, it calls into question an attorney’s capacity to stick to the standard in regard to any aspect of the legal process.

4. What happens when this kind of ill-advised relationship ends badly? The jilted former juror could take it public with all sorts of interesting allegations.

This is exactly why there should NEVER be any extracurricular relationships going on in those buildings at Route 38 and Randall Road. They might just give a whole new meaning to the phrase “getting fucked.”

With this knowledge, were I prosecutor Alex Bederka, I’d march right back into Judge D. J. Tegeler’s courtroom and demand a new trial. Because even if this romance began after the verdict, the appearance of impropriety is always worse than any perceived malfeasance, and the courts take a very dim view of this kind of thing.

Look, I understand that the heart wants what the heart wants, but there’s a very simple solution to this kind of conundrum. Much like King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to be with Wallace Simpson, Childress could resign her position to be with this former juror.

As previously stipulated, some jobs come with implicit limitations that one automatically accepts when hired. Though here, given her exceedingly poor judgement, Childress really oughtta consider the resignation option, sooner rather than later.

Make no mistake, as is always the rule at TheFirstWard.net, I provided Childress ample opportunity to respond, but none was forthcoming.

Meanwhile, this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to those Kane County Judicial Center folks who, because they enforce our laws and standards, believe they’re above them.

There is much more to come.

Quick Hits – October 13, 2017

When the Cubs break a curse…

…they really break a curse!

So, the boys in blue are headed to LA while the Nationals still haven’t managed to break their playoff curse, which pretty much consists of manager Dusty Baker’s mere presence. Though, Joe Maddon certainly ain’t no prize, either. He may well be the most overrated manager in the history of the game.

Cubs beat Washington

But despite his downright daffy in-game decisions, it would seem our illustrious Binny’s pitchman has been the beneficiary of some serious divine intervention. Either the Big Guy has suddenly realized He had to atone for 108 years of futility, or perhaps Harry Caray finally has His ear. Whatever it is, I’m not gonna bitch about it cause I get to watch baseball a little while longer.

And the fact that the Cubs’ continued playoff success annoys the absolute shit out of White Sox fans is a really nice bonus!

Sure! You could chalk last night’s game up to a statistical anomaly for the ages, but that’s not nearly the first 2017 contest in which the Cubs pulled off the kind of implausible comeback that leaves you scratching your head. C’mon! Those lovable losers are supposed to capitulate when challenged, not take advantage of dropped third strikes, catcher’s interference and eminently cheap singles.

As is so often the case, the teams that had to struggle to make it to the playoffs tend to beat those that breezed through the regular season. So, it’s gonna be the Cub and Yankees in the World Series with the Cubs taking game seven at Wrigley Field.

You heard it here first!


The reports of Michael Madigan’s retirement are greatly exaggerated

In yet another fit of I-can’t-govern-on-my-best-day pique, Bruce Rauner just casually tossed $4.5 million into the State Republican coffers, to go towards, as he put it, “the Madigan retirement plan.”

Yep! That’ll certainly help the Springfield situation!

First, the Guv could put $40 million towards sending The Speaker packing and it wouldn’t cause Mike to lose a nanosecond’s sleep. That 22nd District is as close to a Democratic Machine sure thing as there is.

Rauner Madigan

And as we’ve discussed before, the second a Republican candidate rears their ugly head, Madigan’s people will primary them with one, or perhaps two last-minute candidates. If they manage to make it through to the general, an Independent spoiler will mysteriously appear to split the upstart vote.

Second! As I’ve consistently repeated, the only way you can beat The Speaker is to develop the kind of electoral ground game that can actually compete with his crack statewide team. Lip service and petty cash aren’t about do the trick.

But no! Conservatives are so impatient and immature they always want their cookie NOW! Never mind the all-too-obvious fact that their ultra-ideological tactics almost always turn around and backfire on their politically naïve butts.

So, this petty, stupid, unnecessary and inconsequential gesture will only make it that much harder to get anything done. When challenged as to the governor’s competency, Gilberts’ Mayor Rick Zirk recently rationalized that, at least Rauner is better that Quinn.

I don’t think so!


The DH writes about not writing about something

First, the Daily Herald wrote about nothing, a journalist effort I wholeheartedly endorsed because it was much better than when their reporters actually wrote about something.

But now, perhaps in an effort to top that effort, the DH wrote an editorial regarding the fact that they didn’t write about something. Go ahead! Please take a minute or two to truly take that possibility in.

Yep! That crack editorial team took the time to tell us they wouldn’t write about the Las Vegas shooter in an editorial about the Las Vegas shooter.

Daily Herald Building

Now, if this were some sort of David Lynch-esque or Jean Paul Sartre-ian existential commentary on the current state of journalism, the American public’s general ADHD, or a Zen meditation on whether you can un-ring a bell, it would be a rather intriguing notion. After all, it does have that whole chicken or egg thing going for it.

Perhaps, in the words of that great philosopher, Patton Oswalt, it was a hippie-like attempt to “blow the readers’ minds.” I’d be good with that possibility, too.

Then I thought it might be a Swift-esque attempt at satirical humor, but I quickly dismissed that thought because those editors don’t begin to understand satire and nobody’s funny at Paddock Publications. Well…at least not on purpose.

Regardless of their reasoning, I kinda like it. Who’d a thunk you could write something about not writing about that something.

So, since I’m nothing if not supportive of my journalistic brothers and sisters, may I humbly suggest that, as an encore, the Daily Herald could publish an utterly blank newspaper at least once a week. I’m talking just their masthead and lots of virgin newsprint.

Not only would that top writing about nothing, but it would put writing about something that you’re not writing about to shame.

Quick Hits – October 11, 2017

No World Cup for you!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! As long as we have the current youth club soccer culture, the United States will NEVER win a world cup. Now we’re not even qualifying!

Please tell me how, on God’s bleepin’ green earth, a country of 323 million that spends billions a year on soccer to make it the most popular youth sport, can’t play to a draw with Trinidad-Tobago, a country that doesn’t quite match up to San Antonio, Texas?

Oh! They’ll blame Jurgen Klinsmann, Bruce Arena and the national program itself, but they’re only symptoms and not the disease. The real malignancy is, despite 44 years of U.S. youth soccer, we’ve only managed to develop one world-class male player – Christian Pulisic – and he just arrived on the scene.

US Out

Please don’t give me any crap about U.S. goalkeepers being world class, either, because they rely on sheer athleticism to succeed, not soccer skills. But I digress!

Boys club soccer is all about preying on parents’ dreams and winning games to the exclusion of everything else. If cheating puts you in that position, then so be it! I coached youth soccer for four long years and it has absolutely nothing to do with player development.

Zero, zip, zilch, nada, nil, bupkis, etc.

If a trainer dares to offer the kind of honest travel player assessment that might risk an angry parent or those yearly fees, they will be demoted or fired. And the volunteer coaches are supposed to placate parents at all costs to the detriment of those players who actually have some talent.

So what you end up with real head cases like Landon Donovan who have to go to a psychologist to figure out why they can’t seem to score goals.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women’s soccer team typically makes it to the World Cup finals because their youth clubs don’t put the same onus on winning. Player development is their first priority, just ask Mia Hamm.

Put mores simply, until our boys club soccer leagues start putting less emphasis on money and winning, and more emphasis on telling the truth and producing world class players, the U.S. Men’s National Team will always be an also-ran.


She gone!

After serving just 88 days, Rauner chief of staff Kristina Rasmussen is out! That’s gotta be some sort of record. Even I lasted longer at the Kane County Clerk’s office. It would seem our governor and president are embroiled in a race to see how many staffers they can fire in four short years.


But what really frosts my cookies is, his conservative enablers, who’ve cut him loose since he signed HB 40, believe they bear no blame for helping to put the wrong man there in the first place.

That means, considering that whole doomed to repeat history thing, Dan Proft and his ideologically blinded rabble will do their damndest to come up with the next overly conservative and utterly unable to govern candidate to replace him.

And then they’ll blame The Speaker for their own shortsightedness and general stupidity. The more things change in Illinois…



Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller recently wrote that Governor Rauner “needs to regain credibility.” That would imply that he actually had it at some point.


He ain’t runnin’

Governor Rauner, that is. Remember, you heard it first here on Quick Hits October 2 and, considering his administration’s inexorable self-inflicted death spiral, I’m more convinced than ever my sources were right!


But he is running

Joe McMahon, that is – for attorney general.

When folks first noticed he was floating signature sheets, I thought it was nothing more than an electoral flight of fancy. But upon further review, my sources tell me he really is gonna give it a shot.

C’mon! I stand a better chance of getting elected pope!


Though he’s not the first elected official to fall prey to this wrapped-up-in-the-choir mindset, this is exactly what happens when you surround yourself with folks who, in an effort to remain “insiders,” extoll your virtue at every turn.

You actually start believing them.

So a statewide campaign will be his first contested election? Much like the proverbial train wreck, it oughtta be a lot of fun to watch.


Quick Hits – October 9, 2017

Viva Cristoforo Columbo!

I’m probably going to lose my official social liberal credentials for this, but that’s the way the meatball bounces.

Look! If you want to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on this fine October morning then, by all means, have at it. It’s an eminently worthy cause! But despite all the possible implications, I’ll be hoisting a Peroni to the memory of a man who took a chance; who bucked conventional wisdom; and who was the physical embodiment of the word “discovery.”

Columbus 2

Was Christopher Columbus a dick? Yep! But so am I. And if we summarily discount all of our heroes for that inevitable tragic flaw, then we ain’t gonna have any heroes left. Celebrating one aspect of someone’s life isn’t a de facto endorsement for some of the other stupid shit they pulled.

“Columbus, didn’t even discover America,” you say? To quote that great philosopher Ralph Kramden, it’s “a mere bag of shells.” Oh! And those indigenous people were pretty good about wiping themselves and each other out, too.

The “meeting” between Native Americans and Europeans was bound to happen, and even if it was all rose petals, puppies and unicorns, those indigenous folks would’ve been virtually wiped out by diseases that nobody understood and Native Americans had developed no immunity to.

Though I frequently wonder how far we’ve really come, applying today’s standards to a 16th Century commercial and colonial endeavor is a patently unfair proposition. This was about 100 years before the time the Thirty Years War would wipe out 8 million Europeans and devastate large swaths of the continent.

So, while he was far from perfect, I’m still willing to doff my Cubs cap to the man who made the most out of a minor navigational error.

Sometimes liberals really suck. Here’s to the spirit of exploration! Viva Cristoforo Columbo!


The good!

As I crossed the two-mile mark during my morning run, I saw that someone had inserted a bench along my favorite stretch of farmland path, right behind the Geneva community gardens just west of Peck Road.


Since there’s no memorial plaque and it’s anchored with 4 by 4s and not concrete, I’m guessing some enterprising individual simply considered that adding a restful touch was the right thing to do. And I wholeheartedly agree!

Thank you anonymous bench putter!


The bad

If you ask the Geneva Police for help with anything of consequence like – I don’t know – your pickup truck being firebombed in your driveway or vandals regularly targeting your home, they’ll swiftly lament a chronic lack of manpower that makes it impossible for them to do anything meaningful about it.

But, as I frequently find on those morning runs, that dearth of officers is no barrier to the kind of “gotcha” speed enforcement that gives all police departments a bad name.

GPD Speed Enforcement

At least once a week, one of Geneva’s “finest” will be sitting in the entrance to the Union Pacific staging area on Keslinger Road just east of Peck Road. The reason they choose that cherry picking spot is because it’s downhill and around a curve which gives ‘em a much better shot at issuing a citation.

The thing is, unless a former First Baptist Church Sunday service is getting out, there are absolutely no accidents along that stretch of road. So, the only reason the GPD “patrols” it is because it’s easy money and it doesn’t take much effort.


And the ugly

As we discussed in a previous Quick Hits edition, bumblebee hives tend to last just two to three months. When the original queen dies, the new ones take off with their retainer of worker bees to find a new place to ply their pollination practice.


To wit, the bumblebees that graced our backyard all summer suddenly took off for parts unknown, and now we’re besieged with the kind of bitchy fall wasps and yellow jackets that dare you to bleepin’ look at ‘em sideways.

What I’m saying is, all you Elgin folks who insist on freaking out about backyard bees should chill. As long as our bumblebee protectors were on duty, backyard life was great. In fact, it was the first time since 2005 my wife’s pool and deck didn’t rack up at least one wasp’s nest.

I don’t care what Geneva says! Next year, I’m putting a beehive right behind the pool, but let’s just keep that between you and me.


A way with words

“Rascal Flatts targets S. Barrington” the Daily Herald masthead blared. I don’t know about you, but even I’d be circumspect about pairing the word “target” with any popular Country and Western singer these days.

Ya really gotta love the tone deaf folks at the DH.

Quick Hits – October 6, 2017

Whoa! I got so involved with LSAT practice questions I almost forgot to put this Quick Hits edition up. But here is it!


I wuz wrong!

About the U-46 charter school appeal denial being a slam dunk! And I really don’t like being wrong. Sure, I said Donald Trump would never become president, but I usually get the local stuff right – unless I miss a major variable, that is.

In this case, I firmly believe I missed a matter of pure unadulterated political clout. With the ideologues and all the partisan bickering that currently dominates the Illinois political process, you don’t get to see clout in action nearly as much these days. That’s not an excuse, it’s simply an explanation for my mistake.


Oh! For reference purposes, The Speaker is way beyond clout. What he does is called ruling with an iron fist.

No! Clout is having the kind of relationships that come from carrying the party’s water long enough that you can persuade five out of eight charter school commissioners to overturn that original U-46 School Board vote. And trust me, that’s exactly what happened here, because when you consider:

1. The charter group’s financial plan has more holes in it than our proposed border wall. The commission as much as said they don’t have faith in their fiscal flight of fancy, but they wanted to give ‘em a shot anyway.

2. Ditto on the facility planning. The charter folks said they were unimpressed, but it didn’t stop them from approving the school over U-46’s objection.

3. The Elgin charter group resorted to the kind of backpack bribery and unfortunate propaganda that typically turns a governing board against you. But it certainly didn’t matter here.

So someone knew someone who was owed or promised a favor, times five, it’s that simple.

And please! When I use the word “clout,” it never applies to the likes of former State Senator Mike Noland and his lovely wife, U-46 School Board member Veronica Noland. Veronica could’ve had clout, but her fascinating husband has actually created a clout deficit.

Yes! He has a small but loyal posse, but everything they touch turns into an unmitigated political disaster. So it had to be someone else.

After speaking with a number of sources, I discovered the Steffen family – as in Elgin City Councilman John Steffen and his wife Kerry Kelly, who heads the EMSA group – have deep roots in the Illinois Democratic Party.

And though I have no specific proof to support this clout claim, it’s the only thing that would explain the charter commission’s schizophrenic appeal ruling.

The problem with using clout is, it’s almost always a double-edge sword. The clouters have to either hope no one’s looking, or they have pull their plan off in such a competent way that ijt leaves their doubters scratching their collective heads.

It’s not that I want the Elgin Math and Science Academy to fail, it’s just that I don’t see how it’s going to succeed. And when it does fail, plenty of people are poised to pounce, and when they do, it’s not gonna be pretty.

All I can say is, this will be fascinating going forward.


But I wuz right about this one!

So, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, a man who never left his heart in Kane County, is gearing up for an Attorney General run.

For the past six months I’ve been saying that Joe’s been using his appointed position to land a better gig and he’s become an absentee boss as a result. First, he aimed for that Northern Illinois federal prosecutor position, and when that failed, he took on the Laquan McDonald case to boost his Illinois profile.

Now, with current Attorney General Lisa Madigan “retiring,” Joe seems to think he can land that lofty statewide gig. But I couldn’t disagree more for the following reasons:

1. He’s never had to win even a contested countywide election, much less a massive statewide effort. And trust me, he’s not prepared for that kind of political long haul. Had he won something as small as an at-large Elgin city council race, I might have more faith.

2. Presumptive GOP attorney general nominee Erika Harold has a massive campaigning and ground game head start and, as a rare black Republican female candidate, the Illinois regulars have wholeheartedly embraced her.

3. Ms. Harold is a charismatic former Miss America and, like me, Joe McMahon is just another old bald white guy. Do I need to explain that any further?

4. McMahon has absolutely no name recognition outside of Kane County and it will be very difficult to overcome that deficit in five short primary months.

5. The Democrats are not about to concede that critical seat to the other party. Even if McMahon managed to somehow squeak through the primary, the Madigan Machine would eat him for lunch and spit him out before dinner.

And the kick in the head is, if he does run, considering the rigors of a statewide campaign, he’ll be in that Route 38 and Peck Road office even less than he already is now.

My two consistent McMahon contentions have been that he’s totally tone deaf and political naiveté is his particular specialty. The fact he’s actually considering this run is all the evidence we need.

But as more than one Kane Countywide elected official told me, “Please don’t dissuade him from running, we’d like to see him preoccupied with something other than us.”


Stop covering him already!

With no clear motive for the senseless slaughter of 59 concert goers, it would appear that our Las Vegas shooter’s sole purpose was to go out in a blaze of glory. I know he had an escape plan, but even if he made it out of that hotel, he would’ve been caught in very short order.

The problem, as I see it, is, the press is more than willing to carry out his “I want to go down in history” final wish. To be fair, the Daily Herald ain’t nearly the only one to offer this this kind of perpetual coverage, but they are one of the worst.

Of course, the papers had to cover the incident itself, but since that story, it’s been an interview with any local person connected to the shooting in any way, interviews with family members of the dead or injured, tracing the shooters every move, speculating on what survivors will have to endure, speculating as to whether it could’ve occurred here, and so on and so on.

The only thing this eminently morbid slow-drip coverage does is give the next on-the-fence mass shooter the notion that, he too, can get the media equivalent of 72 virgins upon the event of his untimely death.

Meanwhile, the NFL and Major League Baseball got it right. They were dead on when they told their broadcast teams not to show any video of anyone drunk or stupid enough to run onto the field during a game. And I can’t remember the last time I saw someone pull that stupid stunt.

I’m not saying this tragedy is the media’s fault or that they can prevent the next mass shooting.  But I am saying that covering this sad story ad nauseam makes it a much more appealing prospect to the next guy with 20 assault rifles and a death wish.