The First Ward Report – Police reform or just political pandering? – Part 2

Considering how I rambled on for over 900 words in Part 1, for brevity’s sake, if you need to fill in the background blanks, please refer to Monday’s piece.

Our premise going forward is the police reforms primarily promoted by Elgin Alderpersons Corey Dixon and Tish Powell at last week’s City Council meeting are more about pandering to their public than they are about any real change.

Again, I’m all for reasonable, well-considered, and incremental police reform, but reform simply for reform’s or political expediency’s sake always makes matters worse – much worse. It’s in that very vein that I have three major issues with this pointless post George Floyd death push.

And the first one is, if this truly isn’t a case of preaching to the progressive choir, then why now? Dixon, Powell, and their liberal council compatriots have had the votes to start this process for the last three years, but they’ve simply been sitting on their hands.

Powell

Elgin City Councilwoman Tish Powell

Pandering and political expediency are particularly perilous when the council reaction is clearly of the knee-jerk variety. We’ve already discussed how an Elgin Police Department residency requirement can backfire on a number of levels, and an astute reader added,

Many teachers, as well as police officers, do not wish to live and socialize in the city in which they work. It can be very uncomfortable to see one of your professional contacts in a social setting.

 

Not to mention the education and law enforcement debate has risen to a fever pitch in these hyper partisan times. Put more simply, does Elgin want to severely limit their police officer recruitment pool in this way?

So, yes! I question Dixon’s and Powell’s timing. If they were serious about police reform, it would’ve already be happening.

My second issue is the massive hypocrisy of Dixon’s furious but doomed-to-fail attempts to serve two masters. I may not be a Christian, but the Bible was dead on in this regard:

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

What Corey fails to mention in his frequent self-righteous dais-borne declarations is, despite his abject lack of the basic qualifications, he landed a plum 75 grand plus benefits patronage position in the Kane County Sheriff’s Office. To be fair, I’ve heard he’s doing a good job, but that doesn’t begin to mitigate the fact he never should’ve been hired in the first place.

So, while the Councilman regularly rails against the EPD, he’s been conspicuously silent about the office for which he toils. This is a perfect example of why the two-master dynamic is eternally flawed, and Dixon needs to choose between his job and his political aspiration. He clearly can’t succeed at both.

When I think of real police reform, the first possibility that comes to mind is eliminating those BS asset forfeiture laws. Sheriff Ron Hain certainly hasn’t abused that kind of institutionalized theft, but his predecessor did. So, where’s Corey? Ron Hain won’t always be our sheriff.

Put more simply, will Dixon push the Sheriff’s Office to adopt the same “reforms” he’s thrusting upon Elgin, because any other possibility would be beyond disingenuous.

To make matters much worse, Dixon’s insistence on needlessly pummeling the EPD has cost the Sheriff all the support he once had from those officers, not to mention soliciting a significant morale loss among Hain’s own deputies.

But while Dixon loves to set the bad example, if you look up the word “hypocrisy” in the venerable Oxford Dictionary, you’ll see Tish Powell’s picture right next to it.

While Dixon manages to pay some lip service to the EPD’s basic merit, Powell makes no such pretense. As long as whatever she’s been thinking in the last five minutes plays to her pious posse, it will inevitably exist her mouth unfiltered.

And that’s a particularly egregious propensity when you consider that Powell oughtta show some modicum of gratitude to a department that went out of their way to help her family out of what could’ve been a tough legal jam. It’s one that could’ve seriously damaged her political aspirations and reputation, too.

But unlike Powell, who revels in dragging her adversaries’ and their family’s names through the mud, I will avoid divulging the specific details of that case. But I do want to be abundantly clear that none of the involved sources came from within the Elgin Police Department.

In fact, when I confirmed the story with a second source and took it to my regular EPD friends, they wouldn’t say a word about it. Considering their rising animosity for the councilwoman, that’s an real journalistic rarity. So much for gratitude, right?

Now that we’ve covered these generally useless reforms and the political motivation behind them, on Friday well discuss the kind of everyday police reform that would make a real difference in minority lives.

Until then!

The First Ward Report – Police reform or just more political pandering?

From the 1966 Chicago race riots to Rodney King to Ferguson, Missouri, to George Floyd, in light of what I’ve seen during my fascinating lifetime, the fact that we, as a society, are finally taking the need for widespread police reform seriously, is particularly encouraging.

From the aforementioned circumstances right down to minorities being vastly overrepresented in predominantly white suburban municipality traffic court calls, it’s truly time to see some sort of cultural shift.

Corey Dixon 3

But those required reforms should never consist of the knee-jerk variety which inevitably create more problems than they solve. They should be reasonable, well-considered, and these new stipulations should actually serve the people they purport to serve, not the politicians promoting them.

As I’m rather fond of saying, “Do you want the change you seek, or do you just want to feel good about yourself for a while?” Given how the political pendulum always swings the other way, venturing too far in either direction only creates further chaos.

Having tackled this tough topic for years, I’m convinced that community policing is the only law enforcement dynamic that really works, and when I think of the departments that have managed to pull that kind of thing off, Elgin is always one of the first that comes to mind.

But given the timbre of these post George Floyd homicide times, it wasn’t too terribly surprising when that ‘City in the Suburbs’ city council dove directly into the deep end in the police reform regard.

It’s not that that there isn’t room for improvement. Were I an EPD officer – a terrifying thought if there ever was one – I would avoid social media like the plague – and that embargo would extend to my children. My approach to known gang members would also be quite different than the method that’s currently being applied, too.

So, let’s examine those impending reforms and the motives of the council members primarily promoting them – Corey Dixon and Tish Powell:

  1. Adding two new citizen positions to the Police and Fire Commission, one filled by a minority and the other by a woman.
  2. A residency requirement for all officers and not just the command staff.
  3. Future internal police investigation will be handled by an independent board or agency that do not include former law enforcement officers.

The wording Dixon used may be fraught with peril, but I have absolutely no problem with reform number one. There are currently three civilians on that board, and as long as they have more than a passing knowledge of law enforcement practices, adding two more couldn’t possibly hurt.

powell

Tish Powell

But when you consider that white folks make up just 41 percent of the Elgin population, I’d be careful about throwing around the word “minority.” It would be far better to say, of those five civilians, one must be black, one Hispanic, and one female.

Meanwhile, number two is a far more complicated proposition.

My original Evanston hometown has tried to implement an officer residency requirement for years, but the problem there is, few officers can afford to live in that city. That’s not an undue obstacle as it stands now, but it could become an issue as Elgin continues to make its comeback.

While you certainly want your officers to be fully invested in their city, a residency requirement ultimately limits the new recruit pool, and thus, it dilutes the available talent. Though the U-46 School District has made great strides under CEO Tony Sanders, you certainly don’t see parkway real estate development signs boasting “Elgin schools.”

My wife and I moved out of Streamwood solely because of that 90’s era school system, and I’m convinced it would be a deal breaker for many potential EPD candidates. That kind of prerequisite tends to work better in cities with a population of 300,000 or more.

This brings us to reform number three which is patently absurd. It’s nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by Dixon and Powell to rewrite history and stack the deck against Elgin police officers going forward.

So, if you don’t like the verdict rendered by three separate entities in the DeCynthia Clements case, you simply rewrite the rulebook? That’s not the way it works, and that stilted shift will inevitably lead to an equal and opposite reaction when the political pendulum swings back to the right.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m all for internal police investigations being handled by an independent board, but by definition, those bodies must contain former law enforcement officers or how would they possibly understand how to apply the correct standard?

Considering my years covering Kane County family courtrooms and my close friendships with family court judges and attorneys, it seems like I spend half my journalistic life explaining the family law process to participants who are almost always utterly overwhelmed by it.

The bottom line is, just as it is with parenting, nothing can prepare you for family court but being in family court, and sometimes even that fails. It’s no different with internal police investigations.

So, while police reforms are generally a good thing, I question the timing, the intent, and the long-term efficacy of what Dixon and Powell are suggesting.

In part two on Wednesday we’ll discuss the hypocrisy of:

  • Why a city council that’s been in power for four years suddenly chose to act now.
  • Councilman Dixon’s failure to apply the same standard to the law enforcement agency that employs him.
  • How Tish Powell can so easily dismiss a police force that provided her family with the kind of consideration we regular folks would never get to enjoy.

See you then!

The First Ward Report – Another supposed scion of social justice

In this rather semi-strange era of words speaking so much louder than actions, our own Geneva Mayor, Kevin Burns, is suddenly being promoted as the new standard bearer of all the stipulations progressives hold so sacred.

Burns

He’s hosting forums on diversity, he’s doing his damndest to bring a doomed-to-fail affordable housing into Geneva, and when it comes to your garden variety pandemics, he swiftly abandoned those Third Street merchants by marching in lockstep with burgeoning dictator J.B. Pritzker.

Why, even the Kane County Democratic Central Party financially supported his last reelection campaign against the disaster known as former Alderman Tom Simonian, which is kinda strange when you consider the Mayor perpetually purports to be a Republican.

Though, truth be told, his political affiliation fluctuates with party leanings of whomever he’s speaking to at the time. Flexibility is a good thing, isn’t it?

And the progressive bloc of the Geneva City Council laps this bovine manure up just as fast as the Mayor can spread it. Even certain Kane County Board members believe Burns should have a seat on the commission that will eventually dole out $93 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Thankfully, that won’t be happening anytime soon.

The problem I have with all that starry-eyed adulation is those errant city councilmen and blinders-on board members willfully choose to ignore the Mayor’s almost six-term track record, despite that history telling quite a different story.

To wit, when the Geneva Police Department, with its one black and one Hispanic officer, is the best example of municipal diversity, it would certainly seem to indicate that the Mayor pays only lip service to the notion of inclusiveness.

There’s never been a GPD commander, lieutenant, or sergeant with as much as a deep suntan, either, and their entire support staff is Caucasian, too.

To put the coconut frosting on that German chocolate cake, as we’ve previously covered here, attend any Geneva traffic/misdemeanor court call at the branch court on Randall Road and you’ll be beyond bewildered as to how, in a city that’s 95 percent white, those defendants are always 50 to 60 percent black, Hispanic, and Indian.

Put more simply, the GPD’s capacity to target people of color is the stuff of local legend, and trust me, they take their marching orders directly from the Mayor.

Then there’s the all-while male Geneva Fire Department which can’t claim an employee of color for the entire 25 years I’ve called this town home.

Perhaps there are one or two I’m not aware of, but I’ve never seen a minority public works employee, and my most recent research would indicate they’re even rarer than a Lea Michelle co-star who has something nice things to say about her.

There’s no diversity respite at city hall either which is even whiter than a herd of Canadians out skiing on a sunny February day. I spoke with a number of in-the-know folks and, beyond an intern or two, not a single one could remember any employee of color.

Though I know the rabble will twist this column into something utterly unintended, I may have issues with the competency and priorities of some Geneva administrators, but I have no issue with any of ‘em based on the color of their skin.

It’s just that, when you have a mayor who persistently proposes to be a proponent of all things progressive, but his track record clearly indicates otherwise, that sordid history is eminently fair game!

So, why is there such a disparity between Mayor Burns’ words and actions? Oh! That’s easy!

Much like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s overarching them in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ there are two types of Genevans. The first group is made up of folks like me, who despite a 25-year tenure, will never be admitted to the exclusive group of “real” Genevans. Those folks, like the Mayor, consist solely of people who were born here, went to school together, and never left.

Even the proposed Sterling Manor-adjacent affordable housing project is primarily based on someone Mayor Burns went to Geneva High with.

And that impenetrable clan isn’t predominantly white – it’s all white.

Since they’re the folks who consistently get the Mayor reelected, they’re the ones who get all the city jobs, with the clear implication that they’re expected to campaign for Mayor Burns every four years. In turn, he “graciously” provides those unions with absolutely everything the ask for.

Take another look at the Fire Department. There are more Lieutenants than there are rank and file firefighters. If you still doubt my assertion, then please retrieve your most recent property tax bill.

So, Mayor Burns! In the words of the great philosopher, Paul Simon, “Who do you think you’re foolin?” The new crop of absurd social justice warriors may fall for your blatant but patently futile attempts to move up the political ladder, but this journalist most certainly won’t.

The only thing progressive about this mayor is he discovered partisan pandering long before it became fashionable.

 

Addendum!

You all know just how much I love it when, immediately after a column is posted, the subject of that piece goes out of their way to prove me right. And Mayor Burns just did just that!

My fellow Genevans may have taken note of the recently posted yard signs opposing the aforementioned affordable housing project – most of which are unfortunately illegally posted on right-of-ways.

But instead of having code enforcement officers remove those errant placcards, at a time when they clearly have nothing better to do, an incensed Mayor Burns is making Geneva Police officers remove them.

I rest my case!

The First Ward Report – A brief coronavirus update!

Since the press is redoubling their pandemic panic porn efforts, I thought it would be the perfect to provide my adoring throng with a brief but pithy coronavirus update. So, let’s get right to the most recent numbers:

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases     N Tested   Prevalence  Deaths 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/27     114,306         0.9         1,111         17,179       1 in 15.4     5,083

5/28     115,833         1.3         1,527         25,993       1 in 17        5,186

5/29     117,455         1.4          1,622         21,796      1 in 13.4     5,270

5/30     118,917         1.2         1,462         25,343       1 in 17.3     5,330

5/31     120,260         1.1         1,343         21,154       1 in 15.7     5,390

6/1       121,234         0.8            974         20,014       1 in 20.5     5,412

6/2       122,848         1.3         1,614         16,432       1 in 10.1     5,525

6/3       123,830         0.7            982         24,471       1 in 25        5,621

6/4       124,759         0.7            929         22,841       1 in 24.5     5,736

6/5       125,915         0.9         1,156         18,903       1 in 16.3     5,795

6/6       126,890         0.7            975         21,115       1 in 21.6     5,864

6/7       127,757         0.6            867         20,700       1 in 23.8     5,904

6/8       128,415         0.5            658         16,099       1 in 24.4     5,924

6/9       129,212         0.6            797         20,209       1 in 25.4     6,018

6/10     129,837         0.4            625         20,820       1 in 33.3     6,095

As you can clearly see, not only is there the abject lack of any Illinois COVID-19 protest spike, but we’re looking at a consistently progressing case of herd immunity.

Facts Not Fear 3

1. Mortality rate

The Illinois mortality rate has increased from 4.4 to 4.6 percent, but that’s a temporary phenomenon. Remember! COVID-19 deaths are a two-week lagging indicator that, when combined with a consistently decreasing number of daily cases, creates an artificial bump that will flatten out when that indicator “catches up.”

2. New daily case percentage increase

This measure of the disease’s acceleration hit a rather surprising new pandemic low of 0.4 percent yesterday, which supports the WHO’s recent pronouncement that asymptomatic coronavirus “sufferers” don’t spread the disease. Given COVID-19’s seven to ten-day incubation sweet spot, the protests clearly did NOT propel the pandemic. This, of course, begs the question, why are we still cancelling all those amazing outdoor summer concerts and events when the evidence clearly comes down on the side of letting the show go on?

3. New daily cases

We don’t need t a five-day moving average to see that we’ve only had one four-figure stat in the last eight days. And that’s true despite the continued robust Illinois testing effort!

4. Prevalence

We set a new record here, too! It took a massive 33.3 test results to get just one positive result, yesterday. I saw my allergist today, and he wholeheartedly agreed the only explanation for this massive prevalence retreat is herd immunity. And herd immunity is the only eventuality that will finally put a stake in the pandemic’s heart.

5. Daily Deaths

The daily coronavirus death toll for the last six days looks like this:

59, 69, 40, 20, 94, 77

and with a steadily decreasing number of new cases, that sad statistic is only going to get better.

6. ICU beds and ventilators

Both hit new lows yesterday as well. COVID-19 occupied ICU beds decreased to 706, a 45 percent decline over the late March high, while ventilator usage dropped to 395, a 50 percent improvement over the same period.

 

So, Illinois is doing quite well! Meanwhile, please don’t buy into the bleepingly insistent recent news stories claiming we’re facing all sorts of sudden coronavirus spikes, because we’re not!

Some states have seen “high percentage” increases, but even CNN admitted it was mainly the result of increased testing, and those states’ numbers were so low at that time, there was bound to be some sort of rebound effect. Not only that, but a great deal of those new cases – and deaths – continue to come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

And how many of those “spike” cases are of the asymptomatic variety?

Is the pandemic over? Nope! Should our older citizens with preexisting conditions throw off their shelter-in-place shackles and throw caution to the wind? Nope! But for the rest of us, the news is far better than even I thought it could possibly be at this point.

We embarked upon this mathematical journey back on March 19, and the numbers have never failed us. Critical thinking truly is a rare but magnificent thing!

Stay safe!

The First Ward Report – How many minority prosecutors are there, Joe?

Of course, as is par for the course, all manner of elected officials and candidates are falling over themselves in an effort to issue the perfect post George Floyd death statement. And they should be the first ones to offer declarations calling for justice system and police reform.

Not one to be left out, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said the following in his own lengthy press release:

I, like many across Kane County and our nation, ask myself if I have contributed to the discord. Have I done my part to strengthen the fabric of America? What have I learned since 2014, the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s? We have made some progress, but we can do better.

Wow! Joe McMahon and I actually agree on something – he could do better – much better!

McMahon5

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon

Because while our newly minted and insipid social justice warriors love to lap up these proclamations, those of us who’ve battled systematic racism and bigotry all along prefer to consider an elected official’s track record instead of their various statements.

If you’re actually willing to take the time to take a closer look, the truth is Joe’s general “strengthening the fabric of America” performance leaves quite a bit to be desired. And those shortcomings start with his eminently monochromatic prosecutors.

Approximately 60 prosecutors toil in our Kane County courtrooms at any given time. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many of them are people of color? Two! That’s right! Two! The KCSAO “boasts” just one black female and one Hispanic female ASA (assistant state’s attorney).

To put that in perspective, McMahon’s office hires the children of 16th Circuit Judges with far more frequency than he employs minority prosecutors! That means every last division head is just another old white male, and while some of the first chairs are female, none of them are black or Hispanic.

Not that being Caucasian should automatically disqualify anyone from anything, but whenever any office is that white it fosters the kind of cultural tunnel vision that inevitably culminates in all sorts of racial imbalances.

With the exception of the domestic violence variety, which are driven by 911 calls and not police arrests, walk into any Kane County felony courtroom on any given day and you’ll quickly note that 60 to 70 percent of the accused are minorities. And it ain’t that white folks don’t misbehave, it’s that, with no other frame of reference, those almost all-white prosecutors tend to apply more discretion to defendants who look like they do.

Even when white folks are charged with felonies, the disparity between the plea deals they and their minority counterparts are offered is the stuff of legend. Ask any defense attorney! They’ll tell that McMahon’s office has become so biased in that regard that I’m  in the process researching those inconsistent plea offers for a future column.

“But Jeff! Joe McMahon’s on the way out. Perhaps our next State’s Attorney will make a real effort to address those blatant racial inequities.”

Oh! I don’t know about that! Republican state’s attorney nominee, Bob Spence, issued a similar “We’re all made in God’s image” George Floyd statement, but he previously told the press McMahon has done a “great job” and that he intends to “build off his work.”

And that’s after he was well aware of the systematic sexual harassment this journalist uncovered in McMahon’s office last year. So, since Joe asked us how he “could do better,” here’s a few conspicuously basic suggestions.

First, the KCSAO needs to make a sincere effort to attract, hire and retain minority prosecutors. And they need to do this because those who toil behalf of the people should fully represent those people.

Then, you mean to tell me there isn’t a single Northern Illinois minority attorney worthy of serving as a division head or first chair prosecutor? That’s kind of hard to believe.

Lastly, before he departs for the greener pastures he’s been so desperately seeking, I would encourage Mr. McMahon to appoint an independent commission of prosecutors and defense attorneys who would not only attack the minority plea deal disparity head on, but would offer a set of guidelines to prevent that persistent miscarriage of justice going forward.

So, while Joe’s George Floyd statement was one of his better efforts, as my favorite TV judge likes to quip, “You really need to come to court with more than just your flapping gums!” Put more simply, as the greatest Republican who ever lived, Abraham Lincoln, aptly noted, “People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than by what they say.”

 

The First Ward Report – Elgin! Why not puppies and sunshine?

Will someone please tell me how a satirist can possibly satirize a city council that’s so self-satirizing a satirist couldn’t possibly satirize them any more than they satirize themselves?

I’m asking because I’ve never had this problem before.

It all started with that eminently fascinating body’s unparalleled propensity to waste everyone’s time at a time when time is at a premium. And this time it was a beyond pointless climate change resolution supported by the Concerned Citizens of the Fox Valley who clearly have too much time on their hands.

met-medical-marijuana-elgin 0828 mh

Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin

So, just to be sure I have a handle on all of this! We’re still smack dab in the middle of a strange pandemic where the only possible “cure” is eliminating the economy while these city council Neros fiddle with pointless symbolic gestures as the urban world burns around them?

Not to mention the impending murder hornets.

Really? At a time when the only way 2020 could possibly top itself is by encouraging Godzilla to rise out of the Fox River, the Elgin City Council is tackling climate change? Why not pass a resolution supporting puppies, sunshine, unicorns, rainbows, and extraterrestrial aliens while they’re at it.

It would have exactly the same effect.

Only the Elgin City Council could prove Ecclesiastes 1:9 wrong. There actually is something new under the sun! And they fervently debated this patently pointless resolution, too!

Just like it is with Santa Claus, Councilman Terry Gavin declared he doesn’t believe in climate change, so there’s no need to address it. My advice to him would be to consider not believing in alcohol, particularly directly before those Wednesday night meetings.

Gavin, never a threat to MENSA, continued by claiming that, since there’s no scientific consensus on climate change, there’s no need to address it. I take that back! Perhaps he does believe in Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny, too!

But while I expect nothing less from Alderman Gavin, I expect a lot more from Councilman Toby Shaw, who, on good days, has demonstrated a reasonable IQ. May I respectfully remind the councilman that the word “conservative” is derived from “conserve,” and regardless of your pandering partisan beliefs, when it comes to this scant blue third rock from the sun, conservation is never a bad idea.

Ah! But while those two were entertaining, as is always the case, my favorite city council climate change resolution response came from Baldemar Lopez, who said, “I am standing in support of this initiative. I think we’ll take a measured course and a very deliberate course in terms of implementation.”

What the councilman wants you to forget is, he was a highly paid lobbyist for Commonwealth Edison, one of the most prolific polluters in Illinois history. They’ve gotten better of late, but that utility still relies on eminently dirty energy sources like coal on 90-degree summer days.

Apparently green money trumps green efforts, doesn’t it?

To make matters so much worse – if that’s even possible – Mayor Dave Kaptain, a man we could almost always count on to be a voice of reason, said, “I look at it as recognizing it’s an emergency. I would recommend an advisory referendum to see if the city wants to pay for it and see what the residents want to do.”

Oh! So, you want to waste even more of everyone’s time!

Dave! Please allow me to address you husband-to-husband. Trust me! I understand that, unless we want to be relegated to that spare bedroom, on occasion, we husbands actually have to listen to our wives. But the problem with this theory here is, not only does your wife’s ultra-progressive bent have an undue effect on an entire city, but some folks say her reality bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone else’s.

May I humbly suggest that, the next time she starts talking about this kind of thing, simply turn your hearing aid down. That way, you’ll stay in her good graces and the city of Elgin will be far better off for it!

Though I know the rabble will do just that, please don’t get me wrong! I put my money where my mouth is in the climate change regard. I drive no more than 3,000 miles a year, we keep the thermostat at 65 in the winter and 78 in the summer, and we buy every last sustainable grocery store product possible.

But for the Elgin City Council to debate a pointless and pandering resolution when their full and undivided attention is so desperately required elsewhere, is so far beyond the pale, that I’m not quite sure where to begin.

But I do know where it needs to end! And that’s at the ballot box.

So, rather than just bitching about a governing body that no longer represents anything other than their own self-serving political interests, I’m going to renew my call for hope and change in the City of Elgin.

Corey Dixon, Baldemar Lopez, Carol Rauschenberger, and yes, Terry Gavin, are all up for reelection next year, and they all need to go! I have to believe that, in a city of 112,000, there are four sane centrist candidates who would like to serve the City that they and I love.

And even though those fine folks would have to put some time and money into it, I’d run their campaigns at no charge.

You know where to find me!

The First Ward Report – This too, shall pass!

As we emerge from our bunkers and bomb shelters just long enough to see the boards slowly being removed from all those downtown Batavia and Geneva store windows, the singular question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s next? An asteroid strike?”

2020 certainly seems to be the advent of the Biblical End Times, doesn’t it?

But it was while considering that very topic with my favorite, and much younger, downtown Geneva business owner that I realized my 50s Baby Boom generation has endured so much more. Don’t worry! This ain’t gonna be another “I walked 20 mile to school through ten feet of snow uphill both ways” kind of declaration.

I don’t think I have that in me right now.

It’s just that there’s a certain solace in knowing that, despite our best efforts to do ourselves in, for better or worse, we’re still here! So, here’s what I told my friend.

Aurora Protest

I was too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I vividly recall all the ducking and covering under those St. Nick’s cafeteria tables while pondering how that could possibly protect me from a nuclear device.

But I’ll never forget being glued to our black and white TV as every network covered JFK’s painfully slow funeral procession. The country’s shock and awe were so palpable that it’s forever etched in my mind. And just five years later, his brother was similarly murdered.

Watching the South’s beyond violent reaction to the 1965 March to Selma march and the Civil Rights movement in general was terrifying. I still don’t understand how one human being can have that much hate in their heart.

Fear truly is a powerful thing.

I watched the 1966 Chicago race riots where the West Side was looted and burned to the ground mere miles from my south Evanston home. The always heavy-handed Mayor Daley the elder brought in the national guard to quell the violence and those neighborhoods never recovered.

Because we’re a people perpetually doomed to repeat history, it all happened again – this time on a national scale – after Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

When I was a young teenager, after four students were killed at Kent State, the increasingly virulent and violent Vietnam War protests threatened to tear this country apart. Then I stared at our color television in dismay and disbelief as protesters spat on 21-year-old returning soldiers simply for the sin of being drafted.

From 1974 to 1976, it was the Boston busing riots, and once again, Walter Cronkite was there to explain the issue in great detail. Where’s Walter when you really need him?

Just as Edith and Archie intoned on a weekly basis, the veil of nostalgia may make the 60s and 70s seem like “those were the days,” but they were the kind of tumultuous times that forged my soul and my most basic ideological foundation.

Put more simply, if you think 2020 is bad, you haven’t studied 1968.

The over-the-top response to COVID-19 has been beyond bizarre, but my generation has survived four similar pandemics. We also watched the AIDs epidemic take a devastating toll on our gay brothers throughout the 80’s and beyond.

Just like the virus, 2020 certainly seems to be a novel prospect, but when my friend inspired me to reconsider my own era, it became abundantly clear that Ecclesiastes 1:9 is dead on! There really is nothing new under the sun.

Sadly, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in six decades, it’s that humanity never fails to demonstrate a vast capacity to reach enlightenment only by being dragged through that doorway kicking and screaming the entire way. So perhaps, in that very vein, 2020 isn’t a complete catastrophe after all. Without trials and tribulations, our species tends to descend into an abject mass of weak-minded entitlement and that never turns out too well.

As for me, while my faith in individuals like my friend has grown stronger, my faith in my fellowman is irretrievably shattered. And if you find yourself in similar straits and you can’t find that place of peace within yourself, I would encourage you to abandon the false prophets and seek out those rare individuals who not only see, but live the truth.

They’re the one’s who insist that you find it within yourself – they never claim to have a monopoly on it.

There will always be predators, opportunists, those false prophets, and worse yet, the masses who self-righteously believe that ignorance, stupidity and hate are virtues. But challenging times like these also bring out the next generation of real leaders whose sole purpose will be to change the world for the better.

But if you’re not there quite yet, please remember, as I can personally attest, this too, shall pass.

The First Ward coronavirus report – Still good!

Unless there’s something new or more fascinating to report going forward, this will be the last coronavirus report for a while. That said, it will be rather fascinating to see if the riots and protests actually do lead to a second wave spike. My best guess is they won’t because it’s just too difficult to contract the disease outdoors.

In the words of those great philosophers Asia, “Only time will tell.”

Considering how the sun’s ultraviolet rays destroy it, the wind disperses it, and it’s virtually impossible to catch the coronavirus it from any surface, I cannot understand why youth sports remain on hiatus and all manner of summer events like the Kane County Fair and Bristol Renaissance Faire have been canceled.

Facts Not Fear 3

Since 2020 is insisting on asking us to “hold my beer” on a regular basis, this is EXACTLY the time we need those magnificent diversions, but baseless fear continues to reign supreme. Every time I’m convinced my faith in our “leaders” and my fellowman can’t descend further into the abyss, it does just that.

Meanwhile, the German Bundesliga Soccer League has resumed their season for almost a month now and there hasn’t been a single report of a player contracting COVID-19 as a result. If you’re too terrified to participate in a summer event, then there’s a very simple answer, don’t!

Meanwhile, let’s get back to the numbers because they’re all good!

Date   Cases   % Increase  N Cases    N Tested  Prevalence  Deaths 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5/27 114,306            0.9          1,111         17,179       1 in 15.4     5,083     

5/28 115,833            1.3          1,527         25,993       1 in 17        5,186     

5/29 117,455            1.4          1,622         21,796       1 in 13.4     5,270     

5/30 118,917            1.2          1,462         25,343       1 in 17.3     5,330     

5/31 120,260            1.1          1,343         21,154       1 in 15.7     5,390      

6/1   121,234            0.8             974         20,014       1 in 20.5     5,412       

6/2   122,848            1.3          1,614         16,432       1 in 10.1     5,525     

For reasons we’ve previously covered, I wouldn’t put too much stock in any Illinois number, but we’ve purportedly tested 934,704 residents. We’re still in third place nationally and the mortality rate, currently at 4.4 percent, will likely remain there for the duration.

And all the good news is the same good news which makes it ever better news! We’re always looking for trends, aren’t we?

To wit, we don’t need a moving average to tell us that the number of daily new COVID-19 cases is consistently dropping despite a rather consistent testing effort. Better yet, the best the new daily case percentage increase could do was a scant 1.4 percent, which means that the collapse of social distancing is not leading to any Illinois coronavirus spiking catastrophe.

Though the death toll does continue to bounce around a bit, that too, is clearly trending downward and the data point I particularly like this round is June first’s slim 22 deaths.

Date    Deaths

5/27       160

5/28       103

5/29         84

5/30         60

5/31         60

6/1           22

6/2         113

We’d have to go back to the earliest Illinois pandemic days to find a lower casualty total.

COVID-19 ICU bed usage has officially plummeted from a 1,290 April, 29 high to just 874 yesterday. Ventilator use has similarly declined to a new record low 547 on Monday.

But, I’m sure my crack statistical deputies have duly noted that, just when we thought the prevalence couldn’t retreat any further, it does! And that includes an astonishing 1 in 20.5, also on June first, when it took 20,000 tests to solicit just 974 positive results.

Again, the only possible explanation for this phenomenon is a rapidly evolving herd immunity. And herd immunity is the only thing that will finally put the oaken stake in COVID-19’s bleak heart.

So, while I’d be happy to keep issuing these reports, and I will continue tracking the data, it’s all good. The appropriate application of statistical arithmetic has never failed to tell us exactly what the disease will do next, and I applaud all of the amazing folks who’ve joined me in this fascinating critical thinking journey!

But before we move on from the coronavirus for now, two more things!

Because it’s the purview of too many pandering politicians, I’m loathe to co-opt a current event just to point a finger and say “I told you so!” So, before I offered this theory, I spoke with s slew of erudite friends, elected officials, and law enforcement officers, and only after they signed on did I decide to proceed.

We all agreed that looters are nothing more than opportunists who, like cockroaches, slither out of the dark recesses whenever social unrest shields them from the light of day. But all the other protests? Hasn’t one of our bedrock considerations been that that nothing ever happens in a vacuum?

My theory is those heavy handed and vastly overreaching government shutdowns are a “cure” that’s far worse than the pandemic. And one of the consequences of so callously destroying peoples’ – and particularly minorities’– lives and livelihoods is that it only takes a spark to set off the kind of anger we’re witnessing right now.

And the beyond tragic death of George Floyd was that spark.

While corporations are reaping billions of COVID-19 relief funds, the people who really needed that money got a paltry 1,200 bucks. And this time, the revolution is being televised.

Lastly, considering what’s happening in so many prisons and long-term care facilities, Sheriff Ron Hain and his capable staff have done a magnificent job of keeping the coronavirus out of the Kane County jail. Ron and I may fight like brothers because he can be a real pain in the ass (he’d say the same thing about me), but the Sheriff’s office truly deserves credit for pulling that kind of thing off!

Now, insisting you stay safe works on any number of levels. My application to serve on the International Space Station goes in tomorrow!

 

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

While we’ll certainly get to the terms of the plea agreement before we’re through, let’s get right to the heart of the matter. And that point is the Batavia High School student charged with possessing bomb making materials – the one who planned a “day of rage” – was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia.

And let me tell you, having worked with schizophrenics for five years in my twenties, it is one of the most terrifying diseases you could possibly imagine. COVID-19? I’d take having that bleep five times over developing schizophrenia!

Schizoprenia

It’s absolutely nothing like the multiple personality disorders most people make it out to be, either. It can only be described as a complete mental break from any shared reality which may or may not include hearing voices, hallucinations, delusions, and incredibly disorganized thinking.

If you’ve ever spoken with a schizophrenic enduring a rough psychotic break, it’s something you’ll never forget. They typically appear to be quite lucid and they’re very capable of communicating, but it’s a lot like interacting with a being that just popped in from another dimension. Where’s your common point of reference?

If you truly want to understand this horrific mental illness, I’d highly recommend the 2001 Ron Howard movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ It’s the story of Nobel Prize Winning mathematician John Nash who developed the disease while he was a Princeton graduate student. The scenes of Nash working on an “assignment” from a phantom Pentagon “supervisor” in an abandoned shed are the best depiction of schizophrenia I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Thankfully, Schizophrenia affects just 0.5 percent of the population, but that still adds up to 1.6 million Americans. The symptoms generally evidence themselves in young adulthood, though women do tend to develop it later in life. Only two percent of schizophrenics are violent, and even paranoid schizophrenics can become fully functional with the appropriate anti-psychotic drugs.

But there’s the rub! Though those medications have exponentially improved since the late 80s, their side effects still suck. Then, a greater irony is, when those side effects are minimal, just like most of us do with antibiotics, the second they start seriously improving, they stop taking them.

The NIU shooter was a paranoid schizophrenic who, for reasons we’ll never know, stopped taking his medication. Perhaps it had something to do with the vast stigma mental illness inevitably bestows.

But here’s what really troubles me. Considering the current quality of the average Tri-City denizen, it really shouldn’t surprise me, but I’m beyond stunned at all those good social media Christians who ripped their garments and gnashed their teeth while lamenting that this kid “only” got probation.

Please tell me exactly how he’s culpable here? There is no amount of willpower, no amount of counseling, and certainly no form of “intervention” that could possibly stop this 17-year-old’s brain from betraying him. And the kick in the ass is, schizophrenics don’t realize it when their chemically imbalanced brain is selling them out!

So, insisting he be jailed is just like punishing a Batavia two-year old for their failure to speak fluent Russian. Would you threaten your child with hellfire if they couldn’t lift your SUV? Perhaps a better analogy would be incarcerating you for your failure to follow the most basic Christian tenet, but the truth is, I’m convinced most of you don’t have a capacity for empathy.

And what kills me is, this plea agreement is an excellent one! Jailing this kid would serve no purpose, but he did plead guilty to an adult offense which gives the State some leverage to ensure he takes his medication. That probation sentence also makes it clear he can’t have anything to do with Batavia High School whatsoever.

You know I’m not too fond of this iteration of the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office, but I do have to give prosecutor Bridget Sabbia real credit for doing the right thing when it would’ve been so much easier to do the wrong thing.

My hat’s also off to Gary Johnson, a defense attorney I refer more than any other, for how he handled this, but the underlying issue there is, how many similarly affected families could afford Gary?

And please don’t blame the parents! Whatever early symptoms might have reared their ugly heads, given that damning stigma, what reasonable parent would want to admit  their son is mentally ill. It’s NOT easy.

In the end, it all comes down to an absolute lack of any real mental health safety net. Can I say that would’ve prevented the NIU tragedy or kept this Batavia student on track? Not with certainty! But I can say with there was absolutely no shot at preventing them without one.

I can also say that, back in 2014, Kane County residents had the opportunity to approve a scant 0.1 percent tax increase that would’ve raised $13 million a year to provide a better life for our mentally ill and their weary parents and caretakers. But you all voted it down by almost two-to-one.

But yet, you’re willing to abandon the mentally ill in state prisons at an annual cost of up to 65 grand per inmate. Silly me, I thought good Christians were supposed to take care of the least of their brothers!

So, here’s my advice to anyone who still believe this kid should go to jail, or to any voter who helped kill that referendum! Start practicing your explanation for that mindset to St. Peter now, because, mark my words, it’s gonna take some serious verbal gymnastics to get you past those pearly gates.

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

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

Batavia High School

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

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

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

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

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

That certainly works for me!

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

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

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

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

And I have no problem with that!

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

As if they needed another one!

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

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

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

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

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

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