Elgin! We have a problem!
Ain’t it always the case! A scant week after I chide former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge for taking yet another shot at Elgin – on Christmas day, mind you – the City does something that makes it much more difficult to defend their honor.
Armed with City Manager Rick Kozal’s approval, Elgin just paid $6,015 for current City Councilman, Rich Dunne, to attend Harvard’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program. If you recall, former City Manager Sean Stegal and current Police Chief Jeff Swoboda have attended the same seminar.
But here’s the thing! While I certainly laud Councilman Dunne for his willingness to improve himself, I can’t believe Elgin’s tuition reimbursement program was ever intended to cover elected officials. After all, they tend to be an ephemeral bunch!
Stegal was a 16-year management employee while the Chief has served on the Elgin Police force for 26 years, so the local citizenry stood to see a return on those investments. As Mayor Dave Kaptain aptly pointed out, “This is supposed to be a long-term investment for our employees, not something to help out someone’s political career.”
Dunne explained that he took time off from work to head east and, because he filled a last-minute slot, the city paid less than half the normal tuition.
That’s all good and well, but the proposition is flawed from the start.
It’s not that the Harvard program wouldn’t be a valuable addition to any elected official’s governing arsenal, it’s that the taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for it. C’mon! People endlessly bitched about Prigge’s weekly Elgin Public House lunch meetings with Stegal – a practice I wholeheartedly defended – and this one doesn’t even begin to pass that test.
Rich! You know I’ve always liked you, but this time you’re wrong. Please do the right thing and reimburse the city as soon as you can.
Elgin! We have another problem!
Elgin resident Greg Schiller’s heart is certainly in the right place! In fact, he may be one of the few folks that takes that biblical “least of my brothers” caveat seriously. But his efforts to be his brother’s keeper have run afoul of those diligent Elgin code enforcers.
Last winter, Schiller offered his garage as a refuge to some local homeless folks until first responders had to be called for a man with a heart condition. After the City explained the garage was not suitable for that particular use, during our current cold snap, Schiller has been, as he put it, holding homeless “slumber parties” in his basement.
Of course, the City of Elgin was equally unamused by this turn of events and threatened to condemn his house if he didn’t immediately abandon the practice.
“While we appreciate those who volunteer to provide additional resources in the community,” Elgin spokesperson Molly Center said, “Mr. Schiller’s house does not comply with codes and regulations that guard against potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and insufficient exits in the event of a fire.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, with absolutely nothing better to do, the local conservatives leapt at the opportunity to excoriate liberals for “progressive over-regulation and big government” as well as “deciding for private property owners how to be compassionate.”
Trust me! The irony of these letter-of-the-law folks’ sudden willingness to ignore a series of statutes isn’t lost on me. The fact that Elgin could be sued for allowing these “slumber parties” to continue truly is a serious consideration.
Most homeless folks are utterly harmless, but there are a minority who, due to addiction or mental illness, can get violent. And Mr. Schiller is clearly not the least bit prepared for that possibility.
So, while I certainly understand the City’s concerns, I wish Elgin wasn’t so bleepin’ heavy handed about addressing the issue during what will likely be a recording tying traditional Chicago cold snap.
Given my vast love for The City in the Suburbs, I hate to see their good name being dragged through that national roadside slush, as it certainly has been in this case.
Serving him warrants and giving him 24 hours to return the basement to it’s original storage intent or they’ll condemn the house? It sounds like some folks really need to watch Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ a few more times.
I agree that Mr. Schiller’s efforts are misguided, and I also agree that he hasn’t always been cooperative with those who enforce city ordinances. But I really gotta give the guy credit for going beyond what 99 percent of “good Christians” are willing to do. This should’ve been a feel-good story in which the City and Schiller found some common ground through a reasonable compromise.
Then it would’ve been another feather in Elgin’s cap.
Quick Hits local athletes of the year awards
In an effort to play off Monday’s column in which we discussed how to put together a sustainable New Year’s resolution workout program, I thought it would be kind of cool to cite two local athletes who’ve embraced that very notion.
The first is my favorite running friend, Oswego’s Mary Drew.
Mary, a relative newcomer to the running ranks, crossed the 1,000-mile running mark this year and it took persevering through our recent balmy winter weather to do it. Not only that, but Mary placed in her age group in three 5ks, one 4-miler, and one 10k, while finishing four half-marathons.
How did Mary do it? Besides my expert coaching and unyielding faith in her, you mean?
She started running just four short years ago with reasonable goals that made the required consistency a far more plausible possibility. Sure, she’s had to work through some minor injuries – all runners have – but she’s avoided the major afflictions I’ve previously embraced by trying to prove I’m still 25.
I also like the fact she celebrated the 1k mark with a bloody Mary, which has a certain symmetry to it.
Our male award winner is none other than Kane County Director of Transportation, Carl Schoedel. In his tenth year of bicycling to work – often in the kind of inclement weather that would melt mere mortal men’s souls – Carl racked up 3,050 cycling miles.
To put that kind of distance in perspective, had he started out in New York City and kept going, he would’ve made it to Seattle and been well on his way back to Kane County.
Again, his reasonable, consistent and utilitarian approach to an exercise regimen has paid huge dividends. As long as Carl avoids errant pavement gravel, I don’t remember him ever mentioning any kind of injury and, though I’m sure this will go straight to his head, he is in great shape.
That’s how you do it New Year’s resolutioners!
So, here’s to Mary Drew and Carl Schoedel, our Quick Hits athletes of 2017.