A hundred years ago, according to accounts, the band on board RMS Titanic played until its members were taken below with the ship. The event inspired the phrase “and the band played on.” That same phrase was taken for the title of a groundbreaking book about the AIDS epidemic and how it was ignored for so long. Now, it appears, after being ignored for so long the marching band at Round Lake High School won’t be playing on. Its existence is in jeopardy due to a decision to go to a single teacher at RLHS for band, choir and music.
My fellow RLHS alumni know the history and stature of our band well. We have seen a host of renowned educators take the baton at RLHS and inspire generations of students to be musicians. I myself picked up a trombone and then a baritone and then a tuba for RLHS and took that to the USC Trojan Marching Band where the band is the center of school spirit and adulation. Friends from there are professional musicians now and some still work for the band.
Over the past several years, sadly some on my watch, the band has been gradually suffocated. When myself and many others were in Round Lake there were two band teachers and a choir teacher at Magee Middle School and two band teachers and a choir teacher at RLHS. There was a Fine Arts director because, as was properly seen then, band programs do not begin at RLHS, they end there. The program begins in the elementary schools and the elementaries have been almost put out of the band business. I implored two CEOs and several more administrators privately and in public meetings to put decisions about music and band especially on the district level and not on the school level. It is a DISTRICT WIDE program and needs to be approached that way. Sadly that’s never come to be and the fate of each band, choir or music teacher in Round Lake Area Schools has been at the whim of their principal. The scheduling conflicts, the time band staff is needed in other buildings, the lack of any coordination, cohesion or leadership in the music program is because of this faulty approach to running it at the building level.
The death spiral started when Magee was reopened and renovated. Scheduling conflicts between buildings were used as a reason to no longer bus elementary students to participate in bands at the middle schools as was the way before (somehow for decades that was accomplished, suddenly now there are “scheduling” problems”). It was an integral part of the program and by introducing a learning musician to a group of players with more experience, they saw what they could achieve as a band. No more and has been that way for some time now.
When the students have nothing to do in band for 5th grade it’s not difficult to imagine, they drop out of band. Bored with being stuck in an elementary band where a teacher doesn’t even regularly have an opportunity to rehearse the student quickly loses interest and drops out. Before where every band teacher led the recruitment drive in school assemblies with impassioned pleas about the importance of music they mesmerized a gym full of 4th graders. No more, they can’t get the time away from their own buildings.
So where our band was some 75 members strong for marching season it has gradually dwindled. It had almost bottomed out in the mid-90s with the scathing cuts. It had nicely rebounded with a small but dedicated band in competition and in the past few years as a show band. Their drum line got some separate instruction and I can assert is better than any drum line we ever had. Now, 2012 with one of the healthiest fund balances in the state, numerous administrators making six figures, a whole new influx of new midlevel assistant, deputy and director administrators and new positions that never existed before it’s been decided RLHS can get by with a combination band and choir teacher. After all, with all the trailers in the parking lot we need the band room for study hall (aka a place to put the kids when we don’t have classes for them).
I have held off writing this blog since I became aware of the news, I can’t sit here silent and watch 50 years of RLHS history go out with a whimper. While the RLHS Marching Band may find some way to still exist it can’t exist as it has been before. With a single teacher how can there be a meaningful band camp? How can a single teacher possibly do all the rehearsals for marching band, jazz band and pep bands outside of normal school hours? The Pep Band, a famous tradition at RLHS complete with Pep Season attire and filling a quarter of the stands with band members has been dead and buried for some time, victim of a single band teacher for a decade. Now there’s not even that.
Perhaps the plan is to take the new uniforms the band members and parents themselves strove so hard to get funded a few years ago and put that new throng of administration to work. For six figures I would think they should easily be able to put in the time. Maybe then they would learn something themselves and realize that if band and art and music and electives are all taken away, what is the point of learning then? What good do math or language do if they are not used for the betterment of us all? Those are the things that keep us alive, the things that make us human, what’s the use of living if you can’t be a human?
A hundred years ago thousands of people met their death and thousands more lived to tell the tale of the band that played on. The band that knew how important music was to life and how it was of comfort when one was facing death. It’s sad to me to think that future products of Round Lake will not have the opportunity to realize what a difference band can make, because it was starved out by administrators, a school board and increasingly a community that didn’t care.
For my part in not doing more, I apologize to all the band kids in Round Lake. I chose to pick my battles and not fight all the time, I was trying to push for things like fixing the roof that was leaking on band equipment and carpet that had been there since I was a student. I was wrong to not fight for you earlier and harder and I’m sorry. Don’t give up, make band what you know it can be and don’t let any administrative decision get you down.
The band I played in after RLHS. Hopefully the RLHS Marching Band won’t be relegated to rising from the dead.
It’s election day here in Illinois tomorrow and although my 2010 endorsements were pretty much the kiss of death, I’m doing them again! No matter who you are for, Republican, Democrat, Independent, get out and vote tomorrow! Primaries are where it is at and many people just don’t show up. They matter!! If you’re in Lake County you can go to the County Clerk’s website for information on where your polling place is.
My final word, before I cut to the chase, is there are a lot of great candidates this year. I have folks pitted against each other in a few races that I really like. I could take the easy way out and not tell anybody but then again, I’ve never shied away from telling people how I feel. So, for what it’s worth, and I apologize to those I am endorsing, it may be the kiss of death!
President of the United States of America
I’m not a happy Republican this year. I came out early for Gary Johnson and unfortunately he couldn’t get the media attention he deserved and he decided to pack it in as the funds were dwindling. He has since gone over to the Libertarian Party to run for their nomination, he should win that quite easily.
At this point the vote has boiled down to two choices, you’re either with Mitt Romney or you are against him. I don’t like the collection of against hims so I am endorsing Mitt Romney for president. I have numerous qualms with him but he has the best chance to defeat the President and the array of choices aligned against him is not favorable:
Ron Paul - For whatever reason, he decided to run again. He has zero chance against Obama. Lost opportunity for Gary Johnson or Rand Paul to pick up the torch but it is what it is. I can’t bring myself to vote for Ron Paul, sorry (latest round of anti-Semitism from a Paul supporter did me in).
Newt Gingrich - Newt’s a smart guy, I admire many of his positions but he has made some really bone headed moves this election. It seems a part of his character to make them. I danced on the edge of switching to him when Johnson dropped out, can’t do it though as he seems willing to say whatever he needs to in order to get elected.
Rick Santorum - If there is one candidate, above all others (including President Obama) who advocates for the government to infiltrate and control as much of your life as possible it is Rick Santorum. If he manages to win the nomination, I am leaving the party, period. I will not be embarrassed by him and, given a choice, I would vote for President Obama over him in a head to head vote. Santorum symbolizes everything that is wrong with the GOP and none of what it should be about. He’s an embarrassment, if he wins the LP candidate, whoever it is, gets my vote.
Illinois 10th Congressional District
The Democratic gerrymandering of Illinois now finds me in the 10th District. Robert Dold is running unopposed.
Illinois 31st Legislative District (Senator)
The Democratic gerrymandering leaves me in Suzi Schmidt’s district over Dan Duffy whom I heartily campaigned for four years ago. This was a definite disappointment to me as Dan has done a great job and I was proud to have him as my “rogue” Senator.
This has left me in the unenviable spot of having three people I genuinely like running against each other for the seat. After a thorough and honest review of them all and a lot of thought I have decided to endorse Lennie Jarratt. I think Lennie is solid in his beliefs, unique and thoughtful and stands up for what he believes in. I think we could use a lot more people like that in Springfield and ultimately that’s what led me to Lennie in what was a very tough call for me.
Illinois 62nd Representative District
Democratic gerrymandering now finds me in Sandy Cole’s 62nd District, she is running unopposed.
Lake County Circuit Court Clerk
The campaign I have worked on the most this year (although in a diminished capacity), this is a no brainer for Gerald T. Dietz. Jerry is a RLHS alumnus, has a great platform of change he wants to bring to the clerk’s office and, most of all, a great guy. We need more people from Round Lake at the county level, this is an easy endorsement for me.
Lake County Coroner
Steve Newton has worked too long and too hard for me not to give him this endorsement. He decided a long time ago he was running and he has the experience needed to fix a coroner’s office that has been plagued by scandal and mismanagement. We really need a coroner that will return the compassion and professionalism to the office that Barbara Richardson was known for, Steve Newton is that man and is heartily endorsed.
Lake County Recorder
Sometimes it’s all about who goes to functions and works for votes and who doesn’t. Bob Bednar has and gets my vote.
Lake County State’s Attorney
Think this one has been a bit nasty and competitive? I do and so does my mailbox. To me one of these candidates has consistently tried to stay above the fray and on message about who he is and what he is about, that candidate is Bryan Winter and gets my endorsement.
Lake County Board District 16
Another tough one for me with two people that I like. After a lot of thought and consideration though I am endorsing Michael Carbone. Michael has spent the past several years on the Grayslake Elementary school board, that experience will serve him well on county board. I would encourage Rene Hernandez to keep at it though, this was a tough call for me but I have to go with Michael and his experience as a board member.Thanks to Theresa Thompson for feature photo.
Not only did Lake County get shafted by the Illinois Tollway Authority yesterday, it got shafted twice.
First, there has been no movement on the extension of Route 53. Bill Morris of Grayslake was the only Tollway director to try to speak on behalf of Lake County when he said “there are people that live north of Chicago.” Apparently not according to the Tollway Authority. The Route 53 extension falls right within the purview of the Tollway Authority, while it is making improvements to link up the Elgin-O’Hare expressway (currently freeway) and a bypass around O’Hare it kicks the Route 53 can down the road again.
As if that weren’t enough, the Waukegan Toll Plaza is included in the tolls being hiked, it will go up to $1.40. This will mean the current bad situation with Wisconsin commuters bypassing the Waukegan Toll. Currently they will use side streets and Highway 41 to get around the toll. One only need sit at one of the truck stops on Russell Road and watch the Wisconsin plates go by every morning. How many more will there be now that the till had increased?
All in all this sorry situation shows the Lake County contingent of politicians is in an obvious decline. This isn’t to say we don’t have many hard working politicians but when Lake County Board Chairman David Stohlman and Libertyville Village President Terry Weppler endorse a plan that completely leaves out Lake County what other conclusion can be drawn?
This plan does nothing to solve traffic problems in Lake County, it only increases the burden on Lake County taxpayers and it only increases the traffic on Lake County roads. Do you hear that sound? It’s Adeline Geo-Karis rolling over in her grave.
Photo: “Traffic” by Kim Scarborough Some rights reserved
Things have boiled down to a nasty gurgling simmer in Wisconsin since the fracas over Governor Scott Walker’s plan to require public workers to contribute more to their healthcare and retirement. Union protestors claim they are willing to deal but they refuse to deal on losing their rights to collective bargaining. In the meantime the Democratic members of the Senate have skipped town for the friendly confines of Illinois to shut the government down. Things may be simmering, but they’re ready to boil over.
We’ve had protest groups and counter-protest groups. We’ve had polls that seem to favor Walker and others that seem to favor the unions. We have allegations of plutocracy, autocracy and the obligatory reference to Nazis. I could write on all this ad nauseam but I thought I would spend some time talking about what I know most about — working with a public employee union.
As you may know I spent several years on the Round Lake Area Schools Board of Education, the last three of them as its president. I stayed out of union negotiations for the most part. Why? For much of my tenure I am the son of one of the members of the bargaining unit in Round Lake, the Education Association of Round Lake (EARL), a local of the Illinois Education Association (IEA) the biggest teacher’s union in Illinois.
Without going into a whole lot of detail into that experience (that would be a very long post) suffice it to say I have participated in collective bargaining negotiations, grievances, stayed up until the wee hours of the morning negotiating with the association and fielding hundreds of phone calls related to union matters. I’m not a lawyer but I consider myself well experienced in this area and familiar with the process.
I respect the core tenets of unions and what they stand for — protecting the rights of workers and ensuring that everyone receives fair treatment. The problem is when you deal with things as a collective you soon run into difficulty dealing with the individual and on more levels than one.
Governor Walker has a budget deficit looming and his state spends a lot of money on two things in particular — public employees and entitlements (Medicaid, welfare, social programs). Wisconsin is not different from any other state in this regard. Most of what the state spends on education does not go directly into education – it goes to the local school districts in the form of state aid. School districts receive federal money (usually for special programs for at risk students), state money (general state aid and categorical grants – money earmarked for specific programs if the district complies) and local money (property taxes).
If you broke down the figures most districts receive little to no federal money, it mainly goes to poorer districts or districts with a large population of kids with special needs. All of them though rely on state and local money . The biggest expenditure the local school district makes? Overwhelmingly (to the tune of 70-85% in many cases) salary and benefits for its employees, mostly teachers. So, this is how the different levels work and how it is broken.
Governor Walker wants to balance his budget, he needs to cut spending by a billion from somewhere. For the purposes of this exercise let’s say he wants to take it all in education. Does Governor Walker now go to the state teachers unions (most states have two) and get their approval? He could, but it would be as meaningless as any state union assurance now they will take the deal on reduced benefits. They don’t negotiate the contracts, the local teachers unions do!
So Governor Walker puts together a plan and tells the state Board of Education to reduce spending by $1 bil. The state board comes up with the formula in elimination of categoricals (very common here in Illinois) and then reduction in general state aid. Or, maybe a state aid payment or two, or four gets skipped. Now imagine you are the local school district — your boss came to you and said that work you did last week on that special project? Sorry, not paying for it, it was very nice work but we have to cut expenses. Also, “I need to dip into your pay a bit, I’m not going to pay you this week, I might pay you again in two weeks but I’m not sure yet, I’ll let you know.” That’s reality here in Illinois and I doubt it’s much different in Wisconsin.
What would you do? You would cut back your expenses right? Well imagine for a moment if you went to cut your biggest expense then, let’s say it’s your mortgage. Do you think you could get a reduction in your mortgage? Maybe eliminate some of the things you built into the loan or you could sell your house and live in a smaller one though, right? Maybe sell and rent a smaller place? Not if you’re a school district. No, see you collectively bargained a contract with these folks a year or so ago and not only can you not do anything to change that you said you were going to give them a raise next year and they want it. They are also going to enforce the class size provision that we bargained for. Some locals will see the district is in trouble and negotiate, this has been happening in Illinois and to the credit of those locals, others won’t. It’s up to the local to decide how they wish to balance reduced benefits for their members versus loss of members in the form of layoffs.
So what is left for the local school district to do? Cut administrators and lay off the teachers you can. Maybe the union will bargain with you on how many of its members it will let go without too much of a fuss. Only bad teachers would be let go right? Nope, can’t do that, because a union is about seniority. No, you can’t lay off Mrs. Smith who has been mailing it in for the past decade trying to get enough years in to retire early. You need to lay off Mrs. Jones who is a new and enthusiastic teacher getting great results in her classroom. She’s only been here two years though and doesn’t have the protection of tenure.
This, my friends, is a glimpse into how things are done year after year in a school district. It doesn’t make unions all bad – it makes them misguided by tradition. It doesn’t make all school districts right, many of them planned recklessly. At the end of the day though the money comes from somewhere, not a magic tree or pot of gold over the rainbow. The taxpayers have been taking a haircut for the past few years and it’s coming time for the public employees’ turn in the chair.
The system is unsustainable as it is constituted so call me a little crazy for secretly hoping Wisconsin will become a disaster. A little revolution every now and then is good, no? Maybe then we can talk about what the real problem is.
One of my favorite movies ever is “For Love of the Game” starring Kevin Costner as an aging pitcher with the Detroit Tigers who is having the best day and the worst day of his life. So as not to bore you with an entire synopsis of the film and where I’m going with this Costner’s character Billy Chapel starts his day with a knock on his hotel door from the owner. The club has been sold, they don’t want Chapel any more and they want to get rid of him. The owner, played brilliantly as always by the superb Brian Cox, offers some words of advice:
You’re like the old boys, they were golden. They had that special pride. When they were done, they were done, no one had to show them the door.
I may not be “golden” but no one has to show me the door either. So today I filed my resignation at the district office and said that I was done.
This film speaks to me on many levels at this time in my life. After Chapel gets those words of advice his on-and-off-again girlfriend tells him she’s going to London. He has to pitch so he heads to the stadium, arm full of pain from throwing for nineteen years and he reflects on his life throughout the game. Sometimes in life you get so focused on something that you never picture your life without it. It becomes a hunger that needs to be fed. Everything you do you feed to it. You shut people out, you refuse to let others in and you skip out on obligations because you have the hunger that needs to be fed. I have done the same thing with my school board work and just like Chapel I have worn myself down body and mind serving it. I can’t even remember the times my son has been turned away by me and he says “you’re always working or going to a meeting dad.” The first twenty or so times it hurts, when you get up to where I’m at now it weighs on you greatly.
Despite the sacrifices you make to the hunger you certainly have times you look back upon fondly. You remember some of the achievements you were a part of and I have certainly had my share. Going back to 2001 our district was in utter and complete chaos, the state had come in, it was about to take full control and I had six people who didn’t care too much for the fact that the good people of Round Lake elected me to serve with them and they let me know about it.
Even in my more recent stint I came to a board that had appointed me as its 3rd appointed member in a year. The board had virtually no say in how the district was run, it couldn’t even set the agenda for its meetings. When I would ask why we couldn’t do anything I was told “because of the SFA, they won’t let us.” I made it my mission to change that and since I’ve been president the board has run the district and the board has set the agenda. That was because of the efforts of many good people but I’d like to think I had a hand in that. We built what is essentially a beautiful new school that the district could be proud of and I am certainly proud of from my early days on the board of constantly questioning, “what are we going to do about Magee?” I leave her in good hands.
I remember my first graduation as President of the board and I probably went a bit overboard in my speech to the graduates about what going to RLHS meant. I took a lot of criticism from some people over my remarks despite reviewing them with the principal, Dr. Jeff Brierton (also fondly missed) before I made them. It was worth the shots I took later though when a staff member came to me afterwards telling me how much it meant to her. I’d do it again.
Also during the film Chapel reflects on his former teammates, some with him still and some not. I have reflected on mine as well. I don’t want to get in trouble and leave someone out but I need to recognize some special people I have served with in the district. Walter Korpan retired a couple of years ago having straightened out the financial mess and I have written previously of my love and admiration for Walter.
Jerri Ryan has served ably for well over a decade now and has steered the district on a path to harmonious relations with the union when they were anything but when she arrived. I particularly remember when Jerri made her transition from in-house counsel to her current position and the tears that were cried over the mere changing of a title. That’s one of those fights I was glad to have won albeit it only partially. I’m fond of the Reagan desk proverb of “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” While others at various times have taken the credit for our improved labor relations Jerri never did though it was sorely deserved. I will miss my times playing attorney with her.
Heather Bennett has been secretary to the CEO for several years now through the different CEOs and she has been a bastion of consistency and organization in the district office. A fellow graduate of Round Lake she works tirelessly for the CEO, the board and the district. I will miss her great smile and an attitude that never was down. Your words meant a lot to me today Heather, thank you.
I’ll miss Kim Kearby pacing around at the back of a room be it a board room or the RLHS library when we’re taking up a contentious matter. Those times have waned in recent years and I think Kim, who I can’t ever stop reminding people was my tee ball coach, has had less reasons to pace in front of the board. I’m disappointed I won’t be there to present you with your retirement award Kim, I had an iPod with “Kiss Him Goodbye” all ready to go for the occasion!
Most of all I will certainly miss someone who I certainly consider my friend now and that is Dr. Ben Martindale. Ben came and started working for us despite not even being done with his previous job yet. He and I went over our relationship and how we would work together to achieve the goal I so desperately wanted to achieve. I made some mistakes along the way and he would be there to either nudge me or bark at me if the moment required it. We both share a fondness for the more, shall we say “creative” words of the English language that he has a jar in tribute to on his desk. We also share many common loves be it sports, the Indy 500 or kids with special needs. I’ve never met a more tireless and passionate servant for children and I don’t think I ever will. Knowing you I know what you must be thinking about all this and I can assure you, it’s the players that play the game, not the coach. I will never forget you and what you have taught this student, my friend.
So I’m sorry to say that this old arm doesn’t have a perfect game with me but I feel like I’ve already made my mark. The picture for this article is one of those proud moments I had. In September 2008 we were visited by 90-year-old Frank Dvorscak who was on the board that would become our board and built RLHS. He was a delightful gentlemen and when he came up to accept our recognition award he whispered “you run a good meeting” and that meant all the world to me. I glanced over at my place at the table where a gavel that had been my father’s rested and thought he might be proud.
In the picture we look pretty funny because I think neither of us wanted to stop chatting for photos. When we were done he went down to the plaque in the old original hallway that bears his name on it. His family sent me a photo with him holding the award I had given him standing with the plaque. That’s legacy stuff and something he was obviously proud of, I hope that will be me some day.
At the end of the film, before he goes to throw the last inning, Chapel writes on a baseball and has it run up to the owner. As Chapel goes to take the mound one final time the owner looks down at the ball and it says “Tell them I’m through, for love of the game.” It’s the final words of love from someone who doesn’t want to give up what he has built a significant part of his life around. But he realizes he can no longer serve his love the way he should and moves on to other things.
I’m through, for love of the kids.
You might not care what I think but hey, you’re reading my blog aren’t you? Here are my endorsements in the Republican Primary tomorrow.
US Senate: John Arrington
Forget this nonsense about only Kirk can win, John Arrington is the real deal. Mark Kirk has let us down as Republicans, he quite simply doesn’t support what the party should stand for. The most glaring example was voting for the ridiculous Cap & Trade Bill. Under no circumstances should such behavior be rewarded! Enough about Kirk though — John Arrington is a Harvard graduate, former alderman and public servant. He has strong conviction to his ideals and if you haven’t seen him speak you can see him now:
Governor: Adam Andrzejewski
There’s a lot not to like in this contest and one candidate rises to the top and that is Adam Andrzejewski (And-G-F-Ski). Virtually every other candidate for the Republicans has some baggage he’s carrying with him, I won’t go into it all. Adam is a self-made man, speaks from the heart and holds to the ideals of liberty. Everyone he is running against can’t hold a candle to his qualifications.
Lieutenant Governor: Jason Plummer
Another great candidate with the ideals of liberty and who comes from the private sector. Jason has sworn off drawing salary should he be elected Lieutenant Governor. How’s THAT for putting your money where your mouth is? Jason wants to transform this useless office into one that will cut through the Springfield red tape as an advocate for liberty.
Comptroller: Jim Dodge
As much as I admire much about Judy Baar Topinka the last thing we need is someone who has spent most of their life down there. Jim Dodge has a solid background in holding local public office and is a great choice for Comptroller.
Illinois 8th Congressional District Representative: Maria Rodriguez
If there’s anyone who can beat Melissa Bean it’s Maria Rodriguez. With solid credentials in local government Maria is another candidate on my liberty parade — committed to limited government and free markets. She’s a fantastic candidate and our best chance yet of having a candidate who represents our ideals and won’t go lock step with a party line that doesn’t hold them. I strongly endorse Maria Rodriguez for the 8th District.
The results are in from yesterday’s election, many races went the way I had hoped, many did not, so let’s rundown the two main area races for my take on them.
Round Lake Area Schools – Board of Education
First off I want to thank everyone who supported Dan, Tonesha and me in the election. Thank you for returning me to the board I’m very grateful to have your support and will continue working hard to make a difference in CUSD 116.
Obviously this race was closest to me since I was in it. Despite all the congratulations I have gotten I was very disappointed in the results. First, to see Tonesha Baker lose, hurt me very much. Tonesha was the first Master Board Member ever in Round Lake. Tonesha went out and aggressively got the training when it wasn’t easily being provided and before anyone else. Most of all Tonesha was always up front and honest with me, never afraid to tell me how she really felt and never told me one thing and did another. She’s an honest and thoughtful person and an excellent board member, she will be missed.
Secondly, Dan Hartlieb finished a few votes behind me and I was disappointed we couldn’t get the needed votes to take at least two spots. Dan is someone who’s lived here all his life and is deeply invested in the schools. I think he would have been an excellent board member.
Tonesha and Dan have both told me they plan to stay involved with the schools and I hope they do so.
If anything the mistakes in this campaign were mine. First, for not putting the required time into them. I was too busy with work, board, family, etc to sacrifice the weekends and evenings to be hitting the campaign trail. Our opponents didn’t and were working right through to the final hour, they worked harder. Second, after a review of the outcomes in many of the races and the techniques used it’s clear running a positive campaign focused on the facts and your accomplishments doesn’t always work. I thought people would clearly see who was more qualified, who was more invested in the district, who knew what our issues were and who knew what our boardroom looked like more than three months ago. I was wrong, I won’t make that mistake again.
The campaign is over now and we’ll have a new board member and thus a slightly different board. The new board will need to rebuild itself, continue to improve and prove that we are ready to take on the reins of leadership ourselves. We have objectives to meet if the School Finance Authority is going to leave at the end of next school year as anticipated. We’re going to jump right into working on those objectives right away.
Village of Round Lake
Yesterday the voters sent a clear message they wanted a new direction in leadership for the village, you can’t slice a 2 to 1 victory across the board any other way. Congratulations to Jim, Joyce, Don, Sonia and Susan for a hard fought victory, you guys deserved it.
I was highly invested in this campaign going months back in fact going back to immediately after the November election. First I was surveying the field hoping that someone would emerge to challenge Bill Gentes. When that person was Dan MacGillis I began working with him and Don Newby on their slate.
Contrary to the accusations the two slates decided for their own benefit and for the best chance to defeat Gentes the slates needed to merge. So then I started working with Jim Dietz and the folks with what became RL United For Change. I was the webmaster for their site, attended most of their functions and did my best to support this slate because we were in desperate need of change in Round Lake.
I am very pleased that not only did United For Change win, they won in overwhelming fashion signaling a clear message from the Village that things needed to change. However, that is not to say there weren’t some good and well qualified folks on the opposing slate. To that I would say each of them made a decision to run with Gentes and thus tied their collective fates to him – that was a mistake. As I said though there are good folks there and while their decision kept my votes from them I am hopeful we can all move on from this election and work together.
Thus we get to my final topic and that would be moving on from elections together. Unfortunately local politics is particularly nasty because it’s neighbor versus neighbor in many cases. The candidates in all the races made their case, some races were won, some were lost. Now it’s time for us to move on together as the folks have voted.
To that end I am putting this election behind me and will affirm my position to work with anyone who will work with me. Anyone who is up front and honest with me is someone I can support and work with. I don’t have to agree with you all the time, there will be times we won’t (and I am certain to let you know about it) but it is rarely if ever personal from me. I try not to make decisions from a personal viewpoint but at the end of the day I’m only human like anyone else and might be prone to emotion sometimes. At the end of the day though I would hope that people, whether they agree with me or not, would know that I’m honest and a straight shooter. I hope we all can work together for our community to make it better for everyone here.
I knew it was going to be a good night for Dan Duffy when I got the results for the Grant Township precincts I was assigned to collect. One of those precincts was that of Dan’s opponent (although I may have that wrong, one of my posters said he’s in Grant 137 that Dan won) and they were the first results I got — Dan lost by less than 20 votes. After I saw that I knew it was going to be a good night for Dan and it was.
Dan took the other two Grant Township precincts I was a pollwatcher at and with my results phoned in I drove down to the party at 111 Grille (formerly Chessies) in Barrington. The place was totally packed when I arrived — full of enthusiastic Duffy supporters looking forward to a great evening and for our guy and Representative Ed Sullivan, Jr. who was also there, it certainly was.
Outgoing Senator Bill Peterson arrived not too long after I did and I was amazed he remembered me as I hadn’t seen him in probably 6 or 7 years since our troubles in Round Lake Area Schools were coming to a head. We had a good talk about the future of RLAS and how things were turning around and he had a big smile because he knew all the difficulty we had and what a mess it was. Not long after that Dan’s lovely wife Kris arrived with all five of their kids and was just aglow at the turnout and was just so thankful to everyone who was there.
A bit after that Dan arrived, I was just coming back to the front table with some refreshment for the lovely Mel who was one of Dan’s hard working staffers. I had seen Lake County was 65-35 in his favor on my iPhone and I was one of the first to offer my congratulations. About an hour after that Dan was giving his victory speech to the enthusiastic crowd.
It was truly a wonderful night full of folks telling their stories about Dan and how hard he worked on this campaign and what a truly genuine human being he is. If you’ve met Dan, you know what I mean. If you haven’t met Dan, you’re missing out on a special guy who is all about family and community service. We truly are lucky to have someone like Dan to represent us in the quagmire of corruption and bureaucracy that is Springfield. Dan told everyone there that this is just the beginning of the journey now and how he knows he will face many challenges down in Springfield but “I’m ready to take on Blagojevich” he said to huge cheers from the crowd.
The crowd started to dissipate after that of course and mainly family and campaign workers were left. I had many great conversations with folks about Round Lake and how things were going for us and that I was there, despite where Dan’s opponent came from, because I believed in Dan from the moment I sat down with him at Bill’s Pub back in March and I asked him to tell me whey he deserved my support. I was as impressed then as I am now.
I was also impressed and grateful to the voters who looked beyond party in voting for Dan. Dan won a lot of precincts that Obama won so clearly the voters are intelligent, follow what’s going on, and didn’t buy into just voting down party lines because overall, it was an abysmal night for Republicans. Not for those of us who worked for Dan though, it was an incredible night, a hopeful night of greater things to come.
Congratulations Dan Duffy, Tina, and all the hard working staffers. You guys did it and rose above it all to deliver a big win. It was a hard fought campaign and only after you work and fight that hard can you truly comprehend the great victory.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Bill Gentes and his supporters really don’t want to give up on this race even after his admitted lies and the endorsements of Dan Duffy by every newspaper. No, now they have trumped up a completely bogus website (note – now unreachable) to go after Dan Duffy and his credentials. I won’t post the link here because people don’t need to see this garbage, they only want to spread it around in their desperate attempt to drag Dan down to the level of their candidate.
First they post a view of his house from space, what this has to do with the important issues facing this election, I have no idea. Maybe his unemployed opponent thinks that it’s a vice to have a solid business and steady income to afford a nice home for his large family. Most of us would call that the American Dream.
Next the anonymous website creators, since they don’t have the courage to register the site in their own name and instead use a proxy service, tear into Duffy’s abortion position. To all my pro-life friends out there I can assure you of at least one thing — Bill Gentes is adamantly pro-abortion, has taken funds from the pro-abortion group Personal PAC and done nothing to stop their bogus mailings about Dan’s position. Dan acknowledges Roe v Wade as the law of the land but is against state support of abortions and feels that no one should be compelled to be pro-abortion if their beliefs dictate otherwise (i.e. pharmacists).
So on one hand you have Gentes supporters Personal PAC saying that he’s going to throw women in jail for having an abortion and then other supporters throw up a site saying he’s pro-choice. Which is it going to be? They can’t seem to make up their mind on this issue because, ladies and gentlemen, Gentes and his campaign have proven they are very adept at circulating the lies.
So, who are you going to believe? Dan Duffy, endorsed by every newspaper and strong in his positions as indicated in his website from day one? Or are you going to believe the supporters of someone who would say anything, including outright lie, to get elected?
The choice is yours on Tuesday.
No, not that Bush, Melinda Bush in this case or, as she likes to differentiate herself Melinda (Willen) Bush in her campaign literature. Why the sudden use of the parenthetical maiden name? Apparently to distance herself from Bush as far as possible but where she matches up with our current president is promising things she can’t deliver.
In her latest campaign mailer she is making a grand number of promises especially on property tax increases. Her plan calls for forcing the County Assessor to reassess all homes to account for the current values versus the “inflated” values of the past. First of all, they weren’t inflated, they were a product of the booming housing market. Second, the County Board can’t force the County Assessor to do any such thing. Assessments are done by township assessors and the County Board can’t force the township assessors to do that any more than the Federal Government can force Illinois to change its sales tax rate. It’s not within their power.
Next she wants to integrate “state, county and local traffic planning”. Sounds like a wonderful idea but that already is done on a routine basis. The problem is, the state doesn’t have any money and the growing list of projects the state intended to do but wasn’t allowed to do by our current governor and legislature (both controlled by Bush’s Democratic Party I might add) is about ten times as long as the list of projects actually being done. The state is broke, this is not news to anyone, Bush as your county board member isn’t going to fix the state.
The most egregious of these claims though is her statement that Larry Leafblad “sat on the sidelines and did nothing while our property taxes soared 30-50%” as well as “He could have voted to cap assessments at 7% but he refused and the people lost.” This is an utterly and completely bogus claim.
First, Lake County is subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law or “Tax Cap” which means, for most funds in most taxing bodies assessments can go up no higher than 5% or the cost of living (COLA), whichever is less. Up until last year that has been nowhere near 5% and way short of 7%. How Bush claims they went up 30-50% I have no clue, she doesn’t cite a source. What she is referring to in her mailer is the 7% cap that is part of the Alternative General Homestead Exemption, it only applies in Cook County. Why only Cook County? Only Cook County has adopted the alternative exemption, and the bill that Bush cites in her mailing, PA 93-0715, is being phased out by PA 95-0644! Under the only “7% cap” residents of Cook County had to apply to get the exemption and even then it was in lieu of the $5000 exemption the rest of us get, not in addition to it. While it could be some additional savings it’s being phased out in favor of a long term resident exemption that allows for a similar cap but only if you’ve been in your home more than ten years and only if you meet certain income requirements.
What does this all equate to? A whole lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about property taxes that the county board and any individual county board member has no control over. Unless Bush is somehow going to get Rod Blagojevich, Michael Madigan and Emil Jones to decide to lower our property taxes (good luck with those three!) it isn’t going to happen.
Finally, Bush claims to be “a leader with fiscal discipline”. Other than four years as a village trustee in Grayslake she hasn’t demonstrated much leadership outside of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. And oh, by the way, the union she’s a leader of just authorized a strike against Grayslake District 46. Call me silly but someone like Bush being an advocate for rising property taxes is a little like the fox being an advocate for the henhouse — it doesn’t pass the smell test. Good thing if she actually does win she’ll have almost nothing to do with property taxes in Lake County but the fact she claims that she can change it should be seen through by the voters.