Friday, December 24, 2004

90% to Fund Raiser???

A report on Fox News reminded me of a phone call I made to Journal Star Columnist Terry Bibo in approximately 1998. I told this columnist that she should investigate a fund raising company in the area that was raising funds for certain local social organizations by selling tickets good for a local entertainment event to the public by telephone. This fund raiser was keeping 90% of the money collected and giving the social clubs 10%. Tickets were sold to the unsuspecting public for $8.00 to benefit the social clubs who received only$ .80. I told Ms.Bibo that I felt the public was being “conned”. I gave her the names of the social clubs and the name, address and phone number of the fund raiser. She said she would check into it and get back to me. A year later in a conversation with Barbara Mantz, JS Editorial page manager, I mentioned my conversation with Ms. Bibo and that Ms. Bibo had never gotten back to me. Ms. Mantz said she would pass the information on to the manager Bibo reported to. Shortly thereafter, I received a blistering phone call from Ms. Bibo. Bibo told me if she wanted to check this 10% rip-off deal she would and if she didn’t want to check it out, she wouldn’t. End of conversation. She has never written on the subject as of this date.

A couple of years later, Bibo took out her revenge with a 500 word vicious attack on me in her column in the JS in an attempt to discredit me so I would lose the County Board election in 2000. Bibo tried to embarrass me with falsehood after falsehood. (I didn’t lose the election because anyone with common sense could see she was “out to get me”).

Bibo is known in this community as a “bleeding liberal”. My conservatism doesn’t blend in with her ilk.

Most organizations that raise funds for good causes are legitimate. Fox News reported today that many aren’t or if they are legitimate, the fund raiser often takes a major portion of the money raised. Or, too much goes to operating expenses of the social organizations, including executive salaries and benefits.

There have been some major scandals in some groups like the National Headquarters of the United Way in excessive executive pay or in the case of the National Headquarters of the Red Cross, trying to get involved politically. Some organizations were sending your money to groups like the El Qaeda and Hamas.

I have always been more than interested why the Journal Star management does not look into how much money is allocated to overhead of those organizations always soliciting for money (12 request in 2004 from one well know local charitable organization). Is that because the JS is in the business of fund raising themselves? They were able to report dollar for dollar on the Bielfeldt Foundation receipts and disbursements and who received the disbursement. (I know they Js editors sometimes visit this site. Maybe they will publish if any overhead is deducted from the funds they collect for charity)?

I understand financial statements are available and at some point I am going to start writing letters asking for a breakout of revenues and expenses. Maybe ask what the Executive Officers are making and with what benefits. My first letter will probably be to the Journal Star. I have never seen a report as to how much they take out for overhead and what financial institutions hold the collected money and who the recipients are. Is everything collected given out during the fund raising drive or do they keep a permanent staff to keep giving all year long? Who makes the decision as to who receives what? Has the JS created a foundation similar to the Bielfeldt Foundation? I’m sure the JS fund is in the best interests of the public and the overhead is reasonable. Maybe this is all public knowledge and I just don’t know where to look.

Most of us feel good about giving a certain amount of our money to charities. This blog and the Fox News Report serves as a reminder that you might feel a lot better if most if not all of your donations actually do go to worthwhile causes. If just the idea of giving makes you feel good, hey, it’s your money. This blog is just a reminder you may not always be getting the bang for the buck you expect!!

But the question remains. Why didn’t Bibo, as an investigative reporter, look into this public rip-off? Isn’t that what newspapers are supposed to do? Didn’t they do it with the Bielfeldt Foundation? Are these same local organizations still just receiving 10% of the funds collected?


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Palace Roller Rink

Winter is a great season for indoor sports and few things are more fun and relaxing than roller skating in a handsome place called the Peoria Palace Roller Skating Rink & Party Center. The Palace is located at the foot of Route 6 and Rt. 29 near Mossville. It has skates for rent; the floor and the whole building are new. It has a banquet facilities rink side. A great place for sales award meetings, (my daughters company had a skating event at a roller rink in St.Louis recently) sales meetings, banquets, dance/party place, or meetings that could involve the exercise and fun of roller skating.

The Palace is one of the communities best kept secrets! Go check it out or call for information at (309) 579-3626 of find at

Support our privately held facilities in Peoria County. We need them and they pay taxes unlike the non taxpaying public funded recreation centers!!

Make checking them out a New Years Resolution. They have a teen New Years Eve event 10:30-6:A.M. They also have adult nites with oldies music!

(I have many memories of clean fun at the Circus roller rink in Bloomington many years ago. I met many kids not into smoking, drinking and drugs. Plus it was a great way to exercise while having fun)!!

Drugs and Your Heart

Refer back to my blog on Celebrex and Vioxx and the recent news on the popular “over the counter drug”, Aleve. According to certain studies of the use of these drugs, these pain killers can increase the risk of heart problems. I am not a doctor and will soon under by-pass surgery myself, but I do understand that there are hundreds of reasons a person may incur heart problems. I believe that no doctor can tell you exactly why some part of your body needs replaced or why your body weakens other than from very obvious reasons. In my case I have all the appearances of good health, no high blood pressure, low cholesterol, exercise regularly, play sports competitively even now, maintained close to my school days weight, handled stress better than many people, I believe, use little alcohol and haven’t smoked at all in the last 28 years and when I did it was an occasional cigar, no tranquiller, except a mild one on rare occasions and only two pills daily prescribed by my doctors for a long existing atrial fibrillation problem. I used no pain killers except on very rare occasions and for no long length of time. So why is there blockage of three vessels to my heart?

To what do I blame my need for surgery?? Aspirin, I’ve taken a few over the years as prescribed? An article in the Wall Street Journal today says that “the world’s oldest and most perennially popular painkiller – aspirin – is a dangerous drug, too. Aspirin is a drug and has its dangerous side effects and it’s not for everybody. A decision to take one for the rest of one’s life requires a complex analysis of a person’s risk”. (Cardiologist Michael S. Lauer of the Cleveland Clinic)

It is much easier to run drug clinical tests on a live subject if those subjects are mice, rats, or mosquitoes and are studied in a 100% controlled environment. But, how can you possibly run accurate studies on human beings unless you put them in a totally controlled environment? Humans can and do lie, cheat, forget or exaggerate. How do the folks who conducted the studies know that those taking, say Celebrex , where one half took Celebrex and one half took placebos, didn’t always take the medication exactly as prescribed, maybe flushed it down the drain, maybe got additional or other drugs from another a friend or received free samples that are not recorded anywhere? How did the people conducting the studies know the Celebrex users didn’t abuse themselves with some other drug such as alcohol, may have taking other drugs that the test study people may not have known about, weren’t under severe stress and denied it, or may have taken actions to confuse the testers? Maybe they concealed their dislike of the big and powerful drug makers, who, of course, have added years to our average life span?

I contend it is next to impossible to accurately study human beings unless they are in a totally controlled environment such as mice and rats.

I contend that excess of almost anything could cause serious damage to one’s health. That the shortage of something like water to drink causes many deaths yet one can drink too much water and die.

Why would some in a study group not cooperate 100%? Same reason why Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton. Why do good kids cheat on tests? Why compulsive gamblers deny that they area compulsive gamblers or why alcoholics contend they only have a couple of drinks a day? Same reason Nixon denied Watergate. And why our intelligence communities didn’t cooperate better before 9/11. And some are still putting themselves and their bureaucracies before the general good of the people!

Another article in the WSJ today is entitled “Rethinking Over-the-Counter Drugs”. Maybe they aren’t as safe as we thought. Good grief !! Maybe nothing out there is safe. Should one suffer and eventually die for fear that what they are taking in “prescribed” doses from a qualified source will hasten their demise?

These drug effect studies are conducted by highly paid experts in the health field, most of which are highly qualified. But even these experts arrive at different conclusions.
(My definitions of many people who claim to be experts are individuals with a bunch of degrees away from his or her hometown). Many of the studies done by these “experts” are being proven wrong; especially results in what we eat, drink and use for medication. These studies often confuse the issue by refuting the experts who really know what they are doing. It is difficult to sort out the truth.

A number of college professors; at least one I heard give a speech right here in our community; teach that there are no truths. I won’t buy that stupidity by any person even someone with a bunch of sometimes meaningless degrees. It’s true that if you overdose on any drug you may so ruin your health and may even cause death. It’s true that if there were no drugs on the market, our lives and our well-being, would be seriously impacted. It’s true that if you don’t read the instructions on use of your medication or consult with your doctors you may suffer more or die. It’s true that if you lost part of your body, it’s not there even if you can feel it. It’s true that if you step in front of a speeding vehicle, you may die or lie to regret it.

Yes, there are a lot of truths in this world. To live in a civilized society we must have trust in our fellowmen. However, most people with common sense will say, trust but verify.

All these studies to develop drugs that enhance our lives are subject to error. To say that misuse of any drug that might have hastened the demise of 7 out of 100 should not be cause to deny the other 93 a greatly enhanced lifestyle. The greatest fear of any approved drug being used as prescribed, should not be fear of the drug itself. If we want to live even longer, eliminate the wheel and engine. Even with all the controls we have on vehicles, over 42,000 people died in vehicular accidents in the U.S.last year and over 1,000,000,000 injured.

There is probably no such thing as any drug being totally safe. We are a free country and we can and do sue under appropriate conditions. But to try to sue the drug makers for every unintentional death will eventually stop the progress in health care that has so greatly improved over the past decades. Continued research and the accurate tracking of user experience, will help us live longer and feel better. Without the profit to invest billions of dollars in research, drug manufactures will eventually cease to exist, and illegitimate fly by night companies will take over and few will be able to catch them and sue them.

Tort lawyers are again on the march, advertising for anyone who ever used a drug and died. Our greatest hope is that our new legislative bodies will bring company closing tort lawsuits in line with common sense. Surely what we are experiencing in greed by both client and tort attorney is not good for our overall wellbeing.

That’s why I asked my doctor how much study and experience he had in heart surgery. Especially, his experience in the type of surgery recommended. I also rely on references and reputation of those I will trust. I also trust that when I take temporary leave of this site shortly, medical knowledge and my trust in my doctor and the medical community will have me back at my computer and active again on the County Board before spring.

Sorry, Bill, (Bill is my former mentor who says my bogs are "tooooo" long) for the length of this blog but I feel this story can only be told in detail.

Robert Cody is credited with this statement “Have the courage to live. Anyone can die”.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! Happy holidays to others who celebrate different events at this time of year.

Friday, December 17, 2004

More on Values and Faith

Since there is a drive to ensure the proper values are being reflected by our elected officials and requests are being made to our elected officials and to the public at large in support a referendum to ban nudity in Peoria County, I thought you might like my opinion on community values, most of which I have already expressed in past “Letters to the Editors”. Let me review. In a document published in the JS in 1999, I wrote “have all teachers (everyone who teaches or mentors in any capacity) incorporate the teaching of values, such as responsibility, work ethics, integrity, decency, civility, loyalty and tolerance”. Prior to that I wrote a letter published by the JS and CW I wrote “accountability and responsibility have become just words that once had a meaning in another less enlightened era, and are now replaced by “not my problem” and greed.

I agree we could all use some “shaping” up in letting our belief in these values guide us, of course, you more than me!!

The Boy Scout creed of trustworthy, helpful, obedient (be careful here, I seem to recall “obedient” used by the leader of at least one European country we helped conquer, our definition of “obedience” proved superior )cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, all seem to be characteristic traits of people who have character and values.

Taking all these values into account would seem to make one a good Christian. Since I practice to the best of my ability, all of the above, I still don’t believe the hardcore leaders of the fundamentalist right believe that I and some of you fit the description of being good people practicing good values. I don’t think some of us will be able to escape the wrath of the “moral policepepole” now on the warpath right here in sinful rivercity. I think they are saying “believe as we do or suffer the consequences”.

Since one of their leaders moved here just three years ago and quickly discovered how sinful we were, I am going to declare my rights or “seniority” because I was here first. I’m old enough to be responsible for my own sins and I’m going to try not to point out other peoples sins, they are so obvious they should recognize them themselves!!

At any rate, I’m not moving!!

I’d like to keep nudity out of politics. We have enough distractions already. I know the Democrats want equal opportunity, tolerance and compassion. The Republicans want stronger families; they want to raise standards of public decency, religion, faith and personal responsibility. And then there are a bunch of independent thinkers like me, we just want common sense.

So why doesn’t everybody work these miracles on themselves and their own families and pretty soon no one will watch MTV, visit nude bars, watch sitcoms, porn movies, and watch other nude or near nudity activities in public or private view. If Hollywood won’t cooperate, just don’t watch the flicks. Stay away from the mall in the summertime and the beaches. In fact, to get the point across, why not move to Iraq and release Saddam. At least he was able to control public nudity. In fact writing all this has fully convinced me that all our problems here in “sin city” are the results of someone being nude behind closed doors being looked at by people who are not forced to look.

Wow, with such easy solutions bring me a petition, but please reword it based on this blog before I’ll sign it!!

Seriously, I agree that without faith, our world would be one of chaos. On the other hand I believe that those trying by force to make you see things only from their view, are people very unsure of their own faith.

Unsafe Drugs???

Ahh, unsafe drugs are back in the news with Celebrex.. My goodness I suspect very few drugs are totally safe. I know if you drink to much liquor (a drug) you can die. If you smoke or chew tobacco (a drug), you run the risk of dying. Almost any drug if you don’t follow directions can cause death (think sleeping pills, even aspirin). The thousands of drugs being used by most all people should be taken with the understanding of a possible side effect. In some cases, if you use multiple doctors, one may prescribe something that conflicts with what another doctor prescribed. You should tell your doctor what medications you are taking. Doctors are not seers, but human just like you. While faith is a great trait to have, common sense is even more reliable.

I emphasize that any drug should be used with caution. Some drugs can be dangerous to some people. Even eating peanuts, certainly not a drug, can cause death to some people allergic to whatever peanuts contain.

Dioxin, the drug used to try to kill the presidential candidate in Ukraine, has a use in the world of chemistry but it can cause death and disfigurement by misuse.

An article in the WSJ on October 5, 2004 reported that one of the first lawsuits filed against Merck the manufacturer of the arthritis pain reliever Vioxx, was filed by a 39 year old man who smoked cigarettes for over 20 years, was 35 pounds overweight, had high blood pressure and didn’t exercise regularly. (Probably worked for IDOT or USDOT). Naw, a lot of good people work on highways, unfortunately some have to work harder to make up for the slackers. As early as 1999, this man complained to his heart doctor that he was having chest pains. Records show that this man had his prescription filled, but who knows whether he was taking them as prescribed, giving them to someone else of just washing them down the drain.

Consider all the good drugs do for us. Keep filing these lawsuits, many frivolous, and the drug companies will relocate totally to India or China. Then we can really complain about outsourcing. (More on the subject of outsourcing later).

Speaking of buying drugs cheaper in Canada (which I wasn’t), Canada manufactures very few drugs, that’s one good reason why they can sell some drugs cheaper than pharmacies in the U.S. Also Canadians have neither the cost of research or litigation. Some might consider relocating to Canada where the government is more socialist and the wait time for proper medical care and medication can stretch for months. But most health care is cheaper.

We will miss you.

For those of you who sold their Pfizer in panic today, too bad. You not only cost yourselves a lot of money, you caused those of us who were intelligent enough to not panic, a lot of money. But we, who didn’t panic or were not panicked by our stockbrokers, (I got a call asking me to consider selling) still have our stock and you don’t. The stock rallied later in the day, it came back more than $2 a share before the market closed. I don’t expect to lose any money on Pfizer eventually because it is a solid company with enough legal counsel to deal with the tort attorneys. This doesn’t mean I don’t grieve for the ones who may have been hastened to their death by a drug that is considered safe for most people. I also grieve for the 3661 people who died in motorcycle related accidents in 2003.

I feel sorry for people who suffer from severe arthritis because they have been scared from seeking relief by the liberal press who tries to embarrass the established business sector on every opportunity. Sure, you can buy generics from wholesalers who are generally immune from litigation but the FDA keeps less of a watch on those than on the big pharmaceuticals. Those of you who might have watched CNBC today try to put their own words in the Pfizer President and CEO mouth should have been embarrassed for this station and their advertisers. Why pull a drug that benefits millions because of a few deaths? Did we pull booze and tobacco? And because of studies that seem to be in conflict with each other? Do I believe that Celebrex caused some deaths? I will leave the courts to make a fair determination. Has alcohol (a drug) been withdrawn because of an awful lot of death and misery? Alcohol related accidents caused over 16,000 deaths in vehicles alone in 2003 not counting all the homicides, shooting deaths, overdose deaths or the millions injured or brain damaged.

No, I’m not against the sale of drugs or alcohol. I just advise that if you must relieve your pain, follow your doctors advise or get a second opinion, enjoy yourself, or if you must, abuse yourself in moderation. I suspect with a little bit of luck, you’ll live longer. I also suggest that many drug related deaths have a combination of factors that result in one’s demise. I trust the judicial system will sort out the facts. My own opinion and that of many of my friends, is that the grasp on our throats that the tort attorneys have will be slightly loosened in the next four years.

You might want to put a buy on undervalued drug manufactures stock. Maybe consider buying thru a discount broker. While discount brokers won’t give you any advice you may be safer using your own judgment. In my case, why should I believe a guy who has less money than I have, yet is advising me where to put my money? And if he or she has more money than I, it must be because of the outrageous commission’s most full service brokers charge. I have the same sources of information (almost any stock can be found on the internet giving you most all the detail you need to know to make decisions on whether to buy, sell or hold.) most of the brokerages have and I don’t have to worry about the brokerage pushing a product on which they can make more money at my expense. My discount broker charges me $24.95 per transaction up to 5000 shares. Since I stopped using a full services brokerage a couple years ago, my portfolio has made a decent recovery.

I close with this thought. Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway. (John Wayne)

Talk with you again this evening.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Gambling in Peoria

Reading about and watching Texas Hold ‘Em poker on TV brings back memories of my early days when I moved to Peoria. One of my first friends was a coach named Joe who introduced me into a poker playing group with guys with names like Billy T, Billy S, Moose, Gene, Ray, Larry, George, two or three guys with Doc in front of their names, Tony, another coach, a TV Sportscaster, John, a former police chief and a former sheriff, Bob the Cleaner, and a few more that were in and out of the game. Some are gone now, some died a few moved away, with some owing unwritten debts to other players. I hold an IOU of which $600.00 was never paid but Bill is long dead. (Chewing tobacco did him in).

The game sort of started coming apart in the 1980’s when I opened a business in Arizona, one player took the cure, some moved on to bigger games, (think Jimmies Lock Shop), some moved up the ladders in their careers and some non-smokers couldn’t handle the cigar smoke and some just got tired of the game and the late hours: some wives got tired of hosting the games, preparing the food and drink and cleaning up later. The games were usually alternately hosted and financially funded with a drag from each pot until expenses were covered.

Back then we played 5 card stud, 7 card stud, and a few games with wild cards. One night I had a Royal Flush and was reaching for the pot when someone, it was you, Larry counted the joker as a wild card ace and took the pot with four natural aces. I learned much of the game the hard way, experience. Very few people in this game went away losing more than they could afford. I hear that happened in the bigger games. I was wary enough not to participate in those.

Since those days, gambling with all its publicity, is involving a lot more people at a younger age; there were no kids allowed in the games we played.

What worries me nowadays is that so many young people are getting hooked on gambling. They are starting younger and are being encouraged by advertising and even some public financed groups like the Peoria Park District.

On 10/21/04, an article appeared in the Journal Star stating the Peoria Park District was teaching kids how to gamble, to play Texas Hold ‘EM and other card gambling games. The instructor is quoted as saying “I’m always trying to find new things to do with teens, you know teenagers – if something isn’t cool they’re not going to do it. And this is hot right now”. The instructor organized a hold ‘em competion for 14 to 18 year-olds at 2 P.M. Saturday at the Owens Center in Peoria

I guess this fits in with the parks philosophy of “families that play together, stay together”. (Bonnie Noble 1999). This follows the parks policy of allowing liquor to be sold in the Riverplex and the parks budget of $80,000.00 to sell body massages at the RiverPlex.

And here we are worrying about nude bodies behind closed doors.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Whose Values?

Remember history telling us about the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth and settled in Boston? They wanted to reform and purify the Church of England and after moving around a bit set sail to the New World seeking religious independence and freedom. They were not simply “radical Puritans”,” they were Separationists. They feared their sons and daughters were becoming deculturated so it was best to “get out of Dodge City”. They wanted to have nothing to do with the established church.

Fortunately, these Pilgrims were not only motivated by religious fervor but also by common sense. Because a minority including Miles Standish and John Alden were non-believers the colonists drew up America’s first constitution. This document became the basis of civil intercourse in Plymouth. They understood that any creed that substitutes faith for reason is incompatible with religious tolerance.

Reason is the only basis on which men can live peacefully with those who disagree, knowing that reality is the common court of final appeal. Only reason makes possible an objective theory of the good, one holds that the private immorality of other is not per se one’s concern. On the religious theory of the good, there is no such thing as private immorality: anyone’s “sin” stands as an affront to God and simply can’t be allowed.

On such basis, how can one tolerate “evil” done by those who worship the wrong God, or perform “blasphemous” rituals – or no rituals? The social danger of fundamentalism, whether Christian or Islamic, is what follows when dogmatic faith in sacred texts replaces reason.

Now I’m really not that literate to write all that stuff above by myself so I had do a little plagiarism from a pretty smart guy from Gainesville, Florida named Leonard G. Shurtleff and from Harry Binswanger, Ph.D. from the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif.

This blog ties in with my preceding blog and in regard to petitions I hear that are being circulated in Peoria. I haven’t seen any of these petitions personally. Probably will.

I leave you with this thought: “Human beings are an evolving species, morally as well as physically. An imperfect world is not the same as a worthless world”. (Anonymous)

I close with a comment made to me by a member of the JS Editorial Boards when I mentioned “values common to all of us” who asked “whose values, yours”? Good point. Maybe the JS should be asking the same question now to some others beside just me.

I suggest we should look carefully at what is going on here in “rivercity”. I’ll listen to the moral policemen and women if the values they are talking about are common to promote a civil society.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Ban All Nudity??

So the Republican Governor of Vermont objects to a table lamp featuring a replica of “The Greek Slave” – a chained nude female crafted by a Vermont artist in 1843 that became an icon of the abolitionist movement before the Civil War. An aide to the Governor said “the governor does not object to the art but how do you explain to a third grade why there is a nude Greek Slave on the governor’s desk”.

This brings me to a conversation I had with a friend recently. This man was all excited to tell me there was a move underway in Peoria to get people to sign petitions banning nudity in Peoria. I asked him where it was going to be banned. In the bedroom? On the street? In the Civic Center? Exactly where? He said “you know where I mean”. I said no I don’t and that caused the subject to change.

Now I don’t want people walking around the mall naked. I see enough near nakedness there anyway, and though I respect the rights of all women, I believe most people should keep their clothes on in public. I’ve spent too much time on the beaches in Florida turning my head so that I can’t see those overweight people wearing what look like jock straps and thongs.

I suspect that nearly all children by the third grade have seen more anatomy than someone with a fundamentalist approach to life, would prefer. Very little is left to imagination even in advertising, television, computer, comic books, museums, art galleries or you name it.

If we wish to turn this country into a group of people who are ashamed of how the human body looks without clothes, I suggest we have much in common with men who keep women in subjugation and some of you might be more comfortable in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Don’t count on me as one of you. The Saudi’s won’t even let women athletes compete in shorts or a swim suit. In fact, I don’t believe they can even wear dresses in public. Don’t they wear Burkas (probably misspelled and I really don’t care if it is!) or some sort of total body cover-up? Boy those men must sure be jealous!!

Anyway I am not a “how you look policeman”. I people wish to embarrass themselves in public, why, hey, this is supposed to be a free country, isn’t it?

Anyway back to the governor. I suggest he cloth the slave woman in a bikini and everyone including the children will be more comfortable or does the governor think the kids don’t go near men and women swimming or competing in ballet and other near nudity activities? Then maybe one of these third graders will ask “did they wear bikinis and thongs while they were slaves? That might be a harder question to answer!!

For all those people pushing their beliefs and values on the rest of us I say look after yourself and your clan and your ilk. No one has to look at nudity and as far as most of us are concerned, they can cover their bodies they way they want. I guess I don’t blame some of the leadership of the “ban nudity” sponsorship; I sure don’t want to see some of them naked!! I have always believed that it wasn’t nakedness that causes a rise in men and women’s testosterone, but they way some people dress and act.

However; I see beauty in all of creation.

Speaking of beauty, the Poinsettia from Hoerr’s this year were as beautiful as last year. Thanks to all the people who bought them from me. I raised approximately $450.00 for the Optimist Club, 100% of the money will go to youth groups and we can only hope it will be well spent.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Election Referedndum Review

Election Referendum Revisited Again!! If you scroll my archives you will find this topic. I wrote about this referendum to bring the City Election Commission into the County where by law it should be. If you recall, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars would have been saved every year. However, the company selling the City Election Commission their supplies and maintenance donated $2500 dollars to the campaign and City Election employees donated many more thousands in advertising to mislead and confuse the issue and in turn, confuse the voter. Also, if you recall, the vote “yes” or “no” on the referendum was confusing to a lot of people. It confused the “yes” voter more than the “no” voter because the “yes” voter wanted only one Election Commission and that was to be run by the County Clerk who runs all Peoria County elections. (The County clerk is elected by the public and the City Election Commission is appointed).

The City Election Commission allegedly had quite a few problems during the recent general election; evidently enough that Ricca Slone is going to get a recount on Wednesday of next week with the major bulk of the recount to be paid by the taxpayer. Evidently many of the City of Peoria election judges were confused and a sizeable number of provisional ballots mishandled. This is what happened:

In the City of Peoria with 68,000 registered voters only 40 provisional ballots were cast and only 1 was counted!
In the County of Peoria with 53,000 registered voters 231 provisional ballots were cast and 75 were counted.

Something doesn’t appear right and I believe this is why Ricca is asking for a recount.
In the City of Peoria precincts, the election judges were told that before giving out a provisional ballot, the election judges had to first call the election commission to get the okay. This took 20-40minutes. Most people couldn’t wait that long or were dismayed by the process.

Peoria County had a much simpler process and did not have the problems the city had. These problems would not have occurred if the March 2004 referendum had passed. I exposed (My research not only appeared on this site but was also printed in full in the Community Word in their September 2004 issue) who the large donations came from that helped defeat the referendum. I wrote how closing out the City Election Commission would affect a vendor (donated $2500.00) and a number of City Election Commission employees financially. With continued problems created by the City Election commission, the voters might want to reexamine their votes and ask for another referendum.

The right time for this question to appear on a ballot would be the general of 2006. The League of Women Voters who sponsored the failed referendum this spring should not give up.

Taxpayers are looking for ways to trim government spending and stop the tax increases. Combining local government is one way to do it and despite Mayor Ransburg’s recent letter stating all the progress the City has made with the County on combining services, the surface has just been scratched.

I close with this quote from Ronald Reagan “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”.

Identity Theft

Speaking about identity theft, Sandra Johnson a criminal law professor at the University of Pittsburg and a former federal prosecutor, said “It’s very difficult to protect against, by the time you find out it’s a problem, you’ve been victimized and probably not just once”. More than 27 million Americans have been victims of identity theft between 1998 and 2003, according to a FTC report. And this form of fraud is growing. In 2003, nearly 400,000 Americans were victims of identity theft, where a person gives authorities someone else’s name at the time of the stealers arrest. And these are just the numbers that are reported.

Older people are especially vulnerable to con people and other types of thieves, because many of you were brought up in a different era and believe that sincere talking people are honest. Most are. A lot are not. That is why you are paying for the support of over 2,000,000,000 mostly dishonest people incarcerated in the U.S. as you read this warning.

A few tips – never let your credit card numbers be seen by someone standing in line looking over your shoulder.

Never give personal information such as your credit or Social Security number to anyone over the telephone unless you are completely confident, for example, that it is your bank, your investment manager and it is really someone you can check on to be sure they are who they claim to represent.

When asked to give your personal identification numbers over the phone and you have any doubts of the validity of the request, ask the caller for a number where you can call them back. Then you can look them up in the phone book to verify the number. If the number cannot be confirmed, ask for advice before proceeding. You can also ask where they are located and how they are listed in the local phone book. If an out of town address if given, seek advice. If the address is local but you are not familiar with the party, you should seek further advice.

If in doubt at all, call a relative, a friend, or your personal banker or accountant. You do not want to become another victim of identity theft. But if you suspect or are an identity theft victim, report it at once to the proper authorities.

Merle Widmer
Vice-Chairman, Peoria County Board

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Fund Raising for Youth Programs

I have for a long period of time received requests for donations from one of Peoria’s leading youth center. This year I received an invitation to come to an open house to meet the President and CEO and her husband. A few days later I received a Christmas card with the outside of the card showing the Presidents name and the address of the youth center. Inside was a poignant poem written by a child to her mother followed by some typical words as to why the center was so important and a request for money signed by the President and CEO.

By contrast, I received a four page third class letter from the Youth Farm. The outside of the letter was labeled Youth Farm with no individual name and the back contained the list of the Board of Directors and special thanks to supportive individuals and businesses. The letter devoted one and one half pages to “The State of the Farm” by the President and CEO. It presented a year in review and talked about the abysmal record of residential placement of youths, a success rate of only 41% compared to Youth Farm of 67%. The letter showed how foster care was more successful and cost less money. It stated that Youth Farm needs to raise approximately $500,000.00 a year to supplement their state contracts. It had news about the successful fund raiser, a board member spotlight, comments from Youth Farms new Clinical Director and comments from Sheriff Mike McCoy who strongly supports the work of Youth Farm.

I reflected on these three documents for a couple of days and decided to share my observations with you. I see the valuable information from the Youth Farm and their subtle request for funding as having the most appeal for me to part with my money. I see the two mailing from the other youth center as sort of a bureaucracy building ploy and a request for 100,000 gifts of $35.00 each or a total, if achieved, of $3,500,000.00. That’s three and one half million!! It appeared to be a staggering amount of money and it appeared to be all about the President and CEO and her need to be successful.

It didn’t take long to decide where my limited donation was going to go.Youth Farm.
Hold on Brett. The check is in the mail!!

As most of you know, I’m not much into bureaucracy building and we have a ton of it going on in Peoria citing dire needs for more and more money. Do I think these fund raising bureaucracies are all necessary? No! In the 1990’s when I was very active in children’s projects, there were approximately 70 youth organizations fighting for the same funding from government entitlements and from individuals and businesses. Yet youth problems are growing in Peoria. Yes, there are many success stories but ask our juvenile authorities and Sheriff Mike McCoy and I believe they will tell you what they tell me. We are falling short. Almost all youth organizations in Peoria do some good; many do better than others. Dollars are limited in almost any household and we want to give to those who make the best use of our money. Why not combine many of these organizations like we combined the Harrison Youth Center with the Boys and Girls Club when I was involved? Some said it couldn’t be done, yet it was and has appeared to be a success.

It was my opinion back in the 90’s and my opinion today that there are too many agencies fighting for the same dollar and offering similar programs. Yet so many kids fall between the cracks and wind up in our juvenile court system and jails. These fund raising efforts should be about services rendered for the dollar spent and not about building personal reputations.

I have a healthy distrust of some people’s motives.

I ask for your comments as I believe I have opened a topic worthy of more input than mine.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Starvation and Work Ethics

Every time I hear about the millions of children going hungry everyday I think of the approximately 70% of the kids that go to school in District #150 and get their lunches paid courtesy of the taxpayers. I spend quite a bit of time driving various parts of Peoria and hardly ever see a garden. Why not? Almost every house has space to plant something edible. My mother raised nine kids and the gardens we planted, weeded, sprayed and harvested produced most of what we ate. My mother canned and stored and the kids all worked the land. We only had time to play after the work was done. The nine of us and our children did and will carry this work ethic to our graves. Thanks again, mom and dad!!

In this country, I believe that anyone physically able to work will not starve. But if they grow up with no work ethic, it is easier for them to beg or take food from all those agencies who often justify their existence by “feeding the poor”.

I visited a social agency well known for their work with the poor. I noted the neglected areas around the building and ask why those who were getting everything free were not required to help with house and area cleaning. I was told by the administrator, that she could not ask these people to help for fear of workman compensation claims they might file if they claimed they were injured. I no longer donate anything to this agency except thru the Optimist Club whose motto is “Friends of Youth”.

I visit quite a few school classrooms every year and observe the kids in their study and performance. What I see is quite a large number of lazy kids, some who leave their books in their lockers and won’t even go get them; they’d rather sit and do nothing. One class I visited in District #150 a couple of weeks ago had an experienced substitute teacher overseeing kids reading a paperback novel out loud. I asked why only half of the kids had the book. (The work plan left by the absentee teacher was for each kid to read a certain portion of a paperback novel). One half the kids didn’t bring their book to the classroom so they just sat, talked and moved about the room. The substitute teacher never said anything, actually sat at his desk and made notes and occasionally gave a note to a student to take to the office. There was no discussion about what was being read, no correction in grammar, no help in enunciation, and in general the teacher was like a well paid baby-sitter doing a poor job. This overall lousy attitude stems from the lack of a work ethic for all involved. And for this we are paying $10,000.00 a head, (this figure was in a local paper recently)many heads in which little is being put that will make them employable with the ability to support a family in the near future?? (A recent article said that 50% of all teen age girls in our country have been pregnant at least once by the age of nineteen).

Right here in rivercity with millions being spent on leisure and enhancements we are creating situations where thousands of kids do not know how to work, how to study, or how to behave. We blame it all on those who try to raise these kids. I agree, but the public school system is failing if teacher, principals, administration and the board cannot keep discipline in the classroom and help teach a work ethic.

Some of the teachers have no idea how to interest these kids in what is going on in the real world and some of these teachers are just marking time for their retirement and benefits. Ever since Dr. Strand and a gullible board and community leaders abolished vocational education, establishing academies as a substitute, District #150 has been going downhill. (They failed to recognize the changing demographics, attempting to teach like everyone was going to college and have an easy white collar job). Also, mandated standardized tests have acerbated the decline by causing teachers to teach kids who aren’t interested, to pass tests that aren’t realistic. When kids don’t pass these tests with high enough scores, these schools are then put on state watch lists. Every time a student misses classes for any reason, the schools have these absences deducted from state financial funding. No wonder so many classrooms are out of control!!

I believe that the majority of the present school board and administration realize the serious situation that exists in many of the middle and high schools but I don’t believe some local governments and community leaders are doing much classroom visiting to get first hand observations. If they would visit some of these classrooms at random, they might show more concern. As I said in recent articles, time is running out on Dist. #150 and if a mistake is made similar to the last one in hiring a new administrator, this community is in very serious trouble. This person that the board does hire, should be a compassionate tough administrator who better have a degree in business. We have enough educators on board or available to be called on in this community. This person also should be a strong supporter of Voc/Tech or this community will soon be without a local workforce to attract and hold new businesses.

A friend of mine, who is as much or more interested in District #150 than I, will be visiting schools as a team and on this site I plan to post my observations naming the schools visited and those in authority. I will praise those who are trying their best and point out the successes and failures we observe, but only after discussion with those in authority.

I still have confidence in the system and support all the present administration in their efforts to get on top of the situation.

Good luck to all of us but there is much hard work and many hard actions and hard thinking ahead which must involve the entire community, even those who send their kids to private schools!

Seniority and Job Security

I recently wrote an article about seniority. At the County Board elections Monday evening, I was elected by my peers by a vote of 10-8 over the incumbent for the position of Vice-Chairman of the Peoria County Board. I am only serving my second term on the board so if the board elected by seniority, I would have had to wait until it was my time. Promoting by seniority is a bad way to run any kind of an organization. The downfall of many entities is employees seeing less competent people promoted ahead of them because of the length of time of their employment.

Some years back, there was a lot of talk about the Peter Principle, or the theory that when people reach certain stages in life they tend to no longer improve themselves. (They have reached the level where they feel “comfortable”). Yet they want to rely on their seniority to not only hold their jobs but be paid more or be promoted. Some may have already reached the level of responsibility they wish to assume, which should be no problem to any employer as long as the employee continues to do as good or better work at a competitive pay scale.

When businesses of government or even social groups promote on seniority you can expect the level of efficiency to drop and experience a further spread of the “socialist” disease. Most successful organizations try to hire and promote according to one major criterion: Is this the best person available for the position?

When an employee and employer fail to come to an agreement on which goal each hopes to achieve, there is usually a disappointed employee and employer and everybody has wasted time. Applicants should not be disappointed if the employer explains why they are not being hired including why they do not meet the job description which the employer should clearly state. Every interview should be a learning experience for the applicant and not a loss of self esteem if they aren’t offered a position.

When I was a Sales Manager or business owner, I asked early in the interview a simple question. If you had your “druthers” what you really like to do? When their ambitions were far from the position description I knew they wouldn’t be long in my employ. Unless I saw some basic traits that were highly sought after by all employers or if I could arouse their interest to stay in the field of work we were offering, the interview usually ended with a handshake and good luck and some advise as to how to approach their future endeavors. When a wrong decision is made in hiring, it should be corrected as soon as possible, because hurt feelings are not as bad as lost time for both parties.

Years ago, a manager told me that one day the United States would be like Japan, back in the 60”s, most of Japan had a policy of once hired you could expect a job for life. My manager was wrong; it didn’t work in Japan and it doesn’t work in most of the free world unless they have a socialist form of government. Unfortunately, many employees are learning that seniority only works in family businesses, businesses that fail and some unions. (Think Caterpillar).

I leave you with this thought: Opportunity does not need to be exactly spread, it need only to exist.