Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Looting, Survival or Absence of Law?

Some in the media called looting on the delta, survival. Not hardly. It has been proven thousands of times that the human body can go a long time without food. What a shame for the human race to see black (mostly) and white members of the human species hauling of all they could figure out how to steal. What a great but sad sight to see a black police officer leveling a shotgun at these looters, making them drop the merchandise and run.

This country should be able, in times of national disasters such as the one in the delta, to immediately declare martial law, put all officers of public safety under the protection of military law, and authorize judges to speedily move these actions into temporary law. Grant the right of trial by a military tribunal, if any so authorized who might be indicted for shooting a person in acts such as pillage. Find judges who would speedily move all processes thru an abbreviated court system.

It is way past time to bring some of our troop’s home from oversea bases and use them in situations such as these. If we can authorize the closing of military bases in our own country where crime and violence is rampant, surely we have justification to protect our own people at home first.

Unfortunately we are supposedly such a benevolent country that the pacifists among us, frighten our political correct politicians into failing to look after the majority of us with common sense. An article in today’s JS, told of the rape and murder of children by an adult, who was then in turn, killed by an enraged community. If there is a follow-up to this story in the media, it probably will be that the matter of prosecution was pursued for a while and then common sense would allow minimal punishment or the charges dropped. Had such a thing happened in this country, all involved in the carrying out of justice, would, after prodigious amounts of dollars spent on attorneys and our court system, be sentenced to long prison terms all at public cost. That would be the penalty in this country for eliminating a deranged abnormality of the human race. In Iraq, those peace loving terrorists would immediately lop of the head of the suspect and carry it to the public square. Yes, I know we are a country of laws. If all the laws of the land were compiled in one place, the paper would fill a freight car. Lots of laws with often times, a shortage of common sense.

No, I do not advocate taking the law in your own hands except in the protection of life. I do believe in the death penalty in certain instances and I would authorize the use of laser guns or buckshot on anyone looting who did not stop and drop there loot immediately.

As a country, we are highly influenced by people of the ilk of Al Sharpton and Martin Sheen and other drug dazed or morally corrupt Hollywood types. Even an apparently semi demented Joan Baez has surfaced. If this trend of weakness of political will continues, I see the possibility of a person similar to past European dictators, rising to fill the leadership void created by the enablers, the politically correct, the weak jurists, tort attorneys and the pacifists. Back in the 1920 and thirties, many people in America thought Hitler was Europe’s version of Charlie Chaplin. What a tragic mistake people like Joe Kennedy and Neville Chamberlain made.

It can happen here! Looters, thieves and thugs described as survivalists? How sad.

Growth - Peoria County

“New council’s job will be how to keep 'em in Peoria once they’ve seen suburbia” is an Editorial by the JSEB. This editorial says “Evidence of suburban flight comes from the U.S. Census Bureau that surrounding community’s are attracting wealthier residents. There are other indicators of suburban flight: Nearly one half of the students in School Dist #150 qualify for free lunches and textbooks; the population of Germantown Hills doubled in the last decade, while Peoria’s dropped; building permits, especially for single-family homes, have been steadily on the rise on the East side of the river. The Woodford County Zoning Administrator says people move “to get away from the crowdedness.”

While there are some who want to plant a home on an acre, we’re inclined to think more are leaving Peoria because they perceive that property taxes are lower elsewhere, there are concerned about schools and they fear the spread of crime and gangs into their neighborhoods.

Could Peoria become a bigger East St. Louis or a smaller Detroit? Not as long as the city has jobs to offer. Those with young children must believe their children will get a quality education in Peoria. They must trust that their investments will pay dividends in the future.

The future. That’s the charge for the new City Council and the Mayor. All Peorians have a stake in their success.

Written in 2005? No, published by the JSEB on May 4, 1993 over 12 years ago!!

I bring this up because Peoria County has been holding meetings with realtors and developers on an updated Subdivision Ordinance. The county wants to make it’s zoning more consistent and in the best interest of all concerned. While statistics show that Peoria County ranks 83rd out of 102 counties in new growth, I hasten to point out that it is not the new ordinance that has slowed growth. The revised ordinance hasn’t even gone into effect yet and will not be enacted without a general consensus that we are all moving in the right direction.

It was pointed out, in our Land Use meeting today, that we want people from across the river to come to Peoria to shop at private businesses such as retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, ect. I point out that this is good for Peoria County and City, however, people come over to use our enhancements such as the RiverPlex, ball park, zoo, museums, ect; none of them paying any property taxes, just the fee of membership, admission or use. They can go back across the river, but we Peorians are stuck with the rising property taxes, and a lot of the cost and lifetime support of these new “public enhancements”.

What has changed is obvious to anyone paying attention. Not all of it is good. Look back 12 years and more and measure how far we have come. If you, the reader, is satisfied that we are moving in the right directions, you might want to re-read an Editorial by Mike Bailey of the JSEB published on 2/2/02 and titled “Is Peoria on right road? Do the math.” Then go back and read my blog “Wake Up, Peoria”.

We have leaders who sincerely believe they are doing the “best things” for this community. Are too many of our leaders “self-serving”? Many of us other “leaders” have a somewhat different perspective and are also trying to do the “best things” for this community, but we do not see that more costly “enhancements” are the answer. We are looking for businesses that pay a more than living wage, a public school system that people seek out to send their children to and safety in our neighborhoods.

No, things haven’t improved that much since 1993. We are still seeking more of the right leadership. It’s here, just not much listened to! We may get to the point where neither faith, miracles and friendlier subdivision ordinances, will stem the slow slide of migration from Peoria City and County.

Water-Logged Tall Tales

It was story telling time at the city council meeting Tuesday night. Trying to persuade fellow councilpeople to vote to purchase the water company, some tall tales were told. The councilperson that always does the most talking on the “televised” city council meetings made an impassioned charge against Illinois-American Water Company, saying they had so mishandled the City Street project on Forrest Hill that it stopped the children from going to Woodrow Wilson School. In fact this councilperson said “Those poor kids couldn’t go to school all week.” First I called Woodrow Wilson and asked if ANY kids were prevented from going to school. The answer was NO. NO attendance days were missed. This afternoon, I drove over to confirm and to see the project. It is a rather large project that will take quite a long time to complete. I asked half a dozen people, some workers, about the status of the project and not a one blamed IA for any delay of the project. But some did blame the city and one blamed “the weather”.

This same councilperson made a large to-do about lawsuits and boil orders in a community near us where IA owns the water company. On 8/27/05, an article in the Daily Pantagraph states “Boil order—the boil order for about 650 residences west of Bloomington and served by the Bloomington Township Water District has been lifted. The order was issued earlier this week after a water main break.”

Owned by the “public” and they had a problem??


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Water Company End Run Blocked?

I said I would give you names, places and activities in my blog on 8/26/05 titled “Water Company Buyout “End Run”. Now for more of the story. ( I can’t say “the rest of the story” because I don’t believe the controversy is over yet”.) On Thursday, 8/25, Scott Sorrel, Assistant to the County Administrator, wrote a memo to Patrick Urich, County Administrator under the subject of “water company buy-out” stating, “Rita called to ask if someone would meet with Randy and Gary Sandberg within the next four days”. She said, “The issue is not really dead?” “What do you want me to do?” asked Mr. Sorrel. In my presence, Mr. Urich handed the memo to David Williams, County Board Chairman, who read it and handed it to me. I asked David if he was aware of any conversations directed to him from anyone connected to the city wanting to discuss the City buyout controversy. He said he no. I then asked Mr. Urich why Rita would be contacting Mr. Sorrel and was there conversation going on between County Administration, Rita, Gary and Randy? He indicated some conversation as one would have in a normal conversation about a controversial city possible project. Mr. Williams then attempted to reach Mayor Ardis to ask if Mayor Ardis knew what was going on. After some phone tag, Mayor Ardis told Mr. Williams he was not aware of certain people connected to the city and to PAAG wanting to meet with county officials. I personally called Mayor Ardis who again confirmed that he knew nothing about this attempt by these three already named people to set up a meeting with County Administration and he confirmed what we already knew: the City Council voted 6-5 to stop pursuing “due diligence” by the City to possibly buy the privately held water company.

I said in a previous comment on my blog site that wealthy powerful people do not part with more than a million dollars easily or give up on a project just because the voter voted 81% against the city attempt to buy the water company. If wealthy people didn’t inherit it, they know how hard it usually is to get wealthy and they don’t usually part with a hundred thousand or so very easily.

I might suggest to Rita Kress, who was identified by last name by Scott Sorrel, a lesson in how Peoria County Government is structured. It starts with the election of a County Board who in turn elects a Chairman to chair the elected County Board officials. In turn the County Board hires an administrator to facilitate the wishes of the board, using professional knowledge to keeping everyone working in the same direction for the best results for Peoria County citizens, other governmental partnerships and other elected County officials. I will not suggest anything to City Administrator Randy Oliver except to remind him how the ‘pecking order” goes on controversial issues in which the County is not directly involved. (Mr. Sorrel identified Mr. Oliver as the “Randy” in the memo.)

To Mr. Sandberg, who claims to have been on the city council a long time, it is probably too late to suggest anything. Gary will be Gary. However, since Mr. Urich and Mr. Sorrel know the “pecking order” of the County Board, I’ll spell out the “pecking order” on the County Board to Mrs. Kress:

1. The buck starts and stops with Mr. Williams. Problems you may have in your district should start with your elected board member who will bring it to the attention of the proper department or individual. On matters in which you have already tried to get answers and failed, through proper channels, you certainly have the right to eventually go to the top.
2. The full elected County Board.
3. The administration hired by the County Board. (Mr. Urich, Mr. Sorrel, ect).

I believe all elected officials in Peoria County know and are willing at all times to advise a citizen, voter, newcomer and taxpayer in the county that the best way to advance a cause, protest an injustice, acquire information and so on, is to follow a proper chain of command or authority. I know powerful people often go to the “top” to try to get faster results, but in this case Gary, Rita and Randy misjudged where the “top” is.

Conclusion of this story; no meeting was held. If there is merit in a meeting, I’m sure Mr. Williams and Mr. Ardis will make the proper decision.

(Mrs. Kress told me during a break on the City Council floor, Tuesday evening, commenting about my blog of Tuesday, August 23, 2005, that she would use that blog as toilet paper. I have printed over 150 blogs and will continue to provide more “paper” when needed.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Water Company Buyout End Run??

On 8/24/05 I blogged “Always move on without much celebration. While you are celebrating, someone is already plotting a way to spoil your party.” It didn’t take long for the plotting to begin. I have a copy of a document dated 8/24/05 quoting a high ranking PAAG spokesperson “She said the issue really is not dead yet.” The document goes on to say an outspoken councilman and a very high ranking hired administrative official from the city are involved in trying to set up a meeting with another administrative body in Peoria County. In a conversation with Mayor Ardis, the Mayor says he is not aware of any meeting. Appears some city officials are trying to negotiate behind the Mayor’s back. Hmmmm.

Tune in early next week, I’ll know more and give names, places and activities.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

At Least We Still All Own The Water (I Think)

Everybody knows by now that the mining, processing, distribution and sale of the water in the City of Peoria will not be done by the public sector. There was never a question that Illinois-American was supposed to make a profit. That’s what businesses do or they go broke, sell to another company, are taken over by another company, ect. There was never any doubt that some money could be made if the city bought the privately held company. The major concern of the public and eventually a majority of 6 on the city council thought it was too close of a call to commit the citizenry to a borrowing of $220 million plus interest over 34 years. There was also never a doubt that the voter did not want the city to OWN THE WATER COMPANY.

Anyone who serves as an unbiased elected official should be knighted. Imagine the Chamber saying that “they” represent 1200 businesses and the chamber supports the buyout and you, as an elected official perhaps selling to these businesses, vote against their wishes. (Of course, the C of C polled only their cronies, probably a dozen at the most, so I don’t expect Brewers Distributing and George Jacob will lose much business.) Imagine voting against the wishes of the Civic Federation? Bravery beyond earning knighthood!! On the other hand voting against the wishes of at least 75% of referendum voters, took some courage on the part of “buy the water company” council members.

It’s over at least for some years. Always move on without too much celebration. While you’re celebrating someone is already plotting a way to spoil your party.

However, I do believe there is something in this debate and vote that many in the community are seeing and that is that voters do not believe “some of those who have anointed themselves, and each other, as the real movers and shakers of this community.” Let me point out that some of these leaders are still patting themselves on the back for supporting the Civic Center 40 YEARS AGO!! By the way, so did I!! Since 1964, they have been talking about the great RiverPlex, the new ballpark, the Gateway Center, the restaurant on stilts, Cubs Food, all the new restaurants in the old River Station, the new entertainment center downtown, One Technology Plaza, the lofts and 401 Water Street. Then they realized the only ones that seem to be living up to the hype, are the lofts and 401 Water Street. The new hype is now on the new zoo expansion, the two museums and the Med-Tech development. And of course the control of the water; that hype ended last night.

So some faith has been lost. It may have started when I had the audacity to run against an incumbent County Board member, Zan Ransburg and my defeating her by a 27% margin. Later, I ran against the incumbent President of the Park Board. All the big guns were rolled out to defeat me; a reported $19,000. was spent including $2000.00 from PAC (C of C), and phone calls were made to almost anyone doing business with the park saying “do not support Widmer if you want our business.” A prominent caterer whose business is on Pioneer Parkway received an urgent phone call telling him to remove my signs from his premises. His office was able to reach him in Chicago and he authorized the 2 signs to be taken down and held for me to pick up. When I noticed the signs were gone, the owner took me around to the back of the building where he stored them, but the signs were gone. Powerful forces were at work to be sure I didn’t interrupt the visions of our leaders

Even though I lost the election by a large margin, most of my campaign statements proved to be true causing a ripple effect of worry that a person outside the power structure could become such a problem and this ripple effect turned into a wave on Tuesday night.

When Jim Ardis ran for the office of Mayor of Peoria and won by a sizeable margin, almost all of the power structures supported the incumbent, Dave Ransburg; contributing large amounts of money. (The list of contributors and the amounts contributed can be easily secured with a phone call to the Board of Elections Commission in Springfield and a partial list thru the Count Clerks office.) Jim’s election as Mayor of Peoria created a very large ripple effect, temporarily disrupting many personal and private plans in the community.

So, the grassroots’ citizens are making a come back. Bob Manning, I believe is part of that movement, even though he was disappointed Tuesday night. He did a good job of presenting his case but erred when he said the profits that would be made by city ownership, would go to the city rather than be used as a source of relief for the taxpayer. Bob, who will be an asset to the council, will realize, as he gains more political experience, that the governmental bodies will always find “creative” ways to spend new revenues. That’s the nature of the political beast. George Jacob is correct by saying, in effect, that over spending on seemingly worthwhile projects, including overly generous benefits, are the problems that must be addressed.

The lesson learned is “Grassroots’ citizens do not want to be locked out of power by those we gave power to.” We need leadership groups in Peoria and we have an abundance of leaders. These existing leadership groups need to realize that they are not always right and that they are not the only ones who can make important decisions in this community.

Perhaps they will become more inclusive. We all live in this community and we are all of some importance to the success of this community and its citizens.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Water-Logged Buyout Resurfaces With a Bad Smell

Here is how I see the change of heart by a couple of city councilpeople and why this vote tonite will probably be against the public will:

1. The water company headquarters wants to sell because they believe they can walk away with up to $100 million in profit. I’ve heard that local manager Kevin Hillen is being transferred. He has not returned my phone calls and calls to Indiana were referred back to Mr. Hillen. (Mr. Hillen did call me this morning and sent me an e-mail. He had been out of town. He confirms his transfer and writes as follows: "his company did pay $312,000.00 in property taxes last year compared to $273,715 in 2001." He also says that they estimate they will contribute $112,000.00 to charitable-community-civic functions and groups in 2005. As far as our reinvestment, Mr. Hillen states "most of our capital budget is focused on replacement of existing facilities, such as services, meters, hydrants and mains. In the last two years, this has ranged between $4.5 and 5 million dollars annualy. When we get to a period that requires a new treatment plant or a new equipment, we could easily spend another 6-8 million annually."
2. Illinois-American announced an 8% upcoming price hike right before the council vote. Why would an intelligent company make themselves look bad if they didn’t want to sell? (East Peoria announced a possible 18% rate hike) Mr. Hillen said today that they did not announce a rate hike; he said President Gloriod when asked by the JS reporter, said "IA MAY ask for an 8 percent rate increase effective in 2007."
3. Mr. Manning means well but he is a neophyte in politics. Why didn’t he do his “due diligence” when he was run inning for office rather than wait to release his figures only days before the council vote? While Mr. Manning appears to know accounting, he may not understand how companies do “creative bookkeeping.” He certainly did not conduct a certified audit. Mr. Manning is a senior VP with a prominent brokerage firm and his company has many wealthy clients. You listen up when wealthy clients talk.
4. A brochure widely circulated by the city of Peoria states the following: “Since significant cost saving are expected, the result would be “lower rates.” What’s this??? Both Manning and the City Manager admit they will needs to RAISE rates 3% a year indefinitely. This means that the cost of water would double way before the 34 year bond is paid off. Any number of things could go wrong in 34 years!! This city mailing also says the city would make a 25% rate reduction to their consumers. 37.5% would go to renovating older neighborhoods and 37.5% toward infrastructure projects in growth areas. How could they be so far off??
5. Once the city buys the water company, the facility will no longer be under the control of the Illinois Commerce Commission. The City can do anything they want and charge anything they want. (I understand plans are being made to run a water line along Rt. 150 to Brimfield where PAAG member Rita Kress has extensive land holdings waiting to be developed.)
6. The city says they would own the water company but hire someone to run it. They believe they already have found that company with an extensive background. Question? Who found this company and what connections to prominent members of this community? The city says it would create a Water Resources Council who would oversea the daily activities of the company that would manage the company that the city would now own. Sounds interesting. Who would pick this committee and what carefully selected members would be the core that runs this committee? I’m betting the committee will be controlled by PAAG, the Chamber of Commerce and the Civic Federation.
7. The Chamber of Commerce announced today they throw the full support of their 1200 members behind the buyout. Many of these members do not live in Peoria City or County. Of all the calls to Chamber friends I made today, none said they were polled. Do you believe the C of C made 1200 calls??
8. If Manning’s figures prove to be wrong, no problem, just plan on paying more taxes for generations.
9. Under Illinois American, developers pay to hook up to the water main. Under the city it is planned there will be no cost to the developer; the city will pay this cost for the developers and the city will then pass the cost on to us taxpayers.
10. Sandra Birdsall is a power on the Chamber. She is also a power at Cullinan Realty. The ex- Diane Cullinan has extensive land holdings in Kickapoo Township. Expect the city owned Water Company to run water lines in the direction of her properties waiting to be developed..
11. Routing city water all around the county could put excessive strain on older lines which many believe to be old and in need of extensive repair or replacement. It does not appear enough money will be set aside if the infrastructure proves to be worse than the city believes. NO study of infrastructure was done according to my sources. Tied in with public water are public sewers. Expect the Sanitary District to be raising prices again.
12. PAAG lent the city approximately $880,000.00; this includes interest of 9% deducted. (This interest rate was later reduced slightly.) This contract will need to be reexamined but I believe all PAAG members will get all their money back with interest.
13. They drain on the water system could require another expensive deep well to be drilled, especially if we have continued drought in this area.
14. Illinois-American is unionized as would be the city employees. Those of us, who have dealt with unions in the private sector, know how much more the unions have been able to extract from the public sector. Expect wages and benefits to accelerate. Look at your current tax bill and see how salaries and benefits eat up more revenue than is actually spent for city services and infrastructure. My tax bill shows $240.00 for services and $408.00 for pensions.
15. Note Mr. Manning’s statement that profits gained from the city ownership “would go to the city.” Don’t count on any of it coming back to the taxpayer. There are always new projects to spend these “savings” on such as a new entrance into the expanded zoo, more Med-Tech infrastructure, more tax abatements to projects like Cub Food, the ballpark and InPlay and more TIF districts like Walmart and Menards. The City investment of $5,000,000.00 in the RiverPlex hurt private businesses as well as caused a cutback on PPD services. The RiverPlex losses will continue for many years. As in investor in the ball park where the City put another $5 million of your money, the club has performed so poorly that I can not even get any offer for the $50,000.00 investment I made 10 years ago. One Technology Plaza space owned by the County and promoted by Sandra Birdsall, has set empty for over a year as we have not been able to sell it or lease it.
16. The city will not receive any more property tax dollars from Illinois-American or any taxes and no more donations to charity.
17. According to city sources the vote is likely to be Grayeb, Sandberg, Van Auken, Gulley, Manning and Jacobs voting to buy the water company at an exorbitant price of over $220,000,000.00, all borrowed money. The actual cost of the water company will be around $420,000,000.00 including interest. (Less than 20 years ago Dave Ransburg estimated the water company could be bought for $60 million.)
18. Expect the final hidden cost to be somewhat higher than $220,000,000.00. Time has elapsed; attorneys and employees working on this project have to be paid. Personnel tied up in this purchase will not be counted as an “expense.”

This buyout is all about power, use of influence and greed. Who still in business today, has the guts to stand up to the Chamber, the Civic Federation, the PAAG members and the unions?

The referendum to not buy the water company meant just what the voter said. WE DO NOT WANT THE CITY TO GET IN THE WATER BUSINESS. THE CITY HAS TROUBLE TAKING CARE OF THEIR CORE BUSINESSES. The voter expected that Illinois-American was making a profit. They are supposed too!! Only the Socialists in our community expect the government to do all things; eliminating private entrepreneurship. If the city thought IA was charging too much, why didn’t they take this up with the Illinois Commerce Commission?? If the city felt the ICC was incompetent, why didn’t the take it up with their elected officials in Springfield??

The city says it is buying the water company for you the taxpayer and voter. No, they are doing this to try to dig them out of a hole that will eventually prove to be quite large. Do not expect them to stop spending more than they take in. Expect higher taxes like garbage taxes, property taxes, higher assessed valuations taxes, sales taxes and every other type tax that can be legally be assessed. Buying the water company will not reduce your costs. The city already has said expect a 3% rise annually for your water bill. Also, the city may declare a "special assessment" at any time to handle further expansion in the county as the city has the ability to annex more property to the City of Peoria.

For people like us who live in the city, expect our property values to remain stagnant or decline while our assessed valuations and property taxes keep rising. Expect City and County services to be spread thinner and thinner or expect more people to be hired by the government while our population grows in single digits for the next decade. The realtors have already locked out the discount brokers in Peoria so expect the 6% paid by the seller to continue indefinitely further reducing the selling price of your home while the assessed valuation only goes up each year.

This whole water company buyout stinks but by the time the voter finds out where the smell is coming from, it will, as usual, be too late. However, their will always be more elections. We grassroots people need to encourage the right people to run.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Grief is a very personal thing. Anyone who is mature enough to know what grief is, lives moments of grief for someone all their lives. Grief moments are not the sole proprietorship of any of us. I have moments of grief for my niece; Claire Kauffman killed by a drunken driver at age 17 and my first cousin Richard Witzig shot down by the Japanese on his one and only flight against the enemy. Many of us did grieve and still grieve but we do not blame the person who was presidents at that time for our grief.

We relatives did not hold vigils or try to make our presidents responsible. My niece had taken some drivers training and knew the risk. My cousin enlisted in the air force and knew the risks. The mother, who is holding a vigil in Texas to try to embarrass our country, should be grieving. But her son, like my cousin, knew their was a risk to his well being once he enlisted in any branch of the service, or was he like some, who thought it was just a way to earn some extra money, learn a skill and spend some time with like minded comrades?

The mother has become an embarrassment to the United States along our peaceniks and pacifists. I see by today’s news, her husband has filed for divorce.

Musab-al-Zarqawi is reading all the stories of protest coming out of the U.S. so the terrorists can see how we are giving solace to the enemy. While they are reading and watching how our own “citizens” are undermining our own travelers abroad, they are calming “whacking” off another human head, arming an ignorant youth with bombs of self destruction, and looking forward to dinner with their wives, watching CNN and lately “Fox New” and other comforting news from the U.S. media..

There are few people who went to Iraq, who returned from Iraq or are there now, who weren’t aware of life threatening risks when they signed up for any type of operation in the armed services or as news reporters, contractors or care givers.

Speaking of risks, even the grieving mom takes a risk every time she gets into any kind of a vehicle. Over 42,000 people killed in just our country each year by vehicle accidents, 16,000 in which alcohol is involved and more and more cell phone involved deaths. Perhaps it would be helpful to the country to have the 5 million or more people directly affected by these deaths, many in our own neighborhoods to all go to Texas to lay all blame at the feet of the president. En route we should look up Bill Clinton and every living president and blame them also.

Tomorrow I expect to see the “chatterers” in print telling the world how cold-hearted our president is. Too bad they can only read headlines and don’t have the capacity to read an entire column such as Kathleen Parker’s column yesterday and Cal Thomas column today. Reading might help them understand the situation we are actually in, like it or not. Thanks, Journal Star Editorial Board for occasionally presenting views different (say conservative) compared to the usual diet of liberal writing on your daily page.

What a shame they can’t realize we have no option but to finish this job as best we can for the sake of those who want peace in Iraq. To continue to harp on why we are there can be handled in future elections if that is the voter’s desire. Right now, please grieve among family and friends as most of us do and stop causing the Iraq situation to be prolonged and by “chatterering” cause, more people to die or be injured.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Guardian Angels

The Guardian Angels put on a presentation today at the City of Refuge Worship Center in South Peoria. I attended and these are my observations:

I am a little familiar with the group and their mission so what I heard today was a review of their mission statement and that they are here again to see if they can build a volunteer group same as the roughly 60 cities they claim to have volunteer groups.

Approximately 30 people attended today’s meeting, with Aaron Schock and myself the only elected officials from the community in attendance. Aaron was holding a TV exit interview as I was coming in. I stuck it out thru the whole question and answer program.

Only two members of the audience appeared to be of black descendents.

There were no husky black or white younger people in the audience. All the traveling entourage with the Guardian Angels was fairly young and pretty husky.

The Guardian Angels are a charitable foundation founded 26 years ago. No financial statement was offered so I don’t know how much these young men are being paid to travel the globe setting up red beret groups and how much it costs to keep the operations running. It was my feeling that most in the audience thought the presenters was (I wanted to use “were” here but my spell-check said “was”) volunteers. My belief is that they are staff and are all paid including all expenses. Correct me if I’m wrong. The community would be well served if they are staying at, say, the Grandview Inn.

No information was passed out to say how much this charity takes in, how much comes from taxpayer funded grants and no testimonials, to my knowledge, were presented to their success in other communities.

Some in the audience criticized our police department. I suggested the criticism should be directed to the Juvenile Court System in Illinois which has created what the sheriffs department says is a “revolving door” of approximately 300 troublemakers in the community that cost this communities taxpayer’s millions of dollars. Some of these juveniles either correct their ways or move up to what used to be called the “big house” but is now known as our “warehouse system” with its sex, drugs and other types of recreation. Many poorly informed citizens think “warehousing” is cheaper than teaching potential and actual inmates a trade, (either before they are ever arrested or while they are incarcerated) and how to work, get and hold a job when they are released back into society. (Some 6 million inmates processed last year). What poor judgment from these usually intelligent people!!

We have turned into a “soft on crime” society. People talk about “the broken window” theory but few evidently believe strongly enough in this theory to push hard for early firm action on small misdeeds. Judges by law or sometimes by their personal feelings, issue unequal penalties. A distant relative of mine served over 5 years for threatening to “cut” somebody in a bar fight. Inequities can cause much resentment toward law enforcement when you are held against your will for a period of time.

For killing somebody, some people get off with less than five years. Stories of unequal laws or interpretation of are rife in our country. Before the well meaning neighborhood associations sign on to this program, I suggest they will need more support from fellow Americans with darker skins than I saw in the audience today. Also, I would expect our new police chief is or should be quite familiar with this group and he should advise the community. To the community itself, remember that laws can backfire and cost the innocent victim or intended victim more that it costs the perpetuator of a crime. For example, if you had a clothes line in your back yard and a burglar fleeing with your television was injured running into it, you could be sued by the burglar for not having the clothes line marked with white flags. As a volunteer, you might try to get the license number of a drive by shooting and get yourself shot.

These are all observations and food for thought. I didn’t sign up. That we need volunteers to report to the proper authorities “suspicious” activities in our neighborhoods; of this I have no doubt. If officers of the law fail to act, this should be reported to the highest authorities. In turn, these enforcers of the law should be commended for actions that reinforce your feelings of safety in any sector of our community. We should all be the best that we can be as citizens.

Will we all be “safe” someday? I suggest the answer is no, at least not in this world. Then again, we never were!!

Zooillogical? (More of same)

“Visionary leader wants to expand the zoo into $100 million cultural and educational opportunity for the whole community” says Rita Kress president of the Peoria Zoological Society. This statement is in a column titled “Zoo plans get guarded optimism” by Terry Bibo in today’s JS. Bibo goes on to say “And while the price tag may make your eyes pop, their plan is promising, especially if zoo backers pay for it and make sure it pays for itself.” Bibo has that right. “We are hitting all the sources except a referendum from the taxpayers. We don’t want to do that”, says Mrs. Kress.

How true!! A referendum for a $100 million (or even a $20 million) zoo expansion would go over about as well as the water company buyout referendum.

Visionary leaders and their visions of grandeur?? Ah yes, we have had a few and the one vision that many of our leaders keep coming back to is the Civic Center and that was built 40 YEARS AGO!!

You may want to go back and read my previous “Zooillogical” blogs where I give names, dates and quote numbers. None of this is speculation or hearsay. It’s all in black and white print. The numbers for this zoo expansion don’t add up and never will. The zoo makers say they have a business plan but my repeated request to examine it, are stonewalled by Mrs. Kress herself!! Interpretation? They do NOT HAVE ONE. If the taxpayers want to stick their children and grandchildren with never ending taxes, so be it. My children and grandchildren live in communities outside of Peoria that practice some fiscal spending restraint.

If the wealthy of this community wish to “fund” this project along with the new museum, more power to them as I occasionally visit a zoo, museum and a ball park and don’t mind paying a reasonable entrance fee.

Mrs. Kress also wants the public zoo to get into more private business by adding florist shops and veterinarian service. Shades of the $6,000 a day money losing RiverPlex! As a reminder to the reader, public enhancement bodies do not pay PROPERTY TAXES.

As a former businessman, now an elected official and a resident of the City of Peoria for 30 or more years, I can say I have supported all enhancements to the city until 1999 when our “visionary” leaders turned into not “visionaries” but “dreamers”. (I refer you back to my previous blog on “Dreamsville and Prosperity.” I was a dreamer too, when I was a teen, I thought I might make it too the big leagues as a baseball player but wound up at my realism level in the Municipal League over at Bloomington-Normal. But I did visit Brookfield Zoo on my first honeymoon. Most memorable!

The Caterpillar project funded by Caterpillar and with “free admission” will be a great asset to the community just like the Deere Pavilion in Moline is an asset to the Quad-Cities, that opened in 1997. (Refer my John Deere Commons blog). Even at this late date, the Caterpillar promise comes with taxpayer stings attached.

Not meaning to use a cliché but “there ain’t no such thing as a “free lunch.”

Thursday, August 11, 2005

How about a German -Swiss American

When the NCAA declared Indian-related names “hostile” and Kirk Wessler wrote what he thought of this bull crap, I decided I was not going to blog on the subject because it again showed that the elitist NCAA has their head up their pants legs or skirts and Kirk had covered the subject well. Then the JSEB comes along saying something like let it go, we have bigger fish to fry, then African-American far left leaning Pam Adams comes with her “Break the habit of racist nicknames” such as “Chiefs” and “Braves”. I decided to put my two cents worth in print. Don’t anybody poke fun at me because I am an authentic Swiss-German American and hereafter I want all County Board members and "you all" out there (thats how we dirt famers talk) to address me as such. Don’t call me a “kraut”, or a “Dutchman” or a “Swiss cheese head”. Don’t call me “Merle the Pearl”, do I look like an oyster? As a Swiss-American whose ancestors who came to the freedom of America because of poverty and religious persecution, I now will form a diversity committee, call all the klan (opps, sorry, I meant clan) together, and get a far left leaning politically correct tort attorney to represent all of us remaining Widmers, Witzigs and Zimmermans and sue everybody that every put us poor dirt farmers and country bumpkins from Congerville down by calling us by an "offensive" nickname, such as Amish. I’m chairman of the Congerville Alumni Association, so I have a lot of power in my klan (oops sorry again, I meant clan. I’m going to sue everybody that called me “Doughy” or “Doughnut” because my “legal”, (he came thru Ellis Island at the age of nine months) immigrant daddy’s name was Donat. This attorney will track down and sue all my college buddies or their descendents who called me “Spider”. Do you think I liked being called an insect?? I am also expecting any day now to hear from an attorney representing my old Air Force buddy, Tony “Cooney” Terriciano, who I (and we) often called “Dago”.

Now I’m not kidding. When my family came to this country, they were German speaking. Each of us nine kids was told we were going to speak English and English only. My dad became a citizen and never wanted to back to Switzerland, even when we kids would have paid for. He wanted us to become Americans. He didn’t even know what politically correct was and he didn’t care what anybody called him or us kids. If we were called derogatory names, that was our problem. We didn’t go crying to “politically correct” congressmen (sorry I meant congress people). In my era there were no ultra liberal college presidents and NCAA wimps who would have been scared of losing their cushy overpaid positions because some minority group like us Swiss-Americans raised a large stink and the liberal media made it look like there was a big “hue and cry” to stop this terrible discrimination against poor Swiss and German Immigrants. One big difference in some of todays cultures is what is known as a lack of a work ethic. Rather, a complain ethic has set in and a “you owe me” ethic often prevails.

Maybe it’s because I don’t listen well but I note that the people preaching “racism” are either a few black or Indian so-called minorities, some a mixture of several races.

Some history says the Indians were here first in the United States of America. They fought fierce battles among themselves. Or maybe Asians were here first. If so they probably fought equally fierce battles among themselves. Then came the European settlers who fought their mother country, they fought the Indians and the Mexicans. They fought themselves in the Civil War. Eventually settlers came from all countries and now the largest number coming in, legally or illegally are Mexicans. They are coming here; few of us are going there. The African slave came mainly from the continent of Africa. Once they were set free and were given the opportunity to earn a living wage or became affluent, did many of them go back to their roots to live? I never knew any of my friends whose skin is a darker texture than mine, who said they were going back to Africa from where their ancestors were carried to these shores, to live and help those that are STILL IN SLAVERY. These friends are also not the ones crying discrimination at every opportunity. They have a role as Americans to make this a better place to live for all people, even illegal immigrants.

Now, let’s get back to the JSEB and columnist Pam Adams. This “hue and cry” over this matter of political correctness has caused this country a lot of grief and this grief has come mainly from a few blacks and a few people of Indian ancestry. Writers like Kirk Wesslerand Ward Connerly and others who believe in what he is saying about racism and “politically correctness”. Common sense people like these must carry the day. Otherwise, my grandchildren will be paying reparations to 10th generation blacks and Indians, many of mixed races. No, JSEB, this is not going to go away until people stand up to this reverse racism. I am not afraid of not being “politically correct”. I told the reader that when I started blogging a year ago.

I refer you to an article written by JS columnist Jerry Klein dated 10/13/02, titled “Bring Back Melting Pot; Diversity is Dividing Nation, An article by columnist Linda Chavez in the JS in 2003 “Racism in the Pursuit of “Diversity”, and “Diversity Stigma” by Jason Riley of the WSJ in 2003 and I quote Bill Cosby who said that “those who struggled and died during the civil rights movement deserve better than what they are getting from those who benefited from their sacrifice.”

People like Pam Adams, Jesse Jackson, NCAA brass, and liberal papers like the JS, drive wedges throughout our nation that turn people who are not racists into wondering why people with all the advantages of living in a free country are trying to tear down the best nation in the world. We must be the best nation with all its flaws or people would not constantly try to enter thru legal or illegal means. Few ever want to go back to where they came from to live in Africa; a continent in distress. The malcontent’s should be returning to their motherland to assist in settling their turmoil. Opportunity abounds. Unfortunately it will be hard work with little of the welfare we offer in America.

I have said it before and will repeat, if you are not happy in America and constantly claim discrimination, you are welcome to depart to any country where you believe you would be more welcome. You will not be missed by many. If you continue to live here and keep complaining about nicknames such as “Chiefs and Braves” as racist, it just makes you sound like you are the racist and ruin the original goal of making America as a “melting pot”.

I have yet to judge any person by race or color. But I do pay attention to what they say or write.

Sorry, readers, I never said in my life that I was “politically correct”. It is a distasteful phrase to me and to most of my friends of any color. Some of what I see, hear and read makes me question if we have the strong leadership necessary to keep this country from winding up some day like Bosnia, Albanians or Serbia. Fundamentalist Islamic radicals or for that matter, fundamentalists of any ilk are dividing this country into enclaves and camps where they preach hate and destruction. This can not be tolerated yet we do not want to become a police state. If some elements of this society are incited into destructive acts, count on more freedoms being taken away to take action against the dangerous radicals of any race or religion.. Too many people do not respect this country and do not care to enter the political process to make changes accepted by the majority. They prefer to whine and try to divide. The actions of the NCAA and Pam Adams do not come close to representing the majority of non-racist citizens.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Disaster Day 1993 at Peoria School Dist. #150

This year went down in infamy for Peoria Public School District #150 on authority from a weak superintendent by the name of John Strand, hired by a pseudo-elite school board, acting on input from a select elite group of advisors, closed Home Economics and Industrial Arts and tried to replace these programs with academies at the four high schools. Board member Christopher Stewart opposed the move but the final full board vote was unanimous. The move was justified by the usual reason – lack of funds.

I am bringing this subject back to public scrutiny as Dist. #150 is seeking input to close a number of existing schools and build up to five new schools over a period of time.

Quoting from a book called “In Defense of Elitism” written by William a. Henry in 1993 (this book should be required reading of all school board members) “In the unexamined American Dream rhetoric promoting mass higher education was the implicit vision that one day everyone, or at least practically everyone, would be a manager or a professional. We would use the elitist of all means, scholarships, toward the most egalitarian of ends. We would all become chiefs; hardly anyone would be left a mere Indian (whoa, not politically correct!!) When half a century ago the bulk of jobs were blue collar, now a majority are white of pink collar.

But the wages for these jobs have been going down virtually as often as up. It has become an axiom of union lobbying that replacing a manufacturing economy with a service economy has meant exporting once-lucrative jobs to places where they can be done more cheaply. And as a great many disappointed office workers have discovered, being better educated and better dressed for the workplace does not transforms one’s place in the pecking order There are still many more Indians than chiefs. Lately, indeed, the chiefs are becoming even fewer. If, for a generation or so, corporate America bought into the daydream of making everyone a boss, the wakeup call has come. The downsizing of recent years has been eliminating layers of middle management-much of it drawn from the ranks of those lured to college a generation or two ago by the idea that a degree would transform them from mediocre to magisterial.

Yet our colleges go blithely on “educating” many more prospective managers and professionals than we are likely to need. In my own field, there are typically more students majoring in journalism at any given moment than there are journalists employed at all the daily newspapers in the U.S. A few years ago there were more students enrolled in law school than there were partners in law firms……inevitably many students of limited talent spent huge amounts of money and time pursuing some brass ring occupation, only to see their dreams denied. As a society we consider it cruel not to give them every chance at success. It may be more cruel to let them go on fooling themselves. In February, 1994 Bill Clinton asserted that America needs a greater fusion between academic and vocational training-not because too many mediocre people misplaced on the college track are failing to acquire marketable vocational and technical skills, but because too many people on the vocational track are being denied courses that will secure them admission into college. Surely what we Americans need is not a fusion of the two but a sharper division between them, coupled with a forceful program for diverting intellectual also-rans out of the academic track and into the vocational one. That is where most of them are heading anyway. Why should they wait until they are older and must enroll in high-priced proprietary vocational programs of often dubious efficacy-frequently throwing away not only their own funds but federal loans in the process—because they emerged from high school heading nowhere and knowing nothing that is useful in the marketplace?

If the massive numbers of college students reflected a national boom in love of learning and a prevalent yen for self-improvement, America’s investment in the classroom might make sense.”

At about he same time this book was published, Donald Kaul a respected columnist form the Des Moines Register wrote “You send kids to school for 12 years, making them carry heavy books back and forth. You make them sit in hard chairs for six of seven hours a day while people with expensive educations talk to them and make marks on a blackboard. You spend an enormous amount of money putting up buildings to house them and buses to carry them.

And what do you get at the end? Half of them can’t read; most of the other won’t.

Maybe it would be better for these kids to get jobs as soon as they can cross the street by themselves. Let them work their way thru adolescence. At least then they’d have some money to show for the time spent.

How about this radical idea? Make schools voluntary.

Imagine, schools filled with children who actually wanted to be there, who wanted to learn something.

Teachers who are not beaten down by trying to bring classes of rebellious zombies to erudition.

Administrators free to concentrate on improving instruction rather than acting as wardens.

What about all those other kids, all of whom might not be able to get jobs? Well, you could send the athletically talented to sports academies, where they could hone their skills without the distraction of literacy.

The rest you could put in giant baby-sitting warehouses equipped with video games, sort of pre-jails where they could prepare for the boredom of their future lives.

The kids would want an education would get one and the rest would hardly notice the difference.”

These writings are dated 1993. Compare where we are 12 years later. Same stuff could be written today so somehow we are going wrong big-time with much of our public school systems. Somewhere between these two writers, lies the truth. The truth has always been there but our elitist leaders throw well meaning board members off track, and who, then in turn either have hired incompetent superintendents,( I could name a few since Harry), or hired efficient superintendents who were turned into functioning robots by well meaning boards.

I am greatly concerned about the direction our public school systems are heading, especially the one where I live. Last year, 64% of the high school kids in #150, were counseled into college. 14% were special ed leaving only 22% (these figures are from the departed Ed Bradle, he should know, he was Royster’s right hand man for vocational education) who were probably being counseled in how to get along with their parents, girlfriends, their truancy problems, drug problems or were listening to their “friends” who were probably trying to drag them down to their lower level. As the departed #150 employee, Ed Bradle, said “how many kids does that leave us to counsel for a non college career?” You are right, Ed. The blame falls on a well meaning but sometimes totally confused voter, parent, teacher, school board, school administration, state and federal government and community leader.

Ah, yes back to the academies. A grand total of approximately 280 kids were served last year by these academies. (When I visited an academy class two years ago, the teacher was a first year teacher who was struggling). First year teachers SHOULD NOT be teaching an “academy class.” Some kids were there because they wanted to learn, some were there because they wanted to go to a better school than the one in there neighborhood and some where there because of sports or to be closer to there boyfriend of girl friend Many were cross-town bussed away from their communities and families.

Informational meeting are going to be held soon about closing schools, building schools and turning schools into community centers. What, you say “community centers and schools” as we were told at the Kiwanis luncheon last Thursday??” Those words were anathema back in 1994. Roberta Parks, now an executive of the Chamber of Commerce said “don’t mention “community schools” if you want to be elected. We are into integration and busing.” Hmmmm.

I have been criticizing #150 for years for weak administrations and weak school boards believing the academies, Adopt-A-School, Perfect and a couple other programs would replace vocational training. They have not and it is costing this community millions of dollars and ruined many lives by not preparing these kids on how to get a job, hold a job and earn enough to keep a family together. What a disgrace!!

Always the lack of money comes up. I believe CONTROL of money and how it SPENT is a large part of the problem. It has been a long time since #150 has had a school board member who has ever met a medium sized company payroll and was PERSONNLY responsible for meeting that payroll. Meeting a payroll gives you a different perspective on how to manage a $150 million dollar budget than working for a major corporation or teaching school, cutting hair, or being an attorney or a doctor.

To the community, I advise you listen well. Most should agree that a new building will not change attitudes, reduce truancy, improve discipline, cause teachers to look forward to coming to work and not looking forward to early retirement and improve test scores. Look no further than the disasters at Kansas City in the past decade.

An article in the JS “Vo-Tech funding on the bubble”, Bush’s proposed budget eliminates Perkins funding for vocational education programs. That is what the elitist current administration thinks of Vo-Tech. Whether the $1.3 billion was ever put back in the Vo-Tech budget matters. of course, but the point is made of what the elite think of Vo-Tech. ($1.3 billion would be the cost of ONE military airplane) Check it out and go visit the billions of dollars worth of “same as new” surplus military airplanes parked in the Arizona desert, then ask any “hero or heroine” in Iraq whether he or she thought the money was well spent on these mothballed airplanes or could have been better spent supporting them in Iraq? Oh, I forgot. It’s all about “jobs”, isn’t it?? But remember, OUTSOURCING jobs is real!

Read my blog on “Wake up, Peoria.” Right now I say “Peoria, listen up” and ask questions before it is too late to ask the right questions. The board, I believe, is asking for your input as they make these crucial decisions. Don’t be carried away by the architects. They are being paid to do their job. The board isn’t paid and that could be a MAJOR part of the problem. However, all administrators are well paid to listen and implement the desires of this unpaid board. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it. But this is a system carried over for a couple of centuries. Time for a change, I’d say!!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Books With Different Viewpoints Worth Reading

Here are some books you should read and skim if you want to stay informed as to past, present and future history. Some books like “Collapse” by Jared Diamond are pretty much actual history and the direction we are all heading. Some are pretty biased, some have mixed a lot of fact with statements out of context, you, know, the usual pundit trying to explain, where we have been, how we got there and a suspect or hopeful future.

“Collapse” by Jared Diamond is subtitled “How Societies Chose to Fail or Succeed.” Pretty heavy, 525 pages and 32 pages of suggested future readings tied into this topic. The title and subtitle explains the content. Maybe an unhappy future if we don’t change some of our ways.

“Can America Survive” by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth, is subtitled “The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to do About it.” I am aware of the rage of the left but I’m not sure all the truths can be told in 198 pages. The last paragraph of the book reads “The future of 8 billion souls-the entire human race-rests on the shoulders and in the hearts of those who still believe in this great country. Be one of them for your entire life. Give up, and the battle is lost,(and it is going to be a perpetual battle) along with mankind’s future. Keep the faith, and the nation will still be here, a shining city for your grandchildren and their grandchildren.

“Chain of command” by Seymour M. Hersh is subtitled “The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. In 367 pages he does not tell a “feel good” story. He believes the President has lied and is still lying and his last two sentences say about these lies “A more plausible explanation is that words have no meaning for this President beyond the immediate moment, so he believes that his mere utterance of the phrases make them real. It is a terrifying possibility.” Not a good book to read before bedtime!!

“Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” by Satirist Al Franken subtitled “A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right” is 354 pages of what he has documented, read and heard and then put in a report that he calls fair and balanced. He claims to destroy the liberal bias myth by getting his facts straight. Interesting.

“Liberalism is a Mental Disorder” by Michael Savage gives a fair and balanced look at the left, according to the author. He launches a scathing attack on the erosion of America’s values. 206 pages of “not feel good” reading at any time.

“Ignoble Liars Behind Bush’s deadly Iraq war” by Jeffrey Steinberg is mostly information that he researched and he says you can believe or be prepared to do a lot of research. This article is in “Executive Intelligence Review”, April 18, 2003 issue and is available at Peoria Public Library, 12 pages of copy. Too much background for me to check out and maybe I’ll come across an opposing view. Pretty deep stuff for the common man but lends some insight to who, where and why questions.

“Commentary” is a bi-monthly letter with many prestigious contributors and a lively “Letter to the Editor” section and has mainly a Jewish theme. The article on Harvard, Larry Summers and the effect extreme feminism has on all women and the article on Columbia and their attempt to classify people from top to bottom with their statistics showing a growing gap and counter statistics to show the gap is actually closing between the "haves" and "have less", keeps the reader’s interest.

Last is light reading; a book called “Parliament of Whores,” by P. J. O’Rourke, a lone humorist attempts to explain the entire U.S. Government. I first read this book in 1991. Not much has changed 14 years later in the way we do government business. Even here in Peoria!! A good read.

Much of what we read may be counter to what we believe or want to believe. We have to read all sides and look at all sides to form a half way educated opinion. Not many of us today are up to taking the time. However, only by educating ourselves do we move above the class of “chatterers”, most of who are ill informed. Most major publications like the WSJ and Commentary, consider what they believe will interest the reader and shut off the babble. Their decisions, not mine.