Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bernie Talks, Scrushy Walks

“Why would a rich man want to steal more”? This was a statement attributed to a juror after this jury cleared Scrushy of all charges. What a na├»ve and stupid question! We are to be tried by a “jury of our peers”. These home grown jurors were “peers” of a lying billionaire?? This case ranks right up there with O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and Robert Blake. How could a prosecution be so stupid as to try this case in Scrushy’s home town where he had donated millions to all the important causes of the whole community? Who in his home town is going to find him guilty where by finding him innocent they may get some droppings from his largesse? What were these prosecutors thinking or as it appears, they certainly weren’t thinking. They too must have been home grown yokels while the defense spent over $25 million on the best lawyers money could buy. These defense lawyers must still be laughing all the way to the bank and I’m sure Scrushys church has welcomed him and his money back in the fold. Five HealthSouth Corp. executives pleaded guilty and accepted minor sentences in return that their testimony was to put the mastermind behind bars for a long time. It didn’t work.

Wow, what a great country we live in.

The prosecutors practically allowed the jury to be stacked. They didn’t even check for Scrushys fingerprints on documents Scrushy denied seeing. “The mounds of evidence against Mr. Scrushy apparently overwhelmed the jury and slowed the trial so that jurors began to lose track of how the pieces fit together”. According to a post interview and before deliberations had begun, 9 of the 12 jurors had already made up their minds to acquit. The defense was smart enough to keep Scrushy off the witness stand while poor Bernie who may never have totally understood the business he was fronting, testified and is facing the rest of his life in prison. I certainly hope some of the other charges Scrushy faces are handled more professionally by a different team of prosecutors.

Now back to the lead in “Why would a rich man want to steal more”? They should have added “especially if he was a good church going citizen like Mr. Scrushy”. Ho, ho, ho, and this juror probably still believes in Santa Claus. No wonder the underprivileged question our equal justice system. A poor person stealing all that money would have been convicted by the end of the week.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Speed and Deaths

On June 12, I wrote a blog titled “Speed and the Cost of Fuel”. On June 15, the WSJ writer wrote “Almost 1000 people die each month in speed-related vehicle crashes. Speed is a factor in about one-third of all fatal crashes examined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency looked at speeding related crashes and deaths from 1983-2002. Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes”.

On approximately 6/15/05, the USA Today said “Speeders’ 5-10 mph “free pass” cost lives, report says. This cushion is hampering law enforcement efforts to curb speeding, said the report by the GHSA. The number of speed related deaths is not declining despite major safety improvements in vehicles in recent years; speeding is a major factor in about one-third of the 42,000 traffic deaths a year in the USA. If we are going to reduce the carnage on our roadways, speeding must be given the same level of attention that is given to driving while impaired”.

The GSHA (Governors Highway Safety Association) calls for expanded use of radar guns, red light cameras and other equipment to nab speeders. I agree because the use these controls will save in 6 months more lives than have been lost to date in Iraq.

I have recently contended that most State and County Budgets could be balanced by enforcement of our driving laws. More safety officers would be needed but the revenue would offset the additional costs. On Thursday at a County Board meeting I said I would probably never vote for a law to restrict the use of cell phones while driving. I no sooner left the courthouse than a SUV with the driver’s ear pinned to a cell phone, made a left hand turn right in front of me without even a turn signal blinking. Two miles later,, same thing. Up on War Memorial, someone in a line of cars decided to let someone trying to make a left hand turn in and the cell phone glued ear driver disregarded the second lane of moving traffic and darted through the first lane opening narrowly missing moving cars in the second lane very nearly causing a chain reaction accident. (I hit a Tracker making a quick illegal left hand turn at the corner of University and Merle. The Tracker rolled over with all occupants’ suspended head down in their seat belts. While the driver was issued a ticket, the driver’s action threatened the well being of a small child and another adult.

Now I am again thinking that all phones should be banned from use while a vehicle is in motion. (Unless personal safety caused the need to use a cell phone). Laws have already been passed in some states banning the use of cell phones while driving. Some local law enforcement officers agree. I know that people driving with kids and animals in their laps should be cited and in case of an accident, all fines should be at least tripled.

On June 20, an article appeared in County New stating that “for the year 2002, more than 60% of fatal accidents, 25,849, occurred on County or rural roads. (Roadways in areas with populations of less than 5000). A focus group has been formed to build and improve the dialogue between the Federal Highway Administration. The idea is to pave the way for a partnership that would support the nation’s counties as they work to solve highway safety challenges. One obstacle is that County governments do not have the right-of-way authority to address safety issues on federal lands. Another obstacle is that not enough money is earmarked for safety improvements”.

As a County Board member I have asked why we pass speed limits if everyone ignores them. If our sheriff can present to the budget committee on which I sit, a plan to better enforce traffic safety laws in Peoria County, he will get my attention.

Sandburg's Questions - My Answers

Had to take a few days off to finish some good books, play some tennis, continue my physical therapy and conduct some Peoria County business, attend some meeting and let my heart continue to heal without too much stress.

Now back to answer some of my friend Gary Sandburg’s comments that he has asked me to explain. (I was the only person to ask Ex-Mayor Jim Maloof to post Gary’s campaign sign on his business on Pioneer Parkway; Jim said no.) I’ll do the best I can with the information available because some of Gary’s complaints go way back before my time.

1. “Why the County of Peoria only charges the City of Peoria a “booking fee” and not other incorporated or unincorporated areas of the County”. According to our capable County Administrator, this is not a true statement. “We charge every municipality that has a police department and with who we do not have a contract”. Gary can also read the joint agreement covering fees at the County jail plus other agreements, signed on 10/11/1977 by Ray Neumann, Chairman of the County Board and Robert McKnight, City Manager. Gary should also refer to a letter from the City manager to the county Administrator regarding a“1977 Intergovernmental Agreement - “Jail Booking Fee” dated 1/10/05, telephone calls between both parties, a letter dated 4/19/05 from the City Manager to the County Administrator, a meeting with Mayor Ardis, County Board Chairman David William, Sheriff McCoy, Randy Oliver and Patrick Urich on June 14, 2005. He should also refer to a letter dated 6/15 from Randy Oliver to Patrick Urich and a letter to City Manager Randy Oliver from County Administrator Patrick Urich dated 6/24/05. My readers should watch to see how Gary’s charge plays out in the local paper media. I think you will find it more than interesting. I least I believe that the JS gets most of what they print right and I will always subscribe to the JS because they are the only paper media that covers most central Illinois communities.
2. On the rat abatement in the early 1990” approximately 12-15 years ago, no one seems to remember, but maybe Gary can give me a clue as to who were the principles involved? This should have been handled by the City-County Health Department who gets most of their funding from the State. All Peoria knows it that it is not the County Health Department as Gary says unless it was at some time way past – it is known as the City-County Health Department for as long as I can remember. If the name was changed in later years and the two entities were combined, surely the problem has been taken care of. A check of the records will show that the city has a greater rat problem than the county.
3. “Piss poor animal control services ands high taxes blamed on the county”. Again no one remembers but maybe Gary can give me the date in the 1980’s and who was involved.
4. “Why does the County have the City pay directly for two sheriff deputies”. Gary, these are court security officers. Due to the fact that the MAJORITY OF CRIME occurs in the City, the City agreed to pay for two officers. The City DOES NOT CURRENTLY pay the full cost of these two officers. (Written statement by County Administrator Patrick Urich).
5. “County apparently isn’t providing enough of its basic services to the city who already provides 2/3 of the revenues (and the city) is expected to ante up more.” My County Administrator says “because the City agreed to by contract”.
I do not work on the County Board as a “Lone Ranger”. I work with all County Board Members, elected officials and Administrators. We as a group have indicated we wish to work more closely with the city for the benefit of all the people who live in the County of Peoria. I am not going to carry on this debate with you on a one on one basis. I did own a company with yearly sales of $11 million dollars and my peers on the heavily Democrat County Board elected me, a Republican, Vice- Chairman of the Peoria County Board. I have a long time record of working with other people who are fair minded. That’s probably why my name still appears on the masthead of Widmer Interiors thirteen years after I sold the company. Have I never misprinted or misspoke a word, of course I have. As soon as facts are presented to me to show me I am wrong, I will correct it on this blog site. Do you now wish to prove I am wrong when I say the RiverPlex lost $7 million dollars in its first 40 months of operation (I had to send 16 pages of documentation to Mike Bailey before he would print my “Letter to the Editors)” revealing this fact. Didn’t the City Council invest approximately $5 million in its infrastructure? I have also been told that the City of Peoria has the third highest salaries and benefits for police officers in the nation. Is that correct?? Yet my friend Jim Ardis ran on a platform of too much crime in the City of Peoria??

Let’s try to work together but I can only work with those that have the overall wellbeing of this community at heart. Gary, I have always believed you do.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Poor Judgments

A decision by the National Association of County Boards is having national repercussions and these repercussions have landed locally. This National Association funded by taxpayers decided to have their convention in Hawaii. Wrong place even when governmental bodies aren’t cash strapped. In Peoria County, a request was made to the County Board Chairman by two board members (neither one chairs a committee) to attend this convention, offering to pay part of the expense. The County Board Chairman has the authority to decide who if anyone will attend any function in which there are expenses or fees. The Board Chairman is my source of information on this blog. I had no input on this decision.

I have never had any of my registration or meals paid by the taxpayer to attend a dinner or a meeting unless it was in Peoria of Tazewell County, less than $100.00 total in 4 ½ years. As Vice-Chairman of the County Board, I receive no travel expenses, no car allowance, no pension, insurance or medical benefits. I do have a place to park now at the courthouse, but for more than a year, I paid my own parking fees. I do receive an annual salary of $5400.00. After all the expenses I personally pay, I figure I net about $2000.00 a year or about $15.00 an hour including all study, preparation, typing and filing I do at home. You have to believe you are making a difference or you are nuts. Oh, I forget, another benefit is being assassinated in print by the JS.

As a whole, the Peoria County Board is a fiscally conservative board.

I believe the JSEB and the JS should have called attention to the Peoria Park Board meeting held in Reno, Nevada last year where I was told by a board member that all board members and significant other, plus a large administration and staff contingent had a mainly taxpayer expense trip to this exotic place. Some enterprising JS writer should file an FOIA to see what the total cost of this outing was but I’ll bet the dollar amount Peoria County reimburses the two County Board members going to Hawaii will pale in comparison to the Park District. The park has no reason to be concerned about expenses. After all they have a budget this year of $44.8 MILLION. (By comparison, Dubuque, Iowa who is listed as the #1 historical destination in the Midwest: this ranking was made by the travel section of the USA Today on June 3, 2005, has a budget of $4 million dollars).

I’m glad to see poor decisions made by we elected officials brought to public attention, but lets not overlook other governmental bodies; especially local ones, that have done much worse.

At a later date on this blog site I will post the exact cost of this convention to Peoria County taxpayers. I assure you; I had no hand in this decision. However; I will be more vigilant in the future. I believe I have had a major role in the fiscal conservatism of the county board over the last 4 ½ years.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

JSEB Editorial dated 6/14/05

“Don’t hold jobs hostage to political squabble” by the JSEB on 6/14/05 says that “Dave Williams, County Board Chairman was invited to speak at the press conference after the Peoria Air Guard Base was saved. He declined”. What the JSEB left out was that Dave Williams asked me as Vice-Chairman, Peoria County Board, to speak on his behalf. I was the speaker representing Peoria County. The JSEB also left out that the Peoria County Board donated $15,000.00 to the efforts to save this base.

The Peoria County Board is definitely pro economic development based on our use of common sense and facts. We also strive and will continue to do to work with all entities trying to attract well paying jobs to Peoria County. We ask that others entities work with us on an equal basis and with respect and transparency.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Water-Logged Till it Sank

I first came across a JS article way back when Dave Ransburg was a councilman. Dave is quoted in the JS that he felt the buyout of the publicly owned water company, could be accomplished for approximately $60 million. At that time Sandberg, Ransburg and Ed Glover were all outspoken buyout advocates. Voting against the buyout study were Leonard Unes, Bill Spears, Andre Bohannon and Steve Kouri.

Tonight’s vote I believe included only two councilpeople from the late 1990”s; Sandburg still voting to continue the study with a plan to buy and Bill Spears voting no, period.. Tonight’s vote showed that 5 1/2 years later, neither had changed their opinion.

Common sense prevailed and demagoguery fortunately failed. The buyout pursuit failed by a large margin, only Sandberg and Grayeb voted to continue this money train down the drain.

To review; Grayeb was worried about foreign ownership of our water which is B---S--- since all water in the United States is owned by the good old USA. That argument continued to lose steam so Grayeb continued his demagoguery by saying time and time again that our water rates were the highest in the USA, in fact double the rate of other cities. I previously blogged that Grayeb was wrong and tonight Councilman Nichting put this lie to rest by reading off the names of a dozen or so communities had higher water rates than Peoria. Nichting and I used the same official source; I believe Grayeb just wanted to believe his lie. Grayeb also tried to discredit the Illinois Commerce Commission. A note on the ICC; if Grayeb has long felt the ICC to be inept, he had only to ask his legislators to shape this commission up!! Grayeb also claimed there was not enough time to study the buyout. Five and ½ years to study something and then start over, reminds me of the bureaucracies Grayeb has worked for over his career.

During the council meeting, Sandburg read a tear jerking letter from some older citizen who previously voted “NO” but after she received more information, she would have changed her vote. This person did not want to reveal her identity. Speaking of being brave as both Sandberg and Grayeb challenged the council to “be brave” in their vote and then read an anonymous letter didn’t show much bravery at all. The letter could have been written by the PAAG group who pushed hard for continuing the buyout. Maybe this woman didn’t even vote the first time. How can you tell without her identification?? (The Peoria County Board will not allow an anonymous letter to be read on the floor of our horseshoe).

Grayeb again said there needed to be more studying done at an additional cost of ½ million dollars, more public forums held and more taxpayer money spent in addition to the millions already spent. (Grayeb didn’t attend the public forum that brought the President of IA to Peoria; indeed and very few people showed up as is typical in most forums) and more taxpayer money spent.

Now the council is faced with the interpretation of the PAAG contract. These investors probably won’t want to lose the money they invested. Whatever contract language that was signed by this group and the Peoria City Council should be followed. That’s why contracts are written. Otherwise, this subject if as dead as the recent mayoral and council election.

Thank goodness. Maybe now the council with there newly appointed member, can get back to the core business of running Peoria!!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Speed and Fuel Costs

I’ve traveled about 900 miles in my car over the past two weeks. I set my speed control at 68 miles per hour which seems like I’m hardly moving. I guess I’m not. I started to keep track the number of vehicles passing me and lost track after 125 passed me in a stretch from Edwardsville to Morton. I calculate 85 % of the people were exceeding the speed limit by up to 20 miles per hour. How can I feel bad about gas prices if these speeders don’t? Also, two new motor sport tracks are being built within driving distance of Peoria. Wonder if anyone ever figured out the number of gallons of gas and oil spent each year on just racing? Fuel wasted by driving in excessive speeds, would greatly lower the demand. As long as demand keeps increasing so will prices. Old law of supply and demand. I don’t feel sorry for any of you race fans, racers and speeders when you complain about the high cost of fuel. Sorry.

No wonder over 43,000 people are killed each year in just AUTOMOBILE accidents and 3 million injured. Go ahead and kill yourself, just don’t kill or maim other innocent people.

And we complain about deaths and injuries in Iraq. We should complain, because we weren’t properly prepared to win the peace. Many leaders should have been dismissed or demoted but apparently weren’t. At least there is a cause in Iraq that may be in question, at least people are dying and being injured for a CAUSE. As a democracy, we do have a right to chose new leaders. We hope democracy will have greater success in the Middle East due to the “price” our people and their people are paying, But we do have some choices to change things in politics when change is needed if we get off our a—pathy.

The Quad Cities

Oops, I had a date wrong on my “Museum Musings” blog, year 2003 not 2005. Sorry. I mentioned I stopped in Moline to learn more about the John Deere museum complex. It’s spread out over about 7 acres with approximately 40,000 feet of enclosures and free parking as well as free admission.

They cleaned up an area of blight at their own cost, same as Caterpillar plans to do in Peoria. The site consists of three major building and lots of free parking. The souvenir stands where doing a booming business as will Caterpillar who will probably close their merchandise shop in the Bank One area..

These structures were built in 1997 with no cost to the taxpayer except a very few dollars for some infrastructure. John Deere at that time was about a $14 billion dollar company who requested no other publicly supported museums, ect., had to be built before they would build their pavilions. By contrast, Caterpillar is a $30 billion dollar wealthy company who has told Lakeview Museum that they wouldn’t build unless Lakeview builds. How strange. But maybe not strange at all, when you consider that companies don’t just grow into $30 billion dollar companies by just hard work and good managers alone. Shrewdly, Caterpillar wants a commitment from the property tax payers, the Federal Government, the State Government and a million dollars off the new highway transportation bill, a countywide property tax increase amounting to $6 million dollars; a total amount of taxpayer dollars of $31 million.

What Caterpillar wants, they get. They wanted the ballpark to impress their out of town guests and customers, they wanted the RiverPlex so they would not have to build their own; unlike Boeing in Tacoma who built their own recreational center that even includes indoor tennis. Now they won’t build their long overdo Caterpillar Museum unless Lakeview funds theirs first. The track record of these two partially taxpayer funded facilities is not good. Neither does the Caterpillar supported new zoo which will probably sell more new bonds to close the 90% total funding they promised they would have in hand before they start to build.

I visited the Putnam Museum and IMAX theatre in Davenport across the river and the Children Zoo which were in walking distance to each other. The art and music building between these two centers was being evacuated to move down to the river. Different strokes for different folks. In visiting at a local restaurant, I learned not everyone was happy with the move.

There was a difference in mood between the people in the quad cities and Dubuque and Peoria. Quad city people seemed to want new business, not new entertainment. By the way, Davenport has a lower league ranking than our Peoria minor league baseball team but is outdrawing our Peoria Chiefs. Is that right, I ask Rocky, Don, Ralph, Chappy and Mike?? If so why?? Break even was projected to be 3500 a night average in 1999. With inflation I suggest break even is now at least 4000 PAID fans a night. Didn’t make it last year and this year doesn’t look promising yet, but the season is still young and Rocky sold the Lucky Lady so who knows, maybe the Chiefs will break a long financial losing spell. After all, the Cubbies are in town!!

I close with this reminder; facts do not cease to exist just because they are ignored.

Museum Musings

On 3/2/05 the JS ran an article titled “Dubuque Museum Driving Development”. Yesterday I made a trip up to Dubuque, Iowa to see this museum first hand and to gather information as the County Board of Peoria may soon ask Peoria County property owners to help finance our Peoria Museum. The County where Dubuque is located donated $1 million of the $5 million asked for. The JS article continues “Dubuque will need to meet its $3.2 million operating budget”. (Actually it is $4 million a year according to Terri Hawks Goodman, Development Director of both the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and the National Rivers Hall of Fame.) The museum cost $47 million to build, according to Ms. Goodman.

The Museum opened on June 28, 2003 and drew 301,000 visitors the first 12 months. It’s estimated to have 250,000 paying visits this year. Within walking distance is the Grand Harbor Resort located on the riverfront with unobstructed viewing and the resort also has a water park. A 130,000 square foot Education and Conference Center next door, just opened. A total of approximately $111,000,000.00 was invested in the entire complex, including the museums. The State of Iowa donated $50 million to this overall project and the Feds donated $15 million. The State of Illinois is being asked to donate $12 million, the Federal Government $12 million and Peoria County $6 million to our “Regional Museum”. Taxpayer dollars, of course.

The adjacent levee boasts a beautiful 44 mile long heritage trail. In the same area is a Casino along with riverboats. The east side of the river has not as yet been developed so the view to the east is more scenic than Peoria. Also the bluffs are closer to the river in comparison to Peoria.

Entrance to the two museums cost a total of $9.95 for adults, $8.95 for seniors and lesser amounts for children and groups. The museum has 3700 members paying $70.00 for a basic family membership up from $60.00 last year. The National Museum Hall of Fame is housed on the 2nd from of the Museum. Each entity offers different levels of expanded membership’s benefits programs starting at $125 to $1000.

A fund raising drive is in the offing to help offset other costs and an IMAX Theatre may be considered. The first fund raising drive was well accepted by the community, according local conversations.

Dubuque appears to be a city transformed. It was named the best of “10 great places to discover Midwest charm” by the newspaper USA Today in the travel section of its June 3 issue.

The proposed Peoria Regional Museum has similarities to Dubuque. But one of the biggest differences is that Peoria has much more on its plate that can drastically affect the taxpayers than does Dubuque. How much of what is planned in Peoria or has been built or should be built, is subject to much conjecture. No one is quite sure how property taxes in Peoria will be affected if projections of visitors and dollars expended in all these areas fall short of expectations, Most Peoria residents I’ve talked to, see some dramatic tax rises in the not too distant future if, all projects on the drawing boards come to fruition..

Peoria leadership and its moneyed patrons dream big. Nothing wrong with that, I did too, but even though I didn’t have the money, I seem to have had some success with more realistic dreams. Unfortunately the major big dreams that have already been built in Peoria have not lived up to expectations. Peoria does not have a good track record and the Med-Tech district is no more of a guarantee than was the disappointing One Technology Plaza.

The hierarchy of attractions listed by the experts is as follows:

1. Zoo/Aquarium combination.
2. Children’s’ Center
3. Science Center
4. Living History
5. History
6. Art

I believe Aquarium concepts are not currently in the planning for the Peoria Museum. If not, this probably is a mistake. Few regular museums break even. I know this Peoria Museum is planned to be more than a regular museum, and the Caterpillar museum will be a big draw. However, most large museums are backed by large endowments. Therefore, more commitments will need to be made by those who would most benefit from this new museum, so that future property taxes are not further increased by possible overbuilding with the resultant picking of reluctant local taxpayers pocketbooks.

Dubuque has far less demographic problems than Peoria. Less than 1% of the population is black. This is a fact and you may read anything into this fact that you want to. Also the Illinois River is not the mighty Mississippi; nor does Dubuque have the problems such as financial problems facing School District #150. Also, Dubuque does not have one Fortune 500 company calling the shots as does Peoria. Dubuque Packing which once employed 3,000 is gone. John Deere, which once employed 10,000, is down to 1500. Caterpillar’s work force in Peoria, once in the 30,000’s, is now down to around 14,000. Almost all other industry has fled Peoria and Keystone appears to be on a year to year survival basis.

Ticket prices for the Peoria Museum as mentioned by my friend Jim Richerson, are to be in the $7 dollar range. In comparison Dubuque high is $9.95 to visit both museums. Also parking is free around the Dubuque museum. It will be difficult if not impossible to have free parking on the riverfront in downtown Peoria because of the mix of restaurants, ect. If parking will be free, why are we being charged to park now? If the Peoria Museum reaches the projected 350,000 paid visitors, that amounts to only $2,350,000.00 in admissions income. These shortfalls will need to be made up in concession and food sales, and grants. Dubuque’s less costly museum operating cost are in the $4 million yearly range.

Please correct me on any errors I have made in this article. And, yes, Jim, I would like to meet with you and review your business plan and ask questions such as what is meant by your “giant screen”. Is that to be an IMAX theatre?

On my way up, I visited Moline and Davenport. I will cover my observations of the Deere Pavilion, the Putnam Museum, the Children’s zoo and the arts centers in my next blog.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

More Lies

How many of you have opened the morning paper to find your picture under a headline “Couple Claims Death Threat.” I did. I want to tell you how the Journal Star attempted to ruin a reputation built up over 64 years of my life and the great distress it put on members of my family.

I moved to Peoria with my family in 1956 taking a sales position with Remington-Rand Filing Systems, a division of Sperry-Univac. I had spent 5 years coaching and teaching and earned the distinction from the Bloomington Pantagraph as one of “central Illinois most successful coaches”. I was shortly promoted from Peoria to District Manager of Topeka, Kansas and then promoted to the number three management position in Texas. My territory included Dallas as my home base, Fort Worth, El Paso and Albuquerque including all government facilities such as Fort Hood and White Sands, New Mexico.

When Sperry-Rand appeared to no longer want Remington Rand, I asked for a Remington Rand franchise in Peoria and opened my business in 1964 called Widmer Office Products. Everything went well with the Journal Star until I sold my business in 1992. At that time my company had sales of $11,000,000.00 a year and the highest credit rating available for a business this size. Realizing the importance of School District #150 to my community, and not really wanting to be “retired”, I ran for a school board position in 1994. There were 6 of us running for one position, and I finished third behind Jan Deissler and Bob Baietto. It was at this point I began to be an annoyance to the JSEB. In a pre-election JSEB Editorial dated 3/11/94, I was described as a person who hustled, had influential endorsements and had served on various youth programs and District 150 task force on discipline. The JSEB skipped past the meaningless stuff and summed me up as “a person opposed to the sex education program although he waffled on the subject”; that’s right, I didn’t feel school teachers (and all teachers I talked to agreed with me and said they didn’t feel qualified or comfortable) should be teaching 13 and 14 year old kids how to masturbate each other and 16 different ways to “do it” and not get pregnant. The JSEB went on to say “Even though he was a businessman, we were not impressed with his grasp of the school budget or collective bargaining issues”. Ignored was the fact that I negotiated (7) three year Teamster union contracts without any grievances. I certainly understood a budget; that is why my company had the highest credit rating a company my size could receive D and B 3A1 and NO bank loans outstanding when I sold my business.

The Journal endorsed a woman with no business background and no understanding of budgets and working with unions. The JSEB later wrote “Tuesday’s triumph suggests feminity is no longer a hindrance and may be a help at the polls.” The person elected was a good educator but Dist. #150 was in dire straits when she was ousted by Mary Spangler in 2004.


I got into trouble big time with the JSEB when I wrote a letter to the editor telling the community that our priorities were mixed up and that we needed to make Peoria attractive thru better schools and higher paying jobs. After this edited article was printed in the JS, I received a phone call from the Pantagraph asking permission to run my letter in that Bloomington paper. I said yes if they would not “edit” my letter as the JSEB had done. As a result, my unedited letter was viewed by the JSEB with, what I suspect, distaste.

When asked to run for the Peoria County Board in 1999 as a Republican against the nine year incumbent Republican Zan Ransburg, the JSEB said in endorsing the incumbent “Unlike Ransburg, Widmer opposes the Peoria-to-Chicago highway.” Beyond that he nurses a particular grudge against the PPD (I had served 3 ½ years on the PPD Advisory Committee for Recreation and saw first hand how Bonnie ran the show), which makes us wonder why he is not running for the park board. He is nothing, if not combative.” During my interview before the election Barbara Mantz Drake asked me why I would conceivably run against “someone who was doing such a good job”? I answered that in a recent editorial the JSEB lamented the fact that “so few people ran for public office these days” and that I with a successful business background would bring that experience lacked by the County Board.

You may remember, I won the election by 27% points. Two days later the JS found a way to get revenge. Living next door to my wife and I, was a black man and a white unmarried twosome with the female, Autumn Berryman shown on court records as the homeowner. Back in the late November of 1999, Ms. Berryman had defied the Edgewild Homeowners Association and built a guesthouse 42’ long against my side fence. To shorten this story, Charles Kreie the President of the Homeowners Association told me he was threatened with a racial discrimination lawsuit if he tried to stop the illegal building of this guesthouse. I went to see Gene Lear of the City Planning and Zoning Department to ask exactly what was being built along my fence that looked like a chicken house. Four months passed and the building was completed and I had dismissed the situation as typical city bureaucracy. Two days after my win, I received a letter dated 3/23/00 from Mr. Lear, Senior Urban Planner. Mr. Lear wrote “Let me begin with apologizing for not getting back to you sooner with the results of my investigation. After taking your complaint, a zoning letter was sent to the owner of the property. The letter stated that I did not indicate at any time during the investigation who submitted the complaint. I went to the property and she let me in the pool house so that I could do the inspection. From my inspection I determined there was not enough evidence to state that the pool house was being used or intended to be a dwelling unit. The case is therefore closed…….” When the house was later on put on the market by Jim Sipp of RE/MAX, this pool house was listed as a “Guest/pool house with fireplace, kitchen, ¾ bath and sitting area.”

A day later my wife complained to me that our neighbors had cut all the limbs off the trees facing the side of our house. I went next door to ask why. No one was home but the maid so I asked the maid to have Ms. Berryman call me when she got home. Two hours later, I received a call from a man shouting that if I ever set foot on his property again, he would tear my M—F—head off. I promptly called the police department and they sent an officer out who talked to my neighbor and then to me. He warned me that the man might be dangerous and left his card telling me to call him if any other threats were made against my life.

A week later I stopped for lunch at Lum’s on University and while heading for the entrance I was approached by a man I mistook for an Indian friend of mine. I started to reach out my hand only to recognize it was my neighbor who stuck his face in my face and repeated his death threats. He asked that I fight him in the parking lot and when I told him I was too old to fight, he said he should send someone up from the Southside to tear my M—F—head off. I told him that I would protect myself wit an equalizer hoping he would believe I had a gun to protect myself. (I hadn’t owned a gun in 30 years).

I was so upset over the incident that I followed them into Lum’s and sat in the first booth available. I then realized it was the smoking section and reseated myself in the non-smoking section, only to realize I was too upset to eat. I returned home and called the officer who had come to my house only to find he was gone for the weekend. I then called Mr. Kreie and told him of the incident. He advised me to go to the police station and take out a protection warrant against this man. I then called a lawyer friend of mine who advised me to take no action as this incident “would blow over” and besides with the JSEB upset with me for defeating their friend Ransburg, they would probably write an article about the incident. So I didn’t. Big mistake as my attorney friend told me later.

Later that afternoon I got a call from someone who stuttered badly and said he was with the JS. I thought it was my neighbor continuing to harass me and hung up on him twice. Having never been charged with anything worse than a speeding ticket in my entire life, I too believed this would blow over. On Tuesday morning 4/11/00, I opened the JS to find my picture under a caption “Couple Claims Death Threat.”

To shorten the story, I was interviewed by a member of the police department with my attorney and the detective hearing nothing but conflicting stories, turned it over to the States Attorney. I quote the JS “Pickett and Berryman earlier had claimed a threat was a hate crime, but States Attorney Lyons concluded there was no crime committed.” End of story, right? No.

During the period from 4/11/00 the JS put my picture in the Journal Star twice, wrote over 60 columnar inches on the incident and libeled me twice. I wrote Jack Brimeyer saying that his reporter, Andy Kravetz, who has a speech impediment and was the person who called me at my home, had libeled me. Kravetz allegedly was an acquaintance of Mr. Picket (thru Section 8 and the PHA which was on Mr. Kravetz reporting beat) had twice wrote in the JS “Berryman and Pickett said Widmer APPROACHED them in the parking lot and started to argue with them over the bushes.” What the police report 00-10978, dated 4/19/00 -----------“meaning Pickett” said he saw his neighbor in the parking lot and walked over to him wanting to explain that in the future talk to him and not his wife.” Sure he did along with telling me several different ways he was going to separate my head from the rest of my body!!

A few days later a friend of mine called me and asked if I saw the retraction in the Journal Star. I said no and shortly understood why I hadn’t seen it. The correction was buried in the B Section of the newspaper, p. 11, lower left hand corner.

When the general election came up in November 2000, my Democrat opponent was Jim Graves. I won. Here’s what the JSEB said when they endorsed Mr. Graves, “Widmer takes argumentation to belligerence. And it’s not just his politics that provoke confrontation. Last spring his neighbors became so disturbed over comments they considered a threat that they went to the police. Kevin Lyons called Widmer’s behavior “outrageous and rude” and said his explanation wasn’t credible, but decided his actions didn’t merit charges. Neither does it merit a spot on the county Board.”

When I had lunch with States Attorney Lyons several months later, he indicated that what he said only pertained to if what Pickett has said was really true. He evidently knew who was lying as I was never charged.

In 2002, I ran unopposed and will complete 6 years in 2006. My family and I went thru all this slander because the JS said I was “combative”, a term used to describe companies like IBM and Microsoft, and my neighbor probably thought that meant I like to fight. (He was only 30 years younger than I. Bibo described him as looking like Arthur Ashe!).

“Bleeding liberal” Terry Bibo even believed that I poisoned my neighbor’s bushes: Ms. Berryman said to my wife that they bought the bushes on sale at in July and didn’t water them. Bibo wrote that if I was black I would have been “spread eagled.” An African-American friend of mine told me that Mr. Pickett told him that Pickett’s and Berryman’s intentions were to get me charged or indicted and then file a civil lawsuit against me to take all my money. Pickett didn’t know this man was a friend of mine. Pickett and Berryman moved out of town shortly thereafter. The police warned me to stay away from them as they considered Pickett “dangerous.”

In 2003, while endorsing Tim Cassidy the JSEB said of me “Our primary objection to Widmer goes to style. He is confrontational-don’t dare ask his age (ok, I was 77 and I knew they would use my age against me) and prone to threatening outbursts that make him temperamentally ill-suited to public leadership. We witnessed that style three years ago in his County Board race against Zan Ransburg. (Another libelous slander, I was very civil to an antagonistic Journal Star Editorial Board who should be ashamed of themselves the way they treat candidates they don’t like when they interview them. That’s why some candidates who have experienced the JBEB hostility no longer go to the interview before elections. (Note that they mentioned no outbursts from me when they endorsed Ransburg on the Editorial page). We fear a vote for Widmer would be one for retreat and isolation-a mistake that would not only damage the parks but speak volumes about this community.” They continue “Widmer’s primary argument is that the Park Board strayed from its core business and spent taxpayer dollars recklessly.” Hey, they at least got that part right!! The PPD budget this year is $44,000,000.00 and watch out next year when they sell bonds for the under funded zoo. Don’t expect any criticism toward the park because Bonnie, Henry and Barbara are allegedly, good friends.

In December, 2004, this “combative fellow” Widmer was elected by his peers on the county board to Vice-Chairman, Peoria County Board, ousting the incumbent Bob Baietto. Thirteen years after I sold my company, the company still uses my name and thrives as Widmer Interiors on North Allen Road across from Klaus Companies. Mr. Kravetz said he was sorry that he caused me such problems. But I will never forgive the JS, the JSEBB and Terry Bibo for the cowardly way they tried to ruin my name.

How did my neighbors and I get off on such a bad foot? Good question. MS. Berryman was the owner of the property and she asked if I new where the property stakes were and I said the former owner didn’t care where the boundaries where and I was retired and had the time to trim the bushes so I did and kept trimming them until the day Ms. Berryman said she had a survey made and the bushes were hers and she would have them trimmed. I said no problem, less work for me. As to Mr. Pickett he never acknowledged we lived there next door or looked our way.

Our new neighbors of more than two years are our friends and they enjoy their “guesthouse!!”

Monday, June 06, 2005

Liars

Many have written about the bias of the Journal Star Editorial Board and the board has countered saying how “fair the JS is in its Editorials and “letters to the editors.” Not only is the JS often not fair; some of them the editors are LIARS. You know that Barbara Mantz Drake is the Editorial Page Editor and Jack Brimeyer is Editor so the buck should stop with Brimeyer who heads the Peoria Division of the Copley Press. Under Barbara, who is retiring in August (rumor is she is retiring under pressure from their San Diego Headquarters) is Mike Bailey who I understand handles the “letters to the editor”. I’ll print only what I can verify. Let’s start with a column in the JS recently that says “Now letter writers are restricted to one letter every two months”. A lie; A “letter to the Editor” appeared on May 7, 05 written by John Blossom, Jr. and another letter written by John Blossom appeared June 6, 05 on the editorial page. A call to John who I know, verified that he was the SAME writer, but the JSEB left the Jr. off the second article probably to try to fool the people so it wouldn’t look like they violated their policy again. This is not an isolated issue. The Journal Star on more than one occasion denied to many the opportunity to immediately answer letters that contained outright lies or character assassinations by the writer, making the person attacked wait two months to reply.

“Personal attacks, inappropriate letters and letters that are widely inaccurate don’t run” appears in this same column. This column also quotes Barbara Drake “We are criticized all the time that we only chose letters that agree with our point of view.” Drake continued “Nothing could be further than the truth.” (Now I know where Roger Allen of the Park District got that phrase when he was denying the financial straits of the park district that goes deeper into bonded indebtedness every year).


Last week, a “letter to the editors” wrote this about new Mayor Jim Ardis, “Peoria elected a grossly incompetent person to the office of mayor, he is employed by an out-of-county company and the list goes on.” Grossly incompetent would be called “widely inaccurate” by those of us who helped elect Mr.Ardis. At least the JSEB should have made the writer justify exactly how Mr. Ardis is “grossly incompetent”. I learned tonight that this letter was written in the heat of the campaign but just now released by the JSEB for the public to read. But then the JSEB never thought Ardis would win over the incumbent they heavily endorsed, so this is probably the start of a series of letters assassinating our new mayor that the “fair” JSEB will be running. Past Caterpillar President Glen Barton, in a letter to the editor critiqued the JSEB for some action by the JS that Mr. Barton rightly believed to be unfair. Mike Bailey found Mr. Barton’s attitude a bit “too negative” so Mike wrote a whole editorial criticizing Mr. Barton and justifying the actions of the JSEB. (12/05/04.)

How about Retired Cat President Bob Gilmore’s letter criticizing the JSEB? It surely wasn’t complimentary to the JSEB either. For some reason Mr. Bailey didn’t attack Mr. Gilmore like he did Mr. Barton.

On 5/25/05 the JSEB asks “why more don’t run for council?” In fact why would good people run for any office covered by JS reporters and receive the bile of the JSEB? Can they be serious? The JS “character assassinates” everyone they don’t like. Eldon Pohlemus, was reelected to the county board for the second time over a candidate the JSEB endorsed. In their editorial endorsing Mr. Pohlemus opponent, these editors bashed Eldon in every paragraph, yet Eldon was easily reelected. Eldon, who had served 14 years on the county board, was not given credit for anything he ever did.

The article further states “that running for office shouldn’t be so daunting.”
What a crock!! The Journal Star headed by John McConnell and Jack Brimeyer publish the most biased and divisive newspaper maybe in the whole U.S. Part of the failure to bring well paying jobs into this community lies at their doorstep. A large part of the failure to get people with established reputations to run for office lies totally at their doorstep. Maybe Copley press is beginning to pay more attention. (I sent Copley a large number of documents by registered mail. They did not acknowledge. Can someone help me get their internet number so I can link some of what I write directly to their website)? My email is merlewidmer@msn.com.

On 2/01/04 the JSEB said in editorials, “Innocent until guilty standard must be protected” and on 6/0104, “Rush to judgment can sweep up the innocent.” An article written by Andy Kravetz (more about Mr. Kravetz later, who evidently has trouble reading police reports), dated 3/10/01 titled “Jury acquits Jones of theft.” What a blow to the JS City Desk manager who had his reporters try to indict, find Mr. Jones guilty and maybe even set the sentence. Not only was Mr. Jones, the owner of a local insurance agency, found not guilty, he sued both of the parties that filed claims against him, winning one settlement he told me was around $8 million dollars. Mr. Jones had his picture appear twice in the JS (looked like these picture were taken in the booking room) but on 11/29/01 the JS announced that “Jones sues Peoria County “to clear name”, his picture in a business attire was not shown. That suit may still be pending, but the County Board is not part of the lawsuit. This fiasco started when my predecessor was on the County Board living next door to a well known insurance magnet that I was told wanted this county business for his own company. I don’t blame anyone for wanting county insurance business.

Many of you remember Bennett Woolsey, owner of Jones Bros. Jewelry, who committed suicide many years ago after being harassed repeatedly in the JS. His family told me the continued embarrassment printed on a regular basis in the JS, may have caused him to take his life. Bennett may have made a mistake but didn’t deserve the way the JS constantly harassed him.

In 1993, while I was running for the Presidency of the Peoria Park Board, the JBEB allowed a letter to the editors to be printed claiming that “While Widmer served on the county board, its taxes increased 25%.” Mike Bailey of the JSEB knew this was a blatant lie but permitted the letter to run. The letter was signed by a Gary Martin. The same letter appeared a few days later in the Observer under the name Gary Martin of Martin Fager Communications Company. Turned out Martin Fager was a major supplier to the PPD yet only the Observer asked who he worked for. Did he have an axe to grind; you bet and the JS allowed him to lie and print his lies. Bias and lies; you bet!

I’ll be back later with more of the misconceptions, subtle falsehoods and outright lies that appear or have appeared with some regularity in the JS.

In the meantime consider the prominent local official arrested recently on a DUI at 1:30 AM. He wrecked his car so bad it flattened three tires. Had that been some other elected or ranking Peoria Regional official that the JS didn’t like, I believe the incident would have drawn more than an obscure 31/2 inch column!! Fair reporting, you bet!!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Living Costs Revisited

I posted a blog on 5/16/04 calling attention to an article in Forbes Magazine that listed the Peoria Metropolitan area as the 3rd best in the U.S. in living costs. I wrote “I did not note any media picking up on this article; if they did I missed it. If they didn’t other organizations promoting Peoria should do so”.

Reviewing my files on Peoria, I found out the reasons why. An article dated 5/12/04 in the JS said “Peoria ranks 1st in living costs, but Forbes Magazine rates the city as 127th best place to live out of 150 metropolitan areas. Ah, ha. We slipped, we dropped from #1 to #3 and we were only 23 places from the bottom in best places to live. No wonder the JS didn’t brag about our 2005 ranking. (Maybe another of many reasons why there has been one retirement announced from the JSEB and rumor is maybe one more coming).

At this point I refer you back to my blog of 5/25/05 titled “Prosperity Almost Realty for Dreamville.”

Goodnight.

Ramblings

I see where Marquette University, whose nickname was “Warriors” felt in order to be “politically correct”, they needed to stop using this “insulting” nickname and went to a politically correct name of “Golden Eagles”. Then they found out that the eagle race was insulted so they went looking again for a new name. I feel sorry for you Marquette graduates that you now have such weak administrators. At least I graduated from a college whose nickname was and still is the “Leathernecks”. Don’t believe the Marines will ever object. By the way, I never learned what new nickname was picked, was it the “Fleecy Clouds”? Someone clue me in.

Steve Forbes said “the best way to promote development, by the way, is to cut taxes and antigrowth regulations as well as to improve local schools”. Mr. Forbes, of Forbes Magazine makes the solution to our problems so simple. Smart man; I think he would have made a better president than some we’ve had in the last 13 years.

“Hollywood studios escalate whatever they can, making mainstream films bigger, louder, broader and. if the shoe fits, meaner, though seldom better. In fairness, Hollywood didn’t create the violence that numbs our sensibilities these days; its movies only amplify what the culture provides. All the same, it’s fairly stunning to see the changes that three decades have wrought in the level of mayhem-and racial anger-that’s supposed to be funny on the screen”.

I personally believe the “hippie generation” had at least part of it right and I think the far right and the fundamentalists have it partially wrong. Read into that statement whatever you wish.

“Worst of all Mr. Bush has been dishonest with the American public in his exhortations about spreading democracy. There was blood in the streets of Uzbekistan last month but instead of issuing a condemnation, Mr. Bush sent in the Red Cross. The U.S. is careful not to offend the local dictator, who is considered an important ally in the war on terror. Mr. Bush has been trapped by his vague concept of this war. If Saddam had to be toppled because he murdered his own people, how can another leader who does the same thing be an ally”?? I clipped these remarks from an article in the WSJ quoting a member of the opposite party. (And, of course, there are the Saudis). Elected officials lie to us? And you say some elected officials who tell “subtle falsehoods are “born again Christians? Good grief, what next? But then, small wonder, if college professors at even Bradley are teaching their students that there are no truths.

A study claims that “The vast majority of the fines and restitution ordered in five, high profile, white-collar criminal cases, remain uncollected. Uncollected criminal fines and restitution had nearly doubled from 13 billion to 25 billion. There were minimal, if any, apparent negative consequences, for not paying these debts. The offenders lifestyles were considered “at a minimum, comfortable,” but they face no criminal prosecution for failing to make these required payments”. Here again, I get that “warm, fuzzy” feeling about our bureaucracies. I suspect that some, who have been victimized by governmental injustices and were prosecuted for much lesser misdeeds, feel a quite different reaction.

And then there is “letter to the editor” written by a man criticizing newly elected Councilman Bob Manning for not quickly answering his question; he wondered if a house on his street was section 8 and if the PHA could assist him with his problems. I’ll give this mis-guided soul some help. The phone number of the PHA who handles Section 8 matters is 676-8736. Ask for Roger Johns. Hey, guy, no thanks necessary and Roger will be glad to hear from you.

And to the poor soul who wrote a “letter to the editor” to complain she and her mother have to drink our “musty” water. She, her mother and no one else we no have ever recalled this musty taste, she says. Why just goes to show you that our privately owned water company has probably already been attacked by those foreigners. No, if the city buys the water company and we get rid of those foreigners, the water will still taste the same, local experience won’t help, but you may pay a little more for it. I suggest this person complain about all the sewage and crap that is dumped in our river and ask the city to do something about it, maybe the water would taste a little better. Or maybe just go live in Eureka or Roanoke. Great tasting water right out of deep wells, no musty tasting Illinois River water there! Once you get there, you may find I was lying about the great taste! Oh well, I guess if you drink anything, you get used to it. Some people even like scotch.

I’ll close with a rumor I hear; rumors are a “dime a dozen”, that a recently terminated high ranking public school official is still serving on the Board of Peoria Next and Methodist Hospital. Interesting!!

The Failure of Social Engineering

“Social Engineering Drag on Upward Mobility” is the title of a “letter to the editor” on 5/27/05 in the WSJ in answer to a WSJ Editorial on 5/13/05, titled “Moving Up; Challenges to the American Dream” that speculated on a variety of reasons to explain the widening of the rich-poor gap and the stalling of upward mobility in the U.S. But the “elephant in the room” was ignored. Since the 1960’s, trillions of dollars have been funneled into the “war on poverty,” a major change in the U.S. sociological landscape. The missteps along the way are too numerous to recount here.”

The letter talks about a “slavish dedication to” achievement of equal outcome. In most of our schools we have social promotion, grade inflation (read the book, Freakonomics)”, dumbing down education and allowing “in your face students” to remain in the same classrooms as achievers. The first generation of mishandled children has now reached adulthood with disastrous results for our future. (Read Myron Magnet"s book “The Dream and the Nightmare”). One in every 32 adults in the U.S. was being bars or on probation of parole at the end of 2001, with a record of 6.6 million people in the nations correctional system. (If someone has the figures thru 2003 or 2004 please add these figures to the bottom of this blog).

Another article dated 5/27/05, says” Despite the spread of affirmative action, the expansion of community colleges and other social change designed to give people of all classes a shot at success, Americans are no more likely to rise above or fall below, their parents” economic class than they were 35 years ago. To the contrary, low wage individuals have less of an incentive to work if the link between wages and merit is diluted”.

Another good book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins says what happens to under- achievers when they reach the marketplace. He writes “the only way to deliver to the people, who are achieving, is NOT to burden them with people who are not achieving. Create an environment where hard working people will thrive and lazy people will leave or get removed”. (I understand that you can’t remove lazy kids from public schools but I will guarantee you they will be removed from the private industry workforce. So will the disruptive ones. Not so sure about all the public workforces where the unions are stronger and feel they must represent both good and bad workers).

I recently was invited to participate in a program for public school planning to achieve greater success with both students and their families. I told those present that schools had to be run like a successful business model. There seemed to be general agreement. When I was elected to the County Board in 2000, I said the same thing. Most board members agreed and our businesslike approach is paying off.

Public school administrators must stop running schools like welfare and social agencies. Community leaders seem to be finally realizing that the systems created by “social engineers”, are not working and have not worked for many years. Too many public schools are not turning out a product that is or will be accepted by the private sector in the U.S. Look for more immigrants, legal or illegal, in our workforces and more and more outsourcing to countries but where the people are poor but have learned a responsible work ethic. They are not used to being bailed out by welfare programs such as we have in the U.S. However; as these 3rd world countries develop, their industry will need America less and less.

And yes, Bill Cosby and Ward Connerly are mostly correct; Mr. Connerly has long understood what is going on with the abuse of affirmative action and Mr. Cosby is just a little late in coming forward.

Wake up Americans!! I have long seen a steady slide to socialism in our country and this slide appears to be escalating.

And please don’t tell me that we need safety nets for the unfortunate; of course we do. We just need to widen the spaces between the webbing of these safety nets. This country does not owe the poor who can learn and work, these “poor” owe this country for the fact they were born in a country that offers more opportunity than any country in the world.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Freakonomics

Recommend you look at this new 2005 book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. “A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything” sums it up. Sections titled “Where have all the criminals gone?”, “Schoolteachers and Sumo wrestlers”, “Drug Dealers Living with their Moms”, “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a Group of Real-Estate Agents”? and “What makes a Perfect Parent?”, present some interesting theories backed by statistics and extensive notes.

The authors quote a study done by ECLS Data “parents matter less then you think and peer pressure matters more”. Not news to me who raised three kids, taught for five years and have visited many a classroom. I know what peer pressure does to sometimes offset ALL the parental training in a kids life, sometimes totally altering a kid’s life forever; drugs addiction, teen pregnancies, alcohol related deaths and the “dumbing down” of bright kids to a “dumber” friend or group of “friends” called peer level.

The study also shows there is no proven correlation between museum visits and test scores.

The book also quotes statistics that approximately 600 kids 10 or under die in swimming pool drowning each year versus 175 by accidental gun shots. Yet hundreds of millions are spent to prevent gun deaths and the only requirement on pool owners is to have the pool fenced in.

The book also claims to show a correlation between incarcerations and the passing of Roe vs. Wade. I found this information interesting.

I quote the book as stating “approximately 13,000 homicides” occur each year in the U.S. By comparison, approximately 1700 of our citizens have died in Iraq. I have previously shown figures that 43,000 people die in auto accidents and approximately 3 million injured each year in the “safety” of our own country. (17,000 of these deaths are alcohol related). Death and grief are relatives and it makes little difference to the how’s, whys and where’s.

A most interesting paragraph in the book states “Recall for a moment two boys, one white and one black. The white boy grew up outside Chicago had smart, solid, encouraging loving parents who stressed education and family. The black boy from Daytona Beach was abandoned by his mother, was beaten by his father, and had become a full fledged gangster by his teens. So what become of the two boys?

The black child, now 27 years old is Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the Harvard economist now studying black underachievement.

The white child also made it to Harvard. But soon after, things went badly for him. His name is Ted Kacznski.

The more we warn our kids about what and why not to do it, the more they rebel and are often more inclined to “try it” to see what we are warning them against. Kids are often taught or believe that there are no truths so they no longer trust us. Kids can see that many times parents and other teachers do not lead by example.

Has it occurred to many people that the more we try to teach our kids to accept diversity, that we might be encouraging them to do the opposite? We have a tendency to place all the blame on “bad” parents for the failure of their children. We tend to excuse kids from these “bad” families for failing. Yet many of our leaders in all of history came from poor and often “bad” and underprivileged backgrounds.

Think about it.

I grew up in what was considered to be a lower middle farm class family without much exposure to the outside world. My relatively uneducated parents didn’t trust Italians, Spaniards, Catholics, Poles, Jews and people of color. Yet while I was serving in the armed services, my best buddy was Cooney “Tony” Terracianno from Chicago, a Jewish man named Irving Block from New York City and a Pollock named Andy Sobieski from Connecticut. I made friends without regard to race. Another friend was of Italian descent (I temporarily lost his name in my mind) whose brother later became mayor of St. Louis. Had my parents told me I had to like people of all races, I might have shown typical teen rebellion.

Think about this, too.

I do understand that the family and environment into which we are born into add a great deal to the chances of our successes. Had I been born in a family with a successful business background, I would have both gained and lost. We cannot pick our parents. I’m glad I was born in a family of love and discipline. In later life my parents learned to be more tolerant of other races and creeds. But they never changed their minds about the “poor” who had the ability to work but accepted welfare. None of their nine kids ever accepted welfare; they were taught to work and to be responsible to make a living and if we were going to have a family, work to support it.


Anyway, back to “FREAKONOMICS”. Take time to read a least parts of it. May give you some new insights as to why things are as they are.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

KEEPING UP

“Many Use Debt to Keep Up With the Wealthy” is the title of a recent lengthy article in the WSJ. Key points in this article: “people who wield their Visa Cards like swords as they cut thru the jungles of greed on a shopping crusade”. “Melanie, now 26 and married, wanted to match the affluence of her family but she and her husband had to borrow heavily to afford an affluent lifestyle. When problems set in, they had to sell their lakefront home to pay off debts”.

“Some experts are tracing the credit surge to the widening income gap between the rich and the rest of U.S. society. The gap widened substantially between 1970 and 2000, but the gap in consumption widened much less as moderate-income Americans turned increasingly to debt.”

When I was growing up going into deep debt was called “keeping up with the Joneses”. Many tried to keep up but most big spenders didn’t fool many of the neighbors. We knew they were borrowing it. Problem with borrowing is what a Mormon elder said during the depression: “Interest never sleeps nor sickens or dies…Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day of night.” Many of our problems in society can be traced to “keeping up” because envy, jealousy and greed are considered to be part of our mistaken values. We have become more and more of a “must have it now” country. The rich have it; therefore I want it too. Seems to be what many people think. Difference is, most of the rich keep their money. The rich give just enough of their wealth to encourage those who want to “keep up” and to be “accepted” to spend more than these “Joneses” can afford. Some “Joneses” will do almost anything to or to be considered “part of the elite” believing they will be accepted in the same circles as the wealthy when they actually are being used to promote the agenda desired by the wealthy elite. These people are generally considered to be the “middle class.”

The stupid poor try to gain financial equality by stealing fraud or drug selling. Most of our prison population is made up of poor people, some poor by choice and others poor by being too greedy. Some are dealt a bad hand from which they appear not to be able to escape. The shrewd rich who rob to get richer, if caught, are treated as “white collar” unlucky citizens and who after doing their short sentences; go back to their wealthy lifestyles. The poor, when caught, are like the Monopoly game; they go straight to jail. When released, the poor often return to robbing and defrauding because that is the only trade they know. Many people considered poor, wasted their opportunities to get a free education. They succumbed to “peer pressure” believing they would never need to learn an honest trade. Hollywood, peer pressure and advertising misleads people into believing they will get all the good things in life others have or appear to have without doing much work or much thinking.

The hard working people, who have values in their lives, don’t have a lot of money but know how to enjoy life anyway. I’ve met a lot of wealthy elite people who appear to unhappy despite their money and perceived standing in their communities.

People are bombarded every day by the lifestyles of the Hollywood elite. Advertising tells the buyer how easy it is to buy merchandise the buyer often can’t afford. Credit is easy. Unearned self esteem abounds. Greed is justified as need.

This envy of others spills over into communities where costly projects desired and partially funded by the wealthy are pursued by those doing the beckoning of the wealthy. Some community will always have something another community wants, even though they can’t afford it or justify it. When someone has a strong desire to have what others have but really can’t afford it, any means can justify the end.

Long lists of bankruptcies appear more and more frequently in the JS. However: you will never see a public body in these lists. Public bodies never have to run the risk of going broke. The people you elect, generally just raise your taxes, sell bonds and increase the cost of services. Individuals and private enterprise that spend more than they can afford usually go broke.

The gap between the wealthy and the poor grows daily. The have-nots are usually envious and jealous, but they often abuse each other. Or knowing they can never be on an equal footing with the wealthy, find a joint cause they believe benefits both the wealthy and not so wealthy; such as described in the book “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” Or they eschew the pursuit of money and just hate instead. (Think al Qaeda) Twenty-five or fifty million dollar rewards for turning in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama, the poor and have joined these terrorists in a common “cause” they believe will put them on an “equal” basis with their wealthy educated leaders.

This blog is not an attempt to paint the poor, the middle class and wealthy with a common brush. It’s an attempt to put in print what the WSJ would like to say but editorial restrictions probably prevent for reasons of being politically correct. My first blog back in August of 2004 warned my reader that this would not be a “politically correct” blog site.

Before anyone sends me a nasty comment, I hasten to add that there is a time when we all borrow money. There is also an obligation to individuals, the public sector and the private sector to pay it back. If you believe you will pay it back when you are requested to pay it back, but find that you can’t, chances are you shouldn’t have borrowed it in the first place.

There is an article in this week’s edition of the Peoria Times-Observer, a very well written article by DeWayne Bartels, titled “Good or Bad Debt”. I tend to agree with Gary Sandberg who says the City of Peoria “is at the bottom of a hole and we just keep reaching for a bigger shovel to try to dig ourselves out”. Chuck Grayeb disagrees; however Grayeb never saw a taxpayer dollar that he didn’t want to spend. But then Grayeb works for the public sector where tax raising and spending is seldom a problem. But remember, ANYTHING can be justified by the justifier. Just asks any policeman.

I close with this thought: “We have acquired the habit of exalting appearances over substance”.