Monday, December 11, 2006


My original blog on this subject was posted on 12/05/06. I received a rather blistering comment from one Matt Jones. You can read my blog of 12/05 and Mr. Jones’s comments. I wrote a comment back but my comments got lost out their in cyberspace. So here are basically my answers to Matt Jones:

First Matt, you are presumptuous to think you are the only Matt in town, I could have been talking about half a dozen Matt’s who I know.
Second, you left out that you approached me this summer and asked if I would consider stepping down, not run for reelection. You said you knew many Republicans who would not vote for me and that the Central Committee, you, I’m told, are on the Executive Committee and on the political Advisory Committee and I’m told you area also attorney to the Central Committee. You said Republicans wanted to hold District 11 for the Republicans and those did not think I could win. When I told you I would not even consider not running, you then asked me if I would consent to a poll to determine my elect ability. When I said no way, you then asked who was going to run my campaign. When I told you, I would run my own campaign; you told me again, I could not be elected without a campaign manager. You told me I would have to pay for these services. Later you called me and asked if I was going to do a mailer. I told you no, I was doing handouts. You were not pleased.

When I won both the election and the Vice-Chairmanship I couldn’t resist giving you a little “needle”. Sorry you got so upset but am glad with all your other time constraints that you have time to read my blogs.

As a result of your negativity, I set out to prove I could win without spending more than $1000 (one handout), no yard signs and do no mass mailing and do no phone bank. While my win was narrow, my election for Vice-Chairman of the Peoria County Board, was, using the terms of miffed former politician and Republican Roger Monroe, a “landslide”.

My comments about the JSEB, they who said I lacked communication skills, was long-winded and strident, (partly so on the strident), Roger Monroe who after I won my first election, said in his 3rd rate column that I was dirt, and coupled with your activities, Matt Jones, I decided to give you all the “needle” or rub it in a bit.

Matt, I know you are a Republican candidate wannabe. You had better develop thicker skin because my comments could hardly be called an attack. I have been attacked by many people in many different ways including Penny Radley, wife of a judge or former judge, who said she worked with me on the Peoria Park Districts Citizens’ Recreation Advisory Board and I was uncooperative and unpleasant to work with, probably because I concluded the Advisory Committee was really “useless as tits on a boar” and totally dominated by the administrator. (The last year I served under the “leadership” of Rocky Vonachen, one half of all meeting were cancelled), I resigned, Park Board President Tim Cassidy who asked that people vote for him to “save the parks” from Merle Widmer, Tim is saving the park district with it’s $48,800,000.00 budget all right for present and future taxpayers to receive the property tax jolt soon forthcoming; a letter to the editors from R. W. Slonneger who insinuated I was on the payroll of PDC (sorry, R. W., not one thin dime) and from many emails, letters both positive and negative from concerned citizens (and rightly welcomed) as I was concerned, and some from people who favorite “whine” was “we don’t want no toxic waste in our backyards”. Never mind that it is hazardous waste, not toxic when it is deposited and that the landfill had been there for TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS. Just a few extra "needles".

Several months earlier Matt Jones had blistered me about speculative comments I made about the some County Board members. I remind Matt that I was elected Vice-Chairman by 15 out of 18 votes including all three African-Americans now on the Peoria County Board an by all but two voters on whose vote I had speculated on and apologized to them for doing so. Just as a reminder, PDC is suing the County and you will soon hear more details about additional hearings out at the ITOO. The "yes" voters are not involved

Matt is a nice fellow well met, and I can appreciate being up at three AM to feed a new baby can make you irritable, but we all worked and raised kids. I believe Matt is most upset because I work with all people of all parties’, races, religious beliefs, who use facts and have sane beliefs. Suffer fools gladly, I don’t.

And didn’t I warn you this was not a politically correct blog site? It isn’t.


Matt Jones said...

At the risk of continuing this, and with the benefit of a little sleep, let me respond (against my better judgment) to you public post. First of all, I do not think it a bit pompous to conclude that you were referencing me since you used my last name in your blog in the sentence immediately preceding your "needling". see: "I also want to say hello on this blog to Republican Matt Jones, political analyst and attorney. Hey Matt, how’s it going? You didn’t call to say congrats. Cat got your tongue? " To call me pompous when you were clearly referring to me is disingenuous. If you were referring to one of the half dozen other Matt's, then name him and why you were upset that he didn't call you.
Next, you are critical of me for not being thick skinned....and yet your grievance against me was that I questioned you during the summer about your electability and campaign strategy. I did so to your face in the parking lot of the Lariat and did so while repeatedly saying "with all due respect". I gave you two reasons why I was concerned, the incident where you stopped a school bus because a student threw a soda can out the window and your support for the landfill expansion and the vituprative blog about your colleagues in its aftermath. Both reflect an impulse control issue generally not desireable in elected officials. I suggested that your opponent had been recruited by the local democrat party, the same folks who defeated incumbant jeff joyce in the primary, therefore indicating an extra level of support not typical of county board races AND she had been active with the teacher's unions, one of the most active and effective political organizations in the state. You mentioned that you snuck up on Zan Ransburg and I asked if you wouldn't be better off with a poll knowing if you were vulnerable. I offered to pay for the poll through the central committee and give you veto authority over the questions. You refused. I have used these sames pollsters on at least three successful campaigns, so I know their value. I did say that the party had an interest in protecting the county board seat. thats what partys do, they nominate candidates and win elections. If you want to run as an independant, devoid of partisan considerations, then by all means run as an independant, but as long as you are benefitting from membership in the GOP, which you do based on the signature requirements and the votes of many who only vote for Republicans, then I do not think it is inappropriate for you to at least consider the concerns of the party. I also told you, that the decision would be yours and yours alone.
I never told you that you couldn't win without a campaign manager, what I told you is that the job of campaign manager is distinct from the job of being a candidate and that only you could be the candidate. Kind of like saying, that if you are going into court, you should have a lawyer. Sometimes pro se litigants win, but the odds are much better if you have someone else with an objective perspective on your team. That is advice I stand behind. BTW, I am not the lawyer for the central committee. As far as I'm aware, they have no lawyer, but there are several of us that lend a hand from time to time. My discussions were in my role to assist ALL GOP candidates. Mailers, I agree that hand to hand distribution of literature is preferrable, but I was aware that your opponent was doing some mailers and had a substantial sign program. These are common campaign tools and the fact that you chose not to use them was ill-advised, regardless of the result. Your victory does not provide proof that they are bad tools, simply that in a 70+ per cent GOP district, that a Republican can win no matter what. And as for my statement that many Republicans had indicated dissatisfaction with you, once again, the numbers speak for themselves. Apparently, more than 15% of the people who identify with GOP didn't vote for you. Once again, why would I retract from that admonition. I'm sorry I hurt your feelings by discussing the elephant in the room, your electibility. I did not do so in a public forum, like this blog. Some things should be kept private. I will assume that from now on, everything I say to you is for public consumption. And finally, as for your victory for Vice Chair. With all due respect to the man who once described the value of mammory glands on a male porcine, what does that get you? Do you have any appointing power? Do you control committee assignments? Do you wield a veto over the monthly agenda? Have you ever gotten the opportunity to run a meeting when the Chair was absent? For your service and longevity, I'm glad you have the "honor" of being the Vice Chair. Its nice that the Democraticly controlled county board chose you as the GOP standard bearer. But I'd rather have chairmanship of an important committee than Vice Chair any day. And finally, as for the fact that you work with all peoples, races etc. I applaud that. If your insinuation is that I do not work so collaboratively or that I think partisanship should trump integrity, you are dead wrong. My criticism of you, and since you are thick skinned and this is a politically incorrect blog I'll say so, is that you suffer from Hubris. It is not just that you believe that your views are correct, it is that anyone who views it differently from you is wrong and suffers from some sin e.g. political cowardice, personal corruption, etc. We have all heard many times about how you built our business here in Peoria and worked with all manner of people and been victomized by the JSEB and many many others. If you'd stick to what you've learned, and not feel compelled to denigrate anyone who disagrees with you, you'd not only be right, but maybe even effective. Instead of voting on the "right side" of the landfill issue, maybe you'd have voting on the winning side. Effectiveness comes at a price and the price is the humility to admit that you aren't always right. Have a joyous holiday season and on behalf of your readers, thanks for creating an insight into the inner workings of local politics and its personalities.

Merle Widmer said...


For a busy guy as you say, you have a lot of time for bloggers comments. I have time to answer you so here goes. I do not attack people who "disagree" with me. I give back to people when they "attack" me or do not fulfill the duties they are elected to do... You "attacked" me in comments on my blog site this spring, I eventually erased the entire blog with your comments.

The JSEB are not just disagreeing with me, they have been attacking me since 1994. They started out with saying I did not understand how government worked and that it was entirely different from the private sector. You bet public bodies, by and large, are not run like successful businesses; otherwise the country wouldn't be in the mess it is in. Roger Monroe has been attacking me since he, as Batman, didn't become his Robin #2. I am proud to say I am independent and not a sheep. But as a lifelong member of the Republican Party I remember the Republican Party when it was not in such disarray and so poorly led.

When someone accuses me of being on the payrool of PDC that is an attack, not a disagreement. I have plenty of people who disagree with me and I hope they continue to do so or how do we have dialogue?

If you think everyone in the Republican Party likes you, you are mistaken. One called you a "small fart in the wind". Another said you are not a spokesman for the party. Neither am I a spokesperson of the party but I present the Republican parties traditional views of less spending and smaller government.

I work with all peoples regardless of political party, ehtnics and gender providing we are all using common sense in spending other peoples money and protecing the citizenry. I work for the benefit of the people; always have.

Another thing you conveinently left out is that many Republicans including myself are unhappy with the party leadership starting at the top. Many Republicans told me they didn't plan to vote and many didn't. What was the turnout? 48%, Most incumbent Repulicans in so called Republican districts were booted from office. You know that there is nationwidecline of people who are Republicans on paper but no longer vote the party line. Certainly, you know that. Even so, I donated approximately $1000 to Republican candidates in this election including $250.00 to join the Phooenix Club in October and have yet to receive an acknoweledgement except my returned cancelled check.

You can keep this running dialogue on as long as you wish, you evidently have the time. Also, since you brought up race again, how many black people do you see attending Republican events. Or Hispanics? Why not? And why weren't the Young Repulicans more active in getting Pat Ward and Mike Tejien elected? The young Republicans even turned down my request for help. Let's face it Republicans are a party in disarray. Try not to blame me. I did get elected.

As to The Vice-Chair, if it means nothing I suspect that upu don't know as much about County politics as you think you do. And yes, I could have had a chairmanship of a committee but I declined. Don't doubt that I have and will contineue to make my prescence on the county board a factor toward good government which we have accomplished over the past six years with a good administrator and a board with 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans working together.

And no, I didn't say I "snuck up" on Ransberg. I worked and defeated her which turned out to be in the best interests of the county.

Nice to chat with you and when are you going to throw your hat in the ring? My spot on the board will be open in four years.

matt jones said...

After attending mass the other day, the homily was about renewel of spirit and in that vein I offer to end this public conversation. Now that the General Assembly is done until January, some of my time pressures so present after the election are gone, but undeniably the time spent commenting to your blog about these personal matters is time better spent elsewhere. I'm guessing that your readers are more interested in the books you are reading than about who said what to whom and when. I am aware that there are many who view me as insignificant politically or personally. I never claimed to be otherwise and freely tell anyone who solicits my advice that they are probably getting what they are paying for (which is nothing). I'm sorry you continue to consider my rebuke of you (for the attack on your colleagues' motivations) as an attack. You apologized publicly for the personal nature of them, I praised you for doing so, and I thought the incident was over. Your criticisms of the party have some validity. We do not do enough to involve minorities into the party. I personally met with Pat Ward, as I tried with you, to giver her some guidance and attempted to recruit an hispanic to run this time around as well. we are rightfully frustrated with our lack of success in broadening our party. I can't comment on the young republicans since I'm not a member of that organization any more. Also, I'm not surprised that people are frustrated with party leadership. I'm not sure if you are referring to national, state or local party leaders, but I am aware of criticism of each level, and even privately voiced my concerns from time to time as well. I try not to publicly criticize party officials except when the situation is so outrageous there is no choice, e.g. george ryan's fundraising victory tour his last year in office or the negligence in the foley scandal. In fact, it is some of that criticism which has likly earned me some of the partisan opponents you referred to. Although I am much in the public eye, I don't often think of myself as a "public person" and therefore susceptible of the criticism which I freely agree goes with putting ones name on the ballot. Perhaps I need to reconsider that or fully shrink into private life, outside the arena. Finally, I don't know when I'll throw my hat into the ring. I've always been passionate about public service and respect anyone who has the guts to put their name on the ballot. There was a time when it appeared, with some basis, that I was a man in search of an office to serve in. Those days are passed. If I run, it would have to meet three criteria. How would it affect my family, does it involve issues that I'm passionate about, do I have a unique perspective or talent to share. I've worked in and on behalf of county government for most of my professional life so its something I would consider, rather than, say city government where I've been encouraged to run on several occassions and respectfully declined. As for your county board seat, I don't live in the district. If you are encouraging me to move into your district to succeed you, I'm flattered. If you were issuing a challege to run against you, have a Merry Christmas.

Merle Widmer said...

Well said, Matt Jones, I too wish to have dialogue like the comments you just sent. No, I was not challenging you to run against me because this was my last political effort. But if you did move into my district, I might step down before my four year term is over and defer to you. Despite all our rhetoric I believe you more than capable and an asset to the Republican Party.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year.


Merle Widmer

KEAlms/SAPartridge said...

Matt Jones: Perplexed by your comment:

Instead of voting on the "right side" of the landfill issue, maybe you'd have voting on the winning side.

Do you mean that a person, as in any citizen/taxpayer, as in an elected official, .... should cast their vote to be on the winning side of an issue or on the integrity side of an issue regardless of any winning vote (which in the long run is really a loss)?

matt jones said...

Thank you for the question. My intention was to suggest that voting based on one's convictions, which clearly Merle believed he was doing, is less preferable than being able to change other people's votes to also be on the winning side. I know that there are those who believe that Merle was wrong, so my point was not to weigh in on that particular issue, but to suggest that even if an elected representative always votes on the side of truth, justice and the american way, if he/she is constantly in the minority, then perhaps it is a reason to consider if there were a way to bring others over to our side or if there are personal or stylistic barriers which impede that leadership. My statement was not about political expediency, but rather about successful issue advocacy.

KEAlms/SAPartridge said...


Agreed --- sometimes it is a style issue or sometimes it is a motivation issue or or or or --- the same overt behavior by four different individuals may be the result of four different motivations (Please Read The Color Code for a more detailed explanation).

Nevertheless, sometimes it is just a question of having the courage to vote for what is right whether you are one vote or whether you are a part of the majority.

Being in the minority may just mean that others are not of the same opinion or perhaps they actually are of the same opinion however they lack the moral courage or fortitude to withstand the many social, economic, public ..... pressures, fear of reprisal, fear of retaliation or ..... to stand tall and vote for truth.

Sadly, we have seen this to be the case in too many situations in a variety of different service opportunities.

Over our 120 years of combined experience, we have gratefully learned to recognize style and put it in the corner while we evaluate the message being delivered for its truth content and the overall short and long-term impact on the future of our community --- people and all other community resources.

And sometimes style is style and compromising your integrity because your style is not palatable to others is always a loss.

Merle is Merle just as Matt is Matt and so on....

Enjoying the dialogue! :)

Merle Widmer said...

Any speculations I made AFTER the FINAL VOTE were based on my believing that PDC did not get a fair trail. Evidently PDC doen't believe they did either,(one boaard member voted with his heart and another voted without hearing any evidence and another voted because he was the last vote heard and all votes were verbal, 10-7 instead of 9-8 as 15 minutes before the final vote he had told two of us he was voting yes) otherwise they wouldn't be spending hundreds of thousands dolars in appealing or filing law suits against the county which will result in additional county expenses in the hundreds of thousands before it is all over. And when it is over the 30 year old hazardous landfill will still be there.

Dialogue clears misunderstandings or lessens conflict. Thanks to everybody and Merry Christmas.