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December 2008 Archives

Seemingly overnight, huge potholes appeared in Naperville streets, and the city will likely be fighting a continuing battle with these annoyances until spring.

Where are the worst potholes in the city or surrounding area? Have you suffered any vehicle damage this winter due to these obstructions?

By Chris Magee
Night news editor

Watching Gov. Blagojevich speak at a news conference Tuesday announcing his appointment of Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacant senate seat, I couldn't help but wonder: What planet is this guy living on?

You see, for those of us on planet Earth, Blagojevich is in disgrace, with everyone trying to get him out of office as quickly as possible before he does anything to embarrass the state further. In Blagojevich's world, he's "enjoying his time in the limelight." Seriously? Everyone in the country thinks he's a crook, and he's enjoying himself?

Recently, Blagojevich's lawyer said the governor would not appoint a senator, acknowledging it was the wrong political climate to attempt such a move. The U.S. senators wrote a letter saying they would not accept any senator appointed by Blagojevich. Secretary of State Jesse White said he would not certify such an appointment. So what does Blagojevich do? He appoints someone to the seat.

Apparently Blagojevich has convinced his appointee, Roland Burris, to join him on that planet he lives on. Burris has to be delusional to think this move will be good for his career. Right now, Blagojevich is the anti-Midas - everything he touches is tainted. Having him appoint you to office is going to kill your career.

It was amazing watching Blagojevich, Burris and Congressman Bobby Rush at that conference blissfully ignoring the fact that the governor has been charged with trying to auction off that senate seat. Do they really expect that anyone will approve a Blagojevich appointment knowing the history behind the issue? Burris may in fact be a great pick, but he can never be accepted taking the office coming from this background.

It's a clever move for the governor, however. He's put the Senate leaders in a difficult position. If they turn away his pick, they'll be refusing to accept the only African-American senator, who would be taking the place of the former only African-American in the Senate. Burris is at least somewhat qualified, moreso than Caroline Kennedy, the likely appointee from New York, and under normal circumstances he would be accepted with no problem. Blagojevich can claim racism in the Senate and try to refocus the issue with himself as the civil rights hero. If the appointment is accepted, it's a huge victory. It shows Blagojevich still has power and shows that the promises of Harry Reid and the other senators aren't worth anything.

The sad thing is we could have avoided this situation if our state leaders had approved a bill to provide an alternative method for selection of the senator. But like so many initiatives in our state, everyone seemed to agree it was a good idea, but couldn't agree on the specifics, so it died. I can't help but think of the capital improvement bill that had to be passed this year to take advantage of billions in federal aid, but which the Legislature failed to act on.

There is a serious leadership vacuum in Springfield, but there's little we can do about it. While citizens generally disapprove of the performance of their legislature in general, they usually approve of their individual representative, so "vote the bums out" won't work, because for most of us, the bums live in someone else's district.

The phrase "yellow dog Democrat" was proudly adopted by some citizens in the past to describe their political views. What it means is they'd vote for a yellow dog if the Democrats put him up as their candidate. Well, the city of Chicago is full of yellow dog Democrats. Nothing will ever change in this state as long as people reflexively vote for any hack the party decides to nominate, no matter his or her qualifications.

On Monday, a judge dismissed the city from being a defendant in City Councilman Richard Furstenau's lawsuit against the city and several officials.

The judge concluded that the misconduct alleged on the part of Naperville Police Chief David Dial and then-City Manager Peter Burchard was not legally attributable to the city for the purposes of the case.

Many people had suggested that the city should simply settle with Furstenau for the $130,000 he was seeking instead of fighting the suit. A Sun story published Sept. 26 reported the city had spent more than $700,000 on attorney fees for itself and the individual defendants since the lawsuit was filed Oct. 31, 2007.

Does this vindicate the city in refusing to settle, or do you still favor the city cutting its losses and heading to the bargaining table?

There are some things we know will change in 2009. Barack Obama becomes the new president, and new members will be elected to the City Council. Gov. Blagojevich will probably be impeached and may be removed from office. Our city and our nation will struggle economically and face budget deficits.

With that in mind, what are your hopes and expectations for 2009? What do you think will be the big stories of the new year?

By Chris Magee
Night editor

It's something of a cliche in the newspaper business - the annual column on the real meaning of Christmas. Every year a few columnists expound on the idea that Christmas is not about material things but actually about family and love, like everyone doesn't already know that. But even though we all know it somewhere in our heads, sometimes it's good to be reminded. This is my take on the subject.

I've had two co-workers who have died from cancer this year, both at a relatively young age. Another was in a bad car accident and lost two years worth of memories. I had my own scary moment last winter. I was driving back to Naperville after visiting my parents, who live in Sandwich. I lost control of my car while rounding a curve on a road out in the country. I was spinning around and around, and before I knew what was happening I was stopped in a cornfield 50 feet off the road. While I was not hurt and the car somehow avoided damage, I noticed afterwards that I had gone right between two telephone poles. I could have gone off the road a little to the right or left and it could have been all over for me.

What I take away from all these things is the fact that none of us know how long we have here. You plan ahead and think of all the things you want to do someday, and you put things off thinking there will be a better time later, but you don't know that will happen. A few years ago I took a job in Sioux City, Iowa, at a paper there. The job was fine, but my family was eight hours away. I got to see them a few times a year. My parents seem healthy, but that doesn't guarantee anything. Something could happen to any of us at any time, and I don't want to regret not spending time with them because I thought I'd have time later, and that's a big part of why I moved back.

People who work in newspapers have to miss a lot of things most people take for granted. We work on evenings, holidays and weekends. I'm sure police and firefighters, doctors and nurses have the same problem. I can't always be at the Fourth of July party or even Thanksgiving or Christmas. That's why when I have the chance to see family, I have to take advantage of it.

Christmas is the one time of year when pretty much everyone is off of work and has nothing else to do but spend time with family. It is the only time all the aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents are likely to all be in the same place at the same time. It's your yearly opportunity to enjoy those you love and be thankful you're all alive.

Christmas is the time when we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Many people get a little lost trying to figure out the deeper theological implications of Christ's mission, but what it boils down to is Christians believe he came to make us better people. He told us not to just be nice to others because they did or could do something for us, but simply because they were our fellow man. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate that idea.

Indeed, this time of year, people generally try to be nicer than they are the rest of the year. They actually talk to strangers instead of averting their gaze. They give to charity. They are nice to strangers (except on this blog).

I attend St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church here in Naperville. It is definitely the most active church I've ever been a part of. They are always having collections for various groups or offering volunteer opportunities. I have always been hesitant to contribute because I was too busy trying to get ahead. I had to pay off my student loans, then my car, then save up for a downpayment on a house. When the church asks its parishioners to contribute to a cause, I always think in the back of my mind, "Well, most of the people in Naperville are rich, so they can afford it. Someday I'll be able to give, but not yet."

I know that's not really true though. Not everyone here is rich, and often those who give the most are those who have the least. I can afford to help out and still make my house payment. Twenty-five dollars to the food pantry means an awful lot more to those people who will be helped than it means to me. Usually I throw away those appeals for money I get in the mail, but this year I answered one for the first time and I plan to do it more in the future. Someday I may be in a better position to give, but people need help now, so I want to help them.

So to sum it up, at Christmas I believe it is important to appreciate what I have and spend time with the people who are important to me while I can. It is a time to stop making excuses and start making a difference. Any time I curse having to try to figure out what kind of gift to give my dad, I just have to remember that I'm lucky to have him there to give a gift to at all, and that puts everything in perspective.

The Sun will soon be publishing our list of the biggest stories of 2008. I'm wondering what you think. What were the most important news events in the area this year? How about the most interesting? The most significant? Most surprising?

We've had two murders, a new city manager and fire chief, a parks director who lasted a few months and a replacement, the continuing Drew Peterson saga, the resolution of the Metea Valley debate and a lot more. So what was important to you?

I just want to make a separate post for this so everyone knows the rules here.
I have decided I will not approve posts by people posting under names of famous living people unless there's a good reason to think they really are that person. That includes local officials. As before, posts will not be approved with bad language. Basically, if you can't say it on TV, you can't say it on the blogs. And I don't mean on Showtime or HBO, I mean network TV. I can't keep people from insulting each other, but I encourage people to debate civilly and if I think the personal attacks are getting out of hand I will stop it. I also will not publish comments that I believe are just a personal message to me and not intended as a comment on the topic. I will read them, but there's no reason to clutter up the boards with personal messages. Thank you for abiding by the rules. If you need to ask me something privately, my e-mail address is cmagee@scn1.com. Please don't abuse it.

At 2 p.m. Friday, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a short statement asserting his innocence and insisting he will fight the whole way and not quit.

"I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong and I'm not going to quit a job the people have hired me to do," the governor said.

"I'm dying to answer these charges ... I intend to answer them in an appropriate forum, in a court of law," he continued. He also asked for the "presumption of innocence."

Obviously Blagojevich has been coached by his lawyers not to say much to the media. This may be a solid legal strategy, but as an Illinois resident, do you think he should give voters an explanation?

When this story first broke it seemed like everyone in power was going to push each other out of the way to be the first to remove him from office. A week and a half later, Attorney General Lisa Madigan's effort to get the court to remove him failed, and the Legislature seems to be bogging down in its impeachment drive. It is unable to use much of the evidence the feds have in its investigation because the feds won't share. There is still other evidence, but is it possible Blagojevich could survive this whole experience? If Blagojevich is not removed, can the state hope to get back to business during the next two years?

I decided to make a new post on this topic since the previous one was way off track. Let's keep this one on topic please.

We haven't had any topics in the news in the last few days that really seemed bloggable (I just made up a word) so I'm going to yield the floor and offer Naperville the opportunity to talk about whatever's on your mind. If you don't make me regret it, we will do this on a semi-regular basis. Of course the usual rules apply - no swearing, and don't go nuts with the personal attacks. Other than that, have at it!

Naperville may be a fair distance from Detroit, but that doesn't mean our community is unaffected by the troubles of the auto industry. There are estimates that as many as 3 million jobs could be lost if the Big Three American car companies were to shut down, from those who make parts for cars, those who sell the cars and even those who market and sell advertising to the companies. Drive down Ogden Avenue on the west side of town and you'll see that car dealers have a big presence in our community. The amount of money they contribute to the city through sales tax cannot be insignificant.

We are all aware of the sad state of the industry. GM and Chrysler insist they are weeks away from bankruptcy, and claim the state of the financial sector would mean they would not be able to get loans and may need to shut down. Others say the automakers are overstating the case and that bankruptcy may be the best thing that could happen to them, allowing them to return with a more profitable business model.

Congress failed to pass a bailout package, but now President Bush is planning to give the automakers aid, although it is as yet unclear what form that will take. Bailout measures are extremely unpopular as a rule, as anyone who has ever worked for or owned a business that has failed asks, "Where was mine?" But it doesn't make sense to allow the industry to fail and pay unemployment to 3 million people either. So what do you think about a potential auto bailout?

Some business owners are saying downtown is becoming "the high-rent district," while some landlords are saying it depends who your landlord is and how long you've been a tenant. But all agree having a set business plan and knowing what you're getting yourself into is the key to successfully launching a small business downtown.

The Downtown Naperville Alliance says plenty of the stores downtown aren't corporate owned, but others aren't so sure new mom-and-pop shops can make it.

Let's be realistic, Naperville is an expensive place to live, shop and dine, so any small business trying to make a go of it here should have a well-though-out plan and enough cash to last until customers are established. Visitors come from miles around to puruse the merchandise and eat the fine food.

That said, What do you think of the mix of stores downtown? Have you had a bad or good experience renting space there? Any particular niche missing?

On Wednesday morning a Waubonsie Valley High School student reported seeing two students with a gun in a hallway, triggering a five-hour lockdown while police searched the school for weapons. The gun was eventually determined to be a BB gun, and police said students were never in danger.

Some parents expressed disapproval at the way the district handled the affair, specifically saying that e-mails informing them of the situation were too vague and that the district discouraged their children inside the school from communicating with worried parents outside. Do you think the district handled the situation well? If not, what would you have done differently? One parent suggested metal detectors. Is that a good solution?

In a recent Sun blog on the possible pardon of Gov. George Ryan, I mentioned that many state politicians were assumed to be corrupt, but few were ever charged. Many people have felt Gov. Rod Blagojevich fell in this category, but until now it was just a feeling, with no concrete evidence to support it. Today Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested on wide-ranging federal corruption charges. Among the charges are that they conspired to obtain bribes to select a successor to Barack Obama for his senate seat, that they threatened the Chicago Tribune, and that the governor said he wanted to "make money."
"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement. "They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."
What do you think of this move? What does it mean for our state? Will this be the beginning of change for our political culture?

Sixty seven years ago today was perhaps the most important event in American history, at least since shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, Mass., in 1775. On this date in 1941, a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor snapped Americans out of the idea that they could mind their own business and let the world do its own thing, and it set us on the path to where we are now. Four years later, 14 million Americans had put on a uniform and traveled to every corner of the world to defend their nation and change the course of history. Let us remember today what they did and what they fought for.

A story in Sunday's paper recounts how some area churches are noticing a drop in revenue collected from parishioners in the wake of the poor economy, even as the demand for the programs those revenues fund increases. The churches also noted that people may be giving to other charities first, since their charitable efforts are more obvious.

On the other hand, some churches actually see their attendance growing, and perhaps those members who cannot afford to give financially are instead volunteering more.

How about you? Does the economy affect how much you give to your church or to charitable causes? If you cannot afford to give, do you find yourself looking for other ways to help?

Liz Murphy of Naperville is lucky enough to own a Jeep formerly belonging to President-elect Barack Obama, with the title to prove it. Judging from the proliferation of Obama items receiving high bids on eBay, Murphy is confident she will be able to claim a princely sum when she puts the vehicle up on the site. How much do you think people might pay for the Jeep? Would you want to own a piece of Obama memorabilia? Have you had any brushes with other presidential relics?

Update: On Thursday, the Park District offered a new proposal as a compromise option. The newest proposal would relocate 115 of the 216 plots at the southern portion of the West Street location to the northern part. The remaining 101 plots would be relocated to DuPage River Park or Southwest Community Park, where additional plots would also be created to accommodate interest in the program that has been expressed by potential gardeners who live in south Naperville. Two athletic fields would be built in the southern portion of the garden plots.

Is this really a solution everyone can live with, or do you still object to the revised proposal?

Below is the original blog entry:

Today's Sun features the latest on the ongoing saga regarding the garden plots in central Naperville, and how officials from the Park District and Naperville School District 203 are kicking around the idea of kicking out the gardeners and using the land for athletic fields instead.

The area now accommodates 590 garden plots, all of which were rented this past summer - 55 percent to residents who lived north of 75th Street, 37 percent to residents who lived south of 75th Street, and 8 percent to nonresidents.

After the creation of three "soccer-sized fields" there, the area would still provide 364 plots. And, with the creation of 322 new plots in either DuPage River Park or Southwest Community Park, the program would actually grow in size by nearly 100 plots.

Meanwhile, the plan, which is estimated to cost District 203 $500,000 and the Park District $250,000, also would meet the growing demand for athletic fields in the area. District 203 and the Naperville Park District cataloged those demands, which will be even more difficult to meet once the lease on Naperville Cemetery land now used for practice fields expires in 2009. They will present that lengthy list of uses, as well as options to continue accommodating them in the Knoch Park area, in a report that will be presented over the next few weeks during community engagement meetings to be held on this issue.

Let's hear from you. Do you agree that geographically, it makes sense to create additional garden plots at other locations? Or does that detract from the sense of community that gardeners experience working together? What do you think of this latest proposal?

Naperville City Councilman Grant Wehrli said he might be in favor of waiting as much as five years to begin construction on the Nichols Library parking deck because of the problems in the economy and city budget deficit.

Councilman Richard Furstenau, on the other hand, pointed out that it might be cheaper to build it now. Other council members expressed willingness to re-evaluate the project.

The deck was controversial to begin with, so should the city take this time to reconsider the project, or take advantage of a poor economy and perhaps get a discount on the project?

At its meeting Tuesday night, the City Council voted 8-1 to appoint retiring state Rep. Joe Dunn to fill the seat being vacated by Darlene Senger, who will replace Dunn in the Legislature. Dunn will fill Senger's seat until a permanent replacement is selected in April elections.

The dissenting vote was cast by Doug Krause, who said that while Dunn was qualified, the public deserved a voice in the selection. Do you agree? Would you rather have had a say in the choice, or do you think Dunn will be a good choice for the few months until the election?

Residents in the neighborhoods near Seager Park are concerned that a proposed development next to the park along Old Plank Road will destroy the feel of the neighborhood and the park by removing old-growth trees and replacing them with buildings.

On the other hand, Russ Whitaker, attorney for the developer, said, "What we are putting next to the park is no different than what exists next to the park right now. There are resident subdivisions on all sides of the park, and to add another residential subdivision is not going to change any character of the (area)."

Do you think the residents have a point, or is this just the price we have to pay for progress. Are you in favor of continued development in Naperville? Is there a compromise that both sides can work with?

Greetings, Naperville!

My name is Chris Magee, and I'm your new moderator. I'm the night editor at the paper, and I've been with the Sun and lived in Naperville for 2 1/2 years. This is the first post of a new feature I'd like to introduce. From time to time, I'd like to go to more of a traditional blog format, where I'll post my opinion on an issue, and you can comment and give your own opinion. We'll still be doing the usual format most of the time, but when the right issue comes along I'll try this. I can't promise to respond to all responses, but I'll make the effort if I think a response is necessary. To be clear, this is my opinion and not that of the Sun as a whole. And now for today's main feature:

Despite criticism from just about everyone except the former governor's friends and family, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin on Monday asked President George Bush to commute George Ryan's sentence on corruption charges.

Durbin should have listened to those critics.

Illinois is a state that has always been known for shady politics, and our elections are a national joke. Most state residents assume that at least some of their government officials are crooked, but usually there's no way to prove it, or no one willing to prosecute. Occasionally a lower- or mid-level official will go to prison, but the chiefs tend to get off untouched.

That's why so many voters of both parties were happy to see Ryan tried, convicted and sentenced to some actual prison time for his misdeeds. Finally, one of the bigwigs got what he deserved.

But now along comes Durbin, who wants to let Ryan off after he's only served one year of a 6 1/2 year sentence. Durbin uses Ryan's age and his ailing wife as an excuse, but Ryan is far from the only 74-year-old person in prison, nor is he the only one with a sick wife. Perhaps while I was in civics class I missed the part of the law that said if you reach a certain age, you should no longer be punished for your misdeeds. Are we going to release every prisoner over 74, or who has family who misses him? If we don't, then we're just setting a double standard again.

This isn't a partisan issue, either. State Republican chairman Andy McKenna opposes a pardon, saying, "The issue is not one of party but of bringing real change to Illinois by the way we conduct business."

Republicans have no reason to feel any special sentiment toward Ryan. He almost single-handedly destroyed the party in the state. He was elected in an era when his party controlled most of the state offices, and now they can't even find a credible candidate to run for most of them.

We shouldn't belittle his crime, either. Under his watch, licenses were given by the secretary of state's office to people who didn't deserve them, and people died because of the accidents these drivers caused.

Ryan says he feels "deep shame" for his actions. That's great, and he should. But remorse is not a get out of jail free card.

I remember reading a story around the time of Ryan's conviction, when an official was quoted as saying something like, "only three Illinois governors have gone to prison." ONLY three? Is that how high our standards are in this state? Maybe we should put up a sign when you cross the state border that says "Welcome to Illinois. XXX days since the last governor's conviction."

After Ryan had lost his re-election bid and was a lame duck with no mandate, he unilaterally commuted the death sentences of everyone on Death Row. I thought at the time it was a self-serving move blatantly seeking to create some sort of legacy. If Bush pardons Ryan, it will be a similar travesty.

Ryan did the crime, now he has to do the time.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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