As we do here on occasion, I am throwing the floor open to whatever you want to discuss. Have fun.
February 2009 Archives
By Chris Magee
Sen. Roland Burris has concluded his "listening tour" of the state and is on his way back to Washington.
"Listening" is the key word here. I guess for Burris, listening means hearing, not paying attention to what you hear. Politicians and regular citizens alike from around the state have been calling for Burris to resign, but he doesn't seem to have heard this. The clamor got too loud, so Burris had to flee back to Washington.
We've seen this scene before, under eerily similar circumstances. Remember former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was accused of wrongdoing and was implored by everyone to step down, but insisted he had done nothing wrong? Remember when he appointed Burris to this job when everyone said he had no business making the appointment? Remember in January when Burris was able to secure confirmation after distancing himself from Blagojevich, insisting he had not had any questionable dealings with Blagojevich?
Fast forward to February, when the story starts to change. A week or so ago, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for fundraising help. Then the story changed again. He admitted he had tried to raise money for Blagojevich.
Of course, the controversy isn't his fault. He blames the media. They had the temerity to report his actions, and it's really all a big misunderstanding. This sounds familiar from the Blagojevich saga as well. It's always the media's fault because we have the tendency to examine what our politicians are doing instead of just taking their word for it. I can see how that would be annoying.
Burris has this ability to project a sort of baffled innocence, as if he would never even imagine doing something wrong and he can't comprehend that anyone would think he did. This attitude probably helped him win approval for his seat to begin with. Now he's hoping that if he keeps this up long enough, the controversy will pass him by again.
The state is exploring perjury charges, and the Senate ethics committee has begun an investigation. I don't think anything will come of this, and Burris doesn't seem like the resigning type, as was evident from his confirmation fight.
The best guess here is that Burris will stay in office, but most people will think he's a crook and won't want to work with him. So Illinois will end up with an ineffective senator for the next two years.
Maybe Burris will prove me wrong. Maybe he'll realize that he's tainted and has been ever since he was appointed by an accused governor. Maybe he'll realize he is a distraction for his state, his party and his president. Maybe he'll step down. Anything could happen.
The last three months of Illinois politics have made that abudantly clear.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Bob Fieseler raised the idea of installing surveillance cameras on Chicago Avenue in downtown Naperville.
The idea was spurred by recent incidents downtown, including one where an NCC student was Tasered, with conflicting accounts as to whether it was justified. Fieseler said the cameras could save the city time and money by allowing them to determine definitively what happened instead of conducting investigations.
Police Chief Dial supports the measure and says he thinks Naperville will need more cameras in the future.
Of course, cameras can be abused as well, and any suggestion of installing cameras always brings up the specter of Big Brother.
Do you think these cameras are a good idea, or would they be an intrusion into privacy?
On Tuesday President Barack Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package into law. Obama claims the bill will create 3.5 million jobs, including more than 9,000 in the Naperville and Will County area and 148,000 in Illinois.
Local legislators' reactions tended to depend on their political leanings.
Rep. Judy Biggert complained that while some of the projects in the bill are worthwhile, a lot of the money is designated for pet projects that won't help the economy.
County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom had a different take, saying it would generate millions of dollars for the county.
And Rep. Bill Foster expressed confidence the bill would do what it is intended to.
What do you think? Will the stimulus bill help, or is it full of pork projects that won't lead to economic recovery?
The Sun's cover story for Tuesday recounts the story of Susan McGrath and family, who traveled to North Carolina for a newly developed cancer treatment for their dog. The family will spend more than $25,000 on the dog's treatment, with only a 30 percent chance of a cure.
A generation or two ago, if an animal was sick with something like this, the head of the household would have likely had it euthanized, if he didn't do it himself, under the belief that the animal was suffering and there was no money for vet bills.
You hear stories like this more and more today, however, about people who will spend thousands of dollars to treat an animal for a disease or a chronic condition like diabetes.
How far would you go to treat a pet? How much have you spent to deal with a pet's medical issues? Do you think people are doing the animals a favor by trying to treat these conditions, or should they let nature take its course?
By Chris Magee
I've never had any interest in the Olympics.
I enjoy sports, but I like sports like baseball, basketball and football. I can't all of a sudden pretend that I care about the marathon, biathlon and the other -ons. Every two years when everyone gets excited about the Olympics it's something I just can't relate to. Sure, when everyone was standing around the TV watching Michael Phelps, I watched too, but I don't think I've ever turned the TV on with the intention of watching the games.
Maybe that's why I'm not excited about Chicago's Olympics bid. The city on Friday released the details of its proposal, including an operations budget of $3.3 billion. The Chicago Olympic committee believes all of that money can be raised through advertising and sponsorship, but what if it doesn't come through? Someone has to pay for that still; you can't just call it off.
There is a certain prestige to having the Olympics in your hometown (for most people from out of state, Chicago and Illinois are synonymous), but I think of all the other things that go with it. Anyone who thinks millions of extra visitors would be great should drive on Rt. 59 or the interstate during rush hour to see how great more people is. The Olympics also bring with them fears of terrorism. What could be better for a potential terrorist than a chance to strike at a world event in the U.S. in the home city of what may still be the American president at the time?
The biggest benefit I can see coming from the games is that the city may be encouraged to make beneficial infrastructure upgrades to prepare for the games that will stick with us for long afterward. The popular book "Devil in the White City" recounts the story of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. One of the lasting benefits of the fair was the improvements to the city that came out of it, like the addition of electricity. Upgrading the highways and rail lines are one potential benefit we could see now.
When I was a kid and the Soviet Union was still around, the Olympics seemed more important. It was our chance to prove in a quantifiable way the benefits of free society over totalitarianism by beating the commies at wrestling or hockey. It's just not the same coming out on top against Uzbekistan.
Last but not least, the games are in 2016. It's 2009 right now. How can anyone get excited about something seven years away? Who knows what any of us will be doing then or even if we'll still live in the area?
What it comes down to is the Olympics just aren't my thing. How about you? Are you excited about the potential for a Chicago Olympics? What do you think of the plans?
State Rep. Darlene Senger says she plans to introduce a bill that would allow school boards to remove from school any student charged with a felony and awaiting legal proceeding, and place them in an alternative school program until the matter is resolved.
The proposal comes in response to an incident at Gregory Middle School where two students are charged with sexually assaulting a classmate. Because the students have not been convicted of any crime, the accused and the alleged victim still attend the same school. The parents of the alleged victim and other community members have asked the district to move the accused to a different school.
Board President Mark Metzger said there is nothing the school could do under current law, but many district residents believe the district already has all the authority it needs to make a change.
Do you approve of this proposed law? Is it necessary? How do you feel about the district's handling of the situation?
By Chris Magee
Everyone has some stuff sitting around their house that they don't use, but it's too good to throw away, but would be too much trouble to try and sell.
Usually these kinds of items end up gathering dust in the basement or the back of a closet, or getting tossed, even if it does seem like a waste. I had an old computer with a broken power switch sitting in my parents' basement for years, for example.
I can't stand to throw away anything good though, and that's why I am a fan of a Web-based concept known as Freecycling.
I found out about Freecycling a few years ago from a Sun story. Basically, there are groups all over the country based in the larger cities, including Naperville. Members post a description of what they'd like to get rid of, or what they're looking for, and anyone who wants it can e-mail them and make a claim. The purpose of the site is to keep things out of landfills and help save the environment, so people are encouraged to only claim things that are close to their home so they don't have to drive far to get there.
Another rule is that the transaction has to be free. Maybe some people exchange cash under the table, but officially you're giving your item away out of the good of your heart. Some of the items I've given away I would have preferred to get a couple of bucks for, but that's the decision you make when you use the site. I've had people give me a plate of cookies or something like that in gratitude though, and it definitely feels more like an old-fashioned sense of community that you don't get to experience much nowadays.
The guidelines state that you have to offer something before you can claim something, which if followed keeps it from turning into a site that's just full of moochers.
When you offer something nice, you'll get a lot of emails quickly. Some people tell you why they want it and others just say they'll take it. I tend to favor people who have a good story. I recently offered two different pieces of computer equipment, and many of the same people contacted me both times, which makes me think there are people who will take anything and are maybe turning it around to sell it to someone else. I try to avoid them because I'd rather help out someone who might be less fortunate.
The broken computer was the first thing I gave away. I was surprised at the number of responses I got. The person I ended up giving it to worked for a group that rehabs computers for seniors who want to use e-mail and the Internet. It was much nicer than having it sitting in the basement.
Many of the things offered strike me as a waste of time. You're not going to make a special trip across town to pick up half a roll of paper towels or some old hangers. But people also give away televisions, furniture, and other useful and expensive items. I got my coffee table from the site.
Here's a link if you'd like to check it out: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/napervilleilfreecycle/
I know there's not a lot to comment about on this topic, and that's OK. Does anyone know of anything else like this?
What's on your mind? Talk about it here.
Naperville School District 203 on Monday named Mark Mitrovich to replace the retiring Alan Leis as superintendent.
Mitrovich, who agreed to a three-year contract at $203,000 per year, is the co-founder of EdGate, a company that provides K-12 solutions to improve student performance via the Internet. He has served as the company's chief education officer for the past 10 years. He has also worked as a consultant to Microsoft, Apple and other technology firms, and is the developer of Total Reader, a Web-based reading assessment program for K-20 for both the education and business worlds.
Prior to embarking on his business career, Mitrovich logged 30 years as an educator, serving as a high school principal, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and, eventually, superintendent of Peninsula School District, a 15-school district in Gig Harbor, Wash., that is touted as one of the state's most innovative systems. He left that position in 1999.
What do you think of this choice of Mitrovich?
By Chris Magee
For two years, I lived in an apartment off of North Aurora Road, so with just the trip between home and the Sun's former office on Ogden Avenue I went through the intersection of North Aurora and Route 59 hundreds of times.
I hate that intersection. Traveling on North Aurora the light is barely green for a few seconds before it turns yellow again, and if you're trying to turn left off of 59 heading north you might sit there for three or four cycles of the light. The turning lane isn't long enough and you have to sit there half in and half out of the lane hoping those people rushing past you don't scrape off your mirror. Turning onto 59, sometimes traffic is backed up all the way to the intersection, so you don't even have anywhere to go in the brief time alloted to you to make that turn.
So with that in mind, I can understand why people drive crazy in that area. But understanding it doesn't mean I approve of it. I have seen some crazy stuff there and the only reason I haven't seen multiple accidents is because luckily someone else was paying attention. Four cars going through the light on red is the minimum most of the time.
That's why I'm a big fan of the new red light cameras at that intersection. I know many people say it's just a money-making venture for the city, or that it will cause more accidents because people will slam on their breaks to avoid getting a ticket. But I am at heart a law-and-order type and I really hate the kind of crazy driving I would see in that area.
According to Police Chief Dial in his column in Monday's paper, drivers don't seem to be changing their behavior much. Even though the intersection is clearly marked, the cameras, which went live Jan. 1, have caught more than 30 violations per day. Right now the police are only sending warnings, but soon the real fines will be coming.
I live in a different part of town now and I don't go that way much, but last Saturday I did take that route and I saw in my rear-view mirror a flash light up the intersection as the camera captured someone doing something they shouldn't have. That got me to wondering if the cameras were making a difference.
So my question for you is now that the cameras have been installed, have you noticed any change in behavior? Are people driving more carefully there or is it as nuts as it always has been? If behavior isn't changing yet, do you think it will when the fines start going out?
UPDATE: As of Feb. 1, the warning period is over and the fines will now begin in earnest. Has anyone been caught by these cameras yet, either in the warning phase or the real thing?
Now that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is out of office, many are expecting a new mood in Springfield. With this in mind, our local legislators plan to try again to get some bills to pass that were defeated in the Blagojevich era.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard intends to reintroduce a recall amendment that would allow voters to petition to remove elected officials who the public believes are not doing a good job. Dillard also will reintroduce a bill to establish a Web site where citizens could look up state contracts, salaries, expenditures, tax deadbeats and tax breaks for corporations, an effort to provide accountability.
State Sen. Randy Hultgren and state Rep. Darlene Senger intend to focus on a capital bill and funding for Route 59 expansion. Hultgren also wants to establish a prisoner DNA database.
What do you think of these goals? Is there a better chance of them becoming law with a new man in charge?