Tribune Puts End of Miller Dynasty on Front Page

The upset victory of McHenry County Board member Andrew Gasser over incumbent Algonquin Township Highway Commissioner Bob Miller was featured on the bottom of the Chicago Tribune’s front page on Monday.

What appeared on the internet about the article on the Algonquin Township Road Commissioner’s race.

Reporter Robert McCoppin noted, “His victory represents a backlash against traditional politics at the most local level, in an election cycle also marked by the victory of President Donald Trump, an outsider at the highest level of government.”

The internet headline quote pulled from the story was in this paragraph:

“I won because voters said no to nepotism,” Gasser said. After his victory shocked political insiders, Gasser said, “Now everybody’s freaking out.”

The best quotes came from former State Rep. and McHenry County Republican Party Chairman Mike Tryon, who supported Miller’

“We’re seeing a redefining of the political system for both Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “There’s a huge split among voters. It’s a dynamic I haven’t seen. You’re in for an era of unhappy voters.”

Miller reveals in the article that he had resigned as President of the Township Officials of Illinois after his loss and that his wife Anna May will retire when he leaves office.

You can read the article here.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Dem Hooks Up with Republican Algonquin Township Trustee Candidates for Fusion Ticker

The only candidate for Algonquin Township Trustee who is a Democrat, Dominique Miller, has supporters distributing a postcard with her photo and those of three of the Republicans who won in the February primary election.

The literature promoting the election of three Republicans and one Democrat to the Algonquin Township Board.

Left out is Republican Precinct Committeeman Rachael Lawrence.

If you look closely, you can see that Dominique Miller is identified as a Democrat on the address side of the postcard.

The three Republican Primary Election winners who photos appear with Miller’s are

  • Dan Shea
  • Melissa Victor
  • Dave Chapman

I admit to never having run into Victor or Chapman in my many years in local Republican politics.

Victor appeared in an earlier version of the post card with Miller, as you can see here.

Miller ran for a District 2 McHenry County Board seat last fall as a Democrat and lost.

Literature from Crystal Lake High School District 155 Tax Cutting Team Led by Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz has served on the McHenry County College Board and now is on the McHenry County Board.

At MCC, she and Scott Summers changed their mind on building a minor league baseball stadium on the watershed of Crystal Lake (the lake).

For that, they were censured by their fellow Board members.

On the McHenry County Board, Kurtz asks penetrating questions, as you can see from the three articles published this past weekend on the Human Resources Committee meeting about the irregular (to put it mildly) hiring of two Jack Franks’ patronage workers.  (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

But, Kurtz has figured out that the real possibility for cutting taxes lies in Crystal Lake High School District 155.

She is running with three other candidates for the four seats open this year.

The four people promising tax cuts in the Crystal Lake High School District are John Pletz, Raphael Kamner, Donna Kurtz and Scott Vetter.

The back of the literature, which seems to have been mailed to at least some people in Crystal Lake, those promising tax cuts, take on the conflict of interest issue caused by those who are members of the teacher union running for the school board where relatives have jobs or teach in other schools.

On this side of the tax cutters palm card, the tax cutters point out how taxes have risen 28% in the last decade, while students have decreased by 500.

The final four on the ballot are those pledging to cut District 155 taxes.

In the Crystal Lake High School District 155 election, those pledging to cut taxes are the final four on the ballot.

The District 155 Education Association (aka, High School Teacher Union) is holding a candidates’ night Monday night at Crystal Lake Brewing Tap Room at 150 N. Main Street at 7 on Monday night.

The candidates pledging to cut taxes have not been invited and the room is small.

= = = = =
If there is other campaign literature being circulated, I would be happy to publish it if someone would email it images or drop it off at my home at 275 Meridian Street (the northeast corner of Lake Avenue and Meridian Street–where the Gate 11 sign is.)

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Advertising on McHenry County Blog

If you provide the images, side ads on McHenry County Blog cost $100 for any part of the last month before an election. The side ads should be 280 by 280 pixels.

Banner ads inserted between articles cost $20 per insertion, if you provide the copy. The size is 700 by 200 pixels.

Links to your web site can be inserted in any ad.

Readers of McHenry County Blog are local opinion leaders and you can bet most readers vote.

The only non-voters are probably those who have moved out of McHenry County, but would still like to keep informed on what is happening.

February McDOT Work of Jack Franks’ Patronage Guy

A Friend of McHenry County Blog filed the following Freedom of Information request for

Any documents, reports, presentations, emails, meetings, etc. that Oliver Serafini had involving Division of Transportation, including outside vendors, elected officials, consultants, other units of government, the public, or anyone, who worked with Mr. Serafini during the month of February regarding the Division of Transportation and its projects and initiatives.”

Oliver Serafini’s McHenry County employee identification card.

Jeffrey Young of McDOT offered the following reply:

The Division of Transportation is in receipt of your FOIA request dated February 28, 2017 in which you requested any documents that show Oliver Serafini worked at the Department of Transportation in February 2017.

For clarification, the Division of Transportation has interpreted your request to mean that you are requesting documents showing that Mr. Serafini’s physical location while working during the month of February was at the Division of Transportation.

The Division of Transportation does not have any documents responsive to your request.

If this is not your request, please let me know.

Also, please be advised that requests regarding employment may be better directed to County Administration or the Human Resources Department.

Contact information is then given.

Serafini receives half of his pay from the McHenry County Department of Transpotration.

Report from Nunda Township

One government about which there is very little media coverage is township government.

Nunda Township Trustee sent his take on last Wednesday’s meeting:

Mike Shorten

At last week’s meeting of the Nunda Township Board of Trustees something unusual happened.

The taxpayer won.

In my report on the Nunda Township Board Meeting from December, I summarized my efforts to reduce the Town fund Levy by $100,000.

My effort failed however we were able to reduce the levy by 5% (approximately $50,000).

In January Mark Dzemske presented his proposed budget for the next fiscal year which reflected the continued savings from his cost reduction efforts which will realize an additional $30,000 reduction on a year over year basis off the current years already reduced expenditures.

By the end of the fiscal year ending March of 2018, Mr. Dzemske will have realized a cost reduction of over $200,000, which would then be going back to the Town Fund.

Mr. Dzemske felt strongly that the savings realized in his office ought to be returned to the taxpayers, so at our February meeting I asked if any of the board members would be willing to consider either lowering the levy or passing an abatement.

After receiving positive responses from some of the board members I requested out legal counsel to review both scenarios and identify if we could vote on one or the other at the March meeting.

In the intervening time between the February and the March meeting, it is was determined that a levy adjustment was not feasible but an abatement was, I requested that an abatement ordinance be added to the Agenda in March.

The discussion in last Thursdays meeting (March 9, 2017) started with a motion by Supervisor Jennings for an abatement in the amount of $75,000.

I stated that I believed that we should do better for the taxpayers given the amount of taxpayer dollars on the table and lead a discussion through the concerns which included addressing:

  • Attorney’s fees as a result of election process
  • Increased insurance costs in the town fund
  • Miscellaneous unknown expenses

Following a 25-minute debate throughout which I addressed the Supervisor and Trustees’ concerns and reduced my amendment motion (in the spirit of compromise) from $170,000 down to $100,000, Trustee Ed Dvorak seconded a motion to pass an abatement ordinance in the amount of $100,000. After additional discussion, the motion passed by a vote of 5-0

As a result of some hard work by recently elected Nunda Assessor Mark Dzemske the Nunda Town Fund adjusted levy for 2017, inclusive of the levy reduction from December and the abatement passed on March 9th will be $150,000 less, which is approximately 15% lower than 2016.

While it is my hope that the next board will see fit to lower costs in the Supervisors office and ‘permanently’ reduce the levy next year, I’m grateful for the result that was achieved on March 9th.

The effort proves if nothing else that if elected officials are willing to make the tough decisions, costs and taxes can be reduced dramatically.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Franks’ Patronage Hires Fail HR Committee Test – Part 3

This is Part 3.  Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 is here.

Michael Rein

Michael Rein wondered if most jobs were not advertised on the internet and advertised.

“That’s correct,” County Administrator Peter Austin replied, [but] it varies for the electeds.

Rein asked if departments were “actively pursuing filling the two jobs now?”

“No,” Austin replied.

The Committee member wanted to know Austin was informed by Franks about his desired hires.

Peter Austin

“Before the first of the year” was the answer.

Austin told the members that he had been told that Franks had phoned “a number of the members” to tell them about the situation.

“Though this may have been legal, it was misleading, fraudulent in nature,” Rein concluded.

“Would you have done it differently?” Rein asked.

Austin referred to the cliche about 20-20 hind sight and repeated, “This isn’t the way we do things normally.”

He added, “This has been a real problem for me personally.”

I believe the next speaker was Chairman John Jung.

“I think we’ve talked about this enough and it’s getting too political,” he said.

There was a motion made to immediately proceed to a vote, but the motion failed to gain a two-thirds majority, which Jung said was required to end debate.

Craig Wilcox

Craig Wilcox drew State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally into the discussion and the State’s Attorney said, “We’re eager to serve when called upon.”

Then, Wilcox addressed Austin again.

“Could you see a rescinding of that employment?”

“I think that’s what’s before you,” Austin replied.

Jack Franks

“I don’t know how this gets further legitimizing,” he said, indicating the hiring was the same as the authority given other countywide elected officials.

Then came the stunning admission:

“I let the Chairman make the decision of who to hire.”

The legality of the hiring had been argued by the contention that the County Administrator has the authority to hire employees.

“I think we did not do our diligence.

“Hiring requires authorization from the County Board.

“There’s no way I can approve this resolution, Wilcox concluded.

Donna Kurtz

Donna Kurtz contended that the hiring process “should have allowed anyone interested to interview for the positions.”

She said she was getting “a dinging from the public.

“That doesn’t look right to the public.

“[State] statute does not say you can do that.

Mary McCann

Mary McCann then took the floor.

She saw two issues:

  1. the authority of the County Board Chairman
  2. the hiring issue

She pointed out that Austin had hired assistants before.

Supporting her, Austin pointed out, “The Board rarely approves hires.”

“I think it time for a realistic discussion of that [situation].” McCann added.

Wilcox saw three issues:

  1. the authority to hire
  2. the positions themselves
  3. the hiring process

John Jung

“Are you asking that these people be let go?” Chairman John Jung asked.

“I don’t like what happened,” he continued, “but Peter had been given the authority to approve up to the midpoint.

“It’s an elective office,” Jung pointed out knowing that the other countywide elected officials had the authority to hire the employees of their choice.

“You can hire Joe and not hire Mary,” Jung said.

Jack Franks patronage worker wearing Franks campaign stickers at the McHenry Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.

“I see the other side.”

[The difference being that the office of at-large Chairman of the McHenry County Board was created by statute, while offices like the Sheriff, Treasurer, State’s Attorney, etc., were created by the 1970 State Constitution and, as such, had more authority vis-a-vis the County Board than Franks.]

“I don’t think believe it is clear Mr. Austin had the authority,” Kurtz said in rebuttal.

“When you have questions about what is proper, it is likely something was improper,” he concluded.

Seeing to frame the issue, McCann asked, “Is the Chairman Peter’s boss or are we all Peter’s boss?”

Bridgett Geenen’s McHenry County employee identification card.

She argued that not approving the resolution “doesn’t do much for the moral for many of the employees we have, department heads as well.

“‘Gee.  They’ll find an excuse to go after us for something they don’t like about us,'” McCann said, putting words into a county employee’s mouth.

Wilcox called for a request for a State’s Attorney’s opinion.

“Give me what you want to present to Patrick [Kenneally] and I’ll ask it,” Jung promised.

Austin said the issue was the re-classification of a position in mid-year without Board approval.

“In a nutshell, that is the issue..

“We did that, but there are parallels.”

Jung said the issue should be “come out of [the] Internal Services [Committee].”

“Just re-classifying doesn’t negate the packet posted,” Wilcox countered.

A vote was taken with Jung, Kopsell and McCann voting for the resolution which would legitimize, albeit belatedly, the hiring of Jack Franks’ two patronage employees.

Those three were outvoted by Kurtz, Rein, Wilcox and Wilbeck.

$500 Scholarship Available Through Sheriff’s Department

A press release from McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim:

Illinois Sheriffs Assn. Scholarship Available through Sheriff Prim

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim announced today that the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association will be awarding over $54,000 in college scholarships throughout the State of Illinois to students wishing to pursue higher education during 2017-2018 academic years.

Bill Prim

Sheriff Bill Prim will be awarding one scholarship in the amount of $500.

The scholarship may be applied to tuition, books and fees only. The student must be enrolled full-time at a certified institution of higher learning within the State of Illinois.

There will be no restriction on any applicant by reason of race, age, creed, color, sex or national origin. The only limitation is as follows:

  • Applicants must be permanent Illinois residents.
  • Applicants applying to the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office for this scholarship must be
    residents of McHenry County.
  • Scholarship must be utilized at institutions of higher learning within the State of Illinois.
  • Student must be enrolled as a full-time student during the 2017-2018 school year
    (excluding summer session).

Applications are now available at your local sheriff’s office or on the Internet @
www.ilsheriff.org.

Students must complete the application, answer the essay question and return
all documentation to the Sheriff’s office in their permanent county of residency by April 3, 2017.

For more information, please contact your local Sheriff’s office, high school, advising
center or college financial aid office.

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

Tribune Bashes Barb Wheeler Bill to Allow Underage Drinking in Presence of Parents

Barb Wheeler

“Last call for common sense: No drinking before 21 at restaurants” is the headline on today’s Chicago Tribune editorial.

“One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, says the aim is to leave the decision about whether to serve beer and wine to 18-to-20-year-olds up to parents and restaurant owners,” the editorial says.

Continuing the critique the editorial writer concludes, “We suspect, however, this bill is less about allowing 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds to have a Bud with Ma and Pa, and more about allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to a wider market.”

Franks’ Patronage Hires Fail HR Committee Test – Part 2

Part 1 can be read here.

Craig Wilcox

Continuing the questioning of McHenry County Administrator Peter Austin, Human Resources
Board member Craig Wilcox said,

“You exercised an authority that the County Board is responsible for, that we do spell out in [your contract].

“You admit that you [did this at the request of Chairman Jack Franks].”

Wilcox asked State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally to comment.

“The authority would be through Mr. Austin, who is to provide for the Chairman,” Kenneally said.

He said he didn’t want to offer an opinion about “a legal question that the State’s Attorney has not been asked.”

(Committee Chairman, the County Board Chairman and the County Administrator can ask the State’s Attorney for legal opinions, which do not have to be made public.)

Tom Wilbeck

Committee member Tom Wilbeck wanted to know why the decision on the hiring had to be made by the end of December.

Austin said that Chairman Jack Franks was “quite adamant he wanted to get these people in. January 1 was the target.”

Wilbeck observed that approval of the resolution would “set a precedent for another emergency to get something done.”

Austin disagreed.

“I don’t think it’s precedent-setting.

“We don’t bend the rules very often, but this was an atypical situation, pretty unique.”

The Administrator then turned to the argument contained in the memo accompanying the resolution (also not released until late in the afternoon of the day before the Human Resources meeting):

“We are not adding to headcount, not raising the budget.”

“I want to believe that,” Wilbeck said.

Mary McCann, a consistent Franks’ supporter chimed in.

“I see this as part and parcel of administering the administrative development which comes as part of [an at-large elected Chairman].

Wilcox wondered if the County Administration had done “due diligence” before hiring the two.

He wanted to know if the two positions filed were valid ones.

He asked whether the positions should not have been vacated, if not filled within 90 days.

If so, Wilcox suggested that both headcount and the budget would be increased by the hiring.

Michael Rein

Michael Rein, who led the effort to save the Human Resources Committee after Jack Franks took action to eliminate it, had two points:

  1. “You stated this should go before the County Board.  Why didn’t it go before the County Board?  In December we had no committee meetings.  That was because of the Chairman, not the Board members.
  2. “The ordinance doesn’t even signify what these two new hires are [supposed to do].”

After another question by Wilcox about the 90-day policy, Austin pointed out, “Hitting the 91st day does not automatically invalidate a county position.

“All our rules say that…[It depends on whether they] are actively trying to fill them.”

Austin continued that there may be a good reason to hold a position open.

He explained that the IT Department had decided to handle its open position by combining the duties with other jobs.

Wilcox pointed out that policy stated that a department had to be “actively trying to fill” a job for the 90-day rule to be ignored.

Austin explained the Department of Transpiration was struggling to fill the position (which is financing half of Communication Specialist Oliver Serafini’s salary).

[The only evidence of activity on behalf of McDOT was a two hour tour in January.]

Donna Kurtz pointed out that the two jobs were “completely re-configured,” which “logically doesn’t make sense.

“The 90-day policy makes sense when we’re hiring like to like.  [If the position is “redefined, it is not like-to-like and not in keeping with our whole accountability approach.”

Austin re-iterated that hiring the two would cost less than if the originally described jobs had been filled.

Peter Austin

Another member made a comment I did not catch, but Austin’s reply was, “I agree, but I had to acknowledge this was a pretty unique situation.

“I was confronted with a pretty unique situation and I found a way to do it.

“Whether or not you accept it is the question.”

“People aren’t really being honest about what’s going on,” Kurtz said.

“There was plenty of opportunity for open, honest dialogue–a simple email just to be honest and open.

Donna Kurtz

“This casts a dark cloud on the integrity of the whole process.”

“What bugs you so much is that this isn’t a normal situation.”

“That isn’t acceptable to me,” Kurtz replied.

“Why don’t we do it the normal way?

“Now we’ve set the part for this to continue…if this goes through.

“It’s just not acceptable.”

= = = = =
More tomorrow.

Outgoing U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon’s Parting Advice on Curbing Chicago Violence

The open letter that former U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon released after he resigned at the request of the Donald Trump Administration:

Open Letter from Zachary Fardon, March 13, 2017

Today I submitted my resignation, effective immediately, as United States Attorney in Chicago. As I walk out the door, there are a few things I’d like to say. I am not a political person.

Zachary Fardon

I belong to no political party; never have.

I am not a Democrat.

I am not a Republican.

I am not a liberal.

I am not a conservative.

I never found a need or interest in associating myself politically.

I have no interest in political office.

For the past three and a half years, I’ve been lucky to be in a position of power as the US Attorney in Chicago.

That means I’ve gotten to lead what I think is the best prosecutors’ office and maybe the best public office this country has to offer.

During those three and a half years, by my own choice, I focused my greatest attention on violent crime.

I came into office in 2013 not long after Hadiya Pendleton was killed by an errant bullet in a public park.

Like most folks, I was horrified and confused by Hadiya’s death and the constant drumbeat of seemingly random deaths of so many others, including kids, on the south and west sides of Chicago.

So I put my head down and I went to work, and I studied.

I learned data, numbers, statistics.

I picked up each and every aspect of law enforcement’s efforts, task forces, initiatives combating violence — I turned those efforts over and looked at them from every angle.

Upon taking office, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel advised new U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon to make gun control his top priority, rather than political corruption.

I went into the most violence afflicted neighborhoods and met with families, kids, teachers, clergy, and cops.

I listened.

I learned.

And all while I worked, best I could, with my colleagues at the USAO to make sure we were continuing to make good federal cases – gang cases, gun cases – that would have an impact on the violence.

At no moment during those three and a half years did the gun violence abate. [

All emphases added.]

Every month, every year, innocents died, kids died.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016 I showed pictures during speeches I gave – pictures of children, sweet and innocent, and dead from gun fire.

The world changed, or began to change, on the evening of October 20, 2014, when 17- year-old Laquan McDonald was gunned down by a Chicago cop.

I spent hundreds of hours over the next years looking at that case and others, investigating what went wrong and why.

I focused on not just the shooting officers but also on the other officers and what happened immediately following those shootings.

A year passed before the City released that video.

Then within weeks, in late 2015, then CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, and our DOJ pattern and practice investigation was announced.

And then on January 1, 2016, a contract began between CPD and the ACLU requiring that officers complete lengthy contact cards for every street encounter.

That ACLU deal grew out of a law suit about stop and frisk, but the contract that settled the lawsuit swung the pendulum hard in the other direction by telling cops if you (officer) go talk to those kids on the corner, you’re going to have to take 40 minutes to fill out a form, and you’re going to have to give them a receipt with your badge number on it.

So by January 2016, the city was on fire.

We had no police superintendent.

Cops were under scrutiny.

Cops had to worry about the ACLU deal.

And many of them just no longer wanted to wear the risk of stopping suspects.

Many became scared and demoralized.

And that demoralization was compounded by the City panel’s sweeping tone and language around racism and lack of respect for the sanctity of human life.

So cops stopped making stops.

And kids started shooting more — because they could, and because the rule of law, law enforcement, had been delegitimized.

And that created an atmosphere of chaos.

Today’s gun violence is driven by social media.

And a corollary of that is that gun violence has become like a virus.

One taunt through Instagram leads to a shooting, which leads to bragging on snapchat or Facebook, which leads to a retaliation shooting, and then the cycle repeats.

The virus spreadsSo our escalating gun attacks beget more gun attacks, and more people started dying.

The media raised questions and rendered judgments in 24 hour cycles.

What’s happening?

Why isn’t CPD stopping it?

Why is the city so inept?

Where is federal law enforcement?

And all the while, so many noble public servants – cops, federal agents, Assistant State’s Attorneys and Assistant United States Attorneys – they all toiled quietly, fighting hard to stem the violence, with episodic success, and then in their quiet moments struggled with their own sense of frustration and despair.

Today I stand unshackled by the diplomatic constraints of being the U.S. Attorney.

My hope and goal is to just speak truth.

And the truth is that when it comes to our gun violence problem, there are two things going on —

  • one short term
  • the other long term

The long term is that Chicago has an entrenched gang problem in a limited number of neighborhoods on the south and west sides.

For decades, those neighborhoods have been neglected.

The reasons for that historic run of neglect are rooted in ugly truths about power, politics, race and racism that are a tragic part of our local and national history and heritage.

And as a consequence of those ugly truths, and the neglect they brought, these neighborhoods stand wrought with poverty and inadequate schools, businesses, jobs and infrastructure.

For many growing up in these neighborhoods, there is a sense of hopelessness, a belief cemented early in life that they’re not good enough for higher education and that they’ll never get good jobs.

Gangs and guns are ubiquitous, and gangs fill the void created by that hopelessness; they teach kids crime and violence, and give kids protection, money, and a sense of belonging.

That’s the long term reality, and long term challenge.

The short view is the surge in violence since January 2016.

That surge started immediately on the heels of those 4 successive events I mentioned in late 2015:

  • the release of the Laquan McDonald video
  • the initiation of the DOJ pattern and practice investigatio
  • the firing of CPD’s Superintendent
  • the beginning of that ACLU contract

Those things exploded a powder keg that didn’t change fundamentally the landscape of gun violence or law enforcement, but they poured gasoline on the tragic aspects of those realities and further polarized our officers and our community.

In thinking about where we go from here, we have to talk both of the long view, and of the short term issues.

Here are my “Top 5” things that I think need to happen to get us to a better place.

This list is not exhaustive or magical; it is an honest short list based on my experience over the past years.

Number 1, get that Consent Decree.

You can’t stop our brand of violence without a top-flight police department.

And you can’t have a top-flight police department on the cheap.

For decades, CPD has been run on the cheap.

Officers don’t have the training, the supervision, the equipment, or culture they need and deserve.

Our DOJ findings report lays that out.

The media routinely calls that report a scathing indictment of CPD.

Not accurate.

The report is not a scathing indictment.

It may be hard hitting but it is measured and fair.

We didn’t say cops are bad.

We said CPD has systemic problems that prevent it from supporting good officers, or checking bad officers.

And so culture and morale suffer.

That’s the truth.

The DOJ findings report is a roadmap to addressing the systemic deficiencies in training, supervision and accountability.

And I’m not picking on this Mayor or City Administration, who’ve done many good things, when I say the following:

If you leave correcting those deficiencies to the vagaries of city politics, then you likely lose the long term fight.

This city’s history is replete with examples of saying the right thing, in some cases starting the right thing, but then losing focus, particularly as the media and public attention pivot toward whatever is the latest crisis.

I started here as an AUSA in 1997, and was a beneficiary of a culture built on integrity, support, resources, infrastructure, supervision, leadership.

Why should I and my colleagues have that benefit when CPD officers don’t?

They are the ones putting their lives on the line every day.

It’s past time to give our police officers what they need to succeed.

A Consent Decree with an independent federal monitor is the only way that will happen.

Second, enhance and consolidate federal law enforcement in Chicago.

This US Attorney’s Office should have 15-20 more AUSAs immediately assigned to it, full time and permanent.

It’s a travesty that the office remains understaffed since sequestration.

In the 2000s, the office had 172 federal lawyers.

In 2012, sequestration hit and over the next two years we bled down to 127 lawyers.

Under the current budget the office can afford about 158 lawyers.

That is still a dozen down from where it was in the 2000s.

If you want more federal gang and gun prosecutions, we need more full-time, permanent federal prosecutors in Chicago.

That’s simple math.

Beyond the US Attorney’s Office, there are three key federal investigative partners relevant to this discussion: FBI, DEA and ATF.

Each is noble, talented and passionate about fighting crime.

But here’s a hard truth: federal law enforcement can yield an improved impact on gun violence in this city by either folding those key federal agencies together into one agency, or as an alternative, assigning all their agents working on violent crime to one special task force with one mission and one leadership chain.

Do that so that DEA isn’t limited to working dope cases, and ATF isn’t thinking only about gun trafficking, and no one is competing for credit on cases.

Through no fault of all the great agents at those agencies, the way it works now is not as good as it can be.

And it seems to me this crisis creates the right opportunity to reinvent that wheel, even if it’s just a Chicago specific pilot — bring those federal agencies together in a way that will create unified purpose, greater efficiency and greater impact for our afflicted neighborhoods.

We need to flood those neighborhoods with local and federal law enforcement officers.

Not just to arrest the bad guys but also to be standing on that corner where shots otherwise might get fired, to be breaking up those corner loiterers, and to be meeting and learning and knowing the kids, the people, and the truth of who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, and who isn’t yet formed and can be swayed.

Some people recently have said bring in the National Guard.

If you care only about the short view, maybe there’s some attractiveness to that notion.

But if you care about the long view – if you don’t want to be talking about “Chiraq” and “two Chicagos” ten and twenty years from now, then it’s an ill-conceived notion.

What would a National Guard presence say to folks in those neighborhoods?

This is war, and you are the enemy.

The Chicago of bike paths and glistening lakefront, and economic opportunity – that’s not your Chicago, it’s ours and we will protect it.

This is not war.

Wars are fought between enemies.

There is only one enemy here, and it is us, all of us in Chicago.

Every single one of us.

We are the problem, and we are the solution.

If we resort to wrongheaded measures, we might set ourselves back years, even decades in the long term fight.

Third, attack social media as the milieu for gun viruses.

Our current epidemic is, as I said, viral.

And post Laquan McDonald, there has been a shift, in a bad way, in cultural norms among gang members, to where now there is an expectation of gun play at the beginning of any dispute.

A gang member taunts another, and instead of escalating taunts, there are shots fired right away, followed by retaliation shots within hours or days, followed by return retaliation shots, and so forth, with the pathway of violence dotted by social media posts.

Biological viruses are transmitted through body fluid or air.

The virus of gun play moves through social media.

We can stop or stem that.

Don’t send in the National Guard, send in the tech geeks.

If a gang member makes CPD’s Strategic Subject List, find a way to curb or realtime monitor that gang member’s social media accounts.

If kids have convictions or overt gang affiliations, find a way to curb their social media.

I recognize that First Amendment issues come into play, but let’s test those limits.

Lives are at stake.

Enlist parents, teachers and clergy.

And work with social media service providers for options to limit access and to create safeguards against social media as the conduit for the gun virus.

And at the same time, launch a positive community-based social media exchange both deterring kids from gangs and enticing them with music, sports, jobs or other outlets.

Fourth, create new youth pathway centers, in the handful of most afflicted neighborhoods, that are not subject to the shifting winds of politics and government.

The kids in our hardest hit neighborhoods are gang affiliating as young as 10, 11, 12 years old.

Once that’s happened, it’s too late; their fate is sealed.

There are a finite number of kids in a small geographic footprint who face this dilemma.

The vast majority of those kids will do the right thing if we help them find and figure out what that right thing looks like.

So let’s find those kids, and let’s intervene, in a positive way, in their lives.

Let’s engage them, and their parents, teachers, community leaders, and clergy.

Let’s deter criminal behavior and incentive lawful behavior.

To do that, we should have a brick and mortar place, in each afflicted neighborhood, that is base, the home, the epicenter to that effort.

No different than combining our federal law enforcement resources makes sense, combining our social services resources to maximize impact in these neighborhoods makes sense.

There are smart and passionate social services workers out there right now, every day, trying to help.

But no different than our police, systemic deficiencies are making it impossible for them to succeed. Brick and mortar. Create a place.

Call it anything.

Fund it with federal, state, or philanthropic funds, or some combination.

But do not continue this madness of annualized state or federal grant funding to where all these not-for-profits have time to do is fight for those peanuts, compete with each other and hope to survive.

That serves no one.

There is plenty of money and good will in this town.

And there are millions of federal dollars spent across this town every year.

So let’s find that money and put it to use by creating youth centers, brick and mortar, funding social workers and experts, and intervening to save the lives of kids and young adults.

Fifth, fix the bail bond system in Cook County.

There is still, by state law, a monetary bond system.

That system keeps non-violent poor defendants in jail awaiting trial, and allows violent gang members to get out because they can post money bonds.

That’s nuts.

There are movements and efforts afoot to address this dilemma.

And there’s a model to fix it: our federal bond regime.

But this needs to be completely overhauled, and right now.

There should be no bail in state court for repeat gun offenders.

There should be no bail in state court for those charged with acts of violence who have prior gun and violence convictions.

Lives are being lost, every month, because of that bail system.

It’s fixable, now.

****

Lastly, I want to say to my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

You are everything that is right and good about public service.

You are our hope.

Carry on.

Zach Fardon

= = = = =
Zashary Fardon is a former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Illinois Policy Institute Focuses on Bill to Transfer More State Income Tax Money to Local Government Bill

The Illinois Policy Institute focused on House Bill 278 on March 16th.

It would “would transfer an additional $300 million per year of state income tax funds to local governments, continuing to prop up local overspending that fuels high property taxes,” the article asserts.

Extra money for municipalities and county governments for which local officials would not have raised themselves.

Here’s the roll call:

Roll call on House Bill 278, a bill that would increase the transfer of income tax collections to local municipalities and county governments.

Three Republicans voted for the bill:

  • Chad Hayes
  • Robert Pritchard
  • Steve Reick

Jim Cosler for Mayor of Cary

McHenry County Environmental Defenders Award Winners

A press release from the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County:

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County was pleased to honor these individuals at their Annual Membership Dinner meeting held on March 12 at Park Place in Crystal Lake. From left to right: former State Rep. Mike Tryon received the Theta Award, the highest honor given to an individual or group for environmental service. Isabel Bernardi was the recipient of the Young Defenders Award, an award made to a young member to recognize outstanding volunteer service. Anne Basten, a long-time member of The Defenders, received the Volunteer Award: the award given to a Defenders’ member to recognize superior volunteer efforts. And Jim Condon and Employees of McHenry Township Road District received the Government Award for the McHenry County governmental group that has made a significant contribution to environmental protection in the county during the past year.

One can find all sorts of information about the Defenders here.

County Board Meeting Tuesday Evening at 7, Agenda Packet Available Today

Most readers can’t afford to take off work to attend a day time McHenry County Board meeting.

The next one is Tuesday, March 21st, at 7 PM.

There is something you can do to familiarize yourself with what is going on starting today.

The Friday before the meeting, the meeting’s agenda is published.

On this page, you should be able to click on “Meeting Agenda and Minutes” and be able to read both the agenda and, if you are really, really interested the hundreds of pages dumped in County Board members’ laps the weekend before their only voting meeting of the month.

Skillicorn Has No Problem with Not Getting Paid Before Budget Passed

A press release from State Rep. Allen Skillicorn:

Skillicorn satisfied with court ruling against law maker pay

“We legislators were assigned to pass a constitutionally balanced budget. It is inappropriate to pay legislators until a balanced budget is passed,” said Rep. Skillicorn,

“No budget, no pay!

“I stand with the people and social services providers over Speaker Madigan.

“We need a budget before politicians should be paid!”

Last spring, Leslie Munger, former Illinois Comptroller opted to place legislators’ paychecks at the back of the line with the other overdue bills, as the state struggled to meet its obligations due to the ongoing budget impasse.

In December, a lawsuit was filed by six legislators, all Democrats, arguing for their legislative pay to be prioritized ahead of the schools, hospitals, and human services organizations that are also waiting for payments from the state.

On Thursday, the Cook County Circuit Court ruled against the six legislators, citing they control their own destiny and can pass a budget.