Monthly Archives: August 2008

Budget belt-tightening makes everyone feel the pinch

A few months ago I wrote an editorial around the idea, “We can’t afford the government we want.” Each time I hear about the grim cuts being made to balance budgets, I sadly become more convinced that this idea is true.

DuPage County Board member Michael F. McMahon, R-3rd District, of Hinsdale recently urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich and state legislators to restore funding to the Illinois Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. An article on the Web site for DuPage County says that “DASA has implemented a reduced budget for Fiscal Year 2009 (July 1, 2008 – June 30, 2009) that is 43 percent lower that the Fiscal Year 2008 budget.”

McMahon, who chairs the County Board’s Judicial and Public Safety Committee, said the cuts would “decimate the statewide substance abuse treatment system.”

“The budget cut to DASA represents an initial $55 million loss in funding for critical, and often court-mandated, services,” the online article reports. “Additionally, this budget reduction will result in another $55 million loss of Federal matching funds, which brings the total reduction to $110 million.”

“The cuts in this important program have already resulted in substantial reductions in, and in some cases the termination of, services provided by agencies that serve DuPage County, including Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, Serenity House and Breaking Free, which provides services to some of the most vulnerable residents of our County,” McMahon said in the article. “I implore the governor and the legislature to do what is right and restore funding for these critical services. … Chemical dependence and substance abuse causes more deaths, illnesses and disabilities than any other preventable health condition in America.

The ability to fight these afflictions is greatly reduced with DASA, and I hope a restoration of funding can be accomplished at the earliest possible date.”

It’s hard to dispute that funding in this area is vital to the government’s efforts to combat substance abuse. But there’s no denying that the state is strapped for cash and can’t expect taxpayers to eagerly open their wallets when they are hurting as well.

Something in this unsteady economy is eventually going to break, and the consequences won’t be pretty.

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Memo to Illinois Democrats: Hey! Get a room, would ya?

Leave it to Illinois legislators to turn a dreadfully dull Democratic National Convention into something bizarre.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. invited state Sen. Debbie Halvorson to the podium where the two embraced. They have had their differences over a still-proposed third major Chicago-area airport in the south suburbs.

Then, according to the Chicago Tribune, Jackson asked, “Who else out here been mad at me I ain’t figured out yet?” This prompted Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to pop up and hug Jackson, who offered this teary response: “I’ve been trying to get to know Mayor Daley for 14 years.”

Jackson then orchestrated an embrace between two of the fiercest rivals in Springfield: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Wow! I guess the air truly is thinner in Denver.

But here’s the best part of this whole thing. Since this is the Democratic National Convention, there has to be a horde of civil litigation lawyers crawling all over the place. So after members of the Illinois delegation have their HugFest, they can sue each other for sexual harassment.

Party unity is a beautiful thing.

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Villa Park to bars: Keep the dancing low to the ground

What do trustees in Villa Park want to prohibit next — lingerie shows in dimly lit venues? Where are they going to stop?

Members of the Villa Park Village Board may soon revisit the issue of banning people from dancing on the tables, bars and chairs of liquor establishments. The measure would also prohibit employees at bars from being intoxicated while on the job.

These concerns came to the board’s attention two years ago, but they were not implemented. Trustees are expected to discuss them again at their Monday, Sept. 8, meeting.

As for tavern employees over-serving themselves, I agree this should be prohibited. They must discern which patrons have already had enough to drink, and it would be difficult for them to do if they have a beer buzz going on.

But the board has no business deciding whether people should be allowed to dance on tables, bar counters and chairs. Yes, people can get hurt doing this in a tavern. But the key to people hurting themselves in some way at a bar is by drinking — so if you want to make taverns substantially safer, ban the liquor.

There would, however, be no need for the bar minus the booze. Dancing on the furniture is an unintended consequence, one that bar owners alone should decide if they want to accept.

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Absurd rules stifle interest in the democratic process

A few weeks ago, someone identifying himself as joeychgo left this comment on my blog: “What do you think about the recent DuPage Republican attempts to stop Democratic challengers such as the Pankau/Cullerton case?”

First of all, I should apologize for not responding sooner. I truly appreciate all feedback I receive from readers.

The issue is whether Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park trustee, should be allowed to run as a Democrat against state Sen. Carole Pankau, R-23rd District, of Itasca. He was tossed off the November ballot by the DuPage County Officers Electoral Board because he voted as a Republican in the February primary.Absur

In early July, DuPage Circuit Judge Paul Fullerton ruled that Illinois election law does not prohibit someone from voting for one party in a primary and running as a candidate in another party in the general election. He put Cullerton back on the ballot.

But this victory was short lived. A three-judge panel in the 2nd District of the Illinois Appellate Court ruled Aug. 1 that Cullerton should be removed from the ballot, and that’s where the issue now stands.

Cullerton said he planned to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. But the state election board will certify the ballots Friday, and the Illinois Appellate Court has yet to release its written opinion on the case, making it unlikely Cullerton’s case would be heard by the Supreme Court in time for the general election.

Political parties go to great lengths to protect incumbents. Who cares if Cullerton voted as a Republican in the primary and has been nominated by Democrats to run for the Illinois Senate?

It’s little wonder so many people ignore the electoral system.

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Elmhurst Historical Museum lists local ties to past Olympics

Now that the Summer Games in Beijing have concluded, you’re probably experiencing some Olympic withdrawal, aren’t you? No more Michael Phelps and his gold medals. No more Olympic baseball and softball (literally — these sports have been removed from the 2012 Summer Games in London). No more lip-synched songs by adorable Chinese children.

Thankfully, the Elmhurst Historical Museum has offered some tidbits about local ties to past Olympics. These gems come from Nancy Wilson, the museum’s curator. They were sent to me in an e-mail from Patrice Roche, marketing and communications specialist for the museum:

• 1976: Mike Farina, a York Community High School student, was the youngest wrestler in history to make the U.S. Olympic wrestling team when he participated in the summer Olympics in Montreal.

• 1984: Gordon Beckmann represented Elmhurst when he carried the Olympic torch across the Rocky Mountains. “I was proud to carry the torch and equally proud to represent our community of Elmhurst,” Beckmann said.

• 1988: Joe Newton, longtime track coach at York Community High School, was an assistant manager to the men’s track team at the Olympics in Seoul.

• 1992: Betty Okino competed on the women’s gymnastic team at the summer Olympic Games in Barcelona. In addition, Linda Mastandrea competed in the International Paralympics in Barcelona in the 100 and
400 meter wheelchair races. Mastandrea is assisting the city of Chicago in its bid for the Olympic Games as vice president of Sport and Accessibility for Chicago 2016.

• 1996: Linda French, who grew up in Elmhurst, competed in Atlanta on the U.S. badminton team.

• 2002: Dan Ahearn, a Zamboni operator, traveled to Salt Lake City to act as rink manager for five outdoor hockey rinks.

Anyone who has information about people with ties to Elmhurst who participated in the Olympics but were not included on this list is encouraged to call Wilson at (630) 833-1457. Many thanks to the Elmhurst Historical Museum for helping to keep the Olympic spirit alive.

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Everyone’s least favorite nanny takes on health care

Is there any personal concern that people may confront that Gov. Rod Blagojevich won’t seek to “remedy” through sleight of hand legislation?

The Illinois Senate earlier this week approved a measure paving the way for parents to keep their children on their health insurance policies until they turn 26 — the age limit is raised to 30 if the child is in the military (which is funny, because I’d think someone serving in the military would be covered by the federal government).

Blago apparently used his amendatory veto power (hocus pocus dominocus) to draft the legislation last week, and the Senate turned the bill into law this week with a 35-17 vote. And the youths don’t even have to live with their parents — or even in the state — although they must remain single.

Gov. “Hazel” (my new nickname for him, since he wants to be everyone’s nanny) thinks this is a terrific plan for the 300,000 young people eligible to take advantage of this. What didn’t occur to him is that many of the remaining 12 million Illinois residents will have to pay higher insurance premiums as a result. Regardless of what Hazel believes, there are no free lunches when it comes to insurance.

Why do legislators believe they should be running this portion of the private sector? Centralized economic planning has failed everywhere it’s been tried.

First Hazel tosses a lifetime supply of bus tokens to senior citizens, and now he wants Chad and Buffy to get extended insurance benefits. He must realize that his chances of re-election or incredibly slim, so perhaps he’s positioning himself for a Nobel Peace Prize

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The DuPage Two will finally have their day in court

It’s hard to believe that after more than a year, prosecutors are still proceeding with this case.

On May 6, 2007, Sarah Hartfield of Naperville and Jeff Zurawski of Downers Grove staged a protest on a pedestrian bridge that crosses I-355 near Glen Ellyn and Lombard. They had a banner that read, “Impeach Bush and Cheney — Liars” and posted a U.S. flag upside down (the signal for distress).

An officer with the Illinois State Police arrived and asked Hartfield and Zurawski to remove their display because it could distract motorists. They said they would comply with took down the display.

As they were leaving, three deputies with the DuPage County sheriff’s office arrived on the scene. One appeared to be very agitated by their display and told them that there was a report that they had been throwing items off the bridge. As a veteran who had a son serving in Afghanistan, the deputy told Hartfield and Zurawski that he thought their display was very disrespectful to U.S. troops.

They denied throwing anything off the bridge and explained that the upside-down flag represented a nation in distress. The deputies took down their personal information and allowed them to leave.

Zurawski was arrested three weeks later, and Hartfield turned herself in a couple of days after that. The case being pursued by the DuPage County sheriff’s office comes down to a motorist who thought someone on the bridge made a throwing motion. Doesn’t sound like hard evidence against The DuPage Two to me.

The trial will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Room 4007 of the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton. Let’s hope that both free speech and common sense prevail.

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