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Proviso Probe

Friday, April 27, 2007

ED, teachers quit b/c bad conditions; implications for Proviso

Kevin Drum (Political Animal) wrote a blog entry that ends with:
But complaining about low salaries and bad teachers is a lot easier than focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of dysfunctional communities creating dysfunctional schools. So that's what we do.

In Drum's entry he quotes LA Times (Howard Blume):
....At high-minority and high-poverty schools, teacher turnover typically runs at 10% annually. "If this churning is going on, you can be sure you have a dysfunctional school," Futernick said. "As long as we think of these schools as combat zones, we'll never solve the retention problem and we'll never close the achievement gap" between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.

More from the same article:
The real issue is working conditions, which are the flip side of a student's learning conditions, said Ken Futernick, who directs K-12 studies at the Center for Teacher Quality at Cal State Sacramento.

Classroom interruptions, student discipline, increasing demands, insufficient supplies, overcrowding, unnecessary meetings, lack of support — all play a role in burning out teachers.

Drum complains about the methodology of the research, but the conclusion sounds plausible.

Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I sorta feel the problem districts in Proviso have the problems described in this study plus an intrusive amount of politics. Some teachers are largely left alone, but some clearly feel the politics is a negative. Isis (It's Just Teaching) has some recent specific gripes.

So what's Proviso to do?

The problems need to be addressed in a holistic way, but we need to be cognizant of the legacy of racism (and current racism). Racism pervades everyone's thinking. Racism plays a role in everyone--voters, political bosses, administrators, teachers, parents, the media, law enforcement and everyone else--accepting things that would be unacceptable if Proviso schools served at 75% "White" population*.

We need to do a better job of preparing people to be parents. We need to do a better job of supporting parents. We need schools that are optimized around students. We need to de-politicize schools as part of administrators creating a conducive-to-education environment for teachers.

Anyway, feel free to add your two cents. Try to focus your criticisms on problems not people. Even of the worst bad actor on the local level died in a vehicle collision today, tomorrow Proviso schools would still have 98+% of the problems they have today.

* According the (2000 Census the United States was 75.1% "White", 12.5% "Hispanic", 12.3% Black, 3.6% Asian & 2.4% "multiracial". By contrasts Proviso Township was 42.7% "White", 36.3% Black, 17.3% "Hispanic", 2.3% Asian & 1.1% "multiracial". And the schools have significantly higher percentages of Blacks and Latinos.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A07, what happened in District 89? [D89]

Going into last Tuesday's election all District 89 (Maywood & Melrose Park elementary schools) school board members were allied with either Melrose Park village President Ron Serpico or Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. None of the school board members were aligned with State Representative (and Democratic Committeeman) Karen Yarbrough or Charles Flowers, EdD. Flowers was elected Cook County Regional Superintendent of Education in November and will begin his term in July.

Yarbrough and Flowers ran a slate against a slate backed by Serpico and Moore. Five seats were up for election: four four-year terms and one two-year term created by the death of Jose Montoya.

The slate backed by Serpico and Moore won all five seats.

The Yarbrough-Flowers slate ceded Melrose Park. Of the slate's five candidates none were from Melrose Park. The slate hardly campaigned in Melrose Park. And Yarbrough failed to use her power as committeeman to replace polling place judges loyal to Melrose Park village president Ron Serpico.

Yarbrough's team probably saw the low Melrose Park turnout in 2006 and assumed Serpico had lost the fire in the belly or was pre-occupied with the federal investigation of the village. In 2006 Serpico was trying to pass a tax increase referendum and may have wanted low turnout. In 2007 Serpico's trustee candidates were being challenged by a slate backed by Jesse Martinez, a trustee in both Proviso Township and Stone Park. Serpico flexed the muscle of the Melrose Park machine. The large turnout in Melrose Park overwhelmed Yarbrough's advantage in Maywood where her husband Henderson Yarbrough is the village president.

This entry has a macro analysis of the election.

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ADMIN, new guidelines for comments

Last week we had local elections. This has caused me to reflect on both Proviso Probe and Proviso the community.

I am going to make a major change to Proviso Probe. Proviso Probe will no longer accept comments that are disrespectful to members of the Proviso community, including people who post on Proviso Probe.

I'm not sure I can describe all the ways comments can be disrespectful, but here's a partial list.
1.No talk of people's sex lives, unless there is direct connection with professional duties
2.Do discuss people's bodies
3.Don't discuss medical conditions, including mental health issues, except in cases where mental health is central to the story (e.g. Westchester case and Hubert Thompson)
4.Do not engage in name calling and insults
5.Do not attribute motivations you can't know

Does this mean Proviso Probe isn't going to allow criticism of public figures? Discuss what people do, not who they are.

Why am I making this change? I suspect that the negativity of our political discourse is doing a certain amount of harm. People and factions say ugly stuff about each other and it makes it difficult to work together in the future.

Also, I suspect the incivility hurts reformers more than it hurts people in politics to make a buck. When the discourse sinks to a bunch of name calling and allegations about porn, pedophiles and perversions the people who oppose reform can avoid the issues of substance by turning the discourse into a mudslinging contest.

As for the Proviso community, part of me would like to see the various governing bodies put the elections behind them and have the factions work together.

But part of me thinks that it would be inappropriate to give people a pass for doing stuff that is unethical or illegal. I'm wrestling with this so the line between allowable comments and not allowable may shift.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

ADMIN, Russell Simmons calls for treating people more respectfully

Yahoo (Reuters, Daniel Trotta):
Prominent U.S. hip-hop executive Russell Simmons on Monday recommended eliminating the words "bitch," "ho" and "nigger" from the recording industry, considering them "extreme curse words."....

Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label and a driving force behind hip-hop's huge commercial success, called for voluntary restrictions on the words and setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.

I'm not exactly sure how it's going to work, but Proviso Probe is going to be moving in this direction, especially in decisions about which comments to allow. More later.

Atrios has posted two entries on Run DMC. In the first Atrios noted that Joseph "DJ Run" Simmons is the brother of Russell Simmons. And in the second entry Atrios wrote:
And the cover...

...which made it okay for white kids to like rap, white broadcasters to play it, and brought back Aerosmith from the dead.

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M08, meet candidate for Congress on Saturday [IL-04]

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) is retiring. The district includes Stone Park and a portion of Melrose Park.

Three elected officials are known to be interested in running for the seat: Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, Alderman Ricardo Munoz and Alderman Danny Solis.

Former Northlake Alderman Eddy Garcia will hold a meet and greet for Munoz at Garcia's restaurant, Los Cazadores, 1113 Lake, Oak Park on Saturday morning at 10:30 AM. Garcia invites concerned voters to come and ask Munoz about issues affecting the suburbs.

Garcia will host Maldonado and Solis at future dates.

The district connects Latino neighborhoods on the North Side and South Side by rapping around the 7th Congressional District (downtown, West Side, Oak Park, River Forest and much of Proviso Township). After the 2010 Census the map will be adjusted. The 4th Congressional District could include more Proviso precincts after the remap, the same precincts or no Proviso precincts.

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ENVIR, help clean up the community on Saturday [M, BW, H]

Illinois Prairie Path press release:
Wheaton, IL, April 4, 2007: The Illinois Prairie Path not-for-profit corporation's Annual Earth Day Trail Cleanup will be held on Saturday, April 28th, 2007 starting at 9:00am, rain or shine. Start times are flexible and adjusted per city, village and trail section. We are asking for your help by rolling up your sleeves and picking up litter along these trails. Bring friends and family (and garbage bags to fill) on Saturday, April 28th. Start times are flexible and adjusted per city, village and trail section. There are 62 miles of trails in DuPage, Kane and Cook Counties watched over by The Illinois Prairie Path not-for-profit corporation. To participate in the cleanup please contact Raymond Bartels at 630-424-8851 or e-mail Rbartel399@comcast.net

For more information about The Illinois Prairie Path not-for-profit corporation and our year-round activities which support the trails by keeping them safe, natural and clean, check out our website: www.ipp.org

The local coordinators are:
  • Hillside, Nancy Becker 630-654-1019
  • Maywood and Bellwood, Paul Aeschleman 708-848-6023


Thursday, April 19, 2007

OBIT, Don Stephens, Rosemont Mayor

Don Stephens served as mayor of Rosemont since 1955.

As I understand it, two deals defined his life and shaped the growth of the western suburbs.

Mayor Richard J. Daley
wanted some land from Rosemont to connect O'Hare Airport to the City of Chicago. Stephens struck a deal to bring city water to Rosemont.

The next deal Stephens struck to benefit his community was with Sam Giancana, an organized crime figure. Stephens bought a mob hotel being used for prostitution as part of improving Rosemont.

The FBI became suspicious that Stephens was participating in organized crime as a result of the transaction and ultimately Stephens was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney. Stephens was acquitted, but blamed the prosecution for his declining health.

Capitol Fax Blog (Rich Miller)
and shsilver have blog entries.

Stephens has two sons involved in politics. Mark Stephens is the chairman of the board of Triton College. Bradley Stephens is the Leyden Township Supervisor.

See Daily Herald (Ames Boykin and Eric Krol) and Chicago Tribune (Richard Wronski with Rick Pearson and Michael Higgins) have more.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

ADMIN, traffic is up on Proviso Probe

I don't know if there's a big post-election surge or what.

Please post in the comments what you'd like to see on Proviso Probe.


A07, election analysis

Congratulations to all the candidates elected and re-elected yesterday. And congratulations to those who ran and contributed to the public discourse.

What does it all mean?

The dominant trend was consolidation of power. However, my perspective may be skewed by having more personal contact with the races in Forest Park, District 88, District 209 and Maywood.

Forest Park went from a 3-2 divide on the village council to a presumed 4-1 split. District 88 (Bellwood & Stone Park elementary schools) went from a 4-3 divide to a 6-1 divide. District 209 (Proviso Township High Schools) went from a 4-3 split to a 5-2 split with one of the minority board members scheduled to leave the board in July (he will be replaced by the majority). In Maywood the allies of the mayor won all three seats up for election.

However, there were some countervailing examples. In Westchester the Progressive Party swept all three trustee seats. This means that Village President Paul Gattuso and his allies will be in the minority. Also the Broadview TEA Party swept all three seats to create a significant opposition block to Village President Henry Vicenik. In both communities political opposition was probably energized by Chicago Joe's Tea Room applying to open a strip club.

In Melrose Park the trustee candidates supported by Village President Ron Serpico handily defeated challengers backed by Proviso Township Trustee Jesse Martinez. Martinez has his political roots in Stone Park. He's a friend Beniamino Mazzulla, the village president of Stone Park. Martinez sees his political future as being in jumping to Melrose Park, a significantly larger community with a large and growing Latino population.

In Bellwood the referendum to build a new library was defeated for the second time. Evidence has now emerged that an anonymous mailing attacking the library referendum was paid for by a political ally of village president Frank Pasquale. By defeating the referendum and helping to dump the opposition on the elementary school board Pasquale showed that he remains the head-politician-in-charge in Bellwood, an overwhelmingly African-American suburb.

Voters re-elected two of three trustees to Triton College. Irene Moskal Del Giudice, identified as the lone independent voice on the board by the Wednesday Journal, narrowly defeated Stephen Kubiczky. The leading vote getter was Thomas Gary of Oak Park.

Gary had the support of the political organization aligned with board president Mark Stephens. He also had the support of the media outlet doing the best journalism on Triton, the Wednesday Journal. And he had the support of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization. Proviso is the largest township in the district. Gary's candidacy was initially pushed by Oak Park Democratic Committeeman Don Harmon. Harmon once again showed himself to be a master deal maker on the behalf of strong candidates. Harmon was first elected to a newly created Senate seat without facing opposition in either the primary or general elections.

Gary will be the first African-American to serve on the Triton board of trustees. And in Forest Park, Rory Hoskins will be the first African-American to serve as commissioner. Like Gary, Hoskins posted dominating numbers. Hoskins was the leading vote getter, exceeding the mayor's vote total by 300 votes.

To evaluate the individual “mayors” (most of them are really village presidents) in Proviso.

Power waxing
  • Frank Pasquale, Bellwood—won in schools and library, unopposed in village races
  • Ron Serpico, Melrose Park—won in village and schools
  • Henderson Yarbrough, Maywood—won in village
  • Anthony Calderone, Forest Park—won in village

Power waning
  • Paul Gattuso, Westchester—lost in village
  • Henry Vicenik, Broadview—lost in village

Yesterday was also a defeat for Proviso Democratic Committeeman Karen Yarbrough, wife of Henderson. She put her political capital into three races, District 88, District 89 and District 209. Her allies were swept in D88, D89 (Maywood and Melrose Park elementary schools) and lost significant ground in D209.

Arnie Bryant, the president of the Bellwood library board and a strong proponent of the new library, is a contributor to Proviso Probe.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A07, your experience voting

Use this thread to discuss your Election Day experience.

Leave predictions if you're feeling cocky.


Monday, April 16, 2007

KLEPT, Illinois Alarm scores pre-election work in District 89 [D89]

Illinois Alarm is owned by Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone.

This picture was taken in the last month at District 89 (Maywood and Melrose Park elementary schools). District 89 is currently controlled by allies of Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore and Melrose Park Village President Ron Serpico.

Why the need to install new alarms right before the election?

Could it be that Serpico and/or Moore were steering Calderone a contract as part of some quid pro quo?

What would Serpico and Moore want from Calderone?

If Calderone did endorse the Proviso First Party, could it be that Calderone's price for selling-out Forest Park taxpayers was to get some alarm contracts?

BTW, I'm curious about the bid process for the District 89 alarm contract.Illinois Alarm is owned by Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone.

This picture was taken in the last month at District 89 (Maywood and Melrose Park elementary schools). District 89 is currently controlled by allies of Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore and Melrose Park Village President Ron Serpico.

Why the need to install new alarms right before the election?

Could it be that Serpico and/or Moore were steering Calderone a contract as part of some quid pro quo?

What would Serpico and Moore want from Calderone?

If Calderone did endorse the Proviso First Party, could it be that Calderone's price for selling-out Forest Park taxpayers was to get some alarm contracts?

BTW, I'm curious about the bid process for the District 89 alarm contract.

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A07, defamatory flyer attacking John Wicks [D88]

To attack the Dorris, Smith and Wicks slate in District 88 (Bellwood & Stone Park elementary schools) there is an anonymous flyer attacking John Wicks (and to a lesser extent Toni Dorris). This photocopied flyer is being distributed with Neighbors in Action literature. Neighbors in Action is a committee affiliated with Bennie Mazzulla.

The flyer claims Wicks was fired from Proviso Township High Schools for “transferring drugs” between the students and Wicks. I was able to confirm from a District 209 source that this allegation is completely without factual basis.

There are various allegations in the flyer, but they seem to be bogus for other reasons.

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A07, Proviso referendums [BW, BV, NL]

Bellwood “convert the public library to a public library district”.

Bellwood $1.98 million for the 2007 levy year?

Broadview sales tax increase of 0.5%.

Northlake Fire Protection District property tax increase.

Northlake $4.9 million bond for the police department.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

A07, Proviso First Party claims many endorsements [D209]

Proviso First Party is claiming the endorsement of numerous village presidents and Mayor Anthony Calderone of Forest Park. See the Proviso First website.

(With the exception of Calderone the rest of the people who call themselves "mayor" in Proviso Township are really village presidents in village manager forms of government.)

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A07, what's up in Melrose Park? [MP]

I figured there would be more noise out of the campaigns running for the Melrose Park board of trustees.

What have you heard?


A07, Proviso write-in candidates [BV, FP, W]

In Broadview there are three seats on the library board. F. Joyce Lewis filed for the two-year term, however no candidates filed for the two six-year terms. Jerome Reed of 2122 S. 24th and Teresa A. Tyson of 2632 S. 11th have filed to run as write-in candidates. All the candidates are incumbents.

In Forest Park, Negale T. Jackson is running for mayor as a write-in candidate against Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Theresa Steinbach.

Also, there is a seriously contested race for school board in District 91 (Forest Park elementary schools). No candidate filed for the two-year term, so five write-in candidates filed.
  • Catherine Denham, 1512 Circle
  • Kristine K. Lazzara, 1000 Marengo
  • Mary Needham N. Turek, 833 Marengo
  • John Tricoci, 642 Marengo
  • Joan White, 617 Thomas

Forest Park Review published letters from some write-in candidates:

Kristine Lazzara
As an active and interested mother of two elementary-aged boys I eagerly announce my candidacy as a write-in for a position on the District 91 school board. I have had the privilege over the past several years to witness the development of Forest Park and its schools; previously with my daughter, now a college student at Loyola University and currently as my sons attend Field-Stevenson School. Because of my roots here in Forest Park, I desire to see the community, its children and therefore its schools flourish and grow to a bright, productive and promising future.

Did you know that District 91's guiding principles state: "...we promote responsible involvement in the educational process by all citizens: students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members"? It is my desire that as a community and school district, we abide by these principles and foster greater involvement between our parents, teachers and neighbors. We need to answer the questions of: What is our philosophy of education? How can we best educate students from diverse backgrounds? Are we addressing our special education needs?

The word "public" in public school means that it is us, the citizens of Forest Park, who should shepherd the care and education being provided to our children. I pledge that when you elect me, Kristine Lazzara, on April 17, to the District 91 school board, I will work to fulfill the mission of educating our students and engaging parents and teachers to ensure that the future of Forest Park remains vibrant and prosperous.

Mary Needham Turek
I am adding my name to the growing list of great people running as write-in candidates for a two-year term on the Forest Park school board. I have lived with my family in Forest Park for 14 years. My husband John and I have three children, ages 15, 13 and 9, all of whom have attended public school in Forest Park. My oldest son is in high school, my daughter is currently a student at the middle school and my youngest son is a student at Garfield school.

I have been an assistant Cook County state's attorney for 15 years and am currently assigned to the criminal appeals division. I am also an active member of our community. I have taught religious education at St. Bernardine Parish for 12 years and currently teach fifth-grade. I was a Girl Scout leader from 2001 through 2004 at Garfield school. I have served on the Auxiliary Board of Forest Park Little League. As a parent, I have volunteered at my children's schools and am a member of the PTA and middle school boosters.

I believe I possess the qualities and commitment to serve as part of the team that will continue to promote academic excellence in Forest Park schools. I would be thrilled and honored to serve the students of this school district and the entire community.

Catherine Denham
I have filed as a write-in candidate in the April 17 election for a two-year Forest Park School District 91 board member position. I am proud and honored to have been a school board member for the last 12 years. It has been both a challenging and rewarding experience. Forest Park is a community that has many assets and the schools are one of the most important.

School board members are elected to represent all citizens of the community. Every citizen has a stake in maintaining the level of high quality education that our schools provide. This is a team effort and there is always room for improvement.

I believe a school board member's responsibility is not to run the schools, but to see that they are well run. The school board as a whole makes decisions that enable all students to develop to their full potential. These decisions can cover any number of areas including: the students, staff, curriculum, budget, buildings and grounds and transportation.

If I am re-elected, I will continue my commitment to represent all citizens of Forest Park in ensuring a high quality education for our children with fiscal responsibility.

I ask for your write-in vote on April 17 for a two-year Forest Park School District 91 board member position.

Joan White is the former village clerk.

John Tricoci is some kin of Calderone, if I'm not mistaken.

Also Westchester's Lowell M. Seida of 10332 Bond St filed for multiple offices: the library board, park district, elementary school board, high school board and Triton's board of trustees. I guess he's happy with village government because he didn't file for the Village of Westchester board of trustees.

For list of write-in candidates see Cook County Clerk (pdf).

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A07, Proviso First Party probably in violation of law [D209]

Thursday I visited the Illinois State Board of Elections and learned a couple facts about the Proviso First Party. The committee has only filed a statement of organization. Robin Foreman is the chair of the party and Bob Cox is the treasurer.

The statement of organization was filed April 3. Since it was filed less than thirty days before the election the party wasn't required to file a pre-election report.

However, the requirement to declare all contributions over $500--monetary or in-kind--still applies. These contributions are required to be reported within 48 hours.

The committee has sent at least five mailings. I have received at least three. Mailing to the entire district costs about $8,000. Obviously the committee has bought a large number of signs too. I seems likely the Proviso First Party has spent $25-50,000.

The party could be in compliance with all election laws if it raised all this money in contributions of less than $500.

I stopped by the Citizens for Better Schools campaign office yesterday. One of the projects on which they were working was submitting a formal complaint to the state board of elections.

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A07, Triton and Proviso mailings [D209, D504]

Friday I received a mailing from Proviso Township High Schools. Saturday I received one from Triton College.

The Triton mailing had pictures of two Triton trustees. By coincidence they are the two trustees up for election and supported by board president Mark Stephens.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

A07, robocalls in Westchester [W]

Someone is making robocalls in Westchester warning that trustee Angelo Luciano will be a tool of the Melrose Park political machine.

Is this also the work of Citizens for Honest Government?

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A07, Trib covers FP mayor contest [FP]

Chicago Tribune (Victoria Pierce) has an article that summarizes the Forest Park race for mayor. This part was new to me.
The campaign turned negative this week when automated phone messages went out to Forest Park voters alleging unsavory connections between Calderone and nearby Melrose Park, where federal indictments and investigations have been ongoing in recent years.

"The whole notion of a weird alliance with Melrose Park, if that's the best they can do they have an empty bag," Calderone said, noting that these days just the mention of Melrose Park seems somehow tainted. "Even if the pope became mayor of Melrose Park it would have a negative connotation."

Steinbach said she has no connection with the group, Citizens for Honest Government, which created the phone messages.

The two officers for Citizens for Honest Government are Timothy D Mather, chair, and Lourdes Monteaguado, treasurer. I suspect the name is misspelled and it should be Lourdes Monteagudo. Mather lives at 1404 Ridgely in Naperville and Monteaguado gives his address as 1837 W Cermak in Chicago.

Monteagudo lives at 3307 N Harding in Chicago, according to Google. He has contributed to various Latino Democrats and the Blagojevich campaign. He was with Mayor Daley's United Neighborhood Organization at some point.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

IRAQ, Rep. Rahm Emanuel calls for Dems to resist Bush pressure on funding Iraq debacle

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) represents Melrose Park. He's been quite hawkish on Middle East policy. He was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) during the 2006 elections. For this reason, among others, he's considered influential.

Emanuel has written a memo calling for Congressional Democrats to hold fast against Pres. George W. Bush's bullying, threats and petulance on the Iraq supplemental bill. See Talking Points Memo (Greg Sargent).

The origin of this conflict is that Bush failed to include the cost of occupying Iraq in the DOD budget. Why he didn't include these known expenses in the annual budget is the subject of some speculation. One theory is that he wanted to conceal the true size of his budget deficit.

Bush then antagonized Congressional Democrats by escalating the troop levels without first seeking a vote in Congress. Bush anticipated he might lose that vote and felt he'd be more likely to get the money by committing the troops and then asking for the money.

His escalation later came under criticism for not including all the troops needed. After the escalation of combat troops, Bush announced that he also needed to escalate the number of support troops.

Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that Army troops in Iraq will be involuntarily extended. Instead of serving 12-month tours they will serve 15-month tours.

The involuntary extensions are a tacit admission the Army doesn't have the troops to implement Bush's escalation which seems to be re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic so Bush can avoid admitting the whole Iraq things was a bad idea.

So, good for Rahm Emanuel. Congressman, don't take any crap from that delusional guy in the White House.

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OBIT, Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday.

poputonian at Hullabaloo quote and reflected on Vonnegut. poputonian ends with Vonnegut telling a story about his uncle Alex.
So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

And here's a quote from the Wikipedia article:
With [Vonnegut's] columns for In These Times, he began a blistering attack on the administration of President George W. Bush and the Iraq war. "By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East?" he wrote. "Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas in December."

And he wrote some novels and short stories too.

[UPDATE: Atrios quotes one of those novels.
The visitor from outer space made a serious study of Christianity, to learn, if he could, why Christians found it so easy to be cruel. He concluded that at least part of the trouble was slipshod storytelling in the New Testament. He supposed that the intent of the Gospels was to teach people, among other things, to be merciful, even to the lowest of the low.

But the Gospels actually taught this:

Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected. So it goes.

The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:

Oh boy - they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!

[End update]

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A07, which elections are hotly contested?

  • District 208, Riverside-Brookfield
  • District 209, Proviso
  • District 88, Bellwood & Stone Park
  • District 89, Maywood & Melrose Park
  • Bellwood library referendums
  • Broadview village gov't
  • Brookfield village gov't
  • Maywood park district
  • Maywood village gov't
  • Melrose Park village gov't
  • Westchester village gov't

What am I missing?


POL, how Welch's state rep campaign influenced the Proviso First Party campaign [7th REP, D209]

Yesterday I had an epiphany about the Proviso First school board campaign. With the exception of the campaign message it's the same campaign—tactically—that Welch ran a year ago for school board.

  • The campaign is using District 209 employees to place yardsigns.
  • Danielle-Ashley is designing the mailings.
  • In fact, the attack mailing against Theresa Kelly has the same lay-out as the attack mailing against Karen Yarbrough.
  • The supporting cast members are still the same: Brian Cross and Emily Robinson.
  • The campaign is withholding financial disclosures undisclosures until after deadline of newspapers so it won't be revealed until after the election.

The message of the school board campaign is different from the state rep campaign. I didn't think the message of the Welch state representative campaign was done well, but it was a positive message.

Welch ran as the guy who succeeded in building the magnet school that people had talked about for years. He also took some standard liberal positions combined with “get tough on crime” positions. And he made an attempt to attack Yarbrough for voting “present” on some legislation.

Without rehashing the entire state representative campaign all pieces of Welch's message fell flat. He neither prepared the audience for the attack on the “present” votes nor followed up on the attack. His standard liberal positions didn't contrast with Yarbrough. His “get tough on crime” stuff was privately ridiculed because Welch has a significant number of friends, relatives and political allies who have had their encounters with law enforcement and other authorities for the same offenses Welch claimed to be getting tough about.

And then there was the magnet school. I believe Chris Welch was and is proud of pushing the creation of PMSA. Welch succeeded where Mike Manzo, an earlier school board president, failed.

However, what Welch saw as “breaking a few eggs to make an omellette” much of the community saw as graft, kickbacks, elitism and trampling democratic processes. When Welch tied himself to the magnet school he was hurting his campaign more than helping. PMSA hasn't built a positive reputation yet. Welch didn't seem to understand that schools establish themselves by their academic reputations, not the buildings and physical infrastructure. And this failure to understand what a good school is shows in how Welch governs Proviso Township High Schools as president of the board of education.

State Representative Karen Yarbrough did the usual things to campaign for Democratic votes, but her most effective tool in the campaign was going negative on Welch. This type of campaigning grew out of Yarbrough's history of campaigning against Eugene Moore and his proxies. (Moore is an ally of Welch's.) But going negative against Welch was inevitable.

A whole bunch of people hated Welch. Welch practiced an extreme version of scorched earth politics at the local level. He sued his critics—like me—for defamation and he was associated with firing a significant number of people at District 88 (Bellwood and Stone Park elementary schools) and Proviso Township High Schools. Welch was a pioneer in using bad-faith defamation suits and an extreme practioner of the most vindictive “to the victor go the spoils” politics.

The people who gravitated to Yarbrough to help her in the state rep campaign hated Welch. And as far as they were concerned the more suffering and humiliation Yarbrough and her campaign inflicted on Welch the better.

Since Welch's defeat—which was pretty humiliating given that he spent well over $100,000—Welch hasn't changed how he governs. If Welch grew as a person from the loss he probably would have tried to make amends with his political adversaries and been less confrontational. But other than avoiding the bad-faith defamation lawsuits, Welch hasn't changed how he behaves.

I suspect that the lesson Welch learned from getting wupped was that negative campaigning works. And he learned that people don't like corruption.

So the Proviso First Party is campaigning against low test scores, patronage, deficit spending, junkets, etc. This goes beyond ironic. Welch is trying to get at least one person from his slate elected by making them appear to be campaigning against a corrupt and inept status quo. In reality Welch's political organization is supporting the Provios First Party for one purpose: so Welch can maintain his board majority.

The message of the Proviso First Party goes beyond simple dishonesty to outright prevarication. Welch is hoping that media outlets focused on village races will give the mendacity of the Proviso First Party mailings a pass.

I wouldn't call it genius, but it's about the best Welch can do given the cards he has to play. I doubt it will succed in getting any of his candidates elected, but it is causing anti-Welch voters to consider supporting Welch's candidates. Seriously, I met a Forest Park woman who is active in local politics and she was duped by the Proviso First Party mailing.

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A07, Westchester Progressive Party criticizes Broadview Westchester Water Agency [W]

Westchester Progressive Party is raising the issue of the Broadview Westchester Joint Water Agency.

Critics of the water agency suspect that it's a sweetheart deal for Don Sloan, one of the two employees, and the guy who has billed for a large amount of overtime.

Proviso Herald (David Weese):
[Trustees Rick] Fox and [Bill] Buikema contend no audits have been done on the agency in years. And Buikema said when he examined agency employees' time cards, 38 percent of the overtime paid over the past four years was paid without a supervisor signing off on it. Buikema said records show that in fiscal year 2003-2004, $28,603.88 in overtime was paid. In fiscal year 2004-2005, $34,618.48 in overtime was paid. In fiscal year 2005-2006 30,793.77 in overtime was paid.

The village's budget only allocates $15,000 per year for overtime. Buikema and Fox said that since they began asking questions last year, overtime has decreased -- $14,468.20 as of March for the fiscal year 2006-2007, which ends in May.

Westchester Progressive Party (which includes Fox) sent the following press release:
Changes sought for joint water agency

Nearly two years after the Westchester Board of Trustees voted unanimously to require Trustee Luciano to report back to the board on actions taken by the Broadview Westchester Joint Water Agency, he continues to resist change.

According to an article in the April 11 issue of the Proviso Herald, “ Luciano said former Mayor John Sinde used to make the reports to the board, and that it was now Gattuso's responsibility to make those reports.”

During committee session, Mr. Luciano objected to language requiring him to report back to the board stating, “I’m not anybody’s messenger and I don’t intend to do that.”

This Agency controls Westchester ’s supply of water. Its mismanagement and lack of transparency and oversight is alarming. Mr. Luciano has served on the Joint Agency/Commission for nearly two decades, including his current role as treasurer. Even Mr. Gattuso admits to the Agency’s shoddy performance during Luciano’s term in his conversation with the Proviso Herald saying that when he came on the commission two years ago, he inherited a mess.

Some of that “mess” includes:

* Questionable, possibly illegal payouts
* Board members/officers receiving pay for their roles on the Commission despite the original charter stating that none would receive compensation
* Unchecked, unjustified Over Time for patronage work
* Failure to have a financial audit for the last decade
* $15,000 budgeted for board member junkets funded by water fees
* $30,000 annually to pay for a lobbyist
* A Treasurer saying he doesn’t pay the bills or see the checkbook
* Mr. Luciano’s refusal to provide regular reports to the Village Board – despite a law requiring this action

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POL, Stroger campaign committee fined over $250K

CBS-2 (Sun-Times News Group):
State officials want to slap more than $250,000 in fines on Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s campaign committee for failing to properly report contributions.

Election officials say it is one of the biggest penalties they have leveled, and it comes after months of complaints about problems with other Stroger-related campaign accounts.

The Stroger campaign failed to report 78 contributions before the election. That seems like no big deal, if they were small contributors. But it appears the contributions total over $250,000.

That's almost $3,300 per contribution. How many of those contributions you figure came from high ranking county employees and companies doing business with the county?

BTW, it seems like some of the local committees are not in compliance with election law about disclosure. More on this later.

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A07, letters to editor Proviso school district race [D209]

Forest Park Review received enough letters to the editor that it put some in the paper and posted the rest online.

In the paper version Proviso First Party candidate Bob Cox had the following letter.
Proviso First

I want to thank the Forest Park Review editors for giving me their endorsement. I also appreciate the paper's call to the public to give the District 209 board of education election the "time of day."

Because the election process only allows sound bytes and monologues, it was unfortunate that no forum was really made available to all the candidates in the 209 BOE race.

To set the record straight, my colleagues Robin Foreman and Carla Johnson are neither bureaucrats nor politicians. Some of their qualities have gone unnoticed. Robin's experience with people and as a proven manager is valuable to the stabilization of the fragmented BOE. She will be a catalyst for remedying complacency. Carla Johnson understates her role as administrative assistant to Sen. Kimberly Lightford for the past eight years. Ask any CEO or senior executive how important their assistants truly are. She will be a conduit to the BOE in researching and monitoring state policies, and her "can do energy" is clearly an asset for the daunting tasks ahead of us.

The Proviso First Party is a team I'm proud to be on and one that will serve the entire Proviso community well. We are running because we are stakeholders in the Proviso community. We are a fresh start. I see nothing gained to align myself to anyone or anything but principles and common sense. This is common ground we the Proviso First candidates all share.

Online District 209 board member Charles Flowers, EdD, had the following letter published. He supports the Education Reformers slate.
Flowers calls for change

As a member of the board of education for Proviso Township high schools, I have been part of the minority along with Theresa Kelly and Gary Marine. We have been the minority that has questioned the decisions and actions of the board majority, led by Christopher Welch that has failed our students, teachers, schools and residents.

I endorse the slate that includes Ralph Harris, Kevin McDermott and Theresa Kelly. I appreciate that the Forest Park Review endorsed Harris and McDermott, two of the candidates needed to change the leadership of the school board. However, without electing the full slate, you will be subjecting students and taxpayers to more of the same from Christopher Welch and the board majority--an employment agency for their families and friends and continued failure of our students!

Without changing the leadership of the board of education; I know from first hand experience that it would be foolish to expect that Christopher Welch would change how he has and continues to micromanage District 209!

The Forest Park Review's criticism of Mrs. Kelly and the board minority is misleading and baseless! The newspaper seems to want Mrs. Kelly and the board minority to take responsibility for district problems that have been created by decisions driven by the board majority! Did it bother you that the current superintendent and the board majority refused to terminate the pay for play contract of $160,000 to Eugene Moore, recorder of deeds? He receives a monthly check of $15,800 as the insurance broker for the district at the expense of needed programs for under performing students and increased medical insurance premiums for employees of the District! Imagine, Mr. Moore is rewarded for services that are and have never been rendered to the district! Please forgive and excuse my outrage for wanting to use our tax dollars for students!

Christopher Welch and the superintendent (or CEO when Welch placed the unqualified and rubber stamp of Robert Libka in charge that led to an additional $9 million in deficit spending and failure to seek approval from the full board of education $10,000 to attend a graduate program to obtain the superintendent's endorsement at Western Illinois University, during work hours!) sets the agenda for board meetings. How about committee reports that are chaired by the board majority that are and have never been reported on to the full board or public. Recently, until the legal department of the Illinois State Board of Education intervened to uphold district policy that ensures that all board members in District 209 shall enjoy placing items on the agenda, the practice by the superintendent (Stanley Fields) and board president Christopher Welch has been to shut out input from the board minority! This practice supports your assertion that "the last six or seven months we can count on one hand the number of times that the word 'student' was used by an incumbent board member." Shame on the superintendent and Chris Welch for producing a board agenda focused on contracts and employment for friends and family!

It is indeed unfortunate that the actions of the board majority taints the full board. What's even more criminal to our students and taxpayers is that the Students First Party (Robin Foreman, Carla Johnson, and Bob Cox) are purporting that they intend to stop the patronage hiring and play for pay politics! These candidates are supported by the current board majority (Christopher Welch, Sue Henry, Dan Adams, and Shirley Madlock) that supports these practices! Yet you warn Bob Cox not to get to close to any of the incumbent board members! Mr. Cox has already associated and joined himself with the primary board member (Christopher Welch) that has led our students to the lowest PSAE test scores in the almost 100 year history of District 209! We can not afford to continue to have individuals make recommendations and decisions in the best interest of our students based on blind faith and personal interests! The reality is that Bob Cox is running with a slate that has a candidate (Robin Foreman) who is the aunt of Nikita Johnson-business manager for District 209 and Carla Johnson, the mother of Eugene Moore's grandson - get the picture! To add insult to injury, this group in their second glossy brochure mailer to Proviso Township residents is advocating "the board must initiate a district wide reading program in our grammar schools." Excuse me, but wouldn't that be an initiative that the feeder school boards of education in cooperation with the superintendent initiate? Have they forgotten that they are candidates for District 209?

Having an individual at the table from a specific community in no way guarantees that they will represent what is best for students. What's important is that who ever sits at the table regardless of the community that they represent, understands that all decisions that are made for students representing the 10 communities of District 209 are driven by the following question: How does it impact student achievement and learning?

The most essential step is to get the board to function properly by selecting a new president and board members that truly put students first!

The only way to get a new president of the board of education is to elect Ralph Harris, Kevin McDermott and Theresa Kelly. All the other candidates in the race have committed to voting for Christopher Welch to remain as the leader of the board of education ... this includes Bob Cox!

The question that rest with all the stakeholders involved in District 209 is can and do the students and taxpayers deserve two more years of Christopher Welch leadership? The answer is absolutely, NO!

That being said, voters would do well to show Bob Cox the door!

Charles A. Flowers, Ed.D
District 209 Board of Education member,
Suburban Cook County Regional Superintendent of Schools - Elect

There are also letters in support of the Education Reformers by Michael Brooks of Broadview and State Representative Karen Yarbrough.

And board member and candidate Theresa Kelly wrote:
Kelly for D209

While I was not endorsed by the Forest Park Review, I ask for the support of all voters who see the need to reform Proviso Township High Schools, District 209.

I am running with a slate of candidates under the banner "Education Reformers." The two candidates joining me on the slate are Kevin McDermott of Westchester and Ralph Harris of Bellwood, both excellent candidates and both are endorsed by the Forest Park Review.

I am running for re-election because I want to improve Proviso Township high schools by replacing the machine politics of school board President Chris Welch and his political boss (Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore) with fiscally responsible education strategies focused on students and their families.

Chris Welch has run Proviso Township high schools into the ground. Test scores are 90th of 90 high school districts in the Chicago area. The deficits have become untenable, even after Welch obtained a "back door" referendum to increase property taxes without the permission of the voters. Crony hiring and promotion is rampant and demoralizing to teachers and staff. A number of large contracts have been awarded to the politically connected, many of who gave large contributions to either Welch's school board race or his campaign for state representative. This is not acceptable.

There are seven seats on the board of education. Three are up for election on Tuesday, April 17.

To keep control of the school board, only one Welch supporter needs to win; to switch control of the school board all three candidates from the "Education Reformers" slate need to be elected. Do you want to wait two more years to begin the process of reforming your public high school district?

I'd like to respond to the Forest Park Review's criticisms of my service on the board of education. However, the criticisms were extremely vague and not based on factual information. I am frustrated the Forest Park Review failed to specify its reservations about my service.

The Forest Park Review has been a valuable partner in the process of improving Proviso Township High Schools. The coverage, analysis and columns in the Forest Park Review have been essential to explaining the issues facing the district. People read the Forest Park Review across Proviso Township for the coverage of District 209.

I ask all voters to support Ralph Harris, Kevin McDermott and me (Theresa Kelly), so we can join board member Charles Flowers. Give us a chance to show that Proviso Township High Schools can be better.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A07, Sen. Don Harmon's picks for Triton [D504]

Sen. Don Harmon wrote in the Wednesday Journal:
Oak Park and River Forest voters also have an opportunity to open a new era at Triton College. Oak Park resident Thomas Gary is poised to be the first African-American trustee in the college's history, and the first Oak Parker in recent memory to serve on the board. Thomas brings an impressive record to the table. He served two terms on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, served on my legislative staff and the staff of Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr., worked on the Service Academy Nominating Committee of Senator Barack Obama, and currently works at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity bringing economic development and job training programs to communities in our metropolitan region. He also recently returned from a tour of duty with the Naval Reserve in Iraq.

Thomas has chosen to coordinate his campaign with the campaigns of incumbent trustees Diane Viverito of Elmwood Park and Steve Kubiczky of Riverside. I applaud his efforts to build a district-wide coalition that will help not only his election efforts but also his ability to work with his future colleagues on the Triton Board. I know Diane Viverito through her work with Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, and she is a thoughtful and hard-working public servant. Mr. Kubiczky is a dedicated and detail-oriented trustee. I expect these three candidates will work as well at the board table as they do on the campaign trail.

Thomas Gary was motivated to run for the Triton Board, in part, by the series of articles in Wednesday Journal detailing the board's operation. He has long been a proponent of open and transparent government, dating back to his service on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners. I have encouraged Thomas to make compliance with the Open Meetings Act a top priority for his service on the Triton Board, should he be elected. I trust he will do his best, and I know that Oak Park and River Forest will be better served by having him at the board table.

No matter how you vote, I strongly encourage you to cast a ballot in our local elections. I hope you will join me in voting "yes" to abolish the Cicero Township Trustee of Schools, and to elect trustee candidates Maureen Sherwood and Louis Angeloni. I also hope you'll join with me in supporting a balanced coalition of leadership for Triton College by supporting Oak Parker Thomas Gary and his coalition partners Diane Viverito and Steven Kubiczky.

This was at least partially in response to the Wednesday Journal endorsing Irene Moskal Del Giudice, Alfonza "Al" McKinnor and Thomas Gary.

Harmon is a master deal maker. I think it's reasonable to speculate Harmon got the Stephens political machine to support Gary so he's supporting the Stephens candidates in Oak Park.

Harmon is Oak Park Township's Democratic Committeeman and his senate district includes Melrose Park and Stone Park.

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KLEPT, Recorder of Deed employee sues; alleges firing political

A 25-year Cook County government employee laid off because of budget cuts filed suit Tuesday, alleging he was cut because he's not politically active. Alfred Hale worked for Recorder of Deeds Gene Moore and says there were others who had far less experience than he but were allowed to keep their jobs because they were politically active. The suit points to two men who are business managers, like Hale, but have less seniority. Records show both are politically active and still have their jobs. Calls to Moore's office were not returned.

Thanks to AP for the tip.

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ZONING, Forest Park ZBA allows coach house at 417 Circle [FP]

Last night the Zoning Board of Appeals overruled village staff's decision to order demolition of the coach house at behind the burned out two-flat at 417 Circle owned by Amy Perry of Oak Park. The commissioners present voted 5-0 to overrule staff. Since two commissioners were absent four (of seven) votes was required to pass Richard Scaffidi's motion.

Mike Boyle represented the village administrator's position that since the coach house had been vacated for six months the owner of the property was required to make it conform with the zoning code. The zoning code has the lot as being for one single-family home.

Boyle based his argument on the claim that the coach house had not consumed water for a six month period. The tenant claimed that he was living both in the two-flat and in the coach house. He said that he turned off the water to do some repairs. Boyle said this indirectly proved that the coach house was unsanitary and uninhabitable.

Perry's lawyer argued that the village served the notice requiring demolition of the coach house before it even knew about the lack of water consumption.

Various residents testified against the demolition, including John Plepel, Steve Backman, Mary Kay Minaghan, Rich Vitton and me. While the village's position had some basis in law it was still legally pretty weak. There was no dispute that the gas and electric was connected during the six months in question. And Boyle couldn't guarantee the water meter was functioning.

Most people seemed to have a gut reaction against the village position. It just seemed wrong to order a home owner to demolish a perfectly good structure on some “after the fact” technicality—a technicality that was a “grey zone” issue anyway. After the meeting ZBA chair Mike Curry said that his vote was driven by a gut reaction that the village's position was just wrong, although about 15-20 minutes before the vote Curry said he would abstain. (This was before it was pointed out that the absense of the two ZBA members necessitated four votes to overrule village staff on the issue.)

One observer noted that Boyle struck a confrontational and mean tone with the property owner. He was dismayed that Boyle wasn't at least trying to convey sympathy with the hardship the village would be imposing. I thought it was reasonable to interpret Boyle's style to the fact that it seemed like every citizen was against him. Although the ZBA, especially Curry, was doing everything possible to help Boyle make the village's case.

After the meeting the consensus in the audience (among the people I talked to) was that someone at the village, probably Mayor Anthony Calderone, was pushing to have the coach house demolished and a ruling that the brick two-flat couldn't be rebuilt as a two-flat.

The village wanted this because this would allow a parking lot to be built. The bank owns the property to the north and wants to sell it. And creating parking would be good for the bank. The owner to the south has his property on the market. But the village doesn't have the money to acquire all three properties (perhaps because it acquired 1000 Beloit?).

The conspiracy explanation of the village's actions is that it is deliberately using its regulatory powers in a way that will reduce the value of the property. This is being done to allow the village to acquire the property for less than it would pay for a lot with a two-flat and a coach house.

For more discussion see Forest Park Forums.

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A07, Proviso Insider attacks board member Theresa Kelly [D209]

Proviso Insider has a video (above) attacking Proviso Township High Schools board member Theresa Kelly for extravagant travel as a board member.

While I disagree with the impression left by the video, Proviso Insider deserves credit for using the Internet in an innovative way in a local school board election.

Forest Park Review (Josh Adams)
wrote a news story on the larger issue. The article which was based on documents as well as interviews found stuff that looked questionable, but nothing illegal.

To the extent that this kind of spending is a problem, the Forest Park Review article shows that the problem involves staff and various board members.

However, the article doesn't do a very good job of differentiating appropriate from inappropriate spending.

Here's my understanding of the situation:
  • "Best practices" calls for board members to attend at least one training per year.
  • District 209 board members, including Kelly, attend two or less trainings per year.
  • The board of education is supposed to oversee training, including travel expenses.
  • Chris Welch raised the issue of Kelly's travel expenses in past elections, but hasn't done anything about as president of the board of education.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A07, PMSA to host candidate forum [D209]

Proviso Highlighter 2 has the when and where of a forum for District 209 school board candidates. The forum will be hosted by the PMSA Parent-Teacher-Student Association.

Thursday, April 12 at 7 PM
Proviso Math and Science Academy auditorium
PMSA is on the northeast corner of First Ave & Roosevelt Rd

Here are the candidates:
  • James Boyd
  • Bob Cox
  • Terrase Craig
  • Robin Foreman
  • Ralph Harris
  • Carla D. Johnson
  • Janice Johnson
  • Theresa Kelly
  • Kevin McDermott

Cox, Foreman and Carla D. Johnson are the Proviso First Party slate backed by school board president Chris Welch and his political allies.

Harris, Kelly and McDermott are the Education Reformers slate back by State Rep. and Democratic Committeeman Karen Yarbrough and school board member Charles Flowers. Kelly is the only incumbent running for re-election.

The remaining three candidates are presumed to be committed to supporting the status quo by voting for Welch. Boyd is a former school board member from Westchester. Craig is the mother of Welch's nephew. Janice Johnson is a flunky for Bellwood village president Frank Pasquale.

What do you want the candidates to be asked at the forum?

BTW, is anybody planning to record the forum on DVD? I'd love to see it posted to You Tube.

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OBIT, Brookfield WWII vet body recovered [BF]

The Pentagon announced today the remains of 10 U-S airmen missing in action since World War II have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial.

Among the remains identified were those of Staff Sergeant Thomas Knight of the Chicago suburb of Brookfield.

Welcome home, Staff Sergeant.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

A07, D209 candidates Forest Park wants to hear from you [D209, FP]

Today I spoke to Rich Vitton, the head of the Forest Park Historical Society.

He expressed a desire for District 209 candidates to make themselves available on ForestParkForums.com.

Sign up for an account and introduce yourself.

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GOV, Blagojevich coming to Oak Park [D88]

Wednesday Journal (Terry Dean):
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to attend Tuesday's public forum on his education and health care funding proposal.

"Health care, Schools, Taxes: What you need to know right now ... What you can do today" takes place Tuesday night at Beye Elementary School, 230 N. Cuyler, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

What do you think of Gov. Rob Blagojevich's plan to tax the gross receipts of Illinois business grossing over $2 million per year?

What would you tell the governor about other issues?

Should Proviso round up a posse to ask for the state to intervene in District 88, seeing as how the district fired Dr. Nichelle Rivers in the 2006-07 school year and Dr. Willie Mack in the 2005-06 school year? BTW, was Dr. Montoya fired during the school year too? Montoya preceded Mack.

[UPDATE: Nichelle Rivers contends that she wasn't fired. At one point she resigned but subsequently rescinded the resignation. The board failed to fulfill its obligations under the resignation agreement. The lawyers are sorting out who owes whom how much money.]

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KLEPT, Blago administration gives Senate President's wife big pay raise

Pantagraph (John O'Connor, AP):
Soon to marry one of Illinois' most powerful politicians, Lorrie Rickman Stone was promoted to a new state job in September 2005....

The Blagojevich administration created a special salary class for her position alone, so the psychologist - now Lorrie Rickman Jones - saw her pay rise from $116,460 to $186,000, a 60 percent increase, The Associated Press found after a review of state documents.

Emil Jones is on my naughty list for supporting complete deregulation of electric utility rates when there is no competition in Illinois.

He's a greedy hack. The Senate Democrats should dump him. Emil Jones has shown no loyalty to the people and is primarily concerned with his own wealth and power.

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A07, Eugene Moore asks polling judges to support his candidates [D209, D88, BW]

This is the letter from former Democratic Committeeman Eugene Moore to election judges. Here's the substance of it:
Of course I'd like you to help me spread the word prior to Election Day about these School Board Proviso First Party candidates for District 209: Robin Foreman, Carla D. Johnson, and Robert “Bob” Cox.

Help us also in District 88 elect Yvette Ramirez, Daphne Walker, and Re-elect Tommy Miller.

In the Village of Bellwood, we're supporting for Village Trustee Edward Lezza, Jr., Philistine Murphy [sic], and M.C. Robinson.

The committeemen, Democratic and Republican, are responsible for appointing election judges. So, Moore has no official responsibilities or official relationship with the judges.

But like a desperate gambler Moore is trying to gain an advantage--any advantage--by bluffing. This is similar to Moore buying an advertisement in the Proviso East football calendar claiming he was still the Democratic committeeman after Rep. Karen Yarbrough had already beat him.

What do you make of Moore not listing his picks for the Village of Maywood and District 89? Do you think he's got a separate network he's working for his candidates in those races?

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CRIME, FBI joins search for Anthony Zizzo [MP]

CBS2 (Sun-Times News Group):
This FBI is joining forces with local authorities to locate a 71-year-old Westmont man, suspected of being associated with the Chicago LCN crime family, officials announced Monday.

The article uses the abbreviation "LCN" for "La Cosa Nostra". Proviso Probe covered the disappearance.

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MEDIA, 17-year old girl called a "Ho" in the media [B, H]

Daily Herald:
Berkeley--A 17-year-old girl has been charged with running a prostitution service out of her suburban Chicago home using the popular Web site Craigslist.

[Redacted] arrest followed a routine search of the site's classified message boards, said Hillside Police Detective Carlo Viscioni.

Don't the media and police departments usually protect the identity of perpetrators under 18 years old?

This girl has not only her name all over the Internet, but her picture is on at least one Chicago media outlet website.

Seriously, why did the police release her name? And why did the media outlets run with it?

[UPDATE: The young woman was charged as an adult, so Illinois law provides for releasing her name. Brian Montopoli of CBS shared my skepticism that it was a good idea.]

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ETHNICITY, Peraica tries to play race card against Obama

I'm a fan of Commissioners Tony Peraica and have written favorably about him. See Carl Nyberg (Forest Park Review).

In Madison County Record Tony Peraica wrote a piece intended to slam Sen. Barack Obama. Peraica would probably claim that he's trying to tarnish Obama's reputation as a reformer by linking him to politicians in Chicago who Peraica identifies as corrupt.

Who does Peraica start with? Ald. Dororthy Tillman. Why Tillman? Why not start by linking Obama to President of the County Board Todd Stroger? There's more ammunition to indict Stroger of cronyism and he's a bigger fish than Tillman.
Tillman is perhaps most famous for her staunch advocacy of slavery reparations, but also is renowned for....

I want to give Peraica the benefit of the doubt, but by making Tillman the first example of his story, it's hard not to read Peraica's words as pushing divisiveness along racial/ethnic lines.

Peraica also includes this old chestnut:
Perhaps Obama is hoping for the same Chicago Election Day magic that the mayor's father provided for another presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, back in 1960.

In the 1960 presidential election Kennedy/Johnson received 303 electoral votes and Nixon/Lodge received 219. (Fifteen electoral votes from Alabma and Mississippi were unpledged.) Illinois was worth 27 electoral votes. Even without Illinois' 27 electoral votes Kennedy/Johnson since had over 270 electoral votes. So the idea that Mayor Richard J. Daley threw the 1960 election is just a myth. Kennedy didn't need Illinois' electoral votes to win. See Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections for election results.

I don't know the purpose of Peraica's op-ed. Since it's published downstate, maybe he's contemplating a run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dick Durbin in 2008.

I like Peraica, but I think he should avoid running for Congress in 2008. The GOP is going to get shellacked at the national level and the party is going to write-off Illinois early. If they have an extra million dollars it is going to be used to defend vulnerable incumbents, not for high-risk candidates in expensive states.

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ENVIR, Hillside dump to close & be converted to green space [H, BW]

Proviso Insider:
According to sources close to the situation, waste disposal at the landfill will end for good in late spring of 2008, and the landfill will be converted to green space by the end of 2008. Sources say a community meeting to detail the plans for closing the landfill is set for Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 7pm at St. Domitilla School, South Hall, 605 Hillside Avenue, Hillside, Illinois.

While Proviso Insider lacks credibility on political issues and stories about local people, I hope s/he's got this one right.

The Hillside dump has under the worse circumstances been the source of noxious odors in Bellwood for many years.

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OBIT, Jack Marino [D209]

Chicago Tribune:
Jack Marino, retired P.E. Teacher/Coach for Proviso East H.S., passed away peacefully at home April 1, 2007....

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

SPORT, East vs. West hoops dream team [D209]

Chicago Sun-Times:
Alumni of Proviso East and Proviso West will participate in the second annual Dream Team East vs. West basketball game at 7 p.m. next Thursday at Proviso West. The event will help raise funds for various youth programs in the community. Among those participating will be Kenny Davis, Ray Gay, Cedrick McCullough, Jamal Robinson, Marcus Burford, Jerry Johnson, Jermaine Ellis and Awvee Storey. For information and tickets, call (708) 344-0800 or Michael Jackson at (708) 774-5013 or visit www.illinoisdreamteam.com (warning: mildly annoying audio).

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LABOR, Stan Fields advocating privatizing services in Mundelein [D209]

SEIU 73 seems heavily invested in the political machine of Eugene Moore and Chris Welch. One particular staff member in particular seems to push members to work for Moore and Welch allied campaigns.

Tuesday night SEIU 73 held a meeting at the Maywood Public Library. The local told its members and supporters about which candidates it is supporting. Part of the way SEIU 73 pushed Welch-backed candidates is to raise the threat of privatization at Proviso Township High Schools if Charles Flowers becomes president of the board of education.

Superintendent Stan Fields is Welch's superintendent. What did Fields do at his previous district? He backed privatization.

Below I excerpted some of the minutes of meetings from Mundelein High School.

January 27, 2004
It was moved by Ms. Beutlich, seconded by Mr. Lieberman, that the Board of Education of Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 contract with Sodexho School Services for the provision of custodial, maintenance and grounds services for a period of five years, with a full review at the one year point before continuation of services.

AYE: Ms. Beutlich, Mr. Lieberman Mr. Hannigan, Mr. Ortega, Mr. Hitzke, Ms. Schroeder, Ms. Kennedy.

NAY: None

May 24, 2005

Mr. Specht stated he had spoke with the District’s attorney and been advised to change the language in the motion. The new language would allow us to accept the bid then negotiate with the union.

It was moved by Mr. Hitzke, seconded by Mr. Wirt, that the Board of Education of Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 approve the Superintendent’s recommendation to identify Andy Frain Services as the lowest responsible bidder for security services in an amount estimated at $280,288.

Upon roll call, the following members voted:
AYE: Mr. Hitzke, Mr. Wirt, Ms. Kennedy
NAY: Mr. Munley
ABSTAIN: Mr. Ortega

The motion passed 4 – 1.

June 21, 2005

Kevin Bennett, IEA representative for MESA, asked the Board to consider the advantages of keeping current security employees rather than outsourcing.

A discussion of the merits of keeping current security staff vs. outsourcing was held.

It was moved by Mr. Wirt, seconded by Mr. Specht, that the Board of Education of Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 approve the Superintendent’s recommendation to accept the bid for security services from Andy Frain Services in an amount estimated at $280,288.

Upon roll call, the following members voted:
AYE: Mr. Wirt, Mr. Specht
NAY: Ms. Kennedy, Mr. Munley
ABSTAIN: Mr. Ortega
ABSENT: Mr. Hitzke

The motion failed 2-2.

May 23, 2006

FY07 Tentative Budget
The FY07 tentative budget was discussed. It is hoped to have the FY07 budget finalized at the August Board meeting.

Security Bids
The Board discussed the pros and cons of outsourcing security. They requested a comparison table of security personnel including number of personnel, hours, and responsibilities. Discussion will continue at the June Board meeting.

June 15, 2006

Bid for Security Services
It was moved by Mr. Wirt, seconded by Mr. Hitzke, that the Board of Education of Mundelein Consolidated High School District 120 move to accept the May 10, 2006 bid of Andy Frain Services subject to prorating the first year for a start date of August 1, 2006, and subject to attorney approval of a written contract.

Upon roll call, the following members voted:
AYE: Mr. Wirt, Mr. Hitzke, Mr. Specht.
NAY: Ms. Havlik, Ms. Kennedy, Mr. Munley, Mr. Ortega

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A07, James Boyd, a former board member [D209]

James Boyd, a Westchester resident and a former member of the board of education, is running for school board of Proviso Township High Schools (District 209).

In 1994 at the request of Mike Manzo District 209 discontinued paying for health insurance for board members. Paying for board member health insurance violated Illinois law because school districts are not allowed to compensate board members for their service.

Paying for health insurance wasn't limited to employees and board members. District 209 also paid for the health insurance of the former attorney's widow.

In the early 1990s District 209 obtained $15 million by issuing a bond. Boyd arrange for the money to be invested with a bank in Wisconsin. Why not invest locally?

Apparently Boyd was working as a financial consultant for the bank in question.

A reporter from one of the local newspapers seemed hopeful that Boyd is an independent candidate who can bring professionalism and civility to the board of education. People in the Education Reformers camp see Boyd's candidacy as candidates encouraged to run to divert votes in Westchester from the Harris, Kelly and McDermott slate which would presumably do well in Westchester.

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LEGAL, Does anyone know a good defamation lawyer? [D88]

West Suburban Journal (Kevin Williams) is not just floating the theory Dr. Nichelle Rivers planted the porn on Principal Paul Glover's computer, it's making the allegation in a headline.
Superintendent plot foiled; Glover retained, Rivers removed

A principal accused of having pornographic material on his district issued laptop, a superintendent accused of planting the material and releasing photos to the media and shredding documents is the latest controversy swirling around Bellwood McKinley Elementary School.

If the board majority and Glover have been floating the theory Rivers placed the porn on Glover's computer, none of the Chicago media outlets even included this in their stories.

Oh wait, I just finished reading the West Suburban Journal article.
The school board president Marilyn Thurman said that she had seen the pictures, and commented that she did not think they were bad, although they were on school property.

So, Glover's patron, school board president Marilyn Thurman is defending Glover by saying the pictures aren't that bad, but West Suburban Journal is floating the theory Rivers placed the pictures in the same article.

Don't you think if the pictures were planted by a third party he'd tell his patron on the school board?

BTW, Thurman's defense doesn't hold water. Employers can fire employees for using work computers for personal activities, although I consider it over-reacting when the personal use is relatively innocent, like checking email. However, after having been warned--especially about porn--almost any employer would terminate the individual in question.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ED, Proviso Herald endorsements [D88, D89]

For District 88 (Bellwood and Stone Park elementary schools) Proviso Herald endorses:
* Antonette Dorris
* Daphene Walker
* John Wicks

For District 89 (Maywood and Melrose Park elementary schools) Proviso Herald endorses:
* Jaime Anguiano (two-year term)
* Donna Miller
* Lequita Neely
* Arbdella Patterson
* Grady Rivers

If the voters elect the candidates picked by Proviso Herald the same factions will still rule the roost at District 88 and 89.

The endorsement in D88 ends with:
Though we are critical of the board's performance, and though Dorris and Wicks are part of the current board, we thinks they can be forces for stability, not disruption.

This seems like particularly muddled thinking.

Arnie Bryant has called the D88 board "dysfunctional" and the endorsement began with "There is so much bickering and infighting on the District 88 School Board...."

OK. The problem is a screwed-up board of education in the eyes of Proviso Herald. So what's the Proviso Herald solution? Continue the 4-3 split with six of the seven characters who are part of the current board.

The endorsement makes no sense to me. If the board's problem is the majority then Proviso Herald should get behind changing the majority. If the problem is the minority then they should be dumped. The wimpy but logically consistent position would be to dump all incumbents. (This was the Forest Park Review's approach to District 209.)

Proviso Herald's endorsement was worthless in District 88.

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ED, Proviso Township High Schools to RIF 55 teachers [D209]

To cut $2.5-3 million dollars from the District 209 budget Proviso Township High Schools will RIF (reduction in force) 55 teachers. Proviso East will lose 22 and Proviso West will lose 33.

State law requires teachers be notified 45 days in advance of a date in May. The RIF notification has been used to justify moving the next board meeting from Monday, April 23 (after the election) to Monday, April 16 (the day before the election). A source said the list was prepared in advance of the March board meeting, but has been kept confidential.

Notifications can be done by certified mail. A source anticipates the RIF notices will be mailed Friday, April 13.

BTW, what do you think Fields and the Welch majority want to pass before the election?

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A07, FPR endorses Bob Cox, Ralph Harris & Kevin McDermott [D209]

The Forest Park Review editorial ends with this paragraph.
Frankly, there isn't a single sitting board member in District 209 that would get our endorsement. There are several who have actively contributed to the financial and academic disaster that passes for a school system. Meanwhile, those who have been complacent in voting along party lines are no less guilty in their roles as enablers.

I encountered similar thinking when talking to a journalist from another newspaper.

These journalists who come to some of the District 209 board meetings see that members from the minority sometimes behave disrespectfully toward the majority and Superintendent Stan Fields.

These genteel journalists are offended that members of the board minority behave rudely.

It's easy to be polite in the majority. In the majority you put your items on the agenda. Staff largely backs your items (or they get fired). And you don't have to explain your position because you know you've got the majority of votes.

These genteel journalists seem to overlook the fact that showing up to meeting after meeting in the minority gets frustrating. The minority doesn't get their questions answered, and if Josh Adams attended the last board meeting, he'd know that Fields implemented a policy that members of the board minority have to file FOIA requests to get basic information.

Board members aren't getting paid. The minority is trying to shift the district's emphasis from crony politics to education. And they get frustrated and lose their tempers.

These journalists seem to be missing the big picture. If the minority behaves badly it should be seem in the context of the various provocations by both the majority and Superintendent Stan Fields. Remember, how Fields wouldn't respond to board member Kelly's emails? And remember how Fields ridiculed Kelly in his first board meeting as superintendent?

If voters follow the FPR endorsements then we'll be stuck with two more years with Chris Welch as president of the school board. Cox is a Welch supporter. And Welch only needs one ally elected to the three positions to form a majority with himself and Dan Adams and Reatha "Sue" Henry.

Does the Forest Park Review support two more years of Welch being president of the school board? Based on the endorsements, it appears the Forest Park Review does support Welch continuing as president of the school board.

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A07, Yarbrough/Flowers school board candidates have website [D88, D89, D209]

Citizens for Better Schools has a website. Citizens for Better Schools is the umbrella organization supporting the Yarbrough/Flowers candidates in District 88 (Bellwood & Stone Park elementary schools), District 89 (Maywood & Melrose Park elementary schools) and District 209 (Proviso Township High Schools).

Rep. Karen Yarbrough
is also the Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman. Charles Flowers, EdD, is a member of the District 209 board of education and was elected as the Cook County Regional Superintendent of Education in November. He takes office in July.

The alliance between Yarbrough and Flowers grew from their opposition to Emanuel "Chris" Welch, the current president of the District 209 board of education.

Flowers leads the minority block on the District 209 board. If his candidates sweep the election (three seats) he will be able to form a majority and replace Welch as president of the school board.

Welch ran against Yarbrough in the Democratic Primary for state representative in March, 2006. The coalition that coalesced to support Yarbrough included many people who had grievances against Welch. Welch had been the school district attorney at District 88. So, various people who opposed his actions at District 88 and 209 joined Yarbrough's organization.

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A07, two Bellwood library referendums [BW]

Bellwood voters will face two library referendums on April 17.

One referendum is to split the library finances from the Village of Bellwood. At first glance this seems to be a "so what?" referendum. It won't affect the tax rate and it won't affect the amount of money the library gets each year.

Right now Cook County government disburses money for the Bellwood library to the Village of Bellwood. This allows the village to use the money to cover its short-term expenses as long as the money is given to the library eventually.

Arnie Bryant, the president of the library board, would also like the library district to have its own bond rating. He believes the library district does a better job managing its finances than the village does.

The other referendum seeks a tax increase to build a new library. The argument against passing the tax increase is that property taxes are already too high. However, this argument carries less weight because the amount of taxes devoted to the library is relatively small.

Typically Cook County property owners give about 1/3 of their taxes to their elementary school district, 1/3 to their high school district, about 10% for county government and about 10% municipal government. IIRC the park district, library district and township each get 2-6%. So, even a large tax increase for a library translates into a small property tax increase.

Their are various arguments for a new library. The obvious argument is that the facility is old (built 1960) and cramped. I've been to the Bellwood Public Library a couple times. It appears well run; and it's used by a number of patrons.

Other communities, like Forest Park, Maywood and Oak Park have nicer, more modern libraries.

Arnie argues that no community-minded person should be against improving library services. Arnie's position is more extreme than I would take. I opposed Oak Park's referendum for a new library (1999? 2000?).

I opposed the Oak Park referendum for a few reasons. I didn't perceive the previous facility was inadequate. I felt the new library proposal was an upgrade from adequate to luxurious.

I also felt that the relationship between libraries, bookstores and the Internet was evolving rapidly at the time. And it made sense to wait a few years to see how libraries could best complement bookstores and the Internet to provide the services needed by patrons.

Finally, I felt Oak Park's political elite had gotten a little carried away with passing referendum. Specifically, the new middle schools seemed like superfluous spending justified with misleading statements. The premise the schools were overcrowded seemed absurd since the ten schools had served 20% more students in the 1970s. (BTW, this position has become considerably more mainstream in the last couple years.)

One of the things I've noticed about the Forest Park library is that many patrons come to the library because large corporate employers (like Kmart and UPS) direct potential employees to apply for jobs online.

Libraries should probably hire people, at least part-time, to help patrons apply for jobs online. Hopefully, the Bellwood library will provide this kind of service. I do know the proposed library has many stations from which to access the Internet.

Arnie Bryant is a financial contributor to Proviso Probe.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

ETHICS, is Bill Dwyer's column defamatory to Mayor Anthony Calderone? [FP]

Last Thursday, Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone told me he has contacted a lawyer about suing the Forest Park Review and Bill Dwyer for defamation based on Dwyer's column last week.

I read Dwyer's column and made a list of the assertions it makes.

1.FBI is investigating FPPD cop for brutality.
2.Calderone protected said cop from investigation requested by a commissioner (presumably Patrick Doolin).
3.FPPD has pressured cops who raised questions about brutality.
4.“Village officials” have pressured people to “keep quiet”.
5.There were more cops working for the Melrose Park security company under investigation than previously revealed.
6.Calderone (or the village administrator) ordered Chief Jim Ryan to “work with” Vito Scavo, the head of the security company under federal investigation.
7.Calderone raises money from bars and liquor stores.
8.Anthony Bruno made $100,000 on Forest Park water project.
9.The Forest Park water project was discontinued after it became known the FBI was investigating the Melrose Park water project. Money was spent to begin the project but it wasn't completed.
10.Theresa Steinbach blocked Forest Park from paying $3,600 to Bruno by asking for details of what services Bruno rendered.
11.Illinois Alarm, Calderone's company is paid by the Village of Melrose Park.

Which of these claims are false?

Points 1 & 5 don't directly connect to Calderone that strongly. Dwyer could be factually wrong, but it's not clear that it harms Calderone.

Much of this is just restating allegations made during the hearing to fire Sgt. Dan Harder.

Harder based much of his defense on the claim that Chief Jim Ryan singled out Harder for discipline for minor infractions while protecting other officers from more serious allegations, especially police brutality. Points 2-4 seem to be restating allegations Harder already made.

Point 7 is obviously true.

Point 8-11 are presumably public record.

Point 6 is probably the strongest hook for claiming defamation. Here's what Dwyer wrote:
And did Police Chief Jim Ryan really tell others, who tried to warn him off dealing with [Vito] Scavo, that he was ordered to work with Scavo?

Scavo is the target of a FBI investigation of his security company.

If Dwyer has a source who claims to have had this conversation with Ryan then he would seem to be on firm ground. If this source is unwilling to testify then Dwyer might be in trouble.

If I were to speculate, I would guess the source was Lt. Steve Johnsen. He would have been in a position to have this discussion with Ryan. If the source is Johnsen, Dwyer will have no problem getting a deposition. Calderone and Ryan have already fired Johnsen; it's not like they can do anything more to mess with him.

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