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Proviso Probe

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Township will vote on tax increase tonight

This morning I received a call from Proviso Township Trustee Jesse Martinez who says there are two tax increases on the agenda for tonight. The township wants a 4.8% tax increase and the Proviso Township Mental Health Commission wants a 12.5% increase. According to Martinez the township is currently running a surplus.

The Proviso Township office is in Hillside. The address of the PTMHC is 4415 Harrison, Suite 334. I assume the township office is in the same place.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

when the USA gets paid, who gets the money?

If you buy into the traditional media interpretation of the U.S. economy, it's always growing. The evidence of this is that the stock market generally grows over time.

But who gains when stocks go up?

Kevin Drum (Washington Monthly) quotes Afferent Input.

The punch line is that that top 1% are getting a whole bunch richer since 1979 and people below the top 20% are losing ground.

But those households losing ground every year are expected to pay more-and-more in taxes so government employees can get annual pay increases.

Oak Park Village President David Pope is the only politician I've ever heard raise questions about increasing the tax burden on households with declining real incomes to get revenue for annual pay raises.

The national situation is hosed-up too, but....

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Proviso BOE meeting for December

On Monday, December 17, Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) held the regular meeting of the board of education at Proviso East High School. Board member Brian Cross was absent, as was his boss, Eugene Moore.

What happened that was noteworthy?

Board member Robert Cox and Superintendent Robert Libka talked about accountability. Cox expressed that the board would be working for the betterment of the district; Libka said he wanted the community to “look to proof of strategies and achievement” in the electronic newsletter.

Below you can read the follow-up questions on improving the district and accountability.

The meeting agenda included some terminations. Board president Emanuel “Chris” Welch said that the board would take action that would make it unnecessary to eliminate any jobs. How this was accomplished was not explained.

Board member Theresa Kelly was not happy with how the board meeting was conducted. She got a different agenda than the rest of the board members. Kelly is the lone opposition board member. People including the district's attorney became impatient as Kelly complained in closed session. Eventually, the district's attorney realized the problem and apologized for the misunderstandings.

When the board returned to open session board president Welch had everything as part of the consent agenda. I did not hear him call for items to be pulled from the consent agenda. After the vote on the consent agenda Kelly asked for items that she wanted pulled and discussed separately. Welch refused to call items separately, which is somewhat out of character. Normally, he's a reasonably flexible with board members. He let's the opposition ask questions. This time Welch offered to let Kelly switch her vote on the consent agenda, but he wouldn't open any individual issues for discussion.

Kelly probably should have realized that it was an omnibus consent agenda, but I don't think Welch ever clearly asked for items to be pulled from the consent agenda.

Kelly wanted to raised the issue about employees, especially support staff employees, who had already been terminated. Kelly thought it would be fair to undo the terminations already conducted since the terminations on the December agenda were being canceled.

(Normally board member Reatha “Sue” Henry, Eugene Moore's cousin and chief of staff, is willing to vote against the majority to prevent terminations. However, Henry's daughter, Shavonne Henry, is a secretary who was spared termination even though secretaries of equal or greater seniority were let go or forced to retire.)

Proviso West Dean Dylester Palm, sister of Principal Alexis Wallace, has retained a law firm to contest the furlough she was forced to accept.

Below are the questions I posed to Libka and the board of education in an email.
Last night both board member Robert Cox and Superintendent Robert Libka expressed intent to make District 209 better and a desire for the community to hold the district accountable.

By what measures does the board and administration want to be judged? I am particularly interested in learning your ways of measuring student performance and financial health of the district.

Also, some of the metrics only happen once a year, like standardized tests and the budget. Based on what information should taxpayers judge the academic and financial performance of the district quarter-to-quarter and month-to-month?

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Viewpoints From the Other Side

Arnie Bryant is sick today and asked me to host Viewpoints From the Other Side, 2-3 PM on WJJG, 1530 AM.

It's a call-in political talk show so you are invited to call (708)493-1530.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Sterk's lawyers finger Welch and Emily Robinson as Proviso Insider

Today Mark Sterk called me and told me the following.

Either today or Monday Sterk's attorneys will amend the lawsuit against Proviso Insider to name Emanuel "Chris" Welch and Emily Robinson as defendants. (Emily Robinson is pictured above with Proviso Township High Schools (District 209) board member Brian Cross.)

Sterk sued Proviso Insider for defamation based on this entry.

Robinson has been active in Proviso politics as a campaign worker for Welch. She was the press secretary for his 2006 state representative campaign and played a less public role in the 2007 school board race.

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Forest Park cops uses say attorney as "Joey The Clown" Lombardo

Forest Park Review (Josh Adams) reports federally indicted Forest Park Police Sergeant Mike Murphy will be using an attorney famous for defending Joseph "Joey The Clown" Lombardo at the Family Secrets trial.

I'm outraged Murphy is on paid leave while being prosecuted. The Forest Park PD placed Sgt. Dan Harder on unpaid leave for a series of frivolous charges (the chief claimed Harder lied in a private phone conversation, Harder used the f-word and Harder took three Fridays as sick days in a relatively short period of time).

Cops know lots of attorneys or have access to lots of attorneys through their network of contacts. Doesn't it make Forest Park and Forest Park's political leadership (Mayor Anthony Calderone and Village Administrator Mike Sturino) look mobbed-up that Murphy connected with a high-powered mob attorney?

How many Assistant State's Attorneys has Murphy worked with in his career that are now doing private criminal defense work? A dozen? More? Why wouldn't Murphy use one of these defense attorneys?

It seems possible to me that some powerful people want to keep Murphy from being squeezed by the feds. Again, it kinda makes Forest Park look mobbed-up, especially since the leadership is paying Murphy to stay at home and do nothing keep his mouth shut.

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local Right Wing activist wants to violate the Constitution

Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) passed legislation to create a moment of silence for prayer in Illinois schools. Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed this legislation. The members of the state legislature, in there wisdom, voted to override this veto.

An private citizen challenged the law in federal court on the grounds that this violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The court granted an injunction against the moment of silence to pray in the school district where the court challenge originated. Other districts have been left discretion how to interpret the law that seems likely to be ruled unconstitutional.

Paul Barbahen, a Right Wing lawyer in Forest Park, wrote a letter to the editor in the Forest Park Review.
Tom Holmes makes an excellent point ("A second opinion on the moment of silence," Opinion, Nov. 14). I would add a question: Are we better off as a society as religion gets further marginalized? Are we kinder to our neighbors? Is crime declining? Do we treat each other with more or less respect? Are we really more tolerant?

I'm not sure, and I suppose some will be offended the questions are even asked because their presumption is any public display of religion, no matter how loosely associated with a government entity, is, by definition, bad and removal thereof is good. I fail to see the evidence of this.

The folks who file suits to stop things like a Christian song at a school play are usually hostile to religion. They cloak themselves with a self-righteous mantle that they are protecting my rights to be free from hearing "Silent Night" sung at a public school. They claim that we are intolerant of their right to not hear the song. Who is really the intolerant one? Hearing "The Dreidel Song" won't convert me.

My church attendance is nothing to brag about, but I have never been offended, in any way, by someone taking a moment for a prayer or asking for a moment of silence. A moment for reflection does not constitute establishment of a state religion.

The goal of these self appointed protectors of the Constitution is to shove religion so far off the map, it no longer has any meaningful contribution to make. This is what is really abhorrent. They will file suit to protect the right to wear a T-shirt with an obscenity on it, but ask the same court to ban "Here Comes Santa Clause." To be candid, I am simply tired of listening to people who look for offense where none is intended. The umbrage brigades.

The First Amendment protects the right to be heard. It protects the speech you don't like. It is there to insure all voices are heard, it does not require that you listen.

Religion has a right to be a voice at the cultural table. If you're offended, exercise your right not to listen, don't deny my right to hear, even the silence.

Barbahen's letter is annoying for a number of reasons.

Here's the basic explanation.

The United States is governed by a constitution, the U.S. Constitution. The government has no power or legitimacy except the power and legitimacy that derives from the Constitution.

If you don't like what the Constitution says or how it's interpreted there are ways to amend the Constitution or to change how the courts interpret the Constitution.

Barbahen seems to be making a claim that he knows how to better govern society if we just violate the Constitution in ways he finds acceptable. Note, he doesn't provide any data, just cheap emotional arguments.

Barbahen is basically arguing that the violation of the Constitution is so small, it's no big deal. If the violation of the Constitution is so small, then why the need to do it? And the need for Barbahen to take his time defending it?

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