“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Posted on by Steve Reick | 2 Comments

A Lot to Hide, Nothing to Offer

In March of 2019, a delegation from the City of Woodstock came to Springfield to discuss the project to widen Route 47 from Huntley through Woodstock. The delegation was led by Mayor Brian Sager and consisted of several other City officials and City Council members.

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Widening Route 47 has been the number one item on Woodstock’s IDOT wish list for years, and I don’t know how many times I’ve had conversations with these same people about it, both in Springfield and Woodstock. They were obsessed with it, especially the Mayor.

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That night, I was invited to dinner at Saputo’s, a local Springfield eatery. The entire delegation was there, as were several lobbyists and Senator Martin Sandoval. Mayor Sager was sitting next to the Senator, and I was directly across from them.

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The conversation turned to Route 47. Senator Sandoval started talking about the need to have set asides for minority contractors. Mayor Sager twisted himself into knots explaining how Woodstock was such an inclusive city, that all of our communities are treated equally and on and on and on. I told the Senator that there weren’t a whole lot of minority contractors in McHenry County who’d be qualified to take on such a huge project, and if there are qualified non-minority contractors in the County, was it his suggestion that we should go outside the County to satisfy minority set aside requirements, to which he responded (and this is pretty much verbatim): “I don’t give a s**t what you do in your f*****g little county.”

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Mayor Sager proceeded to tell all assembled that my views did not reflect those of the assembled delegation, and that every effort would be made to see that minorities were treated fairly. Sandoval made some nasty comment to me, to which I replied that a great man once said that he hoped to live to see the day when people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Sager then started to once again to talk about how inclusive and tolerant we should be, whereupon I told everyone that I didn’t want to rain on their parade, so I got up and left.

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Fast forward several weeks. My wife and I found ourselves at a dinner party which included the Mayor and several others who had been at Saputo’s that night several weeks before. It was obvious that the dinner was intended to rope me back into the fold on the Route 47 project.

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The subject of the Saputo’s dinner came up, and Mayor Sager said that after I left Senator Sandoval told him that my behavior at that dinner put the Route 47 project in jeopardy. The Mayor suggested that I should contact Senator Sandoval to apologize for my behavior. He made it very plain that I should “make nice” with Senator Sandoval for the sake of the project. I pointed out that Senator Sandoval was a thug and that nothing good would come from jumping into bed with him.

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Of course we all know that in January of 2020, Sandoval admitted that he solicited and accepted financial and other benefits in return for using his official position as a state senator and that he engaged in corrupt activities with other public officials and accepted money from other individuals in return for using his official position to attempt to benefit those individuals and their business interests.

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I’m not accusing Mayor Sager of doing anything illegal, not even anything close to it. However, I am accusing him of a shocking lack of judgment and naiveté when the very corruption that he is so concerned about was sitting right next to him and he didn’t recognize it. The full menu of things that led to Senator Sandoval’s conviction were on full display right before him, and all he could do was talk about inclusivity and outreach. Frankly, it was embarrassing. If this is what we could expect from Mayor Sager if he’s elected, if he can’t recognize corruption when it’s staring him in the face, how does he expect to clean up Springfield as a member of Mike Madigan’s super-majority caucus?

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Mask Wearing: Lessons from the NBA, NHL and MLB

On Tuesday, I voted as a member of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to suspend an emergency rule issued by the Department of Public Health (DPH) which adds language to enforce the Governor’s statewide emergency order on face coverings and social distancing.  The rule requires all persons over age two to wear a face covering, or to maintain social distance of at least six feet, or both, and provides for enforcement through formalized, graduated means. The rule was issued in a way which had the effect of limiting statutory law. Statutes take precedence over administrative actions and thus the rule is, for that and for a number of other reasons, in my opinion unenforceable.

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There are some who interpret my procedural position on an administrative rule as saying that I voted against wearing masks. That’s not the case at all. I haven’t had the opportunity to vote on the issue of mask wearing, that’s something that is done by the Legislature, not JCAR. Perhaps those who would ascribe motives to my vote should take the time to learn something about the legislative process instead of flapping their gums about something they don’t understand.  If they did that, they would then join me in urging the Governor to call a special session of the Legislature to weigh in on the subject. That’s exactly what I told the Governor when he called me on Monday night, but he said it’d be something we’d take up in January. I have every intention of being there in January, but if COVID-19 makes a return engagement before then in a more virulent way, then all bets are off, especially if (when) his rule which flouts Illinois statutory law is itself flouted.

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While we’re on the subject, I think we can all learn a lot about the effectiveness of reasonable adherence to sensible social activities by watching what’s going on in the NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball. All three leagues have begun play, with the NBA and NHL living and playing in a “bubble”, which strictly prohibits those in the bubble from leaving it. As a result, there hasn’t been a single case of COVID-19 in the weeks that they’ve been inside it. MLB has been pretty good about keeping itself virus-free, even though the teams are traveling from one city to another. Every team, that is, except for the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals, who had players and/or staff violate team rules by going out in public and bringing the virus back to the clubhouse. As a result, the Cardinals have only played five games all season.

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I think this is pretty solid evidence that sensible measures work. We can’t all live in a bubble like the NBA and NHL, we’re more like MLB, but we should take these lessons and apply them in our own lives.

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This is now just as much a political pandemic as a health pandemic, and mask wearing is the flashpoint. I mean, how many times have you seen someone in the bathroom washing his hands and having someone tell him: “Dude, real men don’t wash their hands. If you do that, you’re just giving in to the Governor’s agenda of executive overreach!”

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No, it’s the mask that’s become the talisman of the political pandemic, because the mask is visible; if you refuse to wear a mask, you’re showing that you’re standing up to The Man.

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Leadership isn’t telling people to do things “my way or else”. That’s where the Governor and I part ways. Leadership is shown in the ability to explain why something is important and convincing people that to follow is in everyone’s best interest. At this, he’s missed his opportunity.

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Look, I’m dead set against having the police tell you to wear a mask and then turn you into a criminal for refusing to do so, but here’s the deal: there are those, including my opponent in the November election, who won’t hesitate to do that. He’s on the record (albeit behind a pay wall) as having said so. If you aren’t going to live in a bubble, then take a cue from what seems to work for those who do.  We’ll get through this, but if we don’t turn the boil down to a simmer, it’s going to take longer to both climb out of this mess and to recover. Wear a damned mask.

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Silence is Corruption – Time for Dems to Break Their Silence on Speaker Madigan

Once again the smell of corruption is wafting through the Illinois House of Representatives. This time the smell is coming from the office of the Speaker, who’s been subpoenaed as part of a bribery investigation involving Com Ed. While he hasn’t been indicted, and may never be, there’s a point at which someone has to say “enough is enough”.

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When is this going to end? How much humiliation and ridicule will we have to endure while the rest of the world points fingers at our State and says: “Oh, that’s just the way things are in Illinois, everybody knows it.”

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I’ll tell you when this is going to end. It’s going to end when Democrats, both those who are now in the House and those who hope to be in the House next session stand up and say something more than “if he’s guilty, he must resign”, if they’re saying anything at all.

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Not having been indicted or found guilty of public corruption is a pretty low bar to be eligible to hold a position of public trust. The people of this State deserve something better from those who they elect to govern them. Otherwise we get what we now have: government through the back door, legislation like the ethics bills Republicans have tried to introduce that get bottled up in the Rules Committee, a Speaker who famously doesn’t have a cell phone or email account, so he can claim plausible deniability to being directly connected to the corruption swirling around him, a State in financial collapse.

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If the Governor is serious about turning the page, he needs to call a special session of the legislature to address this issue.

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And those, like my opponent, who’ve had ample time to consider what this means, it’s time to say something, even if it’s nothing more than “if he’s found guilty…” After all, on his own website he says: “I believe we need honest, ethical individuals to represent us at all levels of government.”

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Sager WebsiteWell, Mr. Mayor, here’s your chance. But when you list the Woodstock City Hall as your campaign office, you really aren’t off to a very good start yourself. That building belongs to the people of Woodstock, not your campaign.

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Governor Pritzker Follows the Science Only Up to the Point Where It Interferes With Politics

RallyOn June 6th, Governor Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul attended a South Suburban Day of Action event in Calumet City. Yesterday A.G. Raoul announced that he’s tested positive for COVID-19. The Attorney General’s office said he had been in his Chicago office for the last couple of weeks, and most of his meetings and events have been conducted via video link, so it seems very possible, if not probable, that he contracted the virus at that event. Right after the protests arising from the death of George Floyd, health officials urged people who attended the protests to self-quarantine for 14 days to fight the possible spread of coronavirus.

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Ten days later, the Governor got a test for COVID-19, and was found to not have been infected. Good for him, and I wish a speedy recovery for the Attorney General.

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But the Governor apparently didn’t get the self-quarantine memo, because what did Governor “Don’t Second-Guess Me Because I Follow the Science” do in the intervening days? Here’s an archive of his public events from June 8th through the 15th, taken from the Illinois Playbook published every weekday morning:

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  • June 8th: At the Thompson Center for a 1:30 p.m. briefing on insurance coverage for rebuilding businesses. In the late afternoon, Prtizker will attend the South Suburban March for Justice and Love that starts at Victory Apostolic Church.
  • June 9th: At Union Baptist Church in Springfield at noon for a roundtable discussion with state Sen. Andy Manar, local aldermen, T. Ray McJunkins, and teen organizers of a Black Lives Matter march. Then the governor will tour the Decatur Boys & Girls Club’s Child Care Facility and discuss early childhood education issues.
  • June 10th: At Skip-a-Long Child Development Services at 11 a.m. in Moline with Rep. Cheri Bustos, state Rep. Michael Halpin, Mayor Stephanie Acri and others to discuss the Child Care Restoration Grants program to provide emergency relief to childcare providers. Then, at 2 p.m. he’ll be at the Rockford YMCA with Bustos, state Rep. Maurice West and others to talk about emergency relief there, too.
  • June 11th – 14th: No public events.
  • June 15th: At the Community Interfaith Pantry in Belleville at 11 a.m. to discuss grants administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity. He’ll address the grants again at 2 p.m. at the Crosswalk Community Action Agency in West Frankfort.

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The fact that the Governor tested negative is beside the point. He was violating his own Executive Order 2020-38 which limits gatherings to no more than ten people, and he was ignoring his own epidemiologists’ recommendation for self-quarantining.

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But the most infuriating thing is what he did to possibly expose other people to the virus because he had to make a political statement. The first thing out of his mouth in Calumet City was a pitch for his progressive income tax. He’s willing to expose people to COVID-19 for that? I guess following the science only goes so far.

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Those people at the Thompson Center, the Victory Apostolic Church, the Union Baptist Church, the Decatur Boys & Girls Club’s Child Care Facility, Skip-a-Long Child Development Services, the Rockford YMCA, the Community Interfaith Pantry in Belleville and the Crosswalk Community Action Agency in West Frankfurt, did they know they were at risk? Were they subject to the contact tracing that’s part of the Governor’s Phase 3 Recovery Plan? Were they told to get tested and self-quarantine? It doesn’t matter that Pritzker tested negative this week, at the time he met with these folks, he didn’t know.

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Governor, though I’ve tried to get you to allow my county, among others, to determine for themselves the pace at which they open up, I’ve been pretty supportive of your calls for social distancing and sensible personal actions to slow the spread of coronavirus. But you’re losing me and whatever credibility you had at the beginning of this pandemic with your opportunistic disregard for your own injunctions. If we get hit by a second wave in the fall, you’ll have lost that credibility just when you’re going to need it most. Elected officials don’t lead by making pronouncements and issuing Executive Orders, they lead by example. With this action, you aren’t setting a very good one.

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How Soon We Recover Depends Upon Us

Great InfluenzaAs we move into Phase 3 of the “Restore Illinois” plan tomorrow, there are a few things that need to be said.

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None of us are happy about the pace at which life is returning to “normal”. We all want to enjoy the warmer weather and do the things that define summertime for us. We’ve seen surrounding states loosen their restrictions on businesses and social activities and chafe at the notion that we’re still where we are. I get that. I’ve been as adamant as anyone in calling for a loosening of restrictions on public activity and to go to a more regional approach to opening up our economy.

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But there’s something that we all need to understand. Moving to Phase 3 is not a license to let the good times roll. I’m reading “The Great Influenza”, the classic narrative of the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic that swept the world toward the end of World War I, killing over 100 million people, and that narrative is chilling.

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The influenza came in three waves, the first being a mild form of flu that most people took in stride. However, in a matter of a few months, the virus mutated into such a lethal form that the second wave caused thousands to fall ill daily. The influenza virus is very adept at changing its form within a few generations, gaining lethality as it does. There’s no reason to think that this one is any different.

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I’m not saying this as a prediction that what we’re now experiencing will be followed by a much more deadly strain in the fall. What I am saying is that neither I nor anyone else knows what is coming. But if we see in the fall what the world saw in 1918, we have very little with which to fight it.

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That’s because, short of developing a vaccine in the near future, we’ve shot the only arrow we had in our quiver. By shutting down the entire economy, our schools, elective surgeries and all the rest, we’ve put ourselves into a position where, if this virus comes back with a vengeance, it’s going to be very difficult to institute a second shutdown without resorting to the kind of enforcement mechanisms that none of us want. Not only would people accuse the government of crying wolf, but an economy which would just be starting to climb back would be thrown back onto the mat.

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The people who’ve been standing on the front lines of this pandemic, our first responders, doctors and nurses and technicians in our ICU’s, grocery clerks and truck drivers all deserve our thanks. But they deserve something else, as well. They need to know that we’re going to be sensible to the continuing threat that a resurgence of this virus can bring if we aren’t careful about how we exercise the responsibility we have to our families, to them and to each other.

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That begins by taking the lessons we’ve learned about how to bend the curve of this disease downward and continuing to do so, even as we move into a more open economy. There isn’t one of us who wants to move back into shutdown and the chaos that goes along with it. Exercising sensible precautions is a tradeoff we should be willing to accept, because if we have to go backwards, it’s going to be a lot worse.

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