Smile Politely

A weak swing and a huge miss for Champaign

Before I really start here, if you truly have any interest in the current discussion surrounding the referendum to bond $149 million to build a new Central and upgrade Centennial, I’d love for you to take a listen to this:

Listen here.

That is Unit 4 School Board President Laurie Bonnett, speaking late Tuesday night to WDWS after the referendum didn’t pass, but by a closer margin than most expected.

If you aren’t going to take the time, I’d like to point out something she says during the beginning of the interview, and extrapolate on that, rather than trying to rehash what most of you have already discussed or considered during the past six months to ten years, depending on who you are and what interest you might have in the future of Unit 4.

At 1:26, Mrs. Bonnett states the following:

“Nobody wants to pay more taxes; I don’t want to pay more taxes.”

To that, let me be blunt and speak directly to you, Laurie: speak for yourself.

I’m willing to pony up for the right plan, and I assume most of our community is as well. Indeed, the failure of the board’s proposal had little to do with the dollar amount they were asking for, even by its own accounting.

According to the News-Gazette, board member John Bambenek found in his own polling that of the 35% of voters who opposed the referendum, “The two biggest reasons cited […] were location and cost (40 percent each), followed by the need to renovate Dr. Howard (20 percent).”

Now, I’m no math whiz, but take those numbers to any high school freshman and they’ll tell you that if you’d moved your site to an infill location, and included a plan to renovate Dr. Howard, we’d be breaking ground in the spring.

Instead, you’re on WDWS disregarding parents who don’t want to drive “another three miles” to the far north side of town out of one side of your mouth and claiming to champion inclusivity out of the other, all the while, standing firm on the location that you used tax payer dollars to buy at a premium without adequately engaging the community to see if they indeed wanted a high school in an inaccessible and environmentally irresponsible location that, by the way, doesn’t currently have much in the way of bus service.

Let’s be clear here: your proposal — the proposal that you’ll forever be associated with — didn’t fail because the community doesn’t want to pay more taxes. It failed because you rolled out an ill-conceived plan without engaging the community in a meaningful way. So, to that point, I’d advise that you and the rest of the board open your ears a bit wider in the next few months, as it’s become painfully obvious to most anyone paying attention that this community would be honored to dole out the tax dollars to buy a new high school in the right location, upgrade another, and also invest into a neglected grade school, the oldest facility in use, at Dr. Howard.

For all the talk of “accountability” in public education, in this district alone, it’s quite clear to me that you and those behind this proposal have not chosen to take any — and hell, I can’t blame you. You bought the land. That’s your albatross and you’re stuck with it one way or the other. Apologies. It’s nothing personal. But you took a very public job that doesn’t just require you to hold others accountable, it requires you to be accountable.

And I think that’s the takeaway here. If you all were willing to recognize your missteps, if the board at large showed a willingness to truly involve the community at large in creating a plan instead of treating them like an obstacle, I’d be encouraged. I think a lot of people would be.

Instead, you make it clear in your interview that if this happens, it will be nothing more than a token gesture — and maybe that will be enough. Maybe when you put this old thing back on the ballot in April (don’t pretend like it won’t be on there) it will pass.

You will get your high school where you say it needs to be (or is it that you “don’t give a damn where it’s at?” I’m confused, but whatever.)

In any case, if that happens, mark my words — you will have missed a tremendous opportunity to re-create this community in a way unlike any other.

Instead, it seems like you took a day trip to Normal, Ill., looked around, and somehow believed that is what would work best for the future of this community.

You all done fucked up.


Williamson on track

Hey now, folks. Let’s be rational here? Did anyone really think that Kristin Williamson had any shot in hell to pick up that seat in the 103rd? I sure didn’t. I mean, really — look at the map:

But with that said, I think that it’s worth it for me to congratulate Ms. Williamson on a really impressive campaign, on the whole (see below for the other part).

Hard to say how much of her “leftist” views were under construction by her campaign, and how much is truly her belief (remember, she was a delegate for Newt fucking Gingrich) but it takes courage to stand up for things like a woman’s right to choose, legalization of marijuana, unions, etc etc in the face of an increasingly extremist and out of wack GOP political scene.

If she’s looking to continue in politics, locally or otherwise, I’d say she won a lot of fans in the past 18 months. She certainly won a fan in me. Not saying I’d vote for her, because of, well, read the next part of the column — but I think there’s some real promise there.

That said, the mailer with her next to a photoshopped Naomi Jakkobsson was awful:

I mean, nice try and all, but that sort of thing won’t wash in a deeply local election.

Piece of advice?

Don’t do that next time. That wasn’t cool.

Fiscally Socially Morally Wrong

For years now I have listened to some of my best pals who consider themselves “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative” go on and on about this and that and whatever about how these are separate issues.

Ironically, I find fiscal responsibility to be the most social of all issues, since it plays such a monster role in the lives of, well, everyone.

Minimum wage, which was on the ballot as an advisory question — basically worthless but still important as a meter for people to state their case — even at $10.00/hr is still criminally low, in my opinion.

I offer you Chris Rock, and his take on it. If you were wondering, he’s smarter and funnier than you or I will ever be:

Honestly, if you are sitting around and telling yourself that businesses are going to close if they have to pay someone a living wage, those business models suck.

In fact, you should be really ashamed of yourself.

Either you gut up and pay your staff the necessary amount of money to lead a decent life and cover their health insurance, or figure something else out. I really am not interested in hearing any excuses.

Yes, I realize there are parameters and a discussion about the size of the company in question, and how much said company is bringing in per year, but as a baseline statement in a culture magazine about something divisive, I really I want to make something clear:

I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was working my employees into poverty. I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning knowing damn well that if, god-forbid, one of them got the cancer, they wouldn’t be covered.

Can you?

I sincerely hope not.

Which brings us to Billionaire Bruce…

Sorry, but I am really fucking confused here. 66% of the voters want to raise the minimum wage, and yet a pretty significant majority voted for the candidate who won’t pass it? 

I wasn’t much of a Pat Quinn fan with which to begin, but Rauner as Governor is just really disappointing. He will try to do to Illinois what Walker did to Wisconsin. It won’t wash, but still, the very idea is insulting.

Another reminder that politics won’t be worth much until two things happen:

  1. Term Limits
  2. Limited, public funding for campaigns

So, watch this, instead. H/T to Robert Hirschfeld for posting it earlier on Facebook as a way to soften the blow. There’s nothing new under the sun. Not today, and not tomorrow.

Top photo courtesy of WILL / Illinois Public Media.

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