“Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right or that it's too much of a public safety hazard, don't see the danger in the big picture. They're courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like.”
Alan Deshowitz

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Insurance Company suing Peru over poor storm water management

There is a three paragraph article in the Friday edition of the Ottawa Times that brought up more questions than answers. According to the Times, Farmers Insurance filed a lawsuit in the LaSalle County Circuit Court last week. They allege that LaSalle County along with the municipalities of Ottawa, Marseilles, Streator, Grand Ridge, Peru and Lostant “failed to maintain safe, adequate and reasonable storm water management practices…” resulting in hundreds of claims last year.

As a customer of the National Flood Insurance Program, I do not believe Peru is doing enough. Oh sure, we hear about “smoke testing” to detect illegal downspout connections to the sanitary system, and Alderman Waldorf declared “somebody may need a talking to” up on Wenzel Road. At least next year’s budget begins to address the backups near Sunset Drive and 28th Street. However, my gut is telling me that there is something inherently wrong with our system of storm sewers. It seems like every time it rains water pools up, forming deep puddles all over the city. Some of this can be attributed to residents not clearing leaves and garbage from the top of catch basins. But, once this stuff gets inside the catch basin, there is nothing a resident can do to help. I’ve never seen anyone from the city cleaning out the sewers. All I have heard is Aldermen complaining about lawn services blowing grass clippings into the street. Peru likes to purchase big trucks and machines. What ever happened to the Vactor Truck? We just spent over $500K on a new fire truck – which many argue is not needed. I saw an estimate for a sewer sucker for about $300K. Way back in October 2009 there was a handshake agreement with LaSalle to use their Vactor Truck. Was that ever formalized, or was it a flash in the pan like everything else? Is Peru using this tool to clean out the sewers? We instituted a huge sales tax to finance infrastructure improvements. So far, the only thing this pot of money is used for is to augment the motor fuel tax for street resurfacing. I think we need to pay much more attention to what is underneath our streets – especially in the older parts of town.

There is an effort locally to create a unified flood control program. Senator Rezin recently hosted a meeting which included Mayors from most river towns in the region. Peru sent our Fire Chief. As far as I know, no action has been initiated. Ottawa is taking the lead to create an ordinance that “… would prevent developments that would increase flood or drainage hazards to others as well as protect new buildings and major improvements to buildings from flood damage.” The vision is that every city on the river would enact the same ordinance along with modifications to address unique local issues. Is such an ordinance being considered in Peru? If it is done correctly, there will be some tough requirements for development. Any home in a flood plain that undergoes a “substantial improvement” must be elevated to withstand flooding or be torn down. Cities must make residents build up, or tear down, when they file a building permit for any serious work on a structure in a flood plain. Any structure that sustains 50 percent damage in a flood — or a cumulative equivalent over several floods — must also be elevated or demolished. Obviously, this affects existing structures and future development on our river front. But that is not the only flood plain in Peru. Here are some maps. Zone A is considered “high risk.”

The City of Peru, like many other cities along the river, is running a chance of being thrown out of the National Flood Insurance Program if we do not have an effective flood plain management program. If this happens, flood insurance will no longer be available. Federally backed mortgages will not available to purchase property in the flood plain. Federal disaster assistance will not be available is there is a major flood – even if it is outside the designated zones.

We will see if Peru takes the lawsuit seriously. We will see if our council and administration concentrates on the boring issue of storm water runoff. I might be wrong, but something tells me this issue will remain on the backburner and “exciting” things like fireworks, pickle ball, and concerts will distract the voters while our government does nothing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The shot heard around the world

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Saturday, April 19th will be mark the 239th anniversary of the first military engagement of the American Revolution – the battle of Lexington and Concord.

We are all familiar with the fabled ride of Paul Revere to alert the colonial militia that the British where on the way. But our school lessons generally gloss over the reason that Mr. Revere felt it necessary to warn the residents of Lexington and Concord Massachusetts. After all, they were all British citizens and they should not have feared their own army – right? In the following paragraphs, I will refresh your memory and hopefully bring into historical context the reasons that the Second Amendment is necessary.

In 1774, the Massachusetts Assembly convened and was promptly declared illegal by General Thomas Gage, the British Military Governor of Massachusetts. This action forced the representatives to reassemble in secret as the “Provincial Congress.” On October 26, 1774, they adopted a resolution condemning military rule, and criticizing Gage for “unlawfully seizing and retaining large quantities of ammunition in the arsenal at Boston.” The Provincial Congress urged all militia companies to organize and elect their own officers. The militia was directed to “equip and hold themselves in readiness to march at the shortest notice.” The Provincial Congress further declared that everyone who did not already have a gun should “… get one, and start practicing with it diligently.” This “well-regulated militia” was raised to protect the citizens of Massachusetts Bay from the government in Boston. In October of 1774, William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth and Royal Secretary of State for America, urged General Gage to disarm the Citizens of New England. General Gage replied that he would like to do so, but it was impossible without the use of force. Two days after Lord Dartmouth directed the disarmament, King George III and his Parliament blocked the importation of arms and ammunition to America. Read literally, the order merely required a permit to export arms or ammunition from Great Britain to America. In practice, no permits were granted.

In Boston, the Committee of Correspondence learned of the arms embargo and a British mission to seize firearms from Fort William and Mary near Portsmouth. They sent Paul Revere to New Hampshire with the warning that two British ships were headed to Portsmouth with directions to seize firearms, cannons, and gunpowder. On December 14, 1774, 400 New Hampshire patriots preemptively captured all the material at the fort. A New Hampshire newspaper argued that the capture was prudent and proper, reminding readers that the ancient Carthaginians had consented to “deliver up all their Arms to the Romans” and were decimated by the Romans soon after.

This attempt to remove firearms from New Hampshire was viewed as an attempt to abolish the long established common law rights guaranteed to British Citizens. First, by disarming the Americans, the British were attempting to make the practical exercise of the right of personal self-defense much more difficult. Second, and more importantly, the Americans made no distinction between self-defense against a criminal, hostile native people, foreign powers, or against a criminal government. To the Americans, and to their British Whig ancestors, the right of self-defense necessarily implied the right of armed self-defense against tyranny.

On April 18th 1775, 700 British Army soldiers under the command of Lt. Col. Francis Smith where dispatched to seize or destroy arms stored by the Massachusetts Militia at Concord. An effective intelligence gathering network alerted the Americans to these plans weeks before and the arms where moved. On the night before the battle, area militias where alerted – the famous ride of Paul Revere. When the British arrived at Lexington at dawn on April 19th, the first shots were fired. Being outnumbered, the militia fell back. The British continued their march to Concord and were met by 500 militiamen at the North Bridge. As the British retreated back to Lexington, they were met by reinforcements. By that time, even more militiamen had arrived, and even the combined British force was no match. They retreated to Boston under heavy fire having not completed their mission to disarm the American citizens.

General Gage’s disarmament program incited other Americans to take up arms. Benjamin Franklin, returning to Philadelphia after an unsuccessful diplomatic trip to London, “was highly pleased to find the Americans arming and preparing for the worst events.”

As the war went on, the British knew that without gun control, they could never control North America. In 1777, with a British victory likely, William Knox proposed a plan for “What Is Fit to Be Done with America” to prevent future rebellions, “… Militia Laws should be repealed and none suffered to be re-enacted, and the Arms of all the People should be taken away, . . . nor should any Foundry or manufactory of Arms, Gunpowder, or Warlike Stores, be ever suffered in America, nor should any Gunpowder, Lead, Arms or Ordnance be imported into it without License . . . .”

To the Americans that founded our country, the theory that the Second Amendment is a “collective right” and not an “individual right” would have seemed incomprehensible. These Americans owned guns individually, in their homes. They also owned guns collectively, in their town armories and powder houses. Similarly, they would scoff at the argument that the Second Amendment simply assured the existing government the right to arm police and the military. They would not allow the British to confiscate their individual arms, nor their collective arms; and when the British tried to do both, the Revolution began. The Americans used their individual arms and their collective arms to fight against the confiscation of any arms. Americans fought to provide themselves a government that would never perpetrate the abuses that had provoked the Revolution.

What are modern versions of such abuses? The reaction against the 1774 import ban for firearms and gunpowder (via a discretionary licensing law) indicates that import restrictions are unconstitutional if their purpose is to make it more difficult for Americans to possess guns. The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits the import of any firearm that is not deemed “sporting” by federal regulators. That import ban seems difficult to justify based on the historical record of 1774-76. The most important lesson for today is about militaristic or violent search and seizure in the name of disarmament. As Hurricane Katrina bore down on Louisiana, police officers in St. Charles Parish confiscated firearms from people who were attempting to flee. After the hurricane passed, officers went house to house in New Orleans, breaking into homes and confiscating firearms at gunpoint. The firearms seizures were flagrantly illegal under existing state law. A federal district judge soon issued an order against the confiscation, ordering the return of the seized guns. When there is genuine evidence of potential danger—such as evidence that guns are in the possession of a violent gang—then the Fourth Amendment allows violent tactics to carry out a search. Conversely, if there is no real evidence of danger—for example, if it is believed that a person who has no record of violence owns guns but has not registered them properly—then militaristically violent enforcement of a search warrant should never be allowed.

“A Well Regulated Militia…” So, what does that mean anyway? At the time, the “militia” referred to all able bodied men. The “well regulated” part meant that they were similarly armed and equipped. Their arms needed to be similar to the professional army.

“… being necessary to the security of a free State…” This reference is generally agreed to mean that the militia, consisting of all citizens, is necessary to augment the professional army AND to oppose a tyrannical government. To do this, the citizens must be armed as they are ultimately responsible to maintain freedom… the final check in our system of checks and balances.

“… The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is simple. “Keep” = own and possess in your home. “Bear” = carry and use outside your home.

I hope this bit of history helps to put into context the current arguments concerning weapons control.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tax and Spend is alive and well in Peru

A recent news revealed that Peru Treasurer Gary Hylla is concerned that revenues are not growing as fast as expenditures. He wants additional tax increases to make up for the short fall. He blamed this squarely on the “fact” that our Golden Goose, Peru retail sales taxes, have not recovered from the recession. Hmmmmmm….. let’s see. The official “Great Recession” started in December 2007 and ended in June of 2009 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). This chart show the annual sales tax collections for Peru. As you can see, the highest sales tax revenues collected by Peru happened during the recession. Although it sounds odd, this can be explained by the three month lag from collecting the tax to distributing it to the City. At the time, we were also in a bubble fueled by easy credit which resulted in heavy consumer spending. That being said, Peru’s sales tax receipts returned to and have remained at normal levels since 2010. If you count the HMR (Home Rule) sales tax, we are collecting more money than we ever have. Sales tax revenues are not the problem.

Peru’s budget has increased every year since Mayor Harl took over. I for one have not seen any increase in services to account for these budget increases. What I do see is questionable spending. City salaries have increased despite the job market being tight. A tight job market usually results in flat salaries. I don’t know how many vehicles the City has purchased in the last five years. We have contracted with a lobbyist to plead Peru’s case in Springfield when we have a full time Mayor, eight council members, and an economic development director that can do the same thing. We sponsor questionable charity concerts at our airport resulting in increased costs to the City. We spend thousands of dollars on temporary politically motivated signage at street repair sights. How many individual cell phone contracts does the City have? How much money do we spend on contracted IT services that could be handled by one $35K per year employee? How much money do we waste by purchasing gasoline and diesel at retail stations instead of purchasing in bulk? How much overtime is handed out that is not actually worked? How much do we spend on insurance consultants that only results in increased insurance costs?

Peru does not have a revenue problem. Peru has a spending problem.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bracket Racket

The annual college basketball March Madness is underway with the “Elite Eight” games this weekend. What any of this has to do with education is beyond me and I think it is high time that the publically funded education industry separate itself from the big business of the NCAA. Face it folks, this is not about education. It is about big salaries for the elite with some clever marketing to make it sound like a charitable program. Let’s take a look at some of these salaries.

The private Duke University base basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski just over $7.2 million per year. Publically funded Kansas pays $4.75 million to Bill Self. Closer to home, Wisconsin dishes out $2.1 million per year to Bo Ryan and good old Illinois pays John Groce almost $1.5 million. These are just the coaches. Every team has hundreds of people on the support staff. Everything from marketing and sales to accountants. All for a business that sells itself as quasi-charitable.

Now I have nothing against business. The annual Bracket Racket is responsible for billions of dollars in economic activity. What I’m against is hiding these events behind a false fa├žade. College Sports is business – period. And it needs to be treated, and taxed, as such. If our university system wants to put their name on a team, so be it. But the business should be separated from the school and the players – well, they are employees. Let’s stop candy coating it. It’s not about scholarships. College sports stopped “building character” fifty years ago. And most of the players are not capable of getting a degree while maintaining the sports work schedule. When I heard about the attempt to unionize the Northwestern football players, I thought WTF! But the more I thought about it, their argument makes sense to me. They work. They should be paid. I don’t agree with the union part, but that’s their problem. The point is – the school is exploiting their employees. Employees that deserve compensation beyond the promise of a degree that they probably won’t get and could very well be meaningless in the work force.

Speaking of worthless degrees… Is it just me, or is our Education Industry broken. In cahoots with the Financial Industry and the Government, the Education Industry is geared toward every child obtaining a bachelor's degree or higher. In the words of Mike Rowe, “We are lending money that we don’t have to kids that can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that don’t exist.” To put it another way, who do you call when your furnace breaks in the middle of winter – a history major or a certified HVAC Technician? The question is simplistic, but it does illustrate a point. In our own little bit of the economy, the Illinois Valley has a shortage of skilled tradesmen – Tradesmen that can make more money than an office manager with a college degree. Why? In part, I think our schools are at fault. The party line is that everyone needs to go to college. The fact of the matter is, the economy only needs a finite number of “thinkers” and a virtually unlimited number of “doers”. I’m not saying that the “doers” are dumb. Far from it, it takes a great degree of skill and knowledge to run a modern CNC Machine or repair a modern diesel engine. What I am saying is this type of training needs to start early. For the most part, our High Schools fall short on this type of training. The problem in Ottawa comes to mind – they just axed the entire building trades program. LP does better with the area career center. However, what is needed is an education system based on the German model. Basically, they have two types of High School. Their “Gymnasium” is similar to our traditional High School and prepares students for a university education. They also have “Realschule” and “Berufsschule” which concentrate on work skills and the trades. “Berufsschule” is controlled by the trade unions and completion fulfills many apprentice requirements. “Realschule” and “Berufsschule” graduates are generally qualified to enter the work force without additional training.

It is my belief that our schools need to be in tune with our economy. As it stands, the goal of our High Schools is to pass students on to the university system. They are much more concerned with their own economic wellbeing – not the needs of the country or the students.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Example of Chicagocrat Priorities

Finally, a bill that makes sense. It would make economic education for elected officials mandatory. Personally, I think anyone running for office should be required to complete the coursework before they turn in their petition. The bill is currently being held up in the Senate Executive Committee – the majority party (Chicagocrat) needs to release it before it can be debated on the floor.

Amends the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act. Requires each public official who, on or after the effective date of the amendatory Act, is elected or appointed to office to complete an 8-hour continuing education program established by Econ Illinois-Illinois Council on Economic Education and approved by the Illinois Community College Board within 2 years after the date he or she is first elected or appointed and every 2 years thereafter for as long as he or she remains a public official. Authorizes a fine to be levied against a public official who fails to timely complete the continuing education requirement. Prohibits a public official from being elected or appointed to public office if he or she fails to timely pay the fine and complete the required continuing education.

Meanwhile, the same Chicagocrats are allowing a floor debate on a bill that would release murderers serving a life sentence from prison. The bill was penned by state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago. It would allow convicts who are over 50 years old that served more than 25 years to be released from prison early. Murderers like Chester Weger.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Another Chicagoland Democrat under investigation

“Federal officials searched state Rep. Keith Farnham’s Elgin legislative office and home Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation…”

The sad thing is, he faces no opposition in Tuesday’s primary and no Republican has filed to run in his district. The former painter lives in an exclusive gated complex yet he lists no business interests on his disclosure statement.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cassidy introduces gun registration bill in Illinois Legislature

Anti-civil rights Representative Kelly M. Cassidy (D) – 14th District (Chicago) has introduced a bill in Springfield that would require guns and ammunition to be registered with the state. This bill will most likely die in committee. However, it illustrates the point that our rights are constantly under attack. Firearms confiscation is not out of the question for some of these “representatives” and could easily happen in Illinois – despite the recent passage of a firearms concealed carry act. Representatives, mostly from the Chicago area, pander to emotional voters besieged by crime. Instead of taking a hard look at economic and social programs, they blame material objects for the crime. After all, it is easier than acknowledging the fact that the system incentivizes absent fathers and single mothers to stay apart instead of working together to better themselves and their children. Granted, the causes of violent crime are more complex than that. But disarming honest citizens will not prevent violence.

Here is the synopsis of House Bill 4715 – “Firearms Registration Act”

Creates the Firearms Registration Act. Provides that every person in the State must register each firearm he or she owns or possesses in accordance with the Act. Provides that a person shall not purchase or possess ammunition within this State without having first obtained a registration certificate identifying a firearm that is suitable for use with that ammunition, or a receipt demonstrating that the person has applied to register a suitable firearm under the Act and that the application is pending. Provides that the Department of State Police must complete a background check of any person who applies for: (1) a registration certificate for a firearm that was lawfully owned or possessed on the effective date of the Act, was brought into the State by a new resident, or was acquired by operation of law upon the death of the former owner; or (2) a renewal of a registration certificate unless, within 12 months of the date the renewal application is submitted, the applicant passed a background check conducted by the Department in connection with the applicant's acquisition of another firearm. Provides exceptions. Amends the Criminal Code of 2012. Provides that it is a Class 2 felony to sell or transfer ownership of a firearm to another person without complying with the registration requirement of the Firearms Registration Act.

The bill also requires an annual registration fee for each firearm you own. This fee, up to $50 per year per firearm, is essentially a tax on a constitutional right. The intent is clear. Cassidy and her supporters, people like billionaire elitist Michael Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor and Illinois Power Broker Rahm Emanuel, want to establish hurdles to gun ownership. They want to set these hurdles so high that most people will not be able to afford to exercise their right. What would you say if the government taxed you for reading newspapers and electronic media? What would you say if they register your daily intake of news?

What can you do? Contact Senator Sue Rezin and Representative Frank Mautino and ask them to oppose House Bill 4715. Better yet, join the Illinois State Rifle Association (see the link on the left sidebar).

Senator Sue Rezin
103 Fifth Street
Peru, IL 61354

Representative Frank Mautino
221 E. St. Paul Street
Spring Valley, IL 61362

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bruce Rauner – Republicans Beware!

Early voting for the Illinois primary election started this week. The actual election is March 18th. Unless you live in a vacuum, you know that we will be selecting our next governor this year. Because of his dismal lack of leadership, tax and spend policies, and anti-second amendment beliefs, there is a better than average chance that Pat Quinn could be shown the door come November. The Republicans have fielded quite a motley crew of individuals that think they can take on the Chicago Democrat Machine. To me, the fact that Pat Quinn is Governor of Illinois is a mathematical abomination. There are 102 counties in Illinois – in 2010, Pat Quinn won a majority of the vote in three – yes; three counties decided the election. They alone had enough votes to put him in the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield; sorry, Governor’s Office in Chicago. This map illustrates the strangle hold that Chicago has on Illinois. It is not unusual – New York City holds New York State captive in the same way – the same New York City that voted for the political schizophrenic Michal Bloomberg. Is Illinois primed and ready to go the way of New York?

Enter Bruce Rauner, a political newbie that happens to have more money than Davey Crocket. Because of his personal wealth, he is able to plaster his ads on every TV in the state. He plays a good populace game with his “throw the bums out after eight years,” $18 dollar watch, and Carhartt Jacket marketing image. He is running on the Republican ticket, but he has questionable conservative credentials. He has even voted in a number of Democrat primaries. He has been quoted as saying fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg did a “phenomenal” and “terrific” job as Mayor of New York. The similarities between them are immense. They are all over the map politically. They each have been Democrat, Republican and Independent. They both embrace views that many consider liberal. They are both so rich that they are out of touch with the everyday man. Closer to home, Mr. Rauner is also a personal friend of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In the boardrooms and backrooms of Chicago, they both share many of the same friends and donors. In the world of Chicago Politics, the old idiom that “the common interest of which we speak is neither red, nor blue, but green” has never been more prevalent than in the Rauner Campaign. Why is his association with these two individuals relevant? Because, I believe nothing says more about a person’s views than the company he keeps.

Mr. Rauner is marketing himself as a political outsider determined to shake up Springfield. Well, I don’t think it is Springfield that needs the shaking. It’s the pay to play Chicago political system – of which Mr. Rauner is a seasoned veteran and willing participant. In his business dealings, he paid an associate of convicted former governor Blagojevich, Stuart Levine, about a $1 million to get a $50 million in Teachers pension investment business. He paid the Democrat Governor of Pennsylvania $300,000 in campaign cash to nearly double his pension investment business there, making at least $4 million more in fees and commissions. If elected Governor, will Mr. Rauner shut down the Chicago Pay to play system that will continue to benefit his billionaire friends? I don’t think so.

Mr. Rauner also has a negative view of gun rights. He has tried to appeal to “down state” gun owners by publishing photographs of himself hunting. However, his campaign has been writing checks to a Chicago based anti-gun group called “Gun Violence Prevention PAC.” This group supports anti second amendment political candidates. According to the Bloomington Pantograph, Mr. Rauner is not opposed to a state wide ban on modern rifles with 30 round capacity magazines. The Illinois Gun Owners Lobby marched on Springfield last Wednesday. I attended that rally, as did every Republican candidate for Governor with the exception of Bruce Rauner. All of the candidates hold slightly differing views and they showed up to explain them. It is obvious that Mr. Rauner does not consider the second amendment worth his time.

His support of former Mayor Bloomberg shows that he will not support gun rights if he is elected Governor. (Bloomgerg is the founder of Mayors Against Guns which is sponsoring bills in every state to curtail gun rights.) Additionally, his billionaire friend is actively supporting the likes of Harry Reid and Dick Durbin in order to maintain Democrat control of the U.S. Senate. What would happen if Governor Rauner needed to appoint a Senator?

I believe Mr. Rauner is not a good Republican Candidate for Governor. He might make a good Democrat candidate, but not Republican. I will not vote to nominate him. If he is nominated, I will not vote for him in the general election. Illinois Republicans deserve better than Bruce Rauner.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Social Media Policy or Political Muzzle – Peru Policy in search of a Problem

“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.” – First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

The City of Peru is proposing a change to their employee manual to restrict how their employees use the Internet. The new section opens rather blandly with; “This policy provides guidance for employees use of social media, which should be broadly understood for purposes of this policy to include blogs, wikis, microblogs, message boards, chatrooms, electronic newsletters, online forums, social networking sites and other sites and services that permit users to share information with others in a contemporaneous manner. The City uses social media to increase awareness of and accessibility to its programs, resources and services in order to serve its mission.” After a meandering definition of social media the following statement is included; “The following principles apply to both professional use of social media on behalf of the City of Peru and personal use of social media when referencing the City of Peru.”

The policy continues by listing a series of activities that the City is going to prohibit its employees from participating in. These activities include “… comments with any kind of negative, mocking, condescending, threatening, defamatory, disparaging, or discriminatory connotation should be made about any entity or member of the public, including but not limited to, elected officials, fellow employees, volunteers, patrons, vendors, suppliers or organization affiliated or doing business with the City.” I had to read this a couple of times. Notice how the policy statement is crafted to elicit an emotional response from the reader. After all, who would be against restricting racist comments on the City web site? But, this policy is not restricted to the official sites. Upon closer review, the policy states that employees cannot criticize elected officials - ever.

I have read the entire policy that was posted on the City web site. I am finding it difficult to figure out why such a detailed policy is needed. I think many of the prohibitions are covered by State and Federal law. I am concerned that the policy is actually a veiled attempt to prevent employees from exercising their free speech rights. There is language throughout the policy that seems to make it a violation to hold any opinion contrary to the views held by the political administration.

Unfortunately, restrictions like this are becoming more and more common. The courts are increasingly allowing a muzzle to be placed on government employees because they receive a salary for their services. The courts are tending to consider these restrictions valid even when the employee is off the clock. However, despite recent rulings, there is no prohibition against government employees writing about political matters. In 1968, the Supreme Court decided a public employee First Amendment case, Pickering v. Board of Education. It ruled that school officials had violated the First Amendment rights of teacher Marvin Pickering when they fired him for writing a letter to his local paper criticizing the allocation of money between academics and athletics. What would be the court’s view if Mr. Pickering posted his view on a blog? I think there would be no difference. This is why we, as citizens, need to oppose any attempt by a political administration to restrict free speech. The proposed City of Peru policy is just that – a restriction of free speech. Despite the references to things that are covered by law, it has as its fundamental goal the silence of City employees.

If the City of Peru desires an actual policy concerning the use of social media, it could be summed up in a few sentences.

“Only specifically designated employees may post information on the City’s web site and social media sites. Employees are not allowed to use City Information Technology Assets for personal use. These assets include personal computers, tablets, cell phones, or any other communications device issued to the employee to enable official communication. Connecting privately owned computers and other communication devices, including privately owned smart phones, to City networks is strictly prohibited. Employees are allowed to send and receive brief messages via SMS (Text), voice, and email on their personally owned devices as long as it does not interfere with official duties and these devices are not connected to City owned or leased networks. An employee’s private use of the Internet should be in accordance with State and Federal law. Employees should never use their official position to add credibility to any privately held views. Consequently, employees should never identify themselves as a City employee in any on-line postings. This does not including a brief employment description often included in the biography section of websites such as LinkedIn.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

IVCC – Illinois Valley residents are too lazy for modern manufacturing

Imagine, if you will, a large manufacturer looking for a place to locate a new factory. One thing this potential employer would do is check out the available work force at the locations under consideration. What do you think would happen if they saw Mr. Caufield’s article in Saturday’s News Tribune? If you did not read the article, it essentially says that the “Certified Production Technician” course at IVCC is not drawing many takers – and it sounds like IVCC is blaming this on a lazy workforce. 

From the article:
“I don’t know if people are hungry for jobs,” said IVCC associate vice president of academic affairs Sue Isermann. “It’s not that the jobs aren’t out there. We’re talking to employers who need workers. Maybe it’s the local unemployed and underemployed who don’t want to take the challenge.”

Well – there may be other issues at play here; one of them being a decreasing number of manufacturing jobs in our area. Little is done locally to attract new employers and government regulations make it difficult for manufacturers. In Peru, Mr. Harl is an advocate of using Electrical Rate adjustments to compensate for overspending from the General Fund instead of using low industrial electric rates to attract more modern manufacturing. The endless hearings required to get the necessary permits for mining are ridiculous. Finally, the overall perception of industrial work in our community is low. Coming from the younger generations, this perception is understandable; they have been brainwashed by the education system into thinking that the only path to success is a university degree – or two. But, even the retired generations tend to regard manufacturing as low class. That is my perception anyway.

For IVCC’s program to be successful, I think two things are needed. The first being local government support to attract manufacturing. The second thing is good old fashioned marketing. I listen to local radio and I read local newspapers. I did not know IVCC had this program. When I went to the IVCC web page to read about it, I was lucky to find it. I work for a manufacturer. I never heard about this at work. I don’t think it is the laziness of the work force that is causing low enrollment. I think it is the laziness of the college and our local governments.