Speaking of bad ideas, a recent Word on the Street article says that local officials are still pursuing the foolhardy idea of getting a commuter train to Bloomington instead of a direct Amtrak route to Chicago. Rather than re-explain in different words why this is such a bad idea, I’m just going to reprint an earlier article I wrote on the subject (original post here):
The old Peoria-to-Bloomington commuter train idea is apparently still on the table over at the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. Let’s go over this again:
Nobody wants to take a train to Bloomington. The only reason anyone would ever take a train to Bloomington is to continue on to Chicago or St. Louis. And if their ultimate destination is elsewhere, they’ll just drive to Bloomington to catch the train. Bloomington has free parking and virtually no traffic congestion. So a Peoria-Bloomington route is doomed to fail.
Peoria to Chicago, on the other hand, would be a heavily-traveled route. Since Chicago would be the ultimate destination for most train trips anyway (they’re a major Amtrak hub, unlike St. Louis), it makes sense to have a direct route from Peoria. Those in the tri-county area could avoid the commute to Bloomington to catch the train, as well as avoiding the traffic congestion and high cost of parking in Chicago.
Look at it this way: imagine we’re talking about air service instead of train service. Can you imagine anyone seriously suggesting that the best we could do is to offer commuter flights to Bloomington for those who wanted to continue on to Chicago (or any other destination)? With a layover? Where you have to switch planes and transfer your own bags? Would anyone buy a ticket on that flight? No. And they won’t take a commuter train to Bloomington, either.
We need our legislators to start fighting for Peoria transportation options instead of fighting against them. You would think we’d be in a great position having a home-town boy as Secretary of Transportation, and yet LaHood is the biggest obstacle. He’s never supported train service for Peoria. In fact, he’s been downright ornery opposing it. Why? Does Caterpillar not want train service to Peoria or something? And what about Durbin? He supported the Quad Cities in their effort to get passenger rail service–why isn’t he doing more to push Peoria’s effort? Where are our advocates?
The Greater Peoria Area is the third-largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the state. There’s demand for passenger rail service here. Instead of the Illinois Department of Transportation giving away millions of dollars to build new and unsustainable roads through cornfields (Orange Prairie Road extension, Pioneer Parkway extension), why don’t they put that money toward a responsible and sustainable mode of transportation that would help the whole region: direct passenger rail service from Peoria to Chicago?
If I told you about a weight-loss program that involves emptying your stomach contents into the toilet before the food can be digested, what would you think I was describing? Bulimia, right?
Wrong. I would be describing the AspireAssist™ Aspiration Therapy System:
With Aspiration Therapy, patients “aspirate” (drain) a portion of their stomach contents into the toilet after each meal through an endoscopically-implanted tube, reducing the number of calories absorbed by the body. The tube is implanted in the stomach, and leads to a small, low-profile port at the surface of the skin. Aspiration performed about twenty minutes after a meal will remove about a third of the calories consumed.
Aspiration Therapy System
They call this “minimally invasive,” which is funny in and of itself. But the best line in their promotional material is this: “The AspireAssist is used in conjunction with a lifestyle modification program, and requires careful and comprehensive medical monitoring.” This is equivalent to those 1970s commercials for Sugar Smacks cereal that included the obligatory tagline, “Part of this nutritious breakfast!” Yeah, right.
A “lifestyle modification program” is what used to be called, simply, a “diet.” It’s hard to see how these two things go together: aspirating your stomach (removing food after you’ve eaten it) and dieting (not eating the food in the first place). It seems to me that only one is really necessary for effective weight loss, and it ain’t aspiration.
This “therapy” is nothing more than an enabling device for overeating. It’s high-tech bulimia masquerading as medical science. They address this objection in their material. Here’s one of their rebuttal statements: “One of the primary dangers of bulimia is the damage to the teeth and esophagus due to stomach acid; Aspiration Therapy poses no such risk.” Wait, damage to the teeth is one of the primary dangers of bulimia?
Judge Brandt ruled in favor of Gary Sandberg today, ordering that Sandberg be placed on the primary ballot for the first district City Council race. You can read the ruling here (PDF file):
I recently read a paper by Rolf Dobelli (a Swiss novelist and the author of “The Art of Thinking Clearly“) called “Avoid News: Towards a Healthy News Diet.” Click on the title to read it (PDF format).
Don’t let the title fool you into thinking he’s advocating ignorance. He’s not. On the contrary, the core of his argument is that “news” does not make us better informed, and in fact keeps us from being well-informed citizens. He argues against the short, superficial factoids that get hurled at us through radio, TV, and newspapers, and instead advocates reading books and in-depth magazine or journal articles that provide context and deeper understanding.
Take a little time to read and contemplate his arguments. What do you think of them?
Cheers to all this New Year’s Eve. May 2013 bring greater health and happiness to you, and may you succeed in fulfilling all your New Year’s resolutions.
My wife and I took in the screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Les Miserables” this afternoon. My recommendation: see the stage version, and skip the movie.
It’s not that this musical couldn’t have made a successful transition from stage to screen. There were two major problems with this particular movie: casting and directing.
There were two major characters that were poorly cast: Fantine (played by Anne Hathaway) and Javert (played by Russell Crowe). Hathaway’s melodramatic performance was way, way over the top. Broadway performers know how to act and sing at the same time. Hathaway appears able to do only one or the other at any given moment. Crowe is less objectionable. His characterization of Javert was quite good; however, his voice is simply not strong enough to carry Javert’s singing part. Crowe can carry a tune, but he can’t sell the song. And, seeing as how this is more or less an opera, that’s no small deficiency when you’re the antagonist for close to three hours.
But the biggest problem with the screen adaptation was the directing, which consisted of primarily two shots: closeups and extreme closeups. (I’m exaggerating, of course, but only a little.) Watching Marius sing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” or Fantine sing “I Dreamed a Dream,” while on a static closeup for nearly the entire song did not display a great deal of either acting or directing skills. If this directing choice was meant to provoke pity and sadness, it only succeeded for the first forty-five seconds or so. After that, the viewers become anxious and jittery as their eyes begin searching for something — anything &mdash else to look at: the out-of-focus background, the borders of the screen, the exit sign, whatever can be found. The poignancy of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” would be captured better by seeing Marius alone in the room with the abandoned furniture for at least part of the time he sings about it. But alas, the set designer’s work is barely seen, and the actor is called upon to convey the full emotion of the moment solely through his face and voice.
Not that the film was all bad. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), Enjorlas (Aaron Tviet), Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), and of course the Bishop (Colm Wilkinson, who played the original Jean Valjean on stage) were high points as they all turned in exceptional performances, both in acting and singing. The Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) were entertaining, and Marius and Eponine (Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks) performed well. The set design was excellent.
If you’re a die-hard “Les Miserables” fan, you’ll want to see this movie regardless of the reviews. But if you’ve never seen the musical, don’t judge it based on the movie. The stage version is far superior.
At-large councilman Gary Sandberg, who was removed from the first district ballot last week by the Peoria Election Commission, has petitioned the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court for a review of that ruling.
Sandberg argues in his petition that a requirement that “aldermen” reside in their “ward” for one year prior to the next election does not apply to councilmen in the Council/Manager form of government.
You can read the petition here (PDF format):
Petition for Judicial Review
The nearest theater to Peoria that is showing the movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” in the new “high frame rate” (HFR), or 48-frames-per-second format, is the Rave theater in Davenport, Iowa. I hear tell the HFR version may make it to Peoria eventually, but until then, it’s worth the drive up to Davenport to see for yourself. (Note: if you use Google to look up showtimes, it says that Carmike, formerly Rave, at Grand Prairie has the HFR version, but they don’t.)
The crispness of the images and the smoothness of the motion shots is incredible. It took a little while to get used to it, but not long. I understand the criticism this format has received, but I’m not certain it’s all due to the format. There were some scenes that had a definite look of a BBC videotaped series to them, but I’m not so sure they wouldn’t look that way even at 24 fps.
At times, the limitations of the special effects were exposed (i.e., they looked fake); especially noticeable was when Radagast is racing around on his sled. Also, some normal movement, such as walking, in the early scenes looked like they were a little sped up. Not sure if this got better as the movie went on, or if my eyes just got used to it after a while. Other reviews online have made the same observation.
But other than that, everything looked (strange as it may sound to say about a fantasy-genre film) realistic. Perhaps even hyper-realistic. It certainly is a noticeable advance in film.
As for the movie itself, it’s a good prequel to The Lord of the Rings, but the pacing is slow. There really was no reason to take this little book and turn it into three two-and-a-half-hour films. The result is the inclusion of too much footage that should have been left on the cutting-room floor. Many scenes are needlessly drawn out, especially the whole opening, which does nothing more than set up The Hobbit to be one big flashback.
The big teaser of the film is the dragon Smaug, which we never get to see completely. We see its effects, its tail, its shadow, and ultimately, its eye. But we never see the whole dragon. They’re saving that for the next film, no doubt.
Once the action gets going, however, the movie sucks you in just like the original LOTR, and it’s fun to visit Middle Earth once more as the wizard Gandalf and the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins help the dwarves reclaim their home from the dragon Smaug, and encounter more adventures than they expected along the way.
Just minutes before Peoria’s Board of Election Commissioners voted to remove Gary Sandberg’s name from the first district ballot, Sandberg told the Peoria Chronicle, “If I am disallowed I will appeal to circuit court.”
Published reports so far have not detailed which part of the municipal code was cited by the Election Commission in making their decision. The Journal Star, for instance, just says, “Commissioners cited municipal code that states a candidate has to live for one year in the district in which he or she runs for office.”
Updates will be made to this post as more information becomes available.
UPDATE (12/18/2012): Despite having asked for a copy of the ruling a week ago, the Election Commission would not release it. However, I was able to get a copy from Sandberg. Incidentally, Sandberg asked for it to be emailed to him and signed a document to that effect with the Election Commission, but they wouldn’t email him a copy. They sent it regular mail. It’s unclear why the commission chose this tactic of deliberate and unnecessary delays in releasing public information that was already announced at a public meeting a week ago. I guess just to show us peasants who the lord of the fiefdom is.
The analysis I provided in a previous post was basically correct, except that I missed one thing. You’ll recall that I was unsure how 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(c) would be interpreted, since it used the terminology of “alderman” and “ward,” and our form of government is council-manager which uses the terms “councilman” and “district.” The answer is found in 65 ILCS 5/1-1-2(8), which states: “Wherever the words ‘city council,’ ‘aldermen,’ ‘commissioners,’ or ‘mayor’ occur, the provisions containing these words shall apply to the board of trustees, trustees, and president, respectively of villages and incorporated towns and councilmen in cities, so far as those provisions are applicable to them.” Based on that, the election commission determined that the one-year residency requirement for aldermen also applies to councilmen.
So far, Sandberg has not filed an appeal to the Circuit Court.
First district city council candidates Denise Moore and Randall Emert have filed formal objections to Gary Sandberg’s bid to run for the same office. They both claim that Sandberg does not meet the residency requirement per the state’s election code.
Emert’s challenge is simple: he says, “It is my understanding, that under law, a person has to have lived for one year at an address within the district a person files to run for in an election, such as City Council District seat. I maintain that Mr. Sandberg has not lived at his current address since November 26th, 2011.”
Illinois’ election code is confusing and contradictory — some would say purposefully so. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to do a “plain reading” of the code and draw any solid conclusions. Emert does not cite any specific Illinois statute, but merely repeats what has been published in the Journal Star: “According to an Illinois State Board of Elections representative, it appears Sandberg has to live at what he declares to be his home address for at least one year prior to the filing deadline, which this year was Nov. 26.” As with Emert’s challenge, the newspaper also does not cite any specific portion of the election code to back up this assertion, nor do they publish the name of the ISBE representative who provided this information.
Given that, let’s see if we can find what the residency requirement is. If you look at the 2013 Candidates Guide published by the Illinois State Board of Elections, you will see that there are four types of municipal governments covered on pages 21-30: Commission Form, Mayor-Alderman, President-Trustee, and Council-Manager. Peoria’s form of government is Council-Manager, so page 28 covers our elections.
Note first that it says: “The council-manager form is the only form of municipal government covered (for election of officers) by Article 5 of 65 ILCS/5.” So here we have a definite citation from the State’s municipal code. If you take the time to read through this code, you will find this section:
65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.3
Sec. 5-2-18.3. Selection of part of council at large and part from districts. If a city elects to choose part of the city council at large and part from districts, then the following provisions of this Section shall be applicable. The term of office of the mayor and councilman shall be 4 years, and the election of the mayor and councilmen shall be every 4 years after the first election. In addition to the requirements of the general election law, the ballots shall be in the form set out in Section 5-2-18.4 and 5-2-18.5. Sections 4-3-5 through 4-3-18, insofar as they may be applicable, shall govern the election of a mayor and councilmen under this Section.
(Source: P.A. 87-1119.)
Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that the sections cited do not require a councilman to live in a district for a year before he can run for office in that district. It does, however, require that he live within the district. 65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.7¶8 states, “One councilman who is an actual resident of the district, shall be elected from each district. Only the electors of a district shall elect a councilman from that district.” Getting back to the Candidates Guide, it has a section on page 28 that specifically states what the length of residency requirement is:
One-year residency in the municipality preceding the election. If a person (i) is a resident of a municipality immediately prior to the active duty military service of that person or that person’s spouse, (ii) resides anywhere outside of the municipality during that active duty military service, and (iii) immediately upon completion of that active duty military service is again a resident of the municipality, then the time during which the person resides outside the municipality during the active duty military service is deemed to be time during which the person is a resident of the municipality for purposes of determining the residency requirement.
[65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5]
As you can see, there is no requirement stated here that one has to live in the district for a year before becoming eligible to run for district councilman. But we have another municipal code citation: 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5. I won’t quote the whole thing, but I will quote section (c) so we can see if this applies:
A person is not eligible for the office of alderman of a ward unless that person has resided in the ward that the person seeks to represent, and a person is not eligible for the office of trustee of a district unless that person has resided in the municipality, at least one year next preceding the election or appointment, except as provided in Section 3.1-20-25, subsection (b) of Section 3.1-25-75, Section 5-2-2, or Section 5-2-11.
Now here’s where it will be interesting to see how the board of elections interprets this. It would appear to me that this section does not apply to our form of government. It applies to “the office of alderman,” but that is not the same as the office of city councilman. Considering the Candidates Guide makes a clear distinction between the Mayor-Alderman and Council-Manager forms of government, it would appear that this provision of the code only applies to the Mayor-Alderman form of government. Section (a), on the other hand, applies to all municipal offices:
A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment, except as provided in Section 3.1-20-25, subsection (b) of Section 3.1-25-75, Section 5-2-2, or Section 5-2-11.
Notice the difference in wording. It doesn’t say “alderman” here, but “elective municipal office,” which would apply to all forms of government. If section (c) had been intended to apply to all forms of government, it is reasonable to assume they would have used the same wording. Since they didn’t, it appears they intended to make a distinction in section (c) that is different from section (a). Section (a), just as the Candidates Guide indicated, says that candidates for elective office must have lived in the municipality for a year, but does not specify that they have to have resided within the district for a year.
Moore’s challenge to Sandberg’s residency is more sophisticated. She writes:
I intend to show that Mr. Sandberg could not and does not reside at the 1213 SW Adams street address listed on his Statement of Candidacy petition, and that his eligibility based upon his residency is not compliant with Illinois State Statute [65 ILCS 5/3.1-10.5]
The objections are grounded by information found in the State of Illinois Candidate’s Guide for 2013, Council-Manager Form of Government-Municipal; (page 28)
- Office: Mayor, Councilmen-at-large (and part from districts in some cities), Clerk, Treasurer.
- Residency: “One-year residency in the municipality preceding the election”.
With the acknowledgment of the wording “and part from districts in some cities”…I contend that ‘municipality’ in this case refers to the district in question and not the entire city as would be the case for an At-large race.
There’s a problem with her logic here. The phrase, “and part from districts in some cities,” is a reference to 65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.3, which was quoted above. The purpose of that phrase is not to restrict the meaning of “municipality,” as Moore contends, but rather to acknowledge that some cities with a Council-Manager form of government elect all their councilmen at large, and some cities elect part of their council at-large and part from districts.
These objections are based upon my belief that:
- Mr. Sandberg does not reside at the address listed on the petition filed for office of 1st District City Council.
- Mr. Sandberg has not met the length of residency requirement outlined in state statute.
- Mr. Sandberg’s Bigelow address was not impacted by the recent Redistricting.
We have already dealt with objection 2, as this is the same as Emert’s objection. Objection 3 is moot if there is no district residency requirement. So the only new objection here is Objection 1. Moore says:
Mr. Sandberg’s statement in the November 28, 2012 issue of the Peoria Journal Star. Mr. Sandberg states the property listed on his petition is “intended to be home for his son when he’s in the United States”. This would make Mr. Sandberg a temporary visitor rather than a permanent occupant. In addition, the property, like those adjacent to it, appear to have been vacant for a significant period of time and unable to support a tenant.
We’ve learned quite a bit about what it takes to establish residency here in Illinois, thanks to Rahm Emmanuel’s mayoral run in Chicago not that long ago. There’s also another recent case (2005) that deals with residency, People v. Baumgartner. This appellate court ruling stated:
[B]ecause eligibility to run for office is closely linked to the ability to vote within a particular jurisdiction, we will use the definition of “residence” as used within the Election Code for voter registration. [...]
Two elements are necessary to create a “residence” for voter registration purposes: physical presence and an intent to remain there as a permanent resident. Delk v. Board of Election Commissioners, 112 Ill. App. 3d 735, 738, 445 N.E.2d 1232, 1235 (1983). [...] To change residence, “there must be, both in fact and intention, an abandonment of the former residence and a new domicile acquired by actual residence, coupled with the intention to make it a permanent home.” Welsh v. Shumway, 232 Ill. 54, 77, 83 N.E. 549, 559 (1907).
If Sandberg has moved his voter registration and personal belongings to this new residence and is actually living there, as newspaper accounts indicate, then it would appear that he is a resident of that address in that district for the purposes of being a candidate for City Council.
That the building “appear[s] to have been vacant for a significant period of time and unable to support a tenant” is a valid challenge. It’s possible that an inspection could be done to determine if the property can, in fact, support a tenant, and perhaps Sandberg could be asked to produce witnesses who will attest to him in fact living there.
However, Moore goes off track in saying that because Sandberg does not actually own the building, he cannot be a resident. In addition to quoting Sandberg’s statement to the Journal Star, she continues:
In addition, the most recent information (dated 11/27/2012 attached) provided by the Peoria County Assessors’ office indicates the address in question, 1213 SW Adams Street, is owned by Sue D. Johnson, not Mr. Sandberg. [...] Mr. Sandberg’s statement in the November 28, 2012 issue of the Peoria Journal Star indicate the property was purchased in the summer of 2012. As such, Mr. Sandberg could not have lived at the address for the required 12-months as outlined int he state statute cited above.
Mrs. Moore may be surprised to learn that many of the residents in her district do not actually own the home in which they live. They might be surprised to learn that Mrs. Moore does not consider them “residents” because of this. The point is, one can reside in a home without owning it. The ownership of the property can even be transferred while a tenant continues to occupy that property. So appeals to the property’s ownership are completely immaterial in this case.
As stated earlier, the state’s election rules are difficult to decipher. Emert and Moore could very well prevail in their challenge based on an interpretation or conflicting statute I haven’t been able to contemplate. But based on my layman’s reading of the materials available, it appears there is a requirement that a candidate live in the district he seeks to represent, and there is a requirement that a candidate live in the municipality for a year in order to be eligible to run for council, but there is apparently no requirement that a candidate live in a specific district within that municipality for a specified period of time before he is eligible to run for district councilman.
And that, ultimately, is the point. Candidates for City Council are not experts in state election law, nor should they be required to be. They read the information available to them and do their best to abide by the rules as they understand them. Sandberg was also quoted in the media as saying that he read the Candidates Guide and saw no district residency requirement. If it turns out there is one, perhaps the State Board of Elections should rewrite their Candidates Guide to make that clear, so no other well-meaning candidates get led astray.
Note: The post above has been revised to remove ambiguity. Specifically, I have tried to make it clearer that there is a residency requirement, but there is apparently no length of residency required in the district to be eligible to run as a district councilman.