Tom's Mailbag Dec. 21, 2013

Tom's Mailbag Dec. 21, 2013

On Fridays, veteran columnist Tom Kacich answers your questions. 

Good afternoon. This is the first edition of Tom's Mailbag, and it appears to be full of good questions from friendly folks, including many that are sports-related. It might be a good time to remind people that I am neither an athlete nor a fan of successful teams (with some exceptions).

Let's get this show on the road ...

With the Peoria schools once again in the Big 12, how about some history on the Big 12 Conference?

My depth of knowledge on the Big 12 is limited although I do remember writing many years ago that I was shocked to learn that at one time Streator High School was in the Big 12. Champaign and Streator are more than 2 hours apart, probably a lot more if you're riding a school bus.

Charter members of the Big 12 were Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Bloomington, Streator, Peoria Central, Peoria Manual, Pekin, Lincoln, Stephen Decatur, Mattoon  and Springfield High.

Streator, Pekin and the two Peoria schools dropped out in 1958. Others that have left the conference over the years include Rantoul, Lincoln and Stephen Decatur (which closed) and Mattoon.

Will the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup this season?

I certainly hope so and I will be doing my part from now on. Since my record at Blues games over the last three years is 1-3 -- although the Blues are 59-17-8 at home over those last three years -- I will be staying away from the Scottrade Center for a while.

That 1-3 record is either my fault or that of my wife, who is more of a Blackhawks fan.

I feel very good about the Blues' chances, as long as the goaltenders, Alexander Steen and the top defensemen stay healthy.

What is it like to be a Blues fan in a family of real Blackhawks fans, and to always be inferior to them?

I love my family members, even those who weren't Blackhawks fans when the Blackhawks were lousy 10 years ago but are big supporters now. As long at you guys don't jump on the Cardinals' bandwagon, I will continue to love and support you.

And don't forget that there are at least two loyal Blues fans in the fam.

Handicap the 103rd House District race, please.

Money generally is important but not as important in this race because it is a geographically small area. Organization will matter a lot.

So even though it's a hard-D district, Republican Kristin Williamson has a shot. She's unopposed in the primary so she won't be spending money, nor will she be getting beat up like the Democratic contenders (Carol Ammons and Sam Rosenberg) might.

Williamson is young, energetic and a good speaker, and she has a lot of friends in both parties.

Rosenberg already has picked up significant financial and union support in the Democratic race, but Ammons has better name recogntion. We'll know better in a couple months how that race will shake out. I'm looking forward to any and all debates in that one.

My son turns 26 next year and will have to get his own health insurance. He currently makes $15,000 to $20,000 a year delivering pizza. Can you tell me what his insurance rate wil be under the Affordable Care Act? Is it true he cannot be denied insurance?

I ran this one through the website and also by Julie Pryde, the always-helpful administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

First, your son may qualify for Medicaid.

Second, if not, he'll definitely qualify for a health care subsidy. He should go to the website and fill out the questions to learn his eligibility.

In any case he cannot be turned away for coverage.

Remember when Bob and I played Little League and won the Twin City championship? At what point in competitive sports is it OK to start applying strategy in order to win?

I think almost anytime is fine to use strategy to win as long as you're not hurting the other team or embarrassing them. I think it's OK to intentionally walk a player in a Little League or foul a poor free-throw shooter or let a lousy shooter fire away.

What's not OK is trying to fouling someone to hurt him or her.

One caveat: it's always OK to humiliate Northwestern.

What is the weather ike this time of the year in Croatia?

Ah, the blessed homeland! In beautiful Split, the highs are in the 50s, lows in the 40s and it seldom rains. Great golf weather, I'd say.

Which Chicago baseball team will have better record in 2014?

Based on their current rosters I'd go grudgingly with the White Sox. But not by much. They lost three more games than the Cubs last season, but I think the Cubs have one more bad year ahead before the big turnaround. The Sox may be slightly better next year, even with Adam Dunn and Ken Harrelson.

Since 2000 the Sox have won 1,176 games, the Cubs have won 1,080. The trend still favors the Sox.

If you want good baseball in Illinois, go to Danville Stadium. The Dans were 41-19 last year. Opening Night is May 27. Danville Stadium is the garden spot of East Central Illinois

When will you announce for mayor of Urbana?

Too much work. I think I want to be mayor of Toronto. That looks like a fun job.

I was disappointed with your article Dec. 19 on Gifford. I see it as something that will only further traumatize those in our town by making statements or assumptions that those remaining in Gifford will have to carry the tax burden as a result of those allegedly leaving Gifford.

I'm sorry that you were disappointed, but the truth is that Gifford's leaders are concerned about the loss of population. Much to their credit they already are planning for the possibility that things may be tough for a while.

Efforts already are under way to rebuild -- we covered that in a story a few days earlier -- and the village board is brainstorming ideas to begin the rebuild, including bringing in consultants and other professional help.

Gifford is a tough, united community. I have no doubts that it wil be back.

But it's tough to dismiss the notion that some people are moving out when there are For Sale signs on lots around town.


Ok, thanks for the questions.

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating Christmas.

And let me recommend a visit to Victor Johnson's stunning Christmas lights display in Paxton.

Here's another look at Heather Coit's video of the 140,000-light spectacular ..

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Political Observer wrote on December 21, 2013 at 3:12 am

OK, now that Tom Kacich has "Handicapped the 103rd House District race," let's talk about how he's tried to handicap the views of the handful of people who actually took the time to read his meager remarks.  (Heh-heh-heh!)

Well, first of all, he's apparently assumed that Kristin Williamson isn't simply playing the role of a Rick "Bull" Winkel placeholder for a party insider-to-be-named-later! 

Yeah, you know,  kind of like the stunt that Williamson's close friend Katie Blakeman ending up taking advantage of the last time around in the 2012 elections, when she was crowned Ms. Champaign County Circuit Clerk, without having to go through a primary at all, and with the help of 71% of her total reported campaign contributions (as of 10 days before the election) having come directly from the Champaign County Republican Party coffers.  (Isn't it interesting that with all the column space that Kacich devotes to discussing campaign donations, that he "forgot" to mention that 71 percent figure, representing the percentage of campaign dollars that both Blakeman and John Farney got, directly from their party's treasury?)

Also, Mr. Kacich hasn't happened to mention yet that Kristin Williamson's attempt to sell herself as a "moderate politician" in the race may not go over so well with voters, if they happen to find out what a devoted fan she is of Mr. Not-So-Moderate Newt Gingrich:


Political Observer wrote on December 21, 2013 at 4:12 am

Let's see, what other important details did Mr. Kacich happen to leave out of his analysis?

Well, for one, he "forgot" to mention that Kristin Williamson is the #2 official in the Champaign County Republican Party...Woops!  (You can bet that something like that might have gotten mentioned if the #2 official in the county Democratic Party were running for state representative, right?!)

And not only does she work closely with Republican Party chairman Habeeb George Habeeb in her high-level party position, but her 9 to 5 day job also just happens to be working with him at Benefit Planning Consultants, where he's the CEO and President of the company (as if you didn't already know)!...

And, what's more, she said in a News-Gazette interview that she'd like to continue working for him part-time even after she's elected state representative!

So, for those of you who love Chairman Habeeb and the county Republican Party organization, won't it be geat when he has his own personal employee representing the interests of both his business and his party in Springfield?!

Wow!  Talk about a party insider!...No wonder Will Kyles decided not to run in the Republican Primary against her!

Political Observer wrote on December 25, 2013 at 1:12 am

So what's the quick summary of the "handicapping" by Kacich in the 103rd race?

A.  Kristin Williamson, according to Kacich, is:

(1.)  Young,
(2.)  Energetic
(3.)  A good speaker, and  
(4.)  She has a lot of friends in both parties.
(5.)  Also, "She's unopposed in the primary so she won't be spending money, nor will she be getting beat up like the Democratic contenders (Carol Ammons and Sam Rosenberg) might."

B.  As for Sam Rosenberg:

(1.)  Rosenberg already has picked up significant financial and union support in the Democratic race; and
(2.)  It's a hard-D district;

C.  And as for Carol Ammons:

(1.)  Ammons has better name recognition (than Sam Rosenberg); and
(2.)  It's a hard-D district;

So, it's pretty clear which of the candidates is Kacich's A-List candidate, the one he'll be touting the most during the 2014 election season.  Kacich addressed Williamson as the first of the three candidates, and came up with 5 quick postives that should act in her favor, while only mentioning two positives for Rosenberg and then two for Ammons.

In the interest of fairness to all candidates, though, it's worth mentioning that Sam Rosenberg and Carol Ammons are both young, energetic and good speakers, as well...perhaps, Mr. Kacich just "forgot" to mention those things about them?

And then, of course, as noted in an earlier post above, he also "forgot" to mention that Kristin Williamson

(1.)  Is the Vice-Chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party (the #2 position in the party) and works as the Assistant to Chairman Habeeb Habeeb; and that she

(2.)  Also works as the Director of Public Relations and the Director of Government Relations for Benefit Planning Consultants, Inc., where Habeeb Habeeb is the CEO and President of the company; and that she

(3.)  Also wants to continue working for Habeeb Habeeb, even if she is elected as the 103rd district representative!

That would seem to be a lot to "forget" to mention!

One can't help but wonder, do those last 3 "forgotten" items somehow count in the analysis of Mr. Kacich as "positives" in her favor, as well?  (That Ms. Williamson is so closely "joined at the hip" to Habeeb Habeeb, and seems to want to remain that way...)

Or are those 3 items just supposed to be things that we ignore, in "handicapping the candidates?"

Political Observer wrote on December 25, 2013 at 2:12 am

Here's a link to another Tom Kacich article that discussed the 103rd race, back when things were just getting underway, last September:

In this earlier article, Kacich did indeed mention Item #1 in my earlier post, that Kristin Williamson is the vice-chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party...although he left out the equally important Items #2 and #3.

Also, there's no mention of her past, such as her role in being an enthusiastic supporter of Newt Gingrich and a delegate pledged to Gingrich at the August, 2012 Republican National Convention.

That brings to mind some interesting questions she could be asked, if a reporter wanted to ask her something more than the traditional fluff-type questions that Republicans in this area normally get asked:  

(1.)  Was it difficult to make the transition from a Pledged Delegate and Strong Supporter of Staunch, Arch-Conservative Candidate Newt Gingrich  at the Republican National Convention in August, 2012 to a Staunch Moderate, Bi-Partisan Republican in September, 2013, in time for your campaign's roll-out event, at the non-partisan, non-political University of Illinois Research Park?  Or would you say that a quick change of deeply-held principles and political philosophy comes relatively easy for a high-level PR and Government Relations Executive, such as yourself?

(2.)  If you're elected to represent our district in Springfield, do you think this will start a trend among other Republican County Chairmen in Illinois to want to see their own party vice-chairmen, and / or their own business employees, elected to represent their interests in Springfield, as well?  That is, do you think other party chairmen will be inspired to compete with Habeeb Habeeb, in terms of the additional power and prestige he will have, as a party chairman who has his own personal representative in the Statehouse?

Political Observer wrote on December 25, 2013 at 4:12 am

Here's yet another reason to question how much of a so-called "moderate" Kristin Williamson is:  

On the staunch conservative side, it's not just Newt Gingrich that she strongly supports, but also (apparently) the architect of the austere "Ryan Budget" (and devoted fan of Ayn Rand),  Paul Ryan, as well!


On a site she uses for blogging, she wrote an 8-11-2012 post she called, "Swooning Over Paul Ryan:"


I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to more, Rep. Paul Ryan being on the ticket or all the debate fodder this VP pick provides for me and my liberal friends.

The New Yorker recently ran a smart profile piece on Paul Ryan. This read tells a story of how a young guy full of self-initiative, intellect and political courage, found himself in Congress at the age of 28. It’s worth a read.

    “If you’re going to criticize, you should propose,”- Paul Ryan

    Read more


Hey, maybe she can start a new social group in Champaign-Urbana, "Moderates for Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan!"