Tom's mailbag April 18, 2014
Sadly, no questions about hockey, but plenty of comments and questions about athletic uniforms, Bruce Weber, constitutional amendments, restaurant needs, holidays, political punching bag Gordy Hulten and what may be the highest point in a town that was named for its flatness (Champaign: an expanse of level open country).
“Tom, The UI is installing artificial turf on the playing fields north of the soccer field, and between Oak and First streets. The pile of dirt that they have removed may be temporarily the highest (on ground) point in C-U. Why have they excavated so much dirt/soil/subsoil? Are they secretly digging to North Korea?”
Urbana campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler says that the UI’s Facilities & Services department says the excavation “is part of the Ikenberry Commons construction project and is for an underground stormwater detention system. Once the system is installed, the dirt will be backfilled.”
So forget about sledding or skiing off the summit next winter.
More on restaurant fare
This comment is left over from last week’s question about what people would like to see in the space once occupied by the Prairie Fire restaurant and bar. Maybe it’s a idea that a Campustown entrepreneur could jump on and develop: sushi with burritos, sushi and barbecue, sushi/cheeseburger/beer. Who’s with me?
“A really good seafood/sushi place without Chinese food.”
Illinois constitutional initiatives
“I have a question about the proposed redistricting amendment process. I am not sure of my facts, but for some reason I recall hearing or reading that Illinois law only allows that a certain number of amendments can be proposed to the voters at any one time. If memory serves, it may be no more than two.
“Mr. Madigan has already proposed one amendment and the Illinois House and Senate have voted to have it on the ballot. It would not surprise me if he had another one in the wings and that would squeeze out the (Yes for Independent Maps) amendment. Politicians do not want this amendment, so they will do whatever is necessary to derail it. Could you check into this possibility? It would be a shame if the (Yes for Independent Maps) amendment, proposed by the people, was to be derailed in this way. Thanks for your consideration.”
You are correct that there is a limitation on the number of proposed amendments to the Constitution in any one election, but that restriction is three and it affects only those proposed by the Legislature. There is no restriction on initiatives proposed by others.
Here’s what the Illinois Constitution says:
“The General Assembly shall not submit proposed amendments to more than three Articles of the Constitution at any one election.”
And: “Amendments to Article IV of this Constitution (those affecting the Legislature) may be proposed by a petition signed by a number of electors equal in number to at least 8 percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election. Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.”
Lawmakers already have approved placing two amendments on the ballot — one about whether voting rights should be protected regardless of race, sexual orientation, or other factors. the other about enhanced rights for crime victims.
Those proposed amendments, advanced by Democrats and apparently designed to gin up voter turnout next November, cover two of the three proposals the Legislature can suggest. A third measure — giving voters the right to abolish the office of lieutenant governor — could get on the ballot if the Senate OKs it by May 4. The House already has done so.
Meanwhile two other constitutional amendments could be on the November ballot, the independent redistricting commission proposal advanced by the Yes for Independent Maps group, and another that would implement term limits and change the number of seats in both houses of the Legislature (cutting the Senate from 59 to 41 members and increasing the House from 118 to 123 members).
Although backers of both of those initiatives say they have enough petition signatures to get them on the ballot, they’re also expecting legal challenges designed to knock them off.
Incidentally, I’ll have some interesting information on the Yes for Independent Maps petition drive in Sunday’s column in The News-Gazette.
Bruce Weber’s new contract
Former Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber received a one-year extension on his contract at Kansas State. It now runs to 2019. According to the Kansas City Star, Weber’s compensation essentially remains the same, his salary of $1.85 million increasing by $100,000 each year he remains. If he stays at Kansas State through 2019, he’ll be up to $2.25 million on top of a $500,000 retention bonus. All that money for instructing a bunch of 20-year-old kids in shorts how to put a ball through a hoop and preventing a team of other 20-year-old kids from doing the same. Ain’t this a great country?
Anyway, Weber’s new contract brought out this range of reaction ...
“Congratulations to Coach Weber! His accomplishments at Kansas St. have obviously been appreciated by his administration, AD and fans. He is an excellent coach and a class act! During his tenure at Illinois, Coach Weber was an excellent coach and class act. Many of us who are long-time Illini fans do miss him and the packed houses that his basketball teams always provided.”
“Nobody at Illinois should miss Bruce Weber. He is a small, petty person who was never cut out for a high profile coaching job. His failure at Illinois is evident and we should be glad he’s gone.”
New athletic team uniforms
There were a similar variety of responses to the changes in Illinois athletic uniforms. Apparently no one like my idea for the new UI football uniforms: white tops, plain blue numbers, and decorative spatters of blood all over front, personalized on each uni for each player. Kind of an homage to Dick Butkus, and to the blood-sucking NCAA.
“I prefer tradition and the collegiate font. The Michigans, Ohio States, Notre Dames, etc. cling to their traditions. Not us, we redefine, over and over. Why? The new garb isn’t going to put more fans in the seats.”
“I really like the new Illini uniforms, especially for football. Can’t wait to see the combinations the team wears for each game.”
“Can you explain to me how county and city offices can close on a church holy day? I was surprised to hear how many places are closed today.”
I believe you are mistaken. According to the Champaign County and city of Urbana calendars today is “Spring Day.” The Urbana school district calls it “Spring Holiday.” Perhaps suffering from frankness, the Champaign school district says that this weekend, including today and Monday, is “Spring Holidays (Good Friday & Easter Monday).”
The city of Champaign — which apparently is opposed both to celebrating spring and taking the day off — is open for business today.
Gordy Hulten, elected Champaign County clerk two years ago with 54 percent of the vote, and still unopposed for reelection this year, continues to be a point of focus for voter and especially for Democrats (although not enough yet for anyone to declare that they want to try to unseat him).
“Wondering if Gordy Hulten really deserves the piling on beating he’s getting from the Democratic Party leadership.”
“In your Wednesday article, ‘Klein: More errors in county’s primary results,’ you chose to mention only three of the seven errors that (Champaign County Democratic Party Chair) Al Klein pointed out in his press release at: http://champaigncountydemocrats.org/2014/04/14/issues-remain-with-official-results-of-march-2014-primary-elections/
In one of the more intriguing errors that you must not have had room for in your article, Mr. Klein writes:
“‘A bizarre situation exists in Cunningham 17, a precinct split between the 13th and 15th Congressional Districts. The unopposed Democratic candidates for Congress and State Committeeman in the 15th District had zero ballots processed — not surprising, since there were only two registered voters in that small area at the close of regular registration. But the Democratic Candidate for State Central Committeewoman had 63 ballots processed from that sparsely-inhabited area, and was credited with 44 actual votes!”
“In addition, he also helpfully included a link to the election database itself where the Cunningham 17 voting data summary could be directly inspected:
“Since there’s only one house with registered voters located in the part of Cunningham 17 that lies in the 15th District, all supposed 63 processed ballots (representing a total of 44 votes and 19 under votes) in Lynn Foster’s State Committeewoman race would have had to have come from (a hypothesized) 63 people residing in that one house, who all happened to choose to take Democratic ballots in the primary!
“Moreover, since their 63 processed ballots didn’t show up in the Cunningham 17 precinct data for any other races in the 15th District (either as votes or as undervotes), each of those hypothesized 63 people would have needed to have voted a special “Lynn Foster Only”-ballot, that had only that particular race on it!
“Given this and other reductio ad absurdum arguments for the other anomalies that occurred in the various election mistabulations highlighted on Mr. Klein’s website, do you think that Mr. Hulten will continue to go on claiming that his election results are still “100 percent accurate” and that he’ll continue to allege that Mr. Klein is simply “playing politics” by pointing to Hulten’s logically impossible and/or mathematically impossible results?
“Also, when the state election board attempts to certify the results on Friday, do they have checks built into their software to ensure that pairs of sums that logically have to be equal (such as the number of processed ballots for a state committeman and a state committeewoman in a particular congressional district) are in fact equal?
“Are there any known cases where election results were certified by the state of Illinois and then later were found to be erroneous?”
It’s clear that mistakes were made in the primary election process, particularly in the reporting of results in some down-ballot Democratic races that were uncontested, although it’s not clear who or what is responsible for those errors. Was it a ballot design issue, a software problem, or is it something else? Someone with knowledge of election systems, I trust, is delving into it.
Hulten was called to appear before the county board Tuesday night to explain the errors. It was at the end of a long (more than 4 1/2 hours) meeting and according to my notes Hulten was “on the stand” at about 10:45 p.m. and board members were running out of energy.
But he both admitted mistakes and said that he is confident in the accuracy of the results that now are declared official and which have been reported to the State Board of Elections.
“We have election systems that administered by humans, yes, and our elections are conducted among humans,yes. and there are inconsistencies in our process, yes. Our machines tabulate votes and report votes accurately, and after retabulating tens of thousands of ovals the number of votes that shifted from the first count throughout the 40-day election process to what we did during the retabulation process is incredibly small and should give people great confidence that our election results for Champaign County are very, very accurate.”
Hulten said that “we have closed the book on the primary election.”
He added, “We are evaluating everything that we did in preparation for the March election to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. We weren’t the only jurisdiction in the state of Illinois to have issues with this particular piece of software used to program ballots and the piece of software used to read the results from ballots. We’re working with our vendor, with the state board of elections and with a bunch of other jurisdictions to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again. And we’ve got a number of procedures that we’re evaluating now and we will test all summer long. We will do more extensive testing prior to the general election in November.”
He reiterated, “I have every confidence in our election results as we certified to the state board of elections and I stand by them.”
But two other local election-related issues got an airing, and pointed out just how imperfect our voting procedures are despite the millions spent.
First there the late opening on Election Day of the City of Champaign Precinct 9 polling place at 1307 N. Mattis Ave. One voter said she arrived at the polling place at 6 a.m. but found it was locked. Hulten acknowledged the problem.
“Obviously, opening a polling place late is absolutely unacceptable, absolutely inexcusable,” he said. “If you have served as an election judge in Champaign County in the years that I’ve been county clerk you know that I talk at the beginning of every election judge class and the first thing that I talk about is the need to be punctual. The judges are reminded to show up at 5 o’ clock in the morning to deploy their equipment in the order that’s in the instruction manual and to make sure that the doors are unlocked and ready to process voters at 6 o’ clock in the morning. And again, election judges are human and we can’t be everywhere at all times and what we have to do is deal with this on a case by case basis, and hopefully some additional training and additional reminders will prevent anything like that is from happening again.”
The second problem also was in Champaign, in a polling place at the E.H. Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New St., where they ran out of Democratic primary ballots for “about 10 minutes,” Hulten said.
He said there was a higher than anticipated number of Democratic voters in central Champaign.
“If I had printed more ballots I wouldn’t have needed to bring more ballots,” Hulten admitted to Democratic county board member Josh Hartke.
As to whether known erroneous election results ever have been certified by the state board of elections, I cannot recall. I doubt it but I’ll try to check on that one next week.
Thanks again for all the interesting questions. Enjoy the great weather and especially the spectacularly exciting Blues-Blackhawks NHL playoff series. That exhausting 101-minute game Thursday night — won by those pesky Blues — was one for the ages.