Tom's Mailbag July 11, 2014

Tom's Mailbag July 11, 2014

Summer vacations haven’t slowed down the flow of questions/comments to the mailbag. This week we have mail (to be honest it’s all email) about gun crimes in Champaign-Urbana, what’s being razed at the old Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, what’s going up at the corner of University and Fourth, the difference between mayoral powers in Urbana and Champaign, and some Illini and Cubs comments, including where the Illini basketball teams should play its first home games this fall.
 
What to do abut Champaign-Urbana shootings
 
“I live on Arcadia Drive where two of these shootings have occurred in the vicinity. The mindset of these young men is disturbing. I don’t think there is any rehabilitation for most of them and making excuses for their behavior serves no useful purpose. Unfortunately, the only place they are heading in life is probably to prison. I don’t think the desire and/or a healthy mental attitude is there for them to want to be productive citizens.   
 
“Until people are willing to come forward and name names, not much will change. The police have their hands full. I personally am at a loss for a good solution — other than jail.”
 
“Why not charge people who use guns with gun crimes? Violations of the FOID card statutes are virtually non-existent in this county. One of the reasons for punishment is to provide a clear message to others as to what will happen if they break the law. If the state starts giving major time and monetary sentences for simply carrying a gun, people will notice.”
 
Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz notes that possession of a weapon without a FOID card is only a misdemeanor while other weapons offenses carry more severe punishments. That’s why, she said, the state’s attorney’s office rarely charges people with FOID card violations. Almost always they can charge those people with more serious violations that carry more significant potential sentences.
 
Meanwhile she sent along a number of statistics about gun charges filed by the Champaign County state’s attorney office. Some of those charges are running far ahead of last year’s numbers.

 

Statute Description

2012

2013

2014

Total

Unlawful use black-jack/knife

5

6

3

14

Carry/posses firearm in public

0

3

1

4

Carry/possess knife w/intent

1

4

1

6

Carry/posses firearm 2nd&subq

4

1

1

6

Carry/possess firearm school

4

1

1

6

Carry/possess firearm/1st

8

7

0

15

Rifle <16 in/shotgun <18 in

2

0

1

3

Felon poss/use firearm prior

35

33

24

92

Felon poss/use firearm prior

22

24

28

74

Felon poss/use firearm/parole

35

33

24

92

Felon poss/use weapon/firearm

22

24

28

74

Felon possess weapon/2nd+

35

33

24

92

Agg discharge firearm/occ bldg

0

1

0

1

Agg discharge firearm/occ veh

4

23

2

29

Agg discharge firearm/veh/sch

4

23

2

29

Reck disch firearm/endangers

6

5

3

14

Agg unlawful use of weapon/veh

0

1

0

1

Agg unlawful use of weapon/veh

22

43

12

77

Agg unlwfl use weapon/veh/2nd

1

5

3

9

Agg uuw/veh/fir loaded/no foid

22

43

12

77

Agg uuw/veh/prev conviction

1

5

3

9

Agg uuw/veh/unloaded/ammo

22

43

12

77

Agg uuw/vehicle/no foid

22

43

12

77

Armed habitual criminal

6

9

11

26

Poss firearm/land/gang mbr

1

0

0

1

Firearm w/o valid foid/elig

13

6

7

26

Firearm/foid invalid/not elig

2

0

1

3

Poss firearm foid expired    

13

6

7

26

Poss firearm foid revoked    

2

0

1

3

Illeg poss ammunition/foid    

3

4

1

8

 

317

429

225

905

 

 

“We’re definitely increasing the number of gun cases we’ve charged,” Rietz said. “When I ran those numbers I was surprised by the significant increase and I brought it up to the police chiefs at our meeting (Thursday) and they also were surprised. We need to look at what that means. We charge the cases that they give us. We also need to look at our records and se if there’s a corresponding increase in what they’re sending over or if they’re just sending over better cases. But they’re definitely sending over more cases.
 
“Just look at this week’s newspapers. Yesterday we had a case of a 17-year-old — he turned 18 the next day — had a gun (in Champaign’s Douglass Park). Happily, citizens gave the police information that allowed them to go and find that gun and take it from him. That’s what we need.”
 
Mayoral powers in Urbana, Champaign
 
“It struck me recently that the Twin Cities' two mayors appear to have vastly different job descriptions. While Ms. (Laurel) Prussing seems to run Urbana, Mr. (Don) Gerard is more a pied piper of Champaign, with far less power/control of big decisions that get made in his city. Am I right and if so why are they so different?”
 
It’s not because of their personalities. Urbana has a strong-mayor type of government, with the mayor holding significant administrative authority in the absence of a city manager. Champaign has a weak-mayor form of government where the mayor has virtually no more power than any other council members, except for holding a slightly larger bully pulpit by virtue of the title.
 
For a good example of the difference between the two cities administratively, look at Urbana’s city budget and the introductory budget message — written by Prussing — and Champaign’s city budget memo — written by City Manager Dorothy David.
 
Chanute property demolitions
 
“Tom, which building(s) are being torn down on the former Chanute Air Force Base? Is it White Hall?”
 
Two buildings will be torn down to prepare for the new $32 million campus of the state Lincoln’s Challenge program on the Chanute site. Building 300 at the corner of Borman and Enterprise is essentially down already. Once construction of the new Lincoln’s Challenge buildings is completed, the primary home of Lincoln’s Challenge, Building 303, will be demolished as well.
 
White Hall — which before the Pentagon was built was the largest building in the War Department — is not yet being torn down, but eventually will be. The exact date for that has not been determined, according to Rantoul village officials. A crew is removing asbestos from White Hall and once that is complete, the demolition will begin. 
 
Fourth and University development
 
“Tom, what’s going on at the southeast corner of 4th and University in Champaign? I had not seen a building or demolition permit in the paper yet (maybe I missed it), but I am very curious about the plans for that parcel.”
 
The property recently was acquired by Champaign developer G.T. Hardwick. Joan Hardwick of Hardwick Apartments said the plan is to build an apartment complex at the corner. The firm already has an apartment building just to the east at 407 E. University Ave., Champaign.
 
July 4 fireworks
 
“How much explosives were used in the fireworks this year and how much did they cost? The show seemed larger this year. Did it cost more?”
 
Lisa Davis, the secretary of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration committee, said the fireworks were from Melrose Pyrotechnics of Kingsbury, Ind., which has quite a client list, according to its website.
 
“They always put on a fantastic show making each one a little bigger and better than the last,” she said.
 
The freedom celebration’s overall budget is $100,000, Davis said, although she didn’t say how much was set aside for fireworks. I’m hoping she gets back to me on that point.
 
Meanwhile, Davis noted that the freedom celebration is 100 percent donor-funded, including money from the Illinois Lottery.
 
“The money raised each year is used to fund the following year’s festivities,” she said. “We’re a little short for 2015 so please encourage your readers to consider donating.  It’s really easy to do via our new website july4th.net.”
 
Where Illinois should play its away-from-home home games
 
Even in the heat of summer, Illinois basketball is a big topic among readers. Asked where the Fighting Illini should play one exhibition game and four nonconference games this season before the State Farm Center is ready for occupancy on Dec. 1, we got a nice variety of suggestions.
 
But no one has yet thrown out the idea of a Winter Classic basketball game — like the National Hockey League games played outdoors at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Michigan Stadium and Ralph Wilson Stadium — for the Illini. So that’s my idea. Make the home game against Northwestern an outdoor game at Memorial Stadium. That’s one way to make that always-dreadful game a little exciting. You think it’s tough to kick field goals there in the fall, how difficult would it be to make field goals in the winter? It should favor Illinois’ superior inside game.
 
Here are your suggestions:
 
“Redbird Arena — I work at ISU and can walk to the arena in 10 minutes.”
 
“The off-campus Illini basketball games this upcoming season should definitely be played at Okaw Valley High School in Bethany, Illinois — a town of about 1,400. It seats around 300 people. And has a stage on one end for a  little bit of media. It would be a memorable environment for both teams. It’s often compared to the Allen Fieldhouse down in Lawrence, Kansas. Just seats a little less. :-)”
 
“I’d like to see Illini play in Bloomington-Normal at either U.S. Cellular or Redbird Arena.” 
 
“I think would only be fitting for Illinois to at least play a couple of its relocated games at the Prairie Capital Convention Center. Springfield is centrally located, it is our state Capital, and it is only an hour and a half from Champaign.”
 
“How about playing the games at the Prairie Capital Convention Center?  It is newly renovated with plenty of hotel rooms, dinner spots, etc. and adjacent to the PCCC.  Also, there are a ton of Illini BB fans here.”
 
“Play in the Palmer Arena in Danville.  It is close, and rabid Illini country.  It would be smaller than the Assembly Hall, but fans would be close and it would be a great atmosphere.”
 
“Two in the Chicago area, two in the St. Louis area and one in Peoria.”
 
“They should move the games around the state, play one in the Chicago area whether it be the United Center, Allstate Arena or the Sears Center in Hoffman  Estates, one in St Louis, one in Peoria or Bloomington, one in the Quad Cities and one in either Carbondale or Macomb.   It’s a big state and the state university should view this as an opportunity to expose the program to as many people as possible who wouldn’t normally come to Champaign rather than try to make it easier on the Champaign people who are going to complain about going to Bloomington anyway.”
 
“An Illini basketball game at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates would be well received.  It was great to have them in a tournament there several years ago.”
 
“Why not play the games at several locations throughout the state?  A few up north for the Chicago alumni, one down south for the southern Illinois alumni, one in Bloomington-Normal, and one in Peoria.  This would reunite Illini fans across the state.”
 
“How about the United Center or the Allstate Arena?  Plenty of venues in Chicago.”
 
“Illinois should consider the Springfield Convention Center for its home away from home games.”
 
About University of Illinois basketball coach John Groce’s contract extension
 
“He has not done anything yet. But that is Illinois sports for you. Let’s give somebody more money for not doing anything.”
 
“John Groce deserves a pay raise. He’s an asset to the University of Illinois. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the basketball program is in great hands. The student athletes that he coaches will be held academically accountable and it’s only a matter of time that we get back to winning Big Ten championships.”
 
Cubs prospects
 
“While I liked seeing the Cubs win a few, I am quite pleased with  management stockpiling young talent. Pitchers are a commodity traded on the free market while position players are the capital used to acquire them. Do you get the sense we might see Jeff Samardzija back in Cubbie Blue by the time the World Series comes to Wrigley?”
 
Nope, Samardzija like the rest of us, will be dead by the time the Cubs are back in the World Series. I’m only half-kidding. But after so many disappointments, especially those years when success seemed imminent, it’s not good for Cubs fans to show any optimism. I’m trying not to get excited about this notion that the Cubs have three of the top six prospects in baseball, or six of the top 50. I remember when the Chicago Tribune had a photograph of the late-1960s Cubs infield inside a bank vault, proclaiming them the “million-dollar infield,” when Sports Illustrated one spring picked the Cubs to win the World Series, when the onetime starting rotation of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano was proclaimed the best in baseball. Stuff happens. And with the Cubs, stuff always happens.
 
Thanks for the questions. Speaking of the Cubs, Saturday night is CUBS (Champaign-Urbana Baseball Stalwarts) Night at Danville Stadium. The Danville Dans play the Hannibal Cavemen. Game time is 6:30 p.m. There will be lots of free stuff, I understand, including the chance to win some world-famous Cubs “W” flags. You can also wish Dans’ co-General Manager Rick Kurth a happy birthday. Danville Stadium is only about 30 minutes from Champaign-Urbana, a straight shot on Interstate 74. Get off at the Gilbert Street exit, go north and you’re practically there.
 

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31416 wrote on July 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Oh, darn...Another busy week with lots and lots of questions!  I guess I'll just have to resubmit my question and hope that it gets answered next week!

Here's the question I dropped in the mailbox last night:

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hi Tom,

I was looking at last year's D-2 Quarterly Report of "Citizens for Deborah Frank Feinen," and I noticed that on 6-7-13 Eric and Nancy Bussell had given the Feinen campaign a  "$2,800 In-Kind Contribution" that was described as a "200 person hog roast to be used by campaign."

I found that kind of intriguing.  Was Feinen already indicating a year ago that she'd be running for mayor and was seeking contributions, or was this event supposed to represent a contribution to a city council race (for a 200-person fund-raiser!)?

Since the description said, "to be used," as if this was going to be held at a future time, was this some kind of a gift certificate that could be raffled off to raise money for the candidate, or was it ultimately held as an event for the campaign?  And, in either case, did Mr. and Mrs. Bussell host the event at their rural Philo Township estate?

Finally, I'm surprised that I only just recently heard of an event that was this large in size!  This really sounds like it must have been THE social event of 2013!

31416 wrote on July 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Oh, in case some of the more suspicious News-Gazette readers out there think I'm just some kind of rabid Bussell-hater making things up to try to make him look silly,  perhaps I should give a little bit more background for my question, courtesy of the Illinois State Board of Elections:


http://www.elections.il.gov/CampaignDisclosure/ItemizedContrib.aspx?File...

 

EdRyan wrote on July 11, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Not likely a big draw for potential vegetarian, Muslim, or Jewish supporters.

Skepticity wrote on July 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Regarding the impressive chart of gun/weapon charges filed in Champaign County:

How many of the filed charges were taken all the way to conviction?

How many of the charges were dropped in plea agreements?

I have seen frequent NG articles that show that felony gun charges were dropped to allow pleas to lesser charges that would allow boot camp or early release (convicting via plea agreements for crimes that were not gun crimes). 

rsp wrote on July 11, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Do you really think Champaign County is that different than any other county, or that Illinois is that different from any other state? The jails are full, the prisons are full to overcrowding. Where do you think all these people will go? Reading a few stories just gives you a snapshot of a case or two, it doesn't tell you everything they take into consideration.

Do you really want someone to be branded for life because they committed a crime? Never be placed into a program to turn their life around. Punished forever. Which means they have no way to support themselves after they get out except crime or welfare. Do you really want to throw people away?

Skepticity wrote on July 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

My comment is specifically related to using guns, deadly weapons, and severe violent actions against victims in the course of committing a crime.  It is not related to smoking pot or shoplifting.  Some nonviolent crimes do not need the consequence of being removed from the community.  That is what probation is about. 

Do you really want our society to minimize the act of threatening a life or attempting to take the life of another with a deadly weapon? Do you want a society in which it is no big deal to have pointed a gun at someone in order to steal from them?  

If you point a gun at someone you are willing to take their life. 

If you point a gun at someone you are willing to take their life.

If you point a gun at someone you are willing to take their life.

There are too many individuals on the street that have no hesitation in doing just that. 

Let's actually enforce the existing laws regarding the misuse of firearms, and make it clear that gun crimes will not be accepted.

Those who choose to commit these crimes have already been thrown away by themselves, not by society.  They removed themselves by their actions.  If they are branded, they branded themselves. 

People who do not rob, steal, batter, or threaten the lives of others have a right to safety in the community.  No one is entitled to make you their victim and then make excuses. 

What a community accepts from its members is what a community expects from its members.  If you accept gun crimes, violence, and threats in our community, then you normalize it, and it will increase. 

Do you really want to be the one with a gun stuck in your face, then later discover that the most serious charges against the offender were dropped in a plea agreement, and the person who did this to you will soon be released to do it again?  Do you want to be the one whose loved one died when the gun accidentally fired during the crime?

The answer to crowded prisons and wasted lives is to NOT to stop caring about the VICTIMS and make excuses for the offenders so they have lesser sentences. 

The answer to crowded prisons and wasted lives is for the community to refuse to accept such behavior in the community.  The answer is for the offenders to STOP COMMITTING THESE CRIMES THAT ENDANGER OTHERS in order to avoid being locked up for a long time.  The more offenders willing to harm others who are incarcerated and off the streets, the safer those streets will be.

If committing a crime with a gun automatically adds a much more severe penalty for that crime, then the fewer crimes will involve guns. 

If you sincerely believe that the way to address crime is to talk to the criminals while making excuses for their actions and imposing minimal consequences, then your ideals have separated you from any sense of reality. 

Stop making excuses for dangerous criminal behavior.  Stop accepting it.

ericbussell wrote on July 12, 2014 at 6:07 am

No need to call, Tom.  I'll help clarify:

1.  The Pig Roast was purchased at the Champaign Rotary Club Action auction.   The money raised from the action auction helps fund non profit activities throughout the community.   It was an amazing event and we were happy to support the cause. 

2.  The Pig Roast was then donated to my friend Deb Feinen.  She been a great public servant and we are proud to support her. 

3.  The Pig Roast has not yet happened and has not factored into her fundraising totals.  All of the money she has raised, according to the filing with the SBE, comes from a large number of individuals.  While the in-kind donation may be considered significant, it is only significant if Deb can attract supporters to come to her event and donate.  It will not be held in Philo. 

4. Since Gerard and his supporters seem hell-bent on attacking people who support other campaigns, I'd also like to point out (a) that we also purchased the Drinks with the Mayor item at the Action Auction.  Mayor Gerard was great to donate the item and I then gave the prize to an employee as a gift.  (b) After reviewing my political donations, it also turns out Don Gerard is the only candidate we've written a check to.  His campaign didn't seem to have any problem mailing that fundraising letter to Philo.

5.  I appreciate why the pro-Gerard attack squad wants to suggest it is negative that I live in Philo.  I'd encourage some of them to come to Philo and watch the freight train of cars heading South to Champaign-Urbana at 7:30am on a weekday.  Or maybe sit on the corner of the road from Sidney and Homer at about the same time.  I'd be happy to buy any of them a coffee and explain why the smaller surrounding communities have a vested interest in the success of Champaign-Urbana.

6.  Last but not least, my in-kind contribution was not a donation against any of the other candidates.  It was a donation for my friend Deb.  I would encourage the anonymous hecklers to consider spending more energy in support of his/her preferred candidate instead of heckling the supporters of others.  

AltoonaSue wrote on July 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

Tom,

Your assessment of mayoral powers for Champaign vs. Urbana was not entirely correct, I believe.  According to Urbana's website, the city operates as a Mayor-Aldermanic form of government while the City of Champaign is a Council-Manager form.  Especially in the case of Urbana, this is very different than a strong-mayor type of government.

rsp wrote on July 13, 2014 at 1:07 am

Especially in the case of Urbana, this is very different than a strong-mayor type of government.

Strong-mayor or strong-arm mayor?

blmillini wrote on July 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

You would think the crime numbers would be going down now that Zook isn't recruiting for us anymore.  They must have stayed around. :)

C in Champaign wrote on July 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

I find it interesting that a reader one presumes to be a Don Gerard supporter, 31416, would bring up issues of campaign finances and their sources. A little research would tell you that the Mayor recieved $31,685 in contributions to his campaign for mayor in the last election cycle. What is interesting about this is that more than 64%, or $20,400 of the funds came from a single individual/business, and four unions. With $15,000 from Joe's Brewery, and $2,900 from AFSCME topping the list.

Even more interesting is that the same reader assails contributors for not being "in Champaign" when the mayor recieved a total of $4,700 from outside Champaign county, with donations of $1,000 from a laborers union in Marion, IL. and $1,000 donors as far away as California.

Also, given the differences between Champaign and Urbana's forms of government, the only real "power" that the Mayor's office holds in Champaign is that he is also the City Liquor Commissioner with power to enforce liquor codes, and determine the penalties for violations by local liquor license holders. Does anyone else see the problematic nature of $15,000 in contributions from a single Champaign campus bar owner with a long history of liquor code violations?

ericbussell wrote on July 15, 2014 at 9:07 am

I think it is important to note that the Feinen, Foster, and Petry campaigns have not attacked Gerard supporters.  If I understand correctly, they have no intention of doing so.  I feel strongly that Joes Brewery's involvement in the last mayoral campaign was both courageous and inspirational.  I am friends with the owner and I think it was great he got involved in the election and hope more businesses get more engaged in local politics like Joes Brewery did.   Of course, both Joes Brewery and the unions have a special interest in the mayoral race, but we wouldn't be talking about this at all if Don Gerard's PR strategy wasn't so over-the-top hypocritical.  

I think C in Champaign's response if fair considering that Don Gerard's first campaign move was to attack supporters of other campaign and suggest they are part of the establishment and trying to buy back the government.  Here is Gerard's Facebook post announcing his first campaign fundraiser.  (https://www.facebook.com/events/766142853426661/?ref=22).  This came on the heels of Tom Kacich's reporting of Joe Petry and his large special interest donations, however, in Joe Petry's case it came from family members.   Also, Deb Feinen reported a single donation of $1000 or more this past quarter and that came from another special interest.....her mom. 

31416 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Thank you, Mr. Bussell, for Points #1 through 3 of your answer to the question about the hog/ pig roast.  It certainly sounds like an interesting event, whether it ends up being a hog roast, a pig roast, or whatever.

As for your Point #4, I'm quite perplexed by your phrase, "Since Gerard and his supporters seem hell-bent on attacking people who support other campaigns..."  (!!!)

It's almost as though you went through some kind of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde transformation from a polite, information-providing gentleman in Points #1 through 3 of your answer into a "31416 Giant Boogeyman Conspiracy Theorist" in Points #4 through 6!
 
Do you really wish to accuse me of being either Don Gerard himself or one of his "hell-bent" supporters, just for asking a few simple questions about a $2,800 hog roast?!  (No need to answer this question if you happened  to run out of time, perchance, and then had one of your fellow "heaven-bent" (??!) Deb Frank Feinen supporters finish the rest of your reply for you.  I realize that it can be hard to hire good help these days!)   :-)

 I must admit, though, I'm still  quite puzzled by your statement,  "I would encourage the anonymous hecklers to consider spending more energy in support of his/her preferred candidate instead of heckling the supporters of others."

I'm very sorry if you felt I was in some way "heckling" you with my simple inquiries, Mr. Bussell.    I don't know if you ever read the News-Gazette or not, but their political reporter, Tom Kacich, tends to spend  a considerable amount of time writing about how different candidates fund their campaigns, and I don't recall him ever mentioning  a $14/person catering gift for a 200-person hog / pig roast before.  Perhaps it just happened to have escaped his attention.   (Would you consider Mr. Kacich a "heckler" and a "hell-bent" supporter of Don Gerard if he had written an item about your event in one of his regular columns?)

As for where you reside, it was my understanding that you don't live in the Village of Philo itself, but rather that you live outside the village, in rural Philo Township, and that you'd  been elected  a member of the Board of Trustees there.  I'm sorry if I got that wrong.

ericbussell wrote on July 15, 2014 at 7:07 am

If Tom Kacich somehow found my in-kind donation interesting or relevant, I highly doubt he would take a snarky and heckling tone with his reporting. 

I live in Philo Township and you don't have that wrong.

"Deb Frank Feinen supporters finish the rest of your reply for you.  I realize that it can be hard to hire good help these days!)   :-)"

I'm not aware of Deb Feinen paying anyone to help her campaign.  Neither Karen, Deb, or Joe show any outgoing expenditures on their Q2 campaign filings for employee exenses or in-kind donations from anybody loaning human resources.   I did hear on WDWS on July 11th where Don Gerard mentioned that he jokes with people that he is a job creator for other campaigns.  I'm not entirely sure what that means or why you added the smiley face, so maybe someone can explain this joke to me? 

 

ericbussell wrote on July 15, 2014 at 10:07 am

"Oh, in case some of the more suspicious News-Gazette readers out there think I'm just some kind of rabid Bussell-hater making things up to try to make him look silly..."

I thought about something else after responding to you.  Why in the world would supporting my friend Deb make me look silly?