Tom's Mailbag Aug. 9, 2014

Tom's Mailbag Aug. 9, 2014

A little break in the mailbag monotony this week. Virtually nothing about shootings, school siting, mayoral politics or construction projects.

This week we have questions about gang signs, mold in the problematic satellite county jail, an apparent voter registration snafu at Central High School, whether recyclables are recycled, parking meter revenue, that suspicious Nudo/Bambenek/Frerichs deal two years ago and votes for best all-time local restaurants and best pizza.

A misinterpreted sign

“How come there is a billboard with three real estate agents and one is throwing a gang hand gesture? Is that really appropriate?”

Champaign Realtor Stefanie Pratt found this question both amusing and frightening.

“It says that Stefanie Pratt is the Realtor that rocks,” she said of the billboard. “It’s a rock sign, a rock ‘n’ roll sign. It’s not a gang sign. If you look at rock ‘n’ roll bands like Poison and Def Leppard, they say it’s gonna rock. That’s what that is. I can’t believe someone thought that was a gang sign. Oh my gosh.”

“My friend Bret Michaels, that’s what he does all the time,” she said of the former member of Poison, who now performs on his own. “I’ll send you a picture of him and I from about a month ago, doing the rock sign together.”

OK, but the question isn’t that far-fetched. To my baby boomer eyes — unfamiliar as they are both with gang signs and rock ‘n roll signs (although I still can flash a good peace sign) — that rock ‘n’ roll sign looks something like the one for the Latin Kings, the notorious Chicago street gang. I can see why someone would be concerned, although a real estate agent flashing gang signs isn’t a winning marketing move.

Voter registration complaint

“I attended registration day at Central High School yesterday with my son. I noticed that the school had allowed the local Democratic Party and Ann Callis’ campaign to set up a table to register people to vote. Why were they allowed to be there, should politics like that be allowed in our schools? Why wasn’t there a Republican Party table? Did the school not reach out to the Republicans? Did Republicans decline to participate?”

Kyle Harrison, chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party, offered his take on what happened.

He said that Laurie Bonnett, president of the Champaign school board (and also an aide to state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign), sent an email out to the Young Republican and Young Democrat groups about the three weeks ago, inviting them to participate in voter registrations at Central and Centennial high schools. She said she’d get back to them closer to the dates but never did, Harrison said.

The Republicans never heard back from anyone, he said, until Wednesday — after registration already had started at Central — when they were asked if they were going to show.

Eventually, Harrison said, there was a Republican representative at the Central registration on Thursday, but without the campaign signs that the Democratic registrar had for 13th Congressional District candidate Callis.

Harrison declined to say whether he was miffed about the apparent snafu.

“I think the way it all came together was a little unprofessional,” was as far as he would go.

“There’s a time for politics but maybe not at high school registration,” he said. “I think the way it should have been done is to have (Republican County Clerk) Gordy Hulten’s office there.”

Bonnett agreed that there was a “late communication” problem between her and representatives of both parties, in part because of all the time she’s devoted to various school board issues, including school construction.

“This is not about partisanship. It’s not about the parties. It’s about people understanding how important it is to vote,” she said.

Hulten said his office was not invited by Champaign school officials to do voter registration at any Unit 4 registration events, but was invited to do so at the Urbana school district’s three-day, centralized registration last week. He said “a couple dozen” new voters were registered.

More satellite jail woes

We got a call into the newsroom this week from a man who said his son was an inmate at the Champaign County satellite jail in east Urbana, and that he was alarmed that there was black mold in the showers and kitchen of the 18-year-old facility off of Lierman Avenue in Urbana. 

Sure enough, said Sheriff Dan Walsh, there is mold inside the satellite jail.

But the mold is not airborne, he said.

“But we have taken air readings outside of the building and inside, and the inside air is cleaner than the outside, and it’s good air,” said the sheriff.

Dana Brenner, the county’s facilities director who hired the Springfield firm OEHS to sample and test the satellite jail, agreed.

“The good news is that the air quality is terrific inside the satellite jail,” Brenner said. “The air quality outside is much higher in terms of fungi, mold spores, etcetera. So our HVAC system is doing a good job of filtering that stuff out,” he said. “But we definitely have mold contingent from the swab (samples taken from surfaces).”

There is mold on surfaces in both shower areas and in the jail kitchen.

“It’s where you’d expect it would be, in the wet areas,” Brenner said.

He said the county is awaiting a full report on the cause of the mold and also a remediation plan.

He hopes to begin the appropriate cleanup next week, and start making improvements to the jail facilities a week or two later.

“It’s being addressed. We feel pretty good about it,” Brenner said.

Walsh said mold has been “an on and off situation over the years.”

What happens to materials collected in Urbana’s recycling program?

“Where do recycled materials go? Are they really recycled? What’s the market like? Does it really get done?”

Courtney Rushforth, Urbana’s recycling coordinator, has the answers.

“We have two separate places. For our curbside, single-family program the material is sent to ABC Sanitary in Champaign. Our apartment recycling, a separate contract, goes to Community Resource in Urbana,” said Rushforth.

“Both places hire workers that go through the recycling on a daily basis, and they source separate the materials out for the markets,” she said. “There’s newspaper, cardboard, PET plastics, Number 2 plastic like milk jugs. Then they have balers on site where they bale the materials. They have markets to send them to.”

The markets fluctuate, she said, and the recyclers can hold onto the materials until prices improve. The two contractors retain all the money from the sale of the recyclables.

At one time, she said, recycled paper was in demand in India and China. That market has cooled.

“If they weren’t making money,” she said of the contractors, “we wouldn’t have a program. I know they can get a good price for the number 1 and 2 plastics, and cardboard too.”

Parking meter revenue, including fines

“There are a lot of parking meter tickets given out daily, and I was just curious as to how much money the C-U area made and where the money went?”

In Champaign the city’s financial plan shows that it took in $1.2 million in parking meter income in the 2012-13 fiscal year, plus about $551,000 in parking fines, about $41,000 in back collections of parking fines, $146,000 in gated lot income, $115,699 in cash key sales, about $470,000 in space rental and about $291,000 in on-street parking permits. Parking is about a $3 million business in Champaign.

In Urbana parking system revenue (meters and rentals) amounted to about $1.3 million in the same period, the biggest chunk of which was about $590,000 in revenue from campus area meters. 

An additional $375,000 from parking ticket revenue went into the city’s general fund.

The Frerichs/Bambenek alliance

“In 2012, many of us remarked on the clear cooperation between John Bambenek and Mike Frerichs to muscle Al Nudo out of the state Senate primary. Nudo was a real challenger and would have given Frerichs a real race. It’s clear why Frerichs would want the far weaker opponent in Bambenek but we wondered what Bambenek got out of the deal. Why has no one commented on the fact that Frerichs’ chief of staff helped shepherd Bambenek onto the school board outside an election as the political payment for knifing Nudo in the back two years ago?

You’re right to be suspicious about how that whole Frerichs/Bambenek/Nudo thing went down in the winter of 2012. But to suggest that Bambenek’s appointment to the Champaign school board is some sort of payback is outrageous. 

That’s about the most thankless school board seat in a universe of thankless school board seats. 

It used to be that serving on the school board could be a steppingstone to higher office, maybe even a judgeship. But no more.

Although it looked at the time like the pairing of Bambenek, a Republican, and Frerichs, a Democrat, got Nudo to drop out of the Republican primary race, Nudo insisted that he was getting out for personal reasons and that he didn’t want to be a part of dirty politics. Frerichs ended up easily defeating Bambenek in the November election. He’s now running for state treasurer. Nudo’s out of politics. Bambenek’s on the school board. I’d argue that Bambenek got the worst of that deal.

I asked him about your theory and Bambenek replied, “It profits man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Unit 4?”

Champaign Central High School Site, Again

“Suppose Champaign was an island ... and could not expand.  Where to put the new high school?  Why not put it in the area being developed for Bristol Place? It will be several years before the homes are built there, why not develop this land and then give in exchange, to the city, the land purchased by the school district on West Olympian?”

The biggest problem with the Bristol Place site is the nearby (and busy) Illinois Central/Canadian National tracks. That’s not only be a safety hazard — kids crossing the tracks to get to and from school, the possibility of nearby derailments and hazardous spills — but it presents traffic issues because of the at-grade crossing on Bradley Avenue.

I’m still partial to the Spalding Park site — centrally located, along bus routes, easily expandable — but it’s not my call.

What’s the solution to gun violence?

One reader offers his solution ...

“No tolerance for gun charges, some were dismissed in a case last week ... assign an assistant state’s attorney to do nothing but gun cases ... have State’s Attorney set up a meeting/training sessions with police to go over all gun laws, petition local state legislators to increase  penalties for FOID card violations.

“Most of these shootings are done by people ineligible to have a gun in this state but few are ever charged with violating those laws ... figure out where the guns are coming from and don’t deal away gun charges ... but they would rather cry for more gun laws ... I have been a harbinger for pressing the FOID Law, our state’s attorney says it’s only a  misdemeanor. There is a felony phase to that statute of a person is already a convicted felon, and it includes a $25,000 fine. Why not ask for the money as well?. :Lawyers making deals with their country club pals on the defense side.”

Favorite C-U eateries of all time

Here are the early returns:

“Favorite place to eat was La Casita where Apple Dumpling is. Burritos with Chili!!  And of course, Tritos Grinders.  Puts JJ’s to shame.”

“Tom, there are simply too many to count, but how about Dog n’ Suds, Chuck Wagon Diner, Garcia’s on Wright, Doc J’s, and of course Po’Boys?  However, the true Waylon and Willie of the old C-U late night dining scene was the Hay Bomb-a La Bamba burrito taken to The Homestretch, placed on top of a Haystack ordered with sausage gravy on the side, then the whole thing blanketed in the sausage gravy. WOW!”

Oh yeah, here’s my La Casita story. My wife and I were there with our son, who was about 3 years old at the. Below the cash register was one of those velvet bullfighter paintings. The little guy pulled it away from the wall and beneath were hundreds of madly scrambling cockroaches. That was our last trip to La Casita.

As for The Homestretch (at the northwest corner of Bloomington Road and Prospect Avenue), my late brother-in-law, John Costello, owned it for many years and made a great living from selling those Haystacks. 

Favorite Pizza places?

We got a few more votes from a question that went out last week ...

1)  Old Orchard Lanes in Savoy
2)  Monical’s in Tolono
3)  Jupiter’s

Filippo’s Mahomet, Monicals Mahomet and villa pizza in Mattoon


Papa Dels, Rosatis and Jets!
Runner up: Filippos (Mahomet & Monticello)

That’s all for this week. Thanks for the spectacularly interesting questions. 

Keep them coming, although I won’t be answering the next batch until Aug. 22.

Like Congress, the mailbag is taking its August recess — except we’ll be gone one week, not five. And we won’t be running for reelection, holding fundraisers or throwing verbal barbs at John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi.

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jthartke wrote on August 08, 2014 at 4:08 pm

As to high school voter registration, looks to me like both parties were offered the same (albeit late) space and opportunity to register voters, just the Democrats worked it harder. Maybe that says something for whose message resonates best with young people.

And as long as all parties are allowed, there is nothing wrong with getting people involved in the electoral process at a young age. New voters should be made aware of the parties and what they stand for.

787 wrote on August 09, 2014 at 9:08 am

Of course, Josh.   Democrats never do anything wrong.

pattsi wrote on August 08, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Further explanation would be useful in that RR tracks are bad related to Bristol Park as a possible site, but O.K. related to Spaulding. In addition RR tracks are O.K. for the housing presently in Bristol Park, all of the redevelopment for family housing immediately east of the track on Bradley along with the mega church near completion. Now that I think about it RR are near Franklin, what is now Judah, a former elementary school on north Randolph.  :-)

ericbussell wrote on August 09, 2014 at 6:08 am

Laurie Bonnet is a political operative and should have enough common sense to avoid this situation, especially when there is already so much discussion about the school board.   Voter registration is a good thing, but why open the door controversy?  The whole thing just seems tacky and Josh Hartke leveraging another democrat's screw up to take a political dig at Republicans just piles it on.   Keep up the great work and don't forget to stay classy. 

jthartke wrote on August 09, 2014 at 8:08 am

Who failed to show up and do their job? Republicans. Somehow that is now Bonnett's and Young Dems fault?

Do you deny that both parties were given the same opportunity?

And your non partisan solution is to let one of the most partisan Republicans in the County do all voter registration alone?

787 wrote on August 09, 2014 at 10:08 am

Hey Josh.  If it would have been the other way around... and the Republicans were staging a registration drive inside of a school. building.. the democrats in this county would be in melt down mode.  They'd be accusing everyone from Gordy Hulten on down, of everything that they could.

But since it is your party, the attitude is "nothing to see here.. move along..."

jthartke wrote on August 09, 2014 at 11:08 am

So no Republican was at the school trying to register voters?

And you still have not answered my first question. Were Republicans not given the same opportunity?

sanjuan wrote on August 09, 2014 at 8:08 am

@Patsi.  The difference is scale. The train tracks near Spalding, Franklin, Judah are very rarely used and the trains are usually short.  I live near them.  On the other hand the tracks near Bristol Place are the Canadian National main line with multiple lengthy freight trains, inevitably hauling hazardous materials, daily.  And, yes, the same tracks do run hear the University and Memorial Stadium and they ARE a safety concern.

pattsi wrote on August 09, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I lotally agree that number of trains is an issue. This helps underline one of the points that I made in that all of this redevelopment along east Bradley is basically next to the tracks along with the church and the many families who have lived for years or either side of those tracks. Macro point is being consistent in the arguments. If it is O.K. for the city to build low income housing in the area, why is it not O.K. for a HS?

sanjuan wrote on August 09, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Density.  Much harder to evacuate 1,700 students in a short period of time.   Makes no difference if it is low income or $500,000 homes.   The issue is density not income.  

kaw wrote on August 09, 2014 at 9:08 am

RE:  Voter registration:  I believe Champaign Unit 4 school district is in violation of the state ethics law, and possibly its own ethics policy.  "Politicking" on state supported property is strictly forbidden and a school is definitely state-supported proprerty. Part of the state ethics legislation required all local public bodies to pass its own ethics ordinance/policy and Unit 4 should have done this.  (I know Urbana School District 116 did as required by law.)  To have any kind of a political endorsement (campaign signs) present at the school event was a violataion of the law.  It was bad form all the way around, even if the Republicans weren't present.  Ms. Bonnett should be aware of the guidelines, and at the very least, should be aware that her elected responsibilities to Unit 4 and her professional life as an aide to Mike Frerichs will often put her in the midst of questionable decisions.  The best route to take is to avoid any instance of impropriety.  She failed to do that here.  

ericbussell wrote on August 09, 2014 at 10:08 am

This whole thing is just tacky.  Nobody is miffed and nobody is blaming the Young Dems for anything.   Jeesh.   It was clearly handled poorly by Bonnet, even though I want to believe her intentions were good.   It is silly reading a Dem County Board Member suggest that Republicans aren't doing their jobs.  Was this registration on a weekday?   If so, I suspect the Republicans were actually at their real day jobs when they finally got the message.   I think Josh's accusations of partisanship directed at the County Clerk might explain why the County Clerk (whose job it is to register voters) was boxed out of this.  

On the accusations of Republicans not doing their jobs, I am an elected Precinct Committeeman and I would never expect the party leadership to drop everything and scramble in response to something like this.  Even if the registration was on a weekend, political volunteers are not necessarily full-time political activists and have lives outside of politics.  Using this situation to score cheap political points is sleazy.



jthartke wrote on August 09, 2014 at 11:08 am

Again Mr. Bussell, were Republicans not afforded the same opportunity?

Was there no Republican representative at the event?

Young Dems were the ones there registering voters so I assume that's who you seem to have the problem with.

Seems to me that going to young people and talking about the ideas our party stands for is the exact opposite of "sleazy" politics.

ericbussell wrote on August 09, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I'm really confused.  We have Laurie Bonnet claiming “This is not about partisanship. It’s not about the parties. It’s about people understanding how important it is to vote."  Yet she decides to make it about parties with Josh Hartke suggesting that it was about pushing party ideas.  

I can't speak to whether or not Unit 4 officials acted fairly, I can only tell you that I was told Rs were not provided the details until after the event had started.  I am not at all concerned with the Young Dems working to reach out to voters, I just think the whole thing was handled poorly by Unit 4.   Yes, given the circumstances and how this whole situation was handled, taking a cheap shot and ratcheting up the partisan nonsense is really sad.   The volume on the partisanship dial does not need to be turned all the way up all the damn time.  You can dial it down every once in a while.  

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 09, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I know that the republican party is not popular with young people these days, but the levels that local republicans will go to keep young people not involved in politics is staggering. Close the early voting at the Illini Union during posted hours? Check. Attack the young democrats for registering high school students and talking about internships? Check. Should we also expect the same outrage on Quad Day when the college democrats register college students? Or is somehow getting engaged in political and grassroots action only beneficial to the education of college students at a public university, and not high school students at a public high school? 

The actual details of this supposed "contraversy": 

Unit 4 invited both the young democrats and young republicans to have tables to register students and talk about internship opportunities at high school registration. The young democrats were excited about the opportunity, recruited people to work tables at both high schools throughout the day, got signs together that said "register to vote" and some signs of the candidates with internship possibilities, just prior to the event one young dem reached out to Unit 4 to confirm they were coming, and Unit 4 confirmed and also sent an email to the young republicans asking if they were also coming. Apparently, they were taken off guard and only could man one table for a few hours and didn't have any signs decorated or prepared. Also, the volunteers for the young democrats were actively engaging students, answering their questions about how to get involved, and recruited over 20 contacts for possible internship opportunities. Oh, and registered more voters in one day - high school students and adults - than Gordy did in three days at the Urbana registration event. Niether group was present on the first day, as the invitiation was to attend the last day.

And in response to a well prepared and organized group helping to get young people registered to vote and a chance at their first internship ever, and get them excited to be involved in the process and making positive change in their community, the young democrats and the nonpartisan president of the school board are, of course, attacked for being unprofessional and partisan by the Republican County Party Chair. 

Perhaps the "nonpartisan" chair of the Champaign County Republican Party should take a second and remember how well it worked out last time someone thought it was a winning strategy to attack the young democrats for trying to get young people engaged in public service. 

Seriously, this is such a joke. The most partisan republicans in town, the chair of the republican party and Eric Bussell, whose jobs literally are to push partisan talking points, think that it was outrageous that the young democrats and young republicans were given the opportunity to help register high school students because that is too partisan and their solution is to just cut democrats out of it all together and just have the partisan county clerk, who happens to be a republican, do all the registering. 

So far, the young dems have shown they can register more students in one day than he can in three. You keep using that word "nonpartisan" and I don't think it means what you think it means. Everything about your pitiful attack on young people trying to engage high school students is partisan. 


ericbussell wrote on August 10, 2014 at 7:08 am

"Perhaps the "nonpartisan" chair of the Champaign County Republican Party should take a second and remember how well it worked out last time someone thought it was a winning strategy to attack the young democrats for trying to get young people engaged in public service."

It sounds like the Young Dems are really desperate to be involved in the conversation.   Are you guys really so self-absorbed that you need to create fictional attacks for attention?  

ericbussell wrote on August 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

"The most partisan republicans in town, the chair of the republican party and Eric Bussell, whose jobs literally are to push partisan talking points, think that it was outrageous that the young democrats and young republicans were given the opportunity..."

Kyle Harrison only suggested that the way it was handled was a "little unprofessional".   I personally think the whole thing is tacky, especially after Josh Hartke took the dirt road after Kyle Harrison took the high road.  I haven't met anyone who is outraged over this.   I'm not sure how to respond to fictional attacks on Young Dems and make-believe outrage that nobody is expressing.   I don't know if you need reading lessons or simply forgot to take your meds, but how about stepping back from the ledge. 

Chamrep1 wrote on August 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

Absolutely nobody is attacking the young dems, and do you know why? This is because the young dems never even showed up, instead a paid DNC employee from another state showed to run an Ann Callis booth. Yes he was young and he was a democrat, but he was not a Champaign County young democrat. Registering voters is fine, but talking to minors without parents present on a partisan basis is not ok. Engaging students politically is also ok, but attempting to push your beliefs on a minor is not. I hear Ann is coming out with a line of children's books that is soon to become required reading in elementary schools.

The event was also only supposed to be about registering students and parents to vote, so boasting about 20 sign ups for internships does nothing to help your case. Guess what, we were able to manipulate the event for Ann's gain, please pat us on the back. So now we see what it looks like when the democrats attempt to register voters. " Oh, you would like to register to vote, just fill out the form right there under the Ann Callis brochure". Sorry, I'll stick with Gordy.

What you mistook as the Young Republicans being unprepared was simply not the case. Not having campaign signs, campaign literature or attempting to indoctrinate children was only being professional and legal at what should have been a non partisan event. 

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

“talking to minors without parents present on a partisan basis is not ok”

“attempting to push your beliefs on a minor is not”

“I hear Ann is coming out with a line of children's books that is soon to become required reading in elementary schools.”

“attempting to indoctrinate children”

Why are local republicans so opposed to bipartisan efforts to register high school students and inform them of internships? The truth comes out here. It is an utter disdain for the very idea that an 18 year old high school student has the ability to understand issues important to them and exercise their right to vote. "You can go join the military and die for your country, but you better not have a thought about who you should vote for!" 

Getting young people involved in the political process is good, your repulsion to the idea is bad. 

Also, you are really, really wrong about DNC staffers, the tables were staffed by Champaign County Young Democrats. Seriously, what is with the conspiracy theories here? Laurie Bonnett a "political operative"? Young Dems are now flown in from Washington, D.C. by the DNC? This highly sophosticated black ops operation all to register young people to vote! Gasps. 

ericbussell wrote on August 11, 2014 at 9:08 am

I certainly don't have a problem with a DCCC Field Organizer coordinating with the principal and staffing the table, but I can see why there is DNC vs. DCCC confusion.  I mean, who really knows the difference?

ericbussell wrote on August 10, 2014 at 7:08 am

It seems the Principal agrees that voting registration in the school should be non-partisan.  From: Joe Williams <>
Date: August 6, 2014 at 16:14:21 CDT
Subject: [CentralPTSA] Registration today and tomorrow


Good afternoon, We still have two more hours for you to come to register today.  Tomorrow, registration will run from 9-6.  Registering during hour formal registration hours gives everyone an opportunity to have “full service.”  Stations are set up for everything you must do as far as paperwork; a plethora of opportunities are available for you and your child regarding school activities and clubs in the gym, as well.   In addition, the Young Democrats will be available tomorrow to register any students or their family members who are eligible to vote.  They also will be offering fall internships for interested students. Hope to see you soon!!! Joe WilliamsPrincipal From: "Joe Williams" <>
Date: Aug 7, 2014 1:09 PM
Subject: RE: Voter Registration
To: "Chris Beaird" , "Dan Klein"
Cc: "Laurie Bonnet"  "Judy Wiegand">, "Stephanie Stuart"

Chris and Dan,


In the future, to alleviate my own mind in this, I will only allow non-partisan voter registration.  I don’t mind anyone who is trained actually doing the voter registration no matter how those registrars personally vote, but partisanship should not be a part of getting our students and their families to register and to vote when there is a connection to our school.


I’m sorry for the confusion and late communication regarding our school registration and desire to increase our students’ and their family members’ opportunities to register.





Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

The celebration here by local republicans that they were able to raise a controversy out of thin air, about something that Eric Bussell is now saying he doesn't even have any complaints about, all in order to stop bipartisan efforts to register high school students and inform them of internships within their community is very frightening. These bipartisan efforts to engage young people into the political process is what we need more of, not less. Considering that zero parents complained, and it is only the two biggest partisans in town complaining at all, I think Unit 4 should really re think its decision. They were right the first time to open its doors to voter registration efforts and information to its students that can help create an impressive resume for college applications with local internships. I hope they are not going to cowtow to a few fringe nutballs that make up the local right-wing noise machine who don't believe that young people should be engaged with bipartisan efforts. 

We need more bipartisanship and more engagement of young people, not less. 

And again, Gordy Hulten is a partisan, he is not non-partisan. You don't understand the meaning of the word. It is very clear the only purpose here is the local republican's purpose of cutting democrats out of as many voter registration efforts as possible and to make it harder for young people to register to vote. If it wasn't only about that, then you would have a legit complaint about what happened instead of vauge it was "unprofessional" and "too partisan." 

But in the meantime it looks like the local right-wing noise machine will be taking a victory lap because they were successful in creating more barriers to bipartisanship and voter registration of young people. Congrats guys! You must be so proud! 



ericbussell wrote on August 10, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I don't think Republicans created any controversy at all.  This conversation started because of parent complaints and a letter to Tom Kacich.   I have an email from a parent proving it and I've confirmed with a school board member that calls were received from parents who were complaining.  You can have different opinions, but you shouldn't lie about the facts. 

I don't think there was anything wrong with a Young (Whatever) group responding to an invitation from Laurie Bonnet.  Except in Big Debbie's head, nobody is attacking the Young Democrats.  The first I heard about this conversation was from Tom Kacich's mailbag.  Is he part of that noise machine you mention? 


Mr Dreamy wrote on August 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm

This is over a handful of people. Most high school students don't vote, they're not old enough. Parents should have registered years ago, so their politics won't change, they will just become enfranchised to help select leaders.

Was this the only registration drive? Do it again, and be prepared.

A better idea. Young D's and Young R's, or College D's and College R's try to arrange a debate on the issues at the high schools. Let the better ideas win support, and let conversations begin at home.

Or, keep sniping at each other until all of us hate and loathe all of you.

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

It is true that engaging young people, especially high school students, to get involved in the political process is not easy. But that is why groups like the young dems who are willing to volunteer time and resources into the effort should be encouraged, not locked out of the process. If they are willing to take a shot at it, register some students, get some go-getters an internship, why would anyone want to stop that? 

Bipartisanship. Registering young people. Getting them internships. These are all positive things that Bussell and Harrison are trying to shut down. So sorry about the sniping, but some things like this great event are worth fighting for. 

We need more collaboration, on a bipartisan level, and you have some good ideas here on how that can be done. I hope the young dems and young republicans can sit down with Unit 4 administrators and talk about how to make everything run smoother next year for bipartisan efforts to register students and get them information on internships. And maybe they will be able to take it a step further and have a debate on the issues. I like it. 

ericbussell wrote on August 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm

If parents want divisive partisan politics in the schools, so be it.  I haven't conducted any polls, but I can't imagine that to be the situation.  It's really confusing with Laurie Bonnet suggesting this is not about the parties while Big Debbie is suggesting this is all about the parties.  Joe Williams sent his email out on Thursday before Tom Kacich even published his article.  Laurie responded and even said she agreed with him.   Sorry, but there is no Republican shut-down conspiracy going on.   The only people attacking the Young Dems are the voices in your head. 

It is hard to respect you guys as advocates for bipartisanship while you take shots at the Republican Chairman and while Josh Hartke comes out of the gate taking shots at Republicans, suggesting the Young Republicans aren't doing their jobs.   You apologize for sniping in the same paragraph you snipe at the Republican Chairman. 

If the parents want partisan politics in the schools and the schools ulimately decide that canidates should recruit students to their campaigns on school grounds, I suspect the Republicans could easily accomodate such a request with better communication.   In the meantime, you have an elected County Clerk who has a team of trained professionals who seem willing and able to register voters.

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Voter registration is not partisan, nor should it be divisive.

45solte wrote on August 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm


        356.01 ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PRINCIPAL - Student Voter Registration




The Board of Education directs the District's administration to provide students with an opportunity to learn and practice the principles of civic responsibility.  This goal may be advanced by offering the service of voter registration to eligible students.



High school principals and their designees may be appointed deputy registrars by the county clerk.  If appointed, the high school principals and the high school designees may accept voter registrations of eligible students in the high school.



High school principals or designees who become deputy registrars shall develop the following procedures for student voter registration:






1. Student voter registration shall occur only in May and September;



2. The completed student voter registration forms shall be returned to the county clerk within seven (7) days of May 30 and September 30.





LEG. REF.:Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 46, para. 4-6.2 (1983)


710.30 (Student Voter Registration)

Approved January 14, 1985




















Momologist wrote on August 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

As a parent ~ a highly involved parent ~ I do not appreciate having any party present at the schools especially with candidate signs.  The County Clerk can register if necessary and the school board should be focused on bigger and by bigger I mean T-Rex sized problems and issues currently facing Unit 4 

This conversation is noise and focus should be on school issues NOT them vs us.  We have enough division and this isn't helping .... I could not care less who showed and who didn't.  It should never have happened in the first place. 

Unit 4 leadership should know better and I appreciate Joe Williams addressing it.  

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Who said anything about candidate signs being there? Again, registering voters is NOT partisan.

QM46 wrote on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 am

This was totally the wrong way to handle voter registration. Either the County Clerk's Office or trained Deputy Registrars  should have been set up to conduct this process (I believe students who are registered to vote can become Dep. Registrars.)  Absolutely no political signs should have been allowed around voter registration -  I believe that's illegal.

I understand that we need everyone's vote,  young,  old,  middle-age; it doesn't matter.I am very happy that we are trying to do voter registration in schools,  however the part that I was very upset about was having signs up for particular candidates at the voter registration. This is wrong and if not illegal anymore should be. When you go to vote on Election Day,  there are signs outside the polling place normally from every political candidate under the sun, normally 100 feet from the entrance.  However, inside the polling place itself,  there are zero.

In the same way, there should not be any political signs during a registration drive  either, and especially on school publicly funded school property at a voter registration booth.

 We would scream if there were political signs inside the County Clerk's office where we go to register to vote plus other things. So there should not be any political signs around voter registration; that should be a non-partisan,  politic-free zone and especially inside the school.

If each of the political groups set up a separate booth far away from the voter registration,  then that should be okay as long as they are student organizations from the school. 


Chamrep1 wrote on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Apparently what I heard was not entirely correct. The Callis employee registering students at Central was with the DCCC not the DNC. Either way still not a local resident or a Champaign county Young Democrat and just as gross. Check the link going around:

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 11, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Seriously, though, have you forwarded that twitter link to the FBI or New York Times yet? I mean, it's going around, but this is the first I saw of it. People need to know that the young democrats here in Champaign County are made up not only of young people that are democrats, but sometimes young people that are democrats that move here to work for democrats.





Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Wait, so you are telling me that the young democrats recruited a campaign worker for the DCCC into their organization? That's an outrage! I even heard that the DCCC hired two young democrats to work for them too! This is quid pro quo at its worst, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Or, maybe, it's just a group of young people who are trying to register high school kids to vote and talk about the benefits of getting involved in political action?

Nah, couldn't be. It involves democrats so must be something sinister. Let's just repeat the words "partisan," "political operative," and "indoctrination" until everyone gets annoyed with us enough to not allow any registration of high school kids. Sure, high school kids won't be registered to vote and will not have the chance to know about internship possibilities in their community, but that's the whole point isn't it? Great success! 

Chamrep1 wrote on August 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

So he was paid to be there by the DCCC who assigned him to the Ann Callis campaign and only brought Ann signs, literature, and info on her internship........but he was volunteering? 

Oh I get it, it's the same as all the volunteers at the democrat booths at local events who are also all paid. 

ericbussell wrote on August 12, 2014 at 5:08 am

There is nothing wrong with having a paid DCCC political operative at the event, but you don't need to lie to people and say you had "volunteers" there. 

Republicans have paid political operatives around also.  The Davis vs. Callis race will be one of the biggest money races in the country.  Republicans were told at the last minute this was a voter registration drive.   I suspect if people were told it would be okay to pimp out our candidates with internships, etc, the Republicans would have done the same thing.   Of course, the Principal saw what was going on and suggested he wasn't going to allow that in the future.

The lying and spin are taken to a dissapointing level when the Young Dems suggest there is a conspiracy to prevent student registration.  In this whole conversation, including outside this discussion forum, not a single person I've listened to has a concern with nonpartisan registration of students.   The constant need to lie and suggest otherwise is shameful.  It's okay to disagree, but it's not okay to lie. 

kaw wrote on August 12, 2014 at 8:08 am

Can anyone who was there tell me if there were campaign materials at the registration?  Signs for Callis?  Anything related to the campaign?  I've talked to someone in the Attorney General's office and the presence of anything campaign-related made this registration illegal.  Don't care if anyone was paid, don't care if anyone was a Democrat or Republican, don't care about who called whom or didn't call whom.  If campaign materials were present, Unit 4 violated the Illinois Ethics Act, and apparently its own policy.  Thank you for the information.  

ericbussell wrote on August 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

This is a picture of the "Young Dems" table with Ann Callis signs. 

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

No one is attacking the young democrats. We are just stalking them, taking secret photographs of them when they aren't looking, posting those photographs to facebook, blogs, and the local newspaper's comment section, paying to promote on facebook blog posts entitled "partisanship shouldn't be part of registering students to vote" only mentioning the young dems as being there and not that the young republicans also were, publishing email exchanges with them and Unit 4 on blogs, stating the young dems are taking the "dirt road" and nothing but "paid political operatives," and other such stuff that is so clearly not an attack.

I mean, what are they so upset about?

Just wait until Quad Day! We are going to get so many pictures of young people registering college kids, and talking about internships on campaigns! It will be the scandal that finally brings down the U of I! 

Bipartisanship. Registering young people. Getting them internships. Not on Eric Bussell's watch! 

Chamrep1 wrote on August 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

Nobody cares about signs or offering internships at Quad day, have fun. The problem is with minors, talking to KIDS as young as 14 and 15. Kids are young and impressionable by nature so no adult should try to teach them anything unless it is a family member or a teacher. NOBODY on either side of the aisle should attempt to shape a childs mind. If either side starts discussing their beliefs with a 14 year old and explains we can help his future with an internship, he is more than likely to sign up. What is sooo wrong with letting kids make up their own minds? If a 14 year old makes up their mind and wants to join the democratic party, they will search you out. If it takes you being there to talk with them, offering incentives, selling them on the idea, then it was not of their own volition, they were coerced. 

It's simple, next time you are asked to bring a volunteer and register someone, simply bring a volunteer and register someone. Do not have a paid employee from the national organization there to Campaign. Do not take advantage of the staffs noble intentions, manipulate the event or childrens minds. 


SaintClarence27 wrote on August 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Agreed. Parents also should not try and influence children.

ericbussell wrote on August 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

The Young Dems did nothing wrong by accepting Laurie's invitation.  Nobody was criticizing you.  Why you guys felt it was necessary to come out of the gate and take shots at other people is beyond me.  Next time, how about making your argument for [insert topic here] without attacking other people.   You can't be the aggressor and play the victim card at the same time.   You can't attack people and pretend to be taken seriously as an advocate for bipartisanship.  As I've said before, if the parents and school district really want partisan groups to be in their schools recruiting, I really don't have a problem with it.  I appreciate that many people do not appreciate it and I think we need to be mindful and respectful of that.   The complaints, the pictures, emails, were all a result of concerned parents and had nothing to do with partisan gamesmanship.   If you are going to be involved in Quad Day, please stay away from any controversy.   I really don't want to be reading any more about whakadoodle conspiracy theories about Republicans trying repress student registration. 


Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

If republicans stop trying to prevent students from registering to vote, democrats will stop "attacking" them for it. Deal? 

kaw wrote on August 13, 2014 at 11:08 am

ericbussell--thank you so much for the photo.  

SuperAbe2014 wrote on August 13, 2014 at 7:08 pm

You're very, very welcome, Kristin!  And thank you so much for sharing your knowledge of the applicable laws with us!

I can hardly wait for you to take Naomi's place in Springfield, so we can start cracking down on some these lawbreaking Young Democrats, and put them behind bars where they belong!

31416 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Wow!  Your post, SuperAbe2014, might well turn out to be the most interesting post so far in this entire discussion!

All of a sudden, we find out that the person who for a long period of time has written the highly-partisan, obnoxious 'KAW' reader comments, in response to many different articles in the News-Gazette reader discussion forums, is none other than the Republicans' beloved 103rd Illinois House District Republican candidate Kristen A. Williamson herself (posting under her own initials, KAW)!  That is really quite a revelation, believe me!

Holy Crow!  (KAW! KAW! KAW!)

Perhaps Republican insiders have been well-aware of this for quite some time now -- who knows?  However, if other, non-insiders had made the (in retrospect, quite obvious) connection:

'KAW' = Kristen A. Williamson

we certainly would have been reading many comments about that here on the forums.

Indeed, KAW's comments here greatly undermine her campaign's efforts to make her into a fake and phony moderate that everyone is supposed to fall in love with, and tend to remind us instead that she was a delegate for Newt Gingrich at the Republican National Convention in 2012, that she 'swoons over' Paul Ryan, and that she served as the Campaign Manager for the execrable Rex Bradfield during his dirty 2006 campaign against Naomi Jakobsson!...


[News-Gazette Quote:]  "But this year's [2006] GOP effort on behalf of candidate Rex Bradfield of Urbana is an embarrassment."  Tom Kacich, 10-24-2006

Mr Dreamy wrote on August 12, 2014 at 9:08 am

If Callis beats Davis by 10 votes we will know why, those pesky Young Democrats actually registered them with signs present. If Davis beats Callis, it will be because those pesky Young Republicans registered them without signs present.

Get off it, all of you. Will people vote for Callis or Davis because this? Of course not. Quit wasting your time whining about this, and if you truly care, help spread the message of your candidate.

The loathing is increasing...

alabaster jones 71 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 6:08 am
Profile Picture

Wow, look at all of these comments over absolutely nothing.  A bunch of small-town politicians grasping at straws to find things to argue about, trying their hardest to equal the pathetic bickering and partisan hackery of their heroes in Washington D.C.

Exhibit #5,949,432 of why political parties are pointless, impede societal progress, and should be banned.

You should all find a more productive hobby.  Maybe a stamp collection?  Your local post office can help you get started.

Nonpartisan Hack wrote on August 14, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Yes, Mr. Bussell, thank you for doing the lord's work and pointing out everywhere that young people are being indoctrinated to register and vote. Here's another important community alert: I saw on Facebook today that the Young Dems are still registering students to vote! This time on public university property! Please, Mr. Bussell, use your amazing abilities to scower social media and get these thugs arrested! You made a promise to us that no young people would get registered on your watch! Now is the time for action, before all of our children are registered to vote and voting without parental consent. 

ericbussell wrote on August 15, 2014 at 7:08 am

Matt, it is not necessary to lie and constantly work to mislead people.  I do not share the opinion as another commenter who feels that the young partisan groups are indoctrinating them.  Of course, you know this already but you insist on misrepresenting the facts and other people's positions.   I've stated over and over again the young partisan groups did nothing wrong by accepting an invitation from Unit 4.   I'm not concerned with your obsession with me so much as I am concerned with your obsessive need to lie and distort the facts.   The political bickering is annoying, but the general lack of basic integrity is downright disturbing.  

Keep it Real wrote on August 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

This has to be about the most annoying conversation in the history of mankind!! Both parties showed up. Correct?? After parents complained, the Principal at Central High School put the kibosh on future partisan activities in his school. Why is this even front page news?? The Chairman of the Elephant Party says it was a "little unprofessional"?? Stop the press!! OMG!! Who gives a flying [****]?? The Young Dems clearly have the emotional capacity of a 10-year-old while Eric Bussell gets waaaaay too much enjoyment out of exploiting it. All of you owe me for the 10 minutes I just lost reading through this nonsense. Nonsense.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on August 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm
Profile Picture

At the end of the day, if the situation had been reversed, each side would be saying exactly what the other side is saying about them right now.

Whether it's local or it's national politics, that right there describes the vast majority of partisan "controversies" in a nutshell.

Keep it Real wrote on August 15, 2014 at 6:08 am

There is no situation here!! The Republicans can't complain because they SHOWED UP! So there was some late communication. Big Deal!! The Republican Chairman wasn't even upset. Isn't that what the article suggested?? This situation was addressed by the Principal BEFORE THE CONVERSATION EVEN STARTED. Eric Bussell even admitted that Republicans are not upset. After all this NONSENSE, can't we just conclude that parents and administrators do not care for political signs in the school?? I can't decide which is dumber - the child indoctrination conspiracy or the voter registration blocking conspiracy. They are both IDIOTIC!! There are MUCH bigger fish to fry at Unit 4 and the Young Dems' desire to have political signs in school halls should NOT be a community priority. We should be much more concerned with [insert ANY topic of your choice].