Pat Quinn – Blago continued for IL voters?

The last governor of Illinois that I actually liked was Jim Edgar. The last one I voted for was James Thompson. While I’ve voted in statewide elections since then, I have not cast a vote for governor. I have yet to see a candidate that I did not think was either corrupt, dishonest or too elusive. We are now on our third consecutive governor who validates my disgust.

Pat Quinn has played the “people” card his whole career. Profess to be defender of the people, and you can claim a righteousness that puts you beyond suspicion. The bleeding hearts can’t imagine that there are really people out there that would be able to play this card so well, and actually be completely incompetent.

My dislike of Quinn was not based on a sense of his possible corruption, but rather that he has always seemed slimy to me. He is ever non-committal, prefers the bully pulpit to beat up others rather than state his affirmative position in any detail for which he may be held to account later, and is completely lacking in any sense of leadership in Springfield. He continues to evade a firm position for which he can be held accountable.

Now, in the light of the investigations into the $55M Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, he claims ignorance, or his aids claim his ignorance on his behalf, as Pat Quinn could never be caught making an unequivocal statement that would prevent future tap dancing.

Take a look at this list compiled by the RGA. While an undeniably partisan organization, the list itself should be the focus.

Here is the scary part for me. Rod Blagojevich was re-elected under even more troubling indications of corruption. I have no faith that Illinois voters are going to be any wiser this time around.

For the first time in my voting life, I will be voting AGAINST a candidate. I’ve always been against this mentality, as it is usually based on partisanship. But this year we cannot afford to reelect Quinn. Regardless of any corruption that may underlie his administration, he is no leader, and definitely part of the political machine that perpetuates the corruption in our state.

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Happy Memorial Day?

My dad was a sailor in the Merchant Marines, cargo and troop transports during WWII in the North Atlantic, Italy and then the South Pacific. There were pictures that I saw growing up, mostly black and whites of landscapes, buildings (rubble in some cases), buddies and an occasional pretty lady. He didn’t talk about the war often, but when he did, his words didn’t reflect the photos. I guess the pictures were his distraction from the reality.

He tried to enlist at the start of the War when he was 17. He didn’t pass the physical because of hereditary high blood pressure (or perhaps nerves).  He settle down a bit and then joined the Merchant Marines.  (if you’re not familiar with the Merchant Marines, click here.)

He talked about men who didn’t make it back. Some on the battlefield, including his cousin who was buried in Germany. Others made it through the battles only to die on ships.  All totaled in WWII, over 700 cargo and troop carriers were lost. So I imagine, similar to war in general, a lot of stress came from what might happen next.

Today’s wars continue to take men and women from us. Though the news is much too quiet about it, if you pay attention, you hear it. We see their parents, siblings, children and spouses. The sacrifices continue each day.

This weekend, skip the “Memorial Day Sales.” Be with friends and family, have conversations, teach your kids your beliefs and play a bit. And, every once in a while, as you do these things whisper a thank you to the men and women who died so that you have the freedom to think, believe, teach and speak as you do.

 

The Faces Of FreedomEach year, I post this to remind myself that it is more than a 3-day weekend.

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Meaningless Federal Interference in Education

Creating sameness, the downfall of our educational system is exemplified in the silly requirements of our physical education classes at Warren High School on the Junior / Senior campus. The substance of the student’s efforts are irrelevant to the grades. Having the right shorts and t-shirt is more important than actively participating in the events. Excelling in the sport or activity is not weighted as heavily as simply wearing the right shorts… literally.

While I am all for keeping our kids active, that is a family issue not a school issue. We have gone way too far in making the schools responsible for our kids’ health. This all stems from the Federal government’s interference in our educational systems. The President’s award for physical activity in gym class… its ridiculous. With all due respect to the PE teachers, I can keep my kids active. I can’t teach them the math, science or English classes. Why is PE treated on the same level, and even higher than our academic courses?

Physical education is a requirement for every semester of high school. Foreign language, history, science do not require the same amount of time. Because some parents can’t take responsibility for their kids’ health, our government feels compelled to drop resources on something we can all do (keep our kids active), while not investing in that which most of us cannot do, teach them the academics.

The deception here is that for the kids who are not inclined to be active, PE does them no real good. It’s a farce. This is demonstrated by the greater weight being put on what the students wear rather than on what the students actually do. So, like so many other things our government does, we created a whole program that does not help people, created an artificial measurement (wearing the right color shorts) and consume resources. Despite a decade of Federal interference, overweight kids have become more of an issue, not less.

This, like so many other programs, shows the futility of the Federal interference. The Fed sets up a system of homogeneity that caters to the lowest common denominator for which they have to create meaningless metrics to justify. Instead of recognizing the foolishness and pulling the plug on the programs, failure is simply a reason to dump more resources into the program and create more red tape.

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Political Progress in the Future: Coalitions, Not Parties

“It’s very, very serious,” warned Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable.”
–http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/us/politics/congress-budget-debate.html?_r=0

I wanted to vote for John McCain in 2008.  His pragmatic approach, like the above statement, was one a liked. Fiscal conservatism, but not an unreasonable approach to governing. Unfortunately, his selection of Gov Palin as the running mate made voting for him too difficult. He was catering to the very elements of the Republican party that are now holding out for that which  is “not achievable.”

The (moderate) Republicans are trying to put together a deal, but are not getting support from the Tea Party conservatives on the far right, and the Democrats are not making an earnest effort on the left. I feel as though there are three parties in D.C. now, trying to put together a coalition in a hostile environment and with people that have no idea how to built one.

Years ago, when I was in England, the people I spoke with insisted (correctly) that the U.S. does not have a political spectrum. We had two parties that are just slightly left and right of center. Most of the rhetoric was based on getting elected by creating a distinction that did not truly exist.

Over the past two decades, we have seen the evolution of our political spectrum. The divergence from centric positions provides great theater that we eat up, but causes very poor governance in a system that was built for two closely aligned parties. At one point, every issue was debated as two sides of the same coin. Now, we are working in very different currencies.

In and of itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Our problem is that we are not accustomed to dealing with such divergent views and priorities. In order for our government to move forward on any issue, our political leaders will need to think in terms of coalitions rather than parties and caucuses.

Ironically, we are finally realizing the reality of our principles. Freedom of speech, free expression of thought, and standing up for ideas that are not mainstream have been what we have talked about for 240 years. With the glaring exception of the Civil War, for the better part of that time we have not had to work within the reality made possible by our system. Only in the past 10-20 years, we are experiencing the full scope that occurs with freedom of speech and expression of thought when the citizenry diverges from centric positions. We are just now developing a political spectrum.

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Business Driving Common Core. Kids Are Not Little Adults.

There is a disconnect between what science knows and what business does. This Ted Talk Video (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html#) does a great job of outlining the reality.

Business has always tried to simplify things. 1 + 1 = 2. Great! If you pay someone more for specific results, they will work harder to achieve them. Money motivates good behavior, punishment deters bad behavior. And so on and so on. The problem is, the world, and especially people are not that simple. Getting results is much more complicated; motivation takes way more work from leaders; people simply are not that simple.

In business, we try to boil things down this way because we have very structured deliverables, time, money and personnel constraints. So, we tend to think in terms of constraints, not freedoms.

As a result, when business leaders provide input about the education system, the direction is tainted by this very thinking. It is not just that they say “we need better writers, more collaborative workers, stronger thinkers, etc.”, they also influence the way this is ‘taught’ and  assessed. If adults are simply not that simple, kids are down right complex.

Driving the Common Core
In education, we are driving our kids through the Common Core. The Common Core evolved from business leaders, government officials, and educators. If you have any doubt as to the greatest influence, just read the language of the material related to the Common Core; it is peppered with terms like “globally competitive”, “prepare for the workforce”, “workers of tomorrow”.

The influences of the Common Core, in a large part, stem from a group that regularly ignores behavioral science, believes things should be simple, and has a history of miss-motivating people.

But, that didn’t stop us.
We started with standardized testing. That didn’t work so well, not because measurement is wrong (we should have it), but because our process leading up to it is wrong. Schools treated entire classes as one homogeneous learning organism. Teachers (in our district anyway) often spoke out against this, but it uniformity trumped creativity. Instead of questioning the premiss of standardization (read, “constraints”), we expanded on it, and now are pushing this flawed perspective into the way the students are taught on a national level. Our previous method put adult constraints on kids, constraints that were developed at the local and state levels. Now, we are simply replacing one level with another, the federal level.

We are told that the Common Core allows for many different ways of learning. Unfortunately, rather than allowing each child to work with the most effective way for them, it makes every child go through every way. It is easier to administer and manage a class that way. Again, sounds like a solution (frequent mistake?) to a business problem, not an educational problem.

Our very concept of teaching, how we teach, is based on structures and constraints dating back more than a century. Uniformity and conformity had their place at one time (or, perhaps not and we just missed an opportunity to get way ahead). But, we know more about how peoples respond, how kids learn, and it is not through regimented, downward dictates. If anything, I believe these dictates stifle curiosity and inhibit learning.

Take a look at this article about a teacher in Mexico (http://www.wired.com/business/2013/10/free-thinkers/) that dropped the top down government program and implemented his own method based on Sugata Mitra’s research.

Closer to home
Just observing my own kids, I see them follow a string of thought through internet research, reading articles and finding videos on everything from music to astronomy, the human mind to history. Their curiosity takes them far and deep into subjects that are not so trivial, learning things that are beyond any education I received as a child. What amazes me in all this is how “hard they work” in order to learn these things.

Of course, they don’t think of it as work. They’re curious and the subject matter is being absorbed in a way that is meaningful to them.

Rather than rigid lesson plans, and discrete methods, perhaps some freedom would motivate our kids. There has to be a balance, and I am very sure we have not found it in the Common Core.

It is Political
On the political side of this, the motivation at the state level to participate in the Common Core is to obtain Federal Grants. Once again, the states are basing key decision not on the merits of the programs, but on the financial crack known as Federal Funding.

We should be a nation of ideas and ideals. But, we have become a nation composed of a Federal pimp and state whores. For a buck, the states will do what the Fed tells them to. At some point, we have to reject the funds, and accept ideas on their merit, not on the money that comes with them.

 

Taking steps:

learn more about the student led methods that help others around the world (and in a few schools in the US). http://www.ted.com/pages/sole_toolkit

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Obamacare, aka The Affordable Care Act: National Issue, Local Debate

I am seeing and reading a lot about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. It is frustrating, because I witness people whom I believe to be intelligent, echo what are clearly (if you’re familiar with the law, or paid attention to the supreme court) words that are simply wrong. I see this as a symptom of our current political status; ideology trumpeted by talking heads and sound bites crafted by decidedly partisan speechwriters become the “facts” that are debated as either being good or bad for America. What is so frustrating is that this law (it is a law, despite the current rhetoric) is imperfect and needs to be amended, adjusted or perhaps implemented in a better way, but we will never get there if we continue to allow the political extremes not only to control the conversation but also our very understanding of what ACA really is.

Now we have a partial government shutdown (about 750k-800k workers out of a government workforce of about 3.3M) and its collateral impact (not to be interpreted as unimportant) for things like the Head Start Program that receive government funding. This, because a faction of the Republican Party is behaving as if the ACA is still in committee, being hammered out by the two houses of Congress. I understand that they do not like the law. But, it is a law. A law vetted by the (Conservative leaning) Supreme Court. Shutting down the government in an effort to renegotiate on law is a bad precedent.

Rather than engaging in a productive review of the (now being realized, perhaps previously anticipated) implications of the ACA and proposing appropriate changes, the move is to simply de-fund the entire thing, good and bad equally hit. This sounds like the sequester we got hit with this year because, again, our Congress cannot figure out how to work together and ends up resorting the non-decision. They are afraid to prioritize, make a decision and stand up for it. As long as they push things to the extreme, they can simply blame the ‘other side’ for not compromising. Both sides are guilty.

In the case of the ACA, the Republicans are entrench in an anti-ACA crusade. This time it is on them. During the budget debate that lead to the Sequester, I believe the Democrats were intransigent, not willing to entertain (in any serious way) real reforms and cuts to our spending. Okay, Republicans were also extreme in not being willing to entertain tax increases. But, if you don’t know how much you really need to spend, how can you determine how much revenue you need to raise. In my view, the Dems wanted to see how much they could be raise & borrow, and then figure out what we can spend it on. The Republicans wanted to figure out how much we need to spend, and then determine the funding for doing so.

Any way, a bit off course….

The ACA.

As you hear things, and feel a need to pass on or share a quote, video our op-ed story, fact check it. Even if it is a pundit you like and a general position you agree with, check the underlying facts of their arguments.

Somethings are just funny. I’ve seen medical doctors. deriding the ACA in a way that cracked me up, and see Jon Stewart clips that are equally funny. But they are entertaining, not educating. Share this stuff in fun. But, base arguments in facts.

So, a few things I am seeing that are not actually true, or at least uncertain at this point:

1) Health Care Plan – No. Compelled insurance participation – Yes, sort of.

Often, the ACA / Obamacare is referred to as a healthcare plan that we have to participate in. It is not. Not by a long shot. At its core, the ACA is a law that compels people to have health insurance. Employers must offer it, or pay a fine (about $2k / worker / year to start ). People must get health insurance or face tax penalties (roughly up to 2K+ for a family, or a 1% of HHI to start.).

Here is the thing. 80% of the people are not impacted by this. (I touch on the cost issue later).

Why? Because they are already covered by some type of healthcare insurance. The ACA does not change that. It does not force them to do anything differently than they currently do. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/30/%3Fp%3D63297/)

Personal exemptions – the “sort of” part of compelled..

If buying healthcare insurance costs more the 9.5% of your income, you are exempt. While the government is going to kick in some cash, not everyone will get enough. So, mostly, these folks will depend on the state in which they live and the level of Medicaid that state makes available.

When it is done, everyone will be covered by some kind of insurance, right? Wrong.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 26 million Americans will not be covered after the rollout is complete (2016 – 2020). So, we will go from about 48 million uninsured / not-covered down to 26 million. The remaining uncovered will be made up mostly of the poor, between 18 – 44 years old.

That is about 20 million people for whom the coverage status will change under the ACA.  That’s about 6% of the population. About 8% will remain uncovered. There balance will / should be covered by the expansion of Medicaid.

Keep in mind, the actual percentages / number vary based on assumptions. However, the basic premise (80% stays the same) does not change.

2) Congress and the President are exempt.

No, they are not. I don’t know how this got so distorted. But, the exact opposite is true. In fact, the Republicans forced an amendment to ensure this (though, by default, Congress was not exempt anyway):

“Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, after the effective date of this subtitle, the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and Congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are — (I) created under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act); or (II) offered through an Exchange established under this Act (or an Amendment made by this Act).”

The President maintains the same coverage as always (just like the other 80% of Americans). The President is not exempt.

Some more on this point.

Just as all those covered by employer insurance, Congress and the President have been and will continue to be covered.

3. Doctors are going to get paid too little to participate.

There is an issue for Medicaid participation. But, this is a long standing issue and not part of ACA particularly. For years, the federal government has been scaling back the funds, and as such, the States (which actually pay the doctors) have also been getting stingy, and in some cases late, in paying doctors and facilities. This is one of those issues that must be addressed, but not because of ACA. In fact, the argument over ACA has been a distraction from addressing fair and timely compensation for Medicaid doctors.

The issues are impacted by the Federal funding, but set at the State level. For Illinois, the Department of Healthcare & Family Services is responsible. Rate reform information for IL.

4. All our costs are going to increase

Yes. This is true, kind of. The fact is, those newly covered people are likely less affluent with lower education levels. On average, their health issues tend to become more acute before they are addressed and as a result, more costly.

What is not being addressed in this discussion is the hidden cost currently imposed. These same people are treated (eventually) and the costs are buried in the hospitals, only to be recouped by getting more from other patients who can pay. Or so the argument goes.

The fact is, the answer is unknown. People started pointing to increases in insurance policies last year and claimed it was because of the ACA. But, that was just an excuse. Insurance rates have gone up every year, and disproportionate to inflation (which has been relatively non-existent).

According to some, it is too early to tell, and if there is an increase, it will be nominal.

http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=27072095&fm=most_popular

Others are predicting a doubling of insurance cost for individuals.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/09/25/double-down-obamacare-will-increase-avg-individual-market-insurance-premiums-by-99-for-men-62-for-women/

It is important to note that the relative cost of pre-ACA and post-ACA as a blanket statement is irrelevant. It is too greatly influence by State, status and demographics. Take a look at this from the State of California:

http://www.californiahealthline.org/articles/2013/3/29/report-acas-effect-on-insurance-premiums-varies-by-income-level

Essentially, for lower income families, the cost will decrease due to subsidies. But, that price has to be paid by others (taxes). If you limit your view to the individual cost, you may think the situation is better (or worse) than if you look at the marco-view. The fact is, no one truly knows yet.

A word of caution: When you see the “average increase” statements, be weary. We can take slices of the new, compare them to slices of the old, and make it look how ever we want – good or bad. Before you quote specific “studies”, be sure to understand the detail and scope of the comparisons. You may be surprised at how biased they can be.

Those are some of the things I see and hear. You see more I’m sure. Please check before you parrot.

The ACA has more to it. There are taxes on equipment, increases in government oversight, new regulations on insurance companies and healthcare providers. We’ve also seen some other aspects already implemented, such as no disqualification for pre-existing conditions, coverage for children up to 26 years of age, and more. The issues most commonly debated are above. Many need to be reviewed and perhaps amended. But, there is good mixed in with the bad, and we need to address this thoughtfully.

In Closing (imaginative, huh?)

Finally, and take this however you wish, we are a nation of morals. We don’t let people die or suffer without trying to help. We’ve sent food, equipment and people all over the world to help others. At home in America, we have decided that if someone needs emergency medical attention they will get it. We’ll figure out how to pay for it later. We’ve honored this and codified it with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act in 1986. As our poor population delays their medical care due to lack of access, they end up at the emergency room which must by law (and should) treat them.

From a practical perspective, this means the cost is already being incurred. The question for us is how we gain visibility into the costs, pay for it, and manage it. Whether the ACA is the vehicle to accomplish this or not, it inevitably has to be done.

 

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Gurnee Days Parade

Gurnee Days had another Great Year. It is a wonderful annual event that brings the community together for a few days of games, entertainment and fun.

One of the reasons I like it is that it is not over-the-top. It truly is a bit of Americana. Young and old come together and just enjoy the days.

Below are some images and video of the parade as well as some photos of the grounds. There was a theme for the parade.

warren cheer and Pom

The Young… Warren Cheer and Pom. Really very cute.

Our Sunrise Senior Living community joined in the parade, and had a great float.

Sunrise Senior Living in Parade

Sunrise Senior Living Residents.

As ‘scary’ entry from the Lake Count Rugby Team made me laugh.

Lake County Rugby

The Shipping Point (a local business) and a fun application of their prodcut.

Shipping point Box pirates

A favorite, the Medina Shrine Clowns, and their little companion.

Medinah Shrine Clowns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marching Bands

Woodland Middle School Band

Warren High School Band

After the Parade, the school band performed at the shell.

School Band at the shell

 

Walking Tall

Gurnee Days in the park

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Gurnee Days This Weekend!

Gurnee Days at Viking Park, fireworks tonight, games, food and fun today & Sunday.

Join Gurnee residents for a great summer celebration!

Some of the fun events include:
Young artist show
Games
Stage events – talent show, and evening entertainment
Rib eating contest
fireworks (9:30pm Sat)
Beer Garden
Mother Rudd House (learn about area history – pretty cool place)
Parade (Sunday at noon on Old Grand Road).
And more (of course)

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Woodland Middle School: 11-year old boy pinned by car. Bystanders jump in to help.

During the Woodland School district ‘proof of residency’ session on 8/9/2012, a 67 year old driver of a minivan mistook the gas pedal for the brake and backed the vehicle into the school, crashing through one of the doors.

Inside, a the child was pinned under the car. The boy was freed and then taken to Condell Hospital in Libertyville where he was treated for cuts and minor burns.

(you may need to reload / refresh for the video to appear)…

This is where the news left off.

But, being local, and knowing some of the folks there, I think it is worth mentioning that immediately following this accident, people jumped in to help (at the end of the video, Eric references 3 people cut while trying to help). The boys father was also initially pinned by the mini-van. He was helped free while another man went to the boy to  calm, comfort and help him as they looked for ways to get him out.

Accidents happen. Bad things can come from anywhere. But, the strength of a community is shown in the way people respond. This wasn’t a tornado or major event. It was traumatic to a few. But, it is good to know that neighbors don’t just watch it happen; they step in and help each other.

The bystanders who helped, walked away anonymously. There actions were kind and very much appreciated.

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Mike Nerheim: Just Another Shade of Lake County Politician

It is an odd thing about politicians. When campaigning for an office, they are very assertive, sharp (generally) and believe that the office holder is accountable. Once in office, there appears to be a process during the first few weeks where this is drained from them.

In the Lake County States Attorney’s Office, previous States Attorney Michael Waller did not prosecute officials, established a base of arrogant prosecutors, and disavowed

Michael Waller

Michael Waller, Former Lake County States Attorney

responsibility for the actions of his staff. Post here.

Even now, we find that before he left, his staff did not seek a search warrant in a case involving Rick White, a former lieutenant with the Sheriff’s office who is accused of sexual abuse of a minor; White was responsible for finding and investigating online sexual predators.

Opinions from experts vary as to the appropriateness of this inaction by the SA (Chicago Tribune Article). Waller’s response when asked was that he didn’t know his staff had not sought a search warrant, but that if he had known, he would have told them to “go for it.” No accountability, just excuses. Good thing he is gone.

The case of Rick White is still open, though with seemingly no progress.  The investigators admitted in the Tribune article that they have not taken even the basic steps for such an investigation. White retired in December and is living part time in Florida.

Current States Attorney Mike Nerheim, after campaigning against the status quo, arrogance, and ineptitude of the office is now defending the very same practices. He seems

Mike Nerheim

Mike Nerheim, Lake County States Attorney

to have no sense that the appearance of protecting cronies, such as in the White case, is a cornerstone of frustrations among the residents.

The short version of the White case is that he was accused of having sex with a 15 – 16 year old boy, who attended the same high school as White’s daughter.  However, they did not know each other from the school; they connected in an online site. The boy said he told White he was older. The police were made aware of this case by a defendant in another case.

There are two areas of concern. One is the sexual abuse of a minor, and the other is the potential misuse of State computers and resources.

The controversy stems from the States Attorney’s decision not to investigate, seek warrants or follow up in any perceptible way. Their reasoning is that they boy told them he lied about is age and therefore they have no way to make case against White. Mind you, they stopped any type of aggressive investigation at that point.

As I mentioned, experts in the area differ on the ability to obtain a warrant to search White’s computer and home. But, the fact is the SA did not even try. They stood still.

In light of what we generally know about sexual predators, this is inexcusable.

  1. If it really is abuse, there is seldom only one victim.
  2. The abusers tend to have control over the victim, even when they are not present.
  3. The accused in this case was, and has the appearance of being protected by people, in a powerful position relative to the victim.

It is incomprehensible to me that, by their admission, the investigators did not even take rudimentary investigative steps and the SA did not even try to obtain a search warrant.

For Mike Nerheim to so casually push aside the issue of this case, and treat it like some petty theft accusation for which there is little evidence, is a complete contradiction to his campaign message and what we need in Lake County.

Appearance or reality, the message to the residents continues to be that people in power protect people in power.

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