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From Posterity to the Soup Line

May 7, 2009

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In sixty days, the Chrysler Corporation will emerge from bankruptcy under new management. This new management will consist of a tripartite made up of our federal government, a foreign automaker and the United Auto Workers of America. Meaning that the future of Chrysler and the City of Belvidere will lie in the hands of individuals whom hold no allegiance to Chrysler or to our community. (Save those who work at the Belvidere plant). For the city leaders of Belvidere this isn’t a wakeup call it should be an alarm ringing loudly.
The Belvidere Chrysler plant has long been depended upon for the jobs that have kept Belvidere working. Sadly, the day is coming when that dependence will end. When it does many citizens of Belvidere will be forced to seek work elsewhere. Many of them will eventually leave Belvidere. The second and third order affects that this exodus of citizens will have on our community will be devastating. City leaders must begin work on creating and implementing an industrial development plan that will bring jobs to Belvidere. Now! Before it is too late.
A current industrial development plan, one based on Boone County’s agricultural heritage and the new uses economy, has been in place since 1999, but it has shown little promise. After ten years and $2 million this plan has failed to live up to its potential.
Today, a new industrial development plan is needed one that will bring jobs to Belvidere before Chrysler closes its doors. The question is: What industry will provide Belvidere with enough jobs to replace those lost by Chrysler’s closing?
The answer is – the Defense industry. Why the Defense industry? The Defense industry is a trillion dollar a year industry that employs 2.5 million people. Future employment projections show that employment in the Defense industry will grow at a rate of 6% annually over the next ten years. By 2020, more than 3.5 million Americans will be employed in the Defense industry and expenditures will top $2 trillion a year. And, the Defense industry uses products that are made with manufacturing processes using advanced technology; metallurgy, electronics, robotics, biometrics… The type of high skilled jobs that are sustainable and provide a livable wage. Its potential for job growth is immense and, unlike the automotive industry which is losing jobs, and the agricultural industry which has grown stagnate, the Defense industry is one of the few industries that are creating jobs.
It is said that “as goes Chrysler so goes Belvidere.” As the once mighty Chrysler Corporation dies a slow and painful death will our hopes and dreams for the future of our community die with it? They will unless something is done now to prevent that from happening.

Lt Col Jim Wise, a former alderman in Belvidere is currently serving an active duty tour at the Pentagon and working on a Masters of Public Administration.

Jim Wise, 215 West Boone Street, Belvidere, IL 61008 815-904-9576 james.r.wise@live.com

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It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you look funny on a horse.

April 10, 2009

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On April 7, voters sent a clear message – change is coming. This is a message that the leadership of the Boone County Republican Party had better take heed of. This past election cycle, the leadership of the Boone County Republican Party chose to protect the interests of a few select individuals, and the public offices that they hold, at the expense of the needs and interests of the citizens of Boone County. This caused the Party to lose one City and one Township office and only able to hold on to several other elected offices by the slimmest of margins. The prized possession of the Party, the office of Mayor of Belvidere, was nearly lost to an Independent candidate who lacked even the most basic of qualifications to hold such an office. The Party is in trouble of losing its status as the dominant political party in Boone County and to retain its dominance in Boone County politics three things must occur.
First, the Boone County Republican Party needs new leadership. The current Chairman is void of the skills needed to sustain the Party’s dominance in Boone County politics and should be replaced in order to prevent any further decline of the Party’s membership and status within the County.
Secondly, because it has become too focused on a select few public offices and individual office holders its membership base is shrinking and candidates who previously sought County, Municipal, Township and Precinct offices as Republicans now run under the banner of the Independent Party. The Party needs to refocus its attention on the citizens – the ones that live on Main Street not High Street in order to regain its base of support from among the citizens of Boone County.
And thirdly, it needs to move beyond the old ways of governance. Its membership is comprised of both men and women, but has a woman ever led the Party? There are many women among the Party membership who have the skills and ability to lead the Party. Two who come to mind are Cathy Ward and Patricia Zickert. Studies have proven that women make better leaders of organizations where interpersonal skills are more important than brawn. The Party has plenty of brawn, but has failed to take advantage of the skills that are needed to promote, nurture and sustain the Party and its membership, skills that women in general posses.
Change is coming to Boone County in small measured steps. But change in the leadership of the Boone County Republican Party needs to take place before the next cycle of elections, before it loses its status as the dominant political party in Boone County and surely before the current leadership leads the Party to its grave.

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Run, Pheidippides, one race more!

March 30, 2009

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In 490 BC, Pheidippides ran from the battle field at Marathon to Athens with news of the Greeks’ victory over the Persians. Upon entering the Greek Senate chamber he breathlessly announced, “We Won” and then collapsed – dead at the feet of the Greek Senate Pro Tem. _________________________________________________________________________________________________
And because of that, I have never run a marathon, although there are plenty of others who do. Marathon running has been an Olympic event since 1896, heralding the feats of Pheidippedes and the champions who have followed him. It is fitting that this historic event had been made into a sporting event. I think that is most appropriate. After all, Pheidippedes did run 26 miles from Marathon to Athens with the news of victory. And running is a sporting event. Unfortunately, too many politicians have confused holding political office as though it were a marathon of sorts – a marathon of terms in office. And, although Pheidippedes did reach the finish line (the city of Athens) a few local politicians have never established a finish line that will mark the end of their marathon of terms in office.

To justify serving term after term they will say that they have not completed all of the goals and plans that were created under their leadership. Or, that the candidate who challenges them come election time is incompetent or too inexperienced to hold office. They then attempt to convince the voters that only they possess the qualities and the character that will lead a community to better times. Often times this is the very road map that is used to plot their re-election.

Career politicians intentionally pace the progress of these plans so that they succeed or fail at crucial times during their terms in office. (often times within months or days of a re-election.) (Isn’t Swedish American opening its Belvidere annex on April 6th, one day before the general election)? Or, they will sieze upon the opportunity of re-election because a candidate who lacks the qualifications needed to rightfully perform the duties of the office will lend their name to the cause of a misguided effort to challenge the incumbent with no hope but to become the sacrificial lamb on election day.

Illinois State Statutes do not limit the number of terms that a person can serve in office at the municipal level. That is unfortunate. Too often politicians become complacent in office when having held on to it for multiple terms. Even more troubling is that voters become apathetic towards the electoral process and fail to exercise their right to vote. Leaving only the office holders’ core supporters and friends as those voting to return him to the same office term after term. There are few elected offices that benefit from a multiple term holder. Those dealing with the courts and law enforcement come to mind as those that do, but most elected offices do not.

There is no justification for a person to remain in office for a lifetime or, to believe that the office is theirs to possess by way of wealth or entitlement. Nor is there justification to remain in office beyond the exhuastion of any benefit of doing so under the pretense that only they can bring to fruition a master plan.

Plans are created to provide oversight for 20-30 years of growth, development and the expansion of public services and are meant to be passed on to a second, a third or even a fourth group of successors, who then become responsible for its fulfillment. Yet, in Belvidere, City, State and Federal officials hold onto an elected office term after term negating the benefits of change and the reinvestment of human capital.

Yes, it is true that the voters will turn out a politician who no longer meets their needs. But, when apathy and complacency rule the political landscape it is difficult to weed out those deserving of multiple terms from those who aren’t and moreover even those who are qualified to be elected. It is up to the voters to determine the finish line for the politicians who aren’t willing to do it themselves.

Mayor Brereton’s re-election bid is based on the themes that he has not reached the “finish line” and that he was elected to “build” a better Belvidere not to just “plan” for it. And because of that, he is deserving of a fourth term in office.

On April 7, will the voters determine Mayor Brereton’s finish line for him? Will they end his marathon of mayoral terms? It may very well be that they will. But, then again, electing the uneducated and inexperienced sacrificial lamb to take his place may bring about the undoing of everything good in Belvidere.

If Pheidippedes were to come running into town on April 8, to announce the outcome of the previous day’s election, and breathlessly announced “We Won.” Before he collapses and is overtaken by exhaustion, I would ask him – we won what?

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I will offer a choice, not an echo

March 25, 2009

On April 7, citizens of the second ward will chose between two candidates to serve as their alderman for the next four years. Of the two choices that are on the ballot one is a man who claims to posses the wisdom of age and the other is someone who claims to be the anti-everything.
This past week, an article appeared in the Belvidere Daily Republican (a misnomer since it is published four times a week, not daily) where the two candidates running for alderman in ward 2 answered questions for the benefit of the readers. What started out as an “I’ve done more than you” comparison quickly turned into a parody of political humor.
One candidate justified his candidacy by referring to it as a pursuit of selfless service while the other announced his desire to wield such a degree of authority, as an alderman, that his mere presence would cause citizens to cower in fear.
When comparing experiences and intents. One candidate (the incumbent) likened his vote to use utility tax revenues to pay street department employees’ salary’s as in keeping with the “spirit” of the use of the funds. Reasoning that since the funds were to be used to repair our roads then why can’t they be used to pay the people who fill the potholes? The other candidate attempted to impress likely voters by recalling his efforts to oust an alderman who was absent from council meetings while serving his country in a time of war. (or, as President Obama now says, Overseas Contingency Operations)
To the candidate who proudly wrote of how he “fought” for my ouster from office. You should read the poem written by Charles H. Province. It might give you a little insight as to how grateful that you should be for people like me.
Neither candidate offers a real choice to the citizens of the second ward. What they both offer is an echo of the past. Which is ironic because while one candidate believes the council chambers should be a place of deliberation and not an echo chamber. That is, unfortunately, what it will become regardless of who wins the seat. One candidate will serve as an echo of past accomplishments, forgotten years and failed solutions to the challenges that we face. The other will be the echo of a past administration that governed our community as if our city flag contained the images of the hammer and sickle, rather than the outline of an industrialized, modern, progressive city. If these are my only two choices that I have to represent me at city hall then I wish I had a third candidate to chose from. Someone who could really offer me a choice and not an echo.

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Does the size of the campaign sign equal the size of a man’s…

March 16, 2009

I took a drive around town this weekend and boy, did I see a lot of campaign signs. There were as many different colors as there are candidate’s. Red, white, blue, yellow, orange, and teal were the colors that I saw and most were easy to read. Vote for me is what they said for the most part. Nothing unusual for Belvidere in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
What I did think was unusual was where a large number of campaign signs for one candidate were located. They were located in the yards of rental properties. What is so unusual about that you might ask? Nothing. Nothing at all. In fact it is quite common in Belvidere. It’s done by the owners of these properties (friends or employees of the candidate) who want you to think that there is more support for one candidate over the other. Truth of the matter is the resident’s of these properties, who are renters, probably aren’t even registered to vote. But, a yard and a campaign sign go together during election season. So what the heck plant a sign anywhere you can. Even on a property where the residents wouldn’t know the person whose name is on the sign from Adam.
I did also see a few of those large campaign signs, the 4×4’s and the even larger 8×4’s on property located in the county for a candidate who is running for a city office. Now there’s nothing wrong with large campaign signs. Although, they do look out of place on a rural road sitting so ominously in large open fields. But, I guess that goes with the desire to be elected, the bigger the sign the bigger the desire. That makes me think of that old wives tale. You know which one. The one that says that the size of the campaign sign is equal to the size of a man’s… hope for re-election. I wonder if it’s true.
Jim Wise.

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And They Gave To Our Community A Balanced Budget

March 10, 2009

“Everybody wins with this system by keeping people working, balancing the budget and cutting taxes.” Alderman Mike Chamberlain, Ward 3, Belvidere, Illinois, March 2, 2009

On March 2, the Belvidere City Council passed Ordinance 7H, an ordinance that reduces the utility tax from 5% to 3% and allows for the transfer of funds from the road reconstruction program to the general fund. Prior to calling this ordinance from the agenda the mayor and council members took turns patting each other on the back and extolling the virtues of the ordinance.
Passage of this ordinance approved the use of utility tax revenues for a purpose other than what they were intended for which was the road reconstruction program. This means that there will be no road reconstruction project this year or next. Construction workers, skilled tradesmen and quarry employees will stay unemployed this summer because of this ordinance and the 2010 budget.
As for balancing the budget, the mayor and city council’s concern for balancing the City’s budget outweighed their concern for the financial security of the citizens of Belvidere. “Balancing the budget” is slang for choosing to not dip into the City’s reserves to meet an $800,000 shortfall in revenues. A $100,000 surplus from this “balanced budget” will be deposited into the City’s reserves though increasing the reserves to $3.75 million and strengthening the City’s financial security. While the mayor chose not to dip into the City’s savings account so that he and the council could boast of a balanced budget. Many citizens in Belvidere have seen their financial security melt away because of the collapse of the financial markets and no longer have a savings account nor can they balance their budgets.
The council had the opportunity to suspend the full 5% utility tax for one year to provide real tax relief for the families and businesses of Belvidere. Reducing the tax rate from 5% to 3% translates into a savings of $120 this year for me. It would have been more meaningful if the council had suspended the full 5% for one year saving me $400 maybe more.
Raiding the road reconstruction fund to pay for general fund expenses this year opens the door for doing it again in future years. Will it happen when the State tells the City that it will have to make a multi-million dollar deposit into the pension funds to make up for the losses that occurred from the meltdown in the financial markets? Or, when Mayor Brereton wants to build a transportation center for the train that will come during his fifth term in office. And, just how much money does the City need in its reserves? So much that it would sacrifice the standard of living for working families in Belvidere by keeping them out of work? As for providing tax relief. I don’t think that saving me $10 a month is real tax relief. I’d rather that the City would have kept the tax rate as it is, and proceed with the Columbia Avenue reconstruction. At least then I could pat myself on the back for helping to keep people working in Belvidere. Someone who needs the money more than I or the City does.
Jim Wise

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George has at least one vote coming on April 7th

March 10, 2009

Below is a readers comment, and my reply regarding the posting of my correspondence with George Crawford. 

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Wow, Wise you are an idiot. You have sore loser written all over. You are looking for someone to blame-enough. George deserves to be Alderman and he has my vote.

 

Courtney,

Thank you for visiting Belvidere – Politiks.  It is good to know that there are people in Belvidere who care enough to sound off when they feel the need to.  Read the rest of this entry »