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Jeff Ward: Symptoms of Municipal Mindset? Our City Council's Chronic Focus on the Trivial

Fiddling while Rome burns. This is why 21-year-olds should be rarely seen and never heard!

I should’ve known! Right after threatening to for their surprising fortitude in reducing our proposed property tax levy, they had to disappoint me.

Ah, well! I supposed some love affairs just aren’t meant to last. At least we’ll always have December. When it comes to the City Council and this columnist, in the grammatically stilted eloquence of Ms. Gaga, “You and me could write a bad romance.”

And the road to this rocky relationship breakup started on Jan. 9 when that municipal body inexplicably decided to humor 21-year-old former aldermanic candidate Zac Ploppert by approving a motion to .

The fact that Geneva underage drinking citations dropped by 30 percent in 2011 failed to daunt our intrepid Mr. Ploppert in any way. No! Like any good Republican politician when faced with contradictory facts, he simply disregarded that data and adjusted reality to fit his hypothesis.

Despite a dearth of evidence supporting his claim, Ploppert unilaterally decided that incidents of underage drinking weren’t declining—they were actually on the rise—it was just that these phantom offenders were the masters of avoiding detection. We all know how circumspect drunken teenagers can be.

To send a message to these stealthy Heineken-guzzling high schoolers, Ploppert asked the City Council to raise the underage drinking fine by 150 bucks so the kids that weren’t getting caught wouldn’t have to pay it.

It makes perfect sense to me!

Folks, this is exactly why 21-year-olds should rarely be seen, never heard, and certainly shouldn’t run for alderman. Those of us who’ve managed to make it past 40 cringe at the thought of the things we came up with at that age.

Then again, when you consider Alderman Craig Maladra, who once again flip-flopped to side with the mayor, said this: “I think the measures we take today are largely effective, but in the end, I think increasing the fine sure as heck can’t hurt,” perhaps Mr. Ploppert would fit right in on that City Council dais.

Craig! You know I love you, but seriously, please consider thinking about what you say before you just blurt it out. If something is, indeed, “largely effective” then why are you wasting our time by continuing to address it?

Instead of saying, “Hey! Nice try kid. We appreciate your input, but your facts don’t fit your theory and your conclusion is sorely lacking. Better luck next time!” you’re only encouraging him. I can only imagine what Ploppert will come up with next—an ordinance prohibiting bald men from getting haircuts?

And the kicker is, Ploppert didn’t even bother to show up at the very meeting this farce was foisted upon us.

I could almost forgive the City Council for this massive mental lapse, but then they had to go ahead and immediately compounded it by re-banning synthetic drugs.

That’s right! The state of Illinois’ new statue outlawing marijuana alternatives wasn’t good enough so they wasted yet more time by prohibiting designer drugs a second time. Of course, this begs the question that, if you ban something twice, like multiplying negative numbers, does it actually make it legal?

In an irony so delicious even I couldn’t have conceived it, as that municipal body was considering the synthetic drug vote, Geneva Police Chief Steve Mexin passed out information on a webinar hosted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America titled, “Synthetic Drugs—The Race to Keep Up, But Always One Step Behind!”

You have to love a group of aldermen so ready and willing to give you that kind of magnificent material. Don’t ever change, guys!

We’ve already covered the and how our legislators and law enforcement can’t keep up with it. You ban one set of chemical analogs and the manufacturers, using Parkinson’s Disease research, simply come up with even more dangerous formula.

The correct answer would be to legalize pot and end this ridiculous self-defeating cycle.

“But Jeff! Big deal. So they voted on some silly things. If it won’t make any difference in the long run, why worry? What’s the harm?”

I’ll tell you what the harm is, dear reader! The harm is it gives us the illusion that we’re actually doing something about a serious problem, when, in reality, we aren’t doing anything. It’s like an ostrich burying its head in the sand to avoid something distasteful only to have the distasteful entity come around and kick it right in the butt.

It also reminds me of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. With the immediate challenge of , , , and property tax revenue falling for the foreseeable future, our City Council is spending its time on fictional underage drinking, pointless synthetic drug bans and .

I always thought, considering the time they put into the job, that $3,600 aldermanic salary was a bit on the cheap side. But after last week’s council meeting, I’m beginning to think they ought to start paying us.

Jeff Ward January 17, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Paul, You're right. When the chief of police says the current underage drinking deterrent are working just fine, considering the challenges before us, that should be the end of the conversation. The other issue I was more subtly addressing was this cultures pathological need to praise anything our children and younger folks do. Not everything deserves applause. Not all citizen activism is good. It's great that Zac chose to get involved, but his theory was so flawed it was absurd. If he really wanted to start the conversation on underage drinking, which actually is in steep decline in Geneva, there are better ways to do it than by wasting the city council's and our time. And like it or not, this is a current Republican tactic. Create a problem that doesn't exist, blame it on the president and offer a solution that's outright inane. Jeff
Bob McQuillan January 17, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Jeff I see both your and Zac sides. Government isn't the cure-all but underage drinking is a problem in Geneva. Just because less kids have been caught doesn't mean underage drinking is down. It just means they aren't being caught. Since your oldest is in middle school, you probably aren't aware of the problems depth. Some middle school parents are, ask Chic Williams. My biggest concern is that parents are now enabling not only their kids but other people's kids. Case in point is the infamous "homecoming" party where kids were drinking inside with the owner's permission. This has been going on for years. I know because I have three kids now aged: 30, 27 & 23. The parent problem has gotten worse, now there are co-ed sleepovers. The Junior Assembly (Christmas Dance) was cancelled this year. Why? Not lack of attendance. The real reason was that some parents held "private parties" so that grinding could be allowed! I'm sure some had drinking approved too. Geneva is just like every small town, kids drink. Is this new penalty the right thing to do? I have no idea but the professionals at Tri-Cities Family Services could tell you. The schools are even starting to sponsor parent seminars on drinking & drug use. Every parent needs to wake up and be a parent, not a BFF. Does a girl or boy getting killed need to happen before people understand the danger? You don't like the penalty, what is your solution? Do nothing?
Mike Curran January 17, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I'd be inclined to accept a 21 year old's take on the underage drinking situation over a couple of 50-somethings with no kids in high school
Bob McQuillan January 17, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Mike Thanks for making me feel old! Our neighborhood is filled with middle school & high school kids. Their parents know what is going on because their kids tell them. You would be shocked at what goes on in the middle school, especially on the bus!
Brian Carroll January 17, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I would not be inclined to accept the opinion of someone who, according to his original article, did not participate in this behavior himself. How would he know what deters someone from doing something he never did. This is how I see this issue as coming about; First, Zac lost his aldermanic campaign. He then decided he will run again in the next race, but wanted to improve his chances by doing “something.” He actually chose wisely on that “something” because no alderman wants to seem soft on the “problem” of underage drinking. Now when he runs for alderman next he will have something to point to and say, “Look! I am capable of completing simple tasks!” The problem is that what he did was 100% irrelevant. Underage drinking happens within homes away from parents eyes. Police have no chance of making any real dent in this issue because the kids are not dumb enough to be doing this in public. It’s up to parents to monitor their children’s behavior and act accordingly. Jeff is correct when he says not all citizen involvement is good.

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