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Jeff Ward: Why Do I Suddenly Feel Like Singing 'We Shall Overcome'?

The TaxFACTS group takes hyperbole to a new level.

Upon , I immediately planned a march through downtown Geneva, held a candlelight vigil, and sang a few rousing choruses of We Shall Overcome for good measure. The only thing missing were the fire hoses, attack dogs and—oh, yeah—the lynchings.

Declaring, “This is not a speech about black history, but it is about prejudice; that is, about ignorance,” at the Feb. 27 School Board meeting, Geneva TaxFACTS member and Kane County Chronicle opinion columnist Rick Hollinger called out those who would call out his activist compatriots for “stirring up trouble.”

“Lately, it has become fashionable to call someone who commits himself to bettering his community an activist, loudmouth or egomaniac,” Hollinger added. “And if polite society believes someone is pushing too hard or too long, he might even be accused of trying to wrest control of government.”

Wait a minute! I think he’s talking about me! Though I don’t recall using the specific words “loudmouth” and “egomaniac,” I certainly thought about it. On the other hand, I always thought the term “activist” didn’t come with a downside.

Before we continue, let me stipulate that that Mr. Hollinger and I both came up through the former Tri-Cities Suns newspapers, we’ve been friends since that time, and I was the one who conned the Chronicle into considering him because I believe he has something to say.

But this time, he’s completely gone off the deep end. Comparing the TaxFACTS crowd’s antics to the peaceful protests of the 1960s civil rights marchers? Should a reader ever accuse me of too-frequently traveling the hyperbolic road, I would probably plead guilty. But after reading about Hollinger’s remarkable juxtaposition, let’s just say I don’t want to hear any of you complain about me taking literary license ever again.

Even trying to write self-appointed TaxFACTS ringmaster Bob McQuillan’s name in the same sentence with Martin Luther King’s almost makes my head explode. One had a dream while the other tends to be a nightmare.

If, for some inexplicable reason, you previously doubted my claims that this group harbors a particular brand of megalomania, you need doubt no more.

To be fair, Hollinger’s peculiar comparison was primarily directed at District 304 School Board members whom he claims too easily lumps the TaxFACTs group into the “trouble maker” category.

But later that evening, in a delicious irony, as if to prove there’s nothing the board can do to make them happy, he and some other Geneva residents had the nerve to ask the board to provide access to meeting video with a fast forward or rewind capability.

Presently, video of board meetings is only available on a Comcast Channel 10 broadcast.

So what they’re essentially saying is, “We want you to spend even more time on our already insistent demands so we can continue to play the gotcha game by reviewing board meetings with that fine-toothed comb and then posting out-of-context video snippets on our website that will make you look really bad and rally more people to our cause.

Unbelievable! Another prime example of TaxFACTS’ we-demand-all-your-attention-all-the-time mentality.

Here’s a thought! Take out your iPhones, point the little glassy thing at the dais, and hit the “record” button.

Failing that, I have one simple word for FACTS: “TiVo!” I’ve been recording all manner of municipal meetings for the better part of a decade. Then You can fast forward and rewind to your heart’s content. We even have a TiVo that can upload videos to the Internet.

In another almost-as-massive irony, though FACTS wouldn’t have you believe a word they say, the Association of School Business Officials International just presented the District 304 board with their award for having met or exceeded financial reporting and accountability standards.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing about some conspiracy there, too.

But what really frosts my cookies is, after administering verbal blow after blow, TaxFacts folks somehow fantasize they can turn this whole thing around and make it appear like they’re the aggrieved party—and do it with a straight face.

Is our School Board perfect? Far from it! But I’ve lately been perceiving the kind of effort for which they deserve at least a minimum of credit.

Though I certainly appreciate FACTS going this far out of their way to prove my previous points—"prejudice," "civil rights" and we shall overcome? I had no idea middle class white folks were so oppressed.

Get a grip. guys! You’re actually starting to make the Tea Party look good.

Rudy March 05, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Remember Jeff that Rick is another Opinion columnist and his views are his Opinion which is his right in America. You don't have to like it or agree with it but you need to accept they have a right to their Opinion and you don't necessarily have to agree with it. I for one don't agree with all their tactics but applaud there effort. The Fox has been watching the hen house for way too long! Rudy Oldham
Jeff Ward March 05, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Rudy, I agree! But opinion columnists can also agree to disagree. He disagreed with my opinion on FACTS and I will defend to the death his right to disagree. But then I also have the right to disagree with his applying civil rights imagery to FACTS. I love how that First Amendment works! Jeff
John Walsh March 05, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Pasty-white subruban conservatives, evoking the name and cause of Martin Luther King. Imagine that.
Colin C. March 05, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Jeff, Question. How much does Tax Facts cost the District in time spent responding to their requests. I know that the manhours must be considerable but has anyone actually put a price on it?
Alberto Principe March 05, 2012 at 03:45 PM
You are funny Jeff! Are you sure you were not a clown in a previous life? Do you do birthdays? Well written article, I think you exagerate, but it is your opinion after all.
Jeff Ward March 05, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Alberto, Some folks think I'm a clown in this life! And please don't tell anyone that I use hyperbole too! Jeff
robert poznanski March 05, 2012 at 04:12 PM
America is a wonderful place! We are all allowed our opinions, no matter how right, or wrong, and air them out on blogs, such as these! Opinions are like eye's! Everyone has, at least a couple,and they are good one's, if they are kept open!!!
Alberto Principe March 05, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Your secret is safe with me.
Colin C. March 05, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Jeff, Thanks for reminding us of how expensive the Tax Fact organization has been for the district. Several Districts here in northern IL are starting pilot programs in using advanced technology as an aid to education. Chrystal Lake, for example, has provided a number of students and teachers with iPads and early reports on results are excellent. The figure that you mentioned would nearly cover the lease cost for 100 iPads for our students. Too bad.
Bob McQuillan March 06, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Colin please be aware that Jeff Ward's comments about FOIA costs have been proven to be wrong. Jeff knows the cost is wrong, even admitted it in a past article on this site. He continues to go for the shock value, ignoring the FACTS, hoping resdients don't know the truth. The next time Mr. Ward quotes this number, I will consider it defamation of character and will take legal action. He and Rick Nagel might quickly learn what it feels like to lose $2 million dollars in a court of law like the Chronicle did several years ago. He'll also find out how quickly his "inside school board members" abandon him when they can't back up their claims. The majority of information provided to me through any FOIA request was not available online at the time the request was made. It is probably there now though. As with most other things that happen, Mr. Ward was not the reason the FOIA requests have been reduced. And I highly doubt he was the reason why Rick Holinger writes for the Chronicle. I believe Rick's writings stand on their own and he needs no help from Jeff Ward. As to the ASBO award, as well as other awards, that will be addressed in the next few days. The request for a DVD of the meeting will also be addressed by those directly involved. Rest assured that Mr. Ward's information is completely wrong, including where it can be viewed. It appears that Mr. Ward is addicted to writing about www.GenevaTaxFACTS.org Thanks for the free publicity!
Rick Nagel (Editor) March 06, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I took down a comment by Jeff Ward pending documentation of the dollar amount he's claiming that the School District has spent in responding to TaxFACTS FOIA requests.
Jeff Ward March 06, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Colin, According to school board member Matt Henry, between 1/1/10 and 9/30/11, responding to FACTS' freedom of information requests ran the district $13,000. In that October column I theorized if you extrapolated that amount over the final quarter of 2011, it would come to $15,000. Even if the 2 year total stayed at $13,000, it's still a significant and ridiculous amount. What I will do tomorrow is ask D304 for their annual cost for answer FACTS' foia requests going back 5 years and then I'll report back. Jeff
Jeff Ward March 06, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Colin, To provide a FOIA cost juxtaposition, if you combine all my FOIAs requests issued to all entities In my entire 7 years as a columnist, the total cost to those entities would come to less than $1,000. Jeff
T Johnson March 06, 2012 at 01:16 PM
If the measure of a columnist is how little they research, you're one of the best Jeff. They should've taught you in journalism school that putting 'opinion columnist' on top of your byline doesn't mean that you can make up random lies about people.
Bob McQuillan March 06, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Where is the comment from last night about Jeff Ward going to the Geneva School District and FOIA'ing www.GenevaTaxFACTS.org requests for the last 5 years to prove they cost $20,000? Is it that Geneva School Board member, Matt Henry can't back up what he said? Maybe Jeff should have FOIA'ed the $13,000 cost number before he wrote. Quite interesting that he wants 5 years of information because GenevaTaxFACTS is only 3 1/2 years old. Or was the 5 year number also for shock value? Come on Jeff, you promised proof of the $20,000 cost today. Where is it?
Jeff Ward March 06, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Hey! Mr. FOIA! Of all people, you should know that D304 now has 5 days to come up with that information. In the meantime, now that you've gone after a group of boy scouts at a city council meeting, maybe it's time to go after a group of nuns. Jeff
Sandra Ellis March 07, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Mr. Campbell, before you tout the purchases of ipads for students, note that St. Charles School District has purchased a significant amount for about $600 each. You might question where they are now that they have been purchased and how they are being used. You might even question that with an expenditure of that kind, why they overlooked buying laptops. What will they accomplish with an ipad over a laptop, (a lot less). I'd love to hear what you find out about how they are being used. Even if they are behind locked doors and no plan yet provided as to how to use them? Sounds like you know a lot about why a school would spend that kind of money on ipads for kids? Please share with us. Or are you one of those that think it's a great idea to spend and then figure out what to do with them once they have arrived?
Colin C. March 07, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Sandra, I am not aware of what is happening in St. Charles. I am very much aware of what has happened at Lake Forest Academy. Granted, this is a private school but starting this school year they have leased iPads at a cost of about $250 (not $600) for each student and faculty member and they are finding the transformation in educational possibilities to be incredible. Students and faculty are continually finding new possibilities and already they are finding it difficult to remember how they managed without them. The Chicago Tribune ran an article on the program in the Crystal Lake school district and said that it was going very well. According to things that I have been seeing online an increasing number of schools across the country are delving deeper into exploring the possible uses of today's and tomorrow's technology in the education process. As an example, take a few moments to view this video. http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html I used the example of iPads rather than laptops not to prefer one over the other but simply to point out that if our school district is spending a lot of money responding to FOIA requests it might be better spent on education.
T Johnson March 07, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Any time I hear someone complaining about Freedom of Information Act requests, it makes me wonder what they're trying to hide.

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