Archive for January 2013

Appealing for a D96 write-in candidate — January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013

(Posted at

Christopher FitzHenry Robling from Riverside, Illinois

Posted: January 24th, 2013 9:49 PM

at this point, seeing what we see in this article, i urge a fourth candidate to run as a write-in, so that none of the incumbents will be re-elected.

i stand by my statement to mary ellen on October 24: “your failure to protect the children and families of D96 by leaving colleen in office is appalling. frankly, having gotten this far into this mess, and showing such poor judgment as to be here, in this place, i think it is shown that you are unfit for the post you hold.

“the very least you can do is fire colleen now, even if that means reassigning her to the end of her contract.”

the board is approaching basket case status. it has repudiated its “leadership.” to read this article is to glimpse bedlam.

susan battersby has been irreparably harmed. procedures were not followed. kids were left in class with someone reported by the very principal of the school in which this happened as a possible sex offender. we have an attorney who may have a conflict of interest. we have contradictory statements, and actions, attacks on the integrity, competence and professionalism of our police department and the bizarre tableau of D96 officials — despite the foregoing — presuming to tell the village of riverside and the riverside police department how to do their jobs. and that’s not even the half of it.

if you thought about running but chose not to, please do. we will get you on the official list at david orr’s office so your votes will be counted. please consider offering the voters a choice. please consider preventing one of the folks responsible for this from coming back. please consider cleaning all of this up. please consider helping the students, parents, taxpayers and community members of district 96. whoever you are, please run.

WBEZ’s “The Afternoon Shift” with Rick Kogan — January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013

Great to chat with Union League Club of Chicago Distinguished Writer Rick Kogan and Cindi Canary on The Afternoon Shift at WBEZ.  Please enjoy…

“Beyond the Beltway with Bruce Dumont” on WLS-AM — January 20, 2013

January 23, 2013

Very happy to have joined Bruce, Charles Lipson and Phillip Beverly on the first night of President Obama’s second term for this discussion that looked back a bit — and forward a bit:

Saluting the RB Board for addressing the pool area’s faulty design — 1/23/2013

January 23, 2013

Here is what i said to the RB Board Tuesday night, January 22, at its Committee of the Whole meeting:

As the parent of three swimmers, I am here to thank all members of this board for taking up kids’ health and safety in the pool area.

RB health and safety issues have ranged from the soccer goal-tipping hazard, that Dr. Bonnette solved in three days after it was denied for years; to stainless steel in new pool area showing rust – with no interest from the previous board.

Some 16 months ago, this board and our then-new superintendent took action.  The facility manager said – on video — that the pool “fan was broken.”

Obviously, this board saw the problem as more serious than a fan, which was fixed immediately.  Within months that facility manager was gone.  His successor began a serious effort to index problems.

That new effort led to a joint program with swimming parents to engage professionals to examine pool area conditions closely and report back fairly and fully.

The report that issued late last year detailed the pool area’s design errors and its faulty HVAC system, which was found unable to clean sufficiently the air closest to the pool, which is the layer from which all our swimmers breathe.

It is for this board’s unflinching acceptance of the report — and your willingness to cure the problem — that I thank you this evening.

After spending $66,750,000, we deserve a fully functioning physical plant, not one that leaks, or whose boilers don’t work properly, or whose promised new roofs were not installed, or whose pool air is not adequately recycled.

Your determination to vindicate that right, regardless of unwarranted criticisms, distinguishes the seven of you for all taxpayers.  All parents, and all of us who have watched the building program closely, look forward with anticipation to your further efforts to correct prior mistakes on behalf of those who funded the flawed and over-budget rebuilding effort.  Thank you.

[End 1/22/13  statement to the RBHS Board of Education.]


Since the pool opened there have been very serious problems.  Some of these include the filtering of the air, including toxic by-products of chlorination not exhausted and replaced with fresh air.  Furthermore, the failure to control humidity leaves the facility at risk for mold, other microbiologic conditions and structural weakening.

We know kids have experienced respiratory discomfort.  Now we need to find and eliminate the cause.  It is my belief that this has harmed at least some of the swimmers who have used the pool.

Take a tour of the natatorium . . .

When general concerns were raised about the construction project, one board member dug in his heels in opposition to any systematic effort to report on what we had received for our $66.75 million.  Another board member, who was on the board for some of the project and generally supported project votes, also opposed any definitive report.

Now we know — after the boilers were found to have been installed improperly, and the promised new roofs were not installed, and the field house was found in a flood plain with no apparent authority to be there, and the sealing of the field house was done so poorly that it leaked for years, and some of the sewer connections were poorly made, and the stainless steel in the pool began rusting within several years of opening, and most significantly that the pool HVAC system is inadequate and has simply never properly filtered the air, causing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues and related illness amongst our kids, that the district deserves a COMPREHENSIVE review of what was promised, what was done, and who bears the cost of any divergence between the two.

Luckily, the board took a step in that direction last night by hearing from DLA Architects, a reputable firm with no ties to Blagojevich-era corruption, to become the board’s new architect.

I say “luckily” because just months ago the board had before it a proposal to re-hire Wight and Company architects, of Chicago and Darien, to perform both a 10-year life/safety assessment and a review of RB’s capital programming needs.  Wight and Company was the architect of the $66.75 million program that now manifests so many problems, and it was publicly linked to a variety of pay-to-play irregularities in the Blagojevich scandals.  The board wisely voted that idea down.

Hiring Wight in essence to review Wight’s work would have denied district taxpayers the independence necessary to fairly judge what we received for our money.  No one wants to blame Wight for decisions that were not Wight’s to make.  But, if one is a swimming parent, or a district taxpayer, then there is every reason in the world to look to Bradley A. Paulsen, AIA, Wight and Company’s Vice President, Business Development and PK-12 Education Practice Leader, and say, “fix it — definitively — at your cost.”

The same instruction may apply to a lot of the other construction project failures the new board has confronted — which were ignored by its predecessors.

Of course, that is not how Wight sees things.  Superintendent Dr. Skinkis referred on Tuesday, January 22 to a letter from Wight, in response to his request for an explanation of the natatorium, that apparently seeks to avoid responsibility for its work.  That course will make life complicated for Mr. Paulsen and Wight.

The 2006 board chose not to hire a competent and qualified Owner’s Representative.  It chose not to hire a commissioning agent.  It gave control of the project to a union thug who was masquerading as a member of our administration — who had no professional background in construction / architecture / development / project management / or anything else related to a project of this size and scope.  It fired a credentialed waste hauler to pay more money for the same service to another company — with ties to organized crime that have been reported by Chuck Goudie on ABC7 News.  According to published reports and a history of the Chicago underworld, it is owned by members of a family whose leader was barred from the Teamsters by the federal government.  The board broke its promises to the taxpayers to provide an audit of the largest project in the history of the district, and it left building maintenance in a shambles.

We elected a new board, and it has painstakingly established a record.  Boilers, sewer stacks, HVAC and serious IAQ problems, no new roofs as promised, a leaky “field house” in a flood plain — which is smaller than promised and whose “track” cannot be used for the injuries it would cause our running kids, no operating manuals, no maintenance manuals, no acceptance of responsibility, a facility manager whose word was not good, etc.

Take a tour of the field house:

In the face of this, one board member still opposes any report to the taxpayers.  But, he proposed DLA Architects, so perhaps he is learning.  Another member — the one who sat on the 2006 board — actually complained last night about the statutory bidding / procurement process that led to discussion of DLA Architects.  She wondered why they were not accepting Wight and Company’s self-serving offer.

The construction project was a travesty.  Every pledge made by those boards and that administration was betrayed.  I regret having supported it as a member of the Citizen’s Committee.

It is up to this board and administration to wade us out of the swamp.  They took a big step in doing so by rejecting Wight.  They will take another by hiring DLA.  By fixing the pool mess now, they will show their determination to put student life/safety above the discomfort of reviewing  their predecessors’ failure.  That is called leadership, so i am proud to have saluted at least the six members of the board who embraced the independence and competence of DLA instead of the betrayals and failures of Wight.

See this new Board of Education and superintendent’s approach to facility management issues:

President Obama’s address, with Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune — January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013

In the “good loser” category, here is a look at the president’s second inaugural from the peanut gallery, with my friend Eric Zorn, in this morning’s Tribune.  There is a pretty active conversation about it on Eric’s website, please have at it with garlands or rotten tomatoes, as you prefer…

CLTV’s “Politics Tonight” with Paul Lisnek — January 16, 2013

January 17, 2013

Politics Tonight, 1-16-2013

Here is a segment from Paul Lisnek’s terrific program, “Politics Tonight,” about the pension mess in Springfield.

Fun on Fox 32 Sunday with Darlene Hill and Mike Flannery — taped Dec. 21, 2013, aired Dec. 30

January 16, 2013

John Tillman and i chat with Fox Chiago about the future of the dear old Illinois GOP . . .

Part 1:

Part 2: