Remembering — Straight Talk March 2010

It was a shock to learn of the untimely death of Brad Horton. I’ve known Brad for years.

Those at City Hall knew him as Township Assessor and over at the Courthouse people there knew him as County Recorder of Deeds. But throughout the city and county people knew Brad as just one nice guy with a bright smile and an engaging personality.

Though PJS reporter Karen MacDonald falsely reported Brad had been a Democrat, which is no sin, but totally inaccurate, Brad was active in Republican politics. He attended virtually every 2nd Ward Republican meeting over the years. More importantly, Brad had a passion for public service and enjoyed working as a member of city and county government, taking seriously the responsibilities and duties of his office. Brad Horton is gone, but not forgotten. My condolences to Nancy and the family.

Eldon Polhemus

Another long-time friend I miss is Eldon Polhemus. I met Eldon while serving on the Peoria County Board. Eldon passed away after a long struggle with cardiovascular problems. Even though Eldon was a Democrat, he was fun to be around. A little humor there. Eldon had a quick and hearty laugh, but could bite your head off during a heated debate. However, he didn’t take differences personally. We often had lunch together after a committee meeting. He was passionate about a lot of subjects, especially care at Bel-Wood. On more than one occasion my wife and I dined with Eldon and Betty and I even bought a car from his auto business in Hanna City. When you buy a car from a friend, that really defines faith and trust. I never regretted that decision or my friendship with Eldon. Rest in peace Eldon. My sympathies to Betty and her family.


Have you ever seen a school district in such a disarray as 150? It has been one embarrassing event after another. The latest was a so-called “Meet and Greet” public relations disaster. The media flop was to introduce a “finalist” for the District 150 Superintendent’s position. Never heard such a thing. Usually you hold an event when a contract has been signed and an agreement reached. That had not occurred. Secondly, you allow the media to ask questions and learn more about the “finalist,” Grenita Lathan.

That wasn’t allowed. Thirdly, the “finalist” read from a prepared statement. Hmmmm.

The screw-up that was really embarrassing was the event violated the Open Meetings Act as State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons announced. Plenty of blame to go around. President of the Board, Debbie Wolfmeyer, has to take “credit” for the huge goof, but also wiping egg off their faces are board member Laura Petelle, an attorney who was present for the “social hour,” and public relations director Stacey Shangraw who obviously failed to wave a red flag about the violation. One would assume she helped plan the event. And where was the highly paid board attorney David Walvoord on this?

As Elvis would say, “Don’t be Cruel.” The “Meet and Greet” fiasco is just one of a number of bad performances by this board of Keystone Cops. We should expect bad decisions. Wolfmeyer and Company even agreed to pay for a, ready for this, “Job Coach,” for Ms. Lathan. Thanks to PJS columnist Phil Luciano for exposing this ridiculous job bonus.

Can you imagine the howling that would’ve happened if Harry Whitaker had requested a “Job Coach?” Of course, Harry Whitaker would never request or need such a person. He just went out and did the job. That’s why many believe he was the best superintendent the district has ever had and he wasn’t from Michigan or California. I would recommend a Job Coach for board members.

As I said, don’t be too cruel about this under-achieving school board. Remember they closed Woodruff High School forcing close to 1,000 students to be bused all over the city next year. They said they are closing Woodruff to save $1.7 million. Later, they announced the need to spend close to $10 million for renovations and security at the older Peoria High building to help accommodate some 650 Woodruff students. Now that’s what I call real fiscal responsibility. All of that information came out after they approved a new charter school for math, science and technology. When that expensive idea opens, I hope they enroll this school board as the first group of students and include a civics class with the first topic the Open Meetings Act. Kevin Lyons could even be the instructor.


I love it when someone retires only to run from the couch and a soft life to follow a dream. That’s what Steve Smith did after 35 plus years in security and law enforcement. Steve spent 12 years as director of security at Methodist Medical Center and another 23 years with the sheriff’s department. Steve has been a collector of books and decided to open a store of his own. It’s called “The Booksmith” and is located behind Donnelly’s Pub just off Glen at 4914 N. Renwood. “The Booksmith” carries new, used, old and collectible books of all kinds. I wish Steve much success!


If you miss the humor of Royce Elliott and Mike Dentino on “Breakfast with Royce and Roger,” make plans to attend the Journal Star’s annual Senior Fest at the Peoria Civic Center, Saturday, April 24. Royce and Mike will once again take center stage along with yours truly who will emcee for the two old, but still very funny, comics. The show is free and as Mike said, “You’ll get what you paid for.” The show is tentatively scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m.


The honeymoon is apparently over between County Board Democrats and Republicans. When Democrat Bill Prather was chairman he established a healthy relationship among the two parties. It didn’t take long for the partisan Tom O’Neill to ruin Bill’s good work.

With the same huge majority on the board, O’Neill helped pass a new ordinance regulating where contractors can purchase asphalt. The measure was heavily supported by union folks and was passed last December without, says Republican Brad Harding, appropriate hearings. Contractors who use non-union workers, complained. Harding listened and attempted to get the new ordinance rescinded for further discussion.

He tried twice and failed, the last time by just two votes.

For his efforts, Harding was subjected to a blistering personal attack by Democrat Al Mayer. In violation of Robert’s Rules of Order and most parliamentary rules, Mayer should’ve been ruled out of order by board chairman O’Neill. But O’Neill didn’t and Mayer proceeded to accuse Harding, a political newcomer, of “grandstanding” and “political gamesmanship.” The personal attack came from a guy who was warned by Democrat State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons of trying to use his board position to lobby for appointment as County Auditor. He failed. He then was rejected by his own party when he ran for state legislature. He was defeated after first endorsing Johan Gordon and then opposing her for the Democrat nomination. Some political observers say Mayer helped redraw district county lines making it easier for him to be elected to the county’s District 6. So who’s the “grandstander?”

Meanwhile, sources tell me the county can expect a lawsuit over the new ordinance.

Taxpayers will pay for the court battle. By the way, Pat Hidden, who pushed for the ordinance, did not attend the contentious meeting.

In other county news, the board approved plans to construct a new Bel-Wood Nursing Home. As is the usual case, the project cost went from $26 million to $40 million.

I would assume it will exceed that figure. Two things about the project that bother me:

I don’t like two-story buildings for the long-term sick and elderly for safety reasons. Of course, there are some, but look around. Most are one story and I believe safer. Secondly, county officials say the design allows for expansion. Yet, they’re building for just 214 beds while the existing facility has accommodated 300 residents for years. The thinking appears to be inconsistent.


It can’t be confirmed, but there’s talk that General Parker wrote a very strong letter to Billy Halstead, Peoria County chairman of the Democrat Party. His complaining letter focused on alleged comments/support against Parker’s wife Rachel who defeated Bud Sous for County Board.

Sheriff Mike McCoy’s devastating defeat of Peoria policeman Vince Wieland was so convincing Democrats will not field a candidate to run against him in November.

The margin of victory was so wide no one wants to waste his time or money.

Bradley University insiders say Coach Jim Les is safe for another year despite a disappointing season, especially losing to Illinois State twice. The positive for next year is the return of all of this year’s starters.

Rumors abound about District 150 decisions. There could be more lawsuits over alleged violation of collective bargaining contracts. There’s also talk that tenured teachers are slated for dismissal. The Peoria Federation of Support Staff, Local #6099, is closely monitoring layoffs reminding the district and its union members that their contract has specific language regarding procedures for staff reductions.

I’ve heard there are second thoughts about the number of Woodruff students scheduled for transfer to Central. Woodruff supporters are wondering why personnel cuts were not done before the decision to close the north side school.

As the potential for more lawsuits grows, certain District 150 folks are giving dispositions about current litigation. Another District 150 rumor claims former Superintendent Ken Hinton will be hired as the Job Coach for Grenita Lathan.

Look for Judge Jim Shadid to receive appointment to a federal judgeship. The Shadid name is highly regarded by President Obama and Senator Dick Durbin. Should be a slam dunk for a great guy and an excellent judge.

Mayor Jim Ardis would like Peoria to become a test city for concealed gun rights. Amen for Jim. Pardon the expression, but the Mayor received “ammunition” for his argument when some armed 19 year old thug tried to hold up a golfer on the 15th hole of Newman golf course. If the golfer had a pistol instead of a 9 iron, he could’ve shot the bastard.

Hell, you can’t even play golf in Peoria without running the risk of being robbed. Illinois is one of a few remaining states without a concealed carry law.

Congressman Charlie Rangel, big-time Democrat, got caught doing the same thing former Illinois Governor George Ryan was sent to prison for. But Rangel won’t suffer any penalties because he’s a Congressman and is supported by another cheat, Botox Pelosi.


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” —Henry Ford

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