Straight Talk | Bad judgment



A dispute between Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood and the Peoria Fire Department became a public debate, and it was entirely unnecessary. News releases from Harwood and the Fire Department described a garage fire at 1928 S. Stanley that claimed the life of one person. The fire department, as it usually does, sent a news release to local media. I’m on that media list as both a print and electronic reporter. Apparently, Harwood was angry about a release from the fire department that revealed the victim died of smoke inhalation. Harwood felt he should’ve been the one to announce details because, after all, he’s the coroner.

So, he immediately fired (pardon the expression), a damning and condemning release to the media about the fire department, obviously written while he was “hot.” Harwood bluntly said, “Please discard the last release form (sic) the Peoria Fire Department.I have not spoken to the family, and a release prior to family notification and without my authority is INAPPROPRIATE.”

The verbiage, misspelled, italicized, and capitalized words indicated Harwood was angry, big time, when he wrote the literary missile. Fire Chief Tony Ardis took the high road and immediately took the blame, if there really was any blame, and said he approved the news release. In doing so, he apologized for the mistake, if there was a mistake. Harwood, Ardis and every member of the Peoria Fire Department take their jobs seriously. Why Harwood took his issue to the media is beyond me. I have over 50 years of experience in public relations. I was co-founder of the Illinois Hospital Public Relations Society. It was poor judgment, in my professional opinion, for Harwood to make his anger public with communications to members of the local media.


Our morning radio show on FM 90.7 had a recent discussion about distribution of vaccines to fight the coronavirus. The highly respectable guest was upset because the federal government, he claimed, was slow distributing the vaccine to states. Even the media made the same false assertion. A well-informed listener sent an email saying the guest and the media were wrong and quoted the Centers for Disease Control. On that Jan. 7, 2021, day, the CDC said 17.3 million doses had been distributed, but the states had given only 5.3 million doses. Illinois received 538,300 COVID-19 doses, but only 176,586 people had been inoculated. That means 32.8% of the state’s population were treated, 67.2% were not. Some defenders of the poor distribution system in Illinois will argue an estimated 176,586 doses were held back for inoculating those who received the first shot. That still leaves close to 200,000 doses that were delivered to Illinois, but went unused.

February 23 primary

Last November’s general election saw voters turn out in record numbers. Tom Bride, executive director of the Peoria Election Commission, feels the Feb. 23 primary in Peoria will have a good turnout, but nothing like last year. Many will be motivated to vote with five candidates running for mayor. The candidates are Sid Ruckriegel, Rita Ali, Chama St. Louis, Jim Montelongo and Andres Diaz. The two with the most votes will be on the April 6 general election ballot. Look for Ruckriegel and Ali to be nominated.

In other contested races, that is those with more than two candidates, here are the names of those I think will be nominated. For City Treasurer, Stephen Morris and Patrick Risen. For City Council, District 1, Denise Moore and Denise Jackson. Second District, Chuck Grayeb and Peter Kobak. District 3, Tim Riggenback and Gale Thetford. Fourth District Stephen Kouri and Andre Allen. Those races are non-partisan. There is one partisan race on the Democrat ballot and that’s for Peoria Township Supervisor, the office my father held for 40 years. Frank Abdnour faces challenger, LaTrina Leary.

Quote of the month

“Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest, it’s about who walked into your life, said ‘I’m here for you,’ and PROVED it.” — Unknown

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