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Can the goose gander fairly, Mr. Smith?

July 1, 1993

“Have a drink, Senator? It’ll taste better than the truth,” said the fictional reporter to the fictional character Senator Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) after informing Smith of his naiveté in the 1939 movie classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Rockford Register Star columnist Chuck Sweeny’s July 27 column concerning the Cherry Valley Public Library District was exceptionally disturbing in light of his past support for Rock Valley College (RVC)

President Roland Chapdelaine and recent developments at RVC.

The Cherry Valley library used an ordinance rather than a referendum to increase funding for the library, which Sweeny chastised by writing, “The Cherry Valley Library District, worried about its shrinking property tax base, annexed 661 properties, many in nearby Boone County, in a midnight raid. Library officials didn’t tell the property owners, probably figuring the rubes

would enjoy paying taxes to get their hands on some gosh-darned, leather-bound books.

“The library published the legal notice in The Rock River Times, a Rockford weekly largely unknown in Boone County. Why not publish it in the Sydney Morning Herald? Nobody reads that in Boone, either, and it’s a better paper,” Sweeny wrote.

However, Sweeny ignored similar actions by Chapdelaine and the RVC Board of Trustees by not writing about RVC’s financial and management problems despite being made aware of facts by several sources, including this writer. Even the state issued an unprecedented financial report that severely reprimanded RVC last February, which was dismissed by Chapdelaine as a “slap on the wrist.”

Chapdelaine and the RVC trustees used similar power at RVC, “officials didn’t tell the property owners” when they plunged the college into $61 million in debt to pay for questionable construction projects. No referendum was presented to the voters.

However, nary a word was written by Sweeny. Remember the “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander” cliché? Good. Because Mr. Sweeny, if you are really concerned about goosing, you should gander at RVC’s methods, which in the magnitude of dollar and “sense,” make the little Cherry Valley Public Library District’s completely legal action look minuscule in comparison.

Now comes information confirmed by RVC Board of Trustees Chairman and County Board Member Chris Johnson (R-4) that the board has implemented draconian

measures to reign in the financial mismanagement of Chapdelaine’s administration. After the years of rubber-stamp approval by the RVC board, sources said their new-found assertiveness stunned Chapdelaine. Deadlines to address unprecedented

deficits, pay freezes, hiring freezes and rescinding of administratively offered positions are some of the measures the RVC board recently served Chapdelaine.

Also, weeks have passed and Chapdelaine still has not answered questions pertaining to where and when the college published its legally required annual financial statements since 1998.

Yet, Sweeny, and consequently his readers, seem unaware of these recent developments because thus far he has not written about sources warnings.

Before Chapdelaine arrived at RVC, the existing Tech Center could have been built in the same manner Chapdelaine funded most of the current building at RVC. However, the RVC President at the time, Karl Jacobs, believed it was important the college give the public and voters an opportunity for input and actually vote about raising their taxes.

Consider those facts in light of these facts: the Register Star’s July 20 editorial is up in arms about “The second year of $1 million deficits in the MetroCentre budget” but is strangely silent about RVC’s four years of deficit operating spending that totals nearly $5 million. However, “MetroCentre balance sheet can’t be explained away,” [Title of the Register Star’s editorial] just as RVC’s balance sheet can’t be ignored.

A possible explanation of the Register Star’s silence may be gained by reading notes from RVC’s March 23-24, 2002, board of trustees retreat. The retreat notes

read, “How doe [sic] we foster relationships with the Rockford Register Star” and “What makes the newspaper—Rockford Register Star—and what doesn’t make it?”

Individuals that follow RVC know the college recently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on print and electronic advertising within the past few years,

above and beyond past advertising expenditures—to what end?

Therefore, can we expect a similar editorial from Sweeny or the editorial board about RVC, as we read the one about the MetroCentre? Why or why not?

What Sweeny and the Register Star editorial board did by directly or indirectly attacking this paper was to base an opinion on weak anecdotal evidence rather than obtaining empirical data from The Rock River Times.

However, both Sweeny and the editorial board chose to base their opinions on—what? The July 22 Register Star editorial said, “The annexations occurred after library officials published the required legal notice in a weekly newspaper that was not well-circulated in the area.”

The Rock River Times is “well-circulated” distributing 4,794 papers to 406 locations “in the area.” Do the math for readers, if two or more people read our issue.

Were they upset that the Cherry Valley Public Library did not place the legal notice for the public hearing and annexation with the Register Star? Our legal notices cost much less, and voters saved some money. Moreover, our paper is free, as well; voters don’t have to pay for our paper. That’s what a free-market system is about, competition. Can’t they handle competition gracefully? Are favorites being played?

As the Register Star’s editorial concerning the library district said, “We expect better of people who are, after all, in the information business.”

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this editorial.

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