Phil Pash’s Up & Down The Rock

They’re Shooting at Us: The people running the local daily appear to be condoning print shots at us, The Rock River Times. Goliath is firing some cannon lobs at David.

Has poor, little David who can only afford sack cloth and a couple of rooms on North Church Street become that much of a threat to big, mighty Goliath (The Big G) who needs to keep those truckloads of money going out East?

Some of the details were in our story last week about this Cherry Valley Public Library District controversy. Basically, the local daily has made several references to the library district publishing notices with us and not them.

We have been called “little-seen” and our circulation numbers in the Cherry Valley library district area have been questioned. And the local daily big whigs, the publisher and executive editor, refused comment to us on the why.

Our editor and publisher, Frank Schier, candidly provided our numbers in great detail in the story, including the percentage of papers returned to us. For free weekly newspapers, return rates of 20 percent or less are considered exceptional.

Our overall return rate for the period in question was about 8 percent. In the Belvidere area, it was about 5 percent. In the Cherry Valley area, it was about 6 percent.

In his July 27 column, local daily political editor Chuck Sweeny wrote this: “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.”

Do you suppose he really knows that the Sydney Morning Herald is a better paper, or was that just another of those shots?

Either way, that comment coming from Sweeny really surprised me. His background includes Rockford weekly newspapers; he frequently talks about all he learned at the knee of the late Bob Stone before he got to write in the Tower of Babble and Arrogance.

Apparently, one lesson that escaped him was when you’re writing for the big, powerful daily you don’t go around kicking the little weeklies.

As I told you earlier this year, The Big G has picked on the little guys before. The prologue of the book, The Chain Gang, One Newspaper Versus the Gannett Empire (Richard McCord, University of Missouri Press) says the local daily was charged in U.S. District Court in Rockford years ago by Rock Valley Community Press Inc., with violating federal and state law by repeatedly lying about the competitive weeklies to gain an advantage.

And so you know about me, I will repeat: I spent a total of 31 years at the local daily and its predecessors. I quit/retired in May of 2000.

n n n

Put Crosshairs on Foot: Those 12,000 or so Democrats who would be president in 2004 keep shooting themselves in the foot (do you think they’ll mind me using that metaphor?).

The Reuters news service reported last month that Gephardt, Lieberman and Kucinich all blew off invitations from the NAACP to speak at a forum at the group’s annual convention in Miami Beach. The other six vying for the Democratic nod for president attended.

The three apologized and asked for a second chance, according to Reuters. Gephardt and Lieberman cited prior commitments for missing the forum and Kucinich said he stayed in Washington to vote on a Medicaid bill but was “100 percent for the NAACP.”

All three got a second chance, being allotted five minutes each the following day “for the purpose of apology and explanation.” (By the way, did you read any of this in the so-called mainstream media?)

NAACP president Kweisi Mfume said the trio would have no legitimacy in seeking black votes. Blacks traditionally have been loyal to Democrats—90 percent cast ballots for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.

But NAACP members complain that their support is assumed by candidates who ignore their interests or shun invitations.

Even Tom Daschle, the sneaky Senate minority leader, gets it wrong sometimes. This one was reported by The New York Post:

Earlier this year, Daschle mixed up two black reporters who’ve been covering him for years. PBS off-camera reporter Linda Scott, who has covered Congress for more than 20 years, raised her hand at a press conference to ask the South Dakota Democrat a question.

Daschle apparently got her confused with CBS producer Evelyn Thomas, the only other African-American female television producer who regularly covers Congress. “Yes, Evelyn,” said the senator, nodding at Scott. The other reporters present at the time gasped.

Daschle’s slip left Scott visibly angry; she pointedly told Daschle that she looks nothing at all like her black colleague. “It’s Linda, and I know we don’t look alike,” fumed Scott, who then asked her question.

And here I was led to believe the Democrats in the Congress never made any mistakes, that they all were perfect and only President Bush was a boob.

n n n

Let ‘Em Crash: Did you hear that two small planes headed for the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., had to make emergency landings at what remains of the Meigs Field air strip on Chicago’s lakefront?

You may recall that the runways at Meigs secretly were torn up earlier this year when Chicago Emperor Richie Daley decided to turn it into a park. City crews carved giant Xs in the runways to prevent planes from landing.

But these two managed it on grassy areas on different days last week. They had to get FAA permission to take off again.

Daley’s remedy? Pilots who make emergency landings at what used to be Meigs need to have their licenses examined by the FAA. Would that be before or after they crash?

n n n

Lethal Twist of Fate: The tragic death of construction worker Deborah Wead, 51, of Rockford sort of underscores what I have been hammering on in this space the last two weeks—the massive number of driving problems in Illinois in recent years.

Everything from uninsured drivers to driving after license/registration suspension or revocation to DUI. Every year, nearly 1,700 people in Winnebago County are charged with DUI, according to a report by WTVO-TV 17 of Rockford.

Wead apparently was the victim of a DUI. The man whose car struck her, 28-year-old Walter Brown of Lemont, was reported out on bond Thursday night by WTVO-TV 17 after appearing in court to face charges of reckless homicide, driving under the influence of alcohol and traveling in a vehicle with unsafe tires.

Wead was struck and killed on an I-290 entrance ramp in Schaumburg at about 1:15 a.m., July 29. She was wielding a stop/slow sign on the southbound ramp from Higgins Road.

WGN-TV 9 of Chicago reported that Brown previously was charged with driving under the influence in 1998 and received court supervision. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Brown also had been cited for numerous moving violations that led to his license suspension in 1998.

The Daily Herald of Arlington Heights called Wead’s death “a lethal twist of fate” because she recently was promoted from her flagger job to a production position, handling paperwork for the trucks loading and unloading material in an area beyond the reach of speeding traffic.

But those trucks were not running that night, so she was relegated back to the flagging job for one more night. In fact, her family said Wead had just returned to the site a week earlier from a temporary, two-week layoff.

She was a widowed mother of four and grandmother of nine. Her husband, David Wead, a Vietnam veteran, died of cancer at age 39.

She was the third construction worker killed this year in work-zone accidents, with 13 motorists losing their lives in work-zone crashes. The other construction workers were a flagger in LaSalle County and a worker on I-57.

Last year, 31 people died in work zones in Illinois, and only one was a construction worker. The most common work-zone crash is a rear-end collision when speeding vehicles suddenly must stop.

In work zones statewide, troopers issued 20,100 violation tickets or warnings last year—about one for every hour on duty.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation said more than 2,700 speeding ti

ckets have been issued along the road where Wead was killed since construction began in March, reported the Daily Herald.

Minimum fines for speeding in a work zone were increased from $150 to $200 in January. In July, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a law that requires speeding drivers who kill a construction worker to be charged with reckless homicide and face up to 14 years in prison.

“I’d just like to see this guy put away,” said Wead’s son, David Wead Jr. “Just stand him in front of a car and let someone smack into him and see how he likes it.”

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!