Phil Pash’s Up & Down The Rock

Pet Peeves Inc.: We all have pet peeves. I know I do, and I would guess you do, too. If you want to share yours for print, send them to me in care of The Rock River Times. Include your name, address and phone number for verification; only your name and hometown will be printed with your pet peeve.

I’ll get the ball rolling with just a few of my many pet peeves:

u “Dockside gambling.” The whole river boat gambling thing in Illinois was a sham to begin with, and it has gotten worse. Some of the geniuses we wrongly elect to govern us got the bright idea that by having gambling on river boats instead of in casinos, it would be a trip into nostalgia—and more palatable to those who opposed gambling.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Gambling in a casino environment should be in a casino. When I get on a boat, I want it to go somewhere. Now Illinois is stuck with the river boats—barring new legislation—with the states around us (like Wisconsin) luring Illinois gamblers to land-based casinos.

The anti-gambling forces in Illinois must be tickled pick with Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s smoke-and-mirrors budget/tax plan because he is threatening to wring the neck of the goose that lays some golden eggs. He’s jacked up the taxes on the boats, and likely because of the number of jobs Illinois is bleeding, fewer people are gambling—meaning a decrease in revenue for the state.

u No matter what happens in Illinois, we have to have a new law covering it. We have way too many meaningless laws in this state. Doesn’t anyone realize you can have too much state government in your life as well as you can too much federal government?

Do state legislators get bonuses based on the number of new laws they introduce? Or are they just trying to show the folks back home that they’re out there working for them? Whatever happened to the use of good, old common sense in problem solving? Why must everything be a new law? Especially when many are to protect us from us.

u People who refer to all women as ladies. Are all men gentlemen? Absolutely not. Are all women ladies? No way, Jose. Some females, or women, couldn’t be ladies on the best days of their lives. Some would have trouble attaining the status of broad.

A lady is a woman who is polite, refined and well-mannered. If they don’t measure up to that definition, they are a woman or a female. Lady should be reserved for women who really are ladies.

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OK, I’m Cynical: I will admit to being cynical when governments are involved, but I hope all that free wood mulch down at the Rockford City Yards on South Central Avenue doesn’t wind up in the hands of landscaping companies who then would sell it to the public.

Naw, nothing like that would ever happen in Rockford, would it? And topsoil dirt never is scraped off new subdivisions and then sold back to the people who build/buy new homes on the property for their lawns. That never happens, either.

The free mulch came from all the trees and limbs knocked down by the big storm last month. WTVO-TV-17 quoted John Gessner of the city yards as saying there is 10,000 cubic yards of mulch there, enough to fill 10,000 dump trucks. Free, for public use.

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Crisis of Confidence: On one of his radio shows last week, Chris Bowman had Rod MacDonald as a guest, and though he hedged slightly, MacDonald said he sees the demise of New American Theater in the near future. Others have said the same thing.

That would be Rockford’s great loss. But there has been a great deal of community rancor since Artistic Director Richard Raether and Jan Bacino were fired. Charlie Granneman has resigned as president, Stephen F. Vrtol III and Linda Abronski pulled out of the season opener, and Dorothy Paige-Turner has left the board of directors.

NAT has survived 30 years, but now is in debt and does appear to be on the verge of falling apart.

Several times now, I have heard Bowman touch on what he calls a crisis of confidence in Rockford-area leadership. I think he’s on to something. But while he and others point to government and various and sundry boards, I think we also have lost strong community leaders from business and the media sectors.

But it is rather disconcerting to have a Rockford mayor who doesn’t like to do long-range planning, a Rockford School Board that does more things wrong than it should and a Winnebago County Board that is laughable at best. The county board would be downright funny if they didn’t spend so much of our money.

The school board? Well, it believes the answer to every problem is throwing good, new money after bad, old money. If money didn’t solve the problem the first time, why would it work a second or third time?

The latest—about 6,500 students can switch schools this year because the 18 schools they attended last year aren’t cutting it, according to the state. Last year, 117 students from five schools had the option of transferring to another, hopefully better school.

Was money thrown at the problem after the previous school year? Yes. Did it solve the problem? No. It got worse. No further questions.

I would say the crisis of confidence is here now, and like a sheep herd, Rockford is being picked over by wolves because our watchdogs haven’t done a very good job of keeping them away.

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Look Out Now: Did anyone really think Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasn’t going to sign the bill giving his bud, Chicago Emperor Richie Daley, more power to seize land and homes in neighboring towns for the expansion of O’Hare International Airport. Are we safe this far from Chicago?

Before signing, Blago said the expansion of O’Hare doesn’t just benefit northern Illinois or one or two carriers, but all of Illinois. Yeah, right. Those people down in Marion, Edwardsville, Alto Pass and Cobden still are partying.

If you thought Daley ripped up Meigs Field in a clandestine manner, watch him on this one.

Do you think there’s any chance Blago is positioning himself to be the next Gray Davis, or a one-term wonder like George Ryan? He regularly ticks off a lot of people, and that doesn’t mean he’s doing a good job.

A question about the California mess: How can candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger call himself a moderate Republican when he’s married to Maria Shriver of the Kennedy Shrivers? I heard there’s a new nickname in California politics—RINO, Republican In Name Only.

Let’s see, we have Arnold, Gray Davis, Arianna Huffington (The Hot Wind of the West), Mr. Porn Larry Flynt and possibly a cast of several hundred others…sounds like another Democratic presidential field.

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Small Town Woes: New state fees—initiated by Gov. Rod Blagojevich as a way of paying off Illinois’ huge budget deficit without raising incomes taxes—are hurting many small towns and villages, according to a WTVO-TV-17 report.

In Pecatonica, new fees for water treatment permits are costing the town $10,000 for which it had not budgeted. Dan Barber, the Pecatonica sewage treatment facility manager, told the TV station, “To be able to come up with that, we’re going to have to pull funds from other areas to have the total fees. It will delay some other programs that need to be done.”

Barber added the fee increases hurt small towns like Pecatonica with a small tax base much more than they do larger cities like Chicago with a bigger tax base.

The many shortcomings of Blago’s budget/tax plan continue to show up.

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A Crime to Try: Here’s another Blago bill signing—trying to buy a gun illegally in Illinois could mean prison time, even if you don’t come away with the weapon. Blago signed into law a measure that clarifies the penalty for attempting to buy a gun illegally.

State law already made it a felony to purchase a gun illegally. That crime includes providing false information on a federal firearms purchase form, and buying guns and intending to then sell them to those who aren’t allowed to own guns. The new law provides the same penalty for trying to buy a gun unlawfully.

Offenders can face from one to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, depending on how many guns they try to buy illegally.

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hantom Regiment 4th: Rockford’s Phantom Regiment finished fourth in the Drum Corps International Championships in Orlando, Fla., moving up from fifth in the earlier rounds. The Regiment edged the Santa Clara (Calif.) Vanguard by .05 of a point.

Pat Seidling, the Regiment’s director, was named Division I Director of the Year before the finals. The Regiment won 15 competitions, finished second six times, third three times and fourth twice prior to the Orlando finals.

The Blue Devils of Concord, Calif., won the title with 98.8 points, followed by the Cavaliers of Rosemont, 97.25; the Cadets of Bergenfield, N.J., 97.1; the Phantom Regiment, 94.75; and Santa Clara, 94.7.

Esperanza of San Diego won the Division II crown and the Blue Stars of LaCrosse, Wis., captured Division III for corps with up to 60 members. Division I and II corps can have up to 135 members.

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A Flying Weekend: The 31st annual Poplar Grove Airport Fly-In is slated Sunday at the airport on Illinois 76, four miles north of Belvidere. The public is welcome, and airplane rides at 10 cents per pound will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Poplar Grove Lions Club will serve breakfast from Huddle Restaurant chef Tom James from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum at the airport will have its second annual garage sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Springfield Hangar.

It definitely could be a flying kind of a weekend because the 45th annual Chicago Air and Water Show will be Saturday and Sunday along the lakefront from Fullerton Avenue to Oak Street, with North Avenue Beach at the heart of the festivities. The water show will start at 9 a.m. both days, the air show at 11 a.m.

The Air Force Thunderbirds are supposed to perform, along with the Army Golden Knights parachute team, the Red Baron Stearman Squadron and all kinds of military aircraft. It’s free, and it likely will produce the gridlock the Chicago Tall Ships Festival had.

I know some Rockford-area people who go to the air-water show by driving to Crystal Lake, taking the train to Chicago and then using CTA public transportation in the Windy City. Crowds of 2 million are being predicted.

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The Punster Again: More of those terrible puns have found their way into my computer, crying out, “Put me in the paper:”

u A pessimist’s blood type always is B Negative.

u A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

u A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.

u A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.

u Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?

u Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.

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