Friday, June 3, 2011

“It’s Crying Time” all across Illinois

Back in the days when Ray Charles was doing country and western music, he recorded a song with Buck Owens that ought to become the theme music for a pair of individuals who have made the news reports in recent days.

I’m referring to, of course, “It’s Crying Time.” It sounds like a lot of sobbing is taking place from people upset they’re not getting their way.

ONE (ACTUALLY TWO) is the parents of a high school student who managed to finish his secondary education by getting suspended for eight days – which depending on how one counts the days takes him all the way through graduation ceremonies.

So up at New Trier High School, there is one teenager who won’t get to wear the cap and gown or hear his class valedictorian give a forgettable speech or take part in any of the other official activities usually permitted to departing seniors.

His parents tried to get a Cook County judge to intervene, but the courts this week expressed no sympathy – and ruled in a way that allows the North Shore high school district to continue in its behavior.

The other instance does not involve Chicago. It actually gets into personal behavior that our state legislators express toward each other while at the Statehouse in Springfield.

FOR IF STATE Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, is at all accurate, he was assaulted by one of his colleagues.

For the record, there was some sort of dispute in the Illinois Senate this week between McCarter and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline. Debate took place on the bill allowing utilities (including Commonwealth Edison) to raise their rates to recoup costs of equipment and service upgrades.
McCARTER: Ego (and body) injured?

That bill has already been pronounced dead by Gov. Pat Quinn, who says he will veto it when it gets to him. But that didn’t stop legislators from getting all heated in debate.

After the vote, it seems McCarter and Jacobs had a personal discussion about the issue. Then, IT happened.

THE “IT” DEPENDS on who you listen to and choose to believe. Jacobs pushed McCarter. No, he poked him in the chest. Or maybe he slapped at his chest with an open hand. Or (if you believe the versions most favorable to McCarter), he balled up his fist and punched him.

JACOBS: Did he do it?

A couple of senators, including one who was a downstate county sheriff for many years, quickly separated the two. A part of me thinks that should be the end of it.

But McCarter is taking this to an extreme. There were reports early on that he filed a complaint with the Illinois secretary of state’s office, whose police department patrols the Capitol complex. Now, he’s trying to use his influence as a legislator to get the Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office to file criminal charge against Jacobs.

Now anyone who has been at the Statehouse in recent decades knows of the tale of the last significant brawl that broke out – debate over education funding back in 1992 caused then Reps. Terry Parke of Hoffman Estates and Bill Black of Danville to engage in some mutual pushing and shoving of each other when their tempers flared up.

PARKE SERVED IN the state Legislature through the 2006 elections, while Black only recently retired from the Legislature. Both served well over two decades as state officials in Springfield.  Yet both had that one mutual hissy-fit become a significant part of the way people perceived the two.

Which means that no matter how McCarter’s demands for criminal charges against Jacobs resolve themselves, he’s just written his legislative legacy. The guy who got into a heated exchange and now wants to turn it into a police matter. He’s forevermore going to be the guy who cried out against his legislative colleague.

It makes me wonder if he’s the equivalent of the boxing promoter character in the film Rocky V. You remember, the one who taunts Rocky Balboa by saying he’ll sue if Rocky even thinks of touching him?

Which makes me wonder how many people are wishing that McCarter could suffer the same fate as that cinematic fight promoter? (Rocky slugged him in the gut, telling him, “Sue me for what?”)

NOT THAT I’M really advocating physical assault on anybody – not even a state legislator.

It just seems that we have a legislator taking himself far too seriously (and I base that presumption off the fact that nobody can seem to agree on what exactly was the moment of contact between the two state senators).

Just like the parents of that suburban high school kid who used school computers to print up pornographic images, then scattered them around a school hallway as a gag. He got an eight-day suspension, but if you count it as eight real days instead of eight school days, it should already be over.

We seriously had Cook County Judge Kathleen Pantle having to decide the merits of “real days” versus “school days,” just like a Springfield-area state’s attorney is now going to have to decide whether it was a punch, a push or a slap – and what led up to it.

BOTH STRIKE ME as being complete wastes of time by the legal officials.

I’m inclined to think the high school got it right in terms of being able to suspend the student, even if it denies him the memory of wearing one of those gowns while he gets his diploma.

It also makes me wish those same high school officials could be called in to settle the senatorial dispute and give them some equivalent of a suspension for their quarrel.

After all, they both behaved like miscreant high school students.


No comments: