McCaleb: Endorsements often bring welcome criticism

As the only daily newspaper publishing in McHenry County specifically about McHenry County news, events and issues, the Northwest Herald receives plenty of feedback from residents.

On a daily basis, community members call or email us with news tips, with thank yous for something we’ve printed or with criticism about a missed opportunity, a poorly written or edited story or a position we’ve taken on our Opinion page.

Feedback on the latter is rarely more abundant than during election season, when the Northwest Herald’s Editorial Board publishes its endorsements in certain contested races.

We always welcome that feedback, as we do this election season.

On today’s Opinion page, we begin our endorsements for races in the April 9 consolidated municipal election. We will be making endorsements in all contested mayoral and village president races in McHenry County, for the McHenry County College Board of Trustees and in a referendum that seeks to raise property taxes and create a new board that would help fund programming for residents with developmental disabilities.

A number of other local races also will be on your ballot. City councils and village boards. Local school boards. Townships, park districts and so on.

Given the volume of races and candidates, our Editorial Board decided to make endorsements in just the ones listed above.

Before we make our endorsements, we send questionnaires to the candidates. Their responses can be viewed at elections.nwherald.com. As we do each election cycle, we also invite candidates in to meet with members of our Editorial Board. Part of those meetings are videotaped, and these videos will be available soon on our website.

Our Editorial Board, of which I am a member, uses the questionnaire responses, the meetings and any other information we have about the issues and the races to help us form our edorsements.

Sometimes, these endorsements are fairly easy. More often than not, they’re extremely difficult.

But our endorsements really are nothing more than recommendations. And, I need to emphasize, they’re the recommendations of members of the Editorial Board only. Reporters who cover these local units of government do not sit on the Editorial Board and have nothing to do with the endorsements.

Ultimately, voters need to make their own informed decisions.

In this election, we will be selecting local leaders who have the most immediate impact on our lives. Whether it’s for municipal government, school board or township government, these elected officials will decide how to spend our tax money.

It’s a shame that the consolidated municipal election usually has the lightest voter turnout of all elections. But that’s been the case.

If you disagree with one or more of our endorsements, please feel free to weigh in. We’ll accept election-related letters to the editor until 5 p.m. March 29. Because we receive so many, we limit election letters to 150 words.

Regardless, make sure your voice is heard at the ballot box.

• • •

Speaking of elections: Local school districts should have a say in whether each of their schools are used as polling places.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, told me that Friday, and I agree with him.

Franks called me from the House floor to discuss the Editorial Board’s “Our View” editiorial on Thursday’s Opinion page. In the editorial, we disagreed with an effort pushed by state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka that would eliminate using schools as polling places.

Topinka thinks it’s a safety issue, and said we’d be inviting another Sandy Hook-like shooting if we continued to allow it. With schools making up about a quarter of all polling places in McHenry County and there never being a safety incident, we said Topinka was seeking a solution where there was no problem.

But Franks said that school districts should at least have some say in it.

“I think the school ought to make that decision and not the [county] clerk,” Franks said. “Maybe many schools don’t have a problem with it because [voting is in] a secure area so that’s not a problem.”

But, for example, in Northwood Elementary School in Woodstock, voting takes place “in the middle of the library in their media center,” an unsecured area, Franks said. “That’s a breech of their protocol.”

Franks is working on an amendment to a bill that hasn’t yet been filed that would give schools the option. That seems like a reasonable compromise.

• • •

Go green: St. Patrick’s Day is a special day for me, and not just because I’ve got Irish blood in me.

It’s the anniversary of the day I first kissed my future wife, Allison, and began what was a very quick journey toward realizing she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

It was 1999. I was news editor of a daily newspaper in southern Louisiana, and I had just accepted the top editor job at a newspaper in Indiana. Allison worked with the Features section at the same Louisiana newspaper.

I told my staff earlier in the day that I’d be leaving, and a group from work went out later to celebrate – both the holiday and my new job.

I guess the best way to put it is that in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, Allison and I had flirted a little. OK, maybe it was more like a lot.

We were both in other relationships at the time (relationships that soon were about to end), so it wasn’t anything more than flirting.

But as St. Patrick’s Day night went on and our numbers dwindled, Allison and I were the last of our group standing. Recalling it now 14 years later, I realize that we both were trying to outlast the rest of our friends and colleagues so we could be alone.

Needless to say, it worked.

A very quick courtship began, and we were married Aug. 1 of that year.

So happy anniversary of sorts to my wife.

And happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

If you plan to celebrate today, please do so safely.

• Dan McCaleb of Crystal Lake is group editor of Shaw Media’s suburban publications, which include the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at dmccaleb@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Dan_McCaleb.

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