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Elections have consequences

Wednesday, Jun 23, 2021

* May 26th Tribune

A former Niles mayoral candidate who made videos promoting several candidates to the Niles-Maine Library District Board this year has been hired at $100 per hour by some of those same candidates to perform work at the library.

The board, including the four trustees elected last month, also froze spending (including book and video purchases) and mandated that the board must approve all new hires, among other measures.

Board members on Monday voted 4-3 to hire Steven Yasell’s video production company, Yissilmissil Productions, to “evaluate, assess and inventory for (sic) library equipment, systems and operations.”

Click here for Yasell’s social media oppo file, which came in over the transom. Quite a doozy. Whew.

* The controversy caused by the recent election is driving library employees into AFSCME’s arms. From the union

Employees of the Niles-Maine District Library are organizing their union with AFSCME Council 31.

Nearly 100 librarians, patron support staff and other library workers will be part of the new union. They filed a majority-interest petition with the local panel of the Illinois Labor Relations Board last week.

Niles library workers are coming together in the wake of cuts to library funding, staff and programs threatened by newly elected members of the library board, who are engulfed in controversy over giving a $100-an-hour no-bid contract to their political supporter, Steven Yasell.

“The staff at the Niles-Maine District Library has spent decades working with different Board leadership to maintain a valuable community space and resource. But within just a few weeks, this new Board majority has made it obvious that they do not understand the functions of a public library and have no interest in learning them,” teen services librarian Rachel Colias said. “Once we realized we weren’t being offered a seat at the table, we pulled up our own with AFSCME. The people who work here have invested too much in this library to be so easily dismissed, and we hope to work as a union to protect our ability to serve anyone who relies on us.”

A broad group of community leaders led by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky signed an open letter to the board, supporting the employees and opposing cuts to library services and staff.

“We are proud that the Niles-Maine District Library provides valuable services to our community, and we are dedicated to ensuring that those vital services continue,” the leaders’ letter begins. Unfortunately, the newly elected Library Board’s recent actions appear to place those services in jeopardy”, citing “propos[ed] cuts to library hours, programs, and outreach services”, “sharply increasing employees’ portion of health insurance premiums” and “hiring a videographer with political ties to board members and no experience auditing libraries as a consultant at the rate of $100/hour with no cap.”

* Tribune yesterday

The executive director of the Niles-Maine District Library advised elected members of the library board that they are “protectors, not destroyers” as she accepted a resignation agreement last week.

Angry shouts, cries and boos erupted among audience members when library board President Carolyn Drblik, reconvening the open portion of a special meeting Friday at nearly 11 p.m., made a motion to accept the resignation of Susan Dove Lempke, who oversaw day-to-day library operations for the last six years. […]

Lempke, who began working at the library 23 years ago as a part-time youth services librarian and rose up through the ranks of administration, said she felt it necessary to leave her position because she believed some members of the board were seeking her termination.

“They were going to fire me so, rather than do that, I resigned,” Lempke said.

A video clip from the meeting is here.

* When elements of the far right take electoral control of a suburban library board and start handing out patronage to campaign people and getting rid of a fine public servant, nobody jumps up and says: “Don’t let the people vote!” Yet, when folks want a direct say in their local Chicago school board like everyone else in Illinois, well, that’s a different story altogether.

People have the right to choose their own destinies.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

46 Comments
  1. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:39 am:

    Local elections are so critically important.

    A few years ago this exact same thing happened in our park district. By the end of it, we had to get a *new state law* passed to increase the size of the park board to dilute out those who were only there to destroy a public service while enriching themselves.


  2. - low level - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:46 am:

    These arguments / examples work both ways. It may be that these boards are too obscure for people to make informed decisions and are best left to chief executives of the cities, towns or villages they are a part of.

    I realize that’s a slippery stand as well. No easy answers here for sure.


  3. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:51 am:

    Stories and video out of Niles, Maine Township (previous admin) and Park Ridge are popcorn worthy.


  4. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:54 am:

    === No easy answers here===

    This is America. We vote on things.


  5. - wndycty - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:57 am:

    It is only a matter of time before the Niles-Maine District Library bans critical race theory. . . I am just saying.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:58 am:

    If you claim you believe in freedom, but are “nervous” or “scared” of voting as anything close to a slippery slope, why have any elections at all?

    And see how silly that sounds too?

    Democracy is hard only because voting and elections have consequences, not because democracy can’t handle elections.


  7. - Leslie K - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:08 am:

    ===A few years ago this exact same thing happened in our park district. ===

    I suppose it’s happened other places as well, but was that in 2014? I think I remember that legislation.

    To the post, it is good the rank and file are fighting back by organizing. I don’t think this is an example of why there should be appointed boards–I think its an example of why more people need to pay more attention to the ’small’ elections and actually vote.


  8. - low level - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:09 am:

    Democracy — yes, so the answer is those offices that have the higher profile are the ones who appoint the members foe these boards.

    While they may not be the issue or issues that elect or defeat a chief executive, they definitely have the potential to impact a race one way or the other.


  9. - Regular democrat - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:12 am:

    Nick Blase would have never let this happen


  10. - Father Ted - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:14 am:

    Nick Blase must be spinning in his grave. The man was a champion for providing top-tier services to the residents of Niles.


  11. - low level - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:17 am:

    == think its an example of why more people need to pay more attention to the ’small’ elections and actually vote.==

    I agree but people have been calling for that for ages. Do we really think that is going to happen?


  12. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:18 am:

    ===This is America. We vote on things.===

    We vote for people who vote on things for us. We don’t have direct democracy. Not yet anyway.


  13. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:19 am:

    == but was that in 2014? ==

    Yes. Specifically it was HB 5593 in 2014, introduced amusingly by Tom Cross.


  14. - Captain Obvious - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:21 am:

    Kind of surprised a library with that many employees was not already AFSCMEd. I wonder if this situation will prompt voters in Niles to pay more attention to their civic duties.


  15. - froganon - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:22 am:

    Similar story in Dundee Township and the Village of E. Dundee which now have two deeply conservative Trump supporters leading each board. One of their first official acts was to cancel a clothing fair to give donated clothing to residents who came. They were worried that the tiny, newly formed Foundation running the clothing fair would somehow damage the reputation of the Township. The new mayor fired the Village manager, declaring that he is now the Village. His friends are waiting in the wings for appointments. Fortunately, both boards have reined in more egregious behavior.


  16. - AndJusticeForAll - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:23 am:

    Another perfect example of democracy. The gift of democracy is the ability to choose your government. The price is having to live with your bad decisions. Not voting, is the worst decision of all (and I wonder how many in that audience did not vote). The good news is that you only have to live with your bad decisions until the next election. This also a perfect example of the importance of the two most critical and fundamental rights in our democracy: The right to vote, and the right to organize and collectively bargain for a better workplace. Collective bargaining creates balance in our democracy. It allows everyday workers the ability to push back against and slow down monumental changes that might be detrimental, and allows other voices in the process.


  17. - Sonny - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    Credit where it is due, the mayor and the school superintendent spoke out pretty strongly against the majority of the board taking these actions.


  18. - WillRez - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:27 am:

    The library requires 100 employees to staff a single building? Of an almost $12m budget,$2m is allocated to operating expenses (library materials). Budgeted amounts vs. appropriated amounts vary widely.


  19. - City Zen - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:31 am:

    Seems like the board and director aren’t on the same page regarding hours of operation.

    https://www.journal-topics.com/articles/tentative-niles-maine-district-library-budget-adopted-with-spending-slashed/


  20. - Annoyed - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:34 am:

    Univ of Illinois board use to be elected, but now appointed. I don’t see any protests to change that back.


  21. - Annoyed - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:39 am:

    This is just one more example of showing why Illinois has too many units of government. We need serious consolidation of school districts, county and township functions. This isn’t 1818 anymore…


  22. - Chicagonk - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 11:43 am:

    Why are we electing library boards again?


  23. - Payback - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:04 pm:

    “Nick Blase would have never let this happen” An aging baby boomer coming out of the woodwork to pine away for the good old days, when one man ran Niles with and iron fist for 42 years. Blase was an adjunct of the old Mayor Daley political machine, along with Stephens in Rosemont.

    Although Blase was convicted by the federal authorities, I’ve never seen any reporter or author research his background. Nicholas B. Blase always touted his Greek heritage, but his middle name was Benito, named after Benito Mussolini. His mother was Italian, not Greek, and they lived in the Chicago 1st Ward. What Greek would care about the Leaning Tower of Pisa? There’s your answer, Blase was half Italian.


  24. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:14 pm:

    ===There’s your answer, Blase was half Italian.===

    “There are only two things I can’t stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Italians”

    - Nigel Powers, attributed.

    I did enjoy the “Boomer” thingy especially after going all “Eye-Talian” as the reason.

    === Blase was an adjunct of the old Mayor Daley political machine, along with Stephens in Rosemont.===

    Neither Stephens or Daley were Italian. Just saying.

    ===We need serious consolidation of school districts, county and township functions. This isn’t 1818 anymore…===

    School consolidation, while financially prudent finds few supporters who could change the way Illinois does overall school oversight (districts, boards, etc)

    As for counties, isn’t one of the arguments against “larger, bigger counties” as more land is needed in the state to gather pockets of people. Any 51st Stater might learn, be careful what you wish for in reducing.

    Where to begin with townships…


  25. - Regular democrat - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:26 pm:

    That whole sequence about Blase being half italian is priceless. That took some research


  26. - Leslie K - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:28 pm:

    == think its an example of why more people need to pay more attention to the ’small’ elections and actually vote.==

    –I agree but people have been calling for that for ages. Do we really think that is going to happen?–

    Well, unfortunately probably not.

    Invisible @11:19–that’s exactly the bill I thought it was. As I recall it almost suffered an effective date problem. So expanding the board actually solved the problem? That’s pretty cool.


  27. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:45 pm:

    I imagine it won’t be too long before they start banning certain books from the library.


  28. - anon2 - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:53 pm:

    Voter turnout in the library district was barely over eight percent. When more than nine out of ten registered voters take a pass, a small minority can exercise disproportionate influence.
    Such low turnouts are common in suburban local elections in odd-numbered years. The solution would be to consolidate the local election with state and federal elections in even-numbered years. That way decisions would be made by between 40-70 percent of voters, and election costs would be greatly reduced.


  29. - Annoyed - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 12:56 pm:

    OW, spend some time dealing with our smallest counties and you’ll see the benefit of consolidating. Same applies for 1 district schools within the same township, average administrative salary totals top $1 million per district.


  30. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 1:02 pm:

    === spend some time===

    Who says I have or haven’t.

    Read what I’m saying, not what you want to argue…

    ===School consolidation, while financially prudent finds few supporters who could change the way Illinois does overall school oversight (districts, boards, etc)

    As for counties, isn’t one of the arguments against “larger, bigger counties” as more land is needed in the state to gather pockets of people. Any 51st Stater might learn, be careful what you wish for in reducing.===

    To clarify? Fine…

    “Consolidate them. Not us. We need our (schools, towns, townships, county, etc)”

    It can be financially prudent, school districts alone, it’s the will to accept it by those who may have it happen to them.

    Also… the same folks who complain about “way too large districts” be they congressional, state house… now they could be in a country that swallows up 4 other counties… and again… “consolidate those counties, we need… “

    The argument is the will and necessity finally overtaking NIMBY fighting.


  31. - anon2 - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 1:04 pm:

    == The good news is that you only have to live with your bad decisions until the next election. ==

    These candidates have four-year terms. The first opportunity to vote them out is 2025.

    == I agree but people have been calling for that (higher voter participation) for ages. Do we really think that is going to happen? ==

    The one way to guarantee healthy voter turnouts in local elections is to move odd-year elections to even years when governors and presidents are on the ballot.


  32. - The Way I See It - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 1:15 pm:

    Out of curiosity - what is the rationale for having local elections at times other than Nov of even numbered years?


  33. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 1:20 pm:

    “The library requires 100 employees to staff a single building?” You do realize there’s more to a library than the person at the front desk checking out books, right?


  34. - anon2 - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 1:49 pm:

    Actually three of the new library trustees have six-year terms, which means they can’t be voted out until 2027. One trustee has a two-year term.


  35. - Amalia - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 2:15 pm:

    and right on cue, more craziness out in the NW burbs, the Republican Committeeperson of Maine Township, Char Foss Eggeman, is out, and unclear if she was pushed out…her entire slate lost in the last election, electing Democrats in quantities more than one for the first time. replacement named Jim Stinson. popcorn.


  36. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 2:24 pm:

    Do you have to pass a test on Ayn Rand to get a library card?

    Clearly the election was stolen. Who wants to march on the library to save the books?

    Seriously, the Illinois AG should look into that no-bid contract.


  37. - Ben Tre - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 3:07 pm:

    This is why library, park district, and other government functions should be rolled into municipal government. People may not like what a Mayor and City/Town Council do, but they do know how to show their displeasure at the ballot box. Moreover, by centralizing these functions it’s possible for voters to clearly articulate whether they’d prefer the next tax dollar go to parks, books, mosquito abatement, or police.


  38. - Matt Fruth - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 3:18 pm:

    Watching this happen to a near by library has been heart breaking. The attack on public institutions is happening on all levels.
    Public libraries and their staff are among the most trusted and appreciated groups in our country and for good reason too.

    For as long as I have been involved in public libraries there have been those trying to diminish their role in our communities. I am sure this is not a new trend and I doubt it will stop anytime soon.

    Library boards are an often over looked election despite the impact they have on the lives of so many in their community. People take them for granted despite the appreciation they have for the services offered.


  39. - OneMan - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 3:34 pm:

    Ironically (or not) we just got an elected library board in Aurora, only 5 candidates ran for 7 seats and one write-in for a total of 6.

    Glad we decided to elect a board for that.


  40. - TheInvisibleMan - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 3:35 pm:

    === This is why library, park district, and other government functions should be rolled into municipal government. ===

    Why don’t we just disband municipal governments then.

    In every single case my park district, library district, and township servers a far larger population than the municipality. In my specific case, far larger means anything from double to triple the population than the municipality.

    Seriously, if we are really looking for efficiency as is the claim, than outside of cook county the savings would come from dissolving the municipality which is going to be the smaller entity in 99 percent of cases.


  41. - MyTwoCents - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 5:04 pm:

    Off year municipal elections are a waste of time & money and this is the perfect example of what happens with abysmal turnout. There really needs to be a discussion in the GA about increasing civic participation. They just passed a bill to increase voting but just like everybody else the legislators only focus on state/federal elections in November.

    As for consolidation there should be efforts made to analyze the governments in IL to figure out the most efficient delivery of services. That might be special purpose districts or municipalities or county-wide. I’d even encourage a look at administrative consolidation. i.e. 1 board & admin staff but the actual operational elements remain at the same level of service.


  42. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 5:36 pm:

    === This is America. We vote on things. ===

    Yeah, we elect the Mayor, and he/she can appoint members of these obscure boards. People are too busy to properly inform themselves and vote for decent public servants for these positions. Then these zealots with an unstated agenda get in, and the resulting chaos ensues. I said something similar before, but I believe the comment was deleted for some reason. It’s my view, and I stand by it.


  43. - JS Mill - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 7:07 pm:

    This is really sad about the library, but these local district have become prime targets for the right wing as detailed in an article shared by Rich earlier.

    =OW, spend some time dealing with our smallest counties and you’ll see the benefit of consolidating. Same applies for 1 district schools within the same township, average administrative salary totals top $1 million per district.=

    Admin costs average less than 5% in education, far better than the private sector.

    Do you want a big school district or a good one? Size (in terms of enrollment) can have an adverse effect on a districts ability to grow and adapt, or improve if the need exists. They also become more expensive to run expensive to run as relationships get more difficult to develop, especially trust.

    There is a size sweet spot based on some pretty extensive studies. 500-700 for a high school. In a high wealth environment it doesn’t matter. But poverty has an impact.

    Geographic size also matters. Large geographic rural districts are hurting due to diminished support for state mandated transportation. An annual lease (3yr term) payment for one of our buses is $14,900. Fuel isn’t free either.

    There are many elements in consolidation, and there are smart consolidations that can happen, but it isn’t automatic. Try consolidating a K-8 district and a high school district. You get the richer salary schedule and costs rise.


  44. - Nitemayor - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 9:39 pm:

    In Virginia you basically have two forms of local govt. Counties and municipalities. You have an elected school board but the county/municipality controls the budget.Works pretty well.


  45. - FormerEmployee - Saturday, Jun 26, 21 @ 7:40 pm:

    Consolidate library operations into municipal government? Half of the Niles-Maine District Library’s service area is unincorporated Des Plaines, unincorporated Glenview, and unincorporated Niles. None of the surrounding municipalities want anything to do with the people who live in that area (they’ve already annexed the profitable areas), but the library *does*. (And the surrounding libraries are all municipal, and thus cannot serve that area.) So consolidation with Niles requires either forcing villages to annex that area or keeping some form of the library district as a separate organization. In other words, a non-starter.


  46. - Leslie W - Wednesday, Jun 30, 21 @ 10:58 am:

    Local government has got to be one of the few non partisan arena’s left in our democracy and these right wingers are doing everything they can to eradicate that. It’s so wrong. We need a place where republicans and democrats can agree on things like dog parks, school schedules, or snow removal. Bringing DC/Springfield style politics only turns up the heat. In such a polarized country shouldn’t we try to protect a place where we can work together on issues that effect our every day lives? I am a diehard progressive but have campaigned for plenty of conservatives for local government positions. I kind of think that is a good thing.


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