Smile Politely

Politickin’: John Groce and Don Gerard work the beer crowd

Monday’s News-Gazette Sports Page featured the New Firm greeting the Old Establishment.

DIA honchos Mike Thomas and Jason Lener joined N-G stalwarts Jim Dey and Loren Tate for beer (although Dey’s beer looked suspiciously like iced tea). Retired coach Mark Coomes drank Lite on ice while Lex Tate nibbled grilled salmon over mixed greens.

The Rebounders sat mesmerized as new coach John Groce patiently answered tedious questions about game strategy. One man asked for a moratorium on endgame stagnation.

Basically, the guy wanted a pledge of no more fouls/free throws. (It encroaches Hannity’s opening monologue, I guess.)

Groce might have said “we’re going to exploit every available avenue to victory,” but then he’d have an enemy for life.

In politics, it’s important to listen to your constituents. When they’re wrong, it’s important to deflect their woeful ideas without condemning them personally. When you’re a million-dollar basketball coach at a B1G university, it’s important to feel the undercurrents of mood within the fanbase. Right now, John Groce should be all ears, because the people are telling him what they want.

Even if it’s bad advice, he should know they want it.

Groce was more interesting when speaking from his experience. He revealed the existence of an on-demand video scouting tool that allows tech-savvy coaches to instantly see “every time Joe Bertrand drives to his left.” Contrast Bruce Weber, who doesn’t even hire someone to mow his lawn.

The other guy working the room was Don Gerard. He greeted the athletics people during a commercial break, and then felt-out downtown business owners for feedback on possible developments. The Esquire’s Bob Osiek was amenable to closing Walnut Street, just north of Chester, Fridays from 5pm-2am… “kinda like Beale Street or something” added the mayor.

So, more party, less Harley. I like it.

The party continues in midtown… and possibly all the way to campus. “We are also mulling over shutting down Second Street north of Springfield (at the Boneyard Basin), inviting food trucks, bands, etc. and seeing if we can get a regular weekend thing going.”

Other big news: Don said Macro Steel wants to relocate. Could a new parking deck replace it? Don thinks a federal brownfield grant might be in order to leech toxins from the soil, and more federal money might be available for a “‘park and ride’ for mass transit.

“Please stress these are ALL currently conversational ideas I am tossing out for casual feedback,” he added. “If people respond positively we will move for a study session, etc.”


Where would this “federal money” come from. You know how I feel about quote-unquote federal dollars, right?

Don referenced a conversation with Tim Johnson, our local rendering agent. Something about an unused earmark. Johnson’s spokesman Phil Bloomer provided the specifics:

The SafeTea-Lu Transportation bill of 2005 contained $1.2 million that Tim secured for a daycare facility that was originally slated for the UI Research Park. It was considered a critical benefit for workers at the research park. The idea went through several variations. Fox Development brought in a private day care for the research park.

The MTD at one point wanted to use the grant for a day care at the Terminal Building. I believe the city inquired of Tim recently about the possibility of using it for a related development downtown near the Terminal building.

I’m not even sure we could free up that money at this point. Even though it was approved years ago, it would require a re-appropriation by the current House and Senate.

So, maybe no development. But we can still have the party.

Other Champaign City officials included Planning Director Bruce Knight and his assistant TJ Blakeman. There was no sign of Katie Blakeman, the Republican candidate for Champaign County Clerk; but one local political insider compared Stephanie Holderfield to a box of rocks.

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