Smile Politely

WORST 2016

Ah yes, Monday morning. You’re just getting your week started, as are we here at Smile Politely. We thoroughly enjoyed celebrating some of the BEST things in Champaign-Urbana. We do love it here, and everything that there is to cherish about our cities here in Central Illinois.

But, with the good, there’s bad. Really bad. Some worse than others, but when we think of the WORST things that we’ve seen over the course of the last year, these are some of our selections.

Fact is, there’s some despicable things that happen around here, as there are with any other community basically anywhere you go. No place is perfect, at least, to my knowledge. While we love celebrating what is the best of the best around here, we think it is important to point out some of the worsts of the worst. If we don’t, who will?

— Patrick Singer

WORST local sentencing fail
Officer Jerad Gale serving six months for three rapes

While Matt Rush might be the biggest disgrace to CPD right now, the courts of Champaign and Piatt counties deserve some shade, too. Officer Jerad Gale was charged with two Class X felonies — minimum mandatory sentence 6 years, no parole — two Class 2 felonies and one Class 1 felony, all for violent sexual crimes against women he dated. Had this gone to trial and he been found guilty, Gale would have been looking at quite the lengthy prison stay. Instead, since he admitted he did it, he is serving three sentences of six months each, but he can serve them all at the same time; four years parole and sex-offender registry go with it. Brock Turner should be so lucky. (RK)

WORST use of advertising
Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell
I pay attention to advertising constantly. Basically everywhere I go, everything I read, and all types of websites that I visit, advertising stands out to me — mainly because it is part of what I do here at Smile Politely. We have plenty of advertisers, and it helps this thing exist. When it comes to advertising, when it is good, it can be really good and impressive. Something to behold really, and I’m always learning what it means to have good advertisements, and bad ones.
When advertising is bad, it can be really bad. While this sort of admonishment is ultimately providing more looks for these advertisements, they’re worth calling out because of how terrible they are. They’re almost special, the bad ones.
Obviously, there are a myriad of outlets to advertise, and billboards are one of them. Take a look at a couple of these from Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell that have been posted around town. For starters (above), I almost feel bad for this Brandyn O’Dell fella (Is that suit and tie photoshopped? Christ.), and this advertisement: The amazingly original play on James Bond 007’s “License to Kill” — damn, those ad wizards (head to 2:50 of that video, please) really knocked it out of the park here — as “License to Sell”. That is terrible.
Just when I didn’t think it could get any worse — we stumble upon this one, which is utterly repulsive. Not only is that photoshop job of Donald Trump’s sorry excuse for a head of hair just god-awful (what, the budget was cashed so you couldn’t go buy a shitty wig to take a photo in instead?), but the clash between this Hillary Clinton mock up and her awful “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” and his woman’s ability to speak Spanish is just a face-palm waiting to happen.
Just, stop, will you? Sell people their houses, and quit with this garbage. There are more tasteful ways to get people’s attention than this. (PS)

WORST use of pepperoncini
Pizza M

Let me preface: I like Pizza M. Really. I also enjoy eating pepperoncini. They’re delicious — a little spicy, briny — the perfect accompaniment for salads and sandwiches. I also like those peppers on my pizza. But like all things, moderation is the key to success, and the folks at Pizza M have a serious obsession with pepperoncini on pizza:


I mean damn. That’s commitment to an ingredient. (JH)

WORST food truck closure
ROKs Tacos

Remember last May when I wrote about ROKs Tacos and how good they were and how those kimchi fried rice balls were Da Bomb? 

In the late summer, during all of C-U’s food festivals, the prices for tacos skyrocketed, which was a bad sign.

By early December, the food truck announced its closure and the truck was listed for sale.

This was super sad news to me, and not just because I wouldn’t be able to eat those tacos and rice balls again. No one wants to see a business fail in such a way, and I do truly hope that the folks behind the truck have moved on to bigger and better things. But damn, what I wouldn’t give to eat those rice balls again…(JH)

WORST community scandal
Everything Matt Rush

Clearly this was not a great year for local law enforcement. By now, this story is old news: Champaign police officer Matt Rush was fired by Chief Cobb for lying on police reports and misconduct on more than one occasion. Rush then appealed the decision and was reinstated by an arbitrator (no cheap process for the City of Champaign). Next, Rush was fired AGAIN, this time for showing his service weapon while intoxicated at Fat City Bar & Grill. He is now embroiled in an extensive legal battle with the City of Champaign; the N-G reports there is “no end in sight.” This is not a good look for our community, folks. Fingers crossed that we won’t find more of this in next year’s WORST. (RP)
WORST part of trying to get dessert in CU
Lack of ice cream joints
What this city could use is a bonafide and honest ice cream shop. And by honest, I mean just that. 
Custard Cup is fine. I mean, it’s OK. I eat it. I like it. But I mainly like it because it’s all we have here in Champaign-Urbana, as far as local frozen treat spots go. I prefer DQ, but there’s nothing enjoyable about the experience at all. Sidney Dairy Barn is a nice treat, but a long drive, and not in CU. Outside of that, we don’t have squat. Pizza Antica has delicious gelato, but it’s part of their pizza joint, and again, it’s just not the same thing. 
We’ve said it before, but I will say it again. Custard Cup not custard. It contains no egg yolks. By definition, custard is made with egg yolks. If you’ve had real custard, you know that this is not that. It doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just means that it’s not what it proclaims to be. 
Wish list: a local artisan making ice cream the way that Crow Ridge does an hour north would be amazing. It’s a hard job, and it would take someone who was just in love with the idea of running this sort of business, but I think it would fly, honestly. 
It’s ice cream. Just about everyone loves ice cream. (SF)

WORST reduction of a community resource due to state budget hell

The entire state of Illinois has been suffering under the governance of Bruce Rauner, who has refused to compromise with the Democratic-controlled General Assembly to pass a budget for last fiscal year. The result is that myriad community resources, especially those that benefit the most vulnerable members of our community, have been lost or reduced. It’s hard to identity the WORST casualty of Rauner’s budget famine, but my vote goes to Rape Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services (RACES), an organization that has helped thousands of women, children, and men in our community over the past several decades. RACES is still in operation, but its services been stripped to the most bare of bones as they wait for their funding from the state. (RP)

WORST rule that still exists
Not being able to purchase beer at U of I athletic events
While this has potential to change kind of soon, this idea of not being able to consume alcohol (responsibly, of course) at a football or basketball game is just kind of silly. After all of the advertisements about Coors Light being the official beer of Illini Athletics, seems kind of ridiculous that the people that help populate Memorial Stadium (or lackthereof), or State Farm Center, can’t even buy a beer as someone that is legally allowed to outside of said stadium or arena.
Perhaps this is me not being privy to the details of why this has been this way for so long, or whether university events are too prone to abuse by students under the age of 21, or whatever it may be — perhaps this being WORST is because of the failure to, you know, give the people what they want. This, rather than allow them to sit out in the tailgating area and not pay for alcohol inside the event.
As much as I hate referencing Chapin Rose (R) here, he kind of hit it on the head:

“This requires the U of I to come up with a new policy for liquor within the next six months, where I would hope they take into account that it doesn’t seem to be really fair to me that the rich guys get to eat their cheese and drink their wine in the expensive suites but the rest of us plebes can’t have a beer.”

*mic drop*  (PS)

WORST loss to the arts scene
Figure One Gallery

Figure One, a Downtown Champaign art gallery that supports projects, exhibitions and events stemming from all areas of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels at the School of Art + Design, is a casualty of the U of I’s budget woes. Unfortunately, the gallery will soon be closing and the space will again be open to likely another bar or restaraunt moving in so that we can feed our stomachs rather than our minds. Thanks, Rauner. (SL)

WORST project timeline
Kickapoo Rail Trail

We love the idea of the Kickapoo Rail Trail, a 24.5 mile multi-use recreational trail that will run from Urbana to Danville, but dang, it’s taking a long time to get off the ground. The Rail Trail has been under local ownership since 2013 and has been moving steadily since then, but it could still be years before construction is complete. We can’t wait for it to be up and running, so this gets our vote for this year’s worst project timeline. (SL)

WORST vendor at an event
Pocket Pets selling Sugar Gliders

This is sort of a late entry, but it’s worth making a discussion like this public. Let me be clear about something: pets aren’t fucking toys. They aren’t something you decide to buy impulsively, like chapstick in line at the store, or an ice cream cone at a fair. They are to be adored, and cared for, as you would any other sentient creature living in your home. 
Fact is, this sort of thing preys on people who just have no idea what they are getting into. A sugar glider is a small marsupial possum, native to Australia and Indonesia. They are bred in mass quantities and sold as cute, small pets that are sold in a kit, with “food”, a cage, “play toys” etc etc. 
I am not here to admonish the idea of taking in pets and even having them in cages. It’s not something I’d do, but it’s a big world and there are a lot of opinions about it. But there’s a reason that the Humane Society doesn’t have a bar serving cocktails on site. You don’t buy a pet on a whim, especially at a festival where the main intention is to eat, drink, and be merry. 
As a festival producer, I understand how hard it is to make a bottom line work. Many event producers in this town are just doing their very best, which I can totally relate to. I think that this is worth pointing out that we are big fans of Blues, Brews, and BBQ at Smile Politely. And knowing the folks that produce it, I am thinking they just didn’t think about what allowing something like this means. I’ve reached out to them for comment, but it’s the weekend as I am writing this and I don’t expect for them to get back until today. 
But this sort of thing, it’s not good. And a company like Pocket Pets should be ashamed of themselves, pawning off this sort of thing as an acceptable way to earn a living. Here’s hoping that something like this little contribution to the discussion of the WORST things around here somehow further damages their reputation and makes it harder for them to set up shop at local events. (SF)
WORST place on the internet, locally
WCIA’s comment section
“Never read the comments” is something that you can’t always abide by, particularly when it comes to The News-Gazette or WCIA. The trolls truly come to play on that playground of racist bullshit. While I understand this “everyone complains about everything” culture, or the fact that these types of threads bring about this “offended by everything” nature of life that exists now — WCIA’s continued social media followers continue to just spice things up on the regular.
While I’m sure there are plenty of awesome folks at WCIA, a few of which I know to be decent people trying to deliver news and information — posting things like that thread about the Chief, and for instance, asking you if you think you’re a racist, does not help the cred.
If you want to find the worst place locally, just go to the WCIA comments section on Facebook. Enjoy. (PS)
WORST architecture
The fugly grey buildings in Campustown
Not only is A Building, A Feeling, A Latrine one of the best new series we have to offer here at SP thanks to Tom Ackerman, but damnit, people listen when we publish things. Sometimes at least. 
When it comes to BEST, Tom’s take is on point. When it comes to WORST — this trend in development is just plain terrible. The installation and development of tall buildings doesn’t bother me, while it might bother some others that think building up is the wrong way to go — totally fair. There’s a tradeoff, though. Make these things look at least somewhat appealing and aesthetically pleasing. By no means do I have a degree in architecture or design — but this has to be one of the worst treads in recent memory, these grey structures. Holy shit, they are ugly. 
It really is a shame, and perhaps with some regulation by the cities, this trend can be curbed somewhat. The future of how C-U looks is obviously important. (PS)
WORST event by a total bigot
Rodney Davis’ “Investing in Women” events

WORST bed and breakfast
Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast, Paxton
Earlier this year, Timber Creek Bed & Breakfast in Paxton made headlines after they were fined $80,000 by the Illinois Human Rights Commission for refusing to perform a civil union service for a gay couple, proving that, once again, humanity is just not quite over this shit yet.
When you get accused of violating human rights, that’s a big deal. There are places in the world where human rights are brutally violated on a daily basis, but as citizens of a farily developed country, we often times like to think that an unnecessary infringement on any other person’s rights is something we’re exempt from, but sadly this is not the case — even in central Illinois.
So thank you, Timber Creek, for reminding everyone that true and ubiquitous progress is still a long way off, and that even after a landmark Supreme Court decision on gay marriage across the entire country, some are still making excuses for bigotry. (BH)
WORST Fighting Illini coach who didn’t get fired last season
Matt Bollant
It was a bad year for Illini coaches in general, and I think it’s no argument that Tim Beckman was maybe the worst coach in all of Division I football last season, but the buck doesn’t stop there. 
While one may expect often-mired Men’s Basketball coach John Groce to take the cake in this category, he is bested (or rather, worsted) by Women’s Basketball coach Matt Bollant.
In addition to nationally-headlining stories regarding allegations of racial discrimination and athlete abuse, Bollant’s teams just aren’t that good — a 52-72 record over the past four years, and not a single NCAA Tournament appearance. People are calling for Groce’s head, but at least he’s been to the tournament. Seriously, how the hell is this guy still around, even if the allegations against him were ruled to be unfounded.
And also, what’s up with that facial hair? (BH)
Contributors to this article include Patrick Singer, Seth Fein, Rebecah Pulsifer, Jess Hammie, Rebecca Knaur, Sam Logan, and Boswell Hutson.

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