You can call it "Steakgate" or "Lobstergate," depending on which of these dining pleasures Batavia school officials spent the most on during a leadership conference in Chicago last year.
When Daily Herald reporter Jake Griffin revealed that school officials tossed quite a bit of money about at Morton's Steakhouse in Chicago during that conference, some residents were left grumbling about the nerve it takes to do so.
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Batavia Superintendent Jack Barshinger said the district was caught off-guard when a dinner traditionally paid for by a district vendor ended up going straight to the district expense budget when the vendors backed off this year.
If that's the case, you go to a reasonably priced dinner location to feed board members, administrators and family members attending a leadership conference in Chicago, right?
Some school officials reasoned that dining in Chicago is expensive, no matter where you go.
But does anyone consider Morton's reasonably priced? Maybe, for the quality of the food you get. But not when using the taxpayer's dime. For that, you should go to any of hundreds of less expensive locales in the city.
So the district gets spanked with a tab approaching nearly $2,000 for the steakhouse visit alone.
These conferences are important, and Batavia may argue it didn't spend any more than most school districts, considering 16 officials attended. But it doesn't make it right.
Here's the thing, folks: Even if you work for a large company that is somehow doing well in this economy and you have an expense account when traveling or entertaining, you still have to make sure your boss is OK with the likes of Morton's showing up in the expense ledger. And that expense has to pay off tenfold.
If the leadership conference somehow does that for Batavia taxpayers, then the board needs to do a better job of explaining the particulars of such education and how it helps lower taxes.
I'm not a Batavia taxpayer, so no one is going to ask me for input. But the city has had plenty of folks complaining about school spending for decades, and a stunt like this moves the credibility gauge totally to their side.
Different Steakgate view: Not everyone's feathers were ruffled by what appears on the surface as fairly reckless spending by Batavia school officials at their expensive dinner in Chicago.
A letter writer on the Daily Herald editorial page even implied the newspaper should chase more important things, like the state pension fiasco. Let me remind that reader the Daily Herald has done extensive work in probing and exposing ills in state government.
But this letter writer reasoned that school officials were, in essence, volunteering their time because this event took place on a weekend. He wrote that if he volunteered for something on a weekend, he'd deserve a dinner at Morton's as well.
Does this fellow know that school board members volunteer all of their time, year-round, for a position without a pay stipend?
Yes, there is a difference between volunteering to do something for your employer and volunteering for a charitable cause. Still, by his way of thinking, maybe someone owes me a heck of a lot of meals for the 20-plus years I have spent volunteering in a service club and for various community events.
Most likely, it was just an opinion coming from someone who doesn't understand that the comment made it seem no one should volunteer unless there is some sort of monetary payback for doing so.
Don't go on Sunday: If you haven't had a chance to drop in on the popular Chick-fil-A restaurant in Batavia, don't make the mistake of going on Sunday.
"It's been a huge success," Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said of the restaurant off Randall Road and McKee Street. "But people have been confused about it being closed on Sundays. Some have been banging on the drive-through speaker, trying to get someone's attention."
She's known them all: Now that was interesting.
You don't always sit in on what was essentially a private chat with a Hollywood legend.
So, here's a few notes from actress and author Shirley MacLaine's visit to the Arcada Theatre last week in St. Charles.
She shared memories of her stellar career, including the current character portrayal on the popular PBS drama, "Downton Abbey."
Dean Martin was the funniest man she ever met. "He was even funnier than Jerry Lewis," MacLaine said.
In illustrating her mind over matter powers, she showed film of a strenuous dance routine she did with the athletic Gene Kelly. "My feet were bleeding the whole time, and there were blood drops all over the floor," she said.
After showing photos and film segments of her life and career, you came to realize she's probably brushed elbows with as many major stars and politicians as anyone who has ever graced the Arcada stage.
And who was the love of her life? "That's easy," MacLaine said. "It's my dog."
Sharing chef load: Getting 60 local men to come forward and participate as chefs in the annual 60 Men Who Cook event for various Geneva charities seemed to be quite a chore.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought that.
The event now is being promoted as 30 Men vs. 30 Women Who Cook. That sounds more like it.
But organizers putting together this April 19 event at the Kane County Fairgrounds likely still need chefs to participate.
If interested, it would be a good idea to check in with event organizer Terry Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if she is still hunting down chefs.
This is a popular event that draws tons of hungry people. I was a former "chef," but had to drop out because of work schedules. Apparently, many other men were in the same boat.
Time to bowl: Just a reminder that you still have time to sign up for the Geneva Academic Foundation bowling and silent auction fundraiser Saturday at Bowling Green in West Chicago.
If you haven't tossed a bowling bowl at 10 pins in a long time, this is the time and place to try it again. Contact Lisa Otto at (630) 715-6152 for details.