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posted: 11/24/2013 5:00 AM

Our political editor's firsthand brush with Washington (Ill.) disaster

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Sunday Soapbox. Some opinions require lots of words and elaboration. This is my Sunday Soapbox, not-so-briefly-stated commentary from one Daily Herald editor, and shamelessly stolen from the Saturday feature with almost the same name.

Hitting close to home: Boy, does a story about a tragedy take on heightened significance when it involves someone you know. The story and photos filed by Political Editor Mike Riopell would have been riveting under any byline, but I pored over every word of how his parents' Washington home was destroyed by one of last Sunday's tornadoes. Mike's folks were safely ensconced at Mike's Springfield home when the weather hit, but they knew only from a family friend that their dog had survived. During the drive to Washington, Mike and his dad learned the house had been among the many destroyed. Still, Mike's story underscored the resilience and good humor people show under the worst adversity. The Riopells were "overwhelmed" with offers of help and support; Mike's dad was proud that most of the furniture he had built survived the EF-4 twister. But my favorite line in the story was this bit of comedic irony:

"A Sun-Times photographer took our picture, which was great, because I've always wanted to be in the newspaper."

Congratulations, Mike; you did a great job as a reporter, writer, photographer, social media poster. And as a son.

Saved the dogs? I can't claim to know if two of our recent stories saved the lives of a couple of ill and elderly dogs, but I'd like to think so. When we first wrote about Lisa Spakowski, who was ticketed for having too many dogs in her Wood Dale house, the city attorney unequivocally said three's the limit in residential areas. That initial Page 1 story, replete with photos of the five dogs, all of whom have some tick-borne illness, drew a mostly sympathetic response for Spakowski, who runs a nonprofit dog rescue operation. She told reporter Robert Sanchez she'd likely have to put down two of the pets because no one else would be able to adequately care for dogs in that condition. But when Spakowski's court date rolled around this past week, the city struck a more conciliatory note. She initially had 10 dogs, and city attorney Patrick Bond noted that she'd whittled the number down to five. Furthermore, he told Sanchez, the city council was "willing to sit down and discuss this and try to meet on some common ground."

Whatever the motivation, I say good for Wood Dale. Sounds like more humane heads have prevailed.

Texting controversy? A text message awaited Stacy Klodz immediately after she addressed the Carpentersville village board last week. She took the side of full-time firefighters, who have been at odds with the village over the staffing of fire stations. Klodz was chastised via text message by Regina Rehberg, wife of Trustee Kevin Rehberg, for not disclosing that her mother is a Carpentersville firefighter, something the village board has known "for weeks."

"Thought you should have been more transparent about that," Rehberg's text message stated.

Was Rehberg's text message a bit brusque, borderline rude, presumptuous? Quite possibly. Klodz said it amounted to the village creating "a bullying environment," and forwarded the offending text messages to the village board and others. She told staff writer Lenore Adkins, "We need to feel safe to speak without retribution."

But in this day and age, it shouldn't have been a huge surprise. Take a stand on anything, in virtually any venue, particularly a public government meeting, and be prepared for someone to take an opposing view. Often stridently so.

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