A candidate running in Tuesday’s primary for 1st District alderman is alleging possible electioneering and breaking of federal law on the part of incumbent Alderman Jeff Coe.Sounds pretty serious ... until you find out the alleged violation is once sentence on a brochure that reads:
“The District is really lucky to have Jeff Coe as their alderman.”That sentence came from Rachel Westergren, a community builder with Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit engaged in rebuilding and improving houses in the First District. Westergren isn't quoted in the story, nor is anyone else from NHS.
But here's the strange part. Fair throws Westergren and NHS under the bus by alleging they violated federal law endorsing Coe in the First District race, but then suggest it's not NHS's fault because Coe strong-armed them into an endorsement.
Fair accuses Coe, alderman from 2001-2005 and since 2007, of “shaking down the nonprofit group” for an endorsement and said he is concerned what might happen to NHS funding if Coe had not received the endorsement.I guess it's theoretically possible that Coe walked into NHS, demanded Westergren (who isn't the head of the nonprofit) write a sentence for his campaign brochure, and then threatened to pull all of NHS's funding if she didn't comply. But that's supposing Coe has a great deal of control over city funding (he doesn't) and that NHS would fold under small-time political pressure (probably not). It's also completely unsupported, aside from Fair's word. Seriously JT, you let an aldermanic candidate compare his opponent to the impeached governor of Illinois?
“We can not allow the Rod Blagojevich Chicago-style ‘pay-to-play’ politics to creep into Racine,” said Fair, who said he is exploring filing a complaint against Coe.
More likely is the JT got played. Fair drops off a press release late in the day on Friday, the city desk needs a local news story for Saturday, the reporter dashes off a couple of phone calls and an incompete, highly suspect story ends up in print.
JT, you just can't do this sort of thing. It's lousy journalism, unfair to Coe, irrelevant to issues in the First District and harmful to a nonprofit that's doing important work in some of Racine's most depressed neighborhoods. The editors should not have published this story.