My apologies, RoundTable readers, for many of you have said you love this time of year, when this newspaper transforms for one issue to an outlet of sarcastic falsehoods, exaggerated exposes, and just plain fun made up stories. Alas, for several reasons, this is not the year.
Dirk Cumulo is taking the year off. There will be no April Fool’s articles in April 2017.
It is a sad day in the journalistic world when a reporter cannot write sarcasm anymore. We live, however, in the Age of Trump, a time likely never to be repeated or approached in its lack of respect for, or even quest for, the truth. When alternative facts and fake news are everywhere, there seems to be little point in drafting additional fake news even in jest. Again, it is painful. Realistically speaking, though, there is no way Dirk could ever compete with something like, “Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower.”
But it is the world we live in. Hopefully, we will not be in this world for long and Dirk can return with more April Fool stories of Trader Joe’s beach (a perk that may have contributed to the demise of south Evanston’s Whole Foods), basketball island, and snow removal stickers. May 2018 become a world in which the news is real enough that fake stories can be fun again.
There is another reason for the full year hiatus, though – the Evanston election season. Dirk himself could not have penned the twists and turns we have faced this year, and any effort to craft a clever election-cycle April Fool’s story would be met with a shrug and a reference to a real story of hardship and woe.
To recap, the season began with a shocking announcement. As context, the Illinois election code requires those seeking elected office to obtain a certain number of signatures on an election petition, and turn those petitions in before the deadline. Everyone in Evanston thought the deadline was in mid-December.
Well, almost everyone. Until suddenly, the deadline was not mid-December. By email and Facebook and other means of announcement, candidates learned of a new and very different deadline. The announcement came the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the deadline shifted to the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Dirk could not have written it better. “Candidates Learn of New Election TImetable Over Thanksgiving Turkey.” Candidates who were out of town or otherwise celebrating Thanksgiving holiday sprang into action. Sunday was a day for the record book, with candidates and their supporters everywhere scrambling to get petition signatures, their faces both maniacal and surreal.
Then came the next bombshell, again one Dirk himself would have been proud to dream up. One petition seeker was arrested after being accused, it appears, of panhandling. Oh, the headline almost writes itself! “Politician .Arrested for Seeking Votes on Streetcorner.” Alas, once more, it was true. Charged with refusal to produce his papers, in this case his identification, a candidate was arrested and taken into police custody.
The political season had not yet begun in earnest, and two April Fool’s-worthy stories had already been written.
Then came the ballot challenges. It is time honored in the Chicago area. It is just what we do – try to knock opponents off the ballot.
This time, though, we had three ballot challenges. In two of them, one of the mayoral candidates tried to invalidate all the others, or at the very least cancel a primary election established by referendum over twenty years ago. “Two Mayoral Candidate Tries to Kick All Others off the Ballot – Including Each Other.” Both these efforts failed, and all candidates remained to stand for election. The referendum question raised an interesting conundrum, however, as Evanston has obviously simply ignored the referendum’s requirements in at least one election – the 2009 mayoral election.
There is a referendum, it seems, but we ignored it then and some say we should ignore it now. Dirk could not make this stuff up. The upshot: “Mayor Tisdahl Illegally Elected in 2009.” My word, what a season this was.
Oh, and a clerk candidate’s wife challenged the other clerk candidate, the one who got arrested, because he filed required paperwork at the wrong time. The hearing could have been a whole story on its own, with one argument being no one knew when anything was due because the clerk’s office itself did not know which deadline was the right one. There’s some merit to that after the Thanksgiving surprise, but even if Dirk wrote it people would not believe it. “Clerk Candidate’s Excuse for Improper Filing: The Clerk Messed Up.”
We were not even out of December yet, and four or five articles worthy of an April Fool’s issue has already been written.
January and February brought on even more. A hastily scheduled primary narrowed the 5th ward and mayoral field to two each. Those races were not without Dirk-level drama, with accusations of homophobia, City ethics violations, residency questions, outright corruption, a lawsuit over a business deal that didn’t work out back in 2012, and on and on and on. Sometimes residents woke up wondering if we possibly still lived in Evanston. Even when candidates rejected endorsements – yes, that happened – they were castigated for rejecting and not “repudiating.” “Rejection Not Good Enough, Cry Some. Repudiation Required.”
Now, as April 1 passes us by, Dirk would have sharpened a pencil and gotten to work crafting something to catch readers off guard. This year, it’s just not possible. Between Kellyanne’s boss and our local election scene, the ability to write clever, sarcastic satire has been ripped away. Gone. Taken. Please, give us back the ability to make fun of ourselves. We need the release.