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Kankakee teen wins national app challenge 2 years in a row

KANKAKEE — When David Love was around 8 years old, his tech-savvy dad introduced him to coding, a type of language used to create computer programs.

Love found himself fascinated by the process and created simple applications as soon as he understood enough to do so.

“It was a slow start for me,” he admits. “It was a bit of a daunting task for someone my age, and I wasn’t too great at it.”

As he has gotten older, Love picked the hobby back up and continued building his knowledge of coding and computer science on his own.

Now, the 16-year-old high school sophomore has two consecutive Congressional App Challenge wins under his belt.

Congressional districts across the country participate in the annual contest for high schoolers in celebration of Computer Science Education Week in December. The competition began in 2015.

Love won the 2020 challenge for Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District with his entry of an app called Keychain External Login System. The app stores clients’ passwords in a secure system designed to keep hackers at bay.

A video demonstrating Love’s Keychain External Login System app is viewable at bit.ly/2LB27vG [Be warned: Love might sound like a college professor to the non-technologically inclined].

Love won the 2019 challenge for the district with his entry of Virtual ATM, an app that allows clients to securely login to websites and complete monetary transactions.

Love attended Kankakee High School his freshman year and transferred to the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora for his sophomore year. He lives with his family in Kankakee and attends school online.

The nationally recognized winning apps are displayed on the Congressional App Challenge website, and winners have their apps exhibited on a digital display in the U.S. Capitol for a year.

Love was set to visit Washington, D.C., in March to demonstrate his Virtual ATM app to technology professionals and Congress members for the #HouseOfCode conference.

Unfortunately, the visit was canceled because of the pandemic. The status of an in-person event for this year’s challenge is still to be announced.

“I would appreciate getting my name out there and showing what I’ve got,” Love said.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly visited Love’s computer science class at KHS last February to recognize his win in the 2019 challenge.

“The fact that David is a two-time App Challenge winner demonstrates the depth of his talent and creativity,” Kelly said in a news release. “I’m especially pleased that David tackled the issue of cybersecurity, a problem of the greatest concern for our nation and also the focus of recent legislation that I’ve put forth to protect our national security.”

Kelly went on to say in the release that the future of the nation’s cybersecurity will one day be in the hands of Love’s generation.

“David’s talent clearly demonstrates we’ll be in capable hands,” she said.

Love said he was inspired to create the Keychain External Login System after a data breach caused him to have to painstakingly change passwords for more than 70 accounts.

“It got me to thinking, ‘What is the solution to this?’” Love said. “We keep having more and more accounts and more and more services we have to sign up for.”

Clients can use the app to implement login systems on their websites. The app encrypts password information and sends it to a secure server where login is completed externally.

“The small mom-and-pop business that needs to now create a website and implement login doesn’t have to worry about security or managing passwords,” he said.

Love noted that security is becoming a big concern in the tech world, and it has become increasingly important to create security solutions.

“If you have one company storing your passwords and managing login, it’s way less likely that that company is going to be breached and your password is going to be lost,” he said. “At the same time, it’s going to be more convenient, as you will only need one account to login to everything with a service like this.”

Like with Virtual ATM, Love created the Keychain External Login System app entirely on his own time using self-taught skills. It took him about the same amount of time, roughly seven months.

Creating the new app was “far more challenging,” however, due to the complexity of the task the app sought to accomplish.

“I have learned so much in the time from when I submitted my last app to now,” Love said. “I feel I’m much stronger in my coding experience than I was before.”

Love is strongly considering careers in computer science, he said.

He would be following in the footsteps of his dad, who works for the multinational technology and consulting company IBM.

At home, Love and his dad talk about computers a lot, and he often helps his mom, a former lawyer, with technology around the house.

He also gets along well with his older brother, who plans to study art in college, despite them being “polar opposites.”

“I’ll see where the road takes me,” Love said. “I’m considering a lot of different careers right now.”

HEARD ON THE STREET: Numbers, community were Schmidt's passion

When Steve Schmidt graduated from Bishop McNamara Catholic High School in 1971, he knew he would be headed for college. He just wasn’t sure what he would study.

He opened a course catalog and the first item was accounting.

His career path was set.

“It’s a true story. That’s what he did,” explained his wife, Cassandra Schmidt. He enrolled at Kankakee Community College, then transferred to the University of Illinois‘ College of Commerce and graduated with an accounting degree in December 1975.

In January 1976, he was hired on at the Kankakee accounting firm which was formerly known as Topping, Gianotti and Payne.

He worked there from January 1976 until his retirement in December 2010. He became a partner in the firm in October 1985 and was named its managing partner in January 2006.

He retired from the firm on Dec. 31, 2010, much earlier than he would have wanted. Schmidt suffered from Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years.

Schmidt died Jan. 1. He was 67.

While crunching numbers was his passion, it wasn’t his only passion, Cassandra noted. He loved manicuring his yard, coaching youth sports and, of course, serving the public.

He was a four-year member of the Bishop McNamara Catholic High School board and it was that taste of service which led to his successful run to the Kankakee School Board in November 1993. He served on the board until 2001, the majority of the time as board president.

He came onto the school board only months after then-Superintendent Kay Green was appointed and Green said last week she could not have asked for a better boss than Schmidt.

“He was simply one of the best. He was so intelligent and he understood finances so well,” she said. “He was able to present finances in a way people could easily understand. He was literally a joy to work with in every way.”

Green noted when Schmidt joined the board, along with several other new members, the district’s budget had a deficit of $3 million.

He said such a situation was not going to be acceptable. The board worked under his leadership to turn that around and within a few years was operating with a surplus.

“His financial expertise was truly needed at that point in time. His ability to think outside the box was extraordinary,” she explained. “No one could have asked for a better boss.”

It was the Parkinson’s which led Schmidt to leave the school board. He explained to the Green and the board that stress aggravated the condition.

Bruce Payne, the accounting firm’s managing partner before Schmidt accepted the role, noted Schmidt a mind made for accounting. He had the great ability to analyze figures.

He noted Schmidt also had a great sense of humor.

“He was just a wonderful person. So caring. He cared so much this community and other people.”

Cassandra said her husband was one of those lucky people. He enjoyed his profession so much he never felt like he was going to work.

She noted the Parkinson’s illness obviously took a great toll on him, but he never complained about his fate. “Never,” she said. “And he never gave up. He never gave up.”

She added, “Steve always wanted to be part of the community. He always wanted to help. He just did things. He always stepped up.”

• • •

A business was also lost this past week with ownership of the Family Video chain closing its remaining store across the country. Two of the nearly 250 remaining outlets were located in Kankakee and Bourbonnais.

This was a decision people could have seen coming a mile away. In a way it’s hard to believe the business stayed open as long as it did due to the dramatic changes in how consumers access movies.

While some people cast jokes about the business’ fate, I certainly have fond memories of the Family Video on Kankakee’s west side.

It was there where my family would often rent movies or games for a weekend’s worth of entertainment for a few dollars. Back when our two sons were young, money was often in short supply.

We would rent a movie or two and march upstairs. We would have “popcorn parties” in the boys’ bedroom as we spread a few comforters on the floor, ate popcorn and watched a movie.

It was cheap and it was fun. As my wife and I look back on those days, they were the best of times. I know the boys loved them as well.

So it was with a sense of sadness when I wrote the story regarding the video stores being closed.

But I would like to tell the company, and the former BlockBuster Video stores as well, thank you. While the stores are gone, they will certainly not be forgotten.

Most of Kankakee County's low-level pot convictions have been expunged

KANKAKEE — Many low-level marijuana convictions in Kankakee County have been expunged as part of the state’s Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act of 2019.

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said the state expunged the majority of the convictions effective Dec. 31, 2020.

On that day, Gov. JB Pritzker issued 9,219 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions. He also announced the Illinois State Police had expunged all eligible records at the state level for marijuana related arrests.

Since the act’s passage, the governor has issued pardons in 20,236 marijuana cases.

“We have processed nearly 2,000 expungements and sealing petitions over the last few years as we were ahead of the game, we beat the state to the punch,” Rowe said.

“Going forward, when someone applies to expunge or seal any eligible offense, including those cannabis-related convictions that are eligible for expungement under the law, we do not object.”

Rowe said the Kankakee County Circuit Clerk’s office has been instrumental in the effort as has Judge Kathy Bradshaw Elliott, who hears the majority of such petitions.

Pritzker said in a press release dated Dec. 31 that state police had expunged 492,129 non-felony marijuana-related arrests records in the state database.

Those expungements will also be mirrored in local law enforcement agencies, he said.

The act mandated 47,000 cannabis-related arrest records between 2013 and 2019 be expunged by Jan. 1, 2021.

Illinois counties have until Jan. 1, 2025, to expunge all eligible arrest records.

“As we near the end of the first year of Illinois’ new legal cannabis industry, I am heartened by the progress we have made toward undoing the harms dealt by the failed war on drugs,” said Toi Hutchinson, Pritzker’s senior marijuana advisor.

Before Pritzker named Hutchinson to the post, she represented the 17th District in the State Senate, which includes Kankakee County.

“Eleven states in the nation have legalized cannabis for recreational use, but no other state has done the important work we’re doing here in Illinois, where equity intentionality takes center stage,” Hutchinson said.

How it works

The 2019 legalization act created three groups of marijuana-related records eligible for some type of expungement. The first two groups are eligible for automatic expungement, meaning no action is required on behalf of the affected party, while the third group requires a court petition to start the expungement process.

ISP’s completed arrest record expungement and the corresponding record purge ongoing at the local level are part of the first group. Eligible records for expungement in this category are arrests for possession under 30 grams or less that occurred before June 25, 2019. The arrest must not have resulted in charges, or if it did, those charges were dropped, dismissed, resulted in acquittal, or resulted in qualified probation that has been completed.

This automatic expungement only occurs in law enforcement databases. To remove all mentions of the arrest from court records, a motion must be filed by the defendant in the court where the charges were brought.

Arrests for minor marijuana offenses that were tied to a violent or sexual crime are also not eligible for expungement. Neither are arrests for delivery on school grounds, trafficking or possession of marijuana plants.

Records available for automatic expungement in the second group go through a six-step process that includes a pardon from the governor, such as the ones issued Thursday. These are convictions for low-level misdemeanors that occurred before June 25, 2019, such as possession of 30 grams or less, or the sale of marijuana up to 10 grams.

Eligible convictions are first compiled by state police and delivered to the Prisoner Review Board. If a conviction was for a Class 4 felony, the state’s attorney for the jurisdiction in which that conviction took place can object to the case being eligible for expungement, which is then resolved in a hearing.

The PRB will then recommend eligible convictions to the governor for a pardon. The governor then decides whether to accept or deny the recommendation. Pardons issued by the governor are given to the Illinois attorney general, in this case Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who then files a request with the circuit clerk where the conviction occurred to expunge the record. The circuit clerk then expunges the record and sends an order to law enforcement to expunge records related to the conviction as well.

According to PRB Chair Craig Findley, the board expects to review “thousands of additional felony and misdemeanor” marijuana offenses in 2021.

The third and final group of records eligible for expungement are not subject to an automatic process, but require a court petition filed by the convicted party. These are for marijuana offenses that do not qualify for the previous two groups.

Debate on police reform continues at Statehouse

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House of Representatives continued to debate a massive criminal justice omnibus bill Sunday that would transform policing practices in the state.

A 611-page amendment to House Bill 163 would heavily revamp use-of-force guidelines, mandate body cameras for every law enforcement agency, end cash bail, remove some qualified immunity protections, and strip collective bargaining rights relating to discipline from police unions. Further language could be added in a future amendment as well.

The legislation, which is the culmination of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus agenda to end what it says is systemic racism, faces opposition from law enforcement groups and Republican lawmakers.

Among those opposing the bill is Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey, who said the bill, if approved, “would effectively eliminate law enforcement as we know it.”

“Our law enforcement officers are among some of the most honest, brave and best in our nation and this bill would likely drive a large majority of them out of public service as a result,” Downey said in a Facebook post. “This is single-handedly the most detrimental piece of legislation ever proposed and I think it’s crucial that our area residents understand the underlying implications if it were to pass.”

Rep. Justin Slaughter, a Chicago Democrat who helped craft HB163, took part in a news conference held Sunday morning by the Black Caucus.

“This has been a 400-year-plus journey that we have been on. We want to go from protest to progress,” he repeated three times with increasing emphasis.

Slaughter chairs the House Criminal Judiciary Committee, which must accept the amendment before it can go to the House floor for a vote. The committee heard testimony and debate on the bill from law enforcement, municipal representation, legal experts and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

Use of force

HB163 would amend the acceptable forms of force by officers, banning chokeholds and restraints that can restrict breathing as well as severely limiting the situations where deadly force is authorized. The reforms were strongly opposed by the law enforcement coalition during the hearing.

Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle, representing the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, called the proposed reforms “catastrophic” to law enforcement and said they would make policing impossible for officers that have to make split-second decisions.

Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black, who serves as president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said he supports reforms to use of force but HB163 is not the answer.

“We do not want to be obstructionist; we want to affect positive change in our communities. But we do not support the bill, the bill will destroy law enforcement’s ability to keep communities safe,” he said.

When pressed by Slaughter on what changes to the use-of-force guidelines they would accept, Black and VanVickle did not have an answer, but replied the five days provided in the lame duck session were not enough time for their legal experts to craft alternative measures.

The sentiment was echoed by the ranking Republican on the committee, Rep. Terri Bryant.

“No one is asking this to be slow rolled. Lame duck session is not the time to hash out a 600, now maybe 800, maybe 1,000-page issue on something that is this important,” she said. “Too often the Legislature wants to do something even if that’s the wrong thing. So let’s do the right things and let’s do this the right way.”

Slaughter and Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, who also crafted the legislation, have pushed back on the notion that the bill is rushed, pointing to the nine hearings held by the Black Caucus on criminal justice reform. Most topics discussed in those hearings, which neared 30 hours in collective length and included both the IACP and ISA at times, are in the amendment.

“Our state makes international news regarding police brutality and misconduct,” Slaughter said during the hearing, invoking the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police.

Body cameras

Body cameras would be mandatory for all law enforcement agencies under the law. Larger agencies would be required to have cameras in place by Jan. 1, 2022, and all agencies would need to have cameras in place by 2025.

Any municipality or county whose law enforcement agency does not comply would have its Local Government Distributive Fund contributions from the state reduced by 20 percent each year until it meets the requirements. The LGDF is the portion of state income tax revenue that goes to cities and counties.

Law enforcement groups, including the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police and the Chicago FOP, have referred to the Black Caucus legislation as the “Defund the police bill” because of this provision, a notion repeated by Chief Black, of Crystal Lake.

Slaughter and other members of the Black Caucus have disputed the characterization, given that law enforcement agencies are given time to comply and do not have funding cut outright.

“We cannot afford not to make the changes we’re calling for,” Sims said during the Black Caucus’ Sunday news conference, pointing to a 2020 study by economists at Citigroup that says the U.S. lost $16 trillion in GDP since 2000 due to racism.

The Black Caucus has pointed to the losses in potential tax revenue due to racist practices, as well as the massive settlements cities pay out each year due to police misconduct, as the cost of not passing their legislation.

The amendment as written does not provide law enforcement agencies any monetary assistance for acquiring and implementing body cameras. VanVickle and Black both testified their law enforcement agencies would have no issues with body cameras being mandatory if they received fiscal support from the state and the funding penalty for noncompliance was removed.

Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, which represents towns, villages and cities across the state, said IML opposes any measure that would negatively impact LGDF. However, it supports mandatory body cameras as long as the timeline for departments was extended by a few years.