Congressman says assault weapons won't be banned

By Jason Maholy

The federal government is not going to ban assault weapons or take any firearms from Americans who legally own them, and the millions of immigrants who have entered the United States illegally most likely aren't going anywhere.

So said U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3, Western Springs) last Saturday while speaking to a group of roughly 50 people at a Town Hall meeting in Lockport's historic Central Square Building. The gathering gave people, the majority of them among the roughly 713,000 residents of the 3rd Congressional District, the chance to ask the congressman about his position on political issues and what he thinks can be done to resolve some of them.

Lipinski also held a Town Hall meeting attended by about 100 people later the same day at the Orland Township facility in Orland Park, where he was not the only person in the room to give a speech. In what was supposed to be a question-and-answer period with the fifth-term congressman, Lipinski listened more to speeches than he did field questions. The 75-minute session ultimately reached the point where the final statement came from one man who criticized many of the other attendees for making speeches rather than asking questions.

Topics addressed during the two Town Hall meetings included the postal service, the environment, military veterans, health care and federal subsidies to Big Oil. While Lipinski did not have definitive answers to any questions, he confidently declared during the Lockport session that the federal government will not be banning any firearms, including assault weapons.

"Nothing is going to be done, and I don't support anything, that is banning any type of gun or taking anyone's gun away," he said. "It's not going to happen."

Lipinski suggested strengthening background checks on people who wish to purchase firearms, and said he believes gun trafficking should be a federal offense. It is "easy to say we should ban assault weapons," especially after a tragedy such as the mass murder at Sandy Hook, he said; however, he does not support such a law and noted there is no clear definition of what an assault weapon is.

"It is not going to go anywhere in Washington," he said of any proposed assault weapon ban. "Don't worry about that, there is not going to be an assault ban."

Lipinski referenced an assault weapon ban imposed in 1994, and said he is not convinced that law has done anything to prevent people from getting such firearms or to curtail gun-related violence. He noted he is not a hunter and did not grow up around guns, but claimed he acquired a better understanding of people's passion for firearms while living in the south. Lipinski taught political science at the University of Tennessee from 2001 to 2004.

Lipinski also spoke candidly about illegal immigration, saying that the United States has afforded illegal immigrants "de facto amnesty" because of Congress' refusal to do anything about the matter. Many Republicans in Congress are reluctant to take any action regarding the 11 million or so people in the country illegally because they like that immigrants provide cheap labor, and Democrats want them here for "whatever reason - maybe to get more votes eventually," he said.

He acknowledged the federal government has no answer for illegal immigration at this time, and suggested it is almost a certainty that many if not most of the illegal immigrants already here are going to stay.

"There is no way that 11 million people, or however many are here illegally, are going to leave," he said.

Lipinski, who said 28 percent of residents in the 3rd Congressional District are Hispanic, opposes illegal alien amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. He cited an amnesty program initiated in 1986 during Ronald Reagan's administration, and said the measure failed because illegal immigrants were allowed to remain in the country and the government did not do enough to secure the borders or regulate the hiring of new undocumented workers.

"It is not fair for people who, just because they got here illegally or stayed over their visa illegally, to give them ability to come to the front and get citizenship," he said.

The congressman believes most illegal immigrants are here because they want to work and make a better life for their families, but that there are those who "come here to cause trouble, and get involved in crime, and may see hope of tricking the system to getting government benefits they should not be getting." He might consider voting to give some undocumented immigrants legal status, though not citizenship, if the federal government can establish a birthright law stating citizenship can be granted to someone born in the United States only if at least one of the child's parents is a citizen.

"Maybe if we could trade that off, maybe I'd be open to letting people who are here, who have a steady job, to legalize," he said. "If they have a real job they can keep the job, at real wages - not the wages below the minimum wages now they're being paid - maybe we can allow those people to stay.

"But nothing is going to be done to push everyone out of here."

Lipinski also discussed jobs and the federal deficit, which he called the two greatest problems facing America today. He made special mention of the middle class and its influence on the nation.

"The middle class, that's what made America great, was our strong middle class," he said. "The middle class is shrinking and we can't be a great nation if we don't have a strong middle class. That's something I really believe and something that I fight for. We heard so much during the presidential election about the middle class, [the candidates] would talk about the middle class, and I really believe, a lot of it was just talk."

Reducing the federal government's $16.4 trillion deficit is of the utmost importance, said Lipinski, who comfortably played the role of political science professor when using Greece as an example of how a country should not do business.

"We need to reduce our debt or we are not going to survive," he said. "We are not yet in the situation of Greece; we're not close to that, but we're going in that direction."

The lenders to whom the Geek government owes money to obtained so much power because of the country's debt that they began dictating to lawmakers what policies they were to enact, Lipinski explained.

"The people owed money to, those people started calling the shots and told Greece what they were going to do, what policies they were going to have," he said. "The people of Greece lost their sovereignty to say what they wanted their government to do, because the government owed so much money, [lenders] said that you have to do this or we're never going to lend you any more money."

The Regional News staff writer Jeff Vorva contributed to this story.

Nothing is going to be done... that is banning any type of gun. It's not going to happen.

- U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski

Water, sewer rates rise in Evergreen Park

By Laura Bollin

Evergreen Park residents, like those in most other area municipalities, will pay more for to bathe, wash dishes and hydrate themselves in 2013 as the village's water rate continues to climb.

Village trustees raised the water rate this year from $7 to $8.05 per 1,000 gallons. Households will pay a minimum of $40.25 every three months up to 5,000 gallons, at which point the new rate kicks in.

The 15-perent hike mirrors that implemented by Chicago, from where the village purchases its water. Chicago increased the rate it charges municipalities for water 25 percent in 2012, and will raise the price 15 percent in both 2014 and 2015. Area residents can expect their municipal governments to pass that increase along to them.

"The mayor [Jim Sexton] keeps saying this water is going to be like petroleum, it'll be like gold," Evergreen Park village Clerk Cathy Aparo said at the Village Board's meeting Feb 4.

Evergreen's sewer rates also increased 15 percent this year. The minimum sewer rate is $1.80 per 1,000 gallons, an increase from last year's rate of $1.70. Residents will pay a minimum of $27.07 every three months, compared to $25.50 in 2012.

"This is going to be difficult for people who are on a fixed income," said Evergreen Park village treasurer Sawyers said. "People are going to be paying a little bit more, and they will be paying more for the rest of their lives. Water is going to go up and up and up, and there's really nothing we can do about it. Water is a precious commodity."

Valentine on 67

Love endures for couple that met in 1945

By Laura Bollin

"Happiness is like jam. You can't spread it out without getting a little on yourself."

That saying is on a sticker outside the door of Mary Jane and Bill Porcelli's apartment at senior living community Smith Village in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, and it sums up the couple's life philosophy.

The Porcelli's have been married for 65 years, but judging from the way they act around each other one might think they were newlyweds. Mary Jane is constantly complimenting Bill's "good looks" and intelligence, and Bill says Mary Jane is "quite the singer." As for the secret to what makes a marriage last 65 years, Mary Jane said it is simple.

"We promised," Mary Jane said. "Nowadays, people do renewals of vows, and that's stupid. Either you meant it or you didn't. We said, 'until death do us part,' and we meant it."

Bill jokes that it also helps to hide the sharp objects in one's home.

Bill grew up in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, and Mary Jane in Englewood. They met at a USO dance at Navy Pier in 1945, back when the pier was a naval training center and not a tourist attraction.

"It was magic when I saw him across the room, like a spark of light," Mary Jane joked. "He was so cute, guys look different with sailor suits on."

Mary was also impressed that Bill was getting a college education, as he was enrolled at Illinois Tech working toward an engineering degree.

"I told myself I wouldn't ever marry a man without a college education," Mary Jane said. As for Bill, what about Mary Jane caught his eye?

"She was a pretty blonde, and she brought cookies to the dance," he said.

On their first date, Bill asked Mary Jane if she wanted to go out for a malted milkshake, and the rest is history.

Bill was training to be a radio technician in the Navy and shipped out in September 1945, just a few months after he had met Mary Jane. He returned in May.

"We wrote each other all the time," Bill said.

The couple married on Oct. 4, 1947, and moved into an apartment in Hyde Park, next door to Bill's parents.

"Our rent was $60 a month, but we didn't have any money," Mary Jane said. "I was working as a secretary at Illinois Tech, making $20 a week."

Bill was finishing his engineering degree during the day and attending law school at Loyola University at night. He worked as a patent attorney.

The couple raised four children: Cathy, Debra, Tim, and Jim. They also have eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Their children share their sense of humor. Once, as a gift, Tim gave Mary Jane and Bill a picture of themselves made to look like the couple in Grant Wood's painting "American Gothic."

Bill paints as a hobby, and his artwork adorns the walls of the couple's apartment at Smith Village. One piece shows the couple's children on the beach at Lake Geneva, another depicts a rainy afternoon at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive in Chicago. One of Mary Jane's favorites is a portrait of her picking seashells off of the beach in Florida.

Along with painting, Bill also plays violin. He's a member of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, and marketing materials for Smith Village show Bill serenading Mary Jane in the facility's dining room.

The couple has taken about a dozen cruises throughout the world to places including Italy, Ireland, Germany, the Greek Isles, France, Ireland, Belgium and the Caribbean. Bill says he now enjoys having all of his and Mary Jane's amenities at their fingertips.

"We don't travel as much anymore, but [at Smith Village] we play cards, and I still play the violin and paint," Bill said. "Mary Jane sings, and we both act in the Village Players - a drama group here at Smith Village."

With Valentine's Day around the corner, Mary Jane said Bill has done so many romantic things for her that she can't count them.

"There are just too many to choose from," she said.

As for a final piece of advice to keeping a relationship strong, Mary Jane said it is important to relax with each other.

"Don't sweat the small stuff, because in the end, what's the difference?" Mary Jane said. "We have always been happy as far as our lives. We like each other, and we like our life."

What do you say?

What was your reaction to the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia?

(Asked at the Oak Lawn Public Library)

Faith Flores,
Blue Island

"It really left me in awe of our planet."

Kali Pytel,
Evergreen Park

"I think they need to do a better job of warning people. I felt like no one knew about it. They should have evacuated where it was going to hit."

Lourdes Garcia,
Oak Lawn

"I think it would be horrifying if I had to live there. It makes you think that a meteorite could hit anywhere in this world. If a big meteorite hit, it would be catastrophic. Like the dinosaurs, life may perish."

Peter Setaro,
Oak Lawn

"I think it was awesome."

Tom Matthews,
Evergreen Park

"It was bad. There should have been a lot more warning."

Some OL trustees say upgrades a must at Central & SW Hwy

By Laura Bollin

A new fund allocation policy for infrastructure projects in Oak Lawn will not prohibit what some trustees say is an important safety project, according to the village's mayor.

Trustees voted 3-2 Feb. 12 to approve a policy that will distribute a portion of the village's remaining Build America Bond funds equally to each of the village's six trustee districts to fund their own infrastructure projects, whether that is repairing potholes or paving alleys.

The village has about $7 million in remaining bond revenues, said Trustee Bob Streit, chairman of the Village Board's public works committee. Of that money, $1 million is earmarked for the expansion of the Village Green, $2 million will go toward sewer projects, and $4 million will be divided equally to between the six trustees - that is $666,000 apiece - to spend within their districts as they please.

One project discussed by trustees is adding a left turn lane and traffic signal at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway. Some trustees said the project is important for safety reasons, while others are concerned the village does not have the money to finance the project this year.

Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley (11th District) and Cook County Highways Superintendent John Yonan were onhand last week to answer the board's questions about the leftturn lane project. Yonan said the intersection is not among the top 10 projects for the county, but is an important for Oak Lawn and has the full support of the Cook County Highway Department.

"It is the top accident location in the village," Yonan said, noting that collisions involving vehicles turning into traffic and being sideswiped have occurred at the intersection.

When the intersection was repaved in 1990, a left-turn lane was not added because of objections from residents, Daley said.

Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen said the $1.6 million project was for a dedicated left-turn lane and left-turn signal at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway, near St. Gerald Church and School and blocks from Oak Lawn High School. The project would impact drivers turning from Central onto Southwest Highway, Deetjen said. The village will split the project 50/50 with the county.

This year, the village was expected to spend $300,000 on the project, and then spent the remaining $500,000 in 2014. With each trustee district being given its own funds, trustees may pool the money to finance the project. A 2009 traffic study at the intersection determined that a left-turn lane was warranted, Deetjen said.

"The project can still go forward," Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann said. "We just have to find a new way to allocate the funds."

Trustee Tom Duhig said the alley program is a much lower priority than the safety and security of the intersection.

Trustees have discussed not funding the alley project - at a cost of $3 million.

"I support moving forward with [the Central and Southwest Highway] project, but we need to figure out how we are going to pay for it," Streit said.

Trustee Carol Quinlan agreed.

"I support the project, but I don't think we have the funds for it right now," she said. "What if Trustee Duhig and Trustee [Alex] Olejniczak each took $100,000 of their funds to fund the project?"

Duhig suggesting having each of the six trustees put $50,000 toward the $300,000 cost the project in 2013; however, Quinlan opposes that plan.

Olejniczak said the project must be completed.

"We know monies are tight, but when we have matching funds, we need to do this," Olejniczak said. "This is a safety issue in this neighborhood. St. Gerald's Church and School and Oak Lawn High School would all be positively affected by putting this project forward. Oak Lawn High School traffic goes through there, and we are dedicated to making that intersection safer."

The intersection of Central and Southwest Highway is the only intersection along Central Highway between 79th to 115th streets without a left turn lane, Yonan said.

"A left turn lane will decrease the safety issues and ease the flow of traffic," Yonan said.

Once the village board decides to fund the project, the next step is a right of way acquisition, which would cost approximately $57,000, Deetjen said. The right of way is insufficient, so the village needs to begin work on acquiring the slivers of hand between the existing curb and the sidewalk. When the project is approved by the Village Board, Oak Lawn will have to notify homeowners on the east side of Central Avenue between 91st Street and Southwest Highway about the right of way acquisition, and then reimburse them, Deetjen said.

"Normally, the right of way includes the street and the sidewalk, but years ago, when the properties were developed, the village did not acquire sufficient land on the sidewalk on the east side of Central Avenue," Deetjen said. "The ball is in the village's court to acquire the property."

Pending the board's decision on how to fund the project, construction could start in July 2013. If it is not approved in 2013, construction could begin in spring 2014, Yonan said.