Worth residents share concerns about rats

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Last year, some Worth residents complained about seeing coyotes. But this spring, some other residents are voicing displeasure about what they claim is another problem – an outbreak of rats.

The subject of seeing the rodents in greater numbers was brought up during the public comment portion of the Worth Village Board meeting on April 18. The subject provided for a lively discussion.

Worth residents Izzy Oliva and Kim Krawczyk, who live in the area of 108th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, and Jack McGrath, who owns an apartment building on Nagle Avenue, addressed the board with graphic descriptions of their battle with rats.

Krawczyk asked if there was anything the village could do to help?

“My morning starts with my husband going out to kill the rats caught in the traps we have bought. I see them running across my driveway during the day. It is terrible. What can the village do to stop this?”

Mayor Mary Werner responded that the village has distributed brochures advising residents on what to do to prevent the increasing population of rats, such as cleaning up dog waste, which attracts the rodents.

“We don’t need brochures,” Krawczyk responded. “We are looking for a plan of action from the village. Can’t code enforcement officers go to personal properties to see if dog waste is being cleaned up? Can you make some decision on this and present it at the next board meeting? If you can’t do anything, our only option is to leave the village.”

Oliva added that Chicago Ridge dealt with its recent rat problem but the result was that they had driven them out and now they are in Worth.

“I have spent $200 on traps, bags and gloves in dealing with this. Something needs to be done,” Oliva said.

McGrath stated that he had complained two months ago to the village about the growing problem of rats near the apartment building he owns, but nothing had been done.

“We will be in these neighborhoods tomorrow to investigate this,” said Werner.

During the board meeting, the trustees voted to approve two payments, including a one-year agreement with Hearne & Associates, P.C. for audit services for the village’s fiscal year ending April 30, 2017 in the amount of $25,800 and $14,980 to Straightline Landscaping for work to be performed at the Metra Station.

In other business, the board deferred action on a request for a business license for AR Oil Inc., 11458 S. Harlem Ave., in order to obtain further information.

Judge rules in favor of trustees in lawsuit against Chicago Ridge mayor

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar won his bid for re-election on April 4, but his opponents on the Village Board got a victory of another kind on April 18 when Cook County Judge Rodolfo Garcia ruled in their favor in a lawsuit involving mayoral powers that Tokar had filed against them last August.

Five of the six village trustees were named in the lawsuit the mayor filed after they approved an ordinance limiting the mayor’s ability to make appointments. The issue arose last year when the five board members rejected Tokar’s choice of Burt Odelson as village attorney. Odelson remained in that position on an interim basis despite the vote because current state law states that no office can remain vacant.

But the five trustees — Bruce Quintos, Frances Coglianese, Sally Durkin, Bill McFarland and Amanda Cardin – then passed a new ordinance that requires a majority of trustees to approve all mayoral appointments. If the mayor’s selection does not receive the required votes the first time, the mayor would be given 30 days to change their minds. If the appointee is rejected a second time, the mayor would have to pick somebody else.

Tokar vetoed that ordinance, but the trustees overrode it, with only Trustee Jack Lind siding with the mayor. He was the only trustee not named in the lawsuit. The five trustees who proposed the new ordinance said it simply reinforces state statutes that say mayors of home-rule communities govern with the “advice and consent” of the board.

In the April 4 election, Coglianese and Durkin ran unsuccessfully against Tokar for mayor, and Quintos and Cardin lost their bids for re-election. But Coglianese on Tuesday admitted feeling “somewhat vindicated, at least in this area,” when she heard that the judge upheld the legality of the ordinance she had proposed.

“The ordinance just reinforces the advice and consent in state statutes. It gives us a balance of power,” she said. “I want to find that judge’s name because I have a feeling he will be one of the first I’ll be voting for,” she added with a laugh.

However, the mayor said at the time that his legal advisers from four municipal law firms had advised him that the ordinance violates the state constitution, because it makes changes to the mayor’s powers without a referendum. He said that in filing suit, he was simply seeking a declaratory judgment because it was “a case of different interpretations of case law and state law.”

“No one is asking for money. We’re simply asking for a declaratory judgment. Whichever way it goes, we will move on. This issue isn’t going to be hanging over us for years. We are hoping to have it resolved in the next eight weeks or so,” said Tokar last August.

Both he and his opponents in the case expressed frustration about the slow pace of the litigation whenever they were asked about the status of the case as the election drew closer.

Tokar said on Tuesday that he wanted to wait to see the actual written ruling, which had not been issued yet, before deciding on his next course of action.

“I don’t want to comment on what was said in court,” Tokar said. “I want to see what the ruling says before deciding to appeal or not.”

The case the mayor expected to see decided in eight weeks dragged on so long that three people named in the suit – Durkin, Quintos and Cardin—will no longer be on the board as of this evening, (Thursday, April 27) when three newly elected trustees are scheduled to be sworn in with Tokar.

“He will have a whole new board,” said Coglianese, who remains a trustee.

Appointments will have to be made again also, including that of village attorney, and Coglianese was unwilling to predict how the votes might go this time around.

Deb Pyznarski and Ed Kowalski, two of Tokar's allies who were elected on April 4, may provide the mayor with at least three votes. But if the new ordinance is indeed upheld, the mayor might be casting more tie-breaking votes.


Lipinski vows fed action on airlines' bumping

  • Written by Tim Hadac

In the wake of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged from a jet at O’Hare International Airport earlier this month, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is vowing action that may end the practice of involuntary bumping.

The congressman, a senior member of the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he may help lead federal action to “require that when you buy a plane ticket, that you are guaranteed to be on that flight. Right now, you’re not guaranteed to have a seat on that flight…you’re just guaranteed that the airline will get you to your destination at some time. I think that needs to change…so they would not be able to force anyone off a flight.”

Lipinski’s call to action was made in a conversation he had with The Reporter Saturday at an outdoor Easter egg hunt at Hale Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side, as passenger jets roared overhead on the way to and from Midway Airport, just seven blocks east.

The congressman’s pledge to act comes in the wake of an April 9 incident that saw a ticketed passenger, 69-year-old Dr. David Dao of Kentucky, yanked from his seat by Chicago Department of Aviation security staff and dragged off a United Airlines jet after he was selected for involuntary removal. He was one of four paying customers involuntarily bumped from the Chicago-to-Louisville flight because it was over the allowable limit of passengers. The other three left without incident.

The involuntary bumping occurred after no passengers accepted an offer of up to $800 in air-travel vouchers to give up their seats for four airline employees who were added at the last minute because they were needed to cover an unstaffed flight at another location.

Cellphone video of the incident — which shows Dao dazed and bloodied after being dragged down an aisle -- has shocked people around the world and triggered calls for air carriers to end involuntary bumping.

While Lipinski said that passenger air carriers “appear to be learning” from the firestorm of negative publicity around the incident and have take some steps to prevent future occurrences by increasing incentives to convince passengers to agree to be bumped from over-booked flights, he said it may not be enough. The congressman said it is likely that lawmakers will take stronger action through federal legislation — most likely the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill, which his subcommittee will work on next month.

“No passenger should ever be put through what Dr. Dao was,” the congressman added. “It appears that the boarding system broke down at many levels, and I am continuing to receive updates from the U.S. Department of Transportation, United, and the Chicago Department of Aviation about what occurred, what they are planning to do to prevent it from occurring again, and who will be held accountable.  No passenger should be forced to give up a seat on a flight on which they purchased a ticket, much less dragged off a plane.”

Lipinski, who typically flies up to 90 times a year on commercial jets, told The Reporter that people “are very unhappy with their flying experience these days. The airlines nickel and dime you for everything.”

The congressman has pushed for changes in air carriers’ operating procedures in the past. Last year, he proposed legislation that would require airlines to refund baggage fees for passengers if their luggage is substantially delayed. It was adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In 2015 he introduced legislation that would stop airlines from charging passengers a fee if they change flights because the bathrooms on their plane are out of order.

“I think it’s a shame where we’re at the point where the government has to step in to take care of these issues,” he continued. “The airlines really should be treating their passengers with more respect, but obviously aren’t. The flying experience has really gotten more difficult, more unpleasant — which is curious because the airlines are all making a lot of money these days. They need to be treating their passengers better.”

Survivors and residents recall 50th anniversary of Oak Lawn tornado

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ambulance photo 4-20

Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Library

Ambulances were a common sight along Oak Lawn streets after the F4 tornado hit Oak Lawn on April 21, 1967.

John Brodemus recalls that it was a warm day. His primary goal that late afternoon was to ask a girl on a date.

However, his intentions and focus changed rapidly when he looked up and felt rain coming down and black clouds rushing toward them. He and the girl ran into her home on the 9300 block of Southwest Highway in Oak Lawn and took cover with other members of her family in the kitchen.

“It was loud but I can’t say that I heard a train,” Brodemus said. “She lived near trains. But when I came out, I knew.”

Brodemus, like thousands of other Oak Lawn residents, were stunned after scanning the aftermath of the F4 tornado that ripped through Oak Lawn and portions of Hometown and Evergreen Park on April 21, 1967. The tornado could also be seen, although with considerably less might, in Chicago before disappearing in Lake Michigan.

But in its path in Oak Lawn, 33 died and over 1,000 people were injured. The winds were reported as fast as 200 miles per hour.

The 50th anniversary of the tornado that struck Oak Lawn and surrounding communities will be recognized at an exhibit that opens at 6 p.m. Friday, April 21 at the Oak Lawn Library, 9427 S. Raymond Ave. The exhibit will feature over 100 images, archival footage of the aftermath and recollections from witnesses.

The National Weather Service had issue a tornado watch at 1:50 p.m. that day for much of central and northern Illinois. The town of Belvidere, 65 miles northwest of Chicago, was struck by the tornado. Other northwestern suburban communities were struck by a tornado just after 5 p.m. that resulted in 20 deaths.

Kevin Korst, the local history coordinator for the Oak Lawn Library and author of “Oak Lawn Tornado of 1967,” wrote that at 5:15 p.m. an off-duty weather bureau employee witnessed a mass of clouds forming directly overhead. The clouds began to move near 88th Avenue, the current site of Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. The clouds swarmed and were followed by golf-ball sized hail. The twister picked up mud and uprooted trees. The tornado crossed the 294 tollway and into Chicago Ridge before ripping by the Starlite Drive-In before entering Oak Lawn.

The corner of 95th Street and Southwest Highway was lined up with vehicles at the stoplight while shoppers were everywhere. The tornado quickly ripped through the south gym and pool of Oak Lawn Community High School, tossing vehicles into the nearby pedestrian overpass and in every direction. Shoot’s Lynwood Lounge, Fisher’s Motel, the Fairway Super Mart, Sherwood Forest Restaurant and two gas stations sustained heavy damage.

The tornado tore apart the Suburban Transit Company at 95th and Menard, with buses stacked on other buses and vehicles. St. Gerald School was damaged and the Airway Trailer Park and the Oak Lawn Roller Rink along 91st Street and Cicero Avenue were destroyed. The Oak Lawn Dairy Basket, McDonald’s and other buildings near 91st and Cicero were also demolished.

Brodemus, 17, who was a senior at Oak Lawn Community High School at the time, just wanted to get home at that point.

“I left her house and was directed (by police) to go down Cicero Avenue to 111th Street, west to Harlem Avenue, north to 87th Street and finally east to Austin Avenue, “ Brodemus said. “I knew all about it by then. It was all over the car radio.”

He was allowed to go home where he met his distraught mother. His sister, Christine, who was 14 and a freshman at Oak Lawn High, had been practicing water ballet but was out of the pool at 5:15 p.m. Brodemus said they had shut down practice. She later ventured to the end of the school, away from the main force of the tornado.

His brother, Bob, also attended Oak Lawn High. His tennis meet with Thornridge was called off because of the sudden storm. He decided to take a shower and thought his teammates were playing a prank when the lights flickered and finally went out. He yelled but no one replied. Then he heard his doubles partner Chuck Nowak scream from downstairs that a tornado was coming.

Bob Brodemus then witnessed the double doors next to him slam open and shut in a rapid rhythm. He saw the concrete ceiling crack above him and rainwater leaked upon his shoulders. He grabbed the corner of the wall and he was shaking back and forth. Lockers and light bulbs crashed all around, he said.

After viewing a blue-green sky through the cracks, he quickly got dressed and ventured outside. He began going through debris and saw many dead bodies. After a couple of hours of helping the injured and cleaning up the debris, he went home and was happy to see his mother. His father also arrived home. The Brodemus family, who lived on the 9200 block of South Massasoit Avenue, was OK, at least physically.

“”I cried that night, the cry I should have had earlier,” wrote Bob Brodemus years later. “It was a luxury to cry – a real soothing luxury.”

Skip Sullivan was 15 and a sophomore at Oak Lawn High School. The baseball game they had scheduled with Sandburg was cancelled that day due to the sudden rain. The rain had stopped and he was watching the track team at school when a huge storm moved in with fast moving black clouds overhead. He quickly went into the school by the lockers.

Then the golf team rushed in and said “here it comes, get down,” recalled Sullivan.

“When we finally got out I remember hearing a car horn and seeing a man slumped over in his car, dead,” Sullivan said. “There were cars on the athletic field and a bus on a roof of a house. We worked our way to the main parking lot and could see the pool was totally leveled. The floor was buckled. It was like someone dropped a bomb. The fire department and police officers were asking for us for help.”

Sullivan, like Bob Brodemus, began to go through the debris and assisted the injured while seeing many fatalities. His father later came by a couple of hours later to find his son. Sullivan said his father looked relieved when he saw him.

Debbie Fisher, whose father operated Fisher’s Motel near 95th and Southwest Highway, was sick that day and did not go to school. Her mother and aunt brought her to the family doctor and she received some medication. She was beginning to feel better after that. Her mother suggested they go to the store to pick up some food for supper. They noticed the black clouds and the rain so they hurried into the store. A man then rushed in to tell them to get down. They went to the back of the store, and they heard the roar. The lights went out and debris fell everywhere.

When they left the store, they immediately went to her father’s motel. They noticed his front office was destroyed. But a few minutes later, they saw their father walking toward them.

“He was OK because he walked out of the office to change a light bulb in one of the rooms,” Debbie wrote a year later. “When he saw the tornado coming, he rushed into one of the rooms and slammed the door and got down on the floor.”

They hugged each other and arrived home later that evening. Their house was also intact.

Mary Lou Harker often sent her children to eat at the Red Barn Restaurant. But this time her husband, Oak Lawn Fire Lieutenant. Elmore “Al” Harker, who would become fire chief in 1976, said that they were going to take the children somewhere special for dinner.

That decision may have saved the children’s lives. The Red Barn was destroyed by the tornado. The Harkers were not directly hit by the tornado, but Mary Lou recalls her daughter seeing a desk flying in the air and part of a street sign that crashed through her neighbor’s window. They also noticed water that was originally from the nearby Oak Lawn High School swimming pool was dumped on their front lawn.

Mary Lou also checked on someone who was missing. She recalled seeing a deceased girl who still had her roller skates on. The deceased were taken to a temporary morgue at the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post. Her daughter, Michelle, 7, later had to attend a wake for a friend.

“She was wearing her Holy Communion dress,” Mary Lou recalled.

Mary Lou said the police and fire department worked valiantly over the next week or so. Many people also volunteered their efforts.

Korst said there is not one incident that stands out about the tornado.

“The devastation of the roller rink and 18 people were killed at the corner of 95th Street and Southwest Highway,” Korst said. “And people mention the National Guard.

“But the one thing I hear is the sort of pride people felt in helping each other,” Korst said. “A lot of people had a hand in the recovery from this terrible incident. They helped to rebuild and they moved on.”

New performing arts center at Richards moves forward

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

district 218 photo 4-20

Photo by Michelle Zalesny

The board congratulates Larry Harris and Karen Burmeister for their service during the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10.


Progress on the new performing arts center that will be built at Richards High School in Oak Lawn is well under way.

The arts center project was discussed briefly at the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10. The board rejected the original construction bids last month, after they came in several million dollars above the architects’ original estimates. The arts center is being redesigned with DLA Architects to bring the cost back down to the original budget.

The board hopes to re-bid the project soon.

Secretary Karen Burmeister and member Larry Harris also attended their last official board meeting this month, receiving clocks as gifts for their service. Burmeister has served the community high school district board for 10 years. Harris joined the board in 2009.

Taking their new seats on the District 218 Community School Board will be William 'Bill' Christian and Cindy Bartczak.

The Cook County Board of Elections results showed that Christian won the election in Harris’ Sub-District 7 with 70.19 percent of the votes (1,891). Bartczak won unopposed in Burmeister's Sub-District 2. Burmeister chose not to run for re-election.

Board members Randy Heuser and Thomas Kosowski, president, were unopposed in the consolidated election.

“Apart from serving on this board, Mrs. Burmeister has volunteered much of her time as a member of the education committee,” said Superintendent Dr. Ty Harting. “She also was a trustee and the president of District 218 and the Friends of District 218 Foundation, where she helped raised thousands of dollars for college scholarships and future grants. Mr. Harris has been a lead member of the district facilities committee and has given an untold number of hours in making sure the district spends its money prudently so that our students, staff, and communities can have access to the finest high schools possible,” added Harting, who thanked them for their kindness and generosity.

After the board congratulated students and faculty who received awards that evening, Harris and Burmeister expressed their gratitude with deepest admiration for their community, students and fellow board members.

“I just wanted to thank the community for having elected me two times to serve in this position, the administration, the staff, and all the support you’ve given me to make my job a little easier and more successful,” said Harris. “I truly hope that the students of our district use all the resources that we’ve provided. I also would like to wish my fellow board members all the success and remember that a well-educated student will become a good citizen and a great person.”

“I truly enjoyed serving the community, administration, staff, and students in this fine district,” said Burmeister. “We have some of the best students around with the biggest hearts and great potential to succeed. Whatever success means to them, it is my hope that this board, my successor, and future board (members) serve with honor and dignity to serve all of our students with the students’ best interest in mind.”

Kosowski also brought up new seat belt legislation being supported by Secretary of State Jesse White. House Bill 3377, sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang (D-16th), would require three-point seat belts on school buses in Illinois. The bill passed the House Transportation Vehicles and Safety Committee and now moves to the full House of Representatives.

“Hopefully it will get moving along, maybe with a little help from the community,” said Harris, who has been an advocate for seat belts on school buses. “Call your rep up. Let them know what you think. There’s nothing better than a phone call. Let’s hope it passes.”