Palos Hills ranked among safest cities in Illinois

  • Written by Bob Bong

Palos Hills is one of the safest communities in Illinois, according to a list compiled by home security website SafeWise.

The web-based company, which provides consumers with information about home security systems, monitoring and techniques, based its current list of the 50 safest municipalities in Illinois (population of 5,000 or more) on the FBI’s 2015 crime report.

Palos Hills is ranked 21st on the list. More than a dozen communities among the top 50 are found in Cook County, including Palos Heights (No. 17).

“Over the last four or five years there are some publications that have us listed on being low on crime,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett. “We’ve been ranked as low as 10th on some lists. A lot of it has to do with the residents of our community. They are outstanding citizens who help to keep (Palos Hills) a great place to live. They work with us.”

Hickory Hills is among the top 100 safest cities with a ranking of 84, according to SafeWise.

The average violent crime rate among the top 50 towns on the SafeWise list was 86 percent lower than the national average. Palos Heights was among the communities on the list that cited no violent crimes at all. The state’s 50 safest cities reported one murder, 67 robberies, and fewer than 300 aggravated assaults.

Property crime rates were also exceptionally low among these safest communities. No municipality cited more than nine property crimes per 1,000 residents — with the average rate being about six crimes per 1,000 people. That’s 77 percent lower than the national average.

Several communities moved up the list compared to last year, especially Palos Heights, which ranked as the 86th safest city in the state in 2016 and now ranks 17th. Willow Springs moved up to ninth from 15th.

Bennett believes that it is a community effort that attributes to Palos Hills’ low ranking in crime.

“We don’t have a lot of crime but when we do, our Palos Hills police force and detectives do a great job and solve most of these crimes.”

SafeWise evaluated the remaining communities. The list included the number of reported violent crimes (aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery) and property crimes (burglary, arson, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft) in each municipality. To level the playing field, SafeWise calculated the likelihood of these crimes occurring out of 1,000 people in each city.

The list does not include towns with fewer than 5,000 residents as well as any that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI.

Contributing to this report was Joe Boyle.

Little Company of Mary joins forces with Rush

  • Written by Joe Boyle

little company photo 10-12

Photo by Joe Boyle

Officials at Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St., Evergreen Park, announced that a non-binding letter of intent has been signed to join the Rush hospital system.


Representatives from Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park on Oct. 4 announced that a non-binding letter of intent has been signed to join the Rush hospital system.

Under the proposed arrangement, Little Company, along with their Health Care Centers, would remain a Catholic ministry. The Rush hospital system is acquiring Little Company as part of a strategy to develop a presence in the suburbs.

Rush will take on any of Little Company’s liabilities. Little Company of Mary Hospital, 2800 W. 95th St., a 272-bed community facility with more than 2,000 employees, will keep its name. Little Company officials note that they may integrate the Rush name into its title and programs.

No layoffs are imminent, according to Dennis Reilly, president and CEO of Little Company of Mary.

“We will look for opportunities where the integration makes sense going forward,” Reilly said.

Sister Sharon Ann Walsh, LCM, American Province Leader of the Little Company of Mary Sisters and the chairperson of LCM’s board of directors, approved the non-binding letter of intent. The Rush system approved the letter on Sept. 28 and the Archdiocese of Chicago approved it on Sept. 29.

Archdiocesan officials said that the Rush system would be able to maintain Little Company’s commitment to their Catholic health ministry. The proposed integration is subject to further due diligence by both organizations and obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals as they work on a definitive agreement, which they expect to take several months.

“Our sisters have been involved in a long and thoughtful discerning process, and we feel confident that aligning with Rush would allow us to continue to serve our community, as we have for nearly 90 years,” Walsh said. “We have a longstanding bond with our community because of the unwavering commitment of our dedicated physicians, other medical professionals and the devotion of our employees. We look forward to the potential of a stronger future with Rush and the expanded capabilities that we would be able to offer our patients.”

Little Company has been facing a series of challenges that other health institutions have across the country. Changes in how health care providers are reimbursed and the rising costs of technology have created an increasing burden for Little Company.

“We have had trouble attracting and retaining doctors,” Reilly said. “(Our leaders) recognized what was happening in the Chicago market in terms of consolidation, and some of the increasing challenges related to operating a stand-alone hospital in one location.”

Reilly added that future health care reform and health care changes will be made by facilities that can provide high-quality service and accomplish this in multiple locations.

“Little Company of Mary Hospital is a great organization with deep roots in the community and would be a strong partner as Rush continues to expand the system’s reach throughout the Chicago area,” said Michael Dandorph, president of the Rush system and of Rush Medical Center. “This potential partnership is very important to our overall plans to make clinical, research, and educational resources more accessible to our patients and our physician partners.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Little Company of Mary Hospital to expand the delivery of the highest quality, comprehensive services that are coordinated, cost-effective, accessible, and responsive to what individuals and employers are expecting from health care providers,” added Dandorph.

Under the current conditions facing health care in this country, Little Company has reached a point where it was becoming unsustainable, according to Reilly.

But Reilly is encouraged by the arrangement with the Rush system that he said will allow Little Company to serve the community.

“Little Company of Mary has chosen a partnership with Rush because it is resourceful, regional integrated health delivery system anchored by one of the leading academic medical centers in the country,” Reilly said. “Rush shares our commitment to quality and vision for healthcare in southwest Chicago. We remain dedicated to providing the personalized care that our community has come to expect from Little Company of Mary Hospital.”

Latest opening draws crowds to new Evergreen Plaza

  • Written by Joe Boyle

tj maxx crowd  photo 10-12-17

Photo by Joe Boyle

A large crowd waited in line for nearly two hours for the grand opening of the T.J. Maxx store at the new Evergreen Plaza on Sunday morning.


TJ Maxx is the latest entry to the increasing presence of retail shops and other stores to join the new Evergreen Plaza development.

The grand opening attracted a large crowd of shoppers who were waiting in line for over an hour and a half on Sunday morning. The new TJ Maxx, 9660 S. Western Ave., now joins Carson’s, which was the first store to open in September 2016, DSW shoe store and Petco.

A DJ was on hand to entertain the crowd before the grand opening. Minutes before the ribbon-cutting took place, TJX Companies, Inc., which operates T.J. Maxx, presented a $10,000 check to the Evergreen Park Pantry Coalition as a charity donation.

Accepting the check was Mary Ann Diel, who serves as the director of the Evergreen Park Pantry Coalition and Citizen’s Services for the village. TJX Companies presented the check to assist in providing food for residents in need.

“We held a job fair for T.J. Maxx and allowed them to use our space just over a month ago,” said Diehl, who was appreciative of the donation.

“We have held several job fairs for the businesses that are opening up here,” added Evergreen Park Trustee Carol Kyle. “This is just a great time for Evergreen Park and everyone is excited. The businesses are excited, too.

“We had quite a few openings the past week,” added Kyle. “Ulta Beauty opened the other day. The lines were going down the block.”

Ulta Beauty is a couple of doors down from T.J. Maxx. Another bright note the past week was the reopening of Barraco’s restaurant at 95th and Lawndale, which suffered damages to their kitchen during a fire last year.

During the T.J Maxx event, plenty of celebrating was occurring outside. The Dazzling Diamonds dance troupe, which is based out of South Holland but draws performers from all over the south suburbs, entertained the crowd with songs and dance moves.

Joanna Powell was allowed to cut the ribbon before the crowd was allowed in the store. Powell, a resident of Heyworth, Ill., was chosen to cut the ribbon because she was the first in line at 6:30 a.m.

“I was hearing about this all week,” said Powell, as she strolled through the store’s aisles. “I was visiting my son and I thought why not? I’m going out there.”

Recently opening across the parking lot facing Western Avenue is MODD Pizza, T-Mobile and the Potbelly restaurant. Besides the Plaza development, a variety of restaurants are opening in Evergreen Park. Krispy Kreme doughnuts held its grand opening at 9510 S. Western Ave. on Tuesday morning.

All this is news that Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton had been waiting for. Just last week, Whole Foods 365, a discounted version of the store that is now owned by Amazon, had indicated that it will open next year at the new Plaza.

Even though Dick’s Sporting Goods store has backed out due to the delay of Whole Foods 365 as stipulated in their contract, Sexton indicated that developers have a couple of other businesses that have shown interest in the site.

Beverage tax foes celebrate sweet victory

  • Written by Joe Boyle

beverage tax photo 10-12

Submitted photo

The Cook Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday to support Commissioner Sean Morrison’s (R-17th) ordinance to repeal the Cook County Beverage Tax.


After weeks of debate, the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday during the Committee of the Whole hearing to repeal the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax.

The commissioners approved the ordinance introduced and led by Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison (R-17th). The momentum began to change to repeal the beverage tax last Thursday when Commissioner John Daley (D-11th), who has been a supporter of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, decided to vote for the repeal. Commissioners Jesus Garcia (D-7th) and Stanley Moore (D-4th) followed on Friday.

“I heard from my district and we are elected to represent our district,” said Daley. “I heard overwhelming opposition.”

Entering Tuesday’s hearing, Morrison said that there were at least 12 commissioners who would vote for repeal. With that many votes secured, it would prevent Preckwinkle from vetoing the measure. Elven votes were needed to override a veto.

But as the hearing continued for three and half hours, three more commissioners also voted for repeal. Commissioner Edward Moody (D-6th), whose district takes in portions of Worth and Chicago Ridge, originally backed the beverage tax but ultimately supported the repeal. Larry Suffredin (D-13th) was the lone commissioner to vote for the tax. Commissioner Jerry Butler (D-3rd) was absent from the meeting.

“I am pleased with today’s (Tuesday) outcome,” Morrison said. “I would like to thank my colleagues for working together so diligently and amicably to come to an agreement on such an important issue to our constituents and to Cook County.”

The board was scheduled to vote yesterday on the beverage tax but the results were to be a foregone conclusion after Tuesday’s hearing. With the vote, the beverage tax will likely end on Dec. 1 as the board will begin working a new budget.

Morrison said he is committed to working in a bipartisan manner with members of the board, Preckwinkle and her administration to find the appropriate fiscal solutions to create a balanced 2018 budget for Cook County.

Preckwinkle had proposed a new budget last Thursday that relied on $200 million a year she said would be raised through the beverage tax. Preckwinkle had warned that eliminating the beverage tax would result in 11 percent cuts across the board. The board president broke an 8-8 tiebreaker last November to implement the beverage tax, which was delayed initial approval until Aug. 2.

Since then, there had been an outcry of dissent from shoppers, many of whom were not only buying pop in Will County and other communities, but groceries as well. Public officials, led by Morrison, led the rebellion.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner was a vocal opponent early and spoke out at a hearing before the Cook County Board last month.

‘The sad truth is that we have Worth shoppers that are already going out of Cook County to shop,” Werner said. “And they are not only shopping for beverages, but for food, too. We are losing sales along 111th Street. Fairplay and Family Dollar, they are losing money.”

While the tax may be overturned, Werner said she is concerned that residents who have traveled to Will County may not return.

“I think certainly from hearing from our residents and some of our businesses that they were not pleased,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett. “The tax was burden for some of these citizens and businesses.”

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said he is relieved the beverage tax has been voted down.

“I’m very, very glad they are going to get rid of the beverage tax,” Tokar said. “I did get some complaints right away. I don’t think this was well thought out. It didn’t make any sense. It was almost incomprehensible. I mean you have a tax on one drink and another you didn’t. People weren’t shopping at Fairplay in Worth. It affected shopping at Jack and Pat’s.”

While the tax may be eliminated, Tokar still has concerns.

“At this point I’m not sure what we are dealing with,” he said. “Where are they going to come up with the money? Are they going to make cuts? We will have to see.”

Pilgrim Faith Church welcomes change of season with Fall Fest

  • Written by Kelly White


mashmallows photo 10-5

Photo by Kelly White

Oak Lawn residents (from left) Maggie Sheehan, 10; Ben Whitney, 10; and Lucy Whitney, 6, roast marshmallows together at Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ's third annual Fall Fest on Saturday night.


The summer-like temperatures have gone, and now it officially feels like the fall season.

To celebrate the changing leaves, crisp air, cozy attire and pumpkin-flavored everything, Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ held its third annual Fall Fest on Saturday at the church, 9411 S. 51st Ave, Oak Lawn.

Perfect seasonal weather also accompanied the experience, with temperatures in the low 60s and the leaves falling.

“The event originally was inspired by a desire for people to have a relaxed time to get together and enjoy each other’s company,” sad Rev. Peggy McClanahan. “It offers a time to hang out with old and new friends of all ages. It is primarily a chance to relax with friendly people who provide a warm welcome into the season for everyone.”

McClanahan was responsible for organizing the event with the help of Pilgrim Faith members Libby Whitney and Lori Harris.

Held in the evening hours, the fest took place on the outdoor playground and fire pit area just behind the church building. Children were able to play together, while the adults caught up with each other, while sitting around a cozy bonfire.

The bonfire pit was quite the center of attention for fest-goers, according to McClanahan, as children were able to roast marshmallows while the adults mingled.

The fest was held free of charge, only asking for a freewill donation. As a community event, it was not strictly limited to Pilgrim Faith members, as all community residents were welcomed and encouraged to attend, according to McClanahan.

“I like the fellowship of everyone getting together,” said Harris, of Oak Lawn. “A way of bringing old and new friends together and catching up after the summer is over.”

“I like that this event is not a very structured event,” said Whitney, of Oak Lawn. “People can hang out, talk, eat or play games at their own leisure. It’s also a nice introduction to the fall season, bringing everyone together again once school has started, and it’s great because it’s for people of all ages.”

Whitney said her children always ask when the fest will be taking place every year, making it an event the family looks forward to together.

“We have so much fun,” her daughter, Lucy, 6, said. “I get to see all of my friends.”

New attendees had just as much fun, including Dave Kosvick, of Oak Lawn.

“This is my first year attending but I would definitely come back again next year,” Kosvick said. “It’s really a nice time for everyone.”

The event is growing more in popularity every year. Saturday evening gathered together 75 local area residents, surpassing last year’s 50 attendees.

The event featured some comfort fall-themed food: homemade chili, hot dogs, s’mores, hot chocolate and apple cider. There were also plenty of interactive games for adults and children alike that were all provided by Pilgrim Faith Church members.

“Our fest is different from other fall festivals because it is smaller and there is more interaction among those who attend,” McClanahan said. “Everyone really enjoys the fire pit, as it provides inclusion for all ages.”