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A healthy dose of arguing at Oak Lawn meeting

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

Whacking board members’ health insurance and

many hot issues dominate Tuesday’s gathering

 

  Several political hot-button issues dominated Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Village Board meeting as trustees bickered over transparency, the future of the senior center and political fundraising techniques.

  A majority of trustees, however, expressed support for a proposal to eliminate health insurance for board members.
  The proposal was put forth by Trustee Tim Desmond, who called for “shared sacrifice” at a time when the board is considering several significant cuts to balance the village budget.
  Desmond, who joined the village health plan in April, asked that the proposal be placed on the Nov. 12 agenda.
  Several trustees and Mayor Sandra Bury currently take full or partial health benefits.
  Trustee Alex Olejniczak said he does not plan to participate in the village health insurance plan in the next fiscal year. Bury said she does not take her salary as liquor commissioner, which is comparable to the cost of her insurance and praised Desmond for his leadership in making the proposal.

  “I think he sees the hypocrisy, as I did,” Bury said.
  While Desmond’s proposal was met with approval, discussion on other topics was not as harmonious.
  For example, Olejniczak took issue with Streit’s contention that he participated in a secret meeting with Bury, Village Manager Larry Deetjen, Park Board Director Maddie Kelly and Park Board President Sue Murphy to discuss a plan to transition senior services to the district.
  He said Streit misled people by saying that the meeting was attended by a majority of village board members.

  Trustee Carol Quinlan, meanwhile, repeated her request for a meeting between the board and seniors to garner feedback regarding plans to outsource senior services and renovate the Memorial Park bathhouse into a senior center.
  Quinlan, who previously called for such a meeting, did not receive a response to her proposal.
  “I’d love to know what’s going on,” Quinlan said.

  Olejniczak also chastised Streit for pressuring residents and businesses to attend his recent fundraiser by calling them numerous times in the days leading up to the event.
  “You would think that if somebody said, ‘No, I’m not attending or no, I’m not going to be there,’ that would be enough,” he said.

  Three people who placed the fundraising calls attended the meeting and said they were offended by remarks made at the Oct. 8 board meeting alleging that pressure tactics were used to convince people to attend the fundraiser.
  “It never occurred,” Streit said. “People have a right to make campaign donations. My campaign fund is in complete compliance with all laws.”
  Streit, meanwhile, proposed an ordinance requiring website transparency, which would require a plethora of information such as videos of meetings, public records, budgets, audits, contracts and salary and benefits be available on the village’s website.
  The information is similar to items on the Illinois Policy Institute’s transparency checklist, which Bury is following in the development of a new website.

 

Go (huff) shawty — it’s your (puff) birthday!

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Evergreen Park mom runs Marathon to celebrate

her 40th birthday — and get away from the kids

 Editor’s note: Reporter correspondent Claudia front-color-2-col-claudiaEvergreen Park’s Claudia Parker celebrated her 40th birthday by running in the Chicago Marathon. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Parker ran in the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon and shared some of her amusing thoughts throughout the race

  I celebrated my 40th birthday by running the 2013 Bank of America, Chicago Marathon.

  Don’t be impressed. I have a confession. I ran it to get away from my kids. Running 26.2 miles through 29 Chicago neighborhoods is easy compared to some of my days as a stay-at-home mom. Trying to catch a Kenyon wasn’t my objective, I took my time, relishing in “me” time.
  This race was special because it was the first major U.S. race since the Boston Marathon bombings. There was unity among us. Within the first mile of the race, I witnessed a runner turn around to grab a protein bar that had fallen from another runner’s waist strap. Then she scurried up to him to return it.
  Unfortunately, when I looked down, the only thing my eyes found were remnants of furry, grey, animals, plastered to the pavement. Never mind looking down, it was exhilarating looking up into the faces of the spectators cheering.
  “What at a great way to celebrate my birthday,” I thought, while belting out a few lyrics of rapper 50 Cent’s, “In Da Club,” “Go shawty it’s your birthday…we gonna party like it’s your birthday.”
  I’m sure my horrid singing was like bad Karaoke to my running mate, Tracy Tryban of Chicago. Our conversation was steady the first five miles. This was her first Chicago Marathon, my second, so I knew the route.
  “We’re in Lincoln Park Zoo. Next water stop is around the curve.” I told her.
  We felt good.
  We had energy to laugh at a little old lady who apparently missed the memo about the marathon. We were on North Lake Shore Drive about mile 8 when we spotted her waiting at a stoplight. When it changed, she began to cross, pushing a milk crate cart on wheels. A course marshal had to quickly whisk her back to the corner. She looked perturbed, as if to say, “I have the right-of-way!”
page-4-jump-3-col-runnersFrom left, Adriana Carmona of Bridgeview, Maria (Angie) Santana of Chicago, Tracy Tryban of Chicago and Lily Tong of Chicago stand behind Evergreen Park’s Claudia Parker at a belated birthday party last week at TGI Fridays in Oak Lawn. Parker celebrated her birthday by running with her friends in the Chicago Marathon. Photo by Jeff Vorva.  Shortly thereafter I saw Erin Mendoza of Chicago, a childhood friend, with her family, cheering in the crowd. I hugged them hello and continued. She has a son a little younger than my preschooler. Instantly, I began to miss my girls. They didn’t attend my marathon last year because it was cold. Knowing they were there this time made the race more meaningful. All I had to do was make it to mile 23, where they would be camped.

  By mile 10, I was still feeling good. Taking in hydration at every water stop along with a couple Clif Shot Bloks helped. North Broadway was putting on a show that took my mind off the miles. The ROTC soldiers had batons that looked like rifles, flipping them around like a high school drill team alongside several other performances down that strip.

  My enjoyment turned to dread mile 15 after seeing my friend, Angie Santana’s, son Nicholas Carter of Chicago.
  Angie and I got separated at the start line. Tracy and I had been looking for her. I yelled, “Nicholas, have you seen your mom?” He smirked. “Yeah, she passed here 20 minutes ago.”
  He may have said, “passed here” but my mind repeated, “passed YOU.” My competitive nature thought, “Oh yeah, I’ll show you.”
  I then accelerated my pace.
  Bad idea!
  Everything began to ache. In all my suffering, I knew seeing my kids would give me a boost. “Just get to mile 23,” I thought.
  My quads burned, my calves felt like knots and my feet throbbed.
  But I forged ahead.
  Once I arrived at mile 23, my eyes met my husband Don’s eyes.
  Joy set in.
  “Where are the kids?” I huffed. He began to jog alongside me. “At home.” He replied. “I’ve been tracking you. You’re estimated to finish during naptime. I know how you get about their schedule.”
  I was a little shattered.
  “But this is my birthday party…” I thought.
  He proceeded to chat, as if I could carry on a conversation.
  Tracy and I hadn’t said two words since mile 15. We used gestures. A course marshal directed him off the course as I arrived at mile 25. People screamed, “Almost there! One mile to go.”
  It felt like five. I didn’t know where Tracy was. I just kept running until I crossed the finish line. Tracy finished one minute later. I found Angie. Our finishing time was exactly the same.
  I set a personal record; finishing 17 minutes faster than last year. I credit my daughters. I may have started the race running away but they were the two faces I couldn’t wait to run back to.
  I came in 33,501st place out of 45,000 in this race but at home, I came in first.

Runaway road grader heads toward Palos Hills home

Retro Reporter ArtRunaway road grader heads toward Palos Hills home

50 years ago
From the Oct. 17, 1963 edition
  The story: A fire destroyed a home in Palos Hills but a widow and eight children living in the house were unharmed.
  The quote: “We didn’t even invite it — at least it could have called,” Frank Eckert of Palos Hills who was eating dinner when an unmanned road grader was heading toward his picture window but was then stalled on the front steps. Speculation is that kids accidentally activated the machine.
  Fun fact: The Bill Heller Band provided entertainment for Oak Lawn High School’s 11th homecoming dance.

25 years ago
From the Oct. 20, 1988 edition
  The story: The Oak Lawn Hilton hosted a political showdown between U.S. Congressman Marty Russo and challenger Joseph McCarthy in front of a crowd of 400-plus. Russo accused McCarthy of misused funds that were supposed to go to the poor and instead went to an office party.
  The quote: “People will give you the finger but you can’t get mad. I can’t give anyone the finger back because a little kid might see you. Then he’ll do it to his mother and she’ll say ‘Where did you learn that?’ ‘From the clown,’ ’’ — Worth’s Dale Van Witzenberg a.k.a. DaeDae the Clown on having to show restraint to hecklers and critics.
  Fun fact: Richards’ football team piled up 528 yards in a 34-0 win over Oak Lawn. The Bulldogs had 357 yards of rushing with Rich Albon leading the balanced attack with 92 yards.

10 years ago
From the Oct. 16, 2003 edition
  The story: Oak Lawn Trustee Ron Stancik was named interim mayor nearly three months after the death of Ernie Kolb. More than 60 people in attendance at the village board meeting gave Stancik a standing ovation after the announcement. Kolb served as mayor for 26 years.
  The quote: “It was a good win for the program. We just wanted to show everybody that we could be as competitive as everybody else in the [Catholic League] Blue Conference.’’ — Brother Rice football coach Steve Nye after his team pulled off a rare 13-3 win over Mt. Carmel.
  Fun fact: Richards High School’s fall play was “The Hobbit,” the prequel to “Lord of the Rings.”

Neighbors go to bat for resident as oversized garage door permitted in Hickory

  • Written by Kelly White

  A variance request passed by a 6-1 vote Thursday night allows for a 10-foot tall garage door to remain standing in Hickory Hills, although the city ordinance only permits garages with a maximum of eight-foot garage doors.
  Yanena Staszec, 9225 85th Court, attended the Sept. 26th City Council Meeting where she pleaded with Mayor Mike Howley and city officials to allow her newly remodeled garage to be left alone.
  “We are doing extensive remodeling on our home and we now have a 10-foot garage door, in addition to a two-car garage,” Staszec said at that meeting. “The work has already been done to the garage. We were not aware of the ordinance before the remodeling. If we have to change it, it will be difficult, because the work has already been done.”
  Staszec added the heightened garage door is to accompany her husband’s work vehicle, a van measuring nine feet in height. “We feel it is better to park the van in the garage rather than out on the street or in our driveway,” she said. She added neighbors might complain more about a commercial vehicle parked out on the public street or in her driveway rather than in her garage.
  Building Commissioner, John Moirano, agreed with Staszec, saying: “It is better having the van in the garage rather than parked outside. You see so many of these work vans nowadays, and they are often too tall to fit in standard size garages. My only suggestion would be to eventually change the city ordinance to allow nine foot doors instead of eight, instead of just making one exception.”
  Alderman John Szeszycki felt changing the ordinance to permit nine-foot garage doors with a 900-foot interior would be necessary in order to prevent future exemptions for variance requests in similar cases as Staszec’s.
  “If you just change it for one person, people are going to point out the fact that it was allowed for that one person and expect the same result,” he said.
  Although Howley stated the city ordinance does not allow garage doors to stand at that height, no vote could be made at the September meeting. Alderman Deborah Ferrero noted she has polled Staszec’s surrounding neighbors and has not had one complaint about the heightened garage doors. Staszec commented she has also asked surrounding neighbors whether or not the size of the garage was an issue and said she has not received any negative feedback.
  Staszec’s neighbor, Dan Reilly, addressed the city council Thursday night, in support of the garage staying as-is.
  “I live directly north of her home and I am here to be the self-appointed spokesperson for all of our neighbors,” Reilly said. “The owners of the home are doing nothing but acting in good faith and they have made several renovations to improve the overall value of their home, which will improve the property value of the surrounding homes in the area.”
  Reilly added he has also spoke with other neighbors who agree with his viewpoints and no one living on the same block as Staszek has any complaint with the heightened garage door. “Before their renovation, the garage was in very poor condition, if anything bringing down the value of the neighborhood, but now that renovation is complete the garage, even exceeding its regulated size, looks great,” he added.
  Ferrero made a motion to permit Staszec’s garage door to remain as-is at 10 feet but not to exceed 10 feet. “If there are no complaints from surrounding neighbors with the size of the garage door, we should let it stay,” she said.
  Szeszycki stood his ground, stating the ordinance should be changed to permit nine-foot garage doors, and Staszec should have to alter her existing door to match the city ordinance. He was overruled in the 6-1 vote among the council.

Heights faces certainty of losing Dominick’s

  • Written by Tim Hadac

What future will bring, however, still unclear

  Unease and uncertainty abound at 127th and Ridgeland in the wake of last week’s announcement that Safeway will close all 72 Chicago-area Dominick’s stores within the next few months.
  “This is not a good time to be unemployed, and I have to say I’m scared,” said Dave, one of several Dominick’s employees who spoke only on color 2cols page1 DR Dominicksexternalshot 101713Dominick’s has anchored the Indian Trails shopping center at 127th and Ridgeland for more than 30 years. A Dominick’s gas station was added about a decade ago. Photo by Tim Hadac.condition of full or partial anonymity. “Over the years, there have been so many rumors [about Dominick’s stores closing], we’ve learned to live with that and almost ignore it. So in that light, this [announcement] hit us like a bomb.”
  The Palos Heights Dominick’s had dodged bullets in the past.
  In 2004 Safeway shut a dozen Dominick’s, including its Oak Forest store on 159th Street and an Oak Lawn store near 111th and Cicero.
  In 2007, doors were closed at 14 Dominick’s, including the Crestwood store near 131st and Cicero and the Bridgeview unit at 89th and Harlem.
  In 2011, Safeway closed the Dominick’s in Orland Park, near 151st and La Grange Road.
  “I’ve worked at Dominick’s for years, and I’m not looking forward to losing all my seniority and starting at the bottom of the ladder in some non-union grocery store — if I get a job, that is,” added another employee at the store. “This is not the type of news I was hoping for as we head towards Christmas.”
  The dozens of employees at the store — long represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Local 881 — have been working without a new contract for a year, according to Local 881 President Ronald E. Powell.
  While four Dominick’s stores — including the one on Bell Road in Homer Glen — are being purchased by Jewel/Osco, most locations are question marks at the moment.
  Regarding the Palos Heights unit and other stores with uncertain futures, Powell said, “We don’t know yet the status of those stores. But once we know who the new owners are, Local 881 will sit down and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement that will be fair to the new employers and importantly, will fairly compensate the employees who will be charged with building the business.”
  Another Palos Heights Dominick’s employee called Powell’s prediction “posturing” and “cold comfort.”
  “If Aldi or Food4Less or some joe-blow warehouse store comes in here, we won’t even be in a union,” said the staffer as he gathered shopping carts in the parking lot. “I don’t think the union has done much for us — at least not that I can see.”
  Customers expressed disappointment and even anger with Safeway’s decision.
  “I’ve shopped at Dominick’s for 30 years. I rely on this place. I enjoy shopping here on Saturdays. This is my store,” said Palos Heights resident Joan Henkel. Ever since Safeway took over [in 1998], they’ve done nothing but tinker and mess things up.
  “They got rid of the Dominick’s [house] brands and brought in new items that nobody wanted,” she continued. “Two years ago, they completely mishandled the Just 4 U coupon program. Then there was that scandal where [coupon blogger] Jill Cataldo found all the outdated food sitting on shelves at Dominick’s. The only thing that stayed the same was the friendliness of the workers — and sadly, they’re the ones who will suffer most.”
  Echoing the assertion was Bill Davies of Worth. “[Dominick’s] used to have a slogan that ‘Our store is your store.’ I guess we learned that’s nothing but an empty advertising jingle. Where will I shop [after the store closes]? I have no idea,” he said.
  Beyond the fate of the employees and the convenience of grocery shoppers, the coming shutdown poses yet another dilemma for the Indian Trails shopping center, already struggling in a continued sluggish economy and pocked with vacant storefronts and the black eye of a still-shuttered Bakers Square restaurant on a high-visibility outlot.
  Palos Heights officials say they are on top of the situation.
  “We have already spoken with Dominick’s corporate [officials], and we will work with them to market the property,” said Palos Heights City Administrator Dan Nisavic. “We will also do some marketing ourselves. It’s early [in the process], but we are moving forward.”
  Nisavic predicted that the Dominick’s store and gas station will be sold off separately. He added that the impact of the loss of sales tax revenue from Dominick’s will not be felt until months into 2014. Last year Alderman Jack Clifford said Dominick’s was in the top four among sales tax generators in the city.
  Some customers tried to find a silver lining in the cloud. “It’s not good that we’re losing Dominick’s, but I don’t think everyone needs to be so glum,” said Patti Quasny of Palos Park. “Hopefully, this is an opportunity to get an upgrade. I hope the people in charge [in Palos Heights] get on the phone with Mariano’s or some other top-quality company and get them in here. It can be done, I think.”