Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Analyze this – we’re hoping to offer a few more think pieces


JVC pixThis series of photos involving Chicago Christian volleyball players in a regional match from last fall is a finalist in the Illinois Press Association contest. Phots by Jeff Vorva.

We probably won’t have two news analysis pieces on our front page as we did last week with Cardinal Francis George and Worth Mayor Mary Werner, but from time-to-time they will be popping up.
Although it’s not new by any stretch of the imagination, it’s new to my writing repertoire and I’m liking this news analysis thing for a couple of reasons.
jeff columnFirst, it allows us to delve into a topic from a different slant than a regular news story. The who-what-when-where is not as important as the why. The topic can be expanded and it gives the readers something extra to think about. We in the biz call it a think piece.
Second, sometimes it almost feels like writing a term paper. You usually have to do your research on any story you write, but you have to do a little extra homework on an analysis if you want to do it right.
Another old-time vehicle that we haven’t been driving is the local editorial on Page 6 and now we’re breaking out and doing that a little more in recent weeks. Upper management suggested we get on the ball and do some local editorials but I felt a little skittish since I didn’t know the lay of the land as well as I would have liked.
Now that I’m close to eight months into the job, I’m getting confident in my knowledge of some area affairs and the folks in the office are more than happy to suggest “You should write an editorial on…” Folks on the street are happy to make suggestions, too.
The local editorials and news analysis, coupled with this crazy column and Bob Rakow’s insightful B-Side columns that are usually found on page 6 are ways we hope to add a little spice and personality to the paper. Straight news stories, colorful features and information about pancake breakfasts, church happenings and other items will still take up a majority of this paper but we hope these added bonuses make for some great reading.
Yay from the IPA
Now it’s time to pat ourselves on the back.
The Illinois Press Association announced the winners of its 2013 awards and the good ol’ Reporter will take a few Division B trinkets home in June. We don’t know what place we will finish in until then, but it’s fun just to be a finalist.

Palos Hills last to agree to Oak Lawn’s water agreement

  • Written by Kelly White


Palos Hills was the last suburb to approve to Oak Lawn’s Regional Water System Agreement.
The current water supply agreement between the Village of Oak Lawn and the villages of
Orland Park, Tinley Park, Mokena and New Lenox and the City of Oak Forest expired in 2011.
Those towns are in the process of collectively negotiating a new long-term water supply agreement that will ensure a supply of water to each community for generations to come.
“We are not a growth community and we are being asked to partake in this agreement where we will be building piping to better service other communities that are growth communities,” Public Works Director, Dave Weakley, said at Thursday’s City Council Meeting.
The City of Palos Hills is being asked to pay its proportional share of the project estimated at $7.9 million. The cost of the project contributed by Palos Hills, Palos Park and Chicago Ridge will be used to fund and build piping along southwest highway.
Palos Hills also has an additional expense to modify the pump station and meter vault located on 103rd St. just west of Harlem Ave., estimated at $800,000 to $1 million and that raised a red flag with one Palos Hills alderman.
“Why can’t we get together with other municipalities involved with this and pull together and fight this?” Alderman Mary Ann Schultz (5th Ward) said.
Mayor Jerry Bennett said that the city’s options are limited and if they do change to another water source, costs will definitely go up.
“Should the city decide to seek water elsewhere, the Village of Oak Lawn will work with us as we go through the process of disconnection,” Weakley added.
While this is happening, Weakley said Oak Lawn would convert Palos Hills from a wholesale customer to a retail customer and start charging Palos Hills a retail rate, currently at $5.70 per 1,000 gallons. The city’s current wholesale rate is at $3.14 per 1,000 gallons. If the city decides to switch to Oak Lawn as a retail supplier, Oak Lawn will only be a retailer at the point of connection. They will not be responsible for water main breaks or other damages that may occur throughout the city.
Weakley said the city has no other reasonable option than to accept the terms presented by the Oak Lawn for cost participation in the construction of the Oak Lawn Regional Water System.
“It’s Oak Lawn’s water system and we have held up the process hoping for a compromise,” Bennett said.
The city is planning to take out a 20-to-30-year bond, to finance its share of the project, which will be paid for through the city’s capital improvement funds. Oak Lawn will be presenting a timeline with the requirements Palos Hills will need to complete in order to become a member of the regional water system. The official voice approval and paperwork will be signed at an upcoming city council meeting.
The five towns began negotiations in 2009, collectively hiring legal and engineering consultants to assist them. The toughest part of the negotiations was figuring out each town’s proportionate share of the costs. Besides the level of water usage, the complex formula factors in distance from Oak Lawn, electrical cost and a town’s future growth.

Did you hit the jackpot? Safety tips for the casino

  • Written by Tim Hadac


In the wake of last week’s home invasion in Palos Heights, in which two armed bandits shot and robbed a 51-year-old man of his casino winnings, local bettors are asking about the odds of it happening to them.
“I gamble at the boats, but I don’t want to take chances with any money I won, especially if I hit a jackpot,” said Palos Heights resident Rita Kunst. “Does this shooting worry me? Yes, it does. Next time I go, I’m going to be watching my purse and looking over my shoulder.”
The victim of the April 15 shooting is said to be recovering from his injury, according to Palos Heights Police Sgt. Michael Yott, who added that police are “chasing leads” and awaiting laboratory results on several pieces of evidence submitted.
The victim reportedly gambled at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. and came home with a large amount of cash winnings.
Horseshoe Casino representatives did not respond to a request for comment from The Regional News, but others in law enforcement and private security did.
“Most people at casinos are simply there to gamble and have a good time,” observed Paulino Villarreal, a private investigator and owner of VDSA Chicago, an asset protection firm that employs detectives and security specialists. “But casinos also attract predators who want to separate you from your money.”

Sexton fired up to get Plaza conversion rolling

  • Written by Bob Rakow


A commercial developer’s plans to acquire the Plaza andPAGE-5-2-col-plazaEvergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton want to see changes to the old Plaza as soon as possible. Photo by Jeff Vorva. build a build a new mall on the site will happen sooner rather than later, Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton said.
“I’m not going to wait until summer,” Sexton said Tuesday. “Summer’s upon us.”
Evergreen Park trustees last week discussed the possibility of using powers of eminent domain to acquire the mall and the remaining businesses: Carson Pierre Scott and Planet Fitness.
Sexton said DeBartolo Development, the company that plans to convert the Plaza into a “lifestyle center,” is in negotiations with Carson’s to acquire the store lease.
Carson’s has indicated that it wants to stay at the redeveloped mall, Sexton said.
“The bottom line is to get the developer and Carson’s close on a deal,” Sexton said. “Everybody is slow to make a deal. We’re closer.”
Planet Fitness, which currently is located at the north end of the mall along 95th Street, also has indicated it wants to stay at redeveloped version of the mall.
Representatives from the fitness center attended the April 7 village board meeting to question the village’s

Hickory Hills resident unleashes complaints about loose dogs

  • Written by Kelly White


The law in Hickory Hills is that dog owners need to keep their dogs leashed.
But resident Beth Medeiros is claiming that law isn’t being enforced and brought her complaints to the Hickory Hills City Council last Thursday, two weeks after she said he had a frightening experience with a large dog that bit her right hand.
“There are too many loose dogs roaming the neighborhood,” said Medeiros of 9100 block of South 88th Avenue. “I walk my dog frequently, and on more than one occasion, we were confronted by what I would consider to be a either a stray or loose dog.”
Medeiros said she was attacked by a neighborhood dog two weeks prior to the meeting and said after police did not issue a citation was issued to the attacking dog’s owner.
“I have a 22-pound little dog and I was walking my dog past a home nearby my house when a large dog charged out at me from a house without a fenced-in yard,” she said. “I then went to pick up my dog because it is so little, I didn’t want to see it get hurt, and that is when the larger dog bit me on my right hand.”
Medeiros added that one of the dog’s owners, a young girl, was calling for the larger dog to return to the yard but the dog failed to respond to the child, and continued charging forcefully at Medeiros and her dog.
Medeiros said she instructed the child to go inside and have her parents call the police to report the attack. The police spoke with Medeiros and an adult owner of the dog and left after giving the owner a verbal warning, Medeiros said.
“The dog’s owner did take responsibility for the attack, knowing that he did not have a fenced-in yard and was not outside properly watching the dog,” Medeiros said and added that a citation should have been issued at the time of the attack instead of a verbal warning.
Police Chief Alan Vodicka said he will look into why no further action was taken.
This is not the first time Medeiros said she has come across problems with unleashed dogs in her neighborhood. She said other residents have similar complaints. Unleashed dogs have been reported on Maple Lane and Forest Lane, and 88th Avenue.
Medeiros also told the council that some residents ride their bikes with their dogs walking alongside without a leash. The dog may appear to be well-behaved but if natural instinct strikes or an unfamiliar person or animal appears, the dog may attack, she said.
“It is simply neglectful owners,” Medeiros said, “Dogs need to be behind fenced-in yards or on leashes while walking with their owners. I worry about when school gets out for the summer and more kids will be walking their dogs. What if a child is walking a dog and an unleashed dog approaches them with a similar situation as to what happened with me?”

Rice honored
Hickory Hills said goodbye to their deputy director of publicPage-5-3-col-riceHickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley, Regan Rice and City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone celebrate Rice’s retirement after 39 years with the Public Works Department. Submitted photo. works this month. After 39 years of service, Regan Rice officially retired.
Rice retired on March 15, leaving the city council and public works department with nothing but kind words to say about him.
“We are losing a very valuable employee and he will be missed,” Larry Boettcher, director of public works said.
Rice began his career with the public works department in 1974, while still attending Stagg High School. He would come in before and after school as a part-time employee. After graduating from high school, he joined the public works department fulltime and rose quickly through the ranks to become a heavy equipment operator and a certified water operator before advancing to become the assistant public works director.
“It was with Rice’s inspiration that public works initiated the public works department to actually do the water-based repairs themselves, rather than taking the repairs out to a private contractor,” Boettcher said and added that throughout the years, Rice’s inspiration has saved the city a great deal of money by completing water repairs this way.