Blah, blog, blah

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Blogging OL mayor not responding to attacks from anonymous-run blog

  Twenty four hours after Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury went live with her blog, another website highly critical of her administration alleged that the mayor’s site may violate state ethics laws.
  Mayor’s Bury’s Blog launched on Nov. 13, though a version of the site has been around for about one month. The site had approximately 25 entries as of Nov. 20.
  The blog posts cover a variety of topics, including new businesses in the village, Bury’s appearances at schools and community events, the village’s efforts to improve transparency and reports on the mayor’s visits to Springfield and Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of the village.
  Critics of the blog, who post anonymously on a website that was created shortly after Bury was elected, say the mayor’s blog is political and violates state ethics laws because it includes the village hall address and phone number.
  According to a recent post: “We do mind when someone runs on a platform of good government and transparency and then decides that she can use the village phone system, village employees and the village mailing address for her political blog. It creates all kinds of ethical and legal problems for the mayor and her supporters.”
  “I really have nothing to say about what they have to say,” Bury said.
  She added that her blog includes the village hall phone number and address to make it convenient for residents to reach out to her. She said the blog is not a campaign site or a “call to action.”
  “I’m not running for office,” she said. “We are going to be ethical, and we are going to move forward.”
  The blog is hosted by WordPress and Bury paid $9 for the domain name, she said.
  Bury said she’s attempting to fill the “void of information” that exists in the community. Plans call for her blog to include a link to the redesigned village website, which is expected to launch before the end of the year, she said. She also wants to “energize Channel 4,” the village’s local access cable channel, to cover more village events than board meetings.
  Former Mayor Dave Heilmann, who Bury defeated in April, admitted in June that he founded the anonymous site critical of Bury but did not have time to administer it. The blog does not include contact information and its stories do not include bylines. The site has run about 30 stories, many within the past few weeks.
  The site contended in a recent post that Bury uses her blog to praise her allies and attack her opponents. It goes on to say that blog ostracizes trustees who are not aligned with the mayor.
  Critics also contend that the mayor’s blog “has several political references to the village, including attacks against all previous mayors and current Trustee Robert Streit.”
  No previous Oak Lawn mayors were referenced in any of Bury’s blog posts, but an Oct. 27 post titled, “No More Pay to Play in Oak Lawn,” was critical of Streit for the amount of money he has amassed in his campaign fund.
  “The vast majority of these contributions are from area businesses or are from those hoping to do business with the village,” Bury wrote in the post. “In the third quarter of 2013, Streit had amassed $53,000 in this account. This is over eight times his salary as trustee,” Bury posted.
  Bury said she is not deterred by her detractors.
  “It’s awesome and incredible honor and privilege” to serve as mayor, she said.
  Many big city mayors maintain blogs.
  For example, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak includes a disclaimer that says: “This blog is supported by the city of Minneapolis through city funds, supplies, equipment and/or personnel.” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has a blog within the city’s website. Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell has blog that is paid for by his campaign committee.

It could have been worse

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Deadly storm packs light punch in area


  The southwest suburbs front-color-4-COL-WEATHERWorkers from Eclipse Awning repair damage caused by Sunday’s storm in front of the Worth Restaurant. The deadly storm did some minor damage in the Reporter communities but it was not as severe as other parts of the state. Photo by Jeff Vorva.escaped the havoc and destruction that Sunday’s tornadoes wreaked on communities stretching from central Illinois to Frankfort, and residents realize how fortunate they were to elude the life-threatening damage that accompanied the storm.

  Workers on Monday repaired awnings at the Worth Restaurant, 6948 W. 111th St., which were damaged by high winds that whipped through several of the communities in The Reporter’s coverage area.
  Fortunately, the winds and rain caused only minimal damage to homes and businesses in the area.
  “We’re very, very happy this wasn’t worse,” said Linda Dawson, who has been a waitress at the Worth Restaurant for 16 years. “It’s a big deal to us, but it’s not that big of a deal when you consider what could have happened. This wasn’t major.’’
  Hickory Hills Village Clerk Dee Catizone echoed Dawson’s sentiments.
  “We were pretty lucky,” Catizone said. “It sort of blew over. It was pretty quick.”
jump-3-col-weatherFences at the site of a new bank on 95th Street in Oak Lawn were twisted and knocked over after Sunday’s storm. Photo by Jeff Vorva.  ComEd crews were working Monday to restore power to about 150 homes in the 9200 block of 88th Avenue, Catizone said. Those homes lost electricity on Sunday when a downed tree branch took out a power line, she said.
  Palos Hills, Chicago Ridge and Evergreen Park weathered the storm without serious property damage or electrical outages, officials said.
  However, power outages were again an issue in a section of Oak Lawn typically affected by storms.
  “Twenty four hours after the incident, residents of Oak Lawn are still without power,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak said.
  Outages affected more than 1,000 homes in an area roughly bounded by 87th and 101st streets between 52nd Avenue to Pulaski Road. Many of those homes had power restored by Sunday night, but an area near 93rd Street and Tully Avenue remained without electricity the following day, Olejniczak said.
  Olejniczak, a long-time critic of ComEd, said a damaged wooden utility pole located behind Fox’s Pub, 9240 S. Cicero Ave., collapsed during the storm, causing the outage.
  “It was weathered and warped through,” said Olejniczak, who added that markings indicated that the pole had not been inspected since 1983.
  ComEd officials said the pole was not responsible for the outage, and added that it was inspected in 1997.
  Olejniczak said homes in the 4600 block of 105th and 106th streets also were without power.
  “It’s just a frustration,” he said.



Family conducts investigation of Brittany’s death

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Two weeks after her daughter’s tragic death, Rebecca Tully vows that her memory will never be forgotten the cause of her death will ultimately be revealed.

  “She shouldn’t have died,” Tully said Tuesday afternoon. “This is not an accident.”
  And she wants to prove it.
  “My family and I are doing our own investigation,” Tully said.
  Prosecutors said Brittany Wawrzyniak, 18, died Nov. 8 after she was ejected from the back seat of an alleged drug dealer’s car after buying pills from him.
  “We have to be patient,” said Earl Lane, Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather. “(Police) are not telling us everything right now.”
  Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue in Worth. She got into the backseat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam, prosecutors said.
  The prescription drug is used to treat panic and seizure disorders, according to medical experts.
  Wawrzyniak, a Worth resident and Shepard graduate, began counting the pills while still in the back seat as Johnson drove away. She opened the door of the moving car, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said.
  She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.
  Johnson, of Peotone, was ordered held on $300,000 bond. He is charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.
  Tully said her daughter had no intention of purchasing drugs. Rather, the drug buy was a ploy to arrange a fight between Wawrzyniak’s friend and another girl, she said.
  “It was all a ruse to set up a fight,” she said.
  Tully contends that if her daughter intended to meet Johnson to purchase pills, the transaction would not have resulted in her death.
  Tully said she is relying on God to guide her through the difficult days following her daughter’s’ death.
  She said she drew strength from the outpouring of support shown during last week’s wake and funeral services.
  Bridgeview police were needed to direct traffic in front of Hann Funeral Home where mourners waited in line for two hours to pay their respects. There was a standing-room-only crowd for funeral services at New Hope Church in Alsip. The family had to turn away people who wanted to attend the luncheon following services, Tully said.
  Wawrzyniak’s friends and family continue to post messages on the RIP Brittany Wawrzyniak Facebook page, which had more than 7,200 “likes” as of Tuesday. Her online memorial fund has raised approximately $11,000.
  Lane said the family is struggling to assume “some sense of normalcy. It’s a period of calming.”
  “There’s nothing you can say, nothing you can do,” said Lane, a Hickory Hills alderman from 1979 to 1991. “We lost a lot of love with Brittany, Brittany was special.”
  “I know where she’s at, and I will see her again,” Tully added.
  Several Facebook posts encourage people who may know more about Wawrzyniak’s death to report the information to the police. Worth police can be contacted at 708-448-3979.
  Attempts to contact Worth police for an update on the investigation were unsuccessful.

‘Shared sacrifice’ still on ice as Oak Lawn trustees mull their health benefits

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Mike CarberryMike CarberryOak Lawn trustees took a pass Tuesday night on a discussion of eliminating health care benefits for elected officials, deciding instead that additional information is needed first.

  “There’s going to be a lot of discussion that’s going to take place between all of us,” Trustee Mike Carberry said. “It’s an overall compensation package. Health benefits are a major cost. We need to get everybody’s input. We’re going to try to come up with something that makes sense. There’s not a big rush on this.”

Part of that discussion will focus on a proposal to allow trustees to purchase health insurance from the village if it is no longer offered as a benefit.

“That wasn’t really discussed at the last meeting and I think that’s important to talk about before we start drafting an ordinance,” Village Attorney Patrick Connelly said. “I would like to hear some direction on what you guys [on the board] think.”

Connelly added that he is exploring whether or not the repeal of health care benefits would take place after a board member’s term. He said there was “some gray area” in the law that might allow benefits to be repealed at the end of the fiscal year instead.

The health insurance issue was first raised at the Oct. 22 board meeting 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.

Several trustees and Mayor Sandra Bury currently take full or partial health benefits.

Palos Hills construction projects wrapping up in time for winter

  • Written by Kelly White, Correspondent

Photo by Jeff Vorva  Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Photo by Jeff Vorva. Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Palos Hills Public Works crews are wrapping up this year’s construction season, but before shifting into winter work mode the city is guaranteeing several current projects will be completed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation performed an unscheduled asphalt overlay to repair all four lanes of traffic on 111th Street from Southwest Highway to Harlem Ave. recently.

“The overlay was necessary due to potholes and delamination of the road surface along 111th Street,” Commissioner, Dave Weakley, stated at Thursday’s city council meeting.

There was another problem on Kean Ave. stretching from 111th Street to 95th Street, where the Illinois Department of Transportation completed an edge of road patching program due to the slippary surface course of asphalt. This is the second time in three years the city has patched and replaced the asphalt on that section of Kean Ave., Weakley said. Mayor Jerry Bennett noted the city is using asphalt approved by IDOT; however, officials are hoping to eventually see a better product come along after having to replace Kean Avenue so soon after the previous repair.

“The problem is, unless it is an IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) approved product, we cannot use it,” Bennett said.