Local mayors aren't buying Rauner's plan

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Gov. Bruce Rauner appeared to be extending an olive branch in an effort to end the budget impasse in Springfield, which is now entering its 11th month.

However, suburban mayors are not buying it and can’t understand the logic behind Rauner’s insistence on every aspect of his turnaround agenda.

“I’ve seen other states that have been cutting taxes in an attempt to create jobs that they think will create business growth,” said Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett during a recent Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting. “It just isn’t going to work and other states have found this out, like Kansas. The economics just don’t add up. This governor is working under the impression that this will work. It just won’t work.”

Bennett, who serves as the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, was in Springfield this week, hopefully to get some answers and see if some ideas are being considered to end the budget stalemate. The Southwest Conference of Mayors held a luncheon on Wednesday in Springfield.

Rauner on Friday said that he is optimistic that due to a series of bipartisan meetings that have been held recently that negotiations may begin for emergency assistance to aid social service agencies. The governor compared it to the agreement on April 15 that provides $600 million for colleges and universities to keep their doors open throughout the summer.

However, despite the emergency funding, Chicago State University announced that they are laying off 300 employees, or 35 percent of administrative and non-faculty staff as of last Friday. At the end of the summer, more faculty members at CSU may join the unemployment line. Chicago State and representatives at local colleges and universities were grateful to receive the emergency funding. In the case of Chicago State, it was too little, too late.

Rauner has said that he understands the anguish of Chicago State University students. The governor added that he is confidents that further negotiations can help many of the social agencies that are either nearly broke or have ceased operating.

The governor said that he believes a compromise can be reached on redistricting maps and create term limits for legislators. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) has said the voters already have the power to vote incumbents out at the polls.

Democrats are also cautious about the governor’s tone. If he insists on restricting collective bargaining and diminishing the power of unions, then negotiations are not going to budge.

State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), whose district includes Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn, and state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), have been holding a series of morning meetings with constituents over coffee. Burke said the major obstacle has been restrictions on collective bargaining and major concessions by union leaders that Rauner has insisted upon as part of his turnaround agenda.

“There are things we can work with,” said Burke. “The governor wants term limits. I personally don’t agree but we can look at that. But calling for the end of collective bargaining is not going to happen.”

Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Palos and Orland townships, agreed and added that it does not help that the governor makes these demands instead of negotiating.

“The governor had talked about shutting everything down if he doesn’t get what he wants,” said Cunningham, “But when you say the government, it also means Misericordia and Catholic Charities.”

“We will not talk about collective bargaining,” said Burke. “But we will talk about other issues.”

While Democrats and Republicans are talking about some compromises, southwest suburban mayors are still frustrated with the governor. Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar still could not believe that the governor held back motor fuel tax funds that he said should not be part of any budget in the first place.

Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves said that he voted for Rauner but admits that he is disappointed in his approach during this budget deadlock.

“He just doesn’t understand how things are done,” said a frustrated Reaves during a Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting. “He said he gave in on the MFT funds. He didn’t give us anything. We should not have had to negotiate over MFT funds.

“Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, (they) don’t know if they are going to open in the fall,” added Reaves. “We need to stay on our legislators to get something done.”

Bennett believes something will occur soon.

“The driving force is education,” said Bennett. “Education will be the driving force to get them to the table. A lot of this is just posturing.”

Raindrops do not dampen spirits of Southwest Marathon, 10K runners

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The competitors weren’t complaining about the drizzle and cold temperatures on Sunday during the 9th annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K run in Palos Heights.

“It was a great for runners, but not a great day for spectators,” said Mel Diab, co-founder and director of the up-and-back race run on Route 83 through Palos Heights and Palos Park.

While they may have been few in number, the chilly, wet weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those lining the railings to cheer on family and friends competing in all the races, including South West Special Recreation Association’s Walk, Run or Roll race for people with disabilities.

Jeff Prestinario, who co-founded the half marathon and 10K with Diab, was the emcee. He said that in addition to the chilly weather being preferable for the runners, there were no reports of exhaustion or dehydration as there were when the weather was warmer. So the four ambulances on standby were not needed.

Registration got off to a slow start this year, and the numbers were down a bit from previous years. But “thanks to a big rush in April,” Diab said more than 1,200 people ended up registering. This included 875 in the 13.1-mile half marathon and 355 in the 6.1-mile 10K. According to the final results, a total of 934 people finished both races.

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was grand marshal of the event. He offered a good excuse for not running in the half marathon as he often does.

“I ran my first marathon yesterday, the Illinois Marathon in Champaign. And I got dehydrated,” explained Lipinski.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) was among the half marathon runners. He also joined Lipinski, local leaders, organizers and sponsors on the reviewing stand before the races got underway. Mayor Bob Straz was there representing Palos Heights, along with Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney and Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who welcomed the visitors as president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors.

“It’s very important that we keep this race going. It is a great event for the whole area,” said Lipinski, who expects to be back running in it next year.

Diab said the race wouldn’t have been possible without the principal sponsors, CNB Bank & Trust and Palos Community Hospital, and he singled out the Meijer grocery store in Orland Park for praise as well, thanking the store for its in-kind donation of bottled water, Gatorade, fruit and energy bars and other food made available to runners and watchers alike.

Diab and Prestinario also credited the 200 volunteers who set up everything and ran the refreshment tents for making the event a success for the ninth year in a row.

A faulty air horn used to start the races was the only snafu, but it didn’t bother the runners.

“Mel does a great job with this. I like to support his races,” said Wendy Jaehn, 41, who was the fastest woman in the half marathon. When told that the organizers were concerned that the wet road surface might be dangerous, she said it didn’t slow her down. “You just have to be careful,” she said.

“I like to run in this type of weather,” said Veronica Laureano, 31, a member of the Chicago Road Runners Club who was the fastest woman in the 10K.

Ryan Giuliano, of north suburban Oakwood Hills, won the men’s half marathon. He also won it two years ago. He said his time of 1 hour and 9 minutes was close to a personal best.

“It is a great course,” he said. “You get a lot of support from the other runners on the way back.”      

Joe Solek, of Orland Park, was watching from the sidelines with his two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, for his friend, John Cancialosi, who was the lone competitor in the wheelchair race.

“He is a great guy and very inspirational,” said Solek.

Cancialosi, who owns Tinley Park Kitchen & Bath Shoppe, is a quadriplegic and competes in a hand-cycle, or crank bike, which he pedals by hand in a reclining position.

The rain didn’t bother him either. “This is my kind of weather,” said a beaming Cancialosi after the race. He has raised more than $3,700 for SWSRA since he began wheelchair racing a few years ago.

Mary Cody, of Oak Lawn, who completed the half marathon with her running partner and neighbor, Brian Jordan, said she was happy to see the finish line and her husband, John, and daughter, Emma, waiting to greet her with hugs.

“I’ve run a few half marathons. But this is the first time doing this one,” said Cody. “It is a really nice run through the forest preserves, but I just want to go home and relax now,” she said with a weary grin.


Shepard students present business leaders their project ideas in ‘Shark Tank’

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

“Shark Tank” came to Shepard High School last week, with budding entrepreneurs in business education teacher Jennifer Klein’s marketing classes seeking financial backing from local business leaders for their inventions.

For the “Astro Business Challenge,” Klein asked her top six student groups to present their products to Palos Heights business leaders 2181 in a format modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs try to get people such as real estate guru Barbara Corcoran and investor Mark Cuban to fund their ideas.

The panel of experts at Shepard were Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, the local market president of CNB Bank & Trust; Barb Bergamo, CNB regional customer service representative; and Jan Schnierle, owner of Art House, a Palos Heights custom framing business. Like the pros on TV, the local business leaders peppered the students with detailed questions about their production costs and profit margins before deciding whether to offer funding in exchange for a piece of the profits.

Becca McNicholas, Teddy Aguilar III, and William Fitzgerald tried to interest them in Compress and Rest, a medicated athletic wrap that combines compression wraps with ointments such as Icy Hot, which they said would eliminate the need for ice packs.

Chris Sneed, Leondra Taylor and Jaimelle Scott devised a laundry “hamper holder,” basically a hamper ringed with pockets to hold detergent, bleach and fabric softener.

“Parents of kids going to college will be a good market for these, in the hope that they will do their own laundry,” said Straz, who offered to go in for $500 for a 10 percent stake in the business.

Bergamo said it would be important to offer the hampers in a variety of shapes, while Schnierle said she would be interested in investing if the students could “firm up” their production costs.

The “Scented Signer,” created by Rula Jaber, Amanda Paulsen and Hadeel Aquel, is a pen topped with a perfume or cologne dispenser, for males and females.

“It’s important to smell right and spell right,” said Paulsen in her sales pitch.

“I like the concept but it would have to be revamped because it is too bulky,” said Bergamo.

Other creations by students in an earlier class included “The Sockness Monster” sock organizer, and two smartphone apps, including “Track Jumper,” to help drivers get around freight trains; and a game called Cat Maze Runner.

“I was very happy with the quality of their ideas,” said Schnierle afterward. “The students really stepped up to the plate with this,”

“We saw some really ingenious kids here,” said Straz.

None of the students were actually required to take their projects any further. The three who came up with “Rest and Compress” got such positive feedback that they haven’t abandoned the idea of making the product just yet.

“If I could get an investor, I would do it,” said Fitzgerald, who plans to major in business in college.

“And (Barb Bergamo) gave me her business card,” said McNicholas proudly. She is considering physical therapy as a career, so she might be using her own creation one of these days.


Oak Lawn Board lauds ComEd’s efforts to reduce power outages

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Commonwealth Edison’s ongoing investment in infrastructure improvements in Oak Lawn has greatly improved the relationship between the utility and the village, which for years seemed to be hit with regular power outages whenever there was a high wind.

When ComEd external affairs manager Phil Halliburton came to the April 26 village board meeting to review the infrastructure improvements, officials thanked him for being so responsive to their requests.

Halliburton said that in 2015, ComEd replaced 13,600 feet of underground distribution cable in the village, which he said benefited 533 local customers.

More is expected to be done this year.

He said the utility also installed a distribution automation system that will limit outages when they do occur.

“It allows us to sectionalize the system,” he said, explaining that if something damages a power line, that damaged section is immediately “locked out,” so the fewest number of users are affected and the repairs are done quickly.

“We’ve also done some 195 miles of tree-trimming in the area last year,” he said, in an effort to reduce the number of outages caused by falling tree limbs.

Halliburton said the condition of utility poles has been inspected throughout the village, and 194 wooden poles have been reinforced by with metal braces at their base.

“They were never in danger of falling down,” he said.

He said this year, among other improvements, 27,200 feet of cable is going to be replaced in the village, and work has already begun on replacing 139 poles.

Some “smart technology” is also going to be installed, said Halliburton, suggesting that residents may follow the progress of the work being done by visiting the website at

“Thank you for really getting out there and seeing what needs to be done and getting it done. I look forward to it continuing this year, said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), who has long he been at the forefront of efforts to hold ComEd to account for outages.

He said he attended more than 25 meetings with Halliburton regarding infrastructure improvement needs, and witnessed the pole reinforcements done in 50th and 51st Avenue alleys in his district, as well as the tree trimming.

“Thank you, and thank ComEd for paying attention to the fine citizens of Oak Lawn,” said the trustee.

“I agree that ComEd has done a great job of Oak Lawn. We will be staying in touch,” said Trustee Bud Stalker (5th). Olejniczak noted that Stalker’s expertise in the field, having retired from ComEd himself, has also helped the village sort out the problems.

Halliburton said his immediate predecessor in his position got the process started and deserves much of the praise being heaped on him.

“I want residents to know this gentleman talking so modestly has made himself available to us at any time of the day,” said Mayor Sandra Bury. “We demand a lot of you, and you have always been there for us.”

Auto parts store owner’s request to move across street puzzles mayor

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins


By Sharon L. Filkins

An application for an Evergreen Park business certificate from O’Reilly Auto Parts was approved at the village board meeting Monday night, but the process did not flow smoothly resulting in contingencies added to the approval.

O’Reilly’s District Manager Maurino Arreola was seeking approval to re-locate the existing auto parts store from the east side of Western Avenue to a new building in the 9100 block on the west side of the street.

The request was met with a barrage of questions from Mayor James Sexton regarding the reason for the move, the type of construction planned, the hours of operation and the general use of the property.

Never one to mince his words, Sexton grilled Arreola about the move. “Why would you want to move just across the street? And, is this new facility going to be brick and mortar, or an aluminum building?”

Sexton was particularly concerned about the hours of operation which would extend to 10 p.m. “Why would you need to be selling auto parts at that time of night,” he asked. He also added that there would be no repair work allowed in the parking lot, such as customers purchasing oil and adding it to their vehicles in the store’s parking lot.

Arreola stated the reason for the move was a need for more parking spaces for customers.

“We currently share a space with an adjoining business and have only 11 spaces which are usually filled with customers of the other business,” said Arreola. We need more space and better visibility from the street,” he said.

He added that his hours of operation were consistent with other stores in the area, such as Menard’s, which are open until 10 p.m. He also explained that the new building would be a brick building.

Calling for a vote on the matter, Sexton added the two contingencies, including a requirement that the village’s building commissioner approve the proposed plans and that there will be a further discussion on the hours of operation.

A business certificate was also approved for Eco ATM, Inc., an automated recycling kiosk for small electronics, located in the Wal-Mart store at 2500 W. 95th Street.

A third business certificate application was approved, granting a junker license to resident Carl Jagus at 9301 S. Harding Ave., with an agreement that no items obtained were to be stored on his property.

Village Clerk Cathy Aparo explained later that the village has a limit of six junker licenses per year. “The license is granted to people who collect discarded items left at the curb, which the garbage disposal company does not pick up, such as small electronic items, lumber, metal, etc. The junkers then remove them and dispose of them properly. The license requires that the junkers are insured and responsible.”

In other action, the board approved an ordinance amending the municipal code to add a classification for Class S liquor licenses. The Class S will allow beer and wine to be served at the village’s driving range at the 50-Acre Park at 91st and Rockwell Ave.

Earlier, Sexton had announced that the driving range was now open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We are hoping that adding the availability of beer and wine sales will be a draw for our residents, giving them a place they can come and relax,” said Sexton. “It also will be a little added revenue. However, if it doesn’t work or there are problems, we will give it the hook.”