Local colleges, universities continue to educate despite no state funding

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

While Gov. Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) continue their grudge match in the latest round of the budget impasse, local colleges and universities are remaining afloat despite no funding – at least for now.

Some administrators at colleges and universities throughout the state have sent letters to students informing them that they have to return funds provided to them through the Monetary Awards Program, or MAP grants.

Low income students at Illinois Institute of Technology received the news. Although IIT students did not receive any MAP grants last September, the school decided to give credit to students who qualified. The reasoning behind that was school officials believed the budget impasse would end soon.

Since the stalemate has continued, IIT administrators have said they could not afford MAP grants for the spring semester. On March 30, students received word that their MAP grant credit from the fall semester would be taken off their account. This means students would have to either pay back the MAP credit in full, or pay it back through a 12-month loan. This could prevent them from registering for the summer and fall classes, which began for most institutions on Monday.

Officials at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights said that no changes are being made for now. Students with MAP grants at St. Xavier University have been asked to meet with staff in the financial aid office. SXU students that have been receiving MAP grants have been asked as of Friday to make an appointment with members of the financial aid office.

St. Xavier University officials have previously said the institution remains in good shape but would like to see the budget impasse resolved soon.

State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), whose districts includes Chicago’s Southwest Side, Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn, was the chief sponsor of legislation that became Senate Bill 2043. The measure would have increased funding for MAP grants by more than $32 million. St. Xavier students were eligible to receive about $7 million in MAP grants while students at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills should have received $2.4 million

Rauner has since vetoed two versions of that bill, stating that the legislation would only increase the state’s debt because no additional funding is being provided. Burke and state Sen Bill Cunningham (D-18th) stated in response that they are willing to negotiate to come up with an alternative. However, both legislators have said that they do not want to see collective bargaining lessened or eliminated. Rauner’s “turnaround agenda” calls for restrictions on collective bargaining and curbing the influence of union leaders.

Burke said that legislators are back at work this week. However, she said that much still has to be done.

“We’re back at this week but nothing is really going on,” said Burke. “There have been some informal talks but not overall meetings. We can only hope.”

Officials at Moraine Valley Community College have said despite the fact the budget lockdown is now in its 10th month, the local institution has weathered the storm well.

“We’re coping,” said Mark Horstmeyer, spokesperson for Moraine Valley. “We have always been very careful. We have always been fiscally conservative. But I’ve heard some people say this could continue another year or two. At that time, if that happens, we would have to do something.”

MAP grants are issued to students attending state schools based on financial need. Grants can be as much as $5,000. More than 125,000 students across the state are enrolled in the MAP program. Higher education has become another stumbling block in budget discussions. Rauner has proposed cutting higher education funding by 20 percent

Putting themselves in ‘her shoes’

  • Written by By Janelle Frost

No one knows better than most women what it’s like to walk in high heel shoes. But several men got the opportunity to experience that last week for a serious cause.

About 20 male faculty, staff and students at St. Xavier University put on red, black, white or blue high heels and walked a mile around the university’s Chicago campus to raise awareness about sexual violence against women and to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

This is the university’s second year holding the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, which took place March 30 at SXU’s Chicago campus, 3700 W. 103rd St.

“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence” is a fun opportunity for men to literally walk one mile in women’s high heel shoes while raising awareness and getting the community to talk about the serious issue of sexual violence against women.

According to facts and figures on display during last the event at SXU, rape results in about 32,000 pregnancies each year; 38 percent of rapists are a friend or an acquaintance; and the presence of a bystander makes a completed rape 44 percent less likely.

Anna Goldman, head coordinator of SXU’s “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, said a lot of men expressed following the success of last year’s occasion that they didn’t want it to be the end, so the walk was held again this year.

“Even though it’s a kind of fun, silly event, there’s nothing fun or silly about violence,” said Goldman, who walked alongside the men as they marched in heels and carried signs about violence against women. “It is to let people know how prevalent sexual violence is on campus.”

One in four college women will be a victim of rape during her academic career, and less than five percent of college victims file a police report, according to the facts and figures on display.

John Pelrine Jr., SXU’s vice president of student affairs and one of the men who participated in the walk, said students are educated as soon as they arrive to the university about sexual assault.

“We do a lot of education from the day they arrive here for the orientation program,” Pelrine said. “We try to bring the issue to the forefront. And there are strict policies in place where anyone is held accountable for their behavior.”

Pelrine said most of the men in the walk have experience with knowing someone with a background in violence. And that he thinks it’s important for people in the community to see prominent men be involved in such a cause.

Brandon Swanson, assistant director for alumni relations, who also participated in the walk, said he hoped people in the community would take away that sexual violence against women is happening.

“They’ll be able to see the statistics and know that really happens,” Swanson said. “It may be people you work with or who are in your family. Make sure you see the signs and are aware. If they reach out to you, be that support system.”

Motorists adjusting to end of license plate sticker renewal reminders

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Illinois motorists apparently are still getting used to the decision by the secretary of state’s office to no longer send out reminders by mail to renew license plate stickers.

Secretary of State Jesse White decided last September to eliminate sending out reminders by mail to renew vehicle stickers to save on costs due to the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield. Residents who are unaware of the move have been receiving fines. A press release did appear in The Reporter last fall but several callers said they had missed it and were unaware of the new procedure.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said that his office has received a few calls about the fines. He and his staff have since posted information about how to contact the secretary of state’s office on the city website,

“The Secretary of State’s office has taken in a lot of money from the fines,” said Bennett. “This has been going on for about six months ago. That’s why we decided to post it on our website. We thought it was a good idea to have these reminders so people can see.”

The fine for a late renewal is $20. According to the Associated Press, Illinois motorists paid close to $2 million in fines for the month of March alone. The total fines from January to March of 2015 were $2.2 million. The total fines from January through March of this year are $4.9 million, according to the AP.

White’s office made the move because officials said that they would save about $450,000 a month in postage costs.

“The lack of a fiscal year 2016 budget is adversely impacting the secretary of state’s office and threatens to jeopardize the services we provide to the public,” White said in a statement. “Without a state budget in place, we are doing what we can to manage so that we may serve the people of Illinois for as long as possible. As a result, difficult decisions like suspending renewal reminder notice mailings are decisions we are being forced to make.”

About 800,000 renewal notices used to be sent out each month. The change meant that vehicle owners now have to remember when their license stickers are up for renewal.

Residents can still get notices by email if they register online. They need to do that through the secretary of state’s website, Those people will also have the information needed to renew their license stickers online.

Those who don’t have access to email or a computer will have to go to a drivers’ license facility in order to renew their stickers.

White’s office reported that 413,709 drivers renewed their registration in November. The renewal rate for November 2014 was 512,760, which is a reduction of just over 19 percent. The margin was even greater for March. According to the secretary of state’s office, 301,965 renewals occurred last month.

Compare that to March 2014 in which the renewals were 475,314. This is a reduction of just over 36 percent from a year ago. Vehicle owners could receive a 30-day grace period to renew their registration without fines or tickets under legislation that was introduced in the House.

The bill is somewhat redundant because Illinois drivers already have 30 days after their stickers expire to pay before they are charged a $20 fine. However, it would prevent law enforcement from sending out tickets in that same time period.

Residents can check their expiration dates and renew a tag before the deadline. Motorists can renew their license plate number information in person by dropping in at any secretary of state offices. Residents can provide the information verbally or have it written down when entering one of the facilities. Renewals can take place at any time during the year.

The Illinois Environmental Agency is also no longer sending out by mail emission test reminders. EPA officials said that the tests are scheduled every other year. More information can be obtained by calling the EPA emission testing at (847) 758-3400 or visit

Chicago Ridge Board votes to limit tattoo shops and massage parlors

  • Written by By Dernot Connolly

Anyone wanting to open a tattoo shop or massage parlor in Chicago Ridge will have to look elsewhere, for a while anyway.

This is because the Village Board on Tuesday unanimously approved ordinances amending the village code to limit both types of businesses to the number already operating in town. There are only two tattoo shops in the village -- Big Al’s, at 10347 Southwest Highway, and Red Moon, at 5704 W. 111th St. -- and no more will be allowed to open.

Likewise, Trustee Sally Durkin said, “We’re limiting the number of massage licenses to one. The one in the mall,” referring to Relax Magic, already in operation in Chicago Ridge Mall. No more permits will be issued.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said that investigations into reports of prostitution occurring in massage establishments in the area had led to the decision to limit the businesses in Chicago Ridge.

For instance, In March 2015, three women were arrested at a massage parlor in the 7200 block of West 127th Street in Palos Heights. One was charged with prostitution and two others were charged with giving massages without a proper license.

In November 2014, an undercover police investigation led to a massage parlor in Orland Park being shut down. The investigation began after a man reported being inappropriately touched during a massage there, and the business was closed after an unlicensed masseuse allegedly offered to perform a sex act on an undercover officer for a price.

“We don’t want that happening here,” said Coglianese. “Only if (the massages) are for medicinal purposes,” she added.

One business that is getting a warm reception from the village officials is Miller’s Ale House, which is scheduled to open Monday, May 9, at 6401 W. 95th St., on the perimeter of Chicago Ridge Mall.

This will be just the third Miller’s Ale House to open in Illinois.

Hans Bengyel, the general manager of the new restaurant, came to the village board meeting to request business and liquor licenses, which were granted.

Mayor Chuck Tokar noted that Miller’s will be replacing the Tilted Kilt restaurant that had been on the site, and will take over that liquor license.

Village Clerk George Schleyer said that he has already made plans to host a gathering of municipal clerks at the newly built restaurant next month.

After the mayor noted that it was originally slated to open in April, Bengyel said “We slowed down due to the recent bad weather, but everything is caught up now.”

He said the hiring process, being conducted at a site inside the mall, is wrapping up.

“Seventy employees have already been hired, and are being trained at the existing restaurants,” he said.

“Everything is going smoothly,” said the general manager.

The fact that the business owner did not ask for a video gaming license, something most restaurants seem to want these days, went over well with the board.

“We’re not putting in video gambling,” he said. “We’re a family restaurant with a sports theme.”

Clean-up is scheduled for Lucas-Berg preservation sites in Worth

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Worth Mayor Mary Werner announced during the Worth Village Board meeting on Tuesday night that a spring clean-up day for the Lucas-Berg preservation sites will be scheduled from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday April 16.

She advised volunteers to dress for the weather.

“In April, the weather is always unpredictable” she said.

The gates to the site, located on 111th Street, just east of Southwest Highway, will open at 8:30 a.m. Werner said coffee, doughnuts and hot dogs will be provided for the volunteers.

In other matters, Werner also said that the board is anticipating the presentation of a plan for the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project, focused on the Metra Station area, to be presented in early May.

The village began working with Chicago-based Farr Associates last year to develop a TOD plan for the area surrounding the Metra Station. A town meeting was held in February where residents were given the opportunity to express their desires for the type of development they would like to see on the site.

“We are looking forward to seeing the plan, which will be presented to the public, before a vote is taken,” said Werner.

In other business, the board approved a resolution to apply for Community Development Block Grants for Capital Improvement and Economic Development in 2016. The resolution did not specify any particular development or project.

Also approved was a resolution endorsing an agreement with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Greenest Region Compact 2, which calls for the village to join coordinated efforts toward enhanced quality of life for residents, protection and stewardship of the environment and sustainable economic vitality.

Other business included the approval of a business license for The Walk-In- Closet, located at 6955 W. 111th St., contingent upon having passed all inspections and being in compliance with all codes and ordinances.

The business is a resale, thrift shop for second-hand clothing, shoes and miscellaneous items.

The board adjourned into an executive session to discuss setting a price for sale or lease of property owned by the village.

Trustee Colleen McElroy was absent from the meeting.