Area survives scary weather

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Hickory Hills Mayor Mike HowleyPage-3-3-col-cartsShopping carts are down at the Chicago Ridge Mall after Monday night’s storm. Photos by Jeff Vorva. believes the wild 2014 weather offers a marketing opportunity.

  “It’s been quite a year,” Howley said Tuesday morning. “This could be good for someone who makes t-shirts. They can come up with something like ‘I survived the Weather in 2014.’”
  Howley was comfortable jesting a bit about Monday’s night’s torrential storms because, for the most part, Hickory Hills and the other towns in the Reporter’s coverage area escaped significant damage.
  “We fared fairly well,” Howley said. “Although there are 1,400 people without power who might not agree with me. There was no major damage reported.”
Page-1-2-col-branchesDowned branches and limbs lie before a sign at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Oak Lawn Tuesday after a storm hit the area Monday night.  Oak Lawn also escaped significant damage. Approximately 1,300 Oak Lawn homes were without power as of late Tuesday morning, and there was tree and power line damage throughout the community, officials said.
  “This storm could have definitely been worse,” said Oak Lawn Police Lt. Art Clark, the village’s emergency management coordinator. “There are other communities around the area that suffered more damage and power outages.”
  One of those towns was Worth, which suffered significant power outages Tuesday morning after the second wave of storms damaged power lines and poles along a stretch of Southwest Highway west of Harlem Avenue. Harlem Avenue from Palos Heights past Chicago Ridge was backed up most of the morning and afternoons because stop lights were knocked out by a power outage.
  Worth suffered the brunt of the outage.
  “It led to a significant outage in Worth,” said Village Clerk Bonnie Price. “ComEd is all over (the village).”
  Approximately 75 percent of homes and businesses were without power Tuesday morning, but electricity was being restored throughout the day, Price said.
  No injuries were reported, she said.
  Neighboring Palos Hills and Chicago Ridge experienced only minimal damage, including pockets of outages and downed tree limbs, officials said.
  Evergreen Park also escaped major storm related damage, Mayor James Sexton said.
  “It seems like (the storm) went farther south,” said Sexton, who added that about 1,000 Evergreen Park homes experienced power outages.
  “It was scary,” Sexton said.

Three of six area towns hosting fireworks for Independence Day

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Worth, Oak Lawn and Evergreen ParkPage-1-1-xol-inset-rightThere will be literal Fourth of July fireworks at three of the six communities Thursday and Friday. Photo by Jeff Vorva. will be the places to be this weekend for Fourth of July fireworks shows and celebrations.

  Two of the other communities – Palos Hills and Chicago Ridge – will set off fireworks later in the summer during community celebrations.
  Hickory Hills will not have fireworks at all this year. Mayor Mike Howley said he’s lived in town for 46 years and can’t remember a time the city ever set them off.
  “I usually watch the fireworks in Evergreen Park and a few years ago, I reached out to the company that that provides their fireworks and asked them to swing by Hickory Hills,” Howley said. “They re-confirmed to me that the reason we don’t have fireworks here – we just don’t have enough adequate open space for us to do it. There is a danger of houses or businesses being too close. I thought we could do it somewhere, but they said there wasn’t enough space.’’
  Evergreen Park will celebrate the Fourth of July tonight, Thursday. The village has celebrated the holiday on July 3 since 1968. The sirens blaring from fire engines from throughout the southwest suburbs will signal the start of Evergreen Park’s parade.
  The parade steps at 6:30 p.m. from 95th Street and Pulaski Road and proceeds east to Francisco Avenue. The fireworks follow at dusk at Duffy Park, 9101 S. Ridgeway Ave.
  Worth will host a community picnic starting at 5 p.m. tonight, Thursday. There will be a community photo at 7 p.m. at the Terrace Center Pavillion at 7500 W. 115th St. Fireworks will begin at dusk.
  Oak Lawn will celebrate Independence Day throughout the day Friday, beginning with a parade at 10 a.m. The parade will begin on the north side of 95th Street and 51st Avenue and proceed west to 55th Court.
  The Oak Lawn Park District’s annual Star Spangled Fourth of July Celebration will be held following the parade at Centennial Park, 94th Street and Nashville Avenue.
  The day will begin with a variety of family activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. including a talent show, treasure hunt, watermelon eating contest, obstacle course, kid’s tattoos, carnivals games, pony rides, inflatables, bingo, crafts, magician, balloon animals and concessions.
  A fee of $5 per child (ages 3 and up) will allow for participation in all daytime activities. Adults are free. Admission to all park district pools is only $2.
  The fireworks show will be held at the Richards High School football field, 106th Street and Central Avenue. Gates will open at 6:00 p.m. Musician Dave Rudolf will take the stage at 8:15 p.m. followed by the fireworks display.
  The chance to see skyrockets, Roman candles and grand finales won’t end on Independence Day weekend.
  Palos Hills’ pyrotechnics display will be held on the final day of Friendship Fest, the village’s annual community celebration. The fest will run from July 10-13 at 107th Street and 88th Avenue.
  Fest hours are 6-10:30 p.m. July 10, 6 p.m.-midnight July 11, noon-midnight July 12 and 1-10:30 p.m. July 13. For more information, visit
  Two weeks later, a fireworks show will put an exclamation point on the Ridge Fest celebration, Chicago Ridge’s annual fest. The fest will be held July 24-27 at Freedom Park, Birmingham and Oak avenues.
  Fest hours are 5:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, 3-11:30 p.m. Saturday and 2-10:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 on Thursday and Sunday, $10 on Friday and $12 on Saturday. Residents with an ID will be admitted free on Sunday. For information, visit
  Worth will also host a fireworks show on the last day of Worth Days, which will be held Aug. 21-24 at 11500 S Beloit Ave. This year’s festival will celebrate the village’s 100th anniversary.
  Worth Days kicks off with the opening of the carnival from 6-10 p.m. on Aug. 21. The fest continues from 6 p.m.-midnight Aug. 22, noon-midnight Aug. 23 and 1-10:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

  Worth Days also will include a parade, live entertainment, car show, business expo and children’s activities. For information, visit

Chicago Ridge firemen burning after chief is forced to resign

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The resignation last week of Chicago Ridge Fire PAGE-1-1-col-inset-leftInset photos by Jeff Vorva There have been verbal and written fireworks between Chicago Ridge firemen and Mayor Chuck Tokar and the board of trustees. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Chief Robert Muszynski is the latest salvo in a heightening conflict between village officials and the fire department.

Muszynski resigned citing personal difference with the village’s elected officials.
Mayor Chuck Tokar confirmed that he asked for Muszynski’s resignation.
“Obviously, it’s a mayoral appointment. So I pretty much had to be the bearer of bad tidings and ask him to submit his resignation,” Tokar said Tuesday.
Firefighters are livid and are campaigning for Tokar to rehire Muszynski.
Posts on the union’s Facebook page were critical of Tokar and the administration and is asking for Chicago Ridge residents to urge officials to bring him back.
“Call the village hall and tell your mayor and trustees to bring back Chief Muszynski. He was a great chief and person. He didn’t deserve to lose his job or forced to retire. He was great with the guys at the firehouse and loved by many residents. This is just not right,” one poster wrote.
“Total hypocrisy. It seems these ‘men’ are on the ‘do as we say, not as we do’ plan. Sounds like a certain mayor can’t play fair and honor the contracts, so pan his firemen off to another village. I’d love to see him go through the rigorous training and drills you all had to in order to get your firefighter and medic licenses and degrees, then do your jobs,” another poster commented.
Muszynski, who took over as chief in early 2011, supported the hiring of an additional seven or eight firefighters/paramedics who would be based at the fire station at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said.
That station currently is used for training and to store equipment, the mayor said.
However, some residents have asked the village to consider having a second ambulance and possibility a fire truck at that station, which would reduce the response time to a large number of homes in the village.
The village’s main fire station is located in an industrial park and is not located near much of the village’s residential area.
Tokar said the village cannot absorb the costs of staffing a second station.
“We can’t afford to have a 50 percent increase in our staffing,” the mayor said.
Tokar, who was elected April, 2013, said he has explored “other options” for fire protection in the village, including obtaining services from a fire protection district or another community, such as Oak Lawn.
Worth, which previously had its own fire department, signed a contract with the North Palos Fire Protection District a few years ago.
“I think that was a good move for Worth,” Tokar said.
Whatever decision the village makes, Tokar said he does not intend to “disband or dissolve” the fire department, which currently has 13 full-time firefighter/paramedics, the mayor said.
Muszynski’s resignation comes after two letters were distributed to Chicago Ridge residents in June.
The first letter was written by Chicago Ridge Professional Firefighters Local 3098 expressing concern over the village’s decision to seek alternative methods for fire protection and emergency medical services.
The letter also spoke favorably of in-house fire and emergency medical services.
“It works better,” the letter said. “A private ambulance could be coming to your house from as far as Frankfort. The fire department is always here.”
The letter pointed out that nearby communities such as Hometown, Midlothian and Crestwood no long use private ambulance services and resumed their own services “because they work better.”
“Why then is the village of Chicago Ridge contemplating taking a step backwards when the rest of the world is moving on to what works better?” the letter asked.
The union admitted that there are upsides to a fire protection district, but “all facets of a potential merger must be examined.”
“The mayor states that he wants the ‘highest quality services’ and the ‘fastest response times possible.’ We assert that he already has them. The current staff knows the town, the residents and the streets, and we pride ourselves on our ability to mitigate every emergency with the professionalism you have come to expect from your fire department.”
Village officials fired back with a letter of their own that was sent to residents as well as in a letter-to-the-editor at the Reporter, which was published June 26.
The village’s said the union’s letter “contains misrepresentations of fact in an attempt to cause fear.”
It said Tokar was directed by trustees to “investigate and report to the board cost-saving measures that might save our taxpayers money while increasing the level of fire and ambulance service.”
Dissolving the fire department and contracting with a private ambulance service are not under consideration, the letter said.
The village’s letter also pointed out that village and the union are in the midst of contract negotiations and noted that none of the Chicago Ridge firefighters live in Chicago Ridge.
“By looking into how other towns operate, where our firefighters themselves live, we may discover better, more cost-effective ways to operate,” the letter said.

A royal scam: Palos Hills native duped by so called Prince Harry reality show

  • Written by Declan Harty

Palos Hills almost had its first member of the royal family, well kind of.
If the star of FOX’s dating show, “I Wanna Marry Harry,” Matt Hicks, was actually Prince Harry, and if Palos Hills native Karina Kennedy had won, then the community would have had its first member of England’s royal family.
Well, kind of.
In a confusing turn of events, Kennedy finished as the runner-up on the reality series, which was cancelled in early June, with the remaining four episodes airing on Hulu, and Fox OnDemand.
And since it wasn’t really Prince Harry, and it was one big prank, she lost some time but gained national television exposure.
Kennedy, who lives in Chicago and works as a physical therapist in Evergreen Park, declined to comment to the Reporter because the show had been cancelled.
But when the show was being filmed, she was quoted on the program saying “Growing up watching dating shows, I never considered it but I thought ‘If I’m joining to go on a dating show, this is the one …it would be respectful.”’
The Stagg graduate, who played water polo and was named to the all-sectional team in 2005 and 2006, made an impression on the show.
The website TWC Central called her “easygoing” and “popular.” She told the faux Harry that she used to date a European soccer player.
Kennedy lost out to Long Island’s Kimbery Birch, who is still dating the fake Harry.
“The lengths that they went to get us girls into the mindset that we could be dating the prince was brilliant,” Birch told the New York Post. “But when we would spend time together, I noticed how normal and down-to-earth he was. For me, it became harder and harder to believe he was actually [Prince Harry].’’
The show was filmed last summer across the pond in various locations in England, and it was the travel that enticed Kennedy into joining the show.
“That’s kind of how they hooked me: the traveling,” Kennedy told the Sun-Times in May in a rare interview. “He was just so charming, you trusted him,” she said.
Kennedy competed against 11 other American girls for the heart of who they believed to be Prince Harry. The imposter, Hicks, describes himself on his Twitter page as, “just an average ‘bloke’” and has been getting compared to Prince Harry in terms of his looks since he was in his youth, according to an interview with
Kennedy told the Sun-Times she expressed fear of being judged because she was on a reality show and believing that Hicks was Prince Harry. Kennedy said that she had just finished grad school, and it was the real opportunity to travel that drew her to the show.
“I had no money and really wanted to go around the world. This sounded like a great opportunity to celebrate getting my doctorate,” Kennedy said. “It was too good to be true.”

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Are you (POW) ready (KICK) for some (OUCH) football?



Jeffs Col ImpressionsFor some, it’s never too early to get geeked up for football.
In this area, high school football enjoyed a special season last year, which included Richards taking second in the state in Class 6A.
So even though the 7-on-7 summer leagues have not even peaked yet, it’s still fun to think about the start of the 2014 season, which begins Aug. 29.
Some of the schedules have leaked out and it looks like Richards’ first non-conference opponent that night in Oak Lawn will be interesting. The Bulldogs face Indianapolis Arsenal Tech.
The name alone is fun. The intrigue of whether this team is any good or not is also interesting to ponder because we have no idea of the competition that team plays. Richards could win 55-0, could play in in a nailbiter or get waxed. You never know.
What we do know is this…Arsenal Tech PAGE-3-richards-with-JV-COLSenior-to-be Ryan Willett of Richards is shown running in the state championship game last season. In the first week of 2014, Richards will host a team out of Indianapolis that was involved in a rare double forfeit. Photo by Jeff Vorva.and its fans seem to be an edgy bunch.
Last September, Tech and Fort Wayne South Side High School played to a rare double forfeit.
The Fort Wayne News Sentinel reported that a South Side player laid a late hit on a Tech player in the third quarter and a melee ensued.
Both benches emptied. Fans came out of the stands to join in on the action and just when cooler heads started to prevail…well…a couple of assistant coaches started to fight and the riot was back on in full swing.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association levied a bunch of suspensions and coaches and players all had to attend sportsmanship classes before they would be allowed to compete in postseason play.
The two assistant coaches who duked it out when things were dying down were suspended for the rest of the season.
Come Aug. 29, I really don’t expect Gary Korhonen Field to turn into a war zone. I’m guessing players, coaches and fans from the Indianapolis school have learned some lessons.
But to quote the old sarge on “Hill Street Blues”, let’s be careful out there.

Some NU websites
While researching information on Bob Bielarz, a victim of a boating accident on the Cal-Sag Channel, my eyes have been opened to some new websites.
Bielarz played guitar for No One, a NU Metal group from Chicago.
So while looking up information on the man known in the business as B-Larz, I was able to find a website called, which is a funny name for a site that specializes in metal music.
Then there was a guy with his own blog named Chris Harris who calls himself the Gunshy Assassin. His motto is “More metal than your mama’s kettle” which made me laugh out loud.