Thankful to be able to write this Thanksgiving column

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Sometimes an idea for this column comes easy. Sometimes I struggle to come up with an idea.


There are weeks—like last week—when I realize how much I’m annoyed by the way local TV news stations exaggerate the first signs of winter weather, and a column is a breeze.


Thankfully, most weeks bring forth some idea or another. I believe some columns are stronger than others, but hope you enjoy them all.


I’m grateful for the opportunity to write The B-Side. And even though I promised myself I’d pass on the traditional Thanksgiving-themed column (it’s a bit passé) that ‘s what you’re getting this week. Be grateful.


After all, I recently turned 50 and declined to write the standby “I Just Turned 50” column. You don’t care that much, do you? I don’t feel any different, any older.


But when yet another member of my elementary school graduating class died just days after I celebrated that birthday, I realized that I’m slowly but surely heading into that stage of my life when people I know will died with some regularity.


I didn’t pay much attention to the phrase “you have your health” when I was younger, but let’s face it, without good health all the other stuff sort of takes a back seat.


I’m grateful for my parents. Both passed away in the last two years, but the longer they’re gone, I realize what huge influences they were. Former Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann once told me, shortly after my dad died, to continue talking to him. It makes sense.


Oh, how I wanted tell my dad the Cubs hired or Joe Maddon or listen to him scream and swear about the pitiful Bears team, but I’ve got the memories from other years. So thanks to you both.


Naturally, I’m grateful for my wife, Annette. Again, it’s damn tough to explain why. But in an era when even longtime married couples are getting divorced, I know that any fight, any disagreement with my wife will end and be forgotten. No hard feelings, no grudges. We’ve been at this for 23 years. Thanks, Annette.


The kids obviously are next in line. The idea, when they are little, is to teach and guide them. What I didn’t know years ago is how much they’d teach me.


My oldest son, Bob, and I battled for years. I could write columns about our tough times. Now, he calls me every week. We actually talk without either of us feeling awkward. I don’t dare ask him what led to the change. But I am beyond grateful that it happened. 


My younger son, Mike, has had a rough year. I’ll leave it at that. But despite the many challenges he’s faced—most entirely of his own making—he seems to have dusted himself off, learned some valuable lessons and is ready to go forward. Throughout it all, we never lost touch. Ask anyone in the office how many times Mike calls me each day. Too many, especially if I’m busy. But I wouldn’t want the opposite. He wants to tell me stuff, get my advice. Thanks, buddy.


Then there’s Brigid. Fifteen-years-old. My youngest child and only girl. The girl who goes everywhere, does everything with her daddy. Always has. She’s mature, she’s thoughtful and not much like her brothers. A sophomore at Mother McAuley High School, she and her classmates recently chose uniform kilts for their junior and senior years.  Upperclassman, I thought. Two more years and she leaves for college. I’ll save that emotion for another column. I am extremely grateful for my baby girl.


OK, so I got family out of the way. What else to be grateful for?


I can’t forget my close friend, Chuck. He was my best man and I’ve known him for more than 30 years. As recently as last week (though he’s done this hundreds of times over the years) I was steaming about some crappy comment made to me. I’m a bit thin- skinned. Tend to let things fester. Chuck listened and then responded with some remark that had me laughing. He’s done that for years. Thanks, you’ve made some bad situations tolerable.


I’m grateful I can write. Well, at least I think I can write. My entire career (save for some substitute teaching) has been connected to writing and editing. And most of the jobs, this one included, have been pretty enjoyable.


The heat in my car only works when I drive. When I arrive at a red light, I immediately feel cold air. Still, I am grateful for a car when I pass people standing at bus stops or walking through the community. And, I know my car will start every morning. Not everyone has that guarantee when the weather is cold.


I’ve worked jobs that caused me to be tense and anxious on the drive in. I never knew what the day would bring or the boss’ mood. If it was bad, watch out. Not so here at the Reporter. There’s nothing quite like the newsroom atmosphere, and I’m thankful to be working in one. We work hard, laugh a lot and put out a good production every week.


There’s a lot more for which I am thankful for, I am sure. These are what came to mind first. Happy Thanksgiving.



Micetich to be named Worth police chief

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The village stayed in house and selected Deputy Chief Mark Micetich to replace Martin Knolmayer, who retired in October after 28 years with the department.

Meanwhile, the board is also expected to name Charles Kulisek as deputy chief.

Trustee Warren Soldan, who chairs the board’s public safety committee, said trustees discussed both hiring from within the department or interviewing outside candidates.”

“The thinking of the board was, ‘do we go outside or stay in house and see if we have qualified people,” Soldan said.

The village never considered any specific outside candidates, he said.

Micetich is a 22-year veteran of the Worth police department.

He joined the department in 1992 and worked his way through the ranks beginning with a decade in the patrol division, according to the village website.

He was promoted to detective in March 2002 and assigned to both the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force and the South Suburban Major Case Unit.

He later was promoted to sergeant and reassigned to the patrol division where he supervised a shift.

In December 2006, Micetich was promoted to lieutenant and oversaw the patrol operations. He was appointed acting chief of operations in November 2010 and assisted with the reorganization of police department.

Micetich began his law enforcement career in 1988 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, and also worked for the Hometown Police Department.

Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: A Vorva you should know -- Madison Vorva, the 'Great Ape Advocate'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

Once upon a time in the old, old, days before the Internet, I used to play a game in a hotel room.

OK, get your minds out of the gutter – this is innocent.

Any time I would travel, I would find the phone book (remember them?) in the hotel room and see if there was anyone listed by the name of Vorva.

It never happened.

Vorva is not a common name. But I knew there had to be come out there.  It turned out to be impossible to find another one. Maybe they were there but unlisted.

And then came the big I.

The information superhighway.


And yes, there are Vorvas scattered in cyberspace.

At first there was a Michigan politician named Jerry Vorva who seemed to get a lot of love from the Internet. Then a lot of my stories began popping up in newspapers and when I started covering the Cubs, it appeared I was the most famous Vorva on the Internet. Or at least the one who got his name out there the most.

But for a little while, I was King Vorva.

Then this girl scout in Michigan named Madison Vorva burst on the scene a few years ago.

What does a Vorva, girl scout cookies and orangutans have in common?

If you guessed that me eating girl scout cookies gives me the shape of an orangutan, you are not far off the mark, but you are wrong.

Madison started this crusade in which she tried to get the Girl Scout organization to change the oils in their cookies.

See, she figured out in 2007 that the palm oil used can contribute to the “deforestation, destruction of orangutangs’ habitat, climate changes and human rights abuses.” According to a news release put out by Pomona College, which she is attending.  Vorva and fellow scout Rhiannon Tomtishen, won a Bronze Star for their efforts but they also started making news.

Heck, they made the Huffington Post. Even I haven’t gotten that far.

Earlier this year, Kellogg announced a global commitment to use “fully traceable palm oil, produced in a manner that's environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable” when it manufactures its foods – including girl scout cookies.

 “The Girls Scout cookie campaign was really the bridge to Kellogg,” said Vorva in the Poloma  news release. “They’re one of two bakers of Girl Scout cookies. They are also a Michigan company, right in my backyard. Because big corporations like Kellogg use a lot more palm oil than the Girls Scouts, we wanted to influence them as well.

 “We had an in-person meeting [with Kellogg] in April. 2012 and promised to stay in touch. Last August, we delivered over 115,000 petitions to Kellogg's headquarters in partnership with an organization called SumofUs. The petitions asked Kellogg to use their influence to persuade Wilmar - a Singaporean company with whom they have major joint ventures - to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy.

 “Kellogg’s new policy is really the strongest commitment by an American company taking a stand to prevent deforestation for palm oil production because of its traceability guidelines and implementation timeline and it means the portion of Girl Scout Cookies the company bakes will also be deforestation-free. I've been working on this since I was 11 years old, and all of this hard work finally translated into a truly responsible policy. It’s very much a victory!”

In 2009, she was invited to Brookfield Zoo and they dubbed her the “Great Ape Advocate.’’

Vorva was invited to speak at the United Nations’ celebration of International Forests’ Day in March.

She has not even turned 20 and has already made a huge impact to help change the world. I never met her, but I feel like I know a lot about her.

I’m proud she’s a Vorva.

 More comedy from the cowards

We haven’t poked fun at the Cowardly Blog in Oak Lawn for a while because quite frankly their hysterical bleatings were getting boring.

I mean, how many times can you beat the same horses? Yes, we know the mayor is bad and crooked. The city manager is bad and crooked.  Some trustees are bad and crooked. The mayor is bad and crooked. The city manager is bad and crooked. Some trustees are bad and crooked. The mayor is bad and crooked…

And they refuse to put names to the blog, which is still a joke.

But now they hit home and home is going to hit back.

Two weeks ago, we ran public comments made by trustee Tim Desmond (one of those bad and crooked trustees) at the Oak Lawn UFC battle, er, board meeting, criticizing the blog over a brochure on Election Day.

In last week’s paper, we ran a story about an open letter written by trustees Terry Vorderer and Alex Olejniczak (two more of those bad and crooked trustees) took issue with the Cowardly Blog and Bob Rakow did a fine analysis about the situation.

The Cowardly Blog, however, did another anonymous bleating piece and decided to teach us all some journalism lessons.

OK, I’m not too old to learn some new lessons, so I read their suggestion.

The Cowardly Blog’s attorney, Dennis Brennan, was quoted as saying the Reporter and another news source never bothered to call the Cowardly Blog to verify the “outrageous falsehood.”

Uh, Dennis. There is no one to call. Your boys and girls are anonymous. Ghosts.

Oh, and as of Friday afternoon, there was no phone number provided on the Cowardly Blog to call.

Otherwise, barrister, you make a fine argument.


 A belated toast

Belated birthday wishes go out to the guy I referred to as the ageless wonder in a column a few weeks ago.

Anthony Scaranio of Evergreen Park, whom most of his readers know as the Wine Guy, turned 94 on Tuesday. He doesn’t write new columns but his best-of column has aged like a fine wine.

We hope he had a blast celebrating No. 94. Six more years to triple digits!



The Evergreen Park Plaza saga continues

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said at his State of the Village Address last Thursday that he is hoping in the coming weeks a developer will purchase the Plaza, demolish the building and rebuild a lifestyle center with high-end stores but the deal feel through earlier this week.


By Bob Rakow

and Jeff Vorva

Staff Reporters

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton last Thursday hinted that plans for a lifestyle center at the site of the shuttered Plaza are “inching closer” to reality. He brought it up at a State of the Village Address at the village’s Community Center.

But reality hit the mayor and the village hard as Crains Chicago business reported Tuesday that a potential deal with the Tampa-based DeBartelo group collapsed and the foreclosure process has restarted.

It looks like it’s back to square one for the village.

“It's a wide open playing field” right now,” Ben Wineman, principal at Mid-America Real Estate, the Oak Brook-based brokerage selling the Plaza, told Crains.

S.L. Van der Zanden, CEO of Resolutions, a Chicago-based company that's serving as a court-appointed receiver for the mall during the foreclosure process, told Crains the deal fell through.

It appears to be a huge blow for EP.  Last Thursday, Sexton said he was hopeful a deal will be closed before the end of the year.

Of course, the village has been close to sealing the deal on the Plaza before, only to see various obstacles get in the way. Sexton was hopeful this time was for real.

It’s been a long process already and it could get longer to sell and demolish the 730,000-plus square-foot mall.

“It’s like having four molars removed,” Sexton said.

The Plaza closed the doors on the interior mall in May, 2013 after 60 of years of business in the community. It fell into foreclosure in 2011.

A development firm led by former San Francisco 49ers' owner Eddie DeBartolo has plans to demolish the mall and replace it with a more contemporary, $112 million shopping center.

DeBartolo Development LLC planned to build a “lifestyle center” at the 30.2-acre site at 9500 S. Western Ave. But there’s been no update on the proposal for several months.

The Plaza and other recent retail developments were the focal points of Sexton’s annual address, sponsored by the Senior Citizen Council of Evergreen Park. Sexton delivered his remarks before approximately 85 people at the center.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Sexton, who thanked members of the crowd for their continued thoughts and prayers during his ongoing rehabilitation from the effects of West Nile Virus, which he contracted more than two year ago. “I am blessed to be here today.”

Sexton also discussed property taxes and took questions from the audience at the end of the village address, his 13th as mayor.

But there was no was question that the changing face of Evergreen Park was the key to the mayor’s remarks, which lasted about 20 minutes.

“The future of Evergreen Park has never been brighter,” Sexton said, referring to ongoing development on the east side of town, including Menards, Meijer and the soon-to-open Mariano’s.

Mariano’s is scheduled to open the first week of February, and a job fair for Evergreen Park residents on Dec. 4 at Village Hall.

“We’ve got a lot of our local people to put work,” he said.

The mayor added that the new Walgreen’s at the 95th Street and Pulaski Road, serves as much-improved gateway to the western entrance to the village. He added

that the village is working to place a tenant in the former Walgreens site on 95th Street.

“We are a little ways away from that,” Sexton said.

Sexton also referenced Binny’s Beverage Depot, PetSmart, the recently completed addition to Little Company of Mary Hospital as successful additions to the village’s business community. On the food front, Sexton said a Noodles & Company is making its way to town and a Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant will eventually take over the property that housed Snackville Junction.

Sexton said the village has no choice but to welcome large retailers in order to keep property taxes down. But, he said, small, established businesses are “what kept us going.”

Speaking of property taxes, Sexton said the village’s portion of resident’s tax bill is 13 percent, 3 percent less than when he took office.

“We continue to try to lower (the village’s) portion of the tax bill,” he said.


Adult toys no longer ‘in your face’

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Adult toys will no longer be on display at a Spencer’s in Chicago Ridge Mall.
Trustees on Tuesday night unanimously approved an amendment to the village’s ordinance regarding adult book and video stores that would prohibit the practice.
The change to the ordinance will requires stores such as Spencer’s to place adult toys and videos in a section of the store restricted by doors or walls.
“It certainly should address the issue that’s been put before us,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.
That issue was raised two weeks ago when a small group of residents told trustees that Spencer’s had a large number of sex toys displayed on a wall in the rear of the store.
“I was appalled,” resident Elaine Pecenka told trustees. “I don’t think this is funny. It’s there. It’s in your face.”
Pecenka complained that the display was not separated from the rest of the store, making it visible to underage shoppers.
She added that a store employee told her that there are no age restrictions on who can purchase the items. The employee said that girls as young as 12 purchase the adult toys.
Spencer’s appears harmless from the outside, Pecenka said, attracting teenagers with displays of gag gifts, costumes and games. Once in the store, however, children are bound to discover the adult merchandise, she said.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, trustees agreed to delay for two weeks a vote on a special-use permit for property at 103rd Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
Alsip mechanic Walter Lindish has proposed moving his shop from to a shuttered garage located at 10303 S. Ridgeland Ave. adjacent to Penny Lane School.
But while at least two trustees were willing to approve the special-use permit on Tuesday, Tokar asked the board to take additional time to consider the request.
 “I’m still a little bit concerned,” Tokar said, adding that the garage will require a significant amount of upkeep. “I don’t want to see the board rush into this.”
Tokar added that he wanted to visit Lindish’s Alsip shop and encouraged him to put together a detailed improvement plan for the Chicago Ridge location.
Lindish, whose current shop is in an industrial park, said the Chicago Ridge shop is ideally located and offers everything his business needs, including a secure storage lot.
Tokar favored an industrial park location for Lindish’s shop and said he was concerned about cars being parked in front of the business, along Ridgeland Avenue.
“I’m just not sure (the proposed location) is a good idea,” the mayor said, adding that a body shop located 103rd Street and Oxford Avenue frequently has cars stored in front of the business.
Trustee Jack Lind said he favored approving the special-use permit, which was unanimously approved by the planning and zoning commission.
“I don’t have to wait,” Lind said. “I don’t think we should hold it up. What else is going to go in there?”
Trustee Dan Badon also favored the plan but agreed to table the matter for until the next board meeting.