Area mayors irked with Rauner's budget plans

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Page-1-raunerThe welcome mat is out in Oak Lawn for Gov. Bruce Rauner.


But the fight may be on against him in Palos Hills.


Some interesting reactions came from local mayors last week follwing Rauner's budget address last Wednesday.


“I would like to invite him to Oak Lawn anytime,” Mayor Sandra Bury said last week in reaction to Rauner’s proposed 50 percent cutback in towns’ annual share of state income tax revenue.


She thinks he should see her town as it would serve as a model for him to check out.


Bury would like to open the village’s books to the newly-elected governor and explain that Oak Lawn and other communities throughout the southwest suburbs cannot afford such a significant revenue hit.


She’d also like to point out that Oak Lawn—like most other towns—does not have cash reserves on hand for a rainy day.


If approved, Rauner’s cuts would mean an estimated $2.7 million annual revenue loss for Oak Lawn, Bury said. It’s a figure the mayor has a tough time grasping. Indeed, the village would have few options to make up the loss.


“You either layoff or raise taxes. It’s wrong,” Bury said.


At a time when Oak Lawn and other communities are already making budget cuts to fully fund employee pensions, a significant revenue reduction from the state is the last thing they need, Bury said.


The mayor said she was caught off guard by Rauner’s proposed cut, which he outlined during his budget address last Wednesday to a joint session of the General Assembly.


During his campaign, Bury said, Rauner met with area mayors and said he wanted to work with them after the election.


“We were optimistic,” she said.


She said she’s hopeful that the governor’s proposal “starts a conversation.”


“I have hope, but it’s pretty depressing,” she said.


Bury is not alone in her displeasure with Rauner’s plan. Other mayors in the Reporter’s coverage area expressed dismay at the plan. Five of the six mayors responded to interview requests however Worth Mayor Mary Werner did not return numerous requests for comment.


“I hope he doesn’t fix (the state’s financial problems) on the back of local governments,” said Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton. “We can’t afford to pay other people’s bills.”


Sexton added that the state could take a lesson from his community, which keeps a close eye on revenues and expenditures.


“We watch every dime. Maybe others should do the same,” Sexton said. “We pay our bills year to year.”


Evergreen Park could lose approximately $500,000 annually if Rauner’s proposal becomes a reality.


Palos Hills Mayor Mayor Gerry Bennett said the proposal is unnecessary.


“All they’re doing is putting (the burden) on the backs of local residents,” said Bennett, president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors. “They’re going to bankrupt local governments.”


Palos Hills and other communities such as neighboring Hickory Hills already operate with fewer employees in key departments such as public works than they did just a few years ago, Bennett said.


Additional reductions in manpower would make it extremely difficult to provide basic services to residents. Additionally, towns would have a tough time avoiding cuts to the public safety, he said.


“It will bankrupt us. The fight is on, I guess,” Bennett said.


Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley agreed.


His city has relies on the utility tax to help balance the annual budget. The city has put off capital improvement projects such as street and sewer work to help make ends meet.


“That’s problematic,” Howley said. “We still have to provide city services.”


He said he’s hopeful that Rauner’s proposal is just a starting point in budget negotiations—a sentiment put forth by area legislators as well.


“I guess you have to start someplace, and this number got everyone’s attention,” Howley said


Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar echoed the feelings of his mayoral colleagues.


“That’s a big chunk of change,” Tokar said. “I wasn’t expecting (Rauner) to say that. I can’t replace $600,000, $700,000.”


Tokar admitted that that his town is fortunate to draw sales taxes from a regional shopping mall, but that revenue stream would never replace the state’s money, he said.


At least one local elected official said he agreed with Rauner’s plan.


“I would say there’s always room for cuts,” said Palos Hills Ald. Al Pasek.


He added that smaller communities should consider merging if they can no longer go it alone. But mayor and many aldermen would never back such a plan, Pasek said.


“I think it these little dynasties that don’t want to get broken up,” he said


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: iPhone and apps make me go gaga over radio

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

Note: I have PLENTY of thoughts about the Jackie Robinson West story and shared some with you weeks ago in a front page column on Evergreeen Park coach Chris Janes that I did. Since Bob Rakow and Ray Hanania are writing about the issue on Page 6, I will run this column, which I had in the hopper for a few weeks, that is not close to being as relevant as the Robinson columns, but hopefully a nice diversion:

Thanks to my iPhone, I have become a radio geek.

I’ve always kind of liked radio anyway and always got a kick out of hearing different radio stations whenever I would travel to other areas.

But now it’s getting out of hand.

Thanks to my iPhone and several free apps, including TuneIn Radio, RadiOn various specialty stations from Mad Calf Apps and about four or five others, I can get stations from all over the world.

Over the past year or so, I’ve listened to Venice Classic Radio Italia, GrrrRadio1, Gabba Gabba Radio (All Ramones All the Time), KROQ out of California and even a channel that has Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park police calls.

On Thanksgiving morning, I peeled potatoes to the programming of a station in Dublin and when I was tired of that, I switched to a station in Switzerland that played a bunch of cool new wave 80s songs.

Before football season started, I loaded up on stations in Illinois that covered high school football. There are not a lot of stations in the Chicago area that cover high school sports but once you get to the other side of I-80, look out. Many of them have announcers who are abysmal or boring. But there are times when I landed on a game featuring two teams I never gave any thought to and stayed on it for a while because the announcers were interesting, told a few stories and had a nice pace to the call of the game.

TuneIn Radio also breaks down sporting events such as college basketball, so that you just hit a button and you could listen to a University of Kentucky game or a Kent State-Central Michigan battle. While listening to mid-Division I basketball may not sound like a ton of fun, every once in a while I’ll hear the name of a plyer or two whom I covered when they played high school ball here.

A few weeks ago, I listened to WCBS in New York – the Big Apple’s version of WBBM-AM in Chicago. On a Monday night, I drove home from work and worried announcers were warning that streets and subway stations were closing throughout NYC in anticipation of the worst snowstorm in the city’s history.

The next morning, I drove to work listening to relieved announcers talking about how the storm missed Gotham and played sound bites of people griping about how the city shouldn’t have been shut down and from city and state bosses saying they did the right thing with the information they had at the time.

Good stuff.

There is also a station from France – Jolio’s Party Radio.

One of the things I dislike about oldies radio stations is they play the most popular tunes of the decade and it gets a bit boring.

This Jolio station plays not only obscure songs from the 50s but obscure artists tearing through rockabilly, jump-, western swing, doo wop and surf music.

 I thought I knew a bunch of seldom-heard artists but just last week, the DJ on this station strung together  Jackie Lee, Benny Joy, the Maddox, the Chimes, Hardrock Gunter, Jimmy Crain, Katmen,  Tibby Edwards and Ray Melton before they got to someone I heard of – Warren Smith. I know Smith for “Ubangi Stomp” but Jolio played “So Long, I’m Gone,” which I wasn’t really familiar with.

That’s a lot of “who’s that?” right there. A few songs later, the station returned to Hardrock Gunter and this song was called “The Right Key But the Wrong Key Hole” which I’m sure was pretty provocative back in the day.

So thanks to those geeks who are making technology what it is today, it’s helped turn me into a real radio geek.

EP coach laughs off comparison to Steve Bartman but heard serious threats against him after JRW decision

  • Written by Bob Rakow

PAGE-1-JANESSocial media has taken its fair share of jabs at Chris Janes, including one that compared him to infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman.


“I almost fell out of my chair laughing,” Janes said of the comparison between him and Bartman, who reached for and deflected a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou had leapt for and appeared ready to catch during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.


Bartman was ushered from the Wrigley Field stands by security guards as angry Cubs fans showered him with insults and vulgarities. He was placed under police protection for a time when his name and address were made public on Major League Baseball message boards.


Of course, a comparison to Bartman is mild compared to some of the criticisms lobbed at Janes, vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association, who filed the initial complaints that ultimately led Little League International to strip Jackie Robinson West of its title.


Janes has been branded a racist and, like Bartman, required police protection at his home after receiving death threats and other intimidating phone calls minutes after JRW was stripped of its title on Feb. 11. Others accused him of sour grapes because JRW defeated the Evergreen Park team 43-2 in four innings.


Janes has not returned to work after his employer decided his presence might present a safety threat.


“They’ve been super supportive,” Janes said of his employer.


Bartman has eluded the public eye in the years since the incident at Wrigley Field. Janes, on the other hand, has fulfilled countless requests for interviews and has not been shaken despite criticism from leaders of the black community, including Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Michael Pfleger among others.


“It just got really convenient to point the finger this way,” Janes said. “It’s deflection.”


Little League International’s decision to strip JRW of its title was not the result of his initial compliant, Janes insists.


In fact, Little League officials initially ruled they were confident that JRW had met residency requirements and considered the issue closed. But in early February, officials met in Chicago with presidents from JRW’s sister leagues.


At that meeting, presidents from the South Side, Rosemoor and Roseland league said they did not approve any changes made to Jackie Robinson West’s 2014 boundaries that infringed on their territory, DNAinfo reported.

“Those guys are hiding in the shadows. They are really in a tough spot,” Janes said, adding that presidents of the sister leagues likely did not want to blow the whistle on JRW’s World Series run even though they were aware of JRW misdeeds.

“It would have been a lot more convenient for me if they’d done this sooner,” Janes kidded about the other league presidents.

Janes said the vicious remarks and accusations aimed his way have been limited to social media. Conversely, friends, neighbors and members of the Evergreen Park community “have been supportive,” he said.


He added that his children have not taken any grief for his decision.


“Kids are talking about it, but nobody has been abusive,” Janes said.


Janes may forever be connected with the Little League International investigation that led to stripping the Jackie Robinson West Little League team of its national title, but he seems at ease with that association.


“This is in line with our league’s core values,” he said.


In recent days, JRW officials have hired lawyers to investigate the decision to revoke the team's national championship.

"We are going to take our time, we are going to learn the facts," attorney Victor Henderson said last week at a news conference. "There is no talk of a lawsuit. There is not enough information yet."

"Until we know that the process for attacking the title was fair, aboveboard, transparent ... the story isn't over yet."


CR's Lombard Ave. fire station could be open in March

  • Written by Bob Rakow

PAGE-3-firehouseBy Bob Rakow

Staff Reporter


Chicago Ridge’s long-shuttered Lombard Avenue fire station is expected to reopen by the end of March.


Fire Chief George Sheets told trustees Tuesday night that significant progress is being made on the rehabilitation of the firehouse, 10658 Lombard Ave.


New interior doors have been installed, and a vehicle exhaust system will be added to the station as well. The system allows fire apparatus to run inside the station while exhaust fumes are directed outside.


The system as well as new furniture was paid for by a $20,000 donation made by the firefighters union.


“I can’t wait to cut that ribbon,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar, who asked Sheets if the station would be ready for a March 21 grand opening.


“Things are moving very well. It’s absolutely looking fantastic,” Sheets said. “I think we can open up by that date.”


Sheets added that fire department lieutenants are interviewing applicants for the part-time positions that will help staff the Lombard station.


The lieutenants will make hiring recommendations to Sheets, who will make the final staffing decisions.


“We have received a number of applications,” Sheets said.


Plans call for the station to be staffed at all times by two full-time firefighter/paramedics along with a yet to be determined number of part timers, who also must be certified as paramedics, Sheets said.


A fire engine currently housed at Station 2, 10063 Virginia Ave., will move to the Lombard station, and a newly purchased quintuple combination pumper, or quint, will be based out of Station 2, Sheets said.


The quint is expected to arrive in Chicago Ridge on March 15 before being sent to St. Joseph, Ind., where it will be striped and have department logos and numerals affixed. It will return to the village in late March ready for service, Sheets said.


Re-opening the Lombard Station has been a goal of Tokar’s, who maintained that a second fire station would improve fire and ambulance response times for a large section of the village east of Ridgeland Avenue.


Additionally, he said, residents would benefit from a Chicago Ridge-based paramedic services, which are free.


The final hurdle for reopening station was cleared in January when the village and firefighters union approved an agreement to add part-time firefighters to the department—a move the union opposed last year during contract negotiations.

EP gives golf law a mulligan

  • Written by Bob Rakow

It’s no longer illegal to work on your golf game at Evergreen Park’s golf range.


Golf is a actually legal there, now.


Village trustees on Monday amended an ordinance that prohibited playing golf on public property. There was a wrinkle in previous laws on the books.


“Technically, golfers would be breaking the law,” Mayor James Sexton said.


Not that anyone was taken off the range in cuffs for hitting some long drives, but the village's bosses wanted to clear up the language and make sure people knew that duffers are allowed to swing away without fear of running afoul of the law.


The golf range at the village’s 50-acre park, 91st Street and Rockwell Avenue, will enter its third season when snow and cold eventually give way to warmer temperatures.


“Everything is dependent on the weather,” said Dennis Duffy, the village’s director of recreation.


Duffy expects a late April opening, and the range will remain open until the end of September.


Hours are 3 to 9 p.m. early on and the range will open at noon during the summer months, Duffy said.


The range has 25 tees. A small bucket of balls costs $4 while a large bucket costs $8. The cost is about $1 cheaper than ranges in surrounding communities because the facility does not offer a grass surface from which to shoot.


Space restrictions prevented the range from having a putting green, but Duffy said he’s looking into offering lessons this season.


“I’m going to investigate that,” he said.


The range was built on the north end of the park, which was previously Evergreen Country Club.


The park also features a dog park, urban garden, field house and 18-hole disc golf course. In recent weeks, its sledding hill has been the most popular feature.