Facebook birthday wishers help bring back Lincs to the past

  • Written by Bob Rakow

It started with Lori-Cremins Bailey and ended with Brett Roseman. In between, 31 others took a minute out of their busy day to do it.


I turned 50 years old last week and 33 Facebook friends offered birthday wishes via the social networking site. I’m grateful for the good wishes, but, more importantly, I enjoyed the walk down memory lane the birthday intentions provided.


Take Roseman, for example. He’s a former SouthtownStar guy, a fine photographer whose career at the paper ended when Sun-Times Media let go of all its photographers. I got to know Brett over the years when he and I would show up at the same assignments. He’s like me—loves to chat, tell a story. I miss guys like Brett—good to know he landed on his feet and is still in the industry in Wisconsin, last I heard.


But Roseman was not the only former SouthtownStar photographer to wish me a great day. Mary Compton did so as well. I still see Mary from time to time. She’s still taking great photos and is a solid writer to boot. Mary’s the kind of person you can talk with about practically anything. She’s interesting and engaging.


Speaking of the SouthtownStar, former editor John O’Brien checked in with a “Happy Birthday.” JOB was a tough SOB but a good editor and a good guy. John assigned me plenty of stories over the years when I freelanced at the SouthtownStar.


He worked out a deal whereby I took on the night reporter duties after the full-time guy moved on and there were no plans to replace him. “I got a business proposition for you,” O’Brien told me one afternoon in 2009. The timing was perfect and it was good gig, getting to cover breaking news or the most controversial municipal or school board meetings each night. Yeah, I had to drive to Crete a few times, but John’s not the kind of guy who wants to hear you whine and complain.


Not all the birthday wishes were sent from former SouthtownStar folks. Indeed, Donna Vickroy, a current writer and columnist at the paper, was nice enough to send some birthday wishes my way. Genuine is as good a way as I know to describe Donna. No ego, no pretense.


I remember standing with Donna in the freezing cold outside Christ Medical Center the night Chicago Fire Capt. Herbie Johnson died in a house fire. We both were covering the story, and reporters are not allowed to wait inside the hospital emergency room. Damn cold, but a good memory.


Jim Hook asked me where the time has gone. Hook, who handles communications for North Palos School District 117, also is former Southtowner and once worked at the Regional News, the Reporter’s sister paper.


Now I do feel old. We’ve long compared notes on the journalism biz as well as our families. Few people like to brag about their kids more than Hook. He’s a genuine guy, and his birthday wishes reminded that I really should touch base with him more often. Maybe we will. I saw Jim last week and agreed to have lunch. We have to follow through with those plans one of these times.


Kim Patton chimed in. Kim’s a St. Thomas More girl, who years later used Facebook to bring members of the Class of 1978 together. She also one of the toughest people I know, having beaten breast cancer a few years ago. My daughter and I walked with Patton’s Army in the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk to support Kim and her family.


Bob Gath wished me happy birthday. I wrote last week about being a big Notre Dame fan. I am stoic spectator compared to him. The former Simmons Middle School English teacher is a crazed fan. He’s the guy who took me to my first game and introduced me to all the traditions of game day. He’s also a fellow Cubs fan and a good friend. He’s the first person I texted last week when a terrible call robbed Notre Dame of a victory over Florida State.


Patricia Kosar checked in. Pat sat next me to me when we worked for Press Publications in the Bloomingdale office. I covered Bloomingdale, she covered Glendale Heights. That was 20-plus years ago. Time flies. A lot of good people worked in that office, including sports reporter Linc Wonham, who also took a moment to offer birthday wishes.


William Wagner was the lone happy birthday voice from my first newspaper gig at Des Plaines Publishing. I think of Wagner and I think of the 1989 Cubs. He’s a huge fan and during our weekly productions days that year, we’d listen to the games on the radio. The Cubs won 93 games that year. Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, Greg Maddux, Jerome Walton. What a time. Until they lost to the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs. Still, Wagner, who later wrote a book about the Cubs, was the most passionate fan I knew.


I could mention others, but space does not allow. My SouthtownStar competition, Steve Metsch, telephoned me with his best regards. And, our sales rep, Val Draus, brought cupcakes into the office. Thanks, Val.


From time to time, I’ll hear someone say that birthdays are for kids. Once you become an adult, you should treat it like any other day. Nonsense. It’s a day worth celebrating. Thanks to those helped me do that.

Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: Second hack doesn't cause panic attack

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col ImpressionsMy computer was hacked last week.

I had my laptop here in the office and I heard the click-click-click of three messages in a row and that caused me to look in its direction.

All three were messages that said that the e-mail I just sent was undeliverable.

I didn’t send any e-mail.

And the undeliverable e-mails I supposedly sent went to people who I haven’t even thought of in a long time and their e-mail addressed were no longer valid.

A few more click-click-clicks followed and I figured it out.

Yep. I’ve been hacked again.

Someone got to my computer and was sending out God only knows what kind of junk to the many in my address book.

Then I went back to my work without giving it much thought.

What a difference it was from the first time I was hacked.

I’m guessing it was five or six years ago. I had been doing a lot of work at remote sites, including a McDonald’s in Wheaton twice a week.

One morning, I opened my computer and there were hundreds of emails that I allegedly made during the night that were returned to me. For one day, emails under my good name were being sent all around the globe to saints and sinners alike representing some drug company from Canada that offered all of these wonderful pills that would help put the boing in bedroom gymnastics.

I was floored.

I was embarrassed.

Sure, there was a segment of people that I didn’t care about – friends who would yuk it up and give me a hard time.

But my address book was filled with so many different people. Business acquaintances. Sources in the community such as mayors and school superintendents, trustees and board members. Cops. Parents and teachers at my kids’ schools – a Catholic school nonetheless.  And I’m sure the school’s principal was also on my list and I’m not sure she would appreciate the product I was supposedly selling.

This was bad.

I wasn’t – and I’m still not – smart enough to know how to send a followup e-mail to everyone warning them that I was hacked and it wasn’t me. So, basically for a couple of days I talked to everyone I knew and apologized for the hacked e-mail. Most were understanding. Some said it happened to them. One coach told me “Geez, I thought you trying to tell me something.’’

In the following weeks, months and years, I’ve seen a lot of people on my email list who were hacked sending all kinds of junk to me as well. It’s so common that I don’t give it a second thought.

Also, after a few click-click-clicks, something or someone at AOL sniffed that something was up and shut that process down and made me use a new password. So chances are good that very few people received this hacked e-mail.

One weird aside, one hackmail that bounced back to me said “this email address is no longer accepting incoming mail’ and it was signed by Homewood-Flossmoor Athletic Director Alec Anderson. Anderson died in August, 2013.


Anyway, the bottom line is that I think we are immune to these hacks now but I would like to tell the world if you received an inappropriate e-mail from me – it wasn’t me.

SUBHEAD – Now that’s rare

A football player by the name of Kapri Bibbs was recently brought up off the practice squad an onto the regular Denver Broncos roster.

I knew him when he was a senior at Plainfield North High School.

He did things very few students or athletes could do. He was a rare breed. Every time I heard something about this dude, I would think “Wow, really?”

One night back in 2010, he ran for 520 yards in a game against Oswego. But it wasn’t like he was padding his stats against a tomato can opponent. Both teams were unbeaten and his seven touchdowns made a difference in a 49-43 victory.

He signed up with Colorado State but took a junior college detour.  Then sat out a year and was able to suit up with CSU last year and he ran for 1,741 yards and 31 touchdowns and had the attention of NFL scouts. We was an undrafted free agent at Broncos camp and made the Broncos’ practice squad.

Now he’s on an NFL team.

But despite all of that, that’s not what makes him rare in my eyes.

What made him rare was that back in high school, he was a two sport athlete – football and bowling.

I am sure there are others who have played football and bowled at their schools, but I had not encountered any until I met him. And I first met him in a bowling alley where this big football player was hoisting a ball down the lane. He was carrying a respectable 179 average and told me he had three 300 games in his career.

And he was using a 10-pound ball!

Most male bowlers use 16-pound balls and some guys have made fun of those who use 15-pounds balls over the years and kiddingly called them sissies.

Bibbs was using a ball that kids would use.

But not too many people gave him grief.

A rare breed indeed.

CAPTION – Kapri Bibbs is a rare kid who played football and bowled in high school.


Bill of Wrongs - Local school officials and politicians cry foul over Senate Bill 16

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Well, at least one person had something Page-1-3-or-4-col-crop-tight-No-BackHigh School District 230 President Rick Nogal holds up a copy of the 450-page Senate Bill 16 last week at a special meeting at Conrady Middle School in Hickory Hills. The bill could cut millions of dollars from area schools and was the subject of meetings at Conrady last Wednesday and Sandburg High School last Thursday. Photo by Jeff Vorva.positive to say about Senate Bill 16 at last Wednesday’s forum at Conrady Junior High in Hickory Hills.

“It will not pass in its present form,” state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th) told more than 300 residents gathered in the Conrady gymnasium. “We need to have this discussion and this debate.”
Those were about the only good words uttered about the proposed legislation, which would drastically affect the amount state funding local school districts receive.
Collins was one of the several elected officials and area school board members to attend the forum, which was designed to inform residents about the SB 16. Residents were not given an opportunity to speak. Instead, they submitted questions that were answered at the end of the session. A second forum was held last Thursday at Sandburg High School.
On Wednesday, audience members and school officials were under the impression that Illinois legislators would vote on this in January but Thursday’s audience was told it would be tabled until the spring session.
The purpose of the bill is correct inequities in the state’s funding of public education, but the impact on area school districts would be devastating, opponents said.
“District 230 would lose all of its state funding,” said Rick Nogal, school board president of Consolidated School District 230. “It would be wiped out.”
Thirty-eight percent of the 25,000 students in District 230 and its six feeder districts are low income, Nogal said.
Nogal displayed a copy of the legislation—hundreds of pages in length—during his presentation.
“There’s no logic. There’s no rhyme or reason,” said Nogal, whose district alone would lose $7 million in annual state aid.
The combined hit to budgets for District 230 and its feeder districts is estimated at $23 million, officials said.
The six state legislators who attended the forum expressed opposition to the bill.
“You’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul,” state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th). “That’s what’s happening with this bill.”
“It is not what it’s touted to be,” added state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th).
State representatives Fran Hurley (D-35th) and Mary E. Flowers (D-31) along with state Sen. Michael Hastings (D-19th) also attended the forum and expressed opposition to the SB 16.
Wednesday’s two-hour forum featured a presentation by Robert Grossi, Bloom Township treasurer and president of Crystal Financial Consultants, which provides financial advisory services to school districts throughout the state.
Grossi’s presentation was packed with statistics and graphics that explained how the funding formula proposed in SB 16 would significantly harm many school districts in south suburbs but help other districts, especially those in downstate Illinois.
“We’re struggling. The state is struggling,” said Grossi, who called the legislation “a new crisis to address the existing crisis.”
Taxpayers and educators alike are concerned that proposed state legislation would result not only in the loss of millions of dollars in state aid to local public schools, but lead to cutbacks that include layoffs, and significant local property tax increases.
Debbie Chafee, a Hickory Hills resident and the founder of EDGE Illinois, an advocacy group opposed to the legislation, advised residents to take the legislation seriously.
“It’s a very real bill and could really happen,” said Chafee, the parent of two students in North Palos School District 117.
Chafee urged residents to contact legislators to express their opposition to the bill in a personal way.
“You really have to tell your school district’s story,” Chafee said. “Tell your story because on paper everybody looks the same. It is truly important. Spread the word. Talk to people about it.”
The bill, which passed the Illinois Senate in late May, is expected to be considered by the state House of Representatives as early as January, according to the bill’s opponents—although supporters have scoffed at that and pointed to the spring session of the General Assembly.
The bill’s principal sponsor is state Sen. Andy Manar, a freshman Democrat from Central Illinois elected in 2012, with support from the Illinois Education Association. A teacher by training, Manar is the former chief of staff to Sen. President John Cullerton.
Manar describes SB 16 on his website as “a proposal to streamline the current hodgepodge of funding sources into one funding formula that would account for school districts’ funding needs.”
Several Southwest Suburban schools would suffer losses, including approximately:
• $1.4 million each for Palos School District 118 and Worth School District 127
• $1.9 million for Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123
• $1.6 million for Alsip-Hazelgreen-Oak Lawn School District 126
• $839,000 for Oak Lawn Community High School District 229
• $839,000 for Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124
• $364,000 for Atwood Heights School District 125
• $330,000 for Chicago Ridge School District 127-S
• $312,000 for Evergreen Park Community High School District 231
High School District 218 would see an annual gain of about $934,000 in state aid under the proposed re-formulation, but Palos Heights School District 128 would lose about $574,000.

Bill of wrongs

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Taxpayers receive ‘breathing room’ after announcement at Sandburg

Taxpayers who came to Sandburg High School Page-1-color-with-Bill-of-Wrongs-storycolor page1 4cols SB16townhall 103014District 230 Superintendent James Gay addresses the crowd at Sandburg High School Thursday night. Photo by Tim Hadac.ready for a fight last Thursday unclenched their fists a bit after hearing that proposed legislation that would strip millions of dollars from local schools will not be considered by the Illinois House of Representatives until next spring.

The announcement, made by Orland School District 135 Board President Joseph S. La Margo, was heard by more than 200 parents and others at a town hall meeting regarding the impacts of Senate Bill 16, the School Funding Reform Act of 2014.
The event was hosted by School District 230 and included officials, parents and others from school districts 117, 118, 127, 135, 140, 146, and 230.
The proposed state legislation, passed by the State Senate in May but not yet considered by the House, may result in the loss of millions of dollars in state aid to local public schools, cutbacks that include layoffs, and significant local property tax increases—all in the name of fairness and re-distributing middle-class tax dollars to impoverished school districts.
Those who oppose SB 16 have expressed fears in recent weeks that the bill’s supporters would try to slip the measure through the House in the lame-duck, veto session in January.
“This is encouraging news,” said Palos Park resident David Baumgarten, whose grandchildren attend District 118 schools. “The politicians pushed us, and we pushed back. We were afraid that the Democrats would play dirty and ram it through in January, but now it looks like we have some breathing room with this bill, time to right this wrong.”
La Margo called the tabling of the House bill good news, but added a note of caution.
“Until this bill is completely killed, we will continue to inform our communities of its financial impact to our districts,” La Margo said from the lectern. “We cannot presume that any changes or modifications will be made [before it is considered in the spring].”
After the meeting, La Margo warned against complacency.
“It’s always a concern that people are going to lay off a bit and assume that [the proposed legislation] will go by the wayside, but then the [proponents] may try to sneak it through, so we have to keep an eye on this,” he noted. “It’s important for all of us to stay on our legislators to make sure they stand with us in opposing this.”
La Margo, the father of three—and soon to be four--children in local public schools, added that if SB 16 were passed in its current form, the financially healthy district will have exhausted its financial reserves and be “out of money” within three to five years—assuming it does not cut services or lay off staff.
Parents at the event were clear and not shy about their opposition to SB 16.
“I have a huge stake in this,” said Orland Park resident Tracy Pelini, president of the District 135 Parents For Education (PFE) organization and a mother of four children enrolled in district schools—a seventh grader the three fourth graders. “I’m a taxpayer, I own a home here in town, and I want the taxes I pay—which are substantial—to go to my children’s education. My husband and I work very hard for the house own and the life that we have.
“We moved to Orland Park specifically because of the high quality of education, and I don’t want to see anything happen to that,” she added. “I absolutely agree that all children deserve a good education, without a doubt, but I think our legislators need to come up with a better way to fund education. What they’re proposing with this bill is not the way to do it. You cannot take from some to give to others.”
PFE members staffed two tables at the event, urging people to sign a petition against SB 16. By the time the two-hour event ended, volunteers had boosted their cumulative total to about 1,000 signatures. Those who have not yet signed but want to are encouraged to visit and conduct an “Orland” search of the website.
Keynote speaker at Thursday’s meeting was Robert Grossi, Bloom Township treasurer and president of Crystal Financial Consultants, which provides financial advisory services to school districts throughout the state. A number of elected officials, school board members, school administrators and others were on hand to express their concern about the proposed legislation.
Grossi told the audience that if SB 16 is passed in its current form, the Southwest Suburbs will be negatively affected “more than any other area in the state.”
He added that a robust economic recovery would essentially solve the current school funding dilemma, but that with the state’s loss of population and jobs, he remains “skeptical about the future of education funding in Illinois.”
Pulling in the loudest applause of the evening was Hickory Hills resident Debbie Chaffee, a home-based business analyst an project manager, as well as mother of two children attending schools in the North Palos District 117.
Chaffee has been the lead organizer of a grassroots effort to stop SB 16. Via her website,, she has attracted statewide attention and helped muster parents, school officials and others.

Two takes on burglary stats in Oak Lawn

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Sports analysts like to go “inside the numbers” to support a point and so does Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen.


“Let’s talk facts. The facts are, we do not have a rising crime rate in Oak Lawn,” Deetjen said.


And the village manager seemingly has the number to support his contention.


There were 112 burglaries in the village in 2013 compared to 96 through September 2014, Deetjen said. The numbers are comparable to 2000, when the village experienced 101 burglaries, he said.


Deetjen finds himself discussing crime statistics following Trustee Robert Streit’s recent remarks regarding the number of burglaries in Oak Lawn during September.


Streit said at the Oct. 14 village board meeting that his review of police reports indicated that there were 25 burglaries during a 28-day period last month.


He believes an increase in patrol officers is an “obvious solution” to the problem.


“Every day more than 30 percent of the police force that is on duty is not on patrol,” Streit said.


He suggested rotating into the patrol roster police officers from other divisions, such as investigations. He added that the officers would welcome the opportunity to go on patrol, and the regular patrol officers would appreciate the support.


“I believe this would go a long way toward making our community safer,” Streit said. “To me, it makes common sense.”


Deetjen does not support the idea, saying non-patrol officers are committed to other responsibilities.


“It’s a subject to talk about, sure,” Deetjen said. “I think our patrol officers do an excellent job. There is no spike (in crime). We don’t have a spike.”


Deetjen also said that while Streit portrayed September as a high-crime month, he failed to mention that “the vast majority (of burglaries) were in garages.”


Additionally, he said, police recently arrested a man they believe responsible for several garage burglaries.


Deetjen said taking a snapshot of a single month’s crime activity is not the appropriate way to measure it. Rather, he said, the village relies on the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report.


But Streit said the number of burglaries is not important.


“Larry misses the point,” Streit said. “It’s really not about is my number right, is Larry’s number right. People don’t feel safer.”


He added that a string of burglaries—home, car or business—indicates that criminals do not fear operating in the village because the police presence is not sufficient.


“I think it would be a huge mistake to dismiss the increase in burglaries,” Streit said.