Yes, man, this should be a wild race

  • Written by Bob Rakow


The first jabs have been thrown in what could shape up to be an interesting page-2-1-col--streitStreitif not unpredictable race for trustee in Oak Lawn’s 3rd District.
  A new challenger has stepped forward to take on Trustee Bob Streit, and he’s wasting little time attacking the veteran board member.
  Scott Hollis, a former Chicago city worker, recently threw his hat in the political ring, replacing Pat McGowan, who announced his intentions to run for trustee several months ago.
  “Pat had some work and family issues come up that made running difficult for him, and after we spoke, he suggested I run instead. I gave it a lot of thought, talked to a lot of people, and decided I would do it,” Hollis said.
  Those “people” did not include Mayor Sandra Bury or her supporters on the board, said Hollis, 58, who describes himself as an independent candidate.
  “I plan on sitting down with anyone who wants to” he said, adding that he expect to hold a fundraiser in November.
  Streit has not officially announced his intentions to run for re-election, but he has nearly $15,000 in campaign funds, according to disclosure statements filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
  And, Streit sounds like a politician about to enter campaign mode, as he continues his criticism of Mayor Sandra Bury and rebukes Hollis’ remarks.
Scott-Hollis-Head-ShotHollis “He’s Sandra Bury’s candidate, and Tom Phelan wrote the (campaign) piece,” Streit said. “They had to go all the way to Chicago to come up with a yes man.”
  Phelan, a former Oak Lawn trustee and political opponent of Streit’s, managed Bury’s mayoral campaign.
  Streit narrowly won re-election in 2011, defeating Dan Sordaro by 11 votes, after the challenger was knocked off the ballot and ran a write-in campaign.
  But Streit does not believe his razor-thin margin of victory four years ago is the central motivation for his opponents. Rather, he said, they want to remove an independent voice from the board.
  “I’m not a rubberstamp. I won’t be a rubberstamp,” he said.
  Hollis has lived in Oak Lawn for two years but has gotten to know the community, he said.
  “I have lived in Oak Lawn for a couple of years but spent a lot of time in the village prior to then. My brother owns the Culver’s in Oak Lawn, and I spend about 10-20 hours a week helping him there, including organizing his operation at Fall on the Green,” Hollis said.
  Hollis lived in Chicago’s 15th Ward before moving to Oak Lawn. He said he hasn’t done any campaign work in the 15th Ward since 1991 and will not have campaign help from Chicago.
  Hollis said the village would be better off without Streit on the village board.
  “Bob Streit’s endless attacks are undermining the village board and management and are bad for Oak Lawn and bad for the residents of the 3rd District,” he said in a prepared statement.

You could call it letter perfect

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

 Palos Hills vets and students write 1,500 letters showing an appreciation for Lutz

Nearly a decade has passed since George Lutz retired as PalosGeorge-LutzFormer Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner George Lutz, shown in his World War II days, was scheduled to board an Honor Flight on Wednesday. Lutz is 94 years old. Submitted photo. Hills’ public works commissioner, putting an end to a 25-year career with the city.

 But the man Mayor Gerald Bennett described as a “true professional” is anything but forgotten, even if Lutz now calls Burr Ridge home and health problems have limited his trips back to Palos Hills.

But Palos Hills residents have done him a good turn in recent weeks.
Lutz, 94, was a major topic of conversation during the city council’s committee meeting last Thursday.
The World War II veteran was scheduled to take part in Honor Flight Chicago’s trip to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to view the monuments and memorials in the nation’s capital.
The free, all-day trip was scheduled to conclude at Midway Airport with plenty of fanfare as veterans are traditionally welcomed home by their family, military personnel, boy scouts and members of motorcycle clubs for a special reception.
Perhaps more special than seeing the memorials and the homecoming ceremony is what occurs on the trip back to the airport. Shortly after take-off, veterans are surprised with a bag filled with letters from family, friends, fellow soldiers and students thanking them for their service.
A great majority of those letters come from Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, and that – in Lutz’s case – poses a problem.
Lutz, who held the rank of major in the United States Army Air Corps, never joined either of those organizations, and he has outlived most of his fellow comrades. Fearing his father may have but a handful of letters to open during the mail call, Charles Lutz contacted his dad’s former employer to see if the City of Palos Hills could help.
“I heard from Honor Flight Chicago that most veterans receive between 200 to 500 letters, and our list of contacts was only about 30,” Charles Lutz said in a phone interview Friday.
“We didn’t want my father to be embarrassed so I asked the city if the people who know my dad wouldn’t mind writing a letter for him to read back on the flight back.”
Learning of this request, Bennett reached out to North Palos School District 117 to ask if its students would write letters to George Lutz. At last week’s council meeting, cards were also available for any resident in attendance to

The end of an EYESORE?

  • Written by Bob Rakow


EYESORE-1 The abandoned terminal sits on 75 acres and had become a weed-infested eyesore. Photos by Jeff Vorva.

Chicago Ridge mayor hopes truck terminal can be torn down soon

It’s been nearly five years since Yellow Freight EYESORE-2If Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar (bottom right photo) has his way, the old Yellow Transport truck terminal behind him will be gone this time next year. abandoned its truck terminal in Chicago Ridge.

It left the 75-acre area with what village officials have publicly called an “eyesore’’ at 103rd Street and Harlem Avenue.
When asked recently when he would like to see the ugly steel and concrete come tumbling down, Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said “Yesterday.’’
The actual date of the demolition depends on who buys the property and their timeline but Tokar is crossing his fingers that by this time next year, it will be gone.
Redeveloping the Harlem Avenue terminal and some adjacent property – which extends all the way to the Tri State Tollway -- has been in the planning stages for the past five years but paperwork was signed last Friday which could signal the beginning of the end of the eyesore.
“I think it’s our No. 1 priority,” Tokar said.
Tokar envisions big things long range for the 75-acre terminal and 25 acres of adjacent land to the north and along Southwest Highway.
A mixed-use development that would feature family entertainment options, such as Dave & Buster’s; a multi-level, heated golf driving range similar to Top Golf in Wood Dale or an indoor skydiving facility similar to iFly in Naperville or Rosemont all are under consideration.
The development also would feature shops, restaurants and condominiums or townhomes, Tokar said. Hotels, a conference center or a venue for entertainment also are on the radar, he said.
“There’s so much available land there,” said Tokar, who added that it’s too early to nail down any specific plans for the property.
Tokar said the development could be modeled after the Burr Ridge Village Center, which is described as a mixed-use outdoor lifestyle center.
The village center features restaurants, retail shops, condominiums and a village green.
“We just don’t know yet,” Tokar said.
The village board last week took some important steps toward developing the land by approving an ordinance that designates the Yellow Freight property and the adjacent land as a tax increment financing district.
Trustees also approved an agreement with Yellow Roadway Corp. to purchase the property at 103rd Street and Harlem Avenue for $14 million. The contract is contingent on condition of the property, Tokar said.
“We have the next six months to determine if we want to go through with the contract or not,” the mayor said. “The village will need time to do its due diligence.”
The village’s next step is to have the property tested for contaminants.
“We do need to know the state of the ground underneath,” Tokar said Monday. “We’re not aware of anything, but you just don’t know what you’ve got.”
Testing Services Corp. of Carol Stream will perform soil borings and prepare and environmental report within the next several weeks, Tokar said.
While the 75-acre trucking terminal is mostly covered with concrete or asphalt, a garbage dump once existed adjacent to Stony Creek, so the possibility for contamination exists.
The 100-acre TIF would be bordered by Harlem Avenue, the Tri-State Tollway and Southwest Highway.
The shuttered Aldi, located at Harlem Avenue and Southwest Highway, and the long-closed Nikobee’s at the northeast corner of 103rd and Harlem, are included in the district. Additionally, Burger King, the Blue Star Motel, the Glendora House reception hall and a storage facility, all located north of 103rd Street, would be razed to make room for new development.
The TIF district would enable the village to float bonds that would finance construction of a mixed-use development at the Yellow site and throughout the district. In a TIF district, real estate tax revenues yielded by properties that increase in value are used to fund improvements within the district, or as an incentive to the developer.


Hickory Council donates $100 after disagreement

  • Written by Kelly White


In what appeared to be a small item onPage-3-HuieGrimesHeadstoneThe tombstone of Huie Grimes. Submitted photo. the agenda, a decision to donate $100 to the Huie Grimes Foundation sparked some disagreement among the Hickory Hills council members last Thursday night.
  The council passed the decision to donate the c-note from the discretionary fund to the foundation but the vote was 4-2 with aldermen John Szeszycki and Brian Waight casting nay votes.
  The foundation was set up in February with the goal of providing grave markers at no cost to families in need to honor their deceased loved ones, whether they passed away recently or in prior generations.
  Alderman Tom McAvoy suggested a $100 donation be made to foundation out of the city’s discretionary fund. The city currently has an estimated $2,000 left in Discretionary Funds, according to City Treasurer Dan Schramm.
  Alderman Szeszycki disagreed, however.
  “I feel this is a personal issue and donations made to the foundation should be made out of our own pockets and not taken out of the discretionary fund,” he said.
  “I have to agree with John (Szeszycki),” Waight added. “I do not think we should be taking the money out of the discretionary fund to donate to this organization. If anyone wants to personally donate, they have the option to; however, I do not feel the city should make a donation because this is not directly for the city, even though (foundation founder Susan Dineen) is from Hickory Hills.”
  Discretionary funds are voluntary donations, and non-taxable dollars, coming to the city from events such as street fair raffles, McAvoy said.
  But three other aldermen agreed with McAvoy and it passed.
  “This is a community foundation,” Dineen said, “Community starts at home and this is a local organization to help people within our community.”
  The local 501c3 charity organization began as a dedication to Huie Grimes, who was a direct ancestor of several of the Foundation’s members, including Dineen.
  “While researching our ancestry, that journey took us to a small family cemetery in Kentucky,” she said. “Among the large ornate headstones was the handmade headstone of our ancestor, Huie Grimes.”
  Grimes was born in July of 1897 and died at a very young age. His father, a poor Kentucky green bean farmer, was unable to purchase a grave marker to honor his son, so he did what he could to make sure Huie would not be forgotten. He poured a mound of concrete at his son’s grave and, with a stick, wrote, “Huie Grimes, son of Rufus Grimes”.
  “His father could not afford a grave maker for him, so he poured concrete on his own on his son’s grave and handwrote out the inscription,’’ Dineen said. “While it deeply touched us to know he was honored by his family in the only way they could manage, it was also heartbreaking to an extent. We wondered how many others may be in a similar situation and have little or no means to honor their loved ones.”
  Since February, the foundation has been actively working with two families to supply them with no-cost grave makers — one being the family of Antonio Smith, a nine-year-old boy who was shot and killed in crossfire, this August, on the 1200 block of East 71st Street in Chicago’s Grand Crossing neighborhood.
  “With unexpected deaths especially, families cannot always afford all of the costs affiliated with planning a funeral and tombstone expenses,” Dineen said, “Everyone who has touched this world is entitled to be remembered and honored.”


Expecting blunt opinions

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Public to have its say at Friday’s meeting to

discuss a medical marijuana clinic in Worth

Worth trustees will decide if a medical marijuana dispensary can locate on Harlem Avenue at a rare Friday night meeting and members of the public will have a chance to have their say.
Trustees will meet at 7:30 p.m. to consider changes to the village code that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary to locate in the village’s business district. The meeting could get lively if opposition is heavy. At least one resident publically said he is going to the meeting to protest the dispensary.
Mayor Mary Werner is ready.
She said she expects residents who both favor and oppose the potential marijuana dispensary in town to attend Friday’s meeting.
She said nurses from Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn attended the Aug. 19 board meeting, and two spoke in favor of the use of medical marijuana.
“On Friday, obviously, everybody will have the opportunity to speak,” she said.
She added, however, that it’s important to be informed about medical marijuana.
“Medical cannabis comes in a variety of forms. I think it’s an education process for a lot of people,” she said.
After the public’s comments, the board plans to get down to business to consider a special-use permit submitted by the Windy City Cannabis Club, the group proposing to open the dispensary at 11425 S. Harlem Ave., next to Enterprise Car Sales.
The board agreed to meet on Friday so that WCCC can submit its application to the state on Monday.
None of the six trustees voiced opposition to the plan when WCCC president Steve Weisman appeared at the Aug. 19 board meeting, Werner said.
“My direction to the board was to plan to do their homework,” Werner said Tuesday.
The Harlem Avenue location is one of the few in Worth that meets the state’s zoning requirements that prohibits clinics from locating within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center.
Weisman’s group had considered locations in Chicago Ridge, but had difficulty finding one that met the zoning requirements.
Chicago Ridge does not allow the clinics within 1,000 feet of parks or recreation facilities, which made the finding a location in that community even more difficult, Weisman said.
Chicago Ridge officials had few reservations about having a dispensary at a village board meeting attended by Weisman. But Trustee Bruce Quintos later expressed his opposition to a clinic, saying a public hearing should be held to gauge residents’ feelings on the plan.
If approved, however, WCCC’s Worth clinic would be the sole dispensary for a region of the state that includes Worth, Calumet and Stickney townships.
The state’s medical cannabis act took effect on January 1. The law allows the use of marijuana by individuals who have a medical need and a permit. Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition. A qualifying patient can obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Illinois is expected to begin taking applications for 60 medical marijuana businesses in September. Those who want to want to apply must have “an application pinned down,” said Weisman, an attorney for Kirkland and Ellis.
In the end, however, only one dispensary will locate in the area because only 60 dispensaries are permitted statewide with regions of the state divided into dispensary districts.
Clinics are expected to open in spring 2015, which does not give selected clinics much time to prepare their sites for business and prepare a security plan.
Clients must possess a state ID card to purchase marijuana and can only obtain 2.5 ounces every two weeks, Weisman said.