New Chicago Ridge ordinance enforces rental and property standards

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly



A new ordinance enforcing residential rental inspections and property maintenance in Chicago Ridge is aimed at ensuring that all residences being rented in the village meet health and safety standards.

The village board on Tuesday approved the ordinance, which had been under discussion for several months. The board agreed that the legislation was needed to address complaints of illegal conversions, and rental properties being poorly maintained, inside and out.

Now, anyone planning to rent a house, apartment or condo must allow the village to inspect their property annually.

“We really did need this,” said Trustee William McFarland afterward, explaining that in his role as a firefighter prior to being elected he saw a lot of properties that did not meet safety codes.

“We would see kitchens divided into separate rooms, that people were living in,” he said.

“It will also address the problem of parking,” McFarland said. “When you have several families living in a single-family house, and everyone has cars, it causes congestion. It’s really going to clean up the village.”

McFarland said that the inspection fee will be $200 for a single-family house, and $75 per apartment or condo.

If code violations are found, they must be fixed within 30 days. If things are still out of order when an inspector returns, fines for first offenses will be $100. Fines for repeat violations will go up to $300, and will keep adding up.

“We need to have an incentive for the property owners to take care of the problems,” said Trustee Jack Lind.

Mayor Chuck Tokar added that property owners continually in arrears on fines refuse to pay them may also have their rental licenses revoked, after a hearing.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to hire two part-time licensing officers to handle the inspections and licensing of rental properties. They will work 15-20 hours per week, at $13 an hour.

In other business, the trustees also approved the hiring of attorney Kevin Camden as legislative counsel, a newly created position. The vote was 5-1, with only Lind voting against it.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said that Camden’s role will be as a consultant, serving as a second opinion for trustees in cases where they disagree with the advice of village attorney Burt Odelson. So he will only be paid on a case by case basis, and won’t be at most village board meetings.

She said the decision was made to hire him after trustees interviewed about five candidates.

“He has experience as a legislative counsel, doing the type of work we need him for,” Coglianese said.

The board agreed to hire a legislative counsel last month, at the same meeting that four trustees voted against Tokar’s appointment of Odelson as village attorney.

Although the village attorney role is a mayoral appointment, Trustee Bruce Quintos maintained that the mayor should have sought the advice of trustees before officially appointing Odelson. He had been serving as acting village attorney since last spring, when George Witous retired.

Quintos said Camden’s hourly fee is $170, compared to $175 for Odelson.

But Lind said he voted against the legislative counsel, in part because of the added cost.

“Also, I’ve never worked under a system like this. I see no need for it,” he said.

Races thin out as early voting begins today

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Early voting starts today, Thursday, for the Illinois primary election on March 15, but there are a few less candidates to choose from due to successful ballot challenges.

Aside from the presidential election, which understandably generates the most interest, one of the most-watched local races might be for the seat in the 1st Congressional District, which incumbent Cong. Bobby Rush (D-1st) has held since in 1993. Three opponents registered to run against him in his bid for a 12th term in Congress, but Harold Bailey did not survive a challenge to his nominating petitions so he was removed.

Rush, who survived two objections himself, will face O. Patrick Brutus and Howard Brookins Jr., the current 21st Ward alderman in Chicago.

In November, the winning Democrat will face either August (O’Neill) Deuser or Jimmy Lee Tillman II, who are running against each other in the Republican primary.

In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Cong. Dan Lipinski is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. And Lyons resident Arthur Jones, the only candidate to register for the Republican primary, was knocked off the ballot following a challenge. So it will be smooth sailing for Lipinski, who is seeking his seventh term in Congress unless someone is appointed to run against him.

According to the state Board of Elections, Jones, an insurance agent with past ties to white supremacist groups, was removed because the signatures on nominating petitions he submitted were ruled invalid.

This year, the Cook County races may provide some excitement, especially because of the opposition to incumbent State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stemming from the controversy involving police shootings in Chicago.

She is being challenged by Kim Fox and Donna More in the Democratic primary, while Christopher EK Pfannkuche is running unopposed as a Republican.

Dorothy Brown, the incumbent Cook County Clerk, is running without the Democratic Party’s endorsement in the primary. She is opposed by Jacob Meister, Shirley T. Coleman, Tio Hardiman and Michelle Harris, who was endorsed.

Diane S. Shapiro is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the recorder of deeds race, incumbent Karen Yarbrough is running against Jan Kowalski in the Democratic primary. No one is running in the Republican primary for that office.

The only statewide Illinois race this year is for state comptroller, to complete the term of Judy Baar Topinka. After she died of a stroke last December, one month after being elected to her second term in office. Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed Leslie Geissler Munger to fill the position until the election.

Munger, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary to retain the seat, will likely face off in the Nov. 8 general election against Susana Mendoza, currently the Chicago city clerk, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Most of the local Democratic state senators and representatives are running unopposed in the primary, and many will be unopposed again in November because no Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring.

These include incumbent state Sen. Jacqueline “Jacqui” Collins (D-16th), whose Chicago-based district extends into Oak Lawn. Also, incumbent state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), of Evergreen Park, is running unopposed in the primary, and no Republicans have entered the race. The same can be said for state Reps. Robert “Bob” Rita (D-28th) and Andre Thapedi (D-32nd), whose district includes Hickory Hills.

In the 19th Senate District, which includes part of Orland Park and numerous other southwestern suburbs, incumbent Democrat Michael E. Hastings is seeking a second term. He is being challenged in the primary by McStephen “Max” Solomon, an attorney from Hazel Crest. They both survived challenges and remain on the ballot, without any Republican opposition.

Hastings, an Army veteran, is the former vice president of High School District 230.

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), whose district includes Oak Lawn, is also unopposed, as she often is, following the recent withdrawal of her Democratic opponent, Michael Crawford, of Chicago’s Wrightwood neighborhood.

Likewise, Justin Q. Slaughter withdrew from the 27th District race, so incumbent state Rep. Monique Davis (D-27th) is unopposed. But no Republican candidates have filed for either race.

State Rep. Frances Hurley (D-35th), faces no opposition in the primary, but in November, she will go up against Victor Horne, the only candidate running in the Republican primary.


Appoint new general manager of Water’s Edge Golf Course

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins



A new general manager for the Water’s Edge Golf Course in Worth was introduced at the Tuesday night village board meeting

Trustee Ted Muersch Jr., the board’s liaison to the golf course, introduced Dean Gabey as the new general manager. Gabey is filling the position previously held by Kevin Fitzgerald, who served for two years at the club and recently moved on to another golf club.

“I am looking forward to working with Dean. He has a lot of energy and has already come forward with a lot of new ideas. He has a sales and marketing background which will be really helpful in promoting Water’s Edge,” said Muersch.

Additionally, Gabey is familiar with Water’s Edge, as he had stepped in occasionally during the last year to assist Fitzgerald, who he has been friends with for many years.

Gabey, 48, was most recently employed at the Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, Ind., where he held the position of head golf professional for nearly five years.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Gabey has 28 years of experience in the golf industry.

“I feel like this is a really good fit for me,” said Gabey. “The Village of Worth is a carbon copy of where I grew up. It is a small town-type community, with a mix of blue-collar and white collar workers, an atmosphere I know very well. I see a great potential here for Water’s Edge and I look forward to a long career here.”

Muersch also announced a number of February events at the golf facility including a Super Bowl Party from 3:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7.

Fish fry dinners will also be held from 4 to 8 p.m. beginning on Friday, Feb. 12 and continuing through March 5.

In other business, Village Clerk Bonnie Price announced that IDOT will hold an open house meeting today (Thursday, Feb. 4) at the Village Hall to present information on the planned widening of 111th Street from Harlem Avenue to Southwest Highway. The public is invited.

Trustee Colleen McElroy also announced that Farr and Associates will make a presentation on their preliminary planning for the Transit Oriented Development Project at the Feb. 16 board meeting. The presentation will be based on results of the open house conducted by Farr and Associates last fall where they gathered information from the board of trustees and Worth residents.

Lipinski nominates local students for admission to Naval Academy

  • Written by Janelle Frost


 Brian Conlisk had just gotten home from basketball practice when he saw an email notifying him that Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was nominating him for admission to the Naval Academy.

“I was ecstatic,” Conlisk, 17, told The Reporter about the nomination. He said he informed his parents soon after seeing the email. “It meant the world to me (being nominated). I always wanted to go to the Naval Academy. This is a huge step for me.”

Conlisk, of Oak Lawn and a Brother Rice High School student, is one of 16 students who Lipinski nominated for admission to the Air Force, West Point and the Naval Academy for the graduating class of 2020. The students were honored during a U.S. Military Nomination Ceremony on Saturday at the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post, 9514 S. 52nd Ave., Oak Lawn.

Lipinski said it was “great to see the room filled” right before he spoke to the parents of the nominees.

“You’ve instilled values of hard work and effort in our nominees. Thank you for doing that,” he said.

He continued by congratulating the nominees.

“I wish you the best moving forward,” Lipinski said. “If there’s anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m always here to help. I thank you again. It makes me proud to be an American and your representative that you are willing to represent your country.”

According to Lipinski’s office, the admissions departments of the service academies make the final decision on acceptance. Each of the nominees will be notified by the service academies if they have been accepted.

Conlisk, who dreamed about being a pilot since he was a young kid, wants to become a pilot with the Naval Academy.

“I think the Naval Academy has leadership qualities unmatched by any other college,” Conlisk told The Reporter following the ceremony. “I hope to be a pilot with them.”

Sydney Torres, 18, who also was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy, hopes to get a degree from there and do cyber security.

She said the nomination means a lot to her.

“It shows how hard work pays off in the end, and not to quit,” Torres, a Richards High School student, told The Reporter following the ceremony.

Michael Gurule Jr., 17, of Crest Hill, agreed.

“Doing all the hard work finally paid off,” Gurule told The Reporter. The Lockport Township High School student also was nominated for admission to the Naval Academy.

The nomination “meant everything,” Gurule said. “I wanted to go into the Marines forever. I hope to become a mechanical engineer.”


Mayors'frustration grows over budget impasse

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The budget impasse in Springfield has the Southwest Conference of Mayors taking a look at their options.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who serves as president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said that he is gratified that they are receiving their motor fuel tax funds, 911 funding and video gaming revenue. Gov. Rauner signed a bill in December that allowed for these funds to be distributed to municipalities throughout the state, which the mayors argued should never have been part of the budget deadlock.

However, while Bennett is pleased that those funds are coming, he sees mothing on the horizon for an end to the budget stalemate. Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) and state Sen. John Cullerton (D-6th), the majority leader of the Senate, are still far apart on budget talks.

“We got the impression from Mr. Cullerton that nothing is going to happen,” said a concerned Bennett during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting on Jan. 27 at the Chicago Ridge Village Hall. “It is the suburban mayors who balance the budget as we always do. Perhaps they can learn something from us.”

The meeting began with an update from Joan Knox, who serves at the executive director of External and Legislative Affairs at St. Xavier University. Knox, who also serves as a Palos Hills alderman, said the school is fine at this point and read off a series of accomplishments at the Catholic university.

But Knox did mention the importance of receiving Monetary Award Program funds, or MAP. Knox said that it would be beneficial if MAP funds and other education programs could be restored by the legislators in Springfield.

Knox and Bennett both applauded the efforts of state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), who is the chief sponsor of a bill that would restore MAP and other education programs. Burke’s bill has passed through the House and Senate as of last Thursday.

Burke is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 2043. The measure increases funding for MAP grants by more than $32 million compared to fiscal year 2015. Across the state, approximately 130,000 students utilize the MAP Grant program to seek higher education. Students at St. Xavier University were eligible to receive nearly $7 million in MAP grants while those studying at Moraine Valley Community College should have received $2.4 million.

The bill now rests on the governor’s desk. Knox and other college and university officials are hoping that he signs the bill.

“We are doing alright, we are in good shape” said Knox. “If you haven’t seen St. Xavier lately, then you haven’t seen St. Xavier. We have a lot to offer. A lot of people don’t realize that more students receive a private school education than at public schools. It is our hope that the assembly realizes that and the governor signs the bill for MAP and other education funds.”

While St. Xavier University, which has campuses on Chicago’s Southwest Side and Orland Park, had been able to weather the storm so far, other institutions are not that fortunate.

Officials at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston have announced that teacher cuts are a real possibility. The administration at Western Illinois University in Macomb has stated that at least 30 teachers will be laid off with more to come.

Officials at Chicago State University, at 95th and King Drive, have said that without funding from the state, they may have to cease operations on March 1. An official from Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills said that enrollment figures have dipped somewhat from previous years. The school official also said she would like to see the MAP funding restored.

If Rauner signs the bill, Burke’s measure could restore the operating budget for the City Colleges of Chicago, restore grants for technical education, adult education and adult literacy programs across the state. Legislators passed funding for each of these programs within the Higher Education budget in May of 2015. The governor later vetoed the support for these programs, and they have remained without state support as Illinois still remains without a permanent budget.

“A student’s place of birth or the success of their parents shouldn’t dictate their ability to receive a quality education,” said Burke. “MAP grants and other vital programs allow thousands of students an opportunity to better themselves through education that may otherwise not have been available. It’s unconscionable that these programs have remained unfunded for this long.”

Bennett and other mayors were sympathetic to the plight of local colleges and universities. The longer the state goes without a budget, problems like this are going to occur, the mayors acknowledged.

“All we can do is protect our revenues,” said Bennett. “We need to be proactive and the bottom line is the budget. Until we get a budget solved, we are hanging on by a thread.”