Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: Man who jarred Mason is our new columnist

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions


Our new columnist once made national news for a few days by pissing off comedian Jackie Mason.

That makes him OK in my book. I don’t think Jackie Mason is all that funny.

Anyway, last week we started running a column called “The Grapevine” by Ray Hanania. He is a guy who will probably make you laugh one week and could make you r face turn purple and make you want to tear up your newspaper in a million pieces if you disagree with him. But you will love this guy to death  if you agree with him.

Hanania is a man of many hats. He was once a hotshot young reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. Since then, he has worked as a comedian, written books, hosted radio shows, has become a public relations voice of the town of Cicero and the Orland Fire Protection District and still keeps his hands in the column writing game.

He has also done some unforgivable sins in battling anonymous dopes on message boards over the years. I think that’s a bad move for a guy in public relations, but this is what makes him interesting. He spits in the face of convention. It’s just Ray being Ray, you might say.

Back in 2002, he was scheduled to be the warmup act for Mason at Zanies in Chicago but Mason didn’t want an Arab-American Palestinian to share the same bill.

It's not exactly like he's just an Arab-American,'' Mason’s manager, Jyll Rosenfeld said in the Sun-Times back then. ''This guy's a Palestinian. We were not told about it ahead of time. Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now it's a very sensitive thing. It's just not a good idea.''

Mason tried to put out the fire by issuing a statement saying that he ''didn't fire anybody, nor have I ever refused to perform with anyone. The manager at Zanies canceled the person after being inundated with calls. (Hanania) apparently sought to exploit the tragic situation in the Middle East with the hope of enhancing his own reputation. We received calls from Jews who were sensitive to his publicity. I am also sure that Palestinians likewise would have been offended.''

So welcome to the Reporter, Ray.

Hanania joins a pretty interesting roster of local columnists with various backgrounds and experiences.

It would be impossible for us to get all nine of our opinion writers in one room for one night, but it  could even happen, the stories that would come of out that gathering would be stupendous. And that would be before the booze arrives. After a couple of drinks…Wow!

So the current lineup features:

Bob Rakow and myself: For most of his columns, Bob writes from the heart. For most of my columns, I write from the funny bone. But both of us have written on a variety of topics, from the silly to the serious to the surreal and it’s hard to pin us down on just one style.

Ken Karrson: The man who writes the award-winning Bartosh column in sports usually writes about a national issue or trend with a mix of outrage and humor. Since I compile the Retro section for page 4, I will see some of his vintage columns and with roar with laughter over a line he wrote a quarter of a century ago.

Dee Woods: Even though she’s living in Arizona now, we find that the former Worth resident is worth keeping because of her columns on alternative medicine. Sometimes I don’t know what in the heck she is talking about, naming drugs and medical conditions that have about 13 syllables. But she has a loyal following and when I do understand what she’s writing, it’s a fun read.

Anthony Scarano: The ageless wonder from Evergreen Park writes about wine and while he doesn’t write new stuff anymore, his “best of” material is still strong – like aged wine. Recently, while doing the Retro section, I found out he was a musician and songwriter, too. A man of many talents.

Don C. White: Another ageless wonder from Palos Hills, this gentleman knows his history, especially when it comes to the Civil War and presidents. Once in a while, he’ll take on some modern issues in his self-appointed role as “skeptic.’’ One of my favorite moments in the office is when Don C. brought former Reporter editor a Ghost Pepper (one of the hottest known to man) and Jason had a taste of it. Great hilarity.

Claudia Parker: As a reporter, this Evergreen Park resident really knows how to find some of the most inspiring people to grace our front page. As a columnist, she still finds those people but her own stories of triumph and failure are a hoot. Some of her columns could make a reader laugh in one paragraph and cry in another. She writes children’s books but her column-writing ability is nothing to kid about.

Tony Pinto: The movie reviewer in the O and A section is fresh out of college and helps bring the average age of our columnists down to, oh, about 102-years-old. This kid had no published writing experience when he walked into our doors this spring looking for an internship so we weren’t going to throw him to the dogs and have him cover a board meeting right out of the box. So we tried him on movie reviews and he’s been a fine fixture ever since.

Ray Hanania: He’s the new guy, but he’s far from a rookie. He’s been writing columns for the Southwest Herald, our new sister paper, for years and now he’s here to make you laugh and possibly raise your blood pressure.

I don’t know if this is the most talented group of columnists ever assembled but it certainly the most interesting group.

Bruce is the new boss in Illinois

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

A few hours before Nik Wallenda confidently walked across a tight rope high above Chicago, Bruce Rauner was confidently talking tough in Hickory Hills.

Even though late polls showed the Republican challenger for Illinois governor was a couple of percentage points down to incumbent Pat Quinn, Rauner came out guns-a-blazin’ at the Lexington House in Hickory Hills, helping to put an exclamation point to a race that one TV political analyst said featured the most negative campaigning in the history of Illinois.

“You’ve all seen the baloney political ad that Pat Quinn is running,” Rauner told the lathered up crowd on Sunday. “He starts out by saying ‘you know me.’

“Yes Pat Quinn, we do know you. Yes we know you. We know the huge tax hikes you put on the families of Illinois. Yes, Pat Quinn, we know you. We know the jobs and the businesses that you’ve run out of our state. Yes, Pat Quinn, we know you.  We know the schools that you’ve been cutting in funding and shredding our social services. Yes, Pat Quinn, we know that you’re a patronage worker, a crony corruption guy just like Rod Blagojevich.  We know you use our money for a political slush fund. We know you hired illegally in IDOT. We know you’re a part of the system.

“And you know what, Pat Quinn? You know what else we know about you? We’re going to vote you out of office on Tuesday.’’

It turns out, Rauner was right.


After walking a tightrope and riding a rollercoaster on election night, the multimillionaire unofficially squeaked out a victory over Quinn by garnering 50.73 percent of the vote (1,757,569) with 99.54 percent of the polls counted while Quinn picked up 45.89 (1,589,993) and Libertarian Chad Grimm pulled in just 3 percent (117,060).

Rauner proclaimed victory at about 11:15 p.m. Quinn, however, did not concede the loss as of late Tuesday night and it appears he will take his time before issuing such a speech.

“They will be counting the votes (Wednesday) and the next day and probably the next day,” Quinn told his supporters at the Hotel Allegro. “And until that happens, I don’t think we should make any judgment on the results of this election.  But I want to say that for everyone who voted in Illinois and who worked on our campaign so hard in such an energetic way…we believe in the cause and the cause is that everyday people get a fair shake.

“That’s what I devoted my life to. And we are the government of the many. And we do have to take on the government of the money. And we will never, ever yield to a result until all the votes are in.’’

Some of the early vote totals from Chicago and Cook County were not included and Quinn is still hoping he can make up the difference.

Rauner was more than happy to declare victory despite Quinn’s refusal to quit as the Republican called it a victory for “every family in Illinois.’’

Speaking of family, he publically thanked members of his family for what they endured the past couple of months.

“It was a tough with all of the mud-slinging, the fights and the viciousness,’’ Rauner said at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. “It’s hard on the family. We are so blessed. We started this campaign almost two years ago. We’ve driven more than 150,000 in the state of Illinois. We’ve been in every corner of the state. It’s an honor to go to work for you. I’m humbled. I’m honored. This is the time to restore good government in Illinois.

“Let’s do it. Let’s shake up Springfield. Let’s bring back Illinois.’’

Before Quinn announced he was not conceding the race, the Republican Governors Association was gleefully blasting out an email congratulating Rauner.

“It’s time to bring back Illinois with Governor Bruce Rauner,” RGA Chairman Chris Christie said in a statement. “Rauner proved in this race that he is the antidote to Illinois’ longstanding woes; his leadership is exactly what the state needs to shake the status quo for good and become competitive again. With Bruce Rauner at the helm, brighter days are ahead for Illinois. The Republican Governors Association is proud to congratulate Governor-elect Bruce Rauner on his victory.”

Republican Senator Mark Kirk was also happy with the apparent victory and may be reaching into his pockets for some chow in the near future.

“For the first time in a long time, I am optimistic about the future of Illinois,” Kirk said in a statement. “In a show of unity, I will host Governor-Elect Rauner, [Chicago] Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel and Senator [Dick] Durbin to lunch so we can immediately begin to work in coordination for our great state.”

D218 starts search for a new Super

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

After eight  years at the helm, Community High School District 218 Superintendent John Byrne is leaving his post at the end of the school year and district officials hope to name his successor in February.

District spokesman Bob McParland said Byrne was “looking forward to a new challenge. He has been approached regarding some opportunities but right now is focusing on District 218.”

And now District 218 is focusing on a new superintendent and the public has been invited to help out.

The school board sketched out a timeline that included three public forums this week with the last one coming at 7 p.m., tonight, Thursday, at District 218’s Academy located at 10701 S. Kilpatrick, Oak Lawn.

The board recently met with representatives from and PROACT Search to discuss the search.

 “The Board of Education is committed to finding a talented leader  and wants community input to ensure broad based stakeholder engagement in the process,” Margaret Longo, senior consultant for PROACT Search said in a statement.

PROACT is also collecting feedback from community members through an online survey, which can be found at All responses will be received by the search firm and results will be used during the search process. The identity of participants is confidential.

Board of Education officials say they want to start interviewing candidates in early January and have a finalist candidate selected by the beginning of the 2015 year. 

"The selection of the next Superintendent to lead CHSD 218 is a significant priority for the Board of Education and our District. As we conduct this important search, we feel it is important to seek input from multiple school and community members to ensure the next leader meets the criteria necessary to move our schools forward,"Board President Marco Corsi said in a news release.  

The board is eying interviews for the finalists in January and naming the new boss in February.

 Byrne was named superintendent for the 2007-08 school year, succeeding Kevin Burns. Byrne was a teacher at Richards, a dean at Eisenhower and a director of special education in the district before taking over as the superintendent.  He had been in the district since 1989.

            Under Byrne’s watch, for seven straight years, District 218 students have broken a new record for the number of A.P. exams passed; this year and experienced a new record for the number of A.P. Scholars recognized by the College Board.

He helped create the Back to School Health Fair, which has provided hundreds of free school physicals, dental exams, and eye screens for residents.

Under his direction, the district launched its Educational Foundation, which has raised thousands for college scholarships and teacher grants.

District 218 has earned the state’s highest fiscal rating, Financial Recognition, each year of his tenure. During that span, the district also earned a perfect finance score (4.0) from the state board.

This year, Shepard opened a new science wing.  Previously, both Richards and Eisenhower have constructed new cafeterias, Eisenhower remodeled its LRC.  Plans have started for a new arts center at Richards. 

OL trustee says fire department lodged 46 complaints against 911 dispatchers

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The firestorm over 911 dispatchers continues to rage.


Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury’s administration “has clearly demonstrated their contempt for the safety of our residents” by refusing to address complaints about the 911 emergency dispatch center,” Trustee Robert Streit said Tuesday.


“The safety and well-being of our residents should always be the primary concern of our village government,” Streit said at Tuesday’s village board meeting.


Streit provided a report that briefly summarized 46 complaints lodged against the 911 dispatchers by the members of the fire department.


He also chastised Bury and Village Manager Larry Deetjen for refusing to provide records of the complaints until last week then Illinois Attorney General’s office opened an inquiry at his request.


“Months ago, I requested that the village turn over documentation detailing problems with the dispatch service,” Streit said.


The village “denied, deflected and generally ignored official requests for information,” he added.


Streit opposed the village’s decision to outsource its emergency dispatch operations, a move trustees approved nearly one year ago.


Since that time, Streit repeatedly has alleged that Norcomm Public Safety Communications, the company that took over dispatching operations, has performed poorly.


Bury responded to Streit’s allegation, saying the village did not have the records he was seeking when he submitted his Freedom of Information Act request.


Carmie O’Leary, one of the village’s nine FOIA officers, forwarded Streit’s request to her counterpart at the fire department, Bury said.


The fire department responded saying it did not have the information Streit was seeking, the mayor said.


“In this case, however, the FOIA officer said ‘we do not have information concerning the FOIA request,’” Bury said. “When the error was discovered, the documents were released. When someone says we don’t have information, we tend to believe them, sir.”


“No one is hiding anything,” Bury said after the meeting.


She added that some firefighters may have filed the complaints because they opposed the village decision to outsource the emergency dispatch center.


“Clearly, there are some bitter feelings,” she said.


Streit also called for three ordinances to be considered at the Nov. 10 village board meeting.


The first ordinance would direct the village manager to post on the village website all Freedom of Information requests within five business days. The second proposed ordinance would call on the manager to post on the website all responses to Freedom of Information requests within five days of sending the response. Streit’s third ordinance would require the manager to include in trustees’ meeting packets responses to all Freedom of Information requests.


“Government records are the people’s records,” Streit said.


Village Attorney Pat Connelly explained the village's position.


“We treat every FOIA the same way regardless of the requestor,'' he said. “The mayor is not involved in the FOIA process.”


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.