Experience counts for Hickory Hills council

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Residents of Hickory Hills made it very clear on Election Day earlier this month that they were satisfied with the status quo of their elected officials. 

Only two council positions were challenged, with both longtime incumbents easily being returned to office.
All total, the nine voting members of the council -- eight aldermen and one mayor -- have 97 years of experience on the Hickory Hills council. And next year at this time, it will be up to triple digits -- 106 years as city bosses.
So, it was business as usual at Thursday’s council meeting as it will be for a few more years.
In the political arena local politics is often a dog-eat-dog world, but the City of Hickory Hills is a shining example of what a healthy political entity looks like. A chunk of the council members have worked together for more than a decade. Mayor Mike Howley became an alderman in 1997 and was elected to the top spot twelve years ago. Alderman Scott Zimmerman is 16 years deep. Aldeman Joe Stachnik has 14 years under his belt and aldermen, Tom McAvoy, John Szeszycki and Mike McHugh have each served in their position twelve years.
Aldrman Brian Waight, wh has just three years of service, said: “We all like each other and our goal is always what is best for the village.”
Zimmerman, who was born and raised in Hickory Hills, said, “There are no hidden agendas. We all get along. We may disagree on some things, but there are never any hard feelings.”
“We have been together a long time and we get along with each other,” McAvoy said. There are no factions, no political groups, we just work together,” he said.
In the April 7 election Szeszycki, a veteran alderman in Ward 2, won 57 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Joe Mancuso. In Ward 4, Zimmerman, defeated challenger Colleen H. Kelly, winning 62 percent of the vote.

In other news:
• Alderman Deb Ferrero announced the annual Street Fair is scheduled for June 28 at 93rd Street and Roberts Road. The event will kick off on June 27 with a concert, from 7 to 10 p.m.
Nearly 100 food and craft vendors will be on hand for the family-oriented event. Ferrero said there will be a beer garden tent with entertainment throughout the day as well as Bingo from Noon to 7 p.m. on June 28.
“The Street Fair has been a major attraction in Hickory Hills for nearly 40 years,” Ferrero said.
• Two new businesses are scheduled to open in the city. Northwestern Mortgage Company is opening at 9604 So. Roberts Road. The owner is Renata Citrobak-Pyrek. A new Sprint store is opening at 8075 W. 95th Street.
• The council approved a contract with Utility Dynamics Corp., in the amount $133,166 for a street lighting project on 93rd Street, from 85th Court to 80th Court.
• City engineer Mike Spolar said that a bid package is being prepared for a storm sewer project at 83rd Court and 89th street. Bids will go out in late May, with construction projected to start in July. The project is estimated to take six to eight weeks to complete.

Athlete says ‘It’s great to hear people cheering’

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Walk, Run or Rollers ready to rock at Half Marathon

Brad Ramirez has no special plans to train for thepage3 2cols BRadandLoriChesna 040915The picture of athletic confidence, Palos Heights resident Brad “B-Rad” Ramirez wears medals and ribbons he won at past races and mugs for the camera with SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna last week at his home, mere blocks from the Walk, Run or Roll starting line near City Hall. Photo by Tim Hadac. Walk, Run or Roll race in four weeks, other than a few sit-ups and pull-ups.

After all, bicycling the mile or so to and from his part-time job as a bagger at the Jewel-Osco in Palos Heights, as well as shagging shopping carts in the parking lot, keeps his size-17 feet moving.
Besides, the half-mile race is for fun, said Ramirez, 29, of Palos Heights.
“There’s not really any competitiveness,” he said. “It’s just fun. Even if you don’t make it to the finish line, it’s great to hear people cheering when they call your name.”
Ramirez—or B-Rad, as he is known to his friends—is one of dozens of athletes with disabilities, physical or developmental, planning to participate in the race, which is part of the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon, set for Sunday, May 3, on a course that starts and ends at Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive. He has participated since the race started in 2009.
B-Rad is a longtime client—since age 5—of South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA), an Alsip-based not-for-profit that provides recreation programming, leisure activities and services year-round for children and adults with disabilities.
“That’s what’s so cool about the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon,” said SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna. “When [Half Marathon founders and directors] Mel Diab and Jeff Prestinario asked SWSRA to actually put this race on, I thought it was just so awesome.
“For two community leaders to come to us and say, ‘We want our race to be all-inclusive’ was something that I was taken aback by,” Chesna added. “[Organizations representing people with disabilities] tend to have to go and knock on doors and ask, ‘Hey, can we be included in your event?’ Really, I was so touched by what Mel and Jeff did. It meant a lot to us, and it says a lot about them.”
SWSRA is also a designated beneficiary of a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon. The American Cancer Society is the other.
Chesna said that Walk, Run or Roll participants—athletes and volunteers alike—get “an adrenaline rush” from the event, and she encouraged everyone to visit online to learn more about the race, including registration information for athletes with disabilities (as young as age 8), as well as those who may be interested in volunteering. SWSRA will benefit from a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon.

Big race update
Organizers of the 2015 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon offered a sunny forecast last Thursday at a planning meeting held at the Palos Heights Recreation Center.
Registration numbers are climbing daily and appear to be on pace to exceed last year’s totals, when more than 1,000 runners competed in the 13.1-mile race and more than 200 participated in the event’s 10K race. As many as 1,600 runners are expected to participate this year, organizers said.
The big race starts at 7:30 a.m., with the 10K and Walk, Run or Roll starting minutes after that.
“Everything is looking quite good at this point,” Prestinario said. “We’re a well-oiled machine. We don’t have any blemishes, and we don’t want any blemishes. We are all about safety, safety, safety and ensuring everyone has a good time.”
Volunteers are still needed to help staff the race. Currently, 41 are signed up, but 200 are needed to perform a range of tasks, such as staffing water stations, refreshment booths, gear check tables and more. Opportunities start as early as 5:30 a.m. on race day and run until 1 p.m.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit for details or stop by the Rec Center, 6601 W. 127th St., Palos Heights, for a volunteer application. Forms are due by Wednesday.
“Without great volunteers, we could not have a successful race,” Diab said. “They are very important, just as our sponsors and other partners are.”

Cats take center stage at Worth meeting again

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Officials will draw up ordinance on how they will handle feral cats in the village

It’s been awhile since the hit play “Cats” was presented in Chicago, but in Worth, cats --the feral variety -- were once again center stage at last Wednesday’s board meeting in Worth.
This time with a plot twist.
Faced with new information, village officials are now looking at drafting an ordinance to deal with managed care of feral cats.
In February, they voted 3-0 against a project proposed by animal rights group, Triple R, which called for capturing feral cats, vaccinating/spaying/neutering them and returning them to their original site. The purpose of the plan was to reduce the spread of rabies and decrease the population of the feral cats. The plan was offered at no cost to the village. Funding for the services is provided to the animal activist group through donations.
Trustee Rich Dziedic said at the time that he was against it. “I understand there may be a problem with feral cats in general, not necessarily in our community, but we have existed this long without spraying and neutering them that we don’t need to do it now.”
He also said, “I would not want a colony of cats living next door to me and coming in my backyard and my garden.”
However, the plot thickens.
Since that vote was taken, it has come to light that Cook County has an ordinance regulating feral cat colonies within the county. In October, 2007, the Cook County Board of Commissioners amended its Animal and Rabies Control Ordinance, adding a section dealing with feral cats, the “Managed Care of Feral Cats.” The ordinance was enacted to further prevent the spread of rabies by reducing and controlling the feral cat population.
Additionally, the ordinance permits individuals living within Cook County, to maintain feral cat colonies provided they participate in trap, neuter, and release (TNR) programs sponsored by approved humane societies.
The new information has officials re-thinking their position.
Mayor Mary Werner said, “We hope to present an ordinance by our next board meeting [Tuesday]. While the Cook County Ordinance is a carte blanche approach, we will strive to make our ordinance as unobtrusive as possible, but it will be more strict than the county ordinance.”
Dziedic said that the village has some options, referring to a memo from the village attorney, Greg Jones, outlining various approaches. Dziedic said he recommended combining two of the options which include adopting a modified version of the Cook County Ordinance and adopting a zoning requirement for feral cat colonies. “Residents having a colony would have to seek a Special Use Permit,” he said.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Triple R group, including Pamela Caddick and Collette Walker. Caddick offered the assistance of Triple R to help the village draft its ordinance. “This is a service we offer and it will save attorneys fees. We are currently working with Richton Park in the drafting of its ordinance,” she said.

Park District turns 50
Last year, the village celebrated its 100th birthday. This year, the park district turns 50.
A request from the Worth Park District for a street closing on June 5 was for the celebration was unanimously approved. Depot Street, from 109th Street to 109th Place, will be closed from 7 to 10 p.m. for a kickoff celebration for the anniversary.

Trustee Colleen McElroy, said the park district is celebrating its Golden Jubilee at Gale Moore Park, with live music, a car show and a dinner.
Other bits:
• Trustee Tedd Muersch said that there will be a budget presentation for the Water’s Edge Golf Course on May 5. He also announced that a search is underway for a new superintendent at the golf course, as well as seasonal summer help.
• Public Safety liaison, Trustee Warren Soldan said that two police officers currently in training will be on patrol in two weeks. “Our streets will have an added measure of safety,” he said.

• A cell tower lease amendment for T-Mobile was approved. The amendment, allowing more space for T-Mobile, will bring a $1,000 a month to the village coffers.

• The board unanimously approved Werner’s request for a payment of $4,000 to the Worth Park District for expenses incurred in the Worth Days Parade.

Pratl not rattled by election results

  • Written by Bob Rakow



Don Pratl sounded a little like Yogi Berra late Tuesday night, essentially proclaiming, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Pratl found himself in fourth place in a race for three seats on the Chicago Ridge Village Board.

But only three votes separated him from incumbent Jack Lind, who was in third place with 654 votes, according to unofficial results.

Pratl was not prepared to concede the race.

“We are really not sure,” said Pratl, a former village trustee. “I’d rather not say anything. We have to look at everything. We want to make sure all the absentee ballots were counted.”

The top two vote getters in the six-way race were Frances Coglianese, who garnered 716 votes, and William McFarland, who received 666 votes.

Incumbent Dan Badon took fifth place with 574 votes and challenger Dave Conrad, a member of the Chicago Ridge Park Board, came in last with 477 votes.

Incumbent Michael Davies decided not to seek re-election.

Pratl, a member of the School District 218 board, ran an aggressive campaign and said he was a victim of negative campaigning in the final days of the race.

Lind was cautiously optimistic on Tuesday.

“Three votes is three votes,” Lind said.

Lind said Pratl ran “a great campaign” that was not negative.

Lind added, however, that his own decision to run a positive campaign probably cost him votes.

“The last few last elections were worse and worse,” said Lind, who added that Coglianese ran a negative campaign.

Coglianese disputed that charge, saying the dirty campaigning was aimed at her by other candidates.

“I’m so glad that it’s done and over,” said Coglianese, a former village employee.

She said she ran for trustee because the board needs fresh faces and to help guide the development of the Yellow truck terminal. She also wants to restore village services such as public works, she said.

“Everything is falling apart,” Coglianese said.

She said receptive residents along with supportive friends and family are responsible for getting her elected.

“It’s a good feeling,” she said.

Efforts to reach McFarland were unsuccessful.


Chew on this: Incumbent D218 president knocked out by Kats

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Bon appetit.

With a couple of recent food controversies surfacing in District 218, the lone contested board member spot found Board President Marco Corsi knocked out by Carol Kats in District 5. Unofficially, Kats garnered 784 votes, which beat out Jennifer Bylut (489) and Corsi (319). Corsi has served for 15 years on the board.

“I am very surprised, I thought this would be a lot closer,’’ Kats said Tuesday night. “A lot of people were trying to get the word out in Chicago Ridge and Worth. I was knocking on a lot of doors . I thought Jennifer ran a great campaign as well. I think people were ready for a change. Marco was there for a lot of years and people wanted a change.”

Corsi did not return a phone call Tuesday night seeking comment.

The election came five days after the Chicago Tribune revealed investigation results that the district spent $10,000 since July 2010 on food for its board members, mostly for board meetings.

Corsi defended the expense to the paper by saying that on meeting nights, members are coming in from their regular jobs and putting in long hours.

“Is a sandwich too much to ask?” he was quoted. “I would say no.’’

Kats, a teacher who wrapped up her duties serving as a member of Worth School District 127’s board, said the food issue may have swayed some votes.

“People may not have appreciated the way Marco responded,” she said. “The attitude is that a lot of boards have that practice and I don’t think that’s true. I can see a few pizzas once in a while. On our board, we had a few instances when we knew we were going to be running long and we had snack bags with a bottle of water.’’

Retiring Superintendent John Byrne rationalized the spending in an it’s-always-been-done-this-way vein.

“My only reasoning, excuse, rationale is it’s historical,” Byrne told the Tribune. “It’s been that way all the time I’ve been here. If I ask people to stay until 10 … at some point I’m thinking they should have a hot dog.’’

Byrne told the paper this practice has gone on for more than two decades.

This recent investigation came on the heels of the district making headlines after it announced on its agenda that it was hosting a special meeting March 9 to choose a superintendent at Louie’s Chophouse in Oak Lawn.  After media pressure, the board changed plans and had the meeting at the district’s administrative offices.

Robert Stokas ran unopposed in District 6 and Johnny Holmes ran unopposed in District 1 and both kept their seats on the board.