Juciest races in the area should have had a candidate forum

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I don’t live in Worth or Chicago Ridge.


But I recently attended candidate forums in those communities, which were sponsored by the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce.


Kudos to that organization for organizing them and understanding that doing so is an important part of their role in the two communities.


The forum in Chicago Ridge was well attended, attracting about 100 people, who nearly filled the council chambers. The next night, about 40 people came out to hear the Worth candidates speak. Both forums included lengthy question-and-answer sessions as well.


As I said, I don’t live in either town, though I have a handle on the issues, as I cover the communities for the Reporter. And I firmly believe even the most uninformed voter who attended either forum came away with a pretty decent idea of who the most qualified candidates are.


I sat at the Chicago Ridge forum and listened to six candidates discuss their ideas for the future of the community and handle varied audience questions. Three of those individuals will be elected on April 7.


Incumbents Dan Badon and Jack Lind had a different take on things that the four challengers, all who are involved in the community and know the issues. That’s no surprise. Challengers can say pretty much anything during a campaign. Incumbents have a better idea of what is and isn’t possible.


No one could question the six candidates’ passion or love for Chicago Ridge. They’re running for trustee, after all. The job takes dedication and a fair amount of work. You’ve got to want to do it.


But to me, some candidates seemed better prepared than others, were more insightful, could think on their feet—skills voters should look for in a trustee.


Ditto in Worth.


Some candidates had a keen understanding of the issues. Others, not so much.  Some intelligently handled almost any of the questions submitted by the audience. Others had less to say or offered empty platitudes that sound great but mean little.


But at least the Chicago Ridge and Worth candidates were given a platform to say something, anything to impress the voters.


I live in Oak Lawn, where there are contested races in three of the village’s six districts—but there was no candidate forum and that’s a disservice to voters.


The Reporter covers six communities and none is more political than Oak Lawn. Yet at a time when at least one and as many as three board seats could change, there’s was no forum to give voters a chance to hear or question the candidates.


That’s too bad because the only other exposure voters have to the seven candidates is a barrage of signs and biased literature.


In District 1, incumbent Tim Desmond faces a challenge from Cindy Trautsch, the woman he defeated two years ago.


I’ve seen Desmond’s literature. Pictures of him shaking hands with the police chief, leading community meetings, looking serious at village board meetings.  That’s all well and good. I’ve also seen the piece he sent out that attacks his opponent. That’s fair game as well.


I’ve seen Trautsch’s short video that attacks Desmond, and heard about the allegations she has leveled against him.


In District 3, long-time Trustee Bob Streit faces opposition from Scott Hollis, a relative newcomer to town, and J.J. Zurek, who insists he’s not a plant in the race designed to take votes away from Hollis.


Hollis recently took grief from the Streit campaign about phony newspaper headlines used in his campaign literature to attack Streit.


There are many people who would like nothing more than to see the embattled Streit lose this election, but he hasn’t been around this long for nothing. It should be interesting.


Finally, in District 5, two candidates—Dan Johnson and Bud Stalker—are vying for the seat vacated by Carol Quinlan, who decided not the seek a third term. The Johnson literature I’ve seen plays up his significant military experience. Can’t blame him there. He won a Bronze Star and did tours of duty in the Middle East. I’ve not seen any Stalker material, but he’s got the backing of Quinlan as well as former Trustee Marge Joy, who held the seat before Quinlan.


The election is in less than one week. Maybe you’ve known all along who you’re going to vote for and nothing could change your mind. But Oak Lawn voters lost out when no forum was held.


The mayoral debate two years ago between Bury and Heilmann at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School was well attended and gave voters a better sense of the candidate’s priorities and how they responded under pressure.


Heilmann took some shots at Bury that night. She did not back down. Did it play a role in her victory? Hard to say, but it sure didn’t hurt.

In this election, Hollis has been extremely critical of Streit. It would have been great to see him spar in person with the veteran trustee and watch Streit defend his record.


First District voters didn’t return Trautsch to office in 2013, I’d love to see make a case for another term at a forum.


But Oak Lawn voters won’t be that fortunate. Don’t let it stop from you voting. There is noting worse than the apathy that accompanies low voter turnout.




The travelin' man has returned

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva

and Tina Butler

Reporter News

Kevin Lee is back home in Oak Lawn.

For how long is anyone’s guess.

Since he graduated in 2007, he’s been a lot of places. While he probably can’t compete with the country song “I’ve Been Everywhere,” keep in mind he’s just 25. He has time.

He’s crammed a lot of living in recent years but for now he’s back home and is a math teacher’s aide at Richards after seven years of playing college baseball at Iowa, teaching in Atlanta, getting a master’s degree in education at Harvard and following the rock band The Youngest all around the Midwest for a film documentary.

His homecoming actually came about because of a homecoming game. This fall, he attended the homecoming game at Oak Lawn High School, which hosted Richards. 

While the Bulldogs were taking care of business on the field, Lee was in the stands with some friends and they engaged in a conversation with a guy about American linguist Noam Chomsky.

It’s probably not all that often that the visiting stands of the Oak Lawn football stadium finds a group of people dropping quotes from a man who wrote books titled “How the World Works,” “Government in the Future” and “Getting Haiti Right This Time.’’

But in this case, it worked and fate had it that the man they were talking to was the vice principal of Richards, Mike Jacobson. Jacobson asked Lee if he was interested in a job at Richards and now Lee is back at a teacher’s assistant and pitching coach.

And he has a message he wants to get out there to every student he meets.

School doesn’t suck.

Lee doesn’t mince words about his profession and he hopes to drill that in his students’ heads.

“I am very interested in education policy and would like to shift kids mentality from ‘school sucks’ to ‘school is our opportunity.’ ” Lee said and added that he wants to find ways to make it beneficial and enjoyable for all involved.

Lee’s career path to this entry-level job at his alma-mater had several twists and turns.

Lee, who said he is related to former major league pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, was a pitcher for the Bulldogs and was recruited by the University of Iowa. His junior season, he set the school record with 13 saves in 2010. During his career, he pitched in an exhibition game against Iowa Triple-A Cubs and said he struck out future major leaguer Eric Patterson.

But injuries hindered his baseball career and teaching became a new love for him. After leaving Des Moines, he headed to Atlanta to teach at a high school for a couple of years and then headed to Harvard to work on his master’s degree.

After spending time on the movie and rock scene, he is back at his school and is ready to share his enthusiasm for education to his students and players.

Although he is teaching math, Lee said an English teacher helped shape his career.

“Mr. [Albert] Teunissen influenced me in a positive way and had made an impact on my life,” Lee said. “I learned how to write at Richards from Mr. Teunissen, and he's one of the only reasons I got into Harvard. My test scores were [poor], but they loved my public school background, success in Teach For America and writing style.’’

The former Kolmar Elementary School student said that getting into Harvard wasn’t impossible.

 “I took the GRE test and wrote a statement of purpose. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be,’’ Lee said.  “I did wonder and worry if I have enough in common with my classmates. I was happy to discover these people were like everyone else and they weren't all [Mark] Zuckerbergs. Also, I'd like to send the message to kids out there about Harvard University and that it is not as daunting or out of reach for regular people. And don't worry about new situations because that’s how we all grow.

I chose Harvard because they had a great education policy and film program,’’ he added.  “And I also thought, ‘hey, I got into Harvard. It's probably too expensive for my South Side bank account, but I probably should go anyways.’ The master's program was only one year so I figured what the heck.’ ’’




Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Julie Andrews deserves the booby prize for this movie

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions


It’s the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music.’’

Lady Ga Ga dropped her goofball act for a few minutes during the Academy Awards to pay loving tribute to “Sound of Music” star Julie Andrews, a.k.a. Dame Julie Andrews, and later, the Dame received some more warmth from the academy.

There are stories and TV specials galore about the iconic film because of its half-century status.

Andrews’ role as Maria Von Trapp and her title role in the 1964 classic “Mary Poppins” launched her into a superstar and she became identified with an aura of goodness and wholesomeness.

But in 1981, she was in a forgettable movie called “S.O.B.’’

Her husband, Blake Edwards, directed it. It was a satire about the movie world. I was in college at the time and thought it would be a smart movie to see.

And toward the end of the film, we get to see a topless scene with…Dame Julie Andrews.

There are just some things that don’t seem right.

You don’t want the Pope getting a DUI.

You don’t want to hear Mother Theresa swearing and seeing her spit on a homeless guy.

And you most certainly don’t want to see what pops out of Mary Poppins’ bra.

It’s just not right.

Andrews wanted to shed her squeaky-clean image. I thought it was a poor career choice, right up there with Florence Henderson – a.k.a. Carol Brady – playing a drunken hooker in “Shakes the Clown.’’

Andrews’ cupcake show ranks 24th in the “25 Grossest Nude Scenes in Movies” by No. 1, by the way, is Kathy Bates skinny dipping in a hot tub in the 2002 film “About Schmidt.”  I didn’t see that one, but it must be bad because it is five spots ahead of the grossest scene I’ve ever seen and that’s Borat wrestling with hefty manager.

But I digress.

Some actors and actresses do nude scenes before they make it big and a few of them actually regret it. This is a case where the Dame sounded like she was regretting the pure  image that made her millions. So at age 45, she showed her spoonfulls of sugar.  Luckily, it didn’t catch on.

While I still think it was a horrible career move, the 79-year-old can laugh it off and, darn it, I was laughing along with her. Last year, she appeared on the BBC’s “Graham Norton Show” and when she was asked if people tried to talk her out of it because she is Julie Andrews and she poo-pooed it and changed direction by adding “It can be cold in the studio.’’

One of the other guests on the show was Jonah Hill, who knows a little something about nudity in films as he was a star in “The Wolf of Wall Street.’’ They all had a bunch of laughs.

Maybe I’m making too big of a deal out of this, but it just doesn’t seem right that Dame Julie showed her that her hills were alive in a major motion picture.

Now, let’s get back to Florence Henderson and “Shakes the Clown”...


CR candidates paint different pictures of the village with one calling it a 'mess'

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge incumbant trustee candidate Don Badon sticks his hand in a jar to draw the order of speakers at the Chicago Ridge candidate's forum last Wednesday while candidate Don Pratl and moderator Peter Granvill laugh it up. Stories on candidates for Chicago Ridge, Worth and District 218 can be found on page xxxxxxx.



PAGE 3 or 5

HEADLINE -- Delivering a mess-age

SUBHEAD  -- CR candidates paint different pictures of the village with one calling it a 'mess'


By Bob Rakow

Staff Reporter


Chicago Ridge trustees Dan Badon and Jack Lind took their customary seats behind the dais at village hall last Wednesday, joined by four challengers who would like a permanent seat at the table.


Village Hall was the setting for a candidate’s forum, and the attendance—about 100 people—far exceeded the number of residents who attend a typical village board meeting.


Lind and Badon are joined on the April 7 ballot by Bill McFarland, a paid-on-call firefighter and a member of the Our Lady of the Ridge school board; Don Pratl, a former village trustee and member of the School District 218 board; Fran Coglianese, a former village employee; and Dave Conrad, a member of the Chicago Ridge Park Board.


Voters will select three of the six candidates for four-year terms. Incumbent Mike Davies is not seeking re-election.


The forum was sponsored by the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored a similar event for Worth trustee candidates on Thursday night.


At times, the candidates painted very different pictures of Chicago Ridge.


Pratl said a recent walk on 111th Street and Ridgeland Avenue opened his eyes to a troubled business district.


“I was appalled. It’s just a mess. How will we ever attract new business when our business district is in decay, and how will we keep the few that are making money,” Pratl said.


He added that he opposes the current administration’s decision to share a fire chief with Oak Lawn because it makes the community appear second rate.


Pratl said he supports a transparency ordinance that would make important village documents easily accessible to residents. He added that he would summarize meetings on his blog and make sure plans to televise board meetings are ultimately realized.


McFarland, a longtime Chicago Ridge resident, stressed that he would bring his business and finance background to the village board.


He added that village must do a better job communicating with residents, some who believe village board meetings are closed to the public, he said.


He also criticized the appearance of the village and said action must be taken to drive more traffic through the business district.


“Who do you trust with your tax dollars?” McFarland said during his closing remarks, adding that he’s running as an independent and not accepting donations for his campaign.


“I’m an individual. I don’t want to owe a single person,” he said.


Conrad, a 30-year resident of the village, stressed the need to maintain village services.


Worth trustee candidates hope to relieve economic headaches

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth Trustee Mary Rhein didn’t hesitate Thursday night when asked about the village’s most significant priority.


“Besides economic development, what issue do we have? We need tax revenue,” Rhein said during a candidate forum hosted by the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce.


The other candidates at the forum, which was held at Worth Village Hall, did not disagree.


In fact, economic development and improving the business climate were the issues most frequently brought up at the 90-minute forum, which attracted about 40 people.


Six candidates are running for three seats on the village board.


Incumbents Rhein, Pete Kats and Warren Soldan are joined on the April 7 ballot by challengers Kevin Ryan, Bruce LeBeau and Forrest Tucker. Tucker did not attend Thursday’s forum.


The incumbents pointed to their experience as the primary reason to return them to the board.


“The key is to listen, learn and lead,” said Rhein, a trustee since 2001.


She recalled the financial crisis the village faced in 2009. The board was forced to make significant, unpopular cuts to restore the village’s cash reserve to 90 days, Rhein said.


“Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean you have to spend it,” she said.


Soldan, a lifelong resident of the village, was appointed to the board two years ago to fill Mayor Mary Warner’s trustee seat. He has served as the liaison to the police department during a time of transition in the department.


“I think the biggest thing we’ve done is the new police chief we have,” Soldan said.


Kats, also a Worth native, has served two terms on the board and stressed the amount of work that accompanies the job.


“It’s just a huge responsibility,” Kats said. “It’s an honor.”


He added that voters should assess village progress over the past few years. If they’re not satisfied, they should not return him to office


The two challengers who attended the forum both have records of community involvement.


Ryan has lived in Worth for about a decade and first got involved during the financial crisis. He is a member of the library board as well as the village’s economic development commission.


“We need to work together for what is in the best interests of the village,” Ryan said.


LeBeau has lived in Worth for 25 years and also served a stint on the library board, which he described as a “hands on” job.


“They were days of blood sweat and tears,” LeBeau said.


LeBeau said the village must work harder to invigorate the business community by involving more residents.


“To me, it’s getting the word out. Let’s get everyone involved. You’ve got to go out and grab people. We have to get 111th Street going with the businesses we have,” LeBeau said. “You’ve got to get creative. We have to bring this town into the next 100 years. It’s a sleepy town. We need to wake it up a little bit.”


Rhein said such initiatives are not always successful. She said hundreds of emails were sent out to encourage people to attend the candidate forum and only a small number attended.


“It’s not easy. It ‘s hard to rally people,” Rhein said. “We try our hardest.”


LeBeau also disagreed with the other candidates on the presence of a medical marijuana dispensary on Harlem Avenue.


“I think we can find better ways to bring business to the village,” he said.


Other candidates said the clinic would benefit both patients and the community.


“It definitely will benefit the people who need it the most,” Rhein said. “It will be beneficial to our town.”


Ryan also supported the decision.


“It will bring in some revenue to town,” he said.


“I think it’s a great idea,” said Katz, who initially had concerns about the proposal.


The future of Water’s Edge Golf Club was briefly discussed, and Rhein and Katz agreed that the village is doing all it can to make the course more profitable.


“We are working diligently to make it work,” Katz said.


“Unfortunately, the golf industry has gone down,” said Rhein, who added that the course faces significant competition from other municipal golf courses in the area.


She added that the new company the village hired to manage the course has improved the situation, but nothing can change the fact that the village owes $6.1 in bond payments for the development of Water’s Edge.


“It’s here to stay,” she said.