OL’s 911 dispatch dispute still has political overtones

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Oak Lawn’s 911 dispatch center continues to be the source of political controversy several months after the village board decided to outsource the service.
Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan last week called for an “independent, fact-finding survey” designed to evaluate the service, a suggestion that failed to receive support from other trustees.
Meanwhile, at least one trustee accused Streit of using the dispatch center as a campaign issue, while a former trustee accused Streit and Quinlan of lying when they said they were unaware of a litany of serious problems that existed with the previous team of emergency dispatchers.
Streit put the issue back in the spotlight at the Aug. 12 village board meeting saying he’s received several complaints from residents about the service since it’s been outsourced to a private company.
“There have been many questions raised about the quality of service our residents receive,” Streit said. “I hear from so many people. I hope you all do.”
Streit conceded that he likely hears more complaints than other trustees because he vocally opposed outsourcing the 911 dispatch service, a move the board approved in November on the recommendation of Village Manager Larry Deetjen. Quinlan also voted against the proposal.
The village entered into a contract with Elmhurst-based Norcomm Public Safety Communications several days after the vote was taken.
Streit had hoped to question Norcomm vice president Michael Tillman about the complaints he’s received. Tillman attended the Aug. 12 board meeting to present the village a certificate thanking Oak Lawn for continued commitment in an effort to achieve excellence in the delivery of 911 services.
But Tillman left the meeting immediately after presenting the certificate, leading Streit to allege that Tillman’s appearance was scripted.
“I was a little disappointed how quickly you whisked out the representative from Norcomm,” Streit told Mayor Sandra Bury.

CR hoping electronic signs end the ‘dodge ball’ games at Metra station

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge officials are hoping electronic signs will prevent any mishaps as commuters cross Ridgeland Avenue after getting off the Metra trains.
Village board members on Tuesday decided in favor of the signs over the continued use of Emergency Management personnel that has for the past few months guided pedestrians safely across a busy Ridgeland Avenue.
“It was a trial thing,” said Trustee Sally Durkin. “I thought it was very effective.”
Train commuters seemed to favor the EMS personnel, who made sure they got across Ridgeland Avenue safety, Durkin said. Motorists, however, did not enjoy the addition time spent waiting for pedestrians crossed the street, she said.
But the cost to have two EMS personnel at the station exceeded $11,000 annually, leading village officials to once again try signs to prevent pedestrians from crossing Ridgeland Avenue at the wrong time.
The problem is created when pedestrians, eager to cross Ridgeland Avenue, get caught up in Ridgeland Avenue traffic that proceeds the moment the railroad gates go up, Durkin said.
Metra refused the village’s request to leave the gates down longer to hold back traffic until all pedestrians had crossed the street, she said.
Trustee Bruce Quintos, who routinely picks his wife up at the station, said the pedestrians avoiding traffic “was like dodge ball” on some nights. “Traffic is really out of control,” he said.
“I think it’s a reasonable compromise,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.

Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions -- Don’t laugh – this Bud could go down as one of the greats

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col ImpressionsHigh school and college football are just around the corner.
The Bears are in the middle of their preseason schedule.
There is excitement in the air for football, football, FOOTBALL!!!!
So I am going to talk about baseball.
Major League Baseball owners voted in Rob Manfred as the new commissioner to replace Bug Selig come January.
Last Thursday, St. Louis Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt told reporters that Selig was “the greatest commissioner in baseball history.’’
Some of you may be wetting your pants laughing at that statement.
But it’s not that far off the mark.
Since Selig has been the boss in 1992, some lousy things Page-3-bud-with-jv-colBud Selig (above photo, courtesy of could go down in history as one of the best commissioners in baseball even though he is highly criticized now. Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson (bottom photo, by Jeff Vorva) had a bad season in 2013, visited Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn during the offseason but is having a worse season in 2014.Page-3-2-col-edwin-with-JV-colwent on under his watch. Steroids, a baseball strike in 1994 that wiped out the World Series and his goofy response of declaring the game a tie during extra innings of an All-Star game are three lowlights to his career that some fans will never forgive or forget.
But history has a way of forgiving and forgetting. And as time passes, a new generation of baseball fans will be sitting in those seats at ballparks not knowing much at all about that stuff. I’m sure Kenesaw Mountain Landis – baseball’s first commish – had his warts but do we care now?
Happy Chandler, his successor probably didn’t make everyone happy either. Ford Frick made some fans use another word that begins with ‘f’ when in 1961 he decided that since so many players were challenging Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record he was going to separate the records for 154- and 162-game seasons.
And what the heck was Bowie Kuhn thinking by giving one league the designated hitter and not the other? That is still the dumbest thing in baseball and sports in general.
The first eight gents who occupied the hot seat all had their bad points and Selig, the ninth guy, certainly had his.
But Allan Huber “Bud” Selig also introduced the wild card to the sport, which jacked up interest in September for a lot more teams and fan bases. And some wild card teams even won the World Series.
Selig also helped start interleague play in 1997. To have a National League team play an American League team during the regular season? The Cubs playing the Sox? The Mets playing the Yankees?
It was unheard of before ’97.
And the use of replays, which is recent and heavily criticized for messing up the purity of the game, may prove to be a success years from now.
The innovative stuff that he accomplished will far outweigh his blemishes years down the line.
Believe it or not, history will be kind to this guy.
A lot kinder than it is to him now.

Breaking the jinx
Last summer, Cubs outfielder David DeJesus visited sick kids at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.
Soon after, he was traded. Twice.
During the winter, Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson visited sick kids at the same hospital. Last year, he was 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA and this year – after the visit -- he was 6-13 with a 5.74 ERA in his first 25 starts and is in danger of losing his starting spot.
But on July 28, outfield Chris Coghlan, a lifetime .272 hitter, visited the hospital and in the following 16 games, he hit .322 with 10 doubles, three homers and 12 RBI.
Phew. Glad to see this wasn’t an ACH jinx.

Just wondering…
Does anyone out there miss A-Rod?


A beeping mess

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Neighbors claim EP trustee is harassing them with constant car honking but

lawyer says client is being a good grandpa

PAGE-1-1-col-DanMcKeownTrustee Dan McKeownNeighborhood disputes are commonplace, but a disagreement in Evergreen Park involving a village trustee and his car horn has found its way to court.

And there will be a bench trial scheduled for the dispute in September as well.
This unusual horn o’ plenty conflict involves Trustee Dan McKeown and his neighbors, Barb and Keith Kremmick, both who live in the 9300 block of Sacramento Avenue, in the northeast quadrant of the village.
Neighbors say McKeown is out of line by honking his car horn in the neighborhood.
They call it harassment.
His lawyer says McKeown is just a guy who loves his grandkids.
Breaking it down, McKeown has been charged with disorderly conduct following allegations by the Kremmicks that he repeatedly honks his car horn while passing their house.
The complaint, filed July 25 in Cook County Circuit Court, says McKeown has “knowingly and intentionally honked his car horn” while in front of the Kremmicks’ house, which has “alarmed and disturbed” the block as well as breached the peace.
The Kremmicks were hesitant to sound off on the matter Tuesday following a brief hearing at Bridgeview Court during which Judge John Gallagher scheduled a bench trial for Sept. 25.
Barb Kremmick said McKeown, 60, has sounded his horn far more than the eight times mentioned in the complaint, but she has no idea why he does it.
“For what reason nobody knows,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “The whole block has been dealing with this.”
McKeown’s attorney, Craig Miller, offered an explanation for his client’s habitual honking.
McKeown’s son and grandchildren live next door to the Kremmicks, and McKeown enjoys tooting the horn as he passes their house.
“He doesn’t lay on the horn. He’s just a guy who loves his grandchildren,” said Miller, who added that McKeown stopped honking after the Kremmicks confronted him.
Miller suspects that the Kremmicks have another motivation for filing a formal complaint.
“They’re just upset with him,” Miller said. “They don’t like him for whatever reason.”
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, supported the Kremmicks’ contentions.

She said McKeown often beeps his car horn while driving from one end of the block to the other. She added that he drives around the block just to sound the horn.
“It’s been going on longer than he’s been a trustee,” she said. “He’s harassing.”
McKeown refused to comment on the matter following Tuesday’s court appearance.
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton had little to say about the dispute.
“It’s a neighborhood matter,” Sexton said. “We’ll let the courts figure out what’s going on.”
McKeown serves as comptroller of Keyser Industries, located in downtown Evergreen Park, according to biographical information provided on the village website, and has been very active in the community.

He served as president of the Evergreen Park Chamber of Commerce; trustee of the Police Pension Board and president and vice-president of the School District 231 Board. He also is active at St. Bernadette Parish.
He graduated from Marist High School and completed his completed his undergraduate studies in business and earned his MBA from Lewis University in 1982. 
He and his wife, Betty, have lived in the village for more than 35 years and have four adult sons.

To heck with tech

  • Written by Kelly White

New Little Free Library set to bring ‘humanity back into community’

In an era of technology, Hickory Hills is takingpage-1-2-col-Little-Free-LibraryThe Little Free Library in Hickory Hills opened up last Thursday in front of City Hall. Photo by Kelly White. a step back and opening up its first Little Free Library. 

The Little Free Library, displayed outside of the Hickory Hills City Hall at 8652 W 95th Street, debuted at last Thursday’s city council meeting. The little blue schoolhouse-shaped box, decorated with watermelon decals, stands at the doors of city hall building and is filled with books for anyone to enjoy.
It’s a take-a-book-return-a-book gathering place where neighbors can share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book or two and bring back another book of their own to share with the community. They are also referred to as community book exchanges, book trading posts and pop-up libraries.
Described by Annette Armstrong, director of the Green Hills Library, as a do-it-yourself project, the Little Free Library is a tough competitor alongside the digital age.
“It really brings a sense of humanity back into the community,” she said at the city council meeting.
The Little Free Library belongs to everyone and you do not need a library card to have access to the books. Neighbors, friends and even people just passing by may use the library that offers a way to share physical books.
Residents are encouraged to take books, share books and give books. If a resident sees something they would like to read, they may simply take it from the Little Free Library. When finished with the book, the reader is encouraged to leave a special note inside of the paperback book so future readers can see who previously read the same book and what they thought of it.
Sharing books is also encouraged. Donating books to the library is another way local community members can contribute. Any books in your home, including books a reader would like to recommend to other readers, childhood favorites and books that teach and intrigue, can be dropped off daily at the Little Free Library.
This is the first Little Free Library in Hickory Hills, however, Mayor Mike Howley would like to open up more.
“I’ve seen the Little Free Libraries in the Oak Park community after Annette had spoken to me about the concept and I realized it is a really good idea,” he said, “People passing by them were gathering and stopping to take books.”
The Little Free Library idea was popularized in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 when Todd Bol mounted a wooden container designed to look like a school house on a post on his lawn as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher.
“These Little Free Libraries promote the love of reading and build a sense of community,” Armstrong said, “We would like to eventually add other informative pieces of information into the Little Library, as well, including newsletters and other local community information that will be beneficial to residents.”
Armstrong and members of the Green Hills Library will be visiting the Little Library outside of city hall monthly to drop off new books.
Palos Heights currently has two Little Free Libraries in their municipality, one stationed at 123rd and Harlem and one at Lake Katherine, 7402 Lake Katherine Drive.