Chicago Ridge firemen burning after chief is forced to resign

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The resignation last week of Chicago Ridge Fire PAGE-1-1-col-inset-leftInset photos by Jeff Vorva There have been verbal and written fireworks between Chicago Ridge firemen and Mayor Chuck Tokar and the board of trustees. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Chief Robert Muszynski is the latest salvo in a heightening conflict between village officials and the fire department.

Muszynski resigned citing personal difference with the village’s elected officials.
Mayor Chuck Tokar confirmed that he asked for Muszynski’s resignation.
“Obviously, it’s a mayoral appointment. So I pretty much had to be the bearer of bad tidings and ask him to submit his resignation,” Tokar said Tuesday.
Firefighters are livid and are campaigning for Tokar to rehire Muszynski.
Posts on the union’s Facebook page were critical of Tokar and the administration and is asking for Chicago Ridge residents to urge officials to bring him back.
“Call the village hall and tell your mayor and trustees to bring back Chief Muszynski. He was a great chief and person. He didn’t deserve to lose his job or forced to retire. He was great with the guys at the firehouse and loved by many residents. This is just not right,” one poster wrote.
“Total hypocrisy. It seems these ‘men’ are on the ‘do as we say, not as we do’ plan. Sounds like a certain mayor can’t play fair and honor the contracts, so pan his firemen off to another village. I’d love to see him go through the rigorous training and drills you all had to in order to get your firefighter and medic licenses and degrees, then do your jobs,” another poster commented.
Muszynski, who took over as chief in early 2011, supported the hiring of an additional seven or eight firefighters/paramedics who would be based at the fire station at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said.
That station currently is used for training and to store equipment, the mayor said.
However, some residents have asked the village to consider having a second ambulance and possibility a fire truck at that station, which would reduce the response time to a large number of homes in the village.
The village’s main fire station is located in an industrial park and is not located near much of the village’s residential area.
Tokar said the village cannot absorb the costs of staffing a second station.
“We can’t afford to have a 50 percent increase in our staffing,” the mayor said.
Tokar, who was elected April, 2013, said he has explored “other options” for fire protection in the village, including obtaining services from a fire protection district or another community, such as Oak Lawn.
Worth, which previously had its own fire department, signed a contract with the North Palos Fire Protection District a few years ago.
“I think that was a good move for Worth,” Tokar said.
Whatever decision the village makes, Tokar said he does not intend to “disband or dissolve” the fire department, which currently has 13 full-time firefighter/paramedics, the mayor said.
Muszynski’s resignation comes after two letters were distributed to Chicago Ridge residents in June.
The first letter was written by Chicago Ridge Professional Firefighters Local 3098 expressing concern over the village’s decision to seek alternative methods for fire protection and emergency medical services.
The letter also spoke favorably of in-house fire and emergency medical services.
“It works better,” the letter said. “A private ambulance could be coming to your house from as far as Frankfort. The fire department is always here.”
The letter pointed out that nearby communities such as Hometown, Midlothian and Crestwood no long use private ambulance services and resumed their own services “because they work better.”
“Why then is the village of Chicago Ridge contemplating taking a step backwards when the rest of the world is moving on to what works better?” the letter asked.
The union admitted that there are upsides to a fire protection district, but “all facets of a potential merger must be examined.”
“The mayor states that he wants the ‘highest quality services’ and the ‘fastest response times possible.’ We assert that he already has them. The current staff knows the town, the residents and the streets, and we pride ourselves on our ability to mitigate every emergency with the professionalism you have come to expect from your fire department.”
Village officials fired back with a letter of their own that was sent to residents as well as in a letter-to-the-editor at the Reporter, which was published June 26.
The village’s said the union’s letter “contains misrepresentations of fact in an attempt to cause fear.”
It said Tokar was directed by trustees to “investigate and report to the board cost-saving measures that might save our taxpayers money while increasing the level of fire and ambulance service.”
Dissolving the fire department and contracting with a private ambulance service are not under consideration, the letter said.
The village’s letter also pointed out that village and the union are in the midst of contract negotiations and noted that none of the Chicago Ridge firefighters live in Chicago Ridge.
“By looking into how other towns operate, where our firefighters themselves live, we may discover better, more cost-effective ways to operate,” the letter said.

A royal scam: Palos Hills native duped by so called Prince Harry reality show

  • Written by Declan Harty

Palos Hills almost had its first member of the royal family, well kind of.
If the star of FOX’s dating show, “I Wanna Marry Harry,” Matt Hicks, was actually Prince Harry, and if Palos Hills native Karina Kennedy had won, then the community would have had its first member of England’s royal family.
Well, kind of.
In a confusing turn of events, Kennedy finished as the runner-up on the reality series, which was cancelled in early June, with the remaining four episodes airing on Hulu, and Fox OnDemand.
And since it wasn’t really Prince Harry, and it was one big prank, she lost some time but gained national television exposure.
Kennedy, who lives in Chicago and works as a physical therapist in Evergreen Park, declined to comment to the Reporter because the show had been cancelled.
But when the show was being filmed, she was quoted on the program saying “Growing up watching dating shows, I never considered it but I thought ‘If I’m joining to go on a dating show, this is the one …it would be respectful.”’
The Stagg graduate, who played water polo and was named to the all-sectional team in 2005 and 2006, made an impression on the show.
The website TWC Central called her “easygoing” and “popular.” She told the faux Harry that she used to date a European soccer player.
Kennedy lost out to Long Island’s Kimbery Birch, who is still dating the fake Harry.
“The lengths that they went to get us girls into the mindset that we could be dating the prince was brilliant,” Birch told the New York Post. “But when we would spend time together, I noticed how normal and down-to-earth he was. For me, it became harder and harder to believe he was actually [Prince Harry].’’
The show was filmed last summer across the pond in various locations in England, and it was the travel that enticed Kennedy into joining the show.
“That’s kind of how they hooked me: the traveling,” Kennedy told the Sun-Times in May in a rare interview. “He was just so charming, you trusted him,” she said.
Kennedy competed against 11 other American girls for the heart of who they believed to be Prince Harry. The imposter, Hicks, describes himself on his Twitter page as, “just an average ‘bloke’” and has been getting compared to Prince Harry in terms of his looks since he was in his youth, according to an interview with
Kennedy told the Sun-Times she expressed fear of being judged because she was on a reality show and believing that Hicks was Prince Harry. Kennedy said that she had just finished grad school, and it was the real opportunity to travel that drew her to the show.
“I had no money and really wanted to go around the world. This sounded like a great opportunity to celebrate getting my doctorate,” Kennedy said. “It was too good to be true.”

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Are you (POW) ready (KICK) for some (OUCH) football?



Jeffs Col ImpressionsFor some, it’s never too early to get geeked up for football.
In this area, high school football enjoyed a special season last year, which included Richards taking second in the state in Class 6A.
So even though the 7-on-7 summer leagues have not even peaked yet, it’s still fun to think about the start of the 2014 season, which begins Aug. 29.
Some of the schedules have leaked out and it looks like Richards’ first non-conference opponent that night in Oak Lawn will be interesting. The Bulldogs face Indianapolis Arsenal Tech.
The name alone is fun. The intrigue of whether this team is any good or not is also interesting to ponder because we have no idea of the competition that team plays. Richards could win 55-0, could play in in a nailbiter or get waxed. You never know.
What we do know is this…Arsenal Tech PAGE-3-richards-with-JV-COLSenior-to-be Ryan Willett of Richards is shown running in the state championship game last season. In the first week of 2014, Richards will host a team out of Indianapolis that was involved in a rare double forfeit. Photo by Jeff Vorva.and its fans seem to be an edgy bunch.
Last September, Tech and Fort Wayne South Side High School played to a rare double forfeit.
The Fort Wayne News Sentinel reported that a South Side player laid a late hit on a Tech player in the third quarter and a melee ensued.
Both benches emptied. Fans came out of the stands to join in on the action and just when cooler heads started to prevail…well…a couple of assistant coaches started to fight and the riot was back on in full swing.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association levied a bunch of suspensions and coaches and players all had to attend sportsmanship classes before they would be allowed to compete in postseason play.
The two assistant coaches who duked it out when things were dying down were suspended for the rest of the season.
Come Aug. 29, I really don’t expect Gary Korhonen Field to turn into a war zone. I’m guessing players, coaches and fans from the Indianapolis school have learned some lessons.
But to quote the old sarge on “Hill Street Blues”, let’s be careful out there.

Some NU websites
While researching information on Bob Bielarz, a victim of a boating accident on the Cal-Sag Channel, my eyes have been opened to some new websites.
Bielarz played guitar for No One, a NU Metal group from Chicago.
So while looking up information on the man known in the business as B-Larz, I was able to find a website called, which is a funny name for a site that specializes in metal music.
Then there was a guy with his own blog named Chris Harris who calls himself the Gunshy Assassin. His motto is “More metal than your mama’s kettle” which made me laugh out loud.


Bullet pass

  • Written by Frank Gogola

‘I didn’t know if I was going to die or what,’ Richards’

star QB said after being shot on Memorial Day

Richards’ dual-threat quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogerspage-1-2-col-hasan-black-and-whiteRichards’ quarterback Hasan Muhammad-Rogers poses during a break Saturday at a 7-on-7 tournament. Rogers missed just one practice this summer – mandated by his coach – despite getting shot in the stomach on Memorial Day. Photo by Frank Gogola. wasn’t at first too concerned if he would ever play football again after he had been the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting.
He was more concerned if he would even be alive the next day.
Muhammad-Rogers, one of the top returning football players in the area, said he was on his bike in the front yard of his dad’s house in Dolton, preparing for a Memorial Day barbeque, when a bullet from a drive-by shooting hit him in the right side of the abdomen, went through and got stuck in the left side. He got up and ran into his dad’s house and an ambulance brought him to a hospital.
“As soon as it happened there was a lot going through my head,” Muhammad-Rogers said Monday night. “When I was in the ambulance I didn’t know if I was going to die or what.”
He arrived at the hospital, was soon in stable condition, and the senior-to-be said doctors told him the bullet was a couple inches away from hitting an organ but his abs were strong enough to the stop the bullet. However, the doctors told him they might have to leave the bullet in him based on its location to his organs.
“With the bullet not being taken out I didn’t think I’d play again,” he said. “But the doctors talked it over and decided they could take it out.”
He had surgery the next day -- May 27. He was back home the following day.
His name was not released in news stories but friends and rivals were shaken up by the news on social media and a #prayfor8 popped up on Twitter shortly after the shooting.
“May be a rival on the field but this man is my friend. He better make it through,” wrote former Marist wide receiver Flynn Nagel, who is attending Lemont High School. “Keep praying for Hasan.’’
He was ready to go for the Bulldogs’ first practice on June 9 but coach Tony Sheehan made his signalcaller stand on the sidelines that day. But the following day he was back taking snaps.
“I didn’t want to miss practice because I had to be there with my guys,” Muhammad-Rogers said. “I was a little sore, but being the captain I didn’t want to show anything. I was setting an example that pain is weakness leaving the body. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.”
He said he’s “still a little sore” but “will be ready for the season,” planning to guide the Bulldogs back to a state title game. Last year, they made it to the Class 6A championship and lost to Batavia 34-14.
“He’s looked good, but you can tell he’s not moving the same,” Sheehan said. “He’s sore in his midsection, but he’s getting breaks on certain things so that he’s not forcing it too much.”
Muhammad-Rogers has received college offers from Indiana State, Illinois State, Northern Iowa and North Dakota, but – he said he won’t make a decision until after the season.
Sheehan said Muhammad-Rogers is working harder, taking a leadership role and has “a newfound appreciation for a lot of things.”
“Now I just do everything to the fullest because I never know when it’s going to be over,” Muhammad-Rogers said. “That last play could be your last ever, so I never take anything for granted.”

A mess of fests for the weekend

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

“I just want to celebrate another day of living.’’

Rare Earth made that lyric popular in 1971 and 43 years later, folks can soon hear the group belt it out live.
There will be plenty to celebrate this weekend, which is one of the busiest weekends when it comes to big fairs and fests in and near the Reporter area. That will include Porky Fest at Toyota Park in Bridgeview starting today and running through Sunday. The aforementioned Rare Earth will appear at 9 p.m. Sunday at the event.
A quick look at some of the activities this weekend:

Hickory Hills Street Fair
The annual event will have a kickoff party on Saturday night at the beer garden, located in the parking lot of TCF Bank, 9528 S Roberts Road. Saturday night’s entertainment is the Fabulous Jah Moe. The beer tent will be open from 6-10 p.m. The band takes the stage at 7 p.m.
The main event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday on Roberts Road between 91st and 95th streets.
Entertainment continues on Sunday when The Captain Miller Band performs from 12:15-3:15 p.m. followed by Heartland Star, who will take the stage from 3:45-7 p.m. The beer tent opens at noon.
The annual summertime event will feature approximately 100 craft vendors, 20 food vendors, who will serve a variety of entrees and treats, including popcorn, exotic drinks and shaved ice.
Auto enthusiasts can take advantage of the antique car show, sponsored by the Hickory Hills Park District from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Kasey Meadow Park, 8047 W. 91st Place.

Evergreen Park’s Day in the Park
Evergreen Park’s 26th annual Day in the Park is described as “the biggest block party” in the village.
Saturday’s daylong celebration is on the grounds of the Community Center, 3450 W. 97th St. Festivities began at 11:30 a.m. and run through 9 p.m. A 5k run will be held at 8:30 a.m. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. The festival features music and live entertainment, food, a beer and wine garden and plenty of children’s activities, including face painting.

4-H Fair at Toyota Park
For the first time in more than 100 years, Cook County will have a joint 4-H fair.
 The Cook County 4-H Fair will be held Saturday at Toyota Park at 7000 S. Harlem Ave. in Bridgeview. The Cook County Fair will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and a variety of activities will be offered while the projects are judged the fair and activities are open to the public.

Porky’s Rib Fest at Toyota Park
Porky’s Rib Fest at Toyota Park, 7000 S. Harlem Ave. in Bridgeview runs from Thursday through Sunday.
Live entertainment from classic rock to country and blues; a huge carnival, a spectacular fireworks show on Saturday and a petting zoo are a part of the test. There will be a new mega beer fest, Friday and Saturday, featuring a selection of over 75 craft beers for sampling from around the world.
Rib vendors include local and international cookers, including: Chicago BBQ Company, Uncle Bub’s BBQ from Westmont, Robinsons Ribs, Famous Daves, Texas Thunder BBQ and even Aussom Aussie Australian BBQ from Australia.
Headlining the live musical entertainment will be Rare Earth, performing Sunday from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Performances from Tynan, Crazy Uncles, ZZ Top Tribute Band Eliminator, Back Country Roads, Screamin’ End, Brother Trouble, Brushville, Maxwell Mojo and Rolling Stones Tribute Band Hot Rocks will fill out the schedule.
The hours are 4 p.m.-11 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 1 p.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 11p.m. on Sunday.