Oak Lawn considers publishing monthly newspaper

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The Oak Lawn Village Board is considering publishing a monthly newspaper, with Mayor Sandra Bury and many trustees saying traditional media and Internet blogs cannot be depended on to keep residents informed about what is happening in the village.

At the invitation of Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), John Fanning, owner of Crestwood-based Fanning Communications, gave a presentation at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday about “strategic communication services” in which he outlined the advantages of producing a monthly publication that would be mailed to every residence and business in the village.

Fanning suggested starting with a 20-page publication, modeled after one he has been publishing for the village of Crestwood for several years. He maintained that in the Internet age, with the “unrestricted dissemination of information” available online, has led to a lot of misinformation and deliberate “misinformation” on blogs and other online outlets.

He said everything from municipal bond ratings and real estate values can be affected by wrong information, and publications such as his would counter that.

In addition to providing information coming directly from the village administration about local plans and projects, Fanning said the free publication would also highlight local school news, including honor rolls, sports achievements and other “positive news.”

Fanning said that monthly printing and mailing costs for a 20-page paper would cost about $4,500, but the goal is to have advertising revenue cover those costs, and provide a profit.

When Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) asked how long it would take to become profitable, Fanning predicted that with a mix of 60 percent news and 40 percent advertising, the publication would pay for itself and even turn a profit for the village within the first few months of getting off the ground.

Fanning proposed that 80 percent of any advertising revenue generated by the publication would go to the village, with 20 percent going to his company.

Trustee Mike Carberry (6th) cautioned that while the publication may eventually turn out to be a profitable venture for the village, the board would have to determine how much the village could afford to pay while it was getting started.

“We also have to decide who is going to take ownership of what gets published,” said Carberry.

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) suggested talking to officials from the Oak Lawn Library and the Park District, which already print publications, to see if their efforts could be combined, thereby saving money for everyone.

In addition to asking which village account the money would come from, since the budget has been passed already, Trustee Robert Streit (3rd) questioned the need for a publication, pointing out that there were reporters from at least four publications at the meeting.

Bury stressed that the new village publication would not be competing with existing newspapers and news outlets. It would have no political content, and instead of covering breaking news, she said the publication is intended to be a vehicle for the administration to keep residents informed about the goings-on in the village.

She said that while there already is a “Village Matters” blog, that is only available to people with Internet access who sign up for it through the Everbridge application.

The mayor said the new publication would be an improvement on the old village newsletter, which Village Manager Larry Deetjen said was ended due to costs that amounted to as much as $100,000 annually in printing and manpower.

“I think it would be good for the village and good for business development,” said Trustee Bud Stalker (5th).

“If Crestwood can do it, I am totally confident that Oak Lawn can make it profitable, with all our larger business district and car dealerships,” said Vorderer.

As a first step, the board agreed to have village staff meet with Fanning to discuss details and get answers to the many questions raised at the meeting, beginning with how much Crestwood is profiting from its publication.

Palos Hills appoints full-time building commissioner

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills has pegged a self-employed architect as its new building commissioner.

The city council voted 7-0 with one abstention to appoint Paul Hardison as building commissioner during the meeting Feb. 18. The Palos Park resident was to begin work the following day, he said.

Aldermen Joan Knox (1st Ward) and Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) were not present for the vote. Ald. A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) abstained from voting. He declined to give a reason why when asked by The Reporter after the meeting.

Hardison, who has served as an architect for multi-family, commercial, retail, medical and municipal developments, said the reason to seek out the position in Palos Hills was an easy one.

“I lived in the Palos community since 2006 and I just love it down here – I love everything about this area,” said Hardison, who grew up in Barrington. “When I learned about the job opening and saw that it was something that I could do to benefit the community, I was pretty eager to send in my resume.

Hardison, who earned his degree in architecture from the University of Illinois-Chicago, was hand-picked by Mayor Gerald Bennett from a pool of seven applicants. Although Bennett was absent from the meeting last week, several city officials spoke highly of his recommendation.

“We got a copy of his resume and it is very impressive,” Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd Ward) said of Hardison. “I believe he will be a nice addition (for Palos Hills).”

“He has a wonderful background,” added Ald. Marty Kleefisch (1st Ward) said. “His background is architecture but he knows all the building codes, which is extremely important. He’s been involved in the design and construction of different kinds of buildings.”

Hardison replaces Gene Newman, a plan commission member and architect, who was named to the position in November following the death of Gene Nelson. When Newman was appointed by the council to the position it was a part-time job. The city has since decided to make the building commissioner a full-time job, and Newman indicated to Bennett he would not be interested in taking on the position on a full-time basis.

“I’d like Palos Hills to be a place everybody wants to do work, and I just want to do the best job I can,” Hardison said.

The position is expected to have a salary of around $75,000, Bennett said at the council meeting earlier this month.

Hardison and his wife, Diana, have two sons, ages 9 and 11. Diana is an active member of the Palos School District 118 Parent Faculty Association, he said.

In other news, Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley said the Illinois Department of Transportation’s project to improve the intersection of 111th Street and Southwest Highway “is gonna happen,” although an exact start date is not yet known.

Among the work planned for the federally-funded project is the installation of dedicated right-turn lanes at three of the intersections four corners, curb and storm sewer work, and construction of a small paved path to link to the existing path further south on Southwest Highway.

The new turn lanes will be approximately 12 to 13 feet wide and will utilize existing right-of-way, Weakley said. A dedicated turn lane is not in the plans for the corner where Walgreens is located, he said.

“We were asking if (IDOT) could improve intersection functionality so that’s how the dedicated turn lanes came about,” Weakley said. “In terms of stacking, there should be room for about five cars in each.”

Weakley said whenever the project does begin to expect traffic delays and backups. However, because IDOT has not yet bid the project there is no timetable for the improvements.

The paved path will be around 600 feet long and will provide continuity with the Cal-Sag Trail. It will also make it easier for those biking or walking to the Metra station, he said.

District 218 Board extends contract for food service company

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Consolidated School District 218 Board of Education has extended the food service contract for a fourth year to the company currently supplying Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Shepard High School in Palos Heights, and Eisenhower in Blue Island.

When the issue was addressed at the Feb. 16 board meeting, Vice President Randy Heuser pointed out that this will be the last extension given to Chartwells School Dining Services, which has been providing food service to the district since 2012.

“They’re in the fourth year of a four-year contract. There is no sense in changing that now, is there?” he wondered.

The contract must be put up for competitive bids in 2017 because, as district Business Manager Joe Daley pointed out, this school year is the fourth and final time the current contract can be extended. Next year, the food service contract will have to be put up for competitive bid, Daley said.

Technically, federal law only allows school districts to offer one-year contracts to companies for food service. These may be extended one year at a time for up to four years.

The vote was 4-0 in favor of the extension, because board members Larry Harris, Robert Stokas and Carol Kats were not at the meeting.

Federal law also states that the food service company is entitled to an increase for the upcoming year, but that increase must be based on the Consumer Price Index as of December 2015. Daley said that means the company will receive an increase of 2.6 percent for the 2016-17 academic year.

In other business, the school board also voted unanimously to spend about $83,000 on new uniforms for the band program at Eisenhower High School.

According to district spokesman Robert McParland, this purchase is similar to those done for the band program at Shepard High School in 2014, and in 2015 for the one at Richards.

The Bandman's Company of Dallas, Texas, submitted the lower of two bids —$83,284.15 — to provide 135 band uniforms, five drum major uniforms and 25 guard uniforms. Three other companies sought information from the district, but did not submit bids.

McAuley senior is named National Merit Finalist

  • Written by By Kelly White

Maeve O’Rourke, a senior at Mother McAuley High School, has been named a finalist in the 2016 National Merit Scholarship Program.

O’Rourke, 18, was one of 16,000 students nationwide to be named a National Merit Semifinalist. Semifinalists were chosen based on PSAT scores. O’Rourke was selected as a finalist after completing an application, writing an essay and taking the SAT. These students were the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been selected as a National Merit Finalist,” said O’Rourke, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. “It’s an exciting time as I get ready for college, and now this recognition is a great reminder that hard work pays off.”

“With the strong educational foundation built as a graduate of St. John Fisher, Maeve flourished in the challenging academic environment at Mother McAuley,” said Eileen Boyce, the Mother McAuley principal.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. The program is a nationwide competition for recognition and awards conducted by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. In each annual program, approximately 50,000 academically high school students are honored, but only 15,000 of them are named finalists.

O’Rourke has remained active at McAuley, participating in in cross-country, Math Macs and Student Ambassadors. She is also a leader of the National Honor Society, a member of the National English Honor Society, Catherine McAuley Honors Scholars, Junior Classical League and is involved in the St. John Fisher/Most Holy Redeemer Youth Ministry Program.

“Aside from elective courses, I have taken honors and AP classes as a way to challenge myself while taking advantage of the opportunities McAuley offers,” O’Rourke said.

She said attending McAuley has contributed to her academic success.

“I went through several pro-con lists before deciding on a high school, and I could not be happier with my decision,” O’Rourke said. “Mother McAuley has shaped me into an open-minded go-getter. Studying in an all-girls environment has given me a huge confidence boost.”

Her educational inspiration comes from Malala Yousafzai-Pakistani, the activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate who survived being shot in the head for her beliefs.

“She inspires me to use my education as a vehicle for change,” O’Rourke said. “Her bravery reminds me that I have a responsibility to make the most of my education.”

O’Rourke has not yet decided on a college, but is planning to study English.

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Queen of Peace wins regional despite Shimko's banishment

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Photo by Jeff Vorva

Queen of Peace coach George Shimko watches his team beat King Thursday night for the Class 3A regional title from a stage area in the gym. Shimko was suspended for the postseason for not having enough players at a JV game in January.


Figuratively speaking, Queen of Peace girls basketball coach George Shimko is in the Cook County lockup for getting a parking ticket.

The Illinois High School Association bounced him out of the Class 3A postseason tournament for a rules violation that has some scratching their heads.

The Pride, a team with nine players and no seniors on the varsity roster, played a junior varsity game against Guerin at Concordia University on Jan 17. The IHSA said that you need at least 10 players suited up for a JV game or it counts on your varsity record.

So it counted on the Pride’s varsity record and the team went one game over the limit and Shimko, who is also the school’s athletic director, was suspended from coaching in the postseason.

Shimko appealed to the IHSA officials and said it was a mistake and he didn’t know the rule.

That didn’t matter.

The coach pleaded that they were not cheating or trying to gain any competitive edge for seeding because they didn’t count the game in their record.

That didn’t matter either.

When Shimko did find an IHSA rule that would allow the waving of a punishment due to an error?

“They told me they were being lenient with me,” Shimko said. “They said the whole team could have been removed from the postseason.’’

Geez. That would have been really harsh.

This suspension is harsh, too.

If a coach is going to get a postseason ban, make it for something good, like illegally bringing in a 7-footer from another country or bringing in some 30-point-a-game stud and doctoring up her grades. Something a little more juicy than playing a JV game with nine athletes.

And think of this—if the seeds hold true, the Pride will play four postseason games. Putting it in a bigger picture, that’s two more games that NFL player Ray Rice was originally sentenced to for assaulting his girlfriend.

To me, a one-game suspension or even a warning would have been fair for Shimko. But the IHSA saw it differently and Shimko was banned from coaching last week’s regional victories over Perspectives-Calumet and King. He was allowed to be in the gym and, to the IHSA’s credit, he was allowed to take photos with his team after winning the regional title Thursday night and help cut down the nets. So there was some joy to be had for the third-year coach.

Losing a coach can be a jolt for some teams but the Pride was able to prosper. The keys have been handed over to assistant coach Mike Landstrom, a 25-year-old with a unique basketball background.

The 6-foot-8 Oak Lawn native said he played just one season – his senior year – at Marist High School and tried to walk on at St. Xavier University. He earned some scholarship money for hoops his sophomore and junior seasons. He started coaching youth teams when he was in high school and now has been thrust into the pressure cooker of postseason basketball with a team that earned the No. 2 team in the De La Salle Sectional.

“Honestly, I’m looking at this like it’s a great opportunity,” Landstrom said. “Our whole (assistant) coaching staff is rather young. It’s an opportunity for us to step up our game.

“We had the foundation set from the beginning. Now it’s just a matter of keeping it going. It’s been a little more challenging, but I like it. It’s a good time.’’

Landstrom admits that being the man all the players’ eyes are on during a game was something he had to get used to.

“The first game, I was not used to it and when we were coming into the timeouts, I kept looking at (fellow assistant coach Alex Shimko) and he looked at me and we were like ‘who is supposed to bring in the huddle?’ ’’ Landstrom said.

So the Pride moved on to the sectional semifinals with their coach watching near the stage area of his gym instead of his customary spot on the bench. This week is going to be a little tougher with a potential battle with Bogan looming Thursday in the sectional final.

Shimko will be somewhere in the De La Salle gym cheering his team on.

And while he does not relish the idea of being away from his team during games, he probably wouldn’t mind being stuck in the stands and watching Landstrom coach March 4 and 5 at the state tournament in Normal.