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Oak Lawn mayor's clerk candidate faces big challenge in race against incumbent

By Laura Bollin

A first-grade teacher from St. Germaine School is challenging the incumbent village clerk in Oak Lawn on next month’s election ballot.

Melissa Moran is running on Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann’s Independent Party ticket against village Clerk Jane Quinlan. The incumbent clerk was first elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2009, both times as a member of Heilmann’s political party. Quinlan is running this year as an independent.

Jane Quinlan
Quinlan, 56, is a lifelong resident of Oak Lawn. She earned registered and municipal clerk certifications through the University of Illinois-Springfield., and has been working on earning a master municipal clerk certification since 2006. She is the vice president of the South and West Clerks Association, which includes 75 municipalities.

“I want to continue serving the people of Oak Lawn,” Quinlan said. “It is important for the village to have working relationships with other communities, which I do.”

Quinlan’s eight years as clerk have helped her create bonds with residents, she said.

“It takes years to build up the relationships that I have with residents, you just don’t walk in and know everybody,” Quinlan said. “People get to know you and they trust you.”

Quinlan believes she has made the right decision in running as an independent candidate. She ran in 2005 and 2009 with Heilmann and Trustee Alex Olejniczak. The officials have since gone their separate ways, with Heilmann siding with former adversary Trustee Bob Streit and Trustee Carol Quinlan, and Olejniczak aligned with Trustees Tom Phelan and Tom Duhig.

“I have been working with an adversarial board for years,” Quinlan said. “I can best serve the village as an independent candidate. You can work effectively with an adversarial board, the key is that I work for the full board.”

Quinlan is self-described as a “hands-on” clerk.

“If people have a problem with something, I will stop in on my way to work in the morning,” she said. “If someone calls and tells me there’s a big hole in their street, and they don’t know if it’s their responsibility or on the village property, I’ll take a ride by there. I know what department to call to help. People see me at night, on the weekends. I’m always driving around the village. You have to know your village.”

Melissa Moran
Moran, 38, earned a bachelor’s degree in history with an education concentration and a master’s degree in elementary education from Saint Xavier University. She has served on the St. Germaine Family Association Board, the St. Germaine Athletic Association Board, the parish transformation committee and the parish fundraising committee. She has lived in Oak Lawn for 14 years.

Moran said she wants to be part of a board that works together.

“I’m running because I think our government can do better than what it is doing right now,” she said. “We need officials that are working together, and when they are not working together, it hinders progress. We don’t get as much accomplished as we should.”

Moran said the organizational skills she has as a teacher will also help her if she is elected as village clerk. She also believes being clerk will be her way of giving back to Oak Lawn.

“I’m used to a changing pace,” Moran said. “I am used to multitasking and dealing with whatever comes my way.”

Safety and crime are some of the big issues in the village, Moran said.

“I am currently working with the mayor to be part of a safety committee to talk to residents to see what our safety issues are, and what we think can be done about them,” she said. 

Moran also wants to see more revenue brought into Oak Lawn.

“We are losing shoppers to other areas,” Moran said. “We don’t have enough retail in Oak Lawn. We need to talk about how to bring in clothing retailers and different types of restaurants in Oak Lawn.

“We are a wonderful community next to the city with Beverly to the east of us – how do we pull that traffic into Oak Lawn? Communities around us will turn to us as a place to stop and shop. Let’s attack the areas we are losing out on.”
 

Evergreen police chief says officer in fatal crash was doing his job

By Laura Bollin

The police chief in Evergreen Park maintains that a village police officer was doing his job when he pursued a speeder down 95th Street at 90 miles per hour, resulting in a collision that claimed the life of a teenaged motorist in 2010.

Brian DeWitt, of Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood, died in October 2010 after a speeding Evergreen Park squad car struck the vehicle the youth was driving at the intersection of 95th Street and Central Park Avenue. A Cook County judge has awarded DeWitt’s family $2.5 million in a wrongful death settlement against the Evergreen Park Police Department.

Evergreen Park Police Chief Michael Saunders stands by his officer’s decision to make an attempt to initiate a traffic stop. Many municipal police departments in the area have policies that prohibit officer from engaging in high-speed pursuits. The speed limit on 95th Street is 35 mph.

“This was not a police pursuit, this was a traffic violator and this was attempting to be a traffic stop,” Saunders said.

The officer involved in the crash was never disciplined or suspended, Saunders said. A Cook County Sheriff’s Police investigation found DeWitt had marijuana in his system, and ruled the youth responsible for the fatal crash.

“The investigation found nothing against [the officer],” Saunders said. We wanted to use an outside agency so everything was handled properly.”

DeWitt’s mother, Deborah, has sent a letter to police department asking that changes be made to the pursuit policy. The policy has changed, but not as a result of the accident, Saunders said. The revised policy asks officers to consider the safety of bystanders and motorists, and states that officers cannot exceed 80 mph without permission from a supervisor.

 

Write-in candidate hopes she won't be written off in race against incumbent mayor

By Laura Bollin

The mayor of Evergreen Park will face an election challenger for the first time in his four runs for the village’s highest elected office.

Write-in mayoral candidate Shawn Good, who was booted from the ballot after an electoral board deemed her nominating petitions invalid, is hoping to defeat Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton April 9. Three political allies of Sexton comprised the electoral board that threw out Good’s nominating petitions.

Jim Sexton
Sexton, 60, has lived in Evergreen Park for 37 years, and is running because he wants to continue the economic development he helped bring to the village, he said. Sexton owns a bachelor’s degree in education from Loyola University Chicago, and has spent 26 years on the Evergreen Park Village Board. He served as a trustee from 1987 to 1996, village clerk from 1996 to 2001, and has been mayor since 2001.

Bringing more commercial development to Evergreen Park is at the top of Sexton’s list of things he wants to accomplish. Big box retailers Meijer and Menards will be opening in a development on the old Evergreen Golf Club property at 91st Street and Western Avenue, and Sexton this week announced a developer’s plan to redevelop The Plaza at 95th and Kedzie.

“The Plaza would be up at the top, and the Webb property [2601 W. 95th St.] is toward the top of the list,” Sexton said. “We changed all four corners at 95th and Kedzie. Twelve years ago, that was all old, dilapidated buildings. We brought in Oberweiss, Jimmy John’s, Culver’s, all things I have been working on over the years that have come to fruition.”

Village officials should always be working on economic development, Sexton said. The mayor has been a staunch advocate of the “Keep the green in Evergreen” campaign, an effort to encourage residents to spend their money in Evergreen Park rather than other places such as Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge.

“We want to encourage people to spend their dollars here so we keep the folks that we have here.” Sexton said.

Sexton hopes voters will consider his experience in municipal government.

“I started out on committees as youth commissioner and a police and fire commission member,” Sexton said. “I’m not just coming along looking to start at the top. I planted a framework and worked hard in this town. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people and worked with a lot of people.”

Sexton is excited about the future of Evergreen Park.

“We’ve got a lot to do here,” he said. “We have a great town, and we have a lot to look forward to. We have the park and retail development at 91st Street and Western Avenue with the Menards, Meijer, and Michaels. We have to get the Mariano’s completed [on the old Webb site]. We have got to get The Plaza done – we have to scrap it and start over. That’s three major projects we’re in the midst of working on.”

Sexton, who contracted West Nile Virus last summer and spent nearly six weeks in the hospital, said the commercial development in town has helped him regain his strength, and keep the commitment to Evergreen Park he has held for more than 37 years.

Shawn Good
Good, 44, has lived in Evergreen Park for 40 years, and wants to address the concerns of the citizens in town. Good attended Moraine Valley Community College, and earned her master’s degree in political science and justice studies from Governors State University. Good is running for mayor the good of the community, she said.

“I want to address the concerns of the citizens and business owners,” she said. “I feel dedicated to Evergreen Park and the community. I want to do service here because I live here and am dedicated to public service.”

Good believes the Village Board should be making the best choices for everyone in town, and is concerned about taxes and business development. Evergreen Park has not raised its property tax rate in many years.

“We need to be working together with other communities to attract businesses and get taxes lowered,” Good said. “I’ve seen town change – we have a lot of auto dealerships and a lot of retail services. People are complaining about very high taxes that are just out of control, but they are not getting anywhere with their complaints.”

When talking to business owners, Good said some told her their property taxes are so high they are having a difficult time staying in business.

“I want to meet with local business owners and state representatives and bring it to a forum or committee so we can band together.”

She also wants to create incentives for businesses that have been in Evergreen Park for more than 30 years to encourage them to stay in the village. Good hoped to create a petition that would get the attention of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“If we get enough people to petition or get a group of people to bring it to his attention, I think maybe they have to start investigating and help our community,” Good said. “95th Street is being emptied out very quickly.”
 

ComEd denies responsibility for power outage, surge in Oak Lawn

By Laura Bollin

A power outage caused by a raccoon earlier this month in Oak Lawn was an “act of God,” according to ComEd, and the electric company is denying responsibility for any damages incurred by the 1,000-plus residents who were affected by the situation.

Village officials, meanwhile, plan to meet with ComEd representatives and residents in early April to further discuss the matter. Two representatives from ComEd met with about 25 Oak Lawn residents last Wednesday. ComEd will analyze each claim of damages on an individual basis, said Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen.

The power outage and subsequent power surge that Oak Lawn village officials claim overwhelmed surge protectors and damaged electronic equipment such as televisions and computers occurred early in the morning March 10 in an area bounded by 87th and 99th streets and Cicero and Central avenues. ComEd claims 1,044 customers were affected by the outage. The Oak Lawn police and fire departments received calls from residents about the smell of smoke in their homes, village officials have said.

“It is clear that those who attended the meeting experienced damage to appliances, like their refrigerators, ovens, DVD and Blu-Ray players, computers and television sets,” Deetjen said. “Some people had very sophisticated and expensive surge protectors, but they were not helpful. Some of their devices were permanently damaged by the surge, which is extremely frustrating.”

Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak said he has visited residents who had had appliances fried by the power surge that followed the outage, and claims some people incurred as much as $6,000 worth of damage.

At the neighborhood meeting planned for next month, residents will be able to hear ComEd’s assessment of the outage and why it occurred, Deetjen said.

“We don’t want to get people’s hopes up,” Deetjen said. “It is common across the country [that] for acts of God the power company is not liable. It has to be a human error in terms of operating the system, poor maintenance or inadequate equipment. At this point, they’re taking the position that they have no liability.”

Residents can fill out claim forms in case it is determined ComEd was responsible. Claim forms can be found on Oak Lawn’s website, oaklawn-il.gov.
 

Variety by Brian Lowry

Variety by Brian Lowry

’Net gain falls short
  Given all the attention showered on “House of Cards” — Netflix’s high-profile voyage into prestige drama, with Kevin Spacey and director David Fincher onboard — one could easily assume Web-originated content has officially turned a corner. Such an assumption would be partly right, and mostly wrong.
  Original production for the Web has steadily been gaining steam, with experimentation becoming more ambitious. Producers are investing more, and asking viewers to watch longer — a big leap over the byte-sized bits that initially characterized such efforts. That said, most of these productions are characterized by deficiencies on one front or another, reflecting some of the Web’s off-Broadway-style limitations.
  Two recent efforts are illustrative in this regard. Crackle’s “Chosen,” starring and produced by “Heroes” alum Milo Ventimiglia, features a tautly constructed little story resembling a “The Twilight Zone” episode: An ordinary guy is tapped by unseen forces to participate in a “game,” which requires the players to kill random strangers. Yet while the six roughly 20-minute chapters have the feel of an indie thriller, they also exhibit some of the challenges producing for the Web can impose. Although the performances are strong and the ethical considerations intriguing, scenes drag on a little too long, presumably due in part to production demands that don’t allow for sprawling casts or multiple locations and sets.
  By contrast, Syfy premiered “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome,” a TV movie assembled from 10 webisodes produced for YouTube’s premium channel Machinima Prime. Extending one of the network’s signature franchises, the show actually looks great — using virtual sets and CGI to create action sequences almost comparable with the original (or rather, rebooted) series; it’s in the so-so acting and writing where the project feels a noticeable cut below its predecessor. Both programs have been deemed successful by their distributors, even if the metrics remain a tad confusing to those accustomed to a Nielsen yardstick.
  In the case of “Chosen,” for example, Crackle was touting both the number of streams and the fact more than half the people who watched the first installment hung around for the rest. In certain ways, the Web is creatively liberating. With something like “Chosen,” the format allows producers to “tell the story that we want to tell,” says Eric Berger, GM of Crackle and exec VP of digital networks for Sony Pictures Television, without needing to stretch the length — either of the run or individual episodes — to accommodate a network’s schedule. “When you get out of the TV world, which has very rigid parameters, you can have more flexibility with the content,” Berger explains.
  “Blood & Chrome” has the advantage of being tied to a pre-sold title, which might be the best way lure traditional TV viewers into this relatively new space. That logic also explains Prospect Park’s decision to try using the canceled ABC soaps “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” to anchor what they’ve dubbed the Online Network — a proposed migration that has hit multiple hurdles and snags along the way, reflecting some of the complications associated with this still-fledging model.
  Clearly, content for the Web is becoming harder to differentiate from conventional TV, and much of the better stuff will invariably be shared in various distribution windows to help defray the costs. Yet while the lines continue to blur, for now, a few big gambles like “House of Cards” haven’t completely erased them, and it remains uncertain how many entities that test these waters will exhibit the fortitude to repeatedly risk seeing their houses come toppling down.
  For its part, Netflix has stated it won’t release user data regarding “House of Cards” results, seemingly determined to trump even pay-cable networks like HBO in the “It’s a hit if we say so” department. Ultimately, though, the plots of the latest iteration of “Battlestar Galactica” and “Chosen” contain unspoken messages for the industry about the current phase of made-for-the-Web evolution: In the first case, the sleek new technologies being created can come back to bite you; and second, even if you’re just trying to mind your own business, not everyone is going to get out alive.