District 124 holds off on security work at junior high

By Jessie Molloy

  Most of the scheduled improvement projects in Evergreen Park School District 124 will taking place this summer, but the planned remodeling of Central Junior High for security purposes has been delayed indefinitely.
  The board has gone out to bid for work for roof and pipe repairs at Central and Northeast and Northwest elementary schools, but cannot move ahead with the plans to reconstruct the entrance to Central until it decides the future location of grade levels in the district.
  Overcrowding in District 124 elementary schools has prompted the board of education to consider two plans: reconfiguring the four elementary buildings from neighborhood schools to grade centers, which would consolidate students in one or two grade levels into specific buildings; or relocating sixth graders from elementary schools to Central, which would free up space in the quadrant schools but require an addition to the junior high.
  The estimated cost of an addition at Central is $6 million.
  The district has been conducting community polls on the issue for the past year, and the board at its meeting March 13 discussed the most recent results. According to the survey results, the vast majority of teachers and parents agree reducing class sizes would improve students’ education; however, while teachers are split down the middle on which of the two plans would work better, 70 percent of parents said they do not want grade centers. About 55 percent of responding parents said they would put having a neighborhood school as a priority over class size. Additionally, 34 percent of surveyed seventh- and eighth-graders would have liked to enter junior high in sixth grade.
  District 124 finance director Dean Gerdes said the district will likely have to issue $5 million to $6 million in bonds to fund the addition and proposed security changes at Central “without leaving the cupboard bare, or wait until enough funds could be accumulated before moving ahead with the project. The board debated the pros and cons of every possible scenario, and while they reached the consensus that waiting too long would be impractical the issue was left hanging for further discussion next month. In the meantime, board members have agreed that extra security personnel will have to be hired at Central as compensation.
  The board has approved a summer project to remove asbestos from Northwest School at the cost of $28,800.

Oak Lawn mayoral candidates debate to packed house

By Laura Bollin

It was standing room only Tuesday night at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School as more than 400 people crowded into the school’s cafetorium to view the first and only debate between the two candidates for Oak Lawn mayor.

Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann and challenger Sandra Bury debated tax increment financing (TIF), fees that may be imposed on Advocate Christ Medical Center and video gambling, among other issues. The debate was hosted by the Palos-Orland Area League of Women Voters, and moderated by League President Barbara Pasquinelli.

Heilmann was elected mayor in 2005 and re-elected in 2009, but has since lost the support of the Village Board members who were elected with him both years. He touted the recent announcement that Mariano’s grocery store is coming to the 111th and Cicero TIF district as one of his successes.

“Eight years ago, we decided to push for the TIF district at 111th and Cicero,” Heilmann said. “Now, Mariano’s is coming in, and it will bring 400 jobs. Bringing jobs to Oak Lawn is a positive thing. It helps lower the burden on property taxes because of the increase in sales tax. If we do that throughout Oak Lawn, that’s how we better our community.”

The village bought the property in the TIF district for $10 million in 2006. Heilmann called Mariano’s a “phenomenal store” and said it was the start of development in the area.

“Kmart was producing $12 [million] to $13 million a year in gross sales,” he said. “Mariano’s is $50 million. That should answer the question of finances for everybody. We can develop Wolfe Wildlife Refuge [to the north] with walking paths and bike paths. With Mariano’s next door, the possibilities are endless. Once we got Mariano’s, we are on our way.”

Bury is concerned the TIF district will not produce the property tax revenues village officials have estimated, and claimed the village overpaid for the property.

“I am concerned about the way it is being done and not sure the TIF is the way to do it,” Bury said “The [train station] TIF on 95th Street, I own a condo there and property values are not what they were. I am concerned it will end up costing taxpayers.”

Bury, an optometrist and the owner of Complete Vision Care in Oak Lawn, is running on a platform that includes bringing transparency to Oak Lawn government.

“I want to give back to the community that has given me so much,” Bury said. “No election has been more critical to future of Oak Lawn than this one. My vision relies on action and increasing and improving transparency. There is suspicion and distrust on the Village Board and fights to keep information from residents.”

Attendees of the debate submitted questions on index cards. One resident asked the candidates how they planned to work with the local business community.

Heilmann claimed he had begun a program involving a friend of his who worked with Channel 4 public access television to do business profiles on local shops, but said the program was discontinued because of his relationship with the man.

“We want to encourage people to use Oak Lawn businesses,” Heilmann said. “As for bidding, we have legal limitations because we have to bid public projects and accept the lowest bidder.”

Bury, who has been the director of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce since 1997, began her mayoral run because she felt locked out of the bidding process, she said.

“We should be committed every year to increase the amount of business we give to Oak Lawn businesses,” Bury said. “It’s just common sense. We have to give incentives to businesses, and have them do mentor programs, and generate jobs.”

Impact and permit fees for Advocate Christ Medical Center were also discussed. Heilmann said the issue has been resolved – the village will implement some fees on the hospital, but just how much it will pay is still undecided.

“If you are talking about impact fees, the hospital could have paid $1.7 million as a one time payment,” Heilmann said. “We wanted to work with them within their mission. They are the biggest employer in the village. They’re the biggest game in town. Any burden they put on the village, they will pay for it.”

The expansion of the hospital is wonderful, but the hospital needs to contribute, Bury said.

“When I moved from  a 1,200-square-foot [office] to a 3,500-square-foot office, I know what it allowed me to do, and I can’t wait for the hospital to experience that as well,” Bury said. “The hospital doesn’t pay a penny for police, fire or property taxes. That was fine when most of the people were Oak Lawn residents, but now the burden of success should not fall on the taxpayers. It is entirely appropriate to ask the hospital to pay their fair share.”

Pensions were also discussed. Bury said she would not take a pension if she were elected mayor, and would donate her liquor commissioner salary to the Oak Lawn Police Department.

“I support stopping pensions for part-time elected officials,” Bury said. “I don’t think you can work 20 years as trustee, work two or three years full-time, and retire with a fulltime pension. I don’t think that’s right.”

Heilmann said he participates in the pension program and supports it. He is not part of the village’s health insurance plan.

“In the village of Oak Lawn, I think this is the most hours you can put in for a part time job,” Heilmann said. “The cost to residents is $1.50 a year for me. The time I spend as mayor takes away from time I spend at my job as an attorney. I give over 150 hours a year to the [Oak Lawn] park district. When I was [Worth Township] highway commissioner, I gave thousands of dollars of my salary to an education trust. I work my heart out for village of Oak Lawn, and I don’t mind asking you for $1.50.”

As far as video gambling, both candidates agreed licenses should be limited. Heilmann originally had reservations about video gambling when it was brought up by the board two and half years ago, he said.

“I do understand both sides of the argument,” Heilmann said. “If you are opposed to it, repeal it; if you want to allow it, that’s fine. To say 15 licenses are fine and then say, ‘you, Mr. Mayor, when you voted for 16, you are for gambling,’ I don’t think that is fair.

“I absolutely agree on limiting it. Please understand, we may repeal all of this. This is new to village of Oak Lawn, and we have to evaluate it. You can say look at all the money people are losing. Correct, they are, if you don’t want them to, repeal it in its entirety. Let’s not play politics on it.”

Bury believes video gambling is hurting businesses in Oak Lawn.

“In this economy, you have brick-and-mortar businesses struggling, and everyone is looking for ways to survive,” she said. “Anything we can do support local businesses, we want to consider. When gaming was put before the board, they were hoping to support local businesses. What has sadly happened is that Oak Lawn is now a mecca for people who want to open gambling cafes.

“We should not balance the  budget on gambling revenue. I am very, very concerned about that. That is not what our community is built on. I will work to stop it.”

Another concern was the adequate staffing of the fire department.

“In 2008, I said I think we can do with three fewer,” Heilmann said. “Now there’s 15 to18 fewer, and our guys are getting older. Do I think we should resolve contracts? Absolutely. They can’t come to work on eggshells. They are not our enemies. They devote their lives to saving ours.”

Bury said if she were mayor, she would speak with the fire chief  and firefighters to determine if staffing was adequate.

Safety was another goal mentioned in the village, primarily in attracting young families to town. Bury said the village needed to hold local businesses where violent acts like shootouts occurred accountable, and claimed Mayor Heilmann was not doing enough.

“We need a leader who is not afraid to act with their full authority,” Bury said. “As liquor commissioner, he can suspend or revoke or hold a hearing, but Mayor Heilmann is just talking about it. Festivals like the Easter program we just had will drive people to Oak Lawn, but no one will live here unless it is safe.”

Heilmann said he had worked hard for children while on the park board and as mayor, and worked to bring the Oak Lawn Children’s Museum and a Broadway Jr. theater program to the village.

“I’m sorry anybody would think that when I have four little kids that I wouldn’t take every step in my power to make sure Oak Lawn is safe,” Heilmann said. “I’m sorry anybody would think or imply that. I served on the park board for 13 years, and you are constantly looking for things to do for children. We have to make Oak Lawn a destination. Families say safety, schools, but what are you offering for my children? Look to other communities, and say that is what I want to bring here. Don’t fight about it, get the job done. That is all the Mayor’s Independence Party wants to do – get the job done. We can bring more things for children here, and we will.”

After the debate, clerk candidates and trustee candidates in Districts 1, 2, 4, and 6 met with residents to answer their questions.

City wants Sid

By Kelly White

  The Palos Hills City Council plans to rezons the former Sid’s Greenhouse property on Southwest Highway.
  Sid’s, 10943 Southwest Highway, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and reopened last year at 11164 Southwest Highway under the name Sid’s Flowers and More. City officials want to change the zoning form residential to commercial. The property is designated “special-use,” which would allow a business to operate there even under the existing zoning.
  The City Council at its meeting March 14 urged the Planning & Zoning Board to recommend rezoning the property as commercial. City aldermen will ultimately make the decision on whether to rezone the land.
  “If we keep the property residential, it will become a constant struggle over why nothing can get done with the businesses in the area because the neighbors won’t want the noise, smoke, dust or the smells, ect,” said Alderman A.J. Pasek (3rd Ward) said in reference to the rezoning. “Residents will be coming in here stating how new business construction nearby to that property is or will be offensive and there are a lot of businesses along that street and in that area.
  “That house needs to be a business property and never become a residential property,” Pasek said. “That house, as a residential piece of property, needs to go.”
  Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett said that if the house remains residentially-zoned, parking and other issues might arise.
  “Whoever buys the property, if it stays residential, will be buying a residential property right on the busy street,” Bennett said.
  If the property is rezoned to commercial, the buyer must purchase the property with the intention to use the site for business.
  “I just want to know that someone can’t buy that piece of property and come in here, before the council, and say that they want to rent that as a home to someone or even use it as a home for themselves,” aid Alderman Martin Kleefisch.
  The Planning and Zoning Board will within the next few weeks hear a request to rezone the property and decide whether to recommend it be rezoned. Bennett stated the city will notify all Palos Hills’ residents, along with residents in the entire surrounding area.

This week in THE REPORTER history

News and events from our archives

50 years ago
April 4, 1963
  The village of Worth panned take a census to preserve its police magistrate position. A law was passed by the Illinois state legislature March 26 and signed by the governor the following day, which cancelled elections for the post in villages with fewer than 10,000 people. A special 1962 census counted 9,097 residents in Worth.
  The village of Chicago Ridge decided against filing a lawsuit against the Starlite Outdoor Theatre, 95th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, which was accused of showing obscene images on its screen in late March. Theatre owner Stanford Kohlberg reportedly told patrons he was required to show about four “undesirable” films per year. Village attorneys said too much evidence would have to be collected for a lawsuit to be pursued.

25 years ago
April 7, 1988
  Chicago Ridge police responded to an unusual fight in the parking lot of 7-11.
  One of the men involved in the fisticuffs was wearing only a pair of women’s underpants. The man with whom he was fighting had reportedly visited the latter’s girlfriend’s residence at 3:30 a.m. March 25 and found him there naked. The clothed man began hitting him on the head with a board, and the naked man grabbed the first item of clothing he saw — the underpants — and ran out the door. The boyfriend then chased the man to the 7-11 at 107th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, where a store clerk called police.

  Oak Lawn park district officials planned a dedication ceremony for the Community Pavilion. The $4 million facility was completed in September 1987 and featured an elevated indoor running track; four basketball courts that could be converted to four volleyball courts or one regulation-size soccer field; a stage and moveable bleachers for sporting events and theater productions; and gymnastics and wrestling rooms.

10 years ago
April 3, 2003
  Palos Hills residents defeated a home rule referendum on the April 1 election ballot.
  The proposed measure was defeated 1,646 to 496 votes (76.8 percent to 23.3). Home rule would have allowed the city to implement a 1-percent home rule sales tax that would have generated an estimated $600,000 annually.
  A second dog was linked to the January maulings of two joggers in the Dan Ryan Woods that killed one woman and left another woman permanently disfigured.
  A female mixed German shepherd was captured by Cook County animal control Jan. 16 and determined through DNA testing to have been involved in the attacks. A female pit bull terrier shot to death the day of the attacks was also linked to the incident through DNA testing.
  The widower of the woman who was killed and the surviving jogger filed lawsuits against the Cook County Forest Preserve District, alleging the district allowed dangerous dogs to be fed and sheltered on district property.

  The Dan Ryan Woods reopened March 20 after being closed for more than two months while forest preserve police searched the area for stray dogs. Officers found and captured five dogs, but conducted no more DNA testing.

Choosing life

Chicago Ridge man claims he cured self of brain cancer

By Kelly White

A Chicago Ridge man who survived cancer after he shunned conventional modern medicine has dedicated himself to educating others about how he overcame the illness with diet and exercise.

Rod Czlonka was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2003, and doctors told him at the time he had six months to live. He underwent brain surgery and months of treatment including radiation and chemotherapy – then, depressed and defeated, stopped.

Stepping away from traditional medicine may, however, have helped save Czlonka’s life. Six years after stepping away from doctors and conventional medicine he has been declared cured of cancer. He has written two books about his ordeal, “A State of Being: Healing Your Body and Your Life,” published in 2006, and his follow-up, “Decide to Live,” published in 2010.

Czlonka, 51, shared his story March 17 at the Chicago Ridge Public Library, and explained how believes he survived cancer because he took the time to learn about the disease.

Prior to being diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago at 41 years old, Czlonka’s life was on the fast track, he said. He earned a six-figure income and worked in a corner office. He had been granted a generous expense account, a personal secretary and executive parking privileges.

“I thought all those things were my life, but they were just that -- things,” Czlonka said. “My life was really about the people who were in it. Cancer affects more than just the patient, cancer changes the scope of everyone and the meaning of everything in your life.”

Czlonka was a “very heavy cell phone user” before being diagnosed with cancer, and he believes his use of cell phones caused his disease. The microwaves used by cell phones may disrupt melatonin production in the brain, affecting one’s sleep and wake cycles, he explained. When melatonin production is decreased and sleep is interrupted, the immune system is weakened, he added.

“My brain tumor was on the left side of my head, the side I plastered my cell phone next to, day in and day out,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people totally against cell phones, in fact, I still have one, but I only use it on speaker phone and, you can ask my daughter, but she is still not allowed to have one.”

Czlonka underwent a craniotomy to remove the brain tumor on Aug. 21, 2003, and followed that with 31 visits to various doctors and 19 sessions of radiation treatment. He then underwent three months of chemotherapy, taking 25 capsules per month at a cost of $5,200.

“I finally pulled the plug and said ‘enough,’” Czlonka recalled. “My hair was gone, my vision was failing and my skin was turning grey, but worse than all those I was becoming depressed and negative. This is the real world of cancer therapy and it is the biggest scam every perpetrated upon mankind. This does not work; if it did cancer would not be the biggest killer on the planet.”

Cancer unofficially killed 574,743 an Americans in 2011, representing the second leading cause of death in the country after heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Upon Czlonka abating his cancer treatment, one oncologist told him he would be dead by the time his daughter graduated eighth grade. That was six years ago; his daughter is now a sophomore in college.

Czlonka believes spending more money does not equate more effective treatment or better doctors.

“No matter what hospital you go to in the United States, when you have cancer they are going to perform the same treatments on you regardless,” he said, adding that idea of performing such therapies on someone with an already compromised immune system staggers him.

Chemotherapy flushes the body with toxic chemicals in an attempt to destroy cancer cells, but does not discriminate and destroys healthy cells as well. The treatment suppresses the immune system, opening the door to the patient being infected by pathogens that are typically easily defeated by the body’s defenses.

The human body does not heal by repairing damaged cells, but by making new, healthy cells, Czlonka explained. With the body regenerating 86.4 trillion cells each day, nutrition rather than medication can play a big factor in creating a perfect cell, he added.

“There are many FDA approved medications out there that have caused numerous deaths or other diseases that could of otherwise been avoided,” he said, citing Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory arthritis medication that was discontinued after being linked to heart attack, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest.

Czlonka believes vitamin supplements are more beneficial than prescription drugs.

“Diseases develop from malnutrition, and you can beat disease with proper nutrition,” he said, noting anemia can be treated with iron supplementation and hypertension can be eased by increased consumption of magnesium. “And all of these vitamins can be bought right at your local drug store for a fraction of the price that you would pay a doctor for a high-blood-pressure medication, ect.”

Czlonka recommends avoiding sugar, carbohydrates and smoking, along with consuming the proper amount of fruits and vegetables and maintaining a diet that promotes alkalinity in the body. Certain foods can affect the acidity of bodily fluids, including the urine or blood, and can therefore be used to treat or prevent diseases, he added.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with Czlonka’s nutrition guide.

“I am a firm believer in moderate exercise,” he said. “If you have the option to go for an hour walk or to go run on a treadmill at the gym for 20 minutes, go for the walk.”

Exercising outdoors, rather than in an enclosed building, is healthier and more sanitary, he believes.

“There’s nothing better than fresh air, and you can’t get that in any gym,” he added.

Czlonka also recommended people use home water filters instead of purchasing bottled water.

“Bottled water, on average, sits on docks for at least a year before it is brought to stores and purchased by a consumer,” he claimed. “It is not healthy for anyone to be consuming those toxins and the plastic isn’t healthy for the environment.”

Proper nutrition is only one factor in Czlonka’s cancer survival guide, avoiding stress is also key, he said.

“Stress causes more health problems than DNA or genetics,” he explained.  “We live in a world where we are constantly under stress, whether we are conscious or unconscious of it.”

Czlonka’s simple message to avoid stress is “be happy.” The mind controls the body, and a positive attitude and outlook on life will produce a healthy state within the body, he said.

“Everyone has something to be happy about,” he continued. “I don’t care who you are, or how bad you think your life is. Take that one thing, whether it’s just looking forward to your television program being on later tonight, and be happy about that thing all day long. There are plenty of things in life that can make you depressed. Be different. Focus on the things that make you happy instead.”

Fear, hatred, worry and judgment produce unhealthy stress responses in the body, and people with a higher stress level are more prone to sickness and disease, even if it’s just the common cold, he added.

“If I’m in a house and I see a ‘live, laugh, love’ sign, it may be cheesy, but subconsciously it will remind you to do so.”