Transparency not all that clear in OL

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Transparency was a central theme in Oak Lawnfront-color-1-col-FOIA Mayor Sandra Bury’s campaign, and while her supporters insist she’s already taken steps to honor that pledge, opponents contend the mayor has been less than forthcoming on issues of importance to the village.

  The topic was broached at the Oct. 8 village board meeting when a proposal by Trustees Bob Streit and Carol Quinlan calling for trustees to have greater access to village records, including emails, was defeated.
  The proposal lost 4-3 with Bury casting the deciding vote, but not before extensive debate by trustees.
  Currently, only the mayor and Village Manager Larry Deetjan have access to the documents.
  “You guys are going to tell me you’re going to restrict what can and can’t see,” Quinlan said. “I would think transparency would include providing general records to anyone.”
  Village Attorney Paul O’Grady has ruled that the village is not required to share such emails with trustees.
  “There’s no law that says trustees have access to the emails of the manager and mayor,” Village Clerk Jane Quinlan said.
  Quinlan added that Deetjen and the mayor frequently are involved in negotiations and other sensitive matters and related emails cannot be made public.
  “Under Illinois law, a number of these emails deal with personnel matters, litigation, labor relations, real estate and highly sensitive matters that are permitted to be kept confidential,” Deetjen said. “Those who wish to obtain unlimited data for reasons that are not objective and in the village’s best interests certainly should understand this balancing act.”
  Trustees unanimously approved additions to the ethics ordinance at the Oct. 8 meeting. The ordinance prohibits village officials and employees from using their positions to influence board decisions that would result in financial gain.
  The measure also prohibits elected officials from participating in discussions or voting on issues in which they, their spouses or domestic partners have received or expect to receive income or compensation for a period of one year.
  Bury’s supporters believe the additions to the ethics ordinance are just one example of the mayor’s efforts to increase transparency.
  “I think [transparency] has improved, but it’s such a big topic to tackle,” Trustee Alex Olejniczak said.
  The veteran trustee pointed out that Bury has taken significant strides during her first six months in office to improve transparency, including establishing the legislative, license and ordinance committee during her first board meeting. Streit and Quinlan voted against the formation of the three-member committee.
  The committee currently is discussing term limits for elected officials, an issue that is expected to come before the full board before the end of the year. The board will determine whether to place the item as a referendum on the March ballot.
  The committee was formed in part to help Oak Lawn to reach a 100 percent transparency score on a checklist compiled by the Illinois Policy Institute. The checklist requires contact information for elected and administrative officials online, information about upcoming village meetings, copies of the minutes of meetings, information packets from previous meetings, publication of financial audits and budgets, salary and benefit information of public employees and access to public records through Illinois’ freedom of information law.

  Orland Park was the first village to score 100 percent on under the institute’s guidelines.
  Despite Bury’s early efforts to improve transparency, her political foes are quick to criticize her for failing to keep the board in the loop.

  Streit and Quinlan, for example, believe they have a legal right to examine all the documents that Bury and Deetjen can access.
  “It’s not up to the mayor, and it’s not up to the manager,” Quinlan said.
  The mayor’s opponents offered several other examples of a lack of transparency on Bury’s part.
  For example, they said, no resume or background information was provided when Pat O’Donnell was appointed village treasurer or when Bury made appointments to other committees.

  Additionally, they said they did not receive an advanced copy of the pre-budget village finance presentation presented by O’Donnell, nor were they notified in advance of a proposals to outsource 911 dispatch services, transition senior services to the park district or reorganize the department of business operations.

  “In my 22 years of service, I can’t remember another presentation, other than litigation matters, that did not include documentation prior to the board meeting,” Streit said of the pre-budget presentation.

  Streit said Bury and her supporters did not want trustees to have time “to dispute the figures, ask questions or suggest proposals.” He said the board majority is more interested in getting a “quick vote” on Bury’s proposals.
  Streit also criticized the administration for reaching an agreement with Advocate Christ Medical Center for permit fees and a voluntary payment without notifying trustees, which stifled debate over other alternatives, he said.
  Olejniczak, a Bury supporter, said Streit has never before made such complaints or demanded greater access to village records.
  “Did this go on before? The answer is ‘no,’” Olejniczak said. “It’s [done] to create issues.”

  “You are now the conspiracy trustee,” Olejniczak told Streit at the Oct. 8 board meeting. “You have your own version on the truth.”

  Trustee Terry Vorderer said opening up village records to trustees creates a security concern. He also questioned Quinlan and Streit’s motives.
  “Is it a fishing expedition? It could be used for political purposes. Who knows,” Vorderer said.
  Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, one of the village’s eight FOIA officers, said nothing is being hidden from trustees.

  She added that trustees can submit FOIA requests. Requests that are denied can be appealed to the Attorney General’s office, she said. The village must offer a reason for the FOIA requests it denies, such as personal information related to employees or village officials.

Worth rallies to Kick it With Karen Saturday night

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Karen Schnelle-Marrello remembers the look on her physician’s face as he reviewed her CAT scan results.
  “You know you’re in deep water when the doctor’s face falls when he’s looking at the CAT scan,” Schnelle-Marrello said.
  The lifelong Worth resident had the test after antibiotics and a steroids did nothing to relieve what she believed was a sinus infection.
  The CAT scan, however, revealed that Schnelle-Marrello was dealing with a condition far more serious that a sinus infection. Instead, the mother of six had a cancerous tumor behind her right eye.
  Her doctor told initially told her the growth might not be cancerous, but Schnelle-Marrello believed otherwise.
  “I knew in my gut we were dealing with thePage-7-1-col-kickinKaren Schnelle-Marrello, shown with her husband, Rory, will have a benefit in her honor in Worth Saturday night. Submitted photo. bad one,” she said.
  A biopsy revealed that Schnelle-Marrello had esthesioneuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer involving the nasal cavity, which can lead to loss of vision and taste.
  Schnelle-Marrello underwent a 14-hour surgery just days after the diagnosis. The surgery was a success, but the pain during recovery was intense, she recalled. Nine days later, she lapsed into a coma after he brain shifted to the rear of her skull.
  She awoke from the coma, but then faced four months of rigorous radiation and chemotherapy designed to destroy the small portion of the tumor not removed during surgery, she said.
  Four months later, Schnelle-Marrello is doing well and is anxious to complete her recovery.
  To help offset expenses, Schnelle-Marrello’s friends and family will hold a benefit, Kicking It With Karen, from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Chieftain Irish Bar, 6906 W. 111th St., Worth.
  Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The event will feature two bands, food, games and raffles.
  Monetary donations can be sent to Private Bank, 6825 W. 111th St., Worth, Ill., 60482.
  “The bills are astronomical,” said Colleen McElroy, a friend of Schnelle-Marrello and a Worth trustee.
  Schnelle-Marrello struggles with side effects, such as nausea and fatigue, and “my eyes no longer function together,” she said.
  “I’m holding out for a full recovery,” she said.
  Surgery, treatment and recovery have been costly. Insurance did not cover all of Schnelle-Marrello’s medical costs and she is unable to work during recovery.
  But the Worth community rallied behind her since her diagnosis by watching her children, preparing meals and running errands.
  “People missed her. The whole community banded together,” said McElroy, a member of the committee that planned the benefit.
  McElroy said is impressed with the way her friend handled the diagnosis and ensuing treatment.
  “She handled it like a champ,” she said. “Karen is a fighter. She handled it with such grace.”
  Schnelle-Marrello said she refused to let the condition defeat her.
  “My sense of humor is what got me through this,” she said. “Faith and humor—that’s what did it for me.”
  She added that she was not surprised but the support she received from her friends and neighbors.
  “It was more humbling than anything else,” she said.

Hickory hopes cameras deter park problems

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Vandalism is on the decline at a small Hickory Hills park thanks to security cameras that were installed several weeks ago, a park district official said.
  Prairie View Park, a four-acre park located near 82nd Avenue and 85th Street, has long been plagued by vandalism, said park district Director Jennifer Fullerton.
  The park board spent $8,000 to purchase the cameras, which were designed to stem the ongoing problem, she said.
  “We’ve always had a lot of vandalism there,” said Fullerton, who said the park’s remote location is appealing to vandals.
  She said the district appealed to residents who live near the park for help, but no one came forward with information about the vandalism.
  The park was closed for several months four years ago after someone spread paint shavings and dust on the playground equipment, Fullerton said. A hazmat team was called in to clean up the damage.
  Since that time, the district maintenance staff faced an uphill battle cleaning graffiti off the playground equipment, sometimes spending 30 hours a week on the task.
  “In time, it will be less expensive to have the cameras,” she said.
  The graffiti is not gang related.
  “Sometimes, you don’t know what it says,” Fullerton said.
  The three security cameras include night-vision and facial-recognition capabilities. They run 24 hours a day and can store images for up to seven days.
  Similar cameras located in another Hickory Hills park helped police catch someone who was damaging property, Fullerton said.
  Prairie View Park features two play structures; one designed for older children while the other features is equipment for preschool-age children. The park also has swing sets and a gazebo.
  Hickory Hills parks are open from dawn to dusk. The district relies on police and weekend security in addition to the cameras to ward off vandals, Fullerton said.

Monsters, goblins and ghosts to invade the area

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The Halloween season is upon us and while the night for trick or treating is still three weeks away, there’s plenty of frightening and not so scary activities available throughout the area.

  Whether its activities for little ghouls and goblins or more chilling happenings for teens and adults, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do for those who want enjoy this forbidding time of year.

Chicago Ridge
  Chicago Ridge’s Halloween at the Park will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 26 at Freedom Park, 6252 W. Birmingham Ave. The event will feature a costume contest at 10:30 a.m. as well as children’s games, relay races and many other activities.

Evergreen Park
  The Evergreen Park Recreation Department will hold a Halloween parade from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Community Center, 3450 W. 97th St. The parade is open to children through 11 years old.
  The parade will be followed by a pumpkin patch and a Halloween movie. Refreshments will be served, and each child will receive a goodie bag. Registration is not required for the free event. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  The Evergreen Park Recreation Department will usher out the Halloween season with a pumpkin smash from 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 2. Participants can enjoy apple cider and popcorn while smashing pumpkins. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Hickory Hills
  The Hickory Hills Park District will sponsor a house decorating contest with prizes awarded to the winners.
  Anyone interested must call the park district at 598-1233 by Oct. 24. Judging will be conducted between 6:15 and 7:45 p.m. Oct. 24 and will be based on originality, lighting, arrangements and use of props.

  Worth United Methodist Church puts a different twist on Halloween by holding the Worth Haunt Against Hunger from 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Village Hall, 7112 W. 111th St.
  The community awareness event is designed to bring attention to needy and hungry families as the holiday season approaches and helps stock the food pantry shelves at the United Methodist Church, 7100 W. 112th St.
  The participating haunted houses are located at: 7100 W. 115th Place, 7111 W. 114th Place, 6955 W. 114th Place, 6843 W. 114th Street and 11560 S. Nagle Ave.

Oak Lawn
  Oak Lawn’s annual Pumpkin Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Village Green.
  The event will feature a wide variety of activities, including hayrides, bobbing for apples, pony rides, a pumpkin patch, milk the cow and children’s games. The police department and fire house will be open for tours and refreshments will be served.
  The Oak Lawn Park District will hold Spookview from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St. A children’ costume parade will begin at 1 p.m. Admission is free and $10 wristbands for all activities will be sold.
  There will be several other yard displays and haunted houses in the area:

Evergreen Park
  The Resurrection Graveyard Haunted House at 9421 S. Country Club Drive takes place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 18-20, Oct. 25-31 and Nov. 1-2. The hours are 7 to 10 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays and 7 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The fee is $5.

Oak Lawn
  The Terror on Tulley Torture at 8729 Tulley Ave. runs Friday through Sunday, Oct. 17-20, Oct. 24-27 and Oct. 31. Times are 7 to 10 p.m. on Sundays and Oct. 28 through Oct. 20 and 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Oct. 31.
  The Spirits on Sproat and Gallery of the Dead at 9028 Sproat Ave. runs Friday through Sunday, Oct. 18 to 20 and Oct. 25 through Oct. 31. Hours are 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28 to Oct. 30 and Oct. 31. The Gallery of the Dead is in its 10th year and features new props and lighting for 2013. Live, scary characters mingle with the crowds, so beware. The display is not recommended for younger children.
  The Midnight Terror Haunted House, 5755 W. 97th St., runs from Friday through Sunday, Oct. 17 to Oct. 20, Oct. 24 to Oct. 27 and Oct. 29 through Oct. 31. The hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Midnight Terror Haunted House started as a small yard display in 2000 and has grown in a full walk-through haunted house. More than 5,000 people passed through the haunted house last year.
Palos Hills
  The annual Haunted Hayride Through the Old Lake n Park runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 18-19 at 10801 S. Roberts Road. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children 10 and under. Halloween children’s activities will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19 at Lake n Park. Hay wagon rides, crafts, a bounce house and the Mad Science Halloween Show all be featured during the festivities. The fee is $5 and children must be accompanied by an adult.
  The Creatures of the Blackened Night yard display at 7328 W. 113th Place takes place through Oct. 31. Hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
  The Nightmare on the Terrace, 12-room haunted house takes place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 and Oct. 25 through Oct. 27. The fee is $8.

Retro Reporter 10-10-13

Retro Reporter ArtReader likens tax to fund Worth library to cancer

50 years ago
From the Oct. 10, 1963 edition
 The story: The Chicago area archdiocese bought property around 107th Street and Central Avenue for a proposed new Catholic high school in Oak Lawn.
  The quote: “This tax, if approved, will start small, to be sure, but like cancer it will grow and grow,’’ — Letter to the editor writer Sam Di Pietro on Worth asking for a tax to pay for a free library.
  Fun fact: Chicago Ridge’s Volunteer Fire Department held an open house that included a water ball fight, “happy junk men” and “sleepy clowns.”

Former Kids Stop owner supported by 100-plus people

25 years ago
From the Oct. 13, 1988 edition
  The story: More than 100 people gathered at Palos Hills City Hall to show their support for Sandra Fabiano, a former Kids Stop preschool owner charged with sexually abusing four young girls.
  The quote: “I would not [reopen the school] because I’m an innocent party. And if [the indictments] happened once to an innocent person like myself, it can happen again.”
  Fun fact: The new Reporter Newspaper sign — which can still be seen on Harlem Ave. — is erected on the building at 12247 S. Harlem in Palos Heights.

Garbage strike draws concerns from area officials

10 years ago
From the Oct. 9, 2003 edition
  The story: There was plenty of trash talk when a trash haulers strike affected area homes and businesses as garbage was not picked up. The union turned down a contract that would have increase the total wages and benefits package a driver working 50 or more hours per week to more than $92,000 a year by the fifth year of the contract. They returned to work a week later.
  The quote: “Our concern is about the rodents being attracted to produce that’s thrown away,” — Worth Mayor Ed Guzdzoil about the problems causes by the garbage strike.
  Fun fact: Former longtime Evergreen Park softball coach Marilyn Wax was named National Coach of the Year at the National High School Athletic Association convention in Oklahoma. She was recognized for her 31 years of service to the Mustangs program.