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Tom Marches on:Oak Lawn political hopeful, 23, gunning for two spots in April election

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Page-1-MARCH-SchoolTom March is back from Brown University and ready to march into the world of local politics.

“I’ve always had high aspirations,” said March, a 2014 graduate of the Ivy League university, where he majored in economics.

But rather than dip his toe into the local political scene, March, 23, is doing a cannonball into the deep end, running for seats on both the Oak Lawn Library Board and Ridgeland School District 122 board.

March has long had an interest in politics, serving as president of his class each of his four years at Oak Lawn Community High School.

He also served a summer internship at the Federalist Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing conservative and libertarian ideas into legal education.

Now, March is ready to bring his ideas to what he describes as the “pillars of education in our community” by running for school and library board.

“If anything, the two are aligned,” he said.

He believes students should experience a rigorous education to prepare them for college, where students from more affluent communities may be ahead of them.

He admires the village’s library, but believes more could be done to encourage young people to take advantage of all it has to offer.

“We have an incredible library, but it feels underutilized,” he said.

March enjoyed his experience at Brown, but looked forward to coming home and “giving back to the community in which I was raised.”

“I learned a lot,” March said of his time at Brown, but knows he’ll need more than his education to succeed in local politics.

“I have to earn my respect,” he said.

In Ridgeland District 122, March is one of four candidates running for three, four-year terms. He is a graduate of Simmons Middle School and Oak Lawn Community High School.

Mike Riordan, superintendent and principal of the high school, said he was not caught unaware that March was taking on such a considerable challenge.

“He’s jumping in head first,” Riordan said. “I’m not surprised at all.”

Riordan recalled March as a “great kid and a great student” who made the most of his years at the high school as an athlete and member of student organizations.

“Tom was the kid that other kids gravitated to,” Riordan said.

The library board race is uncontested as March and two other candidates run for three seats. March’s father, Frank, previously served on the library board and has served an inspiration for his son.

“Growing up, you look to your father,” he said.

 

Richards teacher a big wheel

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Kelly Vander Meer has some bruises on her hands but some big bucks in her pockets after success as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune.

“The wheel is a lot smaller than I thought it would be,” said Vander Meer, a special education teacher at Richards High School in Oak Lawn.

But the wheel weighs 2,400 pounds, and spinning it was no easy task, Vander Meer recalled.

“It is so heavy. I had bruises on the inside of my hands from the spikes,” she said.

Yet the wheel’s weight didn’t interfere with Vander Meer’s success.

She was the show’s big winner, walking away with more than $18,000 and a trip to Aruba, which is now her honeymoon destination.

Vander Meer, 29, is getting married in July. The prize money will help pay for the wedding and the purchase of a house, she said.

“It was perfect timing,” she said.

Vander Meer said she wasn’t nervous during the taping of the show, which aired Friday. She watched four episodes of tape before playing the game, which helped her prepare.

“If I was on the first show (of the day) I would have been extremely nervous,” said Vander Meer, who also credited her profession for helping her speak loudly and think on her feet.

Vander Meer wasted little time gaining an advantage by guesing the first puzzle, “Thomas Jefferson.”

“I started to flow,” she said.

She also correctly answered the final puzzle: “Painted Desert.”

Unfortunately, another contestant on the show, James Trahan, became the subject of Internet and TV show razing for repeating the wrong answer to the puzzle.

The contestant before him guessed the letter “P” and guessed “The Pointed Desert.” It was wrong. So now it was Trahan's turn.

He also guessed “The Pointed Desert.” Host Pat Sajak reminded him that the answer was incorrect, but that he had time to guess again.

Trahan appeared confused, but eventually said, “I'd like to solve the puzzle” before again guessing “The Pointed Desert.”

“It's not ‘The Pointed Desert,' no matter how many times you say it,” Sajak said.

Vander Meer never expected to be in position to solve the puzzle.

“When (the first contestant) didn’t get it, I never thought it would come to me,” she said.

Vander Meer said Trahan appeared nervous throughout the show and perspiration was wiped away from his face during the commercial breaks.

Vander Meer’s Wheel of Fortune journey started in October when a friend told her the show was doing auditions in Chicago.

She sent in the required 30-second introductory video, and two weeks later received an email inviting her to audition, which included playing the game and taking written tests.

She survived three rounds of cuts and was told she would receive word within 18 months about coming to Los Angeles to participate in the show. She got an invitation a few weeks later, and taped a show in early December.

Vander Meer, who previously appeared on Family Feud, said her goal was to win more than the minimum $1,000 Wheel of Fortune prize.

“I’m usually pretty good at the game playing at home,” she said, adding that she watched regularly in preparation for her appearance.

Vander Meer did not win the bonus puzzle, which would have added $36,000 to her take.

She added that there aren’t too many behind-the-scenes secrets to reveal about the show.

Contestants are encouraged to clap and be upbeat. In the hours before their show, contestants are somewhat secluded as they watch the other tapings. They are not allowed to see their families or friends or make phone calls.

Vander Meer’s appearance was a big hit at Richards. She talked about the appearance with her students, some who had never seen the show. Other students that she did not know stopped by her classroom to offer congratulations.

Vander Meer is the second teacher from Richards to appear on Wheel of Fortune. English teacher Sara Carlson competed last year.

Police News from 1-29-15

Chicago Ridge

Sarah M. Lehner, 23, of Chicago Ridge, was charged with driving on a suspended license and no insurance Jan. 22 after being stopped at 107th Street and Ridgemont Lane, police said.

Mohammed Sadeq, 18, of Chicago Ridge, was charged with driving on a suspended license and improper lighting Jan. 23 after a stop at 111th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, police said.

Joseph J. Gravelle, 42, of Hometown, was charged with retail theft Jan. 23 after allegedly stealing items from Kohl’s at Chicago Ridge Mall, police said.

Benjamin Florido, 32, of Chicago Ridge, was charged with domestic battery Jan. 23 following a disturbance in the 9800 block of Harlem Avenue, police said.

Alicia M. Cervantes, 31, of Burbank, was charged with driving on a suspended license and failing to secure children in seatbelts Jan. 23 after he was stopped at 99th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, police said.

Ryan Dace, 26, Hazel Crest, was charged with retail theft Jan. 24 after allegedly stealing items from Kohl’s at Chicago Ridge Mall, police said.

Mohammad Alshammari, 21, of Toledo, Ohio, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 24 after he was stopped at Harlem Avenue and Southwest Highway, police said.

Chanice Clark, 26, of Chicago, was charged with retail theft Jan. 24 after allegedly stealing items from Charlotte Russe at Chicago Ridge Mall, police said.

Kierra S. Jones, 19, of Chicago, was charged with retail theft Jan. 24 after she allegedly stole merchandise from Charlotte Russe at Chicago Ridge Mall, police said.

Evergreen Park

Jason J. Gutson, 37, of Oak Lawn, was charged with possession of a controlled substance Jan. 16 after being stopped at 94th Street and Kedzie Avenue, police said.

Brittany C. Beasley, 25, of Evergreen Park, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 18 following a stop at 87th Street and Rockwell Avenue, police said.

Yohanna M. Harrell, 37, of Chicago, was charged with driving without a valid license Jan. 19 after she was stopped at 99th Street and St. Louis Avenue, police said.

Ebony S. McGee, 28, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 19 following a stop at 95th Street and Trumball Avenue, police said.

Donny Vilchis, 36, of Evanston, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 19 after being stopped at 95th Street and Utica Avenue, police said.

Hector M. Mendez, 28, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 20 following a stop at 91st Street and Pulaski Road, police said.

Exavia A. Williams, 26, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license following a Jan. 20 stop at 96th Street and Western Avenue, police said.

Shawndra Young, 23, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license after a Jan. 20 stop at 95th Street and Fairfield Avenue, police said.

Shelicia L. Mars, 40, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 21 after she was stopped at 93rd Place and California Avenue, police said.

Travon L. Gardner, 20, of Chicago, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 21 after he was stopped in the 3100 block of 95th Street, police said.

Estevban Gonzalez, 34, of Evergreen Park, was charged with driving without a valid license Jan. 21 following a stop at 94th Street and Clifton Park police said.

Jared G. Bergeron, 23, of Dolton, was charged with driving on a suspended license Jan. 22 after being stopped at 100th Street and Kedzie Avenue, police said.

Hickory Hills

Michael J. Zorek, 19, of Hickory Hills, was charged with drunken driving, driving too fast for conditions and no insurance Jan. 21 after a single- car accident in the 8800 block of 92nd Street, police said.

Oak Lawn

Willie Hendrix III, 27, of Chicago, was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer Jan. 16 after a disturbance at Arena Lanes, 4700 W. 103rd St., police said.

The front and rear passenger-side windows of a car in the 9700 block of 55th Avenue were smashed between Jan. 16-20.

Gerardo Rangel-Ayala, 21, of Chicago, was charged with drunken driving, speeding, driving in the wrong lane, improper lane use, illegal transportation of alcohol and possession of drug equipment Jan. 17 after a stop at 97th Street and Southwest Highway, police said.

David Zalewski, 21, of Oak Lawn, was charged with assault and possession of a controlled substance Jan. 17 after a disturbance in the 5900 block of 98th Street, police said.

A 40-inch television was reported stolen Jan. 18 from Kmart, 4101 W. 95th St.

Mandy L. Ondack, 32, of Chicago, was charged with retail theft Jan. 18 after allegedly stealing merchandise from Jewel-Osco, 8801 S. Ridgeland Ave., police said.

Four wheels were stolen Jan. 19-20 from a car in the 9700 block of Keeler Avenue, police said.

Palos Hills

A patron at Durbin’s Lounge, 10154 S. Roberts Road, said he was hit in the face by two men Jan. 22 while he was standing in the beer garden, police said.

David Winters, 19, of Palos Hills, was charged with disorderly conduct Jan. 25 after he allegedly set off a fire alarm in an apartment building in the 10200 block of 86th Terrace, police said.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: When it comes to steroid suspects, I go with my gut

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Jeffs Col Impressions

A guy by the name of John Bosley Ziegler died of heart failure in 1983.

He suffered from a heart disease and reportedly it was caused by experimenting with steroids.

How fitting.

This is the same guy who was a doctor in Maryland and was known as “the Godfather of Steroids” whom, legend has it, brought steroids into the American sports culture in the 1950s.

Thanks a lot, Dr. Ziegler. Not only have you helped ruin a lot of lives, you have made my Decembers a lot tougher.

After covering the Cubs for 10 straight years from 1998-2007, I was given the honor of having  a Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote.

Every December I get a ballot and have to turn it in with a checkmark next to anywhere from zero to 10 names. For the second year in a row, I used up all 10. I voted for the four guys who made it – Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I also voted for Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Larry Walker.

But I did not vote for numbers-worthy candidates Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating – this is a vote and it’s up to each voter to select his or her  Hall of Famers based on their own conscience and feelings. There is no right or wrong answer. Another one of the 548 voters of 2015 may think 10 other guys should make it instead of my 10 and there isn’t a thing I can say about it.

Those hardliners who never vote for any first-time player on the ballot? I think that’s flawed reasoning but it’s their vote and their right and I respect that.

Two people this year even voted for former Cubs and Sox pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon for God’s sake. Do I think that’s a bad choice? Yes. But the voters had their reasons.

By the way, if there was a Hall of Fame for comedic stories that couldn’t be published in the paper regarding “Flash” and cell phones, he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But on to more serious matters, thanks to Dr. Ziegler.

A candidate needs to be on 75 percent of the ballots to get in and I’m not alone in not voting for Sosa (who picked up just 6.6 percent of the vote), McGwire (10 percent), Bonds (36.8 percent) and Clemens (37.5 percent).

 These guys are heavily linked to steroids even though the evidence is more circumstantial than substantial.

Piazza (69.9 percent) and Bagwell (55.7 percent) have had whispers of possible steroid use during their careers and perhaps that’s why they are not in yet.

I don’t know who did what for sure. I was once told in the early 2000s by a player that 80 percent of his peers were juicing at one point. So are 80 percent of the guys on the ballot suspects? You bet.

Are the four guys who will be inducted clean? Probably. But you never know.

I may suspect that Sosa, whom I had a great relationship with when he was with the North Siders, may have taken more than just the Flintstone Vitamins that he joked that he took but I don’t know for sure. Same with the other guys I didn’t vote for.

Meanwhile, I can’t prove Piazza or Bagwell didn’t juice up.

The answer lies in the gut. And I have a pretty big gut.

I have a gut feeling that Sosa and the boys cheated and used illegal steroids and a gut feeling that Piazza and Bagwell didn’t.

These are tough choices and tough decisions and even after I make them, I’m not 100 percent sure I did the right thing.

But that’s how it is and how it will be for several years down the line.

Thanks Dr. Ziegler.

(HEADLINE) Sports and dying

The Will County Old Timers Baseball group has a big banquet in Joliet every year and I used to go to it once in a while.

There is a tradition in which they recognize those members who died the previous year, calling it their “last turn at bat.”

To insiders, they are sincere about this tradition and these folks bow there head and then listen to someone somberly sing “My Buddy.’’

But to outsiders, calling the “last turn at bat” for a dead guy is kind of funny, corny and perhaps a little tasteless.

I see it both ways, but I’ll give the Old Timers the benefit of the doubt on this one.

That brings me to last week, when I saw a copy of the Windy City Bowling News.

This fine paper covers the Chicago bowling scene like a blanket.

But when I saw their obituary section was labelled the “Windy City Final Frame” I have to admit I laughed out loud.

Using sports metaphors and death is a delicate balance.

 

FBI says bank robbery attempts spike in early part of year

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The attempted bank robbery last Wednesday in Evergreen Park is the latest in a statistic the FBI hopes to stifle.

 

There have been 16 bank robberies in the Chicago area in 2015, the FBI reported. There were 192 reported in 2014. The record year was 2006 when 284 bank robberies were reported, the FBI said.

 

A spike in bank robberies during the winter months in fairly typical because bank robbers wearing masks and hoods don’t seem out of place, said FBI Special Agent Joan Hyde, the agency’s media coordinator.

 

The agency is continuing its investigation into the attempted robbery last Wednesday at U.S. Bank, 2917 W. 95th St.

 

The attempted robbery took place at 1:07 p.m., according to BanditTracker, an FBI-run website.

 

The armed offender was described as a black man in his early 20s who wore dark clothing and a black neoprene mask.

 

The offender displayed a handgun but left the bank without taking any cash, an FBI spokesman said.

 

The incident was described as a non-takeover attempted bank robbery in which no force was used to restrain bank employees or customers, the FBI said.

 

“We’re very interested in identifying that person,” Hyde said.

 

The attempted robbery is one of several throughout the Chicago area that the FBI is investigating. Others include:

 

  • Jan. 14, Oak Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 12, the First Merit Bank in Bolingbrook;

  • Jan. 10, U.S. Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan.9, Belmont Bank and Trust, in downtown Chicago;

  • Jan. 9, North Community Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 6, Chase Bank, North Riverside

  • Jan. 5, the First Saving Bank, Calumet City

  • Jan. 2, Bank of America, Addison

    The FBI recently arrested suspects in the Belmont Bank and Trust and Chase Bank, Riverside branch, robberies, Hyde said.

    First American Bank in Evergreen Park was robbed in September 2012 when a man walked into the branch, 3221 W. 87th St., pulled out a steel revolver and demanded money, the FBI said.

    He made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

    Anyone with information about the any of the robberies is asked to call the FBI’s Chicago office at 312-421-6700.