Warm someone’s day during this cold spell with donations to shelters

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The young girl’s words were prophetic; I just wasn’t paying much attention at the time.


The time was nearly 20 years ago when my wife, Annette, and I were taking a look at what would become our first house.


As we toured the basement, one of the owner’s two young daughters told me, “This is where we spend most of our time because it’s coolest in the summer and warmest in the winter.”


It was a telling remark, but, as I said, I wasn’t paying too much attention. Instead, I was wrapped up in the overall appearance of the Oak Lawn home: brick, three bedrooms, two bath, full basement with a ton of potential, nice backyard, two–car garage.


And, most importantly, it was in our price range. Six thousand dollars was all that stood between the initial asking and offering prices. We met in the middle and closed the deal around this time of year. We rented to the owner until spring so she could finish student teaching and we could honor our apartment lease.


We’ve done a lot of work to the house over the years, and I can’t imagine moving, but as I write this column from my home—in the midst of the year’s first cold snap—I sure am cold.


It’s nothing new. Happens any time the temperatures sink into the single digits. The reason is simple: the house is poorly insulated. I know this because when our bathrooms were remodeled, I got a first-hand look at what passed for “insulation” in the late 1940s, the era when my home was built.


Newspaper. Lots and lots of newspaper. Today, every new home is protected from the cold with thick layers of fiberglass insulation. It’s tough to imagine that builders once stuffed newspaper between the studs.


Over the years, we’ve installed a new boiler (we have hot water heat) and replaced the doors and windows, but the house remains less than toasty. I can still hear my father mumble, “It’s chilly in here” during time he lived with us.


The ultimate solution, I suppose, is to have insulation blown into the walls, but that seems expensive. And once the winter’s frigid weather passes, we sort of forget the fact that you could hang meat in our home.


It’s like anything else that’s not a life-threatening problem. You make the best of it. We plug in a space heater, add a blanket to the bed, keep out of the coldest parts of the house and try to be grateful for what we have.


That’s what I’ve been thinking about the past few days as I curse my drafty old house, to borrow a line from Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.’’


Cold or not, I do have a home to live in, two cars parked at the curb, a fridge full of food and a closet full of clothes. I go to work every day and even enjoy what I do for a living. No one in my immediate family suffers from serious illness. That’s plenty to help me realize that a cold house in not the end of the world.


After all, some folks live in unheated homes, dependent on space heaters, loads of blankets and winter clothing to get them through the night. Others don’t have a home and must live in their cars or make their way on the streets, risking frostbite or worse when the brutal Chicago winter kicks in.


PADS and other homeless shelters in our area do their best to help. Together We Cope, an excellent social service agency in Tinley Park, also serves in endless ways, including a foot pantry, financial assistance, clothing, back-to-school assistance and the adopt-a-child holiday program.


But what more could you and I be doing? Now’s the real time to ask. The fashionable time for these stories to appear is during the holidays, as various agencies, churches and community organizations strive to help the needy with meals, Christmas presents and other necessities.


But the need didn’t go away the day you took down your Christmas tree. People are still without work, struggling to make ends meet, in danger of losing their homes and so on.


It’s not that hard to lend a hand. There are plenty of food pantries in our area, including one run by the Evergreen Park, which provided Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to more than 160 families in the community. Call the pantry at 708-422-8776 for information of how to help.

In neighboring Oak Lawn, Pilgrim Faith Church runs a food pantry that serves Oak Lawn, Hometown, Worth, Burbank, Chicago Ridge and Alsip. Check out all the details about the pantry at


South Suburban PADS is always in need of volunteers and donations. Plenty of information can be found at


There are plenty of other food pantries, social service agencies as well as churches and community organizations that pitch in to help the needy. Catholic Charities and Red Cross come to mind. Pick one. Find a way to help. Make it a 2015 goal. You’ll be glad that you did.

The more the merrier for Streit

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Four years ago, Oak Lawn Trustee Bob Streit’s opponent was thrown off the ballot for nominating petition irregularities.


The challenger, Dan Sodaro, a newcomer to village politics, subsequently conducted a write-in campaign and came within 11 votes of defeating Streit.


Today, Sodaro is a member of the Ridgeland School District 122 school board, the same position he held when challenged Streit in 2011.


Streit, meanwhile, is seeking re-election to his sixth term on the village board. This time he’s in a three-way race facing challengers Scott Hollis and J. John “J.J.” Zurek.


Certainly, a three-way race benefits the Streit, who likely wants to avoid a head-to-head matchup with Hollis.


The question is: who is J. John “J.J.” Zurek, and is his candidacy legitimate or did he enter the race to benefit Streit?


Hollis’ supporters would like nothing more than to end Streit’s 20-year tenure on the board. He too is a relative newcomer to Oak Lawn, having moved to the village a few years ago.


But he’s already released campaign literature critical of Streit that signals that a real battle is ahead in District 3.


Streit has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of Mayor Sandra Bury, and has used the village’s decision to outsource the 911 dispatching center as his rallying cry.


Steve Loulouis indicated a few weeks ago that he planned to run in District 3, but apparently changed his mind and did not submit petitions by Monday night’s deadline.


Loulouis ran unsuccessfully for 3rd District trustee several years ago, losing a four-way race to Streit.


Oak Lawn’s 1st District will see a rematch of the 2013 race, in which Trustee Tim Desmond defeated then-incumbent Cindy Trautsch.


Trautsch was appointed to the board when Jerry Hurckes stepped down. She ran with former Mayor Dave Heilmann’s support in 2013.


Trautsch has kept her hand in village politics since her defeat, filing a compliant that Desmond failed to file the required paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections before running for office.


In the 5th District, the battle to replace Trustee Carol Quinlan will feature Dan Johnson, president of the Oak Lawn VFW, and Bud Stalker, who is endorsed by Quinlan. Meanwhile, Paul Vail, who announced his candidacy several months ago, did not file petitions.


Currently, Mayor Sandra Bury enjoys a 4-2 majority on the board with Streit and Quinlan typically opposing her.


Victories by Streit, Stalker and Trautsch would be necessary to create an evenly divided board and force Bury to break 3-3 votes on some occasions.


The races in the other towns covered by the Reporter also are set.


In Evergreen Park, incumbents Mary Keane, Mark Marzullo and Jim McQuillan are running for re-election to the six-member village board. They will be joined on the ballot by challenger Christopher Trzeciak, president of the Evergreen Park High School District 231 school board.


In Chicago Ridge, incumbents both Jack Lind and Dan Badon have submitted nominating petitions.


Challengers Fran Coglianese, a long-time clerical employee at the Chicago Ridge Village Hall; Bill McFarland, a paid-on-call firefighter and a member of the Our Lady of the Ridge school board; and Don Pratl, a former trustee and member of the School District 218 board, also have filed petitions to run election. Three seats are up for election.


In Palos Hills, there are contested races for alderman in two of the city’s five wards.


Mike Lebarre and Sonia Khalil are running for the 3rd Ward seat vacated by Ald. Bill Hansen. Meanwhile, in the 5th Ward, Dawn Nowak is challenging incumbent Ald. Frank Williams. Additionally, incumbents Marty Keefisch (1st), Pauline Stratton (2nd) and Joseph Marrotta (4th) have turned in their petitions and appear to be running unopposed.


In Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley, City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone and Treasurer Dan Schramm are running unopposed.


Additionally, Joe Mancuso has filed to run for alderman in the 2nd Ward against Ald. John Szeszycki. In the 4th Ward, Colleen Kelly, a member of the Lyons Township Town Board, will challenge Ald. Scott Zimmerman.


Meanwhile, Ald. Mike McHugh (1st) and Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd) will run unopposed for another term on the city council.


In Worth, trustees Mary Rhein, Pete Kats and Warren Soldan along with challengers Bruce LeBeau and Kevin Ryan have submitted petitions.





Don’t let drama sour your Thanksgiving

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorThe holidays don’t always elicit harmony among family members.
For some, coming together heightens deep-rooted and unresolved offenses. In most cases, drama isn’t formally invited but somehow slips in unannounced. Personally, I appreciate hearing how other people navigate through uncomfortable family interactions. They’ve helped me to circumvent a few of my own.
This scenario happened to my girlfriend and hearing it stuck with me for a while. She was in a relationship with a man who lived with his mother, whom had ongoing health difficulties. She said, during the course of their relationship, his mom was moody, but hadn’t overtly offended her until this one afternoon.
Allow me to place you in the scenario.
Due to her health issues, this mother has diet restrictions that often lead her to have strong cravings. This particular day she longs for tacos, so you volunteer to make them.
Upon opening her frig, you realize the ingredients for tacos must be sitting on the shelf at the local grocer because they aren’t inside. Therefore, you go and return.
With fresh produce in hand, you now embark upon dicing tomatoes, shredding lettuce and scrambling ground beef. You feel a sense of accomplishment when you pull the golden, crisp, taco shells from the oven. Layering the ingredients proportionately inside, you trot your display of tacos, eating utensils and preferred beverage to her room with delight.
You feel good about fulfilling someone else’s desire. Despite the time, energy and monetary loss, you’re glad you could help. The only thing you need is a satisfied reaction from the individual you’ve gone out of your way to accommodate.
But, you get…”I’m not eating that.” In disbelief no less, you place the tray before her anyway. She pushes it away and restates, “I’m not eating it. It doesn’t have sour cream.” You quickly discover she isn’t joking. You weren’t aware of sour cream being a prerequisite prior to preparing this meal. But, for her, no sour cream on tacos is like Oreos without milk -- a deal breaker. Therefore, she doesn’t eat the tacos and she doesn’t apologize for her position.
My girlfriend of whom this incident occurred handled herself with class and extended grace. She said, “It was rude, and I was upset but I let it go.”
I wondered, “Would I have?” I don’t know.
What I know is this, offense is meant to hurt our feelings, cause resentment, irritation, anger, or displeasure.
Surrendering to offense allows the emotion to steal our joy.
Being offended is a choice. We can choose to let an event replay, ponder our responses through trivial gossip and plan retaliations, or we can choose to let it go. Keeping yourself conscious of surrendering offense takes practice. It’s impossible for offenses not to come to us but let’s make sure these offenses aren’t coming from us.
I pray your Thanksgiving will leave you full with turkey and its trimmings, fellowship with family and family. And of course, football! Let’s leave the drama outside in the cold. But, if it happens to slip in anyway, choose to shake it off.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.

Decision 14 - Gorman faces token opposition from Hickey in county board race

  • Written by Tim Hadac

The two-party system appears to be a bit of a sham this fall, at least as it relates to the “race” for the 17th District seat on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Republican powerhouse Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, of Orland Park, appears to be coasting to victory in her quest for a fourth term, with Democrat Jim Hickey, also of Orland Park, apparently missing in action—perhaps by design--from the campaign trail.
Hickey, a Gorman ally and president of the Orland Fire Protection District, does not appear to have a functioning campaign operation. An Internet search shows no campaign website, and Hickey has not reached out to the press as a candidate.
He was unopposed in March 18 Democratic primary, picking up 7,693 votes, while Gorman amassed 13,292 votes in her contested race on the GOP side with physician Barbara Bellar.
Hickey did not respond to requests for comment by The Regional News. A Wikipedia entry about him claims that he entered the race “believing that Gorman, his ally and a key supporter in his election [to the OFPD board], was planning to run for higher office, and that he would only seek Gorman’s seat in the Nov. 4 election if she retired.”
A native of the Marquette Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side, Hickey ran for the newly created 11th Congressional District seat in 2012, finishing last in a three-way Democratic primary. The following year, he entered and then withdrew from the race to succeed disgraced U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Hickey’s absence has given Gorman free rein to continue her all-out advocacy for Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor. She was an early and effective supporter of Rauner and is credited by many with playing a key role in his victory last March over established GOP candidates. Last month, Gorman hosted a town hall meeting for Rauner in Orland Hills.
Gorman, a self-described conservative “on fiscal and social issues,” is perhaps best known for her successful leadership role in opposing and later repealing the 133 percent tax hike pushed by then-County Board President Todd Stroger in 2008 and passed by the board’s Democratic majority.
“Throughout my time in office, I’ve been a strong advocate for tax reform, budget and operational efficiencies, especially in the area of new technology,” Gorman told The Regional News earlier this year. “I have worked hard to fight for tax reform on multiple fronts. In 2013, I successfully sponsored the tax rate cut to the county’s Motor Vehicle Transfer Tax. Also, I successfully fought $1.6 billion in new tax proposals over my term in office [since 2002].”
Gorman also said she has worked hard for greater transparency throughout county government. “I sponsored an ethics law requiring greater disclosure and transparency for Cook County government and spearheaded the charge that resulted in the resolution that led to the abolishment of the corruption-riddled Cook County Regional Office of Education,” she said.
She has also endeavored to “make the Cook County Forest Preserve District a national leader in the areas of recreation, restoration and conservation,” Gorman said.
The incumbent said that her staff has assisted hundreds of constituents with property tax appeals and numerous other service requests. “Infrastructure improvements were made a priority for the 17th District especially in the area of flood mitigation. I’m proud to highlight these initiatives, services and programs,” she said.
Gorman, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. She lives with her husband, Gerald, and sons, Conor, Liam and Shane.

A rocky discussion of Stony Creek Promenade

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Perhaps it was no surprise at Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Village Board meeting that a vote related to the Stony Creek Promenade led to another extended debate between Trustee Robert Streit and Mayor Sandra Bury.


Streit’s talking points are simple enough.


He repeatedly has said Oak Lawn taxpayers recently were taken advantage of because the village lost $24 million in the sale of Stony Creek Promenade. He further contends that Hamilton Partners, the project developer, garnered $28 million via the sale despite the village’s investment in the property being significantly greater than Hamilton’s.


Bury and other village officials have said Streit’s figures don’t add up and accuse him of lying for political reasons.


Streit faces re-election in the spring, four years after winning a very close election against a write-in candidate. One village official said Tuesday that Streit is extremely concerned about his chances in 2015.


Following Tuesday’s meeting, Bury pointed to a detailed, four-page memo written Village Manager Larry Deetjen that outlines the sale of Stony Creek Promenade Phase I.


The memo debunks Streit’s financial claims about the Stony Creek Promenade sale, Bury said.


The mayor also took to her blog to discredit Streit’s claims, saying the veteran trustee is lying about the deal.


“In what is called a sure sign of desperation about spring re-election prospects, Bob Streit continues to spread lies and misinformation about the most successful retail development in Oak Lawn’s history,” Bury wrote Oct. 13 in her blog.

“Bob Streit’s response to Stony Creek Promenade’s record breaking success is to bad mouth Hamilton Partners, bad mouth the stores investing millions in our village and undermine the process in every way possible with a social media campaign orchestrated with Dave Heilmann to taint this development and hold Oak Lawn’s economic growth back,” the mayor added.

Bury asked Streit why he is opposed to a development project he initially supported.

Streit said he backed plans for an upscale mall “not a mediocre strip mall.”

Bury called the remark “reckless.”

Trustee Michael Carberry told Streit that he is alone in his thinking about the 111th Street project, where a recently opened Mariano’s has been very well received.

“I really don’t know anyone in Oak Lawn who thinks this is a bad deal expect you,” Carberry said to Streit. “I just don’t get it. You’re alone. Who’s with you?”

Other officials noted that the property was previously home to a closed grocery store, a Kmart and a parking lot full of seagulls. Additionally, the area lacked retention and green space.


Tuesday’s 5-1 vote allows Hamilton Partners to develop the Edgar Funeral Home, 10900 S. Cicero Ave., which will be renovated for retail use.