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Lipinski addresses concerns at town hall

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Local issues such as gun violence, airport noise and insurance costs, rather than political conventions, were on the minds of Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and his audience at a recent town hall meeting in Oak Lawn.

Lipinski told about 60 people at Oak Lawn Community High School on July 19 that this was the lowest turnout at a town hall since he took office in 2005. But those who were there came from around the district, including Orland Park, Homer Glen, Oak Lawn, Burbank, Countryside and Chicago.

“Low attendance is why a lot of my colleagues don’t hold these any more, but I think it is important to hear from residents in person,” said Lipinski.

Hot weather and the Republican convention on TV may have kept some at home, but Lipinski said fewer people approach him anywhere to ask questions or share concerns.

“I get the sense that people have given up on seeing any change (in Washington gridlock). There is no trust in either party getting anything done.”

“I share that frustration. I’m a Democrat. But I think my first responsibility is to represent all my constituents and make the district and the country better,” said Lipinski.

He confirmed that he was a Bernie Sanders superdelegate in the presidential election, explaining that all Democratic congressmen are superdelegates, able to vote for whomever they want at the convention. But the congressman said he wasn’t going to the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia.

“If it was a contested convention, I would vote for Sanders because he won the primary in the 3rd District. But there is no need now that Hillary Clinton has enough elected delegates, and Sanders endorsed her,” he said.

“Nothing happens at conventions now. It is all show for TV. If you are on the floor, it is very hard to even hear what is being shown on TV,” he added, speaking before the release of leaked emails allegedly showing the Democratic National Committee was supporting Clinton behind the scenes.

When the issue of gun control was raised, Lipinski said he supported increasing background checks for gun buyers following the mass shooting in Orlando.

“Forty percent of guns are sold at places like gun shows, where there are no background checks,” he said. “There are also no federal laws against straw purchases,” he noted, referring to the sale of legally purchased guns to unknown third parties. He said “truckloads” of legally purchased guns are brought across the country, to places like Chicago, for sale on the streets.

Lipinski said he was “very torn” about the sit-in involving House Democrats to bring gun-control legislation to the floor following the Orlando massacre, and didn’t participate.

“I agreed with the proposed ‘no fly-no buy’ legislation preventing people on no-fly lists from buying guns, but some of the congressmen were involved in things that I felt weren’t helpful. It brought attention to issues but there was no way it would have been brought to the floor for a vote,” he said. Opponents sought to prevent only those “known to be planning a terrorist act” from buying weapons. “If we knew that, they would be in jail,” he said.

When asked about climate change, he said, “I believe climate change is important and something should be done about it. But we have to be careful not to affect manufacturing.” He said manufacturing jobs were key to improving the economy.

Lipinski stressed his opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, involving the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. He said that like NAFTA and other trade agreements, it would hurt U.S. manufacturing jobs.

“Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have come out against TPP. My concern is after the election, they will ram it through. The administration will have to give a 30-day notice before bringing it up for a vote, and Congress will have 45 days to vote on it.”

He said one of his immediate goals is to pass “a big infrastructure bill,” to improve roads and bridges. He said infrastructure projects only accounted for six percent of the stimulus package approved to help the economy in 2008, and only “shovel-ready” projects were considered.

“The increases are ridiculous,” agreed Lipinski, when Manuel Papadopoulos of Oak Lawn asked for relief from health insurance premium costs. “If insurers come back with more than a 10 percent increase, regulators have to question it. But they can’t really stop them.”

He said that there is also nothing legally that, except for shaming them, can be done to stop insurance company officials from taking exorbitant bonuses while rates are raised.

“There are no pain-free solutions to the budget deficit. The answer isn’t just tax increases or spending cuts,” said Lipinski. He said the $11.9 trillion deficit did drop during the Obama administration due to economic improvements creating tax revenue.

“Economic growth in the 1990s got us to a balanced budget. But then there was 9/11, and the wars, and tax cuts were put in place,” he said.

On the refugee question, Lipinski said, “It’s a tough balance. I think we have an obligation to help people who are facing real danger. We’re not talking about economic refugees. But there are people who are really facing persecution.”

He said he did support legislation that would require the director of the FBI and two other top officials to sign off on any refugees allowed in, guaranteeing that they were properly “vetted.”

“But we haven’t had that many refugees come in, compared with Europe,” he noted.

Several people, from Chicago and Burbank, asked Lipinski for help with increased airport noise caused by new flight paths instituted by the FAA.

“They changed the flight patterns without looking at the impact on local communities,” he agreed. He noted that he co-sponsored HR 5075, the Airplane Impacts Mitigation Act of 2016, aimed at examining the health impacts of airplane overflights

Oak Lawn panell gives its OK for medical facility

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Oak Lawn Planning and Development Commission gave its approval Monday night for the Advocate Medical Group to build a medical facility at the vacant Beatty Lumber property site along 52nd Avenue in the village.

The commission approved the plan but only after residents and public officials raised some concerns about the proposed project during the three hour and 10 minute meeting. With the agreement, the plan will be on the agenda for a vote during the next Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

The medical facility would include offices for physicians, urgent care and a pharmacy. The facility would cover about three acres and will be located on the north and south side of 52nd Avenue and extend to Tulley Avenue. The medical building would extend north to 96th Street and south of the railroad tracks.

Devin McKeever, vice president for Shared and Support Operations for Advocate Medical Group, assured the large crowd that attended Monday’s meeting that the facility will provide the best of care and that specialists from Advocate Christ Medical will be on hand. AMG has viewed the location for some time after looking at the village’s 95th Street Corridor plans.

“Advocate has continued to grow and there is a need to expand,” said McKeever. “We can assure that people will have access to quality health care.”

The majority of residents and officials that attended the meeting Monday night and an informal neighborhood meeting hosted by Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury on Friday did not oppose plans for the medical facility. The major concern for residents was a possible increase in traffic. Another resident was concerned about privacy. He did not like the idea of windows facing his property that would allow people to look in.

“I have young children,” said David Gabriel.

AMG officials and Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that it would not be a problem. If necessary, windows could be frosted. Lighting will also be lowered so it is not that bright for the residents who live in nearby homes, AMG representatives said.

“There is a lot of moving parts to this project,” said Deetjen, when questions about parking and traffic congestion were raised. “Advocate has been great and this would be a great addition to the area.”

During the neighborhood meeting on Friday, which also drew a large crowd, a variety of proposals for the project were brought up. An idea for townhomes was suggested and that brought mixed reviews. The idea of townhomes was initiated from local Realtors and members of the business community, according to Deetjen.

“As far as the townhomes go, my point is there will be a high concentration of people coming in,” said Kevin Ford, who lives near the proposed project. “I like the idea of the project without the townhomes.”

Jennifer Loughlin, who lives along Tulley Avenue, said on Friday that she prefers no townhomes.

“I think I need and deserve a buffer,” said Loughlin. “Right now it’s empty and it’s ugly. But at least I know my neighbors.”

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said on Monday that after considering the townhomes proposal, he would rather see more trees and landscaping.

“Is there a demand for these townhomes? I think it is a non-sell, in my opinion,” said Streit.

Bury said on Friday that the addition of Advocate would be a great for Oak Lawn.

"Anything would be an improvement," said Bury. "The traffic flow right now is terrible there. Right now these are preliminary plans.”

The facility would employ about 105 people and would be a boost for local businesses and restaurants, according to Deetjen. The two-story Advocate facility would be over 52,000-square feet and would be built on the east side of 52nd Street. Parking would be built on the east and west sides of the street, according to preliminary plans.

While a vote may be taken on the Advocate project at the Aug. 9 village board meeting, negotiations will have to take place with the Norfolk Southern Railroad, who opposes Advocate’s plans. Beatty Lumber has not been in operation since 2011. An attorney representing Norfolk said that the railroad needs access to the area and Narrow Street, which would be closed off if the project is approved.

Deetjen said that the remaining building along 52nd Avenue is dilapidated with weeds and homeless people occasionally taking up residence in the building. Deetjen added that the railroad has done nothing to improve the site.

Bury said that she knows residents have concerns and appreciates their input.

“Advocate will be good neighbors,” she said.

Local mayors decry violence against police

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Two local mayors said they were distraught after a second series of shootings left three more police officers dead this past weekend.

Three police officers were shot and killed on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday by a former Marine, Gavin Long, 29, of Kansas City, Mo. This comes after five police officers were shot and killed on July 7 in Dallas by U.S. Army Reserve veteran Micah Johnson, 25.

Both Long and Johnson were killed at the scene. Johnson reportedly said before his death that he wanted to kill white police officers. No explanations are available so far for Long’s actions. Johnson’s rampage was the result of the deaths of two black men after confrontations with police in suburban St. Paul, Min., and Baton Rouge. Both Johnson and Long were African American.

“Well, what happened is horrible,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury. “In light of more of these shootings, we have to have more conversations. We just can’t keep going down this path.”

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tovar was in complete agreement.

“There are no easy answers,” said Tovar. “Society has to take a long look at itself. This just can’t go on.”

Despite the second series of tragedies in less than two weeks, Bury received some positive feedback on Friday. The owner of Style 95 Barber Shop in Oak Lawn reached out to his friends in the Palestinian community on Facebook to raise funds for the families of the victims of the Dallas shootings.

Mahd "Mike" Jaser, owner of Style 95 Barber Shop, and members of the Palestinian community stopped by the Oak Lawn Village Hall on Friday to present Police Chief Mike Murray with $3,000 in donations and plaques for the families of the victims that were given to commemorate their "honor and bravery in the line of duty... Oak Lawn and the Palestinian American Community will always remember their dedicated service."

Murray said their comments were heartfelt and appreciated.

"We have to support those who protect us,” said Jaser. “We love this country and wanted to do something to help. We cannot bring these brave men back, but we hope this gesture of support will comfort their families and let our officers in Oak Lawn know that we stand with them."

“I was touched by that,” said Bury. “Our thanks go to the Palestinian community for their help.”

In nearby Chicago Ridge, police also have to patrol and respond to incidents at the Chicago Ridge Mall. With malls being targets for terrorism, the recent shootings of law enforcement officers make the job that more difficult for police.

“Obviously, they have to be more aware,” said Tokar. “The world is getting crazier and crazier. It’s gotten out of control. The police are more cognizant of all this. They are definitely more careful when they approach a suspect.”

Tokar did state that police officers in other communities should be equipped with tasers so they respond to some crime using these devices instead of guns.

“But of course in certain incidents when someone pulls out a rifle, what are the police to do? You don’t use tasers then,” responded Tokar.

The Chicago Ridge mayor said he went to a conference about eight weeks ago over mall security. He said that ideas were discussed and representatives from the Orland Park Mall were also in attendance.

“We have definitely stepped up and have added more security,” Tokar said about the Chicago Ridge Mall. “We have also been stepping up security for RidgeFest. I don’t want to say what that is, obviously. But the police presence will be felt.”

Bury said discussions take place frequently with members of the Oak Lawn Police Department to come up with better ideas of protecting citizen.

“It has to stop and we have to find a way,” said Bury. “We are all in this together. We really have to commit to this. Hate is not the answer.”

Second time's the charm for Dunkin' Donuts

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Approval was granted for a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts facility at 9601 S. Pulaski Road during a second appearance before the Evergreen Park Village Board Monday night.

In a 4 to 1 vote, the board approved revisions to the original plan presented by Feris Sweis, owner of Evergreen Park Properties. Trustee Carol Kyle cast the opposing vote.

During the previous meeting, the issue had been tabled when Sweis presented a plan for a drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts, a smoke shop and a cellular phone store for the development.

Questions arose at the meeting concerning the placement of the drive-through and the speakers on the ordering window, due to the close proximity of nearby residences. The proposed 24 hours of operation were also in question.

Mayor James Sexton had also expressed displeasure with the type of additional businesses planned for the development.

Sweis returned with changes to the plan that included moving the speaker board to the south of the property and closer to the front of the building. He stated that an eight-foot wall, built of soundproofing material, will be erected. The building will also be moved three feet further west of Pulaski, with landscaping being added.

Additionally, he has dropped plans for the smoke shop and cellular phone store. He is seeking other business options, such as fast food restaurants, to complete the development.

“We have talked with the mayor and have a better understanding of what is desired for the village,” Sweis said.

While proposing hours of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the drive-through, Sweis requested that the interior store remain open for 24 hours. He explained that it is because the early morning hours are when the batter is prepared and baked for some of the store’s products.

Trustee Mark Marzullo, who had adamantly opposed the late hours at the previous meeting, suggested comprising with a closing time of 9 p.m. for the drive-through on a trial basis to see if there were any problems, especially if the interior was to stay open 24-hours.

“Sweis has done a lot of revisions in order to comply with our plan. Let’s meet and discuss the hours before this goes sideways,” said Sexton.

The naked truth -- Wade looks forward to coming home

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 WADE OPTION AWARD

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Dwyane Wade had some fun at one of his south suburban camps in 2011. He is scheduled to return to the area as a member of the Bulls. 

 

Those who remember former Richards High School standout Dwyane Wade as a shy teenager might be a little surprised that he is not a very shy 34-year-old as he has done several fashion ads for high-level suit makers throughout his career and shed those clothes this year to appear in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue, which came out in June.

Dwyane Wade in the buff? Even he would have never predicted that when he roamed the halls at the Oak Lawn school.  

“I had a fear of being naked in front of others and a fear of being judged,” he told the magazine. “So to me, overcoming that is the biggest thing. Someone may look at me and think ‘why would you have insecurity?’ Well, this is real life and I’m human and these are the things I deal with that many others might deal with.

“When I was young, my belly button was an outie and I never even wanted to take my shirt off when we were at the swimming pool or outside during water fights. The only people who went into the pool with their shirts on were the kids who were overweight – and me. Even when I went to high school, I didn’t want to do swimming class because I didn’t want people to see my feet...and my belly button. I had a doctor write me a note to say I couldn’t do swimming and the first day I sat down and watched everybody else and it just looked so fun.’’

It’s been 16 years since he played at Richards and called a Chicago area team home, but that’s about to change.

He verbally agreed to a two-year, $47.5 million deal with the Bulls.

As of noon Tuesday, an official announcement wasn’t made but a lot of signs pointed to that happening this week.

On dwayewade.com, he wrote a goodbye to Miami, where he spent all 13 previous years of his NBA career saying “I never dreamed than an NBA career could have even been possible and that one day I would wear a Chicago Bulls jersey.

“Watching the Bulls growing up inspired me at an early age to pursue my dream of becoming a basketball player. Many of my family members still live in Chicago and I am excited to return to a city very close to my heart.”

So much has changed in Wade's life between his senior year at Richards and his agreeing to become a Bull.

In the closing days of 1999, the brand-spankin’ new facility on the campus of St. Xavier University, the Shannon Convocation and Athletic Center, hosted a Christmas basketball tournament that opened a lot of people’s eyes about Wade.

While he was a local treasure around these parts, he picked up some huge attention in the Chicago area and around the state when the Richards High School star burned Tilden for 48 points in one game and followed it up with a 41-point, seven-steal and seven-blocked shot effort against Steinmetz.   

Some people were just getting used to the unusual spelling of his first name, as the more traditional “Dwayne” was being used instead back then. Even this newspaper got it wrong after his scoring outburst.

“It mattered to me at first,” he told the Reporter/Regional in March, 2000 when he was named the Boys Basketball Player of the Year. “But I figured ‘oh, well, they’ll get it right sometime.’ ’’

A lot of time has passed since those days. He went to Marquette and became an NBA superstar with the Miami Heat even though coming out of college, some experts thought the 6-foot-4 Wade would either be too big for a guard or too small for a forward. In Oak Lawn, the Richards gym was remodeled and the court was named after him. While he couldn’t make it to the dedication in March (he was featured via satellite), Kanye West and Jennifer Hudson performed at the pep rally.

He went on to win three NBA titles and went to 12 NBA all-star games.

And people are still having trouble with that name. It was revealed Monday that his shoe sponsor, Li-Ning, put together an advertisement that spelled his first name “Dwayne”

He’s played 855 regular season games and scored 20,221 points, hauled down 4,126 rebounds, recorded 4,944 assists, 759 blocks and 1,414 steals in 30,560 minutes of work.  

With newly acquired Rajon Rondo and established scoring threat Jimmy Butler and Wade, the Bulls will be interesting. Perhaps not a title team but certainly one that will give the elite teams fits.

Does Wade have anything left in the tank?

He thinks so.

“I’m not finished nor am I done!!!” he tweeted last week. “I am ready and I’m excited for this next chapter in my life.’’