A winter tradition: TV news hot on hype but sub-zero on substance

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Getting cold out there.  Autumn’s over. Did you see the weather they got in Minnesota? Won’t be long before we see some of the “white stuff.”


Polar vortex is on its way.


I’d wager most folks couldn’t explain what a polar vortex is, but they like saying “polar vortex.”


Can we please stop? Seriously.


This is Chicago.


We experience four seasons. Winter is one of them. It’s mid-November and it’s getting cold. Shocking.


Of course, the local news broadcasts feed this silliness. Years ago, I don’t remember newscasts leading with weather stories unless we were in for a “grind the city to a halt” type storm.


But now, any threat of snow, any significant drop in temperature and weather is the star of the TV news.


Last week, I caught the national news and weather was genuinely the story in places like Minnesota and some Great Plains’ states where the temperature dropped to below freezing in mere hours. Sheets of ice blanketed the roads in some places. Winter weather had arrived with little warning.


Real news, to be sure.


We escaped the deep freeze here in the Chicago, but it was getting colder and that certainly deserved news coverage.


News anchors chatted with the weatherman, feigning disappointment about the end of warmer temps. Everyone was resigned to the fact that autumn was over.


But news coverage of the onset of winter is only the opening act. The real fun begins when we finally get the first big snowstorm.


Breaking news. It’s snowing in Chicago. Dispatch the reporters and the camera crews.


They follow the same template year after year and year.


Images of snowplows clearing the streets and maybe few words from the guy who drives the plow. Talk to the city dweller who spent hours shoveling snow in front of his house and used kitchen chairs to reserve the space. A long-held Chicago tradition, we’re reminded.


Real news would be footage of a driver getting out of his car, moving the chairs and parking in the “reserved” spot, leading to a fight with the guy who shoveled the snow.


“Snow fall leads to brawl. Tonight at 10.”


Instead, it’s more of the usual.


A reporter is stationed along the side of a highway or on one of the overpasses. Traffic is snarled as a result of the snow. Who knew? And by the way, if you don’t have to go outside….don’t.


Of course, what’s wall-to-wall weather coverage without getting a reporter to Home Depot or a similar store? The unprepared masses are buying shovels, snow blowers, salt, and the like. “What brings you out tonight?” the reporter asks a shopper. We eagerly await the response.


Sometimes, a reporter will check in on the grocery stores as well. Some people are stocking up on the staples before supplies run out. The dawn of the apocalypse is upon us. Ready yourselves.


And let’s not forget to talk to the tow truck drivers putting in double and triple shifts as well as the folks whose cars are stuck in the snow.


And no one can say the TV reporters aren’t prepared for the elements. Big, goofy hats with earflaps, ski gloves and boots suitable for someone taking a team of dogs into the artic are all part of the garb. And despite the garb, reporters still look cold and miserable.


It will happen this year just like every other year. We expect it, I suppose, and that’s why the TV news feeds it to us. Plus, in a town with several newscasts, one station can’t afford to downplay the first flake that falls from the sky.


So get ready. It’s getting cold out there. Winter’s upon us.


The TV news told me so.

Health and Thanksgiving: She's giving you the boot

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Oak Lawn’s Sharon Lombardi, who runs a fitness business in Palos Hills, offers not only a boot camp on Thanksgiving morning, but offers the public five tips on how people should eat during the holiday.

By Jeff Vorva

Reporter editor

Sharon Lombardi wants to give you the boot this Thanksgiving.

Then she wants you to fill your plate.

Lombardi the owner of Mission Body Possible in Palos Hills, is inviting people to a free 30-minute boot camp workout at her business at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving at 8648 W. 103rd St.

Lombardi and her twin sister, Sandra Hubbard will run the workout. They are both certified trainers. Lombardi, an Oak Lawn resident said that she and her sister ran track and cross country for Stagg High School and continued their running careers at Moraine Valley and Judson College in Elgin. Now they are both certified trainers. For more information on the boot camp, call 708-846-5787

Sharon was planning a career in education but then a knee injury changed her plans.

“I studied personal training after I had knee surgery,” she said. “I had nothing better to do.’’

Whether people come to boot camp or not, the two cooked up a list of five tips for a healthier Thanksgiving they want to share with the public:

1.  Make a full round first: Before putting things on your plate check out everything that's being offered. We've all done it before. You go to a buffet and you start at the beginning of the line. You pick up everything that looks good to semi-decent and put it on your plate. Soon enough, your plate is completely piled before you even get halfway through, and then we see something we love, only causing us to go back to pile on our plates again.

Look at everything first -- even desserts -- and then only get the things that you really want, not the mediocre things.

2. Choose water: Whether we realize it or not, all those beverages we drink sometimes add up to far more empty calories than food. We think we are not doing harm to our bodies because we are only drinking juice, wine, pop, beer, etc. The reality is that most beverages contain empty calories and don't make us feel full so we keep drinking until soon enough we just drank 500 of our calories in sugar.

If you must drink something drink a large full glass of water first so you won't feel as thirsty, and you can even put a lemon in your water to add more flavor. If not, choose options such as unsweetened tea, black coffee, and even wine (if it is just one glass you will sip it slower).

3. Fight Boredom: When you get bored, you grab for the chips. So keep yourself occupied. If talking to Aunt Sally isn't  cutting it, maybe playing a board game with the kids or suggesting a neighborhood walk with Grandma Josie can help keep you occupied. Even watching a movie where food isn't right in front of you is a good option. If there is food, opt to chew gum or eat raw veggies instead.

4. Eat slow and eat until you are not hungry: We know you are hungry, but there's no need to be a ravenous wolf! You're here to stay awhile so take your time. Nibble, listen, talk, nibble. No need to scarf down , get up, and scarf down again. Also, only eat until you are not hungry. Eating until you are full will give you that unpleasant feeling.

5. Fill your plate: This sounds counterintuitive but hear us out. People who only take tiny portions of food (enough for maybe one bird to eat) tend to make many rounds and think that they are only eating a little. Instead they wind up eating more than they would if they just took a single full plate in the first place because they do not realize how much they are eating. Take one full plate and try to stick to just that. Remember the first tip is look through everything first and get what you want. That way you avoid overeating because you know how much you are eating.


Calling at timeout at OL meeting

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The divisive debate over Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatch center continued Tuesday night during a contentious village board meeting that included a five-minute recess to subdue tensions between trustees.


Mayor Sandra Bury called for the break after telling Trustee Carol Quinlan that she was out of order for speaking without first being recognized by the mayor.


Quinlan became upset when Trustee Tim Desmond criticized former Mayor Dave Heilmann for his involvement with an anonymous political blog that routinely criticizes the Bury administration.


Desmond told trustees that he received a brochure on election day that was critical of the village’s 911dispatch center. The woman distributing the brochures told Desmond that they were prepared by the blog.


Desmond criticized the blog for anonymously publishing the information, much of which he said was inaccurate. He also ripped Heilmann and Trustee Robert Streit, who are widely believed to be behind the blog. Desmond said after the meeting that he did not raise the issue with the intent to raise the ire of other trustees.


“I just wanted to bring it up to clarify,” Desmond said.


Quinlan, an ally of Heilmann’s, said Bury should have stopped Desmond’s personal attack against the former mayor.


“Talk about political crap. This is so unfair,” Quinlan told Bury. “My God you’re a piece of work.”


Bury praised Desmond for his remarks, which she described as statements of fact not personal attacks.


“It needed to said,” Bury said.


Earlier in the meeting, Streit recognized former Trustee Tom Phelan, who was in the audience, and said he likely was instrumental in the decision to outsource the dispatchers.


“I won’t have you attack a resident,” Bury told Streit.


Phelan helped run Bury’s campaign and authored the notorious hit list, which includedthe names of those serving on various village commissions and committees and who they supported in the mayoral race.


Quinlan, who is not running for re-election in April, has traded barbs with Bury during previous meetings. She has formed the board’s minority faction along with Streit.


The emergency dispatch center issue got kick started Tuesday when Trustee Terry Vorderer criticized Streit for ripping the dispatchers rather than working with fellow board members to improve the dispatch center.


He added that Streit exaggerated the severity of complaints lodged by Oak Lawn firefighters against the dispatchers.


“Humans make mistake. Even with the highest level of training emergency responders can make mistakes,” said Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer. “Mistakes occurred 30 years ago, mistakes occur today and I’m assuming mistakes occur in the future. Now, we can turn them into political issues. That’s what’s being done here. Ongoing public safety in this town is just fine.”


Streit said he believes that the decision one year ago to outsource the dispatch center staff was “probably the worst decision I’ve seen here at the village.”


“To say that (the complaints) were investigated and that there is no problem is a serious understatement,” Streit said. “We can pretend, I guess, that there aren’t serious problems.”


Trustee Mike Carberry said he’s not heard one complaint about the dispatchers.


“If it’s real, Bob, and you really want to dig into it, why don’t you say, ‘Mike, why don’t you take a look at some of the documents.’ ” he said.


Released documents allege misconduct on former area priests

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Each of the Catholic parishes in Oak Lawn was served at one time by priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, according to records released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The Archdiocese of Chicago released documents last Thursday related to 36 Archdiocesan priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, all of whom have been listed on the Archdiocese’s website for years.


The list includes the Rev. John E. Hefferan, who served at St. Gerald; the Rev. Robert Kealy, who spent time at St. Germaine; the Rev. Donald Mulsoff, who served at St. Catherine of Alexander; the Rev. Norbert Maday, who was an associate pastor at both St. Louis DeMonfort in Oak Lawn and Our Lady of the Ridge parish in Chicago Ridge; and the Rev. Michael H. Watson, who worked at St. Linus. The Rev. Gary M. Miller, who spent time at St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park, also is on the list.


The documents released last week are in addition to those released in January related to 30 other priests. The release, in combination with the January release, covers all the priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors identified on the Archdiocese’s website, with the exception of two priests where ongoing processes do not permit release, the archdiocese said.


Ninety-two percent of the cases included in the documents occurred prior to 1988. Additionally, all of the priests involved in this document release are out of ministry and 14 are deceased. Additionally, no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago today, according to the archdiocese.


The priests with ties to Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge and Evergreen Park are:


Ordained in 1956, Hefferan was removed from public ministry in October 2003, three years after he retired. Hefferan served several parishes throughout the Southland, including St. Gerald from 1990-97. Information released by the archdiocese include reference to a letter from a victim who said Hefferan “inappropriately” felt and kissed her once in the late 1970s when she was 12.


Kealy was an associate pastor at St. Germaine in Oak Lawn from 1972-77, the first parish he served after his ordination. Documents released by the archdiocese indicated that it received phone calls from a victim in 2007 and 2011 regarding Kealy. The victim also sent emails to a member of the archdiocese’s review board for child abuse regarding complaints of sexual abuse against Kealy.

In June 2001, the archdiocese received complaints that Kealy abused a male minor. The cardinal's review board deemed the accusation unsubstantiated, but in March 2002, the anonymous informant shed his anonymity and provided additional details that led to Kealy's removal from his position of pastor in Winnetka.

He was limited to ministry with restrictions and monitoring in March 2002, removed from public ministry three months later and resigned in April 2006.


Mulsoff, who is deceased, served Oak Lawn’s St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish from 1969-74. Documents released show that the mother of a victim wrote Mulsoff and the archdiocese’s vicar for priests about her concerns that Mulsoff was engaging in sexual acts with minors. One victim accused Mulsoff of molesting her at St. Catherine when she was 13. Mulsoff was ordained in 1969 and removed from public ministry in 2002.


Maday, a former associate pastor at St. Louis DeMontfort Parish in Oak Lawn from 1969-77 and Our Lady of the Ridge Parish in Chicago Ridge from 1983-89 was convicted in 1994 and given a 20-year prison term for molesting two teenage boys in separate 1986 parish outings to Oshkosh, Wis. Other victims accuse him of acts of sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s. Maday was removed from the priesthood in 2007, 43 years after his ordination.


Miller served at St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park. A review board determined that there was reasonable cause to support an accusation that Miller sexually abused a minor. Miller resigned in 2012, nearly 30 years after he was ordained.


Watson was an associate pastor at St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn and served at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. An archdiocesan review board determined there was reasonable cause regarding allegations that Watson sexually abused minors, and he left active ministry in 1993.

Volleyball, senators, congressmen and a turkey leg

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions


One of the cool things about the journalism profession is that no two days are the same.

One day, people can praise you for a story, column or photo. The next day, some crackpot at a political rally is screaming at you and calling you a “communist’’ because you don’t want to tell this daffy goofball who you are voting for.

This job is not normal. You never get to settle into a routine.

That being said, some days are crazier than others. Nov. 4 was one of the wildest days I’ve had in a while. When it was over, I couldn’t believe how much was crammed into one day. It was election day, but the elections were a part of a bigger meal on my plate. It had some fun. It had some angst. But it was lively.

So here is a diary of that day that I won’t be forgetting soon:

7:30 a.m. – After dropping my daughter and her friend off to school, I head to Mariano’s in Oak Lawn to search for a giant turkey leg for a picture we are running in a future issue of the paper. Mariano’s only has chopped up turkey legs but the friendly staff tells me to go to Fair Play on 111th Street and Western Avenue and there would be a “50-50’’ chance they would have it.

7:55 a.m. – I hear from Senator Bill Cunningham’s people. He will be campaigning at Kolmar School in Oak Lawn for a little while if I want to grab a photo.  I tell his people I have one quick stop to make but don’t  tell them it’s to buy a turkey leg.

8 a.m. – After the doors open at Fair Play, I don’t find an uncut turkey leg on display so someone in back bails me out and finds a couple of legs for me. I choose the bigger leg. The process takes longer than I want it to, but I got the leg, by golly. Now it’s on to see the senator!

8:20 a.m. – On 111th street in Mt. Greenwood a speed light flashes. It wasn’t me was it? I don’t think so. I don’t know, though. I doubt the paper – or the senator – will pay for the ticket if it was me.

8:30 a.m. – I arrive at Kolmar and the senator, phew, is still there. I take some photos and chat with the senator. We talk politics, weather, sports and newspapers. Then I mention the turkey leg. The Senator is all of a sudden hungry.

9:15 a.m. – I get a call from Congressman Dan Lipinski’s people telling me  that he will be at the Orland Park Sportsplex at 11 a.m. I tell them I will be there and don’t mention the turkey leg.

9:30 a.m. – I head to the office for the first time and knock out some work including writing up the popular WHATIZIT? feature. To my dismay, only one couple guessed the right answer and the other contestants guessed wrong, which will mean that I’ll get some sarcasm and ridicule.

10:45 a.m. – I drop off the turkey leg at home and put it in the refrigerator. This should be the last reference to the turkey leg in this column although I may be writing about turkeys later on.

11 a.m. – I arrive at the Sportsplex and Lipinksi is on PT -- politician time -- and running late. This never  surprises me. It’s hard to pin a politician down on election day. In the meantime, an old boss of mine stops by to vote and we have a nice chat about how wonderful the newspaper business is.

11:15 a.m. -- Lipinski arrives and legislator Fran Hurley is already there. They meet and greet the public. I shoot photos. The problem with the Sportsplex is that there are usually more people there to work out than vote. It makes for some comical and awkward moments when they pass by the pols.

1 p.m. – After a lunch break, I go to vote. For the first time in a long time, I have to wait for a little while. Because I’m a “communist” I won’t tell you how I voted but once I got the ballot, I checked roughly 8 million boxes to retain a bunch of judges that I never heard of. Hopefully, if that flashing light on 111th street pertained to me, one of those judges will show mercy on me.

1:30 p.m. – I go back to the office for the second time and knock off a bunch of work. With designer Kari Nelson working on overdrive, we wrap up nine of our 12 pages with the rest being reserved for election coverage.

5 p.m. – I arrive at Mother McAuley High School and get one of the few remaining spots in the main parking lot. I’m there to shoot volleyball photos for sports. McAuley and three other high-level teams are fighting it out in sectional play. Two winners go on to play each other. The two losers flood the locker room with tears after their season is over.

8:30 p.m. – Back to the office for a third time after watching all of Mother McAuley’s three-set victory over Sandburg and a portion of Lyons Townships’ three-set triumph over Marist. It was a night of incredible volleyball and drama. And yes, tears. Now back to the election…

9 p.m. – Pizza arrives. It’s an election night staple in newsrooms across the nation to serve pizza on election nights. When we talk about some of the area daily papers in the area that no longer have offices I joke that their reporters have to pick up a slice and eat it in their cars.

10:15 p.m. – I am in charge of the governor’s story so I pay attention when incumbent Patrick Quinn comes out and says he is not conceding but challenger Bruce Rauner comes out and proclaims he has won.

Midnight – I haven’t turned into a pumpkin yet, but I put the finishing touches on the Rauner story and edit Bob Rakow’s stories from the election.

12:30 a.m. – I am done for at least a few hours (there is still more editing and placement of the stories and photos to be done early Wednesday morning) and ask Regional News reporter Tim Hadac if he wants the last pieces of pizza. He declines. So I agree to take it home.

12:45 a.m. – I am driving halfway home when realize I forgot the pizza.

1 a.m. – I arrive home to find no one has taken the dog outside and put him to bed. So, I take him outside and he decides that instead of going to his room like he normally does, he wants to go into the dining room and hide under the table. At least he didn’t eat the turkey leg.

So how was your day?