I know a secret about a local politician, and I refuse to conceal it

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEWclaudia and burke photo 5-12

Reporter columnist Claudia Parker and state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) converse over some issues and took time to pose for a photo.


It’s been a year since I optimistically strolled into the Illinois State Capitol located in Springfield. I wasn’t there sightseeing, as many of the students I observed on school field trips. No, I was there as an advocate, on official business.

I recall being slightly intimidated by the suits in the room before bravely speaking into the microphone. I’d been invited to share a personal testimony with legislators in a House Appropriations-Social Services Committee meeting. I was pleading for a funding continuation of Respite Care services for Illinois families.

Respite Care makes personalized, in-home care available to families of dependents with autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy or Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It’s a state funded program only eligible to those with severe disabilities. I was a recipient of the service for my daughter, Rhonda-Rene, who suffers from a FOXP1 gene mutation that causes several complicated and disabling disorders. In spite of sharing the harm losing the service would cause my family, funding was still suspended- effective July 1, 2015.

The day wasn’t totally ineffective though.

Before giving my speech, I was able to observe the House in session. It was like watching a WWE SmackDown without physical contact. Pretty intense. However, a pleasant experience, for me, was meeting Evergreen Park’s state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th).

An individual in my party stated, “If you write a note to your Legislator saying you’re their constituent, they’ll come out to greet you.”

“Really?” I questioned. I mean, the debates happening on the House floor didn’t seem to lend time for a meet-and-greet. But, I gave-it-a-go anyhow and slipped my note to the guard at the huge door of the House floor.

Within moments, out came a smiling Kelly Burke.

“I’m Claudia Parker”, I told her as I reached to shake her hand. To my complete surprise, she knew who I was.

“Oh yes, Claudia, I read your column in The Reporter,” she responded with a firm shake. We spoke for a few moments. I shared my concerns regarding losing Respite and provided her with a copy of my written personal testimony. Our brief encounter ended with a quick snapshot and she was back to business.

It didn’t occur to me then that that would be the inception of several run-ins where she and I would be supporting the same initiatives.

A couple of months later, we shared a stage during a Southland Rally in front of a couple of hundred people and television news media. I was one of a handful of people who spoke during that rally. My transparency made me feel vulnerable. I held up in front of the crowd but once I got to my car, I had a good hard cry. Kelly walked me off the platform following that speech. “You spoke well,” she told me with a comforting hand on my shoulder. Her encouragement was greatly appreciated.  

The instances I came into contact with her thereafter had nothing to do with lobbying for change. She’s been volunteering in the Evergreen Park Elementary School District. And yours truly has happened to capture a few of those moments on camera. “Well, we just keep running into one another now don’t we?,” I expressed. We recently had a casual chat during a volunteer appreciation breakfast at Northwest School. She’s consistently been warm, sincere, and attentive toward me.

I’ll be the first one to admit, I don’t know much about politics. The little insight I have gained comes from short news segments from television and newspapers, which isn’t the most complimentary. The common sentiment in the media is that politicians are power hungry and corrupt. If one isn’t careful, you could buy in to that notion, especially considering the high profile political corruption cases in Illinois.

That’s why you might agree that the information I’ve learned about Kelly Burke provides a true glimpse into who she “really is” behind closed doors.

Moments before our last encounter at Northwest School, I’d been in conversation with another parent, which I abruptly ended when Kelly walked by. Feeling as though that mom may have felt slighted, I reached out to explain. “My apologies for the swift end to our conversation,” I told her. “That was state Rep. Kelly Burke. I needed to get an update from her on an important issue affecting my family.”

This mom responded, “…I wish I’d known that that was state Rep. Kelly Burke.”

I got a sense she wanted to get something off her chest. She continued. “She saw an article in the newspaper written about an accomplishment of my 7-year-old son and took the time to write him a personal note of encouragement. I would’ve loved to introduce myself to thank her.”

I don’t believe state Rep. Kelly Burke thought this would ever be publicized, but she deserves to be exposed.

She fights for her constituents in Springfield, stands with them during rallies, offering comfort and encouragement, makes herself available for various town hall’s, all while volunteering in elementary schools. She still finds time to write personal notes to students that she’s never met.


I don’t believe Kelly is meeting the needs of the people, she’s exceeding them! My advice to her peers is if you’re going to get caught doing something, make sure it’s something meaningful.  

Remembering advice and smiles from mom

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Charlotte Rose Lynn was born in 1927 and lived near Ogden Park in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. She had four brothers and two sisters and grew up during the Depression.

I think about Charlotte Rose Lynn often. She was my mother and this Sunday is Mother’s Day.

My mother preferred to keep a positive attitude and described her life as a child as fun. It was my father, who also grew up near Ogden Park, who related that life wasn’t always bright for my mom. But growing up in an era when families were struggling during the Depression, we knew life wasn’t always upbeat in those days.

But if my mom had her share of heartaches, you would never know it. She had great memories about her brothers and sisters and the neighborhood she lived in. The only hint of sadness was when she discussed her mother, who she said had a great singing voice. This was a grandmother I would never meet. She became ill and never really recovered. I recall my mom saying that when her mother was being taken to the hospital, she told her to be good and watch over her brothers and sisters.

My grandmother died a few days later at the age of 42. This was a sad time for my mom, who was only in the eighth grade. Her mom would not be there for her teenage years and when she married my father, Frank Boyle, when she was 19.

My parents recall some great times when they were married, including a last-minute car trip to New York to visit relatives. Life became busier for my parents when the kids came along through the 1950s into the mid-1960s. But my mom loved having children and loved all of us.

She had a way of relaying stories to bring up a point or try to steer you in the right direction. This was a subtle gift she had. Instead of getting into arguments, my mom would tell you something in a way that would make you do the right thing. She could appeal to your conscience.

Hey, when you have six kids, my mother was like anyone else. Sometimes we pushed the limits. But we never really wanted to get her angry. Although we would joke with her and tease her on occasion, we didn’t want to make her upset. We had too much respect for her.

When I think of my mother now, I recall specific moments. She would consistently attend Longwood Manor Athletic Association baseball games to watch my brothers and I play baseball. She would take movies that we still have. On one New Year’s Eve, she, with the assistance of my little brothers and one of my sisters, Mary, captured some special moments on film. My one brother, Terry, dressed up as Father Time, using a wrapped hockey stick as a cane. My siblings bid him farewell as he strolled slowly up the stairs, mugging for the camera.

He was replaced by my youngest brother, Bobby, who was just 2 years old, dressed in a Baby New Year’s diaper. Those are some of the random events my mother would organize.

She formed block club parties and became active in neighborhood events. She also worked the polls on Election Day at St. Margaret of Scotland School. She would also watch baseball games with us and cheer on the White Sox. She would also watch Cub games occasionally, since they were mostly on during the day. My mom and my father became big Blackhawks fans after they won the Stanley Cup in 1961.

She was always someone I could count on to cheer me up when I was down. She held birthday parties for us and made Christmases special with her stories while holiday music played in the background.

My mother left us too soon. She died at the age of 47 from cancer. I would have liked to have known her better as an adult. Being young, there is a tendency to take many things for granted. I guess if she was here today I would like to tell her how much I loved her and appreciated her. Somehow, I think she already knew that.

She advised me how to handle bullies and even would go outside with me to play catch. When I first went to school at St. Margaret’s after we moved from Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, I was a little apprehensive. But then I would arrive home for lunch. My mom would greet me with a smile on her face and some sandwiches and soup.

Suddenly, the world became a better place. Mothers have a way of doing that.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Spirit to overcome is lesson learned when day leads to frustration

  • Written by Claudia Parker



“If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail,” – Benjamin Franklin.

I’ve adopted this quote and etched it into the cornerstone of my existence. Great words to live by when the application works successfully.

Have you ever seen a Mom meltdown at the front of a tilt-a-whirl? Well, I didn’t actually meltdown outwardly; it was one of those, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs on the inside, meltdowns. I just purchased my daughters, Donae, 8, and Rhonda-Rene, 5, full access wristbands to Safari Land in Villa Park. Rhonda-Rene, my amusement park enthusiast, vehemently refused to ride ANY of the rides. For those who find my reaction meritless to her offense trust me, this was but ONE of several failures in my perfectly planned day!

I wasn’t even supposed to be at an indoor amusement park. I was supposed to be photographing a ‘Building Relationships with At-Risk Students’ workshop at the Hilton Oak Lawn, being facilitated by my husband, Dr. Don Parker. A Doctor of Education, he’s been in the field 18 years, 12 as an administrator in suburban school districts around Illinois. Because of his desire to impact the youth outside his school district, he created workshops that he conducts throughout Illinois and beyond. I’m normally unable to attend but since Oak Lawn is a stone’s throw from home, I made arrangements to be present.

Just to be certain the girls didn’t feel slighted by our spring break trip starting a day late, I found a one-day youth camp for them at a local park district. Having never been to its location, a drive-by the day before left me confident I wouldn’t be scrambling to find it the next morning.

A pop-up alert on my phone reminded me they also needed a brownbag lunch. Seeing as our cupboards were bare, a grocery store trip was the prelude to packing them. Anticipating the girls would be sluggish come morning, I made sure to do their hair and selected coordinating outfits the night before. My head hit the pillow with assuredness. What went wrong?


Camp started at 9 a.m., it was 9:15. Why was the park district parking lot empty? Worried by what I saw, I called inside. “I apologize ma’am, due to low enrollment, camp was canceled today,” said the director of the program. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

I wish you could have seen how I contorted my face at that news.

We were all dolled up with nowhere to go. I needed an alternative for the kids, especially Rhonda-Rene, who has special needs. I had prepared their minds for a fun-filled-day and I had to deliver. A quick Google search put us on I-294, 45 minutes north, to a recreational arena that had apparently closed. “Notice to vacate,” was what the sign read on the front door.

I suppose the Internet is slow about removing inaccurate content? Note to self, call ahead.

It was 10 a.m. when I turned the steering wheel in the direction of Villa Park, 30 minutes east of our location. We found a nearby Portillo’s and stretched our patience with an extended 90 minute lunch until Safari Land opened at noon. We were the first ones in the door. Having access to all the rides with no waiting would be our consolation prize for the morning’s inconveniences. So I thought.

I pulled out my credit card and paid for two non-refundable or shareable wristbands to which Rhonda-Rene responded, “No!” to every single ride I convincingly requested she board.

I stood in front of that tilt-a-whirl looking into the rafters of their ceiling. At that point even Donae was disheartened. “Unbelievable!” we said, simultaneously.

All that effort to make things right and it all went sideways. Pushing through the interstate traffic got us back home just as Don was coming in. “What happened,” he asked? “Thought you were coming?”

After explaining our National Lampoon’s Vacation of a day, he said, “I’m really proud of you?” Pardon me for being dumbfounded because I didn’t get his feedback at all.

“Huh,” I questioned?

“You’re resilient. With everything that came at you today, you had enough wherewithal to adapt and forge ahead. You were resourceful and you persevered. You embody every quality of resilience, you have the mental ability to recover quickly,” he expounded.  

Don imparted a blessing in my spirit when he told me that. I let it simmer for several minutes thereafter. From his vantage point, I suppose I’d had a successful day after all. I went to bed that evening with a different quote in my head though, “You can plan a perfect picnic but you can’t predict the weather.” Author-unknown.

Don’s Administrators’ Academy workshops “Building Relationships with At-Risk Students”, or “Implementing a Resilience Program for At-Risk Students” can be made available in your school district by contacting him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Prince will rest in purple legacy

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Breaking news happens all the time and we have had our fair share this year. On Thursday, April 21, we had three stories of a larger magnitude. Two sports stories were worthy of front page coverage along with a prominent death.

I’ve read numerous accounts on the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, better known as just Prince. The multi-faceted singer and musician died at this Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minn., just 20 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

My first thoughts were of surprise, not shock. I recalled watching the news the previous Friday, April 15, and it was reported that Prince’s jet had to make an emergency landing in the Quad Cities so he could be treated at Moline hospital. Aides said he had been battling the flu. I wasn’t so sure about that. He was returning from a concert in Atlanta to his home in suburban Minneapolis

It seemed strange that his entourage made an emergency stop at a Moline hospital for Prince to be treated for the flu when he was so close to his home. I mentioned to my son that it was most likely more than that.

I don’t think I can add more to what is already been written about Prince. He had some moderate success in the late 1970s with two albums and rose to international success with the release of his movie “Purple Rain” and the album of the same name. He followed that with more hit records and albums. He even made two more movies that were not that successful.

On one hand I’m a little surprised at the response to his death. Moments of silence at sporting events and purple rays of light shining on buildings in major cities across the U.S. and the world in his memory surprised me. But he was unique and a master showman. Michael Jackson may have been the self-titled “King of Pop” and a great performer, but Prince could play numerous instruments and write great songs. Jackson could not do that.

But the mainstream hits dried up a long time ago for Prince. It probably coincided with his rebellion against his record company in which he eventually got his freedom. He released two albums last year and another four years ago. I’m not sure many people listened to that music.

Although I can’t say I was a huge fan, I had to respect this eccentric musician. He did it his way. I also liked the fact that he actually lived in the Minneapolis area. We have some celebrities whose roots go back to Chicago and they talk about how much they love the city. But after they make an appearance somewhere or sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch of a Cubs game, they are out of here. Prince grew up in Minneapolis and never left.

He made some great music and his sexually-laced performance at the Super Bowl in 2007 will always be remembered. He had the most unique press conference a couple of days before the Super Bowl, in which the Bears eventually lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Prince and his band had entered the press conference with their instruments and appeared to wait for the first question.

Someone indeed tried to ask a question but Prince, who was known to be shy and not much for talking, responded by singing a song that included stinging guitar licks before the horde of stunned reporters. At the completion of the song, Prince responded that the “press conference is over.”

I think that was pretty cool. Prince even engaged in social media for a while and in keeping with his character, suddenly dropped his Twitter account. He loved his audience but wanted to keep his distance.

A little mystery, I believe, is a good thing. You leave people wanting a little more as they try to figure you out. In a world in which people like Kim Kardashian take pictures of her backside because she deems this important, Prince preferred to be alone with his music.

Chicago did have two great sports stories that day. The Chicago Cubs crushed the Cincinnati Reds 16-0 as Jake Arrieta throws his second no hitter in the last 16 starts. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-3 in in overtime on a goal by Patrick Kane.

But Prince’s death was indeed front page news. Noted guitarist and singer Eric Clapton was once asked what it is like to be world’s greatest guitarist. Clapton said he did not know.

“Go ask Prince,” Clapton said.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Air traffic controllers strike reference adds to tension

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The verbal assaults continue between Gov. Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) while the budget stalemate goes on and on. But something was said last week that caught my eye.

In one published report, Rauner commented after Madigan complained about his tactics. The governor told Republicans at a dinner that he apologizes about the rough times everyone has gone through.

“If we have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers… And we sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while, it’s what we’re going to do.”

Really? Now, this is what this is coming down to? We are going to revisit the air traffic controllers strike during the Reagan administration? How serious is Rauner about governing for all the people in the state of Illinois?

Let’s turn back the clock a few decades. Back in 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers. The air traffic controllers were fired two days after their union, PATCO, declared a strike. The union demanded a pay raise, a shorter work week, and better working conditions. Some historians have said that this laid the groundwork for today’s assault on labor.

Joseph McCartin, author of “Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike That Changed America,” said that the labor force was still seen as a central force in American government back then. Both the Democratic and Republican parties felt that way. Reagan was in the first months of his presidency and was in the process of introducing his revolution. Reagan, according to McCartin, wanted to go before the pre-New Deal era. He wanted to reorganize the relationship between the government and labor movement.

The PATCO strike happened at a time when Reagan felt it was necessary to flex his muscles. When the air controllers went on strike on Aug. 3, he told the strikers to return to work within 48 hours. When they did not comply, he fired them. He later permanently replaced them.

Ironically, the union actually supported Reagan for president. PATCO began because of a disaster when a midair collision occurred over New York City in 1960. Improvements had to occur during that period and they began to take place. Working conditions were actually improving in the 1970s. But there still were some major issues. The main problems, according to union officials, were the working hours of employees and pay.

Move the clock back to today and the tensions are high between the Federal Aviation Administration and the union that replaced PATCO – the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The union and the FAA cannot agree on a new contract. So, the FAA will impose its own contract, which includes major concessions.

Union leaders have said that the concessions will make it harder for air traffic controllers to do their job. New hires will be paid far less than they are today, according to the union.

So, I guess we are going back in time. Rauner seems to be comfortable in dragging this deadlock out so that he can ram his “turnaround agenda” through. In the meantime, grade schools, high schools, colleges and universities are struggling. Some institutions, like Chicago State University, are struggling more than others.

Rauner wants to see wages readjusted and unions with less influence. What the governor is actually saying is that he would like to see most employees working for less. He has also called for an end to collective bargaining. And what that can accomplish is that employees will be making less and struggling to get by. That hardly seems like progress.

Look, there is plenty of blame to pass around here. Somewhere along the line there has to be some compromises. Madigan and Rauner continuing to trade insults are not getting us anywhere.

But for the governor to bring up the air traffic controller strike in 1981 takes on a combative tone. He essentially is saying that he is going to wait it out with the idea that the Democrats will eventually be on their knees.

I don’t think that is going to happen. In the meantime, the budget impasse is in its 10th month with no end in sight.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .