Editorial - EP tries its best to appease businesses and residents

  The line community leaders walk to please residents and appease the business community can be a fine one as we’re learning in Evergreen Park.
In one instance, an Irish pub has been approved for a location at 99th Street and Clifton Park Avenue. The co-owners are village residents interested in making a go of the restaurant business.
  But some residents who live on Clifton Park Avenue have concerns about an eatery that serves alcohol replacing the meat market that previously occupied the location. They say they were never notified of plans for a restaurant and worry about its future impact on the neighborhood.
  Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton attempted at Monday’s village board meeting to assuage residents’ concerns, saying that the pub owners will have to abide by the limitations of their business and liquor licenses and take the appropriate steps to be good neighbors.
  The meat market was part of the community for many years, but converting it into another business trumps letting it sit vacant, an eyesore that we see all too often in the communities we cover. Hopefully, the residents, restaurant owners and mayor can work out their differences, and the pub is a success.
  At the town’s western gateway, Walgreen’s is making significant progress on its new store, which will anchor the southeast corner of 95th Street and Pulaski Road.
  At Monday’s meeting, a resident who lives across the street from the store raised concerns about the height and color of a wall designed to prevent noise and car headlights from invading the community. The color of the wall may not be to the resident’s liking, but Sexton and Walgreens did hash out a plan designed to meet most of the community’s requests, including the wall’s height.
As Sexton pointed out, Walgreens is an asset to the community and superior to the muffler shop that previously occupied the corner. Again, compromise is the key to making business and residents happy.
  Finally, the village board on Monday approved 24-hour weekend drive-thru hours for the McDonald’s on 95th Street over the objections of two trustees. Restaurant officials said the extended hours are needed to remain competitive, especially since the White Castle across the street also has a 24-hour drive-thru on weekends.
  We understand that the drive-thru abuts a residential area and support the board for approving the new hours on a six-month trial basis. Hopefully, things go smoothly and the drive-thru speakers do not present a problem for residents.
  Businesses and residents rely on one another, though their needs are often very different. Evergreen Park is demonstrating how to successfully make both sides happy.

Editorial We should be proud of the way the south suburbs honors the military


  Welcome home parties for troops have become common in recent years as members of the military return after serving stints overseas.
  The ceremonies usually include an escort from the airport by local police and members of veteran organizations; many who mount their motorcycles for the ride home. The procession usually advances through a flag line until it arrives at the soldier’s home where he or she is greeted by friends and family members.
  They’re emotional, patriotic experiences and well-deserved events that soldiers appreciate. But these military members are quick to add that they were just doing their jobs while stationed overseas and don’t deserve any special attention.
  Unfortunately, there was no welcome home party for Army Pfc. Aaron Toppen, 19, of Mokena, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month during a friendly-fire airstrike.
  But area residents should be proud of the way they honored the fallen soldier on Saturday. Thousands of residents from throughout the southwest suburbs lined Cicero Avenue to pay tribute to Toppen as his remains were transported from Midway Airport to Mokena.
  Yellow ribbons were attached to practically every light pole along the route, and those who turned out waved American flags, displayed homemade signs and placed their hands on their hearts as the hearse slowly proceeded through Oak Lawn, Alsip, Crestwood, Midlothian, Oak Forest and Tinley Park.
  It was a touching and patriotic tribute that hopefully will lend just a bit of comfort to Toppen’s family as they struggle with the unimaginable grief of losing a son.
  But the show of support was not surprising. Residents from our area have time and time again supported the troops and veterans by raising money, sending care packages, writing letters and erecting memorials to the fallen. Saturday was just another example of that support.


Editorial — Forging ahead – OLCHS officials made the right call

It’s not easy to make a tough decision.
Just ask Mike Riordan, the principal/superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School.
Last week Riordan decided to enforce a school policy regarding community service and prevented 48 students from participating in graduation ceremonies.
Forty seven of those students did not perform required service hours and submitted bogus paperwork that included the forged signature of an Oak Lawn Park District employee. Many of the students allegedly purchased the paperwork with the forged signature from a classmate, who also was banned from the ceremony even though that student reportedly completed the required service hours.
Students are required to complete 24 hours of community service hours before graduation. They have four years to dedicate the equivalent of one day to the community, and there are countless opportunities to fulfill the obligation. The village, park district, churches and myriad community organizations regularly seek volunteers to help staff events.
Finding out about these volunteer opportunities is as simple as picking up the phone. Yet, more than 40 students at Oak Lawn Community High School—10 percent of the graduating class—never completed the hours and thought they’d put one over on the school by submitting bogus paperwork.
They almost got away with it, but the scheme unraveled when a few sheets submitted at the last moment bore signatures that did match with the others.
School officials did not hesitate. They spoke individually with the offending students, who were told they’d receive a diploma as soon as they completed the service hours. They would not, however, walk across the stage at St. Xavier University—site of the commencement.
Riordan and his colleagues could have gone in a different direction. Withholding diplomas until the service hours were completed, but allowing them to walk was one option. Some parents and even Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman said the consequence was too severe.
It’s not. But it comes as a shock because we’ve become accustomed to bending the rules to accommodate young people. “They’re just kids, after all,” is the customary refrain. “They make mistakes and should get a second chance.”
Riordan and other high school leaders didn’t see it that way. Instead, they taught an invaluable lesson: integrity and honesty are important and trying to get over on the school requirements has consequences. Besides, allowing those students to participate in commencement ceremonies would have cheapened the experience for the rest of the class.
We commend Riordan and his staff for making and standing by their
No less is expected of community leaders.

Editorial - End the stall — OL Park board needs to make a decision on hoops

  Full court basketball will continue to be played at Little Wolfe Park for the foreseeable future following the Oak Lawn Park Board’s delay on a proposal to remove one of the hoops.
  The proposal was talked about in April, and expected to appear on the board’s May agenda. Now the board is deferring the matter, saying more time and consideration is needed before a decision is made.
  This issue goes back several months. Last summer, a group of residents from the neighborhood adjacent to Little Wolfe Park attended two park board meetings to protest what they described as inappropriate behavior on the part of some basketball players.
  Unfortunately, phases such as “players from outside the community” were bandied about, which brought racism into the conversation. Was players’ behavior the problem or the color of their skin?
  Trustee Carol Quinlan, a strong opponent of the full-court games, said last week that the issue is not about race, though she has on more than occasion pointed out that some players are not from Oak Lawn.
  Park Commissioner Gary Callahan and others have noted that Oak Lawn parks are not open exclusively to village residents. Residents who live near Little Wolfe will have to accept that fact. They do not live in a gated community. Callahan also rightly maintained that the park district would rather not reduce recreational opportunities.
  But residents who live near the park deserve a final decision on the future of the basketball court. The five commissioners should either decide to leave the court as is, remove one of the hoops or come up with another solution that is agreeable to all. Perhaps increased police presence in the area is the answer.
  However, maintaining that more time and study is needed is disingenuous. Residents deserve a decision whether or not they with agree with it.

Editorial - Unique local businesses are losing their steam

  The choo-choo train rolled along the tracks for the last time Saturday afternoon at Snackville Junction.
  The iconic restaurant, a staple in Evergreen Park after years in Chicago’s Beverly community, closed its doors for the final time because its owners were unable to workout mortgage refinancing with the bank.
  The Kedzie Avenue diner didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside children watched in delight as hamburgers and hot dogs were delivered on a choo-choo train that traveled out of the kitchen on a set of tracks mounted to the counter.
  That train took several trips on Saturday as patrons made a final journey to the restaurant, which they described as unique and a one-of-a-kind. The food was good and kids could be kids, playing with toy trains while waiting for their meals.
  Sadly, those experiences weren’t enough to save the restaurant. The owners were unable to work out an extension on a balloon mortgage that had come due. The bank wanted its money, and Snackville Junction apparently didn’t have it.
  It’s easy to blame the bank, but lending institutions are in business to make money. Snackville Junction’s owners knew the terms of the mortgage when they agreed to them, although the last few years have been tough on small businesses of all kinds.
  The demise of the Snackville Junction is disappointing, however. Its closing means there’s one less unique, family-owned business in the area that caters to families. A place where the owner knows your name and has put his or her heart and soul into the place.
  There’s plenty of play lands at McDonald’s and Burger King and lots of corporate-owned bowling alleys and movie theaters dotting the landscape. There are endless places to play mini-golf or laser tag, jump on trampolines and race go-karts. But few are locally owned joints with a stake in the community.
  You’ve heard this mantra before, but support your local businesses, especially the ones that you and your families have enjoyed for years. Do it before they become the next Snackville Junction.