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A full list of 2017 Proviso grads, PAGES 4-6

Not buying it Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park have all opted out of Cook County’s minimum wage ordinance By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

The villages of Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park have all opted out of ordinances passed last October by the Cook County Board of Commissioners seeking to increase the minimum wage and establish earned sick leave for employees in the county. That means that private employers located in those villages will be exempt from the county’s ordinance, which starting July 1 will require businesses in Cook County to pay employees at least $10 an hour — a $1.75 increase above the current state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. The county’s minimum wage would then increase by $1 each year through 2020. On July 1, 2021 and each July afterwards, the minimum wage will increase by the rate of inflation up to 2.5 percent. If unemployment is over 8.5 percent, however, there will be no increase. The ordinance does not apply to public employers like villages and school districts. According to a June 13 Chicago Sun-Times article by columnist Mark Brown, more than 50 of the 132 municipalities in Cook County have opted out of either, or both, of the county’s ordinances. Those municipalities include nearby villages like Forest Park, River Forest and Elmwood Park. Many officials in those villages argue that the local legislation creates an uneven playing field for businesses and workers within and outside of the county. “We’re all about the minimum wage, but we don’t want some of our businesses to be See MINIMUM WAGE on page 7


Jesse Howard paints from his home studio in Maywood, but his mind often wanders to the West Side of Chicago, where he was born and raised.

A Maywood artist lights up the void Jesse Howard adds depth to what is often ignored or caricatured–the struggles of poor blacks By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

Jesse Howard has a story to paint. “I grew up in Chicago on the West Side, on 16th Street in K Town, around Pulaski,” said the artist and Maywood resident during a 2015 interview with Village Free Press. After two years, he’s still painting the contours and crevices of life lived in


struggle. His art is informed by pained memories. He was among the first group of blacks to attend Austin High School on Chicago’s West Side. He played on the school’s football team, which meant that he got chased and softly tormented by whites both late in the day (he had to walk home from practice), as well as in the mornings like his other black friends who walked to the school.

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“We’d all have to gather together on the corner,” he recalled. “They’d get us. We’d have to walk on Pine Avenue and Madison. White folk would get up on the roof and throw eggs at us.” The experience, though, made him who he is today, he said. It breathes on the canvasses that hold his work — much of it comprising the grotesque faces and forms See JESSE HOWARD on page 7 Managed by

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Village Free Press | June 2017

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Come learn to swim at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center. Maywood and Melrose Park residents can participate in free swim lessons. Venga a aprender a nadar en el Centro Acuático Fred Hampton. Los residentes de Maywood y Melrose Park pueden participar en clases gratuitas de natación. Purchase season passes at the pool, Maywood Village Hall, and the West Cook YMCA. Compre sus pases de temporada en lapiscina, en Maywood Village Hall, o en el West Cook YMCA. Dates/Fechas: June/junio 12–September/septiembre 4 Hours/Horario: 12:00–7:00pm Location/ubicación: 300 Oak St., Maywood Contact/Contacto: West Cook YMCA | 708-383-5200 Visit

Village Free Press | June 2017

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“To learn to be human is to develop through the give and take of communication an effective sense of being an individually distinctive member of a community,” (John Dewey).

VILLAGE people

Arlenne Villegas, 33, on the job of her dreams Arlenne Villegas, 33, owns Diana’s Shoe Boutique, 122 N. 19th Ave. (also known as Broadway) in Melrose Park. The Maywood resident took a short break from her work to talk about how she came to own the shoe store she once worked in as a teenager. I was about 16 or 17 when I started working here. I worked for the previous two owners. I got married and then stopped working because of pregnancy. Then I came back and started working here again for another four or five years before I went home to stay with the kids. Now, I own it On taking ownership One day, we were walking by here with the kids and we saw that the lady who owned the store was tired of it. I said, ‘I’ll take over!’

Arlenne Villegas

That was around two years ago. It’s always been a dream of ours [her and her husband Rolando Villegas] to open our own store and that was the perfect opportunity. This store has been here for over 20 years. It’s known for being the only shoe store on the block that serves the whole family. We have men’s, girl’s, women’s shoes. Most of our customers are women, though. It’s very exciting working for a store you own. I love working with people. The community is very diverse. We have Hispanics, Italians, African Americans. But everyone is unique and they have their own faces, so I have to think about each and every person as an individual.



Maywood Park District’s $500K exterior redesign starts soon By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

The Maywood Park District’s headquarters at the corner of 9th Avenue and Madison Street will get an extreme exterior makeover this summer. At the time this article went to press, construction was scheduled to start on June 19 and end by late September or early October, park district officials said. The redesign includes the installation of pingpong and game tables, the resurfacing of the parking lot, the renovation of the outdoor garden, the installation of a flower bed island in the lot, brand new fencing, a new outdoor basketball court that could be converted into additional parking during the winter months, and a tee-ball and soccer field designed for smaller children, among other improvements. Toni Dorris, park district’s executive director, said in an interview earlier this month that the district is waiting for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to sign off on sewer work that would be a prerequisite for the grounds improvements. “We have storm sewers that have been collapsed for a quite a while and it makes no sense to build on top of something that’s messed up,” Dorris said. “The storm sewers need to be fixed so we can put in brand new pavement, grass, drains and [other additions]. We want to make sure everything runs into the 8th Avenue storm system properly,” she said, adding that district was poised to get approval from the MWRD sometime in mid-June. The roughly $500,000 project is fully funded, with half of the money coming a state grant that required matching funds. The district secured a loan from Hinsdale Bank in order to match the grant amount, Dorris said. As a condition of securing the loan, the district embarked on a period of austerity, which included enacting significant budget cuts. An additional state grant, worth $1.62 million, will go to fund the rehabilitation of the district’s long-abandoned facility at 809 W. Madison St. The grant had originally been given to the district in 2014 under former Gov. Pat Quinn. Shortly after he took office, though, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order suspending a range of “nonessential” state spending. The suspended funding included the two grants that the park district had planned on

putting toward renovating the 809 building and enhancing its grounds. Last year, however, the state freed up that funding. The $1.62 million grant requires the park district to raise 10 percent, or $162,000, on its own in order to receive the total grant. At the time when the grant money was received, the district had a limited period to raise the matching money, with officials embarking on an ambitious fundraising campaign that was ultimately suspended. Park District Commissioner Terrance Jones said that the campaign, which entailed the district hosting small events and projects designed to raise the money, didn’t generate much revenue. Eventually, the deadline for raising the money expired. The state has since granted the district a one-year extension. The district has until July 1, 2017 to come up with the money, Jones said. “Prior to my arrival the district was having fundraisers to come up with that 10 percent so that they wouldn’t have to borrow the money, but once I got in there I realized that time was running out,” Dorris said. “Even if we had a fundraiser every week [the district would still be short of the matching amount].” Dorris said that she recommended that the district seek out a single bank that would loan the district money to match the funding for both grants. “If we have to pay something back, let’s pay for something that’s worthy of paying back,” Dorris said. Dorris added that Hinsdale Bank has expressed interest in loaning the district the matching amount for the $1.62 million grant as well, but the lending process has been held up because an initial financial plan developed by the park district prior to her arrival did not budget for a sprinkler system. “Hinsdale has stated that they want to help us but they need true numbers, because what we presented to them so far doesn’t include the cost of a sprinkler system,” Dorris said, adding that a sprinkler system in a building the size of 809 W. Madison could add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the construction budget. The additional cost means that the district’s original plans for the building, which had included state-of-the-art conference rooms, computer labs and lounge areas, may likely need to be pared back. CONTACT:


Village Free Press | June 2017

Proviso East Chauntay Adams Kiara Adams Pablo Alvarez Evelyn Amigon Oscar Aranda Jr Ariadna Arceo Jessenia Arredondo Jocelyn Arredondo Yasmine Arroyo Jerome Atkins Mylinda Ayala Miguel Barajas Ponciano Barajas Adrianna Barnes

Davante Barnes Brian Barraza Tremell Barrett Giorgio Bellini Jennifer Beltran Noah Binion Andrew Bockstahler Malik Bonivel Devin Booth Daryl Bouchette Edward Bowman Gabriella BradyMontana Joseph Brown Jakaira Butler

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Village Free Press | June 2017

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Village Free Press | June 2017

voting in favor of the measure. “Your constituents are the people, not the businesses,” said Lisa PintadoVertner, a member of Oak Park Call to Action, during the June 15 demonstration in Forest Park. “They need to look at the facts and figure out who they represent.” In fairness, the 2014 ballot measure only references a statewide minimum wage. It didn’t ask voters whether they supported a minimum wage increase in the WILLIAM CAMARGO/Staff form of the county’s Black Workers Matter co-founder Anthony Stewart confronts Forest Park’s village administrator, Tim Gillian, current ordinance. during a June 15 demonstration in Forest Park. Stewart and roughly a dozen other activists walked from the Small business owners and even village’s library to its village hall. nonprofit heads minimum wage of $8.25 would increase to across suburban Cook County have told $9 on January 1, 2018. The minimum wage media outlets that they support a state would then increase to $10, $11.25, $13 and $15 minimum wage increase that doesn’t each subsequent year until 2022. According create an uneven playing field across to a May 30 Crain’s Chicago Business report, municipalities. Some have also noted that the bill also includes a tax break for business from page 1 they’re already feeling the effects of rising with fewer than 50 employees. wages. disadvantaged,” said Bellwood mayor Andre Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has Steve Manning, the executive director of Harvey during a June 15 phone interview. expressed his support of a minimum wage an Oak Lawn nonprofit that supports the Michael Jurusik, an attorney with Klein, increase but could veto the bill anyway developmentally disabled, told the Chicago Thorpe & Jenkins — which represents since it isn’t tied to some of his legislative Tribune last year that his organization numerous villages in the western suburbs, demands. “‘will cease to exist in a couple of years’ if it including Maywood — explained during a Some proponents of May 10 board meeting in ordinance, has to increase employees’ pay significantly the county Maywood that “communities however, think that local without increased reimbursements from the that are opting out want the municipalities should state.” Illinois has been without a budget for over state to address this in order shoulder what they describe to create an even playing as the moral burden of doing a year and, according to a June 10 Politico field.” right by workers regardless report, has nearly $15 billion in unpaid bills. But Black Workers Matter activists “When a community of what the state does. said that not all opts out, it creates an They’ve also argued that the uneven playing field not advantages of establishing employers located in only for employers but for higher wages outweigh the the suburbs would feel squeezed by high employees,” Jurusik said, disadvantages. before explaining that he “If you pay people a wages. The activists wasn’t recommending a fair wage, people in your took particular aim particular course of action community are going to have at Ferrara Candy, the Park-based for the village to take on the more economic resources,” Forest candy maker that matter. said Carol Frischman, an “You can have people in Oak Park resident who lobbied elected officials [neighboring] communities working the joined roughly a dozen people for a June 15 in that village to opt same job and getting different wages,” protest in Forest Park organized by members out of the county he said. “That’s in Cook County. If you’re of the Chicago-based Black Workers Matter ordinance. According to the next to, say, DuPage County, you can have a and Oak Park Call to Action. watchdog scenario with three different sets of rules. “Which side of what’s right does a political Illinois “Cook County took a step forward and community want to be on?” said Dominican organization Ferrara raised the bar and I applaud them for that, Sister Patricia Farrell, OP, who also Sunshine, donated more but they’ve created now a patchwork of lives in Oak Park and who attended the has than $3,000 since communities opting out, which [those demonstration. communities] have a constitutional right to The activists cited the results of a 2014 2003 to Forest Park Anthony do,” Jurusik said. advisory question that asked voters whether Mayor Last month, the Illinois House approved they supported increasing the state’s Calderon’s campaigns. company has House Bill 198, which would create a $15 minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 by Jan. 1, The minimum wage in the state within five 2015. Nearly 64 percent of Illinois residents also donated to the voted for the ballot measure, with nearly campaigns of local years. The bill passed by a vote of 61 to 53. Under the proposal, the state’s current 85 percent of Proviso Township residents politicians in Bellwood,

Minimum wage Maximum frustration


where it has a manufacturing plant, and to state Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th). The BWM activists, some of whom are former Ferrara temporary employees, said that 65 percent of the company’s work force is made up of temporary workers who make minimum wage. A wage increase from $8.25 to $10 could mean an extra $3,600 a year for Ferrra workers, said the activists, who also lambasted the company’s controversial work environment. In 2016, Ferrara settled a $1.5 million class action discrimination lawsuit by workers who live in Chicago’s Austin community over allegations that the company “exploited Latino immigrant workers” and shut out “U.S.-born blacks, whites, Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans,” BWM member Dan Giloth noted in a statement. Ferrara contracts with Elite Staffing and REM, two temporary agencies that have been charged with wage theft. In a letter addressed to Calderone, Rick Jochums, Ferrara’s vice president of manufacturing, said that his company depends “on employing a large number of entry-level labor positions in our facilities [that] are stable jobs that allow our employees to gain entry-level work experience and establish careers that usually feed into skilled labor roles both in and out of the Ferrara Candy system.” Jochums said that the county’s wage increase would cost the company’s Forest Park plant $1.5 million within a year and “north of $40 million” over 10 years — a 10 percent increase in business costs. Black Workers Matter co-founder Anthony Stewart—a former Ferrara temp worker who claims he was fired after he complained that the candy company and temp agencies were conspiring to illegally short his wages — challenged officials in the villages that have opted out of the county increase. “Why don’t y’all try living on $8.25 an hour,” Steward said during the June 15 demonstration. “Do it for just 30 days.” CONTACT:


Village Free Press | June 2017

Jesse Howard ARTIST from page 1 of men disfigured, silently fuming, angry from what can only be assumed to be any manner of unspoken injustices. They are, in particular, who Howard calls the “virginally invisible.” Homeless. Disenfranchised. Humiliated. In “War Veteran,” a rotund, bald African American man is slumped over with his hands behind his back. As is noted in a narrative of the work on an arts website, the young veteran is home visiting his parents in his old neighborhood when the police approach him about a robbery the young man has nothing to do with. The officers arrest him because “he fits a certain profile” and carry him away in cuffs, his military dog tags dangling from one of his enlarged fingers. There is an understated rage in Howard’s work that the West Side native says took him a long time to tap into. He became an artist, in part, by imitating his uncles, who would draw cartoon characters on the kitchen table. At five years old, he would look over their shoulders and study the shapes and forms of characters that his uncles either saw on television or made up in their heads. “I loved drawing animals,” he says. “In class, when everyone else would be studying, I got hold of the encyclopedia and would go to the animal section and draw those things.” He was also a budding businessman, gifted in the art of hustle. “I was a paperboy. I sold the Sun-Times and the Tribune. Well, they’d give me like 50 papers and I’d ask for 10 more that I would sell for myself.” He drew throughout grade school and high school. In college, he majored in commercial art and minored in business. The latter would dominate the next 20 years of his life. Howard rose in corporate America, negotiating complicated financial transactions. He made good money, which he parlayed into numerous businesses and real estate investments. Sometimes, he says, he would bump into some of the white kids,


Jesse Howard, pictured in his home studio in 2015, often depicts African American men who are disfigured, silently fuming, angry and degraded. He calls his subjects the “virginally invisible.” Below, “War Veteran” depicts a black man in the moment of his unjust arrest. now adults, who would throw eggs at him and his black friends when they were in high school. “When I became an investor, some of the first properties I bought were from white Irish who used to live in that old neighborhood. They went to Providence St. Mel and they’d tell us, ‘We used to run you guys away.’ And I’d say, ‘We used to kick you guys’ butts.’” Howard says he ended up going into business with one of them. The mutual history, the shared space — that brief, inglorious time when the West Side was a cauldron of ethnicities and classes fighting for elbow room — taught Howard to think beyond race, even though he suffered from its distortions, and to look at people as they

are. “When I went to Austin High, it was one of the first times I saw whites up close,” he says. “We were all just learning each other. The white folk were learning us and we were trying to learn them. Those two worlds, they clashed in a way that deeply affected me.” Eventually, after he gave up his business pursuits. He decided to get serious about being honest, he said. He now works on his art full-time from his home studio in Maywood. “I started painting about the disenfranchised and the poor. I’d go downtown and shoot images of the homeless and that’s pretty much what you see in my work,” he said. “It’s not compromising. It’s right in your face. It’s pretty raw.” He says he wants to reclaim some of the imaginative space — of life as a black man, as a West Sider, as someone who has suffered racism and other injustices — that’s been ceded to others who haven’t lived those experiences. “I would go to shows and watch the mainstream white artists try to photograph or talk about what’s happening in the hood. I said, ‘No, no, no.’ I refuse to let anyone tell my story. I decided I’m going to tell this story. And I’m not going to try to touch it up. I got tired of the mainstream trying to tell me what it is to be an African American in this country and how things affect me. I just got tired.” The titles of many of his drawings reveal his evolved artistic sense: “Pope of State Street,” “Trayvon Aftermath,” “Urban

Plight,” “Contradiction.” Men with charcoal-black faces, sometimes grotesquely featured, often stare enraged at the observer. There are also glances that suggest pain and hurt. Howard’s oeuvre itself is something of a protest against anyone who wants to see an artistic rendering of West Side life that is tranquil, safe, unburdened, cute. The beautiful struggle isn’t pretty. But more and more nowadays, Howard says he feels himself growing away from the immediacy of this struggle — not as he lived it more than thirty years ago, but as it is now. “I find it interesting to watch these young people rediscovering racism and profiling,” Howard says. “I find that so refreshing. But I’m more of an observer as opposed to a participant. If you look at my work, you’d concede that some of my images are a little middle-aged. One guy I call the ‘old school activist’ has a cigarette butt in his nose to prevent tear gas when they do rioting. There’s also a cigar in his mouth. That’s me really responding. This is nothing new, but my generation wasn’t really hip to cigarettes in the nose for the tear gas.” No matter. The West Side and its culture of struggle and survival are still with him. Age hasn’t diminished his memory. “There’s no way I could’ve made it in the business world or in the art world without my experience on the West Side,” he says. “It’s intrinsic to me. There’s a swagger that folk have. It’s the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they look at you or don’t look at you.”

Village Free Press | June 2017


Diana’s Prom Night

Proviso West senior Diana Guzman, who was a finalist in a prom essay contest sponsored by the Village Free Press, along with the Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood Chambers of Commerce, spent the early hours of her prom night with family at their home in Bellwood.


Fred Hampton Pool opens and Proviso lifeguards get to work The West Cook YMCA trained six area teens for the jobs By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

During a short ceremony held outside of the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood on June 12, a crowd of at least 300 people witnessed six lifeguards receive their official life guard shirt and sunglasses from the West Cook YMCA — the Oak Park-based nonprofit that operates and maintains the aquatic center. According to YMCA officials, by late afternoon more than 550 people had cycled through the center’s turnstiles to enjoy the pool on its grand opening day. The scene was particularly special to community members because the lifeguards were trained inside of the swimming pool at Proviso East High School in Maywood. The Red Cross-certified, 5-week training program that was facilitated by West Cook resulted in the revival of the high school’s pool and may have been the catalyst for what high school officials hope will be regular swimming courses at the school starting next year.

West Cook staff members maintain the pool during the summers, with the village of Maywood sharing half the operating costs with the nonprofit organization. This year was the first time that West Cook collaborated with Proviso East to help train lifeguards from within Maywood and surrounding Proviso Township communities. In the past, most lifeguards who worked at Fred Hampton were from other areas due to a dearth of well-trained local young people. The swimming classes at East, West Cook officials have said, worked to fill that void. “This collaboration is a true example of the impact that can be made when organizations come together and add value to our community,” said Kevin Klein, the West Cook YMCA’s chief operating officer, during the June 12 opening ceremony. Klein said that he anticipates this pool summer to be the biggest since West Cook since 2011, when West Cook started operating the pool. “In 2014, we had 1,300 people visit the pool. Last year, the number increased to 4,000 visits. And just last summer, we had as many as 9,000 guest experiences,” Klein said. “Our goal this year is to break into five digits. We want 10,000 guest experiences here at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center.”

“Fred fought hard for this pool to be in the community,” said Bill Hampton, the brother of the slain Black Panther after whom the pool is named. “We can make this a monument not just to swimming but how to how we got it and how we can keep it well.” Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet said that the pool is an example of the kind of fusion that’s necessary to make a healthy community work — a sentiment that Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins reinforced. “It can be done and it will take all of us to do it,” Perkins said, before Norfleet praised

the parts that “the board, mayor, employees, parents, residents and taxpayers” played in the pool’s existence. “As long as this park area is green, clean and safe, the people will come,” Norfleet said. “Take away one of those ingredients, the people won’t be here. This is a testimony of the will of the village council and the work of the employees so that we can have this place green, clean and safe.” The Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Oak St. in Maywood, is open daily, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., from June 12 until September 4.

MAKING A SPLASH: New lifeguards, students of Proviso East High School and trained by the West Cook YMCA, prep to take a photo on the opening day of swim season at the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center. MICHAEL ROMAIN/VFP

10 Village Free Press | June 2017

Montego Bay brings the Caribbean islands to Bellwood

Owner Kertis Willie, a native of St. Lucia, treats his customers like family By MARSHELLE SANDERS Village Free Press Intern

Kertis “Luchie” Willie (his middle name is pronounced loo-chee), never really imagined that he would own a restaurant. A native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, Willie migrated to the United States in 2004 to pursue a career as a biomedical technician. Nearly 20 years later, Willie owns Montego Bay Restaurant & Grill, located at 700 Bellwood Ave. in Bellwood. When took over the restaurant in 2011, he didn’t expect that he would be responsible for a business that had fallen on hard times. “The place was literally shut down but that’s not what the previous owner told me,” Willie said during a recent interview inside of the colorful establishment, which is festooned with the flags of various island nations. “I ended up having to buy him off and that’s how I ended up with the place,” he said. “I kept the name because it had been here for over five years before I bought it and it had an established clientele.” Along with the restaurant’s distressed condition, Willie also had to contend with the many young people who would sometimes crowd within proximity of his store. “When I started the place, I wanted to transform it and embrace the youth and at-risk teenagers,” he said. “Sometimes when you ignore them it makes the situation worse. I try to be a father figure to them. I talk to them. They’re easy to talk to. People think they’re bad but they’re not bad.” By embracing the young people, Willie gained strong bonds and lifetime relationships. Recently, he said, a former Bellwood resident stopped by the restaurant to let Willie

know about her graduation from Illinois State University and is looking to complete her master’s degree at DePaul University next semester. “A lot of young people who have graduated from college come back to say hello,” he said. “They were kids coming in to buy fries and would get off the school bus. The police didn’t want them hanging around and fighting. I used to make them come inside and hang out for a little bit and then I would send them straight home.” Over the years, Willie said, Montego Bay has become a community hub, attracting people of diverse personal backgrounds and cultures. At the center of everything, of course, is the food — jerk wings, jerk catfish, oxtail, grilled red snapper, curry goat and jerk ribs cooked in an authentic Caribbean style that is both unique and inviting. “We have people from Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Trinidad, you know, so we bring those food cultures together,” Willie said, adding that the restaurant will soon start serving jerk salads. “Some countries prepare their food differently but they have a taste from each island blended in one plate,” Willie said. “It’s a taste of the Caribbean and it’s authentic. We come in the morning and prepare the food fresh every day. We want to make our customers happy with their food. We want to prepare it the way they’re used to eating it.” To create a lively and welcoming atmosphere for his customers, Willie hosts a Domino Hang Out night on Friday and Saturday nights. The wholesomeness works to crowd out any negative elements that may ward off business. It also helps that the Bellwood police are fans of the restaurant. “Bellwood police officers come in on the regular,” Willie said. “They’re the best thing you can find around a business because if someone is up to something, that person will think twice before they do anything. It’s not bad when you see the police. It’s a good thing. We make everybody feel safe and comfortable.” Willie said he has a few words of advice for anyone who wants

ST. LUCIA PROUD: Kertis Willie inside of Montego Bay Restaurant & Grill in Bellwood.


to open a restaurant of his or her own: Do your homework. “You have to do your research on where you want to open the restaurant,” he said. “Make sure all of your legal stuff is together. It will cost you a little money but it will save you in the end.” Montego Bay Restaurant & Grill is open Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about prices and the menu, call (708) 547-4625. Michael Romain contributed to this report. CONTACT:

SCHOOLS roundup Proviso West gets new ‘turnaround principal’ During a June 13 regular meeting, the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board unanimously approved the hiring of Nia Abdullah as the principal at Proviso West High School in Hillside. Abdullah will replace the school’s outgoing principal, Oscar Hawthorne, starting June 19. Her starting salary is $156,960. Abullah is currently the principal of Bowen High School, a 4-year public school within the Chicago Public Schools system. Abdullah is a 1998 graduate of Howard, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also has a Doctor of Education in Urban Education Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education.

Bellwood D88 fires HR director Last month, the newly configured Bellwood District 88 school board voted 6 to 1 to place Supt. Rosemary Hendricks on paid administrative leave “pending investigation.” Former board president Marilyn Thurmond was the only dissenting vote. This month, the district’s human resources director, Dr. Kisha McCaskill, got the axe. In addition to her HR job McCaskill had also held down a full-time job as executive director of the Harvey Park District. Her husband, Anthony McCaskill, was the park district board president. McCaskill is also a member of the Harvey School District 152 school board. As with the Hendricks vote, Thurmond was the only member to vote against McCaskill’s termination. Board member Annie Copeland wasn’t present for the vote.

Roosevelt Elementary in Broadview gets new principal

Proviso’s Class of 2017 graduates, earns over $30M in scholarships

During a June 8 regular meeting, the Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 school board voted to approve the hiring of Kimberly Wright as the new principal at Roosevelt Elementary School in Broadview. Wright will replace Patrick Keller by the fall 2017-18 school year. Wright has taught for 23 years, including nine years at the preschool level, during which she served as director of the Lutheran Day Nursery in Chicago, according to a recent statement released by the district. Wright spent another 14 years teaching at the Kindergarten, first-, second-, third- and fourth-grade levels at numerous schools in the Chicago Public Schools system and UNO charter school network.

On May 20, the Proviso Township High School District 209’s Class of 2017 strolled across the stage at the University of IllinoisChicago Pavilion and into a world of opportunity. The more than 800 graduates, from Proviso East High School, Proviso West High School and Proviso Math and Science Academy graduates, accepted their diplomas in front of a crowd of over 7,000 supporters. Collectively, they earned over $30 million in scholarships and have accumulated acceptance letters to over 100 different universities, school officials said. The ceremony featured keynote addresses given by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Bridget Lewis, a business strategist and Proviso East graduate. CONTACT:

Village Free Press | June 2017


GOVERNING roundup Broadview mayor outlines governing vision, plans ahead During a June 3 town hall, new Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson was able to frame the narrative of how she plans to govern. The town hall, Thompson’s first since assuming office, was held at the Beverly Center, 3031 S. 25th Ave. The new mayor’s briefing converged around the theme of communications, with Thompson clearly articulating how she wants to differentiate her administration from her predecessor’s. “Some concerns I heard while campaigning was, “You all only come out when it’s time to get my vote,’” Thompson said. “I don’t want to be that type of mayor. I want to be the type of mayor who is accessible and has an open door policy.” Thompson said she and her staff are working on delivering a website for the village of Broadview, which hasn’t had an active one in at least two years. The website could be live by August 1, she said. Thompson said that she’s had discussions with the library and park district directors about the possibility of creating a single, unified newsletter for all three taxing bodies. She also announced that she’ll extend the village administration building’s hours of operation to accommodate those seeking to pay their water bills on time. Starting June 15, she announced, the administrative offices will be open until 5 p.m. (rather than 2 p.m.) on the last Wednesday of each month. And starting September 1, the offices will be open for four hours on Saturdays. Thompson also said that this year, the village will host a small Fourth of July parade, which she hopes will be a precursor to a much larger parade (and a possible fireworks show) next year.

Maywood clamps down on overnight parking Last month, the Maywood Board of Trustees clamped down on automobile owners who park their vehicles in vacant green lots owned by the village that aren’t technically classified as prohibited spaces in the village’s ordinances. The village prohibits overnight street parking except for people who have villageissued overnight parking permits. But some people have been parking their vehicles overnight in areas across the village, particularly open green space near 22 S. 19th Ave., and have been getting away with it. As long as those spaces weren’t clearly defined in village ordinances as spaces where overnight parking is prohibited, the village couldn’t ticket those violators. At a May 16 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a code amendment that would close up that parking loophole. The village has already started installing signage on some of those properties in question, said Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr.

festival will take place on Washington Boulevard, between 25th Avenue to Eastern. The mayor said the village has plans to block off that entire strip of roadway while the fest is going on. Harvey said that the village didn’t budget for a taste, but noted that officials have told him that they’ll identify the funds. The mayor said that he’s already attracted private funding for the event, including a $10,000 donation from a local business.

LOOKING AHEAD: Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson during a June 3 town hall at the Beverly Center. MICHAEL ROMAIN/VFP

PASQUALE OVERPASS: Left to right: State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, former Bellwood mayor Frank Pasquale, state Rep. Kathleen Willis, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico during a June 16 ceremony that marked the naming of the 25th Avenue overpass as Mayor Frank A. Pasquale Overpass.

Courtesy Rep. Chris Welch

Broadview investigates alleged ‘secret garage’ According to a May 16 ABC 7 I-Team investigation, “Broadview officials are promising a full investigation of videos uncovered by the I-Team that appear to show a private business operating inside a government garage. “Even before the report aired Monday, word of the ABC7 investigation had spread across the village of less than 8,000 people: an apparent after-hours car repair business was operating inside the town’s Public Works Department. “A Broadview Village Board meeting was underway when the I-Team investigation was broadcast showing work allegedly being done by a town mechanic on private cars in the middle of the night. “During the meeting, the village attorney revealed that officials hadn’t yet seen the videos but urged a full investigation. ‘It’s not a matter of secrets, it’s not a matter of transparency it’s a matter of legal rights,’ he said.” According to the I-Team report, the mechanic overheard in the video has been suspended and the Cook County Inspector General is investigating the garage.

Bellwood mayor announces that village will host first-ever ‘Taste of Bellwood’ Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey recently announced that the village will host a Taste of Bellwood on August 5 and August 6. The event will essentially encompass the village’s annual Family Day Picnic, which it has hosted for roughly 15 years, along with other features, including a beer and wine garden and a full tasting of local restaurant fare. “We want to be more family oriented so we’re trying to do whatever we can to get our communities together,” Harvey said in a recent phone interview. The mayor said that he’s invited all of the village’s local businesses to become vendors at the upcoming event, but that the invitation isn’t limited to Bellwood establishments. “We’re inviting vendors in other communities like Broadview, Melrose Park, Maywood and Hillside to participate as well,” he said. “If they have something they want to share with the community, they’re welcome to setup. We welcome anybody and everybody.” Harvey said that the inaugural two-day

Man sues Maywood, alleges he was arrested and cited for photographing police station One man has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the village of Maywood in relation to an incident that happened last summer. The village’s administrative hearing department, enforcement department, community development department, the Maywood police chief and two police officers (a commander and a sergeant), and a former administrative hearing officer are specifically listed as defendants in the lawsuit. In the lawsuit, which was filed in February, the plaintiff, Patrick Swenie, claims that on August 29, 2016, he was arrested without probable cause by Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley, Commander Theodore Yancy and Sergeant Daryl Fairley. The lawsuit states that Swenie “was lawfully located on a public sidewalk” outside of the Maywood police station, 125 S. 5th Ave., when he was approached by Talley, who requested that he provide identification. Swenie had been taking pictures of the station’s exterior. “When Talley demanded Plaintiff ’s identification a reasonable person in Plaintiff ’s position would not have felt free to leave and thus he was seized,” the federal complaint states. Swenie is seeking payment from the defendants for “punitive and exemplary damages in a sum to be ascertained,” legal fees and other payments that the court “may deem just and proper.” Swenie’s attorney, Garrett Browne, declined to comment on the specifics of the case. He did, however, indicate that the case is currently in the discovery phase, with both sides gathering evidence. Attorneys with Maywood’s contracted law firm, Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, are representing the defendants. Contacted by phone Friday, Talley said that Swenie’s actions seemed designed to “bait us into doing something.” He said that Swenie had been standing outside of the station taking photographs of people going in and coming out of the facility. Talley said that he believes federal case law will find that the actions that he and his officers took were justified. CONTACT:

12 Village Free Press | June 2017

BUSINESS roundup Aldi to spend $180 million to remodel most

Currie Motors could be coming back to Roosevelt Road

Boykin blasts Cook County beverage tax

According to a May 16 Chicago Tribune report, “Aldi, one of the fastest growing grocery chains in the U.S., plans to spend about $180 million remodeling 130 of its 150 Chicago-area stores by 2020 — part of a broader effort to move its no-frills model into modern times.” The remodel positions the grocery chain to compete with high-end chains like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s. Aldi is also looking to build 400 new stores by 2020, going from 1,600 to 2,000, the Tribune reports. “We’re becoming more and more mainstream with more customers,” Aldi U.S. CEO Jason Hart told Crain’s in February. “We’ve got older stores. We need to get up to date.” Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park each have an Aldi location. Last December, the Aldi located in Maywood (the village’s only full-service grocery store), closed due to high property taxes and lagging sales, according to company officials. So far, the company hasn’t commented on whether the Bellwood, Broadview and Melrose Park Aldi locations will be included in the $180 million Chicago area remodeling effort. Attempts to contact company officials about the matter were unsuccessful. For an idea of what the remodeled stores will look like, refer to a redesigned Aldi that opened on Montrose Avenue in Chicago in April.

After a seven-year absence, Currie Chevrolet might return to the corner of Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Avenue. At a village council meeting in May, Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone announced that Currie officials have requested financial incentives from the village if they move the Chevrolet dealership from its current location at 8401 W. Roosevelt. The village council voted 4-0 to hire Kane, McKenna and Associates Inc. of Chicago, the village’s financial advisor, to review the village’s options. Commissioner Dan Novak did not attend. Incentives being considered include use of tax increment financing (TIF) funds, real estate tax revenue and sales tax revenue. Kane, McKenna will review and analyze any requests for public financial assistance, including what expenses Currie might incur that could be covered by TIF funds. “This is a big deal,” Calderone said. “It can only be good.” — Reported by Robert J. Lifka for Forest Park Review

During a town hall meeting he co-hosted in Broadview on June 3, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) blasted a tax hike that adds a penny per ounce to the retail sale of sweetened drinks in the county. The measure was passed by the Cook County board last November, with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle providing the tie-breaking vote. The tax goes into effect on July 1. “I voted against that that beverage tax,” Boykin said during the June 3 meeting, which Boykin co-hosted with Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson. “I thought that it was a bad deal for the people of Broadview and everywhere else,” Boykin said. When you go to the grocery store and you get that 64 ounce of grape juice, we’re going to add 64 cents to it.” According to a June 1 Chicago Tribune article, Preckwinkle said that while raising “revenue was never my first choice,” the measure nonetheless “provides important revenue, not only to avoid damaging cuts for public health and public safety systems, but also to expand our community-based interventions in both arenas.”

Broadview Payless ShoeSource may close Payless ShoeSource, the national retail chain based in Topeka, Kan., announced late last month that it might close at least another 400 stores, including a store located at 102 Broadview Village Square in Broadview, according to company officials. This is just the most recent round of possible store closings. Last month, while filing for bankruptcy protection, the company announced its plans to close up to 400 stores, according to a Chicago Tribune report. The Tribune noted that, since filing bankruptcy, Payless “has been trying to negotiate reductions in rent at some additional stores.” In a bankruptcy court filing, company officials said that, “While many of those negotiations have been successful and significant savings have been realized, other negotiations have not been as successful.” So far, 22 Payless locations in Illinois have shut down. The company’s remaining Illinois stores could also be closed if “ongoing [rent] negotiations fall through,” the Tribune reported. The Payless ShoeSource at 1234 Winston Plaza in Melrose Park is not among those stores undergoing rent negotiations, according to a company document.

Construction trades training center to open in Bellwood this October A new training center for apprentices of the Cement Masons Local 502 and the Plasterers Local 5 is going up at the corner of 25th Ave. and Madison St. in Bellwood. The 20,000-sq. ft. facility is scheduled to be complete by October, according to a report published last month in the Construction Industry Service Corporation‘s newsletter. “We are very excited about moving into this new facility,” Pat LaCassa, the president of Local 502, told CISCO. “We

need to continue to attract young men and women into these trades and having state of the art classrooms and dedicated areas for instruction of the craft is vital.” Larry Picardi, Local 502’s secretarytreasurer said that the local has never had its own training center. The new facility, which is going up next door to the Cement Masons Union Hall, will provide union members with a campus-like environment, Picardi told CISCO. The union has been utilizing training facilities in Alsip for the past two years, he said.

Area chambers install new officers New officers of the Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood Chambers of Commerce were installed during a June 7 ceremony at Proviso West High School, 4701 W. Harrison St. in Hillside. This year marked the first time that all three chambers came together to host the event, formally called the 2017 Annual Awards & Scholarship Banquet. Illinois gubernatorial candidate and businessman Chris Kennedy was the keynote speaker.

New Chamber officers installed in June Bellwood Officers • President | Christopher Parker, Pan American Bank & Trust • Vice President | Arnetta Watkins, Travel with Netta (TWN) • Treasurer | Lee Werner, L.E. Werner and Associates, Inc. Bellwood Directors • Carl Williams, Millenium IV Realty/LegalShield • Dawood Burhani, Jamali Kopy Kat Printing, Inc. • Dr. Marta Alvarado, Westlake Hospital • Lillian Paschal, LegalShield • Mary Badger, LegalShield/Go Small Biz • Siraj Bhanpuri, Broadview True Value • Theodore Steiskal, Memorial Park District • Jacqueline Spratt, Bellwood Public Library • Jacqueline Walton, Jacqueline Walton Agency, Inc. • Demetrios Walton, Family Affair Entertainment • Pam Lawrence (pastor), M.E.C.A. Christian School • Earlene Dotson, Symone’s Catering • Marth Williams, Board Secretary

Maywood Directors • Cory L. Foster, ComEd • Stan D. Huntington, Maywood Public Library • Amanda A. Turner, Ph.D., Triton College • Jennifer L. Koehler, Loyola University Health System • Karen A. Yarbrough, Hathaway Insurance Agency • Tom Engoren, Chairman Broadview Officers • President | Gerald Davis, GRD Realty, Inc. • Vice President | Kevin McGrier, 640 Credit Repair • Treasurer | Dorothy Brown, Seaway Bank • Secretary | Roberta Corvo, Midtown Carpet Service Broadview Directors • Jim Mullins, Mullins Food Products • Keisha Hester, Broadview Public Library • Siraj Bhanpuri, True Value Hardware Store • Sir Richard Montalbano, Montalbano Furniture Factory CONTACT:

Village Free Press | June 2017


Buy fresh food from a local farm stand

Tee up like a pro PLCCA presents the Joseph P. Abruzino Kidz N’ Klubs Golf Academy. The program includes sessions for beginners, intermediate and advanced level participants. Breakfast or lunch (depends on the time of the session) and transportation is included. The sessions will take place at Fresh Meadow Golf Club, 2144 S. Wolf Road in Hillside. For more info, call (708) 450-3500.

Experience healthy eating by purchasing produce grown and nurtured by Proviso East students, working together for a healthy impact on Maywood. The farm stand is open on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., from June through October, at 50 W. Madison St. (adjacent ReUse Depot and across the street from Proviso East High School). Cash only. For more info, contact Proviso Partners for Health at: (708) 531-5929.

Take off this summer with tennis lessons

Safe and fun summer events Live magically Come experience the magic of healthy living during an 8-week summer program designed to educate 1st through 5th graders about health, hygiene, fitness, dental health and nutritional health that is run by Loyola Stritch School of Medicine students. This FREE program takes place at the Maywood Public Library, 121 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy outdoor games, educational activities and healthy snacks. Registration forms are available at the library.

Give your 4th through 12th graders tennis lessons provided by Maywood resident Gabriela Payne. Whether your child is new to the game or looking to improve, these summer lessons will help them reach that goal. Registration is $20. Classes are $5 an hour, and take place on Saturdays, from June 3 to September 9, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. (4th - 8th graders) and 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (9th - 12th graders). Classes will occur at 1220 North 9th Avenue in Melrose Park. For more info contact Gabriela Payne at (773) 437-7521.

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14 Village Free Press | June 2017


VILLAGE perspectives

Maywood is still on the move partnership between the village’s youth delegation, the police department and clerk’s office to target high crime areas throughout the community. Through this partnership, young people will target four hot zones throughout the village where they will organize residents to create block clubs and to restore and reclaim their communities. The youth will also host a range of events in these areas of the community. In addition, there will be more officers, vehicles and outside resources, such as Cook County Sheriff ’s deputies, deployed to fight the recent surge of violent ISIAH BRANDON crime in the village. Maywood trustee

Ever since my election in 2015, I’ve pledged to keep residents abreast of my progress as a trustee in the great village of Maywood. For the last two years, I’ve had the honor and high privilege of serving on your behalf, but I haven’t taken anything for granted. This is just a snapshot of the work I’ve done since I last updated you about my progress in January.

Community Outreach During Black History Month this year, I collaborated with Fire Brand Arts, a vibrant arts education group here in Maywood, to host a celebration of African American history. The ceremony also commemorated the African American present, with talented young people displaying a variety of talent — from spoken word artists to musicians. This year, I took yet another youth delegation on a trip to the National League of Cities conference in Washington D.C. This is the second group of students I’ve taken. This year, we broadened our reach. In addition to students from District 209, we included students from Walther Christian Academy as well. And we’re already looking forward to next year. In this most recent budget, the Maywood Board of Trustees approved allocating $4,000 to the program, which makes us less reliant on private funds and means that we’ll possibly be able to take even more students the next time around. In May, I was honored to participate in a Father Daughter Dance and a Men’s Day at Garfield Elementary School in Maywood, as well as Irving Middle School’s graduation. I also connected with our seniors during a pre-Mother’s Day celebration at the Maywood Garden House complex, an event co-sponsored by Mayor Edwenna Perkins and my employer. Civic Engagement I’ve always believed that with the title of trustee comes great responsibility to educate the public about what the position entails, and about the structure of our local government in general. With that being the case, I’m proud to have participated in Career Day at Walther Christian Academy, which allowed me to explain the role of a trustee, and the workings of local government, to high school students. Public Safety As a trustee, I believe that we should tap into every resource that is available to protect our streets, families and business community. To that end, I’ve proposed a

Local Workforce Enhancement & Development On June 10, we will kick off our 5th Annual Safe Summer Campaign. We’ve identified additional resources to help expand this initiative, which provides programming, volunteer and employment opportunities for at-risk young people. Maywood’s development prospects are bright. For instance, we are currently in negotiations with a businessman who is looking to open a grocery store at the site of the former Maywood Market. And I’ve also talked with other developers who are interested in doing business in the village. In addition, a new Metra shelter on Fifth Avenue is nearly complete. This structure will only enhance the viability of our downtown corridor. It will also complement the decreased commuter times and smoother train traffic that will come with the construction of a $100 million third rail line to be funded by Union Pacific and Metra. Also, on 4th Avenue and Randolph, the redevelopment of the old Baptist Retirement Home is back on track after having been held up for some years. Soon, this historic facility will be transformed into a state-ofthe-art senior living facility and put back on the tax rolls. In order to pave the way for this new development, the village has invested $1 million in Tax Increment Financing funds into improving our roadways. This is just a snapshot of the progress that we’ve made in the village since January. I’m looking forward to helping us make even more in the months ahead. To read the full opinion piece, visit

— Isiah Brandon, Maywood trustee CONTACT:


Yesterday was a very important day for me. When I woke up, I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy because my daughter (my oldest child) was preparing to graduate from high school. I hopped out of bed, made sure my black suit was pressed and ate some oatmeal for that much-needed energy to survive the long ceremony. I kissed my wife goodbye and headed out on the hour’s drive to DeKalb, Illinois. My joy and excitement grew over the first few miles, but as I got closer and closer to the school, I started to reminisce about the journey fatherhood has taken me to get to this wonderful day. I thought about where I was in life when I found out I was to become a dad. I was 18 years old and a few months from graduating from high school. I thought about how I felt when she was born and I had no money to buy diapers. I drove on. As I pulled up to the convention center, I was quickly spotted by my daughter’s mom. We exchanged smiles as I waited for her family and my son to exit the car. I gave my son dap and kissed him on his cheek as I always do when I see him. But as we walked toward the convention center, I found myself a couple of yards behind everyone as my ex-wife held hands with her husband and my son. They laughed and smiled together as we entered the convention center. My daughter walked in and the ceremony started. Oswego High school was performing the biggest graduation in school history and I was sitting on a plastic stadium seat with my knees on the back of someone’s head. As my daughter’s name was called, we all went crazy, yelling her name and throwing out a Ric Flair whoooooo. When the ceremony was over, we all gathered in the lobby waiting for my daughter to come out. As the group was hatching dinner plans, I tried blending in with the walls. I wanted to hurry and get out of there because I didn’t feel like I belonged. There was a new man taking charge of the plans. When I met up with my daughter, I gave her a hug and told her how proud I was of her. She asked if I would join A father and his son in Chicago, by photograthem for dinner but she already knew what my answer would be. I told her pher William Camargo. I would see her soon and I kissed her goodbye, smiled at my ex-wife and shook her husband’s hand. When I got in my car, I took a deep breath and sat there for a minute trying to understand why I felt emasculated, angry, forgotten, replaced. Why did he get to reap what I had sown? I’d given 18 years of sacrifice and broken dreams to provide my children with the very best opportunity I could and now I was reduced to assistant father. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but who will understand? Later on that evening, I got a text message from my ex-wife’s husband. He stated how proud he was to share that moment with me and that he thought I did a good job raising my children. As I read that text message, I quickly felt the feelings of inadequacy leaving my body. Along with my ex-wife, I had raised great children and no matter what has happened between us, I’d never left them. My influence over them had never wavered and my opinion still mattered. In that text message, I was reminded of all this and from the unlikeliest person. Maybe he knew what I was feeling and possibly endured it himself. Instead of ignoring it, he decided to throw out a lifeline to another father and for that I’m truly grateful. CONTACT:

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Village Free Press | June 2017

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16 Village Free Press | June 2017

Village Free Press_June 2017  

The June 2017 issue of Village Free Press

Village Free Press_June 2017  

The June 2017 issue of Village Free Press