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Vol. I No. V | JULY 2017

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Janet Nendze retires, PAGE 9

The battle for the Bellwood library Despite questionable validity, board members try getting rid of director By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

During a Bellwood special library board meeting held on June 29, four members of the library’s Board of Trustees voted in favor of placing the library’s executive director, Jacqueline Spratt, on paid administrative leave pending an outside investigation. They also voted to rescind a board policy that authorized Spratt to “fill current staff vacancies, as well as future position [sic] as long as the Board is notified of the open position by email or at a meeting.” But some residents and library officials said that both decisions aren’t valid since the meeting itself possibly violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act and two of the four library trustees may not be legal members of the board. “This is totally illegal!” said Bellwood resident Thelma Matthews who observed the meeting, which was held in the library’s lower level common area since the board’s regular meeting room was booked. Library employees said that Mary Clements, the board’s president, called the special meeting shortly after learning that two newly elected library trustees, Deborah Giles and Dorothy Clark-Smith (both of whom are also members of the Bellwood District 88 school board) were scheduled to attend a school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Spratt said that it’s at least the third time See BELLWOOD LIBRARY on page 4

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Young children, many of them Maywood-Bellwood Little League participants, cool off at Stevenson Park in Bellwood during a July 15 awards ceremony for young people who played in the League’s debut season this year. More photos on page 7.

Could a gardening revolution be taking root?

One man hopes to make Proviso Township an organic gardening hub By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

The closing of Aldi in Maywood last year, and Ultra Food in Forest Park and Meijer

in Melrose Park this year, have created something of a desert in Proviso Township when it comes to places residents can go to get fresh produce. But on Madison St. in Maywood, right across the street from Proviso East High School and adjacent ReUse Depot, there’s an oasis. “I grew too much,” said Christopher Epps, 36, during an interview on Saturday. Epps is the full-time gardener who is slowly,

deliberately making the Proviso Partners Giving Garden the start of what he hopes will be a paradigm shift in how Proviso Township residents relate to the food they eat. He pointed his soiled hand to raised beds of carrots, egg plants, bell peppers, jalapeños, yellow and blue watermelons, collard greens, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, tomato, rhubarb, basil, cilantro, See GARDENING on page 8

Available in Maywood and the surrounding communities of Bellwood, Broadview, Melrose Park, and Stone Park. Including: • Maywood Public Library, 121 S. 5th Ave.

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• Global Business, 840 S. 17th Ave.

• Maywood Police Station, 125 S. 5th Ave.

• Afriware Books, 1701 S. 1st Ave., Suite #503

• Kathy’s Cafe, 1008 S. 17th Ave.

• Maywood Village Hall, 40 Madison St.

• Meal of the Day Cafe, 1701 S. 1st Ave., Suite #410

• Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, 1001 Lake St

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A peace march from Bellwood to Maywood The demonstration, coordinated by state Rep. Welch, focused on budget By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

appropriate counterweight to the problems plaguing some areas of the city and surrounding suburbs. “This is something for everybody to see and something for everyone in Maywood to understand,” Stewart said. “The struggle continues and there’s much work to do wherever we are as a people.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

A crowd of at least 200 people converged on the streets in Bellwood and Maywood on June 24 during a peace march coordinated by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the nation’s oldest black intercollegiate Greek fraternity, and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) — who is a member of the Alpha organization. The march was just the latest in a series of peace marches that the venerable fraternity has coordinated in Chicago since at least 2015. Saturday’s march, however, is likely the first one that the fraternity has held in the western suburbs. The marchers — at least 75 of whom were Alpha men, most of them donning the fraternity’s trademark gold and black colors — walked down St. Charles Road from 22nd Avenue in Bellwood to 5th Avenue in Maywood, before crowding into the park behind the Maywood Police Station, 125 S. 5th Ave., for a brief rally. Alpha member Byron Stewart, a Maywood native who was the village’s first African American treasurer, said that the suburbs of Courtesy Rep. Welch Bellwood and Maywood experience some of the same On June 25, state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch led a issues, such as gun violence, peace march through Maywood. The march started in affecting Chicago. A march, he said, is an Bellwood on the corner of 22nd Avenue and St. Charles

and ended behind the Maywood Police station.


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Village Free Press | July 2017

Bellwood Library from page 1 that Clements has hastily called a special meeting at the same time as a D88 school board meeting in order to gather a quorum (which is the minimum number of board members needed to be at a meeting in order to make binding votes) without having to deal with Giles, Clark-Smith or Connie Riales (who was elected in alliance with the two in April). Several times in the past, residents said, Clements and her three allies on the board — Janice English, Sharon Tharpe and Gwendolyn Reese — have been no-shows at special meetings they called when it’s become clear that Giles and Clark-Smith would show up anyway. Among the four board members who were in attendance and voted during the June 29 special meeting, the memberships of only Clements and English appear to be clearly valid. According to Cook County court records that were obtained by a third party and anonymously submitted to this publication, Tharpe was convicted of arson with the intent to defraud an insurance company in 2002, a felony charge for which she was sentenced to 24 months’ probation. In addition, county land records and other documents indicate that Tharpe’s official residence is in Chicago. According to the Illinois Municipal Code, a person isn’t eligible for an elective municipal office if she hasn’t lived in that municipality for at least a year preceding her election. State statutes also prohibit a person from taking office who “has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury or other felony.” Tharpe wouldn’t comment on the felony charges or her residency when confronted by community members at the June 29 meeting. She also declined requests for comment by this publication. Reese’s board membership is currently under review by the State’s Attorney’s office. Reese was appointed during a special meeting on March 3. Library officials said that, as with the June 29 meeting, a public notification for the March meeting was posted less than 48 hours before the meeting was to take place — a violation of the Open Meetings Act. Additionally, library officials said, there was no agenda posted publicly for the March meeting, which would also violate the state act. Video that was taken by residents of the March meeting shows Clements, former board member Regina Greene and Tharpe voting to accept the resignation of former board member J.B. Carr. After which, all four board members, including Carr — who had just tended her resignation — voted to appoint Reese to the seat Carr had just vacated. Spratt can be seen on the video urging an attorney who was present when the vote

MICHAEL ROMAIN/VFP

HEATED: Outraged Bellwood residents film a special library board meeting on June 29 as a Bellwood police officer looks on. happened to abide by a state statute that requires the seat to be declared vacant in the minutes before its filled. Spratt also pointed out that with only three valid members present, there was no quorum to make the appointment. Reese declined to comment for this story.

Power struggle Since the April 4 election — when Giles, Clark-Smith and Riales (all members of the Bellwood Dream Team party), won seats to the library board, in large part based on their opposition to Clements and the sitting library board members — there’s been a tug of war between the two sides that has left the library partially paralyzed. The Dream Team trustees said that they believe that Clements is playing cat and mouse in order to avoid losing her seat as board president. “They don’t want us to participate in the process,” said Clark-Smith, who has been a library board member for over a decade. “If we go to a meeting they will not show up. Even if it’s a meeting called by them.” At the June 29 meeting that Clements called, Giles, Clark-Smith and Riales were all absent, having called a special meeting of their own earlier in the day. That meeting, library officials said, was “an actual special meeting” during which regular board meeting items weren’t discussed — unlike the 6:30 p.m. meeting that Clements called. When asked on June 29 why Spratt was being placed on administrative leave, Clements declined to comment. She said that the outside agency that would lead an investigation into Spratt hasn’t been identified yet. A man identifying himself as Hector Smith and who said he was an informal spokesperson for the four library board members had his own explanation for why Spratt was being put on paid leave. “That lady is very disrespectful. I think that’s why she’s been put on administrative leave,” the man said, who residents later identified as Napoleon English, the husband of board member Janice English. The June 29 meeting, during which Bellwood police officers were called to keep the peace between the two sides, was something of a climax to several months of impasse and tension.

Routine board policies and bills haven’t been approved and there hasn’t been an undisputed quorum present for the board to hold a regular meeting since February. Fortunately, library officials said, a measure passed some years ago by the library board allows the library staff to pay bills while seeking board approval retroactively. Otherwise, there would be a backlog of unpaid bills. The chaos was clarified in one moment during the June 29 meeting that was part tragic, part comic relief. After the four board members voted to go into closed session in order to discuss a sensitive personnel decision (which likely included the matter of Spratt’s administrative leave), they searched, in vain, for an open room in which to meet. There were none, since all of the available closed meeting spaces in the library were in use, forcing Clements, Tharpe, Reese and English to meet in the women’s restroom. “There are nine meetings [since February] where there hasn’t been a quorum for the library board to meet and we also have people on this library board who are not legal,” said Matthews while the four trustees held closed session in the bathroom. Matthews added that she’s been attending regular library board meetings for the last two years. “Tharpe, in addition to not being a legal board member, hasn’t attended a regular meeting in over two years,” she said. “Reese hasn’t been declared an official board member by the state’s attorney. These people are trying to run roughshod over us and Chuck Baxter is the puppet master.”

By any means necessary? Many Bellwood residents say that Baxter, a businessman who lives in Maywood, is the real source of the recent disruption the library is going through. Baxter has been a recent fixture at Bellwood library board meetings for at least a year, residents say. During the June 29 meeting, Baxter — who appears to be in his 70s — sat quietly at a nearby table and followed the four board members out of the door when the meeting was over. He declined to comment. The Maywood resident has been described by the Edgar County Watchdogs, a public advocacy group, as a “mystery man” engaged in a “scheme involving kickbacks of some kind to plunder” the library, “using

the board members he controls to achieve this.” At a library board meeting last May, the Watchdogs reported, the board “was confronted on the shady handling of a bathroom remodeling project where it appeared that a consultant” chosen by Baxter was hired “without any public deliberation or explanation for why an expensive consultant is needed to oversee a bathroom project.” Most library employees declined to be identified or wouldn’t comment on any board-related issues at all out of fear of retribution. Spratt said that she believes Clements and the others voted to put her on paid leave as retribution for a complaint she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 19 alleging workplace harassment on the part of Clements. “I filed that complaint on June 19 and 10 days later they were removing me,” Spratt said during a phone interview on July 7. “I believe that’s retribution.” Spratt said last week that she wouldn’t recognize the vote by Clements and the three other board members to put her on paid leave or to revoke her hiring powers since she doesn’t believe the decisions have validity. The library director said that she’ll take her orders from state statutes that govern open meetings and library policies. Bellwood resident Wanda Gipson said that she and other community members plan to report the four board members to the state’s attorney’s office, an action that residents have taken in the past. Unfortunately, some said, the state may not move fast enough to settle a conflict that appears to be coming to a problematic head. On the Saturday following the June 29 meeting, board member Clark-Smith and Riales, in addition to Clark-Smith’s husband, were notified that Chuck Baxter and Clements had called a locksmith to change the locks to Spratt’s office. The two board members rushed to the office just before the locksmith could carry out those orders, they said. And earlier this week, an attorney hired by Clements and the other board members attempted to file a temporary restraining order against Spratt, which would keep her from going in to work. The order was upheld briefly before a judge struck it down on July 7. Giles and Clark-Smith, who accompanied Spratt to court, said that the only factor in the judge’s decision to strike down the order was Tharpe’s felony record. “He said that any decision she votes on should be null and void because she’s a felon,” Giles said during a phone interview on Friday. Giles said that she and Clark-Smith had to go to court themselves in order to sit on the library board after Clements and her three board colleagues voted on a policy that prohibited library board members from serving on two taxing bodies. Giles and Clark-Smith said the policy was put in place in an attempt to keep them off of the library board altogether. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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Stricken by a Stroke, Maywood Grad Finds Her Voice in Faith By MICHAEL ROMAIN

“It was a very emotional time for me,” she said. “I used to cry and I wanted to harm myself. I was like, ‘Why am I here?’ I wanted One day before she graduated from to commit suicide because it hurt. I wanted Dominican University in River to be normal so bad.” Forest, Shantal Cole, 26, walked The compounded trauma to the podium during the would lead Cole to seek sanctuary college’s annual Candle and Rose through her faith. She calls her ceremony and recited a poem gradual recovery from her stroke, she’d written for the occasion. which she said happened roughly The poem included the line, five years ago, a miracle because “We are often broken, but never she eventually re-learned how to shattered.” walk and speak without the aid It’s sort of the story of her life. of physical therapy or medical Between the ages of 7 and 12 procedures, such as Botox, she years old, Cole said in a recent said. interview, she was molested and Cole, who graduated with a constantly bullied by relatives bachelor’s degree in theology MICHAEL ROMAIN/VFP on her father’s side — trauma in May and aspires to become a that she spent much of her youth ALL SMILES: minister someday, said that her attempting to suppress and hide. Shantal Cole spirituality helped her to own “It wasn’t until I made it to high her suffering and to use her school that I didn’t allow the molestation to trauma to help others heal. mess with my mind,” Cole, a resident of Cole, who attends Rock of Ages Baptist Maywood, added in a follow-up email. Church in Maywood, said she drew spiritual And while attending Triton College several insight from the sermons of her pastor, years ago, Cole — a passionate dancer who Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, and also got critical had been pursuing a liberal arts degree at support from her three siblings (Cole is the the junior college — suffered a debilitating youngest) and her mother, Edna Harvey. stroke that left her temporarily paralyzed “I tried to be a father and a mother to her and with a speech impediment. The physical and her sisters,” Harvey, a single parent, ailments would open her up to even more said. “We try to be there for one another and humiliation and harassment. help one another and hang in there for one Editor

another when we need help.” While at Dominican, Cole threw herself into her theology studies and forged her own presence on campus. “Shantal really seized her voice through her involvement in University Ministry,” said John DeConstanza, the director of Dominican’s University Ministry. “She provided important leadership in prayer and praise, and exercised her gifts and talents in preaching and embodying an important characteristic of the Dominican Order.” Amy Omi, Dominican’s coordinator of liturgy and music ministry, said that Cole “took her passion for ministry and the arts and merged them with a theology internship this year.” Cole said that her college experience may have ended, but she’s only starting her ministry, the central premise of which was encapsulated in another line of the poem she delivered during the May ceremony, which dates back to 1928. “During the ceremony, seniors and their chosen partners fill the Quad in a pageant of candle light — seniors process across the top of our Cloister Walk and assemble in the Quad where they meet individuals who have been important to them during their college experience,” said Jessica Mackinnon, Dominican’s public information director. “We are often wounded, but never damaged,” Cole said, reciting her poem as

Local churches provide summer jobs for two dozen youths The Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance partnered with local business for the second year of the initiative By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

Roughly two dozen young people are gearing up to start summer jobs this month as part of a program initiated a year ago by the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance (PTMAN), a large network of west suburban churches and clergy members. The four-week work program, designed for young people ages 13 to 16, matches local students from all over the western suburbs. Last year, said Min. Albert Johnson, PTMAN’s outreach coordinator, the program outdid expectations. During an orientation session and monthly PTMAN breakfast meeting held on June 10 at Freedom Baptist Church in Hillside, Johnson shared the story of Darnyce Springfield, who worked for the summer at Marcus Wright Dental in Maywood. “They were so impressed with this young lady that they decided to bring her on permanently,” Johnson told the teenagers as they gathered inside of Freedom Baptist’s cavernous sanctuary (a converted movie theater). More than 10 local employers, including Marcus Wright, Triton College, the Maywood

Park District and Kathy’s Cafe, have agreed to temporarily employ the youth for four weeks — four hours a day and four days a week — at roughly $8 an hour. Johnson referred to the setup as the 4-4-4 plan. The money to pay the young people, Johnson said, comes from PTMAN’s member churches and local entities that pledge to donate different amounts. One church in Naperville even hosted a benefit concert for the program. The program is the brainchild of PTMAN’s chairman, Bishop Dr. Reginald Saffo, the pastor of United Faith M.B. Church and head of United Faith Christian Institute Bible College, both located in Maywood. During an interview last year about the employment program, Saffo said that he wanted to demonstrate that local institutions, particularly churches, could drive the local economy in their own ways, independent of government funding. “A lack of government funding should never preclude our children from having a safe and productive summer,” he said. “We felt that it was our moral obligation to provide our youth with this experience. Churches that have an understanding of

their role in community are very supportive and positive about these kinds of projects.” During the June 10 meeting, Saffo said that the goal of the program is to do more than provide young people with jobs. He said he hopes the program can help teenagers find what it is that fulfills them and gives them purpose. Most of the teenagers sat silently through the orientation process, which included some of the program’s coordinators briefing them on workplace etiquette (the need to come on time and to dress properly, among other protocols). The teenagers came from Maywood, Bellwood, Chicago and as far away as DuPage County. When asked how they hoped the program will benefit them during the orientation’s first hour, most responded that a summer job would keep them busy and occupied. “We have many partners looking forward to meeting you all,” said Johnson before referencing Springfield’s success story. “This is an excellent opportunity to go out and do what your best because you never know the possibilities.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

a crowd of onlookers basked in candlelight. “Every wound has given us the strength to keep fighting.” “You don’t know what someone is going through,” Cole said during an interview a few days after she’d graduated. “We need to accept people as they are and embrace them, because we don’t what their story is,” she said. “We all have a testimony and we all have struggles, but those struggles make us who we are. Without those struggles we wouldn’t be able to find our strength through God and our own faith.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

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How a Maywood native pours his heart into a greater good Cody K. Cotton is the cofounder of A Greater Good Foundation, an area mentoring nonprofit By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

During a press conference held on July 5 at a park in Chicago’s West Side Austin neighborhood, Maywood native Cody K. Cotton stood with Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) — who convened the conference — civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr. and other community leaders to demand that leaders like Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle say something about the July 4th weekend. “We had over 100 people shot in Chicago since Friday,” said Boykin. “I’m totally disappointed that the mayor has yet to make a statement about that fact. Mayor Emanuel didn’t say anything but he tweeted about the Taste of Chicago.” Boykin — whose district covers a significant part of Proviso Township, including Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood — announced that his office will be hosting four State of Emergency meetings in high-violence areas across Chicago. And Jackson announced that he’ll be marching in downtown Chicago this Saturday at noon to keep the pressure on city and county leadership. For Cotton, the co-founder and communication chief of A Greater Good Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers mentoring services for young people in the western suburbs

(particularly areas like Bellwood and Maywood), and Chicago’s West and South Sides — every day is a state of emergency. “This is our state of emergency,” Cotton said. “We got started last May, over Memorial Day weekend, when 69 people got shot. We have to get to the root of the problem.” Cotton, who dedicates most of his time to Greater Good while holding down several jobs, said that his organization doesn’t focus all of their energy on how to stop the violence. Their mission, he said, is much more comprehensive. “There’s a polar opposite to anything. Whatever we give energy to it will grow. It can’t be all about violence,” he said. “It has to be about peace and love, and it has to be a mentality change, a paradigm change. “You can only do that by reaching kids where they’re at. We’re trying to reach them through books and things like that. Times have changed. Our kids don’t have an intellectual problem, they have an interest problem.” Cotton co-founded Greater Good along with Anthony Garland, Charles Carter and Patrell Green. In just over a year, the organization has formed a 10-member board of directors that includes an Austin, Texas-based CEO, an HR director from Houston and a CEO from Ireland. Currently, the group works with over 120 young people from sixth-grade to

college, and offers them community service opportunities, takes them on college tours and hammers out career blueprints for them, among many other services. “Over the next two years, we plan on reaching 1,500 kids throughout Chicago and the suburbs,” said co-founder Carter, who is also the organization’s president. “In the next five years, we’ll definitely be a citywide organization.” The group is also actively looking to acquire property to create a positive community space between the Austin community and Proviso Township, Cotton said. “We want it to be a safe and convenient environment for them,” he noted. “We’ll provide transpiration from point A to point B.” For now, the ambitious co-founders said, the goal is to secure funding to help scale up their vision. They plan on meeting with Boykin later in the week, they said. “The county has a tremendous amount of resources and the county can do a lot to help organizations like this,” Boykin said. “I think this organization provides hope for young men who otherwise wouldn’t have it. A can live about three days without water, they can live about six minutes without oxygen but you can’t live one second without hope.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

Photo submitted

Greater Good co-founders Patrell Green,Anthony Garland, Charles Carter and Cody Cotton during a recent benefit gala.

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MOVING ON UP: Sterling Brown, right, was drafted on June 22 by the Philadelphia 76ers and later traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Maywood native taken 46th in NBA draft Sterling Brown, brother of NBA vet Shannon Brown, goes to the Milwaukee Bucks By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

Sterling Brown, a Proviso East basketball standout who distinguished himself at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, was selected as the 46th pick in the NBA draft on June 22. Brown — whose older brother, Proviso East and Michigan State alum Shannon Brown was picked 25th in the 2006 NBA draft — was picked in the second round by the Philadelphia 76ers but immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In a June 20 essay he penned for CBS Local Sports, Sterling Brown recalled his family’s rich basketball roots and battling with his older brother: “We have a basketball family,” Brown wrote. “My father played in college and of course Shannon played in the NBA, so just being around the game all the time growing up and watching those two really got me into playing basketball. My battles with my older brother growing up were good battles to me because he never took it easy on me. I still haven’t beaten him to this day. But, I always gave it my all and I got better with every game that I played against him. It’s still a challenge for me and I look forward to getting that first win under my belt.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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Village Free Press | July 2017

7

After debut season, Little League players have a splash The Maywood-Bellwood Little League has a ball after successful first season

Parents, kids and officials with the Maywood-Bellwood Little League threw a party at Stevenson Park in Bellwood on July 15 to mark the completion of a successful first season. League President Speed Alexander said that roughly 50 youths registered to play on four different teams. League board member Byron Banks said that the league was formed to give children the experiences playing baseball that he had when he was younger. Read the full story online at thevillagefreepress.org.

CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com SEBASTION HIDALGO/Contributor


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Village Free Press | July 2017

Gardening

Organically grown from page 1 dill — all of it grown organically on a sliver of land that’s roughly the size of someone’s backyard. “I’m aiming to grow 4,000 pounds of [food],” Epps said. “Right now, I’m at, like, 487. At this rate, I might get more than 4,000 pounds.” The work of Epps and the Giving Garden are the result of around $2.5 million in grants that Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) will receive over five years from Trinity Health. Formed in 2014, PP4H is a coalition of stakeholders that united to fight against childhood obesity in the western suburbs. Those stakeholders include Loyola University Health System, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, among other community partners. Epps said he partnered with PP4H and Trinity in order “to teach all of the kids in the area how to grow food.” The grant funding allows Epps to work the garden full-time, 40 hours a week. Epps volunteers another 45 hours on top of the hours for which he’s paid. “This was a trial period,” Epps said of the garden, adding that if all goes according to his ambitions, the Madison Street garden will be the first of 13. He plans to set down 12 more gardens in Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood over the next three years. Each Saturday this summer, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., volunteers will be selling produce grown in the Giving Garden on Madison at a farm stand erected in front of ReUse Depot. Prices for vegetable bundles, such as carrots and chard, range from $1 to $3. What isn’t sold is donated to charities and social organizations like the Quinn Community Center in Maywood, where all of the produce from the garden is stored

after it’s picked. By September, Epps said, the garden’s produce will be sold on shelves in four corner stores — two in Maywood, one in Forest Park and one in Oak Park. “The idea is to make Proviso Township a sustainable food hub,” said Epps. “Some people have to leave outside of the township just to get food and it shouldn’t be that way. You can have a neighborhood that way but you can never have a community that way.” Epps said that the idea of eating organic produce is a learning process for many residents, one that he helps expedite by often giving away food to residents who live nearby and to the elderly. “This is food is healing people,” he said. “It’s also a tool for the elderly in the neighborhood to MICHAEL ROMAIN/VFP come out. Each morning GREEN THUMBS: Christopher Epps, the full-time gardener responsible for cultivating the Proviso Giving GarI speak with them and we den in Maywood. exchange ideas.” The garden is also her time at the garden is essential to her for an internship with the Chicago Botanical a place to cultivate young minds like that career path. Garden. I applied, got it and graduated at of Keion Mackey, a teenager who lives in “When I graduate this upcoming spring, I the top of my class. They introduced me to Berkeley but who volunteers his time on the have to do dietetic rotations and Loyola has PP4H.” weekends at the garden. Epps said that, in addition to scaling up, a master’s program that I eventually want to “I’ve been gardening since I was little, enroll in,” she said. his plans for the Madison St. garden point when I did it with my grandmother,” he said. Until then, she takes in the hard-earned are sky high — quite literally. “It feels like I’ve been doing this my whole mastery of Epps, who was on an entirely “It’s going to get better,” he said. “I’m life. My family owns land in Arkansas and different career trajectory before taking up thinking about expanding to the roof. You Mississippi that we lease to the government gardening. know McCormick Place has the largest to grow soil.” “Five years ago, I was a forklift operator at rooftop garden in the Midwest. I helped put Alyssa Post, a rising senior at Illinois Waste Management,” he said. “I was stuck, it up there.” State University and aspiring dietician who though. My pay had peaked at around $19. I CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com is undergoing an internship at Loyola, said said, ‘I need to do something else.’ I saw an ad

Housing nonprofit moves offices

Housing Forward’s Prevail program will now be located at 6634 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Oak Park By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

Housing Forward, a social service agency headquartered in Maywood, has announced that Prevail — a program designed to provide support services and specialized employment resources for families in the western suburbs that “are experiencing an emergency financial crisis” — will move from its current location at First United Church of Oak Park to new offices at 6634 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Oak Park. The move will take place on July 5. “Founded by area congregations 12 years

ago, the Prevail Programs of Housing Forward (formerly the Walk-In Ministry) have been operating out of First United Church of Oak Park since the beginning,” according to a statement released by Housing Forward on June 27. “We are endlessly grateful for their support in allowing us to operate rent-free for all those years”, stated Lynda Schueler, Housing Forward’s executive director. According to the statement, the organization’s Prevail programs and services “have helped thousands of households with emergency financial assistance, short-term stability services and

employment readiness programs to address their immediate financial and housing crisis and find jobs. “Last year alone, that office was visited by 1,032 people representing $84,406 in financial support and more than 170 individuals accessing employment services.” In addition to the Prevail program, the new Roosevelt Rd. location will also house a Walk-In Center, staffed by Housing Forward and designed to service west suburban clients. The expansion comes after Housing Forward was chosen to lead a nine-agency partnership called Coordinated Entry, a new

Cook County crisis system designed to make it easier for homeless people, or those at-risk of becoming homeless, to get the emergency services they need. An open house will be held for the new offices, located on the second-floor of 6634 W. Roosevelt Rd., sometime in September. Housing Forward’s headquarters and daytime support center will still operate out of 1851 S. 9th Ave. in Maywood. For more information, visit www. housingforward.org. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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9

Former students praise retired Maywood teacher: ‘She cared’ Janet Nendze, who spent nearly four decades teaching in D89, retired in May

By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

Tony Favela, a 1996 graduate of Melrose Park Elementary School, still talks fondly of his physical education teacher, Janet Nendze, who retired in May. That’s partly because of what she did for him during his eighth grade year. “I got into a lot of trouble in eighth grade,” Favela recalled during a surprise party held for Nendze on July 9 at Miller Meadows Forest Preserve in Maywood. “I couldn’t even walk across the stage during graduation. They told me to come pick up my diploma on the last day of school in the principal’s office,” Favela said. “A couple of days before graduation, Ms. Nendze was like, ‘Go buy a disposable camera and when you get your diploma, meet me in the gym.’ That’s what I did,” he said. “She borrowed a cap and gown and took a picture of me so I’d at least have that memory.” Favela was one among dozens of Nendze’s former students, most of them in their 20s and 30s, who wanted to let the PE teacher of 39 years know how much they appreciate that she cared. “When we had personal trouble at home and personal issues, Ms. Nendze was always there to talk to us, to give us advice, to assure us that everything would be alright,” said Rolando Villegas, who graduated from Melrose Park in 1998. “She was more than just a gym teacher,” he said. “She was a friend, a mentor, a counselor, an advisor and a coach.” Amelia Martinez, Class of 1985, remembers the time that Nendze intervened during a conflict between Martinez and another girl at school. “She pulled us into the girl’s locker room and was like, ‘You both need to stop this nonsense, you can’t listen to the he-said, she-said,’” Martinez recalled. “That moment will always stay in my head. From that day on, that girl and I became best friends. We’re best friends to this day.” Despite the laughter that coated the warm summer afternoon, the Sunday gathering was prompted, in part, by tragedy. On May 22, a week before what would’ve been her last day of teaching, Nendze’s husband passed. Nendze’s granddaughter, Alaina Gallaway, said that her grandfather had been in the hospital on and off, but that his death was still unexpected. “My husband would always say that he could hardly wait for me to retire,” said Nendze, who lives in Maywood. “I have sisters who live out of state and our daughter is in Texas. He looked forward to us traveling to see them. Right now, I’m taking things day

SHANEL ROMAIN/Contributor

BREAKING THE MOLD: Students of Janet Nendze, above, who retired this summer after 39 years of teaching, most of them at Melrose Park Elementary School, say she was one of the few teachers who cared. Below, Nendze with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

by day.” Nendze said that one of her three children (her daughter visiting from Texas) took her out to eat before springing the surprise. Many of her 14 grandchildren and 11 greatgrandchildren were in on the act, making plans on Facebook weeks in advance (“they know I don’t do Facebook, I don’t have time for that”), and setting up in the park the day of the celebration. The gathering allowed Nendze some temporary relief from a period of mourning that’s still in the early stages. There are more tears still to be shed, but on Sunday, it was all about laughter — and the memories. Nendze said she grew up wanting to be a teacher, but her inspiration to teach PE, specifically, came from a gym teacher “I had and who I loved.” “Back then, the gym teachers wore long skirts and we did a lot of the same stuff over and over again,” she recalled. “I had so much fun in gym class that I wanted to get kids to have that kind of fun, too. And I wanted them to be healthy while having fun.” Nendze, who started her teaching career in District 89 in 1977 (she started teaching at Melrose Park in 1980), said that when she thinks back on her teaching experiences, the fondest memories are often encapsulated in

the little moments. “When you see a child the first time they catch a ball and the smile that lights up their face,” she said. “When you’re coaching and someone had a great hit. I’m getting those flashback memories.” Elizabeth Salgado, Class of 1997, had Nendze as a volleyball coach at Melrose Park (Nendze also coached softball and volleyball at Proviso East for over a decade, in addition to Little League softball). Salgado was the first third-grader at the school to play volleyball with seventh- and eighth-graders. “Our practices were in the morning and she would often come with a tray of homemade brownies,” Salgado said. “She was like a second mother to us.” Former student Thomas Martineck said that he would often go back to visit Nendze even after he graduated from Melrose Park and enrolled at Proviso East High School. “I went back there for years while I was going to Proviso just to talk to her,” he said. “I did that, too,” said Villegas, Salgado’s brother, before explaining his motivation. “She cared. She didn’t give up on anybody. She went out on the limb for you, even if you messed up. She was there to straighten you back out.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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EDUCATION roundup D209 approves master facilities plan

although the panel was reorganized in 2012, expanding its powers and adding more members.

[By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review] The Proviso District 209 Board of Education unanimously approved a contract with Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins and Will to draft a Facilities Master Plan and a Health Life Safety Survey at its June 13 meeting. Work is set to begin this summer while school is not in session. The contract approval is the latest step in moving the district toward a more holistic vision for its campus facilities. For the last several years, D209 has been using a capital and construction list. A Facilities Master Plan, however, fuses curriculum needs, technological upgrades, current facility conditions, and enrollment projections into one document that is used for long-term planning. “Our district spent many years not addressing the capital needs of our buildings. We are starting the process,” D209 Supt. Jesse Rodriguez told the Review in March after the board selected Perkins and Will. “There’s a lot to be done.” The Health and Life Safety Plan will cost $179,900 and the Facilities Master Plan will be $139,900, according to district spokesperson Cynthia Moreno. Drafting a facilities plan is also a necessary step toward dissolving the statemandated Financial Oversight Panel. Such panels, according to Illinois law, are a way for the state to offer emergency financial management assistance to local school districts. D209 has had a FOP since 2008,

Proviso won’t need to pay nearly $2M in fire repair overruns According to a June 26 Cook County Chronicle report, “A circuit court judge has dismissed the District 209 Proviso High School Board and its insurance company from liability for $1.8 million in over-budget bills submitted by a politically connected fire restoration and construction company.” The district’s attorneys said that former D209 Supt. Nettie Collins-Hart “had no legal authority to enter into contracts over $25,000, and then board president Dan Adams had no personal authority to sign any documents without a formal roll call vote of approval by the school board as a whole,” the Chronicle report notes. Read the full report at chronicleillinois.com.

D89 board reconfigures “The Board of Education bid farewell to long serving, retired board member Loretta Gustello and welcomed newly elected Board member, Sally Alondra Casillas,” according to a statement released by the district in its newsletter. “With its re-organization of officers, the D89 Board remains unified and dedicated to the mission of equity in education for all of our children.”

D89 votes down proposed charter school that wants millions in public funds District 89 officials are pushing hard against a proposed charter school that’s the brainchild of a district employee. Dr. Elaine Lee, a longtime D89 school psychologist, has been fighting for at least six years to open Mastery Academy. During an April 6 presentation to the D89 school board, Lee said that she believes her school, which will serve roughly 130 fifththrough eighth-graders, could be operational by August if the district approved the concept. According to her most recent proposal, Lee is seeking funds ranging from $1.2 million to $2 million a year for the first three years to support the charter school. That money would essentially be coming from local tax revenue that would otherwise go into D89’s budget. The school, Lee said, would open inside of the T.H. Wade Center, a facility that’s owned and operated by, and located across the street from, Rock of Ages Baptist church in Maywood. The D89 board has since voted down the proposal, but Lee appealed the decision to the state commission on charter schools, which could overturn the school board’s decision. A public hearing facilitated by the commission took place on June 28. The commission’s next meeting is in September.

Proviso East Class of 1977 to hold 40-year reunion in September The Proviso East High School Class of 1977 is currently planning its 40-year reunion and the event’s committee members want to make sure that all of their classmates know about it. Activities will take place over the weekend of September 22 and 23, at the Chicago Mariott Oak Brook, 1401 W. 22nd St. in Oak Brook, Illinois. Here’s a rundown of events:  A casual ‘Reunion Meet & Greet’ is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22, from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., and will be kicked off at the hotel’s lobby bar.  A tour of Proviso East is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.  The “Reunion Celebration Event” will take place on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 6:30 p.m. until 12 midnight.  On Sunday, a “Reunion Farewell Brunch” will take place from 9 a.m. until 12 noon at the Chicago Mariott Oak Brook. Reunion costs are $110 per person or $220 per couple if postmarked or paid online by Aug. 23. The price goes up by $10 if paid between Aug. 24 through Sept. 15, and by $20 if paid at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Varsity Reunions at (314) 6476565 or info@varsityreunions.com. You can also visit varsityreunions.com. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

Maywood organization to give away $5K in scholarships The West Suburban Community Development Corporation will reward innovative ideas

By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor

The West Suburban Community Development Corporation, an organization affiliated with Miracle Revival Cathedral in Maywood, has created a relatively unconventional college scholarship. Applicants will need to be more than good scholars to receive the money — they’ll need to have ideas for changing their communities, said Jay Watts, who wrote the “Make a Change” scholarship. “Applicants simply need to go online, fill out basic information and tell us how they’ve identified a challenge or problem in their community,” she said in a recent phone interview. Applicants will need to create a one- to two-minute video that will be uploaded to the organization’s website. People will have an opportunity to vote on their favorite videos but a committee will select the

winner. Watts said that applicants can apply from anywhere in the Chicago area. “Individuals just have to be accepted into a college or already enrolled in college. They can be in beauty school, a technical school, a junior college or a four-year university,” Watts said. “There is no income or GPA requirement. We just want to highlight people who have potential.” Watts, a real estate professional by trade who was once the board president of a large men’s shelter in Chicago, said she came up with the idea for the scholarship based on her experiences trying to beautify her native West Side. “It used to bug me to go drive through some parts of the West Side of Chicago and see all this garbage,” she said. “There were no trash cans. So I got some of my friends together and we designed garbage cans just like those cows on parade you see Downtown. That’s an example of identifying a problem and coming up with a solution for it.”

The WSCDC will give away two $1,000, four $500 and four $250 scholarships—all totaling $5,000. The initiative is sponsored by Pan American Bank & Trust, Daniel and Henry Insurance Agency and Wallace Funeral Home in Broadview. “We are looking for our next ‘Thinkers and Shakers’ for answers, especially students of business technology and communications,” according to a WSCDC statement on its website. “What if we come away from this with 10 solutions for problems in areas like Maywood, Bellwood and Broadview?” Watts mused. “A lot of times, we highlight the bad but the answers come from people who are continuing their education. These are the people we’re passing the torch to.” To apply for the Make a Change scholarship, visit mrc2k10.wixsite.com/ scholarshipsite. Individuals have until July 30 to apply. Applicants will be notified by July 31 through an email that they’ve been

chosen as finalists and selected to interview before the selection panel. Anyone not called in for an interview by July 31 was not chosen, according to WSCDC’s website. The organization will have more scholarship opportunities available in the future. Winners of the ‘Make a Change’ scholarship will be announced at a ‘Back to School Making a Change’ gospel concert, featuring Marvin Sapp, radio personality Angela Martin and Gospel artist DeAndre Patterson, who is also Miracle Revival’s pastor. The concert will be held on Aug. 19, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Miracle Revival Cathedral, 2010 Saint Charles Road in Maywood. Tickets range from $20 to $45. For more information on the scholarship and/or the concert, visit www.wscdc17.org, email info@wscdc17. org or call (708) 865 2999. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com.


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BUSINESS roundup EPA, Cook County grant cleans up brownfield sites in Bellwood, Maywood and Melrose Park

The contamination is often petroleumrelated. Examples of brownfield sites include “old gas stations, auto service businesses, factories, mill sites, shipyards, transit stations, and junkyards,” the EPA notes. Typically, a business looking to build, expand or redevelop an area that’s suspected to be contaminated has to pay to conduct soil tests and, if those tests find that the area has been polluted or contaminated, then the business also has to pay for the necessary cleanup. An official with Weaver Consultants Group, the firm that Cook County contracted with to provide environmental testing and remediation services, said that it can cost between $3,000 and $5,000 to conduct phase one soil testing. Phase two cleanup efforts start at around $15,000 to $20,000. The EPA grant — which was administered by the Cook County Department of Environmental Control in collaboration with the villages of Maywood, Bellwood, Melrose Park, Forest Park, Schiller Park, Northlake and Franklin Park — basically pays for those phase one and phase two costs. The county received the grant money in 2014. Engoren added that completing the environmental remediation process also clears a big hurdle for businesses trying to access the necessary credit to fund expansion and redevelopment efforts. According to estimates by the Center for

Tom Engoren, the owner of Seaway Supply Co., located at 15 N. 9th Ave. in Maywood, said that a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allowed his business to stay, and possibly expand, in Maywood. Seaway Supply, which deliveries janitorial products, office supplies and other materials throughout the Chicago area, is looking to acquire a gravel parcel adjacent its Maywood location that’s currently owned by the village. The company wants to turn the parcel into a fenced-in parking lot and eventually use the land to possibly develop even more warehouse or office space in the future. Seaway has been located in Maywood for around six years, Engoren said. But the village-owned land is located on a brownfield, which is “property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant,” according to the U.S. EPA.

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Neighborhood Technology, there are nearly 90 brownfield parcels located in western Cook County. And the Illinois State Fire Marshall has counted 684 petroleum-related Underground Storage Tank (UST) locations in the seven municipalities participating in the grant program.

Broadview company expands Printing Arts, a printing production and materials storage company based in Broadview, recently signed an agreement to lease nearly 47,000 square feet at 2105 W. 21st St., a facility that’s nearly 121,000 square feet. “The lease represents an expansion for Printing Arts, which currently occupies an adjacent building,” according to statement released by Darwin Realty, the real estate brokerage and property development firm that represented the building’s owner, Welbic III Broadview 21 LLC, while working closely with Printing Arts during the transaction.

Area Sears stores are going, going, gone Sears Holdings recently announced that it will close 20 locations across the country in addition to the 245 store closures it announced earlier this year. One of those

VILLAGE people

Talei Thompson, father and son During his June 24 installation ceremony in Forest Park, Talei Thompson — a John Maxwell leadership team member, motivational speaker, business owner and the newly installed Maywood/Proviso Rotary Club president — shared, in a moment freighted with emotion, what he wants for his two teen sons as they looked on from the back of the room. He also explained the family dynamics that kept him out of trouble while growing up on the West Side of Chicago.

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store closures is located at the corner of Harlem and North avenues in Chicago. According to a Wednesday Journal report, the Chicago Sears, which includes both a store and a Sears Auto Center, is the only Illinois location that is scheduled to close. “The store will close to the public in mid-September and the Sears Auto Center will close in late July. Until then, they will remain open for customers,” Wednesday Journal reported. “That location will begin a liquidation sale on June 30, [Sears Holdings spokesman Howard] Riefs said.” According to a June 23 RiversideBrookfield Landmark report: “Sears is downsizing its footprint at the North Riverside Park Mall, 7501 Cermak Road, and will begin consolidating its operations in the upper level of its retail anchor location at the mall’s north end sometime in 2018.” The Landmark report stated that Seritage Growth Properties, a real estate trust, “has leased 50 percent of Sears’ lower level in North Riverside and is working to lease the other half of the lower level, as well as the free-standing auto center.” Seritage has entered into an agreement with Round 1, “whose family-friendly indoor amusement complexes combine bowling, arcade games, billiards, darts, ping pong and karaoke.” CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

that there aren’t any two other people in my life more important than you two gentlemen and daddy loves you.

On churchgoing and staying out of trouble One person can’t raise an individual by themselves, especially a little knucklehead boy on the West Side of Chicago — 4015 W. Van Buren to be exact. To stay safe, I listened to the things [my family] told me as a child. My grandmother told me, ‘Make sure you watch who you get in the car with.’ And when I started to drive myself, ‘Make sure you watch who you put in the car with you. You don’t know what it is they’ve done, who they’ve done something to or what it is they have with them.’ My mom raised me in Sunrise Missionary Baptist Church and kept me active so I wouldn’t have an idle mind. I thank my mom for that.

— Michael Romain

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

Talei Thompson


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13

GOVERNING roundup An architectural rendering of a proposed 68-unit affordable housing complex to be located at 800820 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood. Submitted

this summer, the project could be Developer proposes to build sometime on its way to completion by fall 2019. 68-unit mixed-use affordable housing complex on 5th Ave. Maywood officials say they’re moving fast to tear down in Maywood hazardous properties The nonprofit Interfaith Housing

Development Corporation (IHDC) has proposed to construct a 68-unit apartment building that will include 4,500 square feet of ground-level commercial retail space on the site of a vacant lot at 800-820 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, which is currently owned by the village. According to an organization overview, IHDC’s mission is to “promote and develop long term affordable housing for low-income, underserved populations in collaboration with local communities.” Over the 25 years that it’s been in existence, the nonprofit has created 16 housing developments that range from 15- to 135-unit projects, six of which involved renovating an existing structure and 10 of which were newly constructed developments. The budgets for those projects have ranged from $1.5 million to $22.4 million while the rental units have ranged “from efficiencies to large four-bedrooms.” In an interview earlier this month, Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that representatives of the nonprofit will be back to present more information to the Board of Trustees at a later date. IHDC officials noted in their summary that if the village agrees on a purchase price

During a July 12 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee meeting, Maywood village officials said that they’re getting closer to executing a measure unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees in March to put 12 hazardous properties in the village through the fast-track demolition process. Fast-track demolition allows municipalities to bypass the courts and demolish properties, no higher than three stories that are “open and vacant and determined by the Village to be continuing hazard to the community,” according to a March memo drafted by the village’s contracted law firm, Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins. Village officials provided an update on the demolition process after at least two residents complained about an abandoned auto repair shop located on the 1100 block of South 17th Ave. that was among the 12 properties slated for demolition. Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet Jr. said that the former auto repair shop was the “location we caught [and arrested] our first official fly-dumper.” Norfleet said the person was throwing material inside of the boarded-up building. The suspect’s truck

Maywood police arrest nine in connection to app robberies

would lure people from surrounding suburbs who were looking to sell or purchase items on the mobile apps to Maywood before robbing them. There have been a number of reports of robberies related to mobile apps around the country. According to a Feb. 17 CBS Minnesota report, “A woman selling her vehicle agreed to meet off Harrison Avenue in St. Paul. Instead of a sale, she was threatened and held at gunpoint while two men stole her vehicle.” According to an April 16 Delaware News Journal report, “Two men used [LetGo] to post a car for sale. Then, they waited with a gun at a Salisbury home for their victims to arrive, police say.”

Nine people were recently arrested in connection to a string of robberies in Maywood, according to a statement released by police. On June 22, the statement reads, the Maywood Investigations Unit and the Maywood Intelligence Unit apprehended nine people, including four adults and five juveniles, who allegedly “conspired to lure unsuspecting victims by setting up fake accounts and profiles [and] posting items for sale” on the mobile classified apps LetGo and OfferUp. According to Lt. Dennis Diaz, the suspects

was also confiscated. “Hopefully, [that building on 17th Ave.] comes down very shortly,” Norfleet said, adding that he hopes within the next 30 to 90 days. Maywood Assistant Village Manager David Myers said that the village’s attorneys have begun the process of verifying the owners of the 12 properties and are working on sending out letters to those owners, which is required as part of the process. “The process is still moving,” Myers said. “We have signs ordered. We just need the green light to start the demolition process.” Attorney Michael Jurusik said that a program administered through the Cook County Sheriff ’s office will actually carry out the demolitions, saving the village money. But the speediness in which the process is carried out could also depend on how long it takes the county to act, he said. “We’re moving as fast as possible,” he said. “We’re doing the minimum due diligence necessary to make sure the property owners have minimal notice of what to do with the properties. Our ducks are all lined up in a row. We’ve approved everything we need to approve on our end.” Other properties scheduled for fast-track demolition: 1825 S. 22nd Ave. | 1821 S. 21st Ave. | 1420 S. 21st Ave. | 1304 S. 21st Ave. | 1248 S. 21st Ave. | 419 S. 21st Ave. | 1817 S. 20th Ave. | 440 S. 14th Ave.| 1205 S. 16th Ave. | 1242 S. 16th Ave. | 2108 S. 8th Ave. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

CRIME

Ex-Melrose Park cop caught selling drugs bragged about his crimes, says U.S. Attorney

According to a July 13 Chicago Tribune article, Gregory Salvi, a former Melrose Park police officer who admitted to selling drugs that were stolen from his department’s evidence room, could serve more than 10 years in prison. “But with his sentencing hearing approaching later this month, the feds say they also caught Salvi bragging about

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stealing power tools from the department, and about helping a drug trafficker’s associate walk away from a drug deal without paying,” the Sun-Times reports. “Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Otlewski made the allegations in a memo this week that asks U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve to put Salvi away for 14 years.” The Sun-Times reports that Otlewski said that “Salvi bragged about selling drugs stolen from the police department before. And he alleged Salvi told a federal informant he conducted a fake arrest to help the associate of a marijuana trafficker get out of a drug deal without paying.” CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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Village Free Press | July 2017

VILLAGE perspectives We’re demanding that Maywood abolish its Pit bull ordinance In response to your article of May 3, 2017 entitled, “Maywood Pit Bull Owners Pressing Village to Change Regulations”, I would very much like to challenge one point. The Pit bull owners of Maywood are not pressing the village to change the current Pit bull ordinance. We are demanding that the ordinance be repealed entirely. The Village of Maywood is completely on the wrong side of this issue. We are the only municipality anywhere in the area to have any type of regulations about Pit bull ownership. Chicago, Cicero, Berwyn, North Riverside, Riverside, Bellwood, Broadview, Melrose Park, Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest, none of these communities have any laws restricting Pit bull ownership. Pit bulls are not even mentioned in any of their Animal Control laws. The State of Illinois has prohibited Breed Specific Laws (BSL), or laws that single out any one breed, and the Centers for Disease Control, part of the federal government does not

A note on the state’s recent budget For over two years, Gov. Rauner has held the budget hostage in order to pass his agenda, instead of finding ways to negotiate with members of the General Assembly. Faced with a sky-rocketing backlog of bills and junk bond status, Democratic and Republican legislators worked together to pass a bi-partisan, balanced budget to end the budget crisis, provide funding for vital services across the state and move the state forward. Together we worked to cut state spending by $3 billion and save over $1 billion from the governor’s proposed budget. Some additional highlights from the budget include:  Providing $350 million in new funding for our schools, including $50 million more in early childhood education.  Fully funding the Community Care Program, which provides in-home care for elderly residents.  Fully funding domestic violence shelters, life-saving breast cancer screenings, autism services and more.  Provides funding for community colleges and state universities, restores funding for MAP Grants and other college affordability

endorse the use of this kind of a law. Even the American Bar Association, the national representative of the legal profession, does not support the passage of BSL. In fact, no one seems to even remember why this law was passed here in the first place. Let’s be honest, we all know that there probably more Pit bulls in the Village of Maywood than any other kind of dog, and even so, no specific issues with Pit bull attacks have been cited, and no one seems to feel that there is a problem, or that there has ever been a problem with Pit bulls in the Village of Maywood. Officer Johnson even spoke about loose Pit bulls, abandoned by their owners, who were nonetheless not aggressive toward anyone. We already have laws that protect our citizens from any dogs of any breeds who h have exhibited aggressive behavior. T This Pit bull law is overkill a and is unfair to responsible p pet owners and to innocent animals who have never bothered anybody in their lives. This issue is scheduled to b be on the agenda at the next L Legal, License and Ordinance Committee meeting. Changing the law is not good enough! This law has got to go!

— Heather Stelnicki, Maywood

programs and prevents our state universities from losing their accreditation.  Reduces over $1 billion in wasteful spending within state government. As a result, the Standard and Poor’s Rating Agency recently moved Illinois from review with negative outlook status to stable. Passage of a budget saved our state from junk bond status. However, our work is far from over. I will continue to try to work with the governor to address challenges that the state faces. I have already voted to provide property tax relief by freezing property taxes and increasing exemptions available to homeowners, update the school funding formula to help low-income students, change the workers’ compensation system to provide more savings to small businesses and reform the way the state buys goods to increase savings. However, to reach compromise on any items on the governor’s agenda he must be willing to compromise, instead of threatening to veto legislation even when he agrees with 90 percent of it. My votes for these reforms are good faith efforts to work with the governor and end the damage that is happening to the state. Call Gov. Bruce Rauner at (312) 814-2121 to ask him to negotiate in good faith and put the people of Illinois first.

— State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com

My perspective

By MICHAEL ROMAIN Editor/ Publisher

The Bellwood Public Library is in a crisis that only citizens can resolve Residents who value the Bellwood Public Library should learn what’s currently happening at this institution immediately. Start by reading my report, “The battle for the Bellwood library,” in this issue or online. Conduct your due diligence. Do some independent research. You can find the library’s meeting minutes at bellwoodlibrary.org. You may well arrive at a conclusion similar to mine, which is that a contingent of people, some of whom don’t even live in Bellwood, are so determined to secure control over the library’s budget that they are doing things that may well be illegal. They are most certainly doing things that are unethical and unbecoming of citizens who believe in the common good. They even tried to intimidate me, albeit subtly, while I was reporting on the aforementioned article. I don’t live in Bellwood but I know that the patrons of a public library should not bear the burden of a small group of people’s recklessness. A summer reading program, for instance, should not all of a sudden entail a cost because board members wanted to hire a well-connected ‘consultant’ to fix a bathroom. This is a hypothetical scenario that nonetheless describes the real-world implications of corruption. When money in the library’s budget is spent on bloated contracts, patrons feel the effects of that action in the form of new, or increased, fees. That’s money that could go toward legitimate capital expenses and operating costs and new, or enhanced, programming. But this civil problem won’t be dealt with by the police. An outside authority, like a judge or a state agency, has to intervene and make a legally binding

decision. Some citizens have already filed complaints with the state, but finding resolution through this process is slow and winding. What may hasten it, however, is if a lot of residents file complaints with a single state agency and keep the pressure on — make the proper authorities know that a lot of people in Bellwood have a problem with a small group of people trying to take control of an institution that should be free and open to the public and that should operate in transparency. In particular, call the office of the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor: 1-877-299-FOIA (3642) and tell them you want to file a complaint. Tell people who you know to call and complain. Tell them to tell people they know to call and complain. Most of all, don’t be intimidated. Show your face at library board meetings. Request the contact information of every library board member. Email them. Call them. All of them. Repeatedly. Ask questions. Watch how the money is being spent. Do not allow funds to be spent on unduly expensive, unnecessary and unethical contracts. Only people acting as free and informed citizens can solve this crisis. Absent citizen power, what will eventually happen is what we’re seeing at the national level — public ruin for private gain. Most people were surprised at the election of Donald Trump, but they shouldn’t have been. The conditions for Trump’s rise were in the making for decades and they festered because not enough citizens were informed, alert and vigilant. Not enough people took action. Those same people looked up on November 8, 2016 and were in shock by something that shouldn’t have been very shocking. Close your eyes and imagine the Bellwood library looted into oblivion — its doors permanently closed, the lights forever off, the common good that it encapsulated foreclosed on by private greed. Now open your eyes. And act. CONTACT: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com


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Village Free Press_July 2017  

Check out the July 2017 print issue of Village Free Press.

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