Palos Hills mayor: Local government works

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett served up some food for thought at the “Breakfast With Your Legislators” Saturday morning by referring to a recent poll that had some failing grades for state and national leaders.

“Forty-six percent of those polled said the country is going in the wrong direction, and only 22 percent polled in the state believes we are going in the right direction,” said Bennett during the breakfast session sponsored by the Southwest Conference of Mayors that was held at the Belvedere Chateau in Palos Hills.

The Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll stated that Illinois voters disapprove of the job performances of President Donald Trump, Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd). The three rated poorly, according to the poll. Trump, Rauner and Madigan each received more negative than positive evaluations.

“The only government that works is local governments,” said Bennett, who serves as the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors. “We do it at the local level all the time. We continue to do this through our local organizations. We learn to balance budgets and work with what we have. Sometimes they don’t understand this in Springfield.”

Bennett went on to compliment the guests at the breakfast, the majority of whom were southwest suburban mayors. Local officials have the ability to work together for the common good, Bennett said.

The breakfast meeting also included guest speaker Dr. Paul Lisnek, a political analyst for WGN-TV and CLTV. A business expo was also held offering a variety of items for local institutions in the southwest suburbs.

Lisnek, a multiple-Emmy award winner who has been the political analyst for WGN-TV since 2008, told the audience that he gets hate mail from either side of the political spectrum. which he views as a badge of honor. He commented on a variety of topics including free speech and the upcoming primary. He touched on several races, including the showdown between incumbent Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and Marie Newman.

“Lipinski, he’s in trouble,” believes Lisnek. “Marie Newman is giving him the greatest challenge he has had in years. Cong. Jan Schakowsky and Cong. Luis Gutierrez have come out for Newman. Has the 3rd District changed? It certainly has. It just depends on how many young people come out to vote. He (Lipinski) is in the race of his life.”

Lisnek also commented on some of the state races, including Gov. Rauner facing state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the primary race.

“I find it amazing Rauner’s attack on Jeanne Ives,” Lisnek said. “Saying that Jeanne Ives and Mike Madigan are somehow working together, I mean who really believes that. Do I think he is in trouble? No. But she has brought up some social issues.”

He also mentioned that JB Pritzker will probably win the crowded Democratic primary for governor.

“But his approval rating is only in the 30s. With all the money he has spent and the advertising he should be much better than that. But most polls have (Chris) Kennedy trailing by four points. Daniel Biss has slipped a bit.”

In the Cook County State’s Attorney’s race among the Democrats in another crowded field, Lisnek believes Pat Quinn could win, but added that state Sen Kwame Raoul has tightened it up. Lisnek said he would not be surprised if Fritz Kaegi defeats incumbent Joe Berrios in the Cook County Assessor’s race.

And despite Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle taking a pounding over the soda tax, Lisnek believes that she will still defeat former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti.

Flowers is 'fine' with challenge from Preston in 31st District

  • Written by Joe Boyle

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st) admits that having an opponent in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, March 20 will be a different path for her.

Flowers, who has been the state representative of the district since 1985, will face a challenge from Willie Preston, who is running for office for the first time. Whoever wins the primary will most likely become the state representative of the huge and diverse district, which extends as far east as Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and as far west as Palos Hills. No Republican is running in the primary.

While it has been years that Flowers, 66, has faced an opponent, the veteran lawmaker is pleased with the reception she has received while campaigning.

mary flowers photo 6-15-17

            Mary Flowers

“Well, I’m doing fine,” Flowers said. “I have a record and constituents who believe in me. It’s good and touching because the people out here know my record better than I do. Some young people have told me they don’t know who I am. But I told them to look at Wikipedia and they get back to me. They say you have done a lot. It’s a different time. But I’m really optimistic. I don’t want take anyone for granted.”

Flowers said she has a long list of accomplishments in her 33 years as a state representative. She recalls how she introduced legislation that was passed to provide protections for pregnant mothers in the workplace. She called for Chicago police sensitivity training more than decade ago. She also believes that all Illinois residents should have access to health care and not just health insurance.

Preston, 32, said that is all well and good but added that Flowers has done nothing to encourage economic development in the district. He was an organizer for Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and stepped down to run for state rep. The organization’s mission is to assist low-income people of color on the city’s South Side.

willie preston photo 3-15


             Willie Preston

He has attended Chicago State University and Roosevelt University. He also has worked as a carpenter and can relate to residents who are struggling to find work.

“The thing I’m hearing from people is very repetitive,” Preston said. “They want someone with political independence from Speaker Madigan and Joe Berrios (the Cook County Assessor). We need more money for schools because we are the worst state in America for education. Mary Flowers has not been responsive to the needs of the people.”

Preston said he has tried to work with Flowers in the past but said she dismissed him. Preston added that Flowers is not a visible force in the district and that he would be.

“We have had enough celebrity politicians,” Preston said. “We need to do more to bring jobs back to the district. The district is diverse. I respect all folks. The district has to have someone who will stand up for them.”

Flowers said she cares for her constituents and fights Gov. Rauner’s call for budget cuts, especially those that affect education. Flowers, who is married and has one daughter and a granddaughter, said she will continue to strive to assist the middle class and the poor. She has worked on a variety of committees that call for economic opportunity and economic justice and equity.

“The governor wanted to close child care and I fought him on that,” Flowers said. “And this young man (Preston) says I haven’t done anything, well, it’s not true. I would say to the governor, the mayor (Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) and the president that we would have to do more. But I’ve put up legislation to recruit economic development. I have an infrastructure bill that we would build up infrastructure along roads in the district. “

Flowers said she heard that Preston has met with officials who are tied to Rauner for support, but did not know that for a fact. Preston denies any meeting has taken place and refuted published reports that he has accepted money from the governor.

“No, none whatsoever,” Preston said in reference to mailers who imply that this occurred. “They have never contacted me. My district is well aware of these low tactics. What is says is that Mary Flowers can’t run on her record.”

Preston said his focus will be on the economy, and he would like to see more African Americans employed. He said he will fight high property taxes and develop partnerships with the government to bring jobs to the district.

He admitted that he was expelled from Chicago State University in 2015 over a dispute involving the rights of students that he stood up for. He added the administration was negligent and did not listen to the needs of the students.

Ironically, it was this moment that opened his eyes and led him in the direction of public service. He believes more people need a voice in government.

He also added that he has no intention of being a Democrat with limitless terms. Preston said that he will work to bring economic development to the district in just over eight years. He would like to eventually go to back to being a carpenter and work with his wife, Brittany.

“We can’t balance the budget on poor people,” Flowers said. “I want to get back to talking about the people and not the personalities. I want to talk about the how we can educate our students and provide an education for college.”

As for Flowers, she has no intention of stepping down soon if she is re-elected.

“How do you walk away from something you love? This is my passion and this is what I do because I love what I do,” Flowers said. “As long as I’m healthy and the people of the district want me to serve, I will continue to do so.”

Contentious race nears finish line

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

     With three candidates vying for an open seat, the 6th District Cook County Board race is one of the few competitive local races and one of the most contentious.

    The incumbent commissioner, Chicago Ridge resident Ed Moody, chose not to run for election to the seat he was appointed to in 2016 after Joan Murphy died. Her daughter, Patricia Joan “Tricia” Murphy of Crestwood, is one of the three people now in the race. The others are Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta, and Donna Miller, a healthcare consultant from Lynwood.

donna miller photo 3-15


             Donna Miller


No Republicans are running in this race, so the Democratic winner is assured of taking the seat.

    Presta, 67, said he is the only one of the three with any political experience. He was a        Crestwood trustee for 19 years before being elected mayor in 2013. He also owns a newspaper distribution company.

   “These two other candidates have never balanced a budget,” said Presta during a phone interview on Monday. “The Cook County Board has a $5 billion budget. This is serious business.”

   Presta said he has helped reduce taxes in Crestwood, and can bring his ideas to the Cook County Board.

   “We have some of the lowest property taxes in the county in Crestwood. And we rebate property taxes each year to homeowners and businesses. I want to be able to do that for everyone in Cook County. We can make the taxes up in other areas, such as retail sales tax, like we do in Crestwood,” said Presta.

   He pointed to a new development being announced this week that will bring an Aldi grocery store and Chick-fil-a restaurant to a 30-acre vacant site owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District along the Cal-Sag Channel, just west of Cicero Avenue in his village.

   “Big things are going to be happening there,” said the mayor.

Patricia Murphy

               Patricia Murphy


   All three candidates have said that they want to reduce the tax burden, which they believe is driving people and businesses out of the 6th District and Cook County as a whole.

Miller, 52, of Lynwood, pointed out that the district takes in 35 communities in eight townships, stretching from Bedford Park on the north to communities such as Lansing and Lynwood near the Indiana border. Along the way it takes in all or part of Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Worth, Palos Heights, and Orland Park.

   “Our district is bordered by Indiana and Will County, so we are especially hard hit by high taxes. When the sweetened beverage tax was in place, people went to Indiana and Will County to avoid it, and they ended up buying all their groceries there,” said Miller.

   “That tax amplified my reasons for getting into the race. We have to be more cognitive of these effects when enacting taxes.”

   “We have to seek support at the state and federal level to get things done here. I think the idea is to protect the Southland as a region, and not pit communities against each other. We want to have the whole region work together, to collaborate and communicate. That is what I am good at,” said Miller, asserting that being “independent” sets her apart from her opponents.


    Murphy, 55, said in a statement that she was inspired by her late mother’s work as 6th District Commissioner, but “I am not running for this office with any sense of entitlement.  I am running for the privilege of serving the nearly 36 communities in the 6th District.”

She said county commissioners need to find other revenue streams to alleviate the burden on property owners.


One way to relieve property taxes is to fix the broken property tax system.  My district is greatly affected by a system that is not fair and equitable.  We have blighted properties and infrastructure that needs to be addressed so we can bring businesses back to the south suburbs.  In doing so, we can bring revenues and give property owners some much needed tax relief.
   "In addition to property taxes, other taxes are also driving people out of the county and state.  We need to bring in economic development that allows for job growth and more revenues to run county government. In all, Cook County needs to restructure, revive and re-brand ourselves as a county to bring people back to Cook County and the state of Illinois," said Murphy.
   Having owned a retail store on Navy Pier for more than 20 years, Murphy said, “I will bring such experience to the county board. I believe our district needs a commissioner that will have the ability to bring all stakeholders to the table and be willing to work with everyone.  I am not beholden to anyone but the voters, so I can get in there and roll up my sleeves and do what is best for the district and work on issues until the matters are resolved. I plan to be a full-time commissioner and responsible to the voters and not special interests.”

Miller also pledged not be “a double-dipper,” but said she will continue as a consultant because she make her own hours in that position.

   They were both referring to Presta, who plans to remain mayor of Crestwood if he is elected to the Cook County Board. He did, however, say that he would like to see term limits for county elected officials, noting that he enacted them in Crestwood.

lou presta photo 3-15


                   Lou Presta

   Three terms is plenty. I won’t serve any more than that (12 years). That’s a promise.”

Presta said he would like to see unincorporated areas of the county be annexed into adjoining villages, which he maintains would save the county a lot of money.

I know the residents of those areas would have to agree to it. But being incorporated, we could provide better police and fire service, streets, and everything. It is not a popular idea with some of the townships, but it would be better for everyone.”

Miller said she would only support annexation if the residents decided by referendum to do it.

People live in unincorporated areas for a reason.  I wouldn’t support such a measure unless the people wanted it,” agreed Murphy. 

Presta’s opponents have pointed to recent published reports of his financial woes, saying they make him unfit for the position he is seeking. He acknowledged that in in 2015, the IRS came after him seeking $22,663 in federal taxes that he owed, and the state filed a lien against him in December 2016 for another $2,516 in unpaid taxes.

I didn’t steal anything. I am making monthly payments. It is the result of a business deal that went wrong more than 20 years ago that I am still paying for,” he said.

Presta said those issues are only being raised now because he is “the front-runner,” with heavy union support and backing from most of the mayors in the district.

They wouldn’t be worried if I wasn’t the front-runner,” he said.

Gas station seeks 'pour license' needed for gaming

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

thornton gas station photo  3-15

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Thorntons Inc. is seeking a new liquor license that would allow it to offer video gaming in a cafe planned for the convenience store section of this gas station at 10559 S. Harlem Ave.


A proposal to open a café with video gaming in the Thorntons gas station at 10559 S. Harlem Ave. in Chicago Ridge will be brought up for discussion at the Village Board meeting on March 20, after several trustees objected to the idea at the meeting last week.

Joseph Reed, a Thorntons representative, came to the village board meeting on March 6 seeking the liquor license needed for video gaming. Currently, the gas station has a B-1 license, allowing packaged liquors to be sold. But in order to have video gaming, a B-2 license is needed, allowing liquor to be poured on the premises.

He explained that truck stops can offer video gaming without a pour license, but the location in question is not big enough to be considered a truck stop.

Reed said the area holding five video gaming terminals would only be 10 feet by 10 feet, and would be adjacent to a cashier for easy monitoring. He said the plan would be to offer cans of beer for $6, which would be kept in a refrigerator behind the cashier.

The intent is not to sell alcohol. That is why the price is so high. Packaged liquors would be sold for a sixth of that price. But we need to offer it to qualify for the gaming license,” he explained.

Reed said that at a location in downstate Havana, where beer is sold at that price, only one sale a month is made.

It’s a unique concept. I wouldn’t think that there would be a big call for that in gas stations,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar, adding that he wouldn’t be averse to allowing it because of that. Trustee Jack Lind agreed.

But several of the other trustees raised objections. Trustee Lisel Kwartnik said she was concerned about “oversaturation” of video gaming in the village.

Right now, we have 38 video gaming licenses in the village. We need to get our code in order,” agreed Trustee Fran Coglianese.

Kwartnik said she meant that there are only a certain amount of people interested in video gaming, so the profits made at each establishment will go down if more are added.

But Tokar said that was a “business decision” that the village shouldn’t be concerned about.

Reed contended that alcohol availability isn’t what draws people to any of the video gaming cafes.

Video gaming is their entertainment. They just want a quiet place to do it,” Reed said.

I don’t see a lot of alcohol being sold. Who is this bothering?” asked Lind.

Trustee Deb Pyznarski said she had a problem with alcohol being made available to drink inside a gas station, due to the possibility of drinking and driving.

My issue isn’t with oversaturation. I just have a problem with pouring alcohol at a gas station,” she said.

Trustee Ed Kowalski also pointed out that there is already a problem with homeless people hanging around at that location. He said that is due in part because it is located close to a bridge over Stony Creek, where they are known to congregate.

A store manager acknowledged that they do sometimes have to be shooed away.

But if they wanted liquor, they can buy it much cheaper already inside the store, and drink it in the bushes,” said Reed. “Why would they want to drink it inside the video gaming area?”

Because it is warm,” countered Kowalski.

Delay in delivery of The Reporter

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Due to a press malfunction, delivery of the March 14, 2018 editions of The Reporter and The Regional News newspapers will be delayed.

The problems have been addressed but occurred after delivery times with the postal service took place. We can assure our readers this will not happen again. We offer our sincerest apology for any inconvenience this caused.