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Lipinski: Congress should pass bipartisan BRIDGE Act on DACA

  • Written by Staff Reports

In response to President Trump’s announcement that he will be ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in six months, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is renewing his call for Congress to pass H.R. 496, the BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy) Act, which he states would protect recipients of DACA from the threat of deportation.

Cong. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), the author of the bill, has limited co-sponsorship by Democrats to those who could also gain the support of a Republican co-sponsor. Four months ago, Lipinski became only the 13th Democratic co-sponsor when he was able to bring on Republican Cong. Fred Upton (Mich.) as a supporter.

“President Trump had said that he would ‘deal with DACA with heart,’ but now it is up to Congress to act to protect these young immigrants,” said Lipinski. “Congress can do that by passing the bipartisan BRIDGE Act which would ensure that DACA recipients continue to be protected from deportation. I have always focused on bringing people together to solve problems, so earlier this year I proactively reached across the aisle to secure Rep. Upton’s support for this bill, which enabled me to also sign on as a cosponsor. I am hopeful that others join in this bipartisan effort to do what most Americans agree is the right thing to do.”

The BRIDGE Act would grant those eligible under DACA three years of legal protection. DACA provides temporary protection from removal -- as well as work authorization -- to people who were brought to the United States as children, as long as they register with the government, pay a fee, and pass a criminal background check. More than 752,000 individuals have received DACA authorization.

Under the BRIDGE Act, a current DACA recipient would receive provisional protected presence until the expiration date of his or her DACA status and could apply for continued protected presence prior to that expiration. Applicants would be required to pay a reasonable fee, undergo criminal background checks, and meet a number of eligibility criteria indicating that they came to the United States as minors, grew up in this country, have pursued an education, have not committed any serious crimes, and do not pose a threat to our country.

An individual’s provisional protected presence and employment authorization would be subject to revocation by the Department of Homeland Security if it is determined that the individual no longer meets the eligibility criteria. The BRIDGE Act would provide provisional protected presence and employment authorization for three years after the date of enactment of the legislation.

“The North American Institute for Mexican Advancement (NAIMA) understands that building support for immigration issues also requires the support of centrist legislators such as Cong. Dan Lipinski,” said NAIMA President Sergio Suarez. “After meeting with the Congressman, NAIMA applauds his endorsement of the Bridge Act in support of DACA youth. Lipinski’s support, along with his work to identify a Republican colleague to join as a co-sponsor of the bill, is a significant move in support of immigrant families.”

Beverage tax backlash keeps spilling over

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Opposition to the Cook County beverage tax has drawn support from some state legislators who believe the measure should be eliminated because it is unfair to taxpayers.

State Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) and state Rep. Frances Hurley (D-35th) are two local legislators who are co-sponsors of a bill to repeal the Cook County beverage tax.

But Worth Mayor Mary Werner said not so fast. While the House and Senate could vote to repeal the ordinance, the Worth mayor wants to focus on getting some Cook County Board of Commissioners to change their vote.

‘The sad truth is that we have Worth shoppers that are already going out of Cook County to shop,” Werner said. “And they are not only shopping for beverages, but for food, too. We are losing sales along 111th Street. Fairplay and Family Dollar, they are losing money.”

Werner has signed up to provide testimony at the next Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Her goal is to persuade commissioners who have voted with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle for the beverage tax dating back to last November to change their vote. The ordinance went into effect last month.

The Worth mayor supports Commissioner Sean Morrison’s (R-17th) opposition to the tax. HIs district takes in portions of her village west of Harlem Avenue. But Commissioner Edward Moody (D-6th), whose district runs east of Harlem Avenue, supports the tax. So does Commissioner John Daley (D-11th). Werner is optimistic that her appearance before the board will sway some of these commissioners.

“This is just bad,” Werner said. “This is a terribly oppressive tax. “Opponents of the bill believe we should just go back to a zero budget and start over again.”

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury understands the concerns of Preckwinkle, who has a budget shortfall. But she also hears the concerns of local businesses and believes that something has to be done. Local chambers, including the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce, have sent a letter to Preckwinkle demanding that she eliminate the tax that they say hurts working families and is chasing shoppers out of Cook County.

“Shopping patterns have been changing because of the tax,” Bury said. “I heard one person say that a woman from Homewood now goes shopping in Indiana. I personally reached out to Commissioner Daley and Commissioner Moody on this matter.”

Bury hopes to have conversations with both commissioners soon.

“I’m confident they will do the right thing,” Bury said. “The thing is the money is definitely needed (by Cook County).

“They are in a tough bind,” added Bury. “It is very challenging for businesses. But right now, Cook County has the largest outward migration out of the area. We need to do something.”

And that is why Burke supports a measure to repeal the beverage tax.

“Many people enjoy drinking a cold soda or a glass of orange juice in the morning. I think it’s unfair to tax them on this everyday grocery item,” Burke said. “I believe this tax will do nothing except force more families to do their shopping outside of Cook County and cost our area jobs.”

The Cook County Board taxes all sweetened beverages including diet sodas, fruit and vegetable juices, certain coffees and teas, flavored waters and sports drinks at the rate of one cent per ounce. The county’s tax raises the average cost of a 2-liter soda by 67 percent, and raises the average cost of a bottle of fruit juice or iced tea by 43 percent.

Proponents of Preckwinkle’s tax state that raising the price of sugared beverages will cut down on child obesity, diabetes and other diseases that can hamper children. Opponents of the new tax said it was only made to raise revenue for the county.

Preckwinkle mostly recently gained the attention of the wealthy former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who has been paying for commercials in the Chicago area in support of the tax and emphasizing the harm sugared drinks could have on children.

Not every local municipality has been hit with complaints by consumers. Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett said that he has not been receiving any angry calls as of yet.

“Because of the limited revenue we have from some of these retailers or restaurants, we have not heard anything on this,” Bennett said.

But the village of Worth is another matter.

“I’ve reached out to Sen. (Bill) Cunningham and told him I would appreciate it if the state of Illinois does not take any further action until the Board of Commissioners vote on the beverage tax,” Werner said. “It is very important for our residents to know where our commissioners stand on this issue before anything else is done.”

Motorcycles, cow pie bingo and more at St. Bernadette Fest

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Motorcycles were blessed on Sunday at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Evergreen Park during an outdoor Mass, followed by a family fest.

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Photo by Kelly White

Ada Vail, 7, of Evergreen Park, plays a game of ring toss at St. Bernadette's Family Fest on Sunday afternoon at the church in Evergreen Park.

(slugged, “the sextons”)

Photo by Kelly White

Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton, along with his wife, Karen, and St. Bernadette Pastor Benedykt Pazdan gather on Sunday afternoon at the parish's first-ever Family Fest.

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Families gathered together this past weekend in Evergreen Park over motorcycles, a Mass and a cow.

You heard that right – a cow.

St. Bernadette Catholic Church, 9343 S Francisco Ave., Evergreen Park, was the site of an outdoor Motorcycle Mass on Sunday afternoon, followed by a family fest and the parish’s first-ever cow pie bingo.

Cow pie bingo consists of a random grid of 750 squares painted on the parking lot (much like football squares) and the squares were numbered between 101 and 850. Attendees were able to purchase tickets for $25 each, picking his or her own number on a first come, first serve basis. Then at the event, there was a very well-fed well live cow named Molly in the parking lot whose only responsibility was to walk around the grid all day until nature finally took its course.

The owner of the square where the largest amount of cow pie landed won $7,000. Any additional money raised will be used for future parish activities.

It took about a half hour for Molly the cow to do her business, and the lucky winner of the $7,000 was Bob Berls, from Oak Lawn. The winning number was 827, a number chosen by Berls to represent his wedding anniversary, which was also coincidentally the date of the event on Saturday.

“This was an idea I had had for a few years, but it took some time to convince the parish council to go along with it,” said the Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, pastor of St. Bernadette. “The cow pie bingo is certainly unique. I don’t think you’ll find any other place on the South Side that does that.”

The cow was provided by Paul Lally, a farm owner and a mason at the parish who did some work for the church last year by installing a handicap ramp and renovating the church bathroom. This isn’t the first time he’s provided the parish with livestock, though. Last December, Lally brought sheep and helped to create a live Nativity scene in front of the church.

Pazdan, a motorcycle enthusiast who has been riding since before he came to the United States from Poland to study in the seminary in 2001, decided to add in the family fest portion of the event this year in addition to the church’s annual Motorcycle Mass in hopes of attracting more people. His decision worked, as nearly 400 people attended the event.

“We heard from some who said they didn’t think the Motorcycle Mass was for them because they weren’t bikers,” Pazdan said. “So the Family Fest grew out of the Motorcycle Mass as a way to make this event more family-oriented and appeal to a wider range of the community.”

After the Mass, the day served as an end of summer celebration with a live band, family barbecue, motorcycle and bike blessing, children's bike parade and decorating contest, and interactive children's activities. Food included hamburgers and hot dogs and was prepared by the church’s parishioners who worked that day as volunteers.

“I often use the word family to decide our parish community because I believe it is a good way to convey to people what a Catholic Parish should be; a place where the members help each other to grow in faith and love and the place where parishioners take care of each other in time of need,” Pazdan said. “You know the saying, ‘the family that prays together, stays together’; but I say, ‘the family that prays and plays together, stays together and grows stronger together’. My hope for this event is that we as St. Bernadette family will enjoy others company, grow closer together, and, in times of need, be there for one another.”

Residents agreed with Pazdan that the church has a family feel to it.

“I grew up here in Evergreen Park and to me, events like this are just like being with your family,” said Sheila Doerr, of Evergreen Park.

“It’s an outing that involves your entire family and is very child focused,” said Lane Vail, also from Evergreen Park.

Also attending were Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton and his wife, Karen, who were having fun mingling among residents.

St. Laurence begins new co-ed era

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

St. Laurence High School seniors Mary Shirazi (from left), Dan Carroll and Ashley Murphy talked about their first few days as the first co-ed class at the Burbank school.


There was a big change at St. Laurence High School in Burbank when the fall semester began last week. Girls are now enrolled for the first time in the history of the 56-year-old school, and by all accounts, the co-ed transition is going smoothly.

The change came after St. Laurence opened its doors to more than 140 sophomores, juniors and seniors from neighboring Queen of Peace High School, which closed its doors in June. So now, instead looking across the parking lot at each other, the girls and boys are now walking the same halls.

Mike Madera, director of communications at St. Laurence, noted that this year, the boys and girls are in separate classes for core courses, such as English, math and science. But some elective courses are co-ed.

Next fall, the school will start accepting both boys and girls as freshmen. St. Laurence’s plan for the next two years is to educate freshmen and sophomores as separately as possible under one roof before moving them into co-educational classes as juniors and seniors. So it will be a few years before all classes are fully co-ed.

“My big concern was whether the environment in the school was going to change. But the first couple of days went really well,” said Dan Carroll, a senior from Orland Park, who serves as parliamentarian of the Student Council. “I’m still in class with my friends, and we had a few events over the summer, so I have been able to meet and make friends with some of the girls, too.”

Carroll said the process of bringing the students together began last spring, so everyone had time to get used to it. He added that the boys also were warned to watch their language and not act inappropriately around the girls.

Seniors Mary Shirazi, of Orland Park, and Ashley Murphy, of Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood, both said they were grateful that St. Laurence decided to open its doors to Queen of Peace students, making it as easy as possible for friends to stay together for their senior year. But they acknowledged having some initial concerns about how they would be accepted.

“I was definitely apprehensive about going into a new school. But everyone was so welcoming. I feel so comfortable here,” said Murphy.

“I was really skeptical at first,” agreed Shirazi. “My big concern was the number of boys being so much higher than the girls, and whether they would want us here. But the welcome we got is beyond what I could have imagined.”

To ensure that the girls would have equal representation, there are currently two student councils, with boys and girls each holding the five traditional student council positions of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and parliamentarian. Murphy is president of the girls’ council, and Carroll and Shirazi are both parliamentarians.

“I think we really work together,” said Carroll. He said the girls have already helped a lot with the planning for homecoming.

“Compared to when I was student council last year, we are way more organized with the planning for homecoming. It is being held (Sept. 23), and we already have a theme and a lot of the activities planned,” said Carroll.

“Everyone is looking forward to it, because we will not be coming as guests this year. It will be our homecoming, too,” said Shirazi.

“It is a good feeling. I feel so comfortable here. As the first co-ed class, we have to set the standard for everyone who comes after us,” said Murphy.

The boys and girls are bonding over sports as well. All three said that earlier in the week, the atmosphere in the St. Laurence gym was great when the first girls volleyball team took to the floor.

Carroll said that being part of the first co-ed graduating class means a lot to him, especially since he is the second generation of his family to attend St. Laurence. His father, Tim Carroll, is a 1989 graduate, and four uncles also are alumni. And now, his younger brother just started his freshman year.

“It is historic, and it is fun to be a part of all that,” he said.

“This hybrid process of becoming fully co-ed is sort of unusual,” said Madera, who graduated from St. Laurence himself in 2010. “But we got a lot of positive responses from alumni about our plans when we sent out surveys and questionnaires asking for their input last year. That was a relief because I came up with those surveys and I had some sleepless nights worrying about how it would be received,” he said with a grin.

         

They're digging in for performing arts center at Richards High School

  • Written by Joe Boyle

ty harting and sandra buy photo 8-31

Photo by Joe Boyle

Dr. Ty Harting, superintendent of District 218, chats with Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury after the groundbreaking ceremony last Thursday for the performing arts center at Richards High School.

After a four-year struggle, the first phase of the construction for the performing arts center at Richards High School in Oak Lawn has become a reality.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place last Thursday on the grounds of Richards High School, 10601 S. Central Ave. District 218 officials, faculty, students, parents and local leaders were in attendance. Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and Trustee Bud Stalker (5th) also attended the event.

Members of the Richards High School band performed during the ceremony. Richards students from the choral and theater programs also attended the event.

“I want to thank all of the (District 218) board members for voting for the performing arts center,” said Dr. Ty Harting, superintendent of School District 218. “I want to thank the current board members and former board members who also supported this project.”

Thomas Kosowski, the District 218 board president, said the board voted down a proposal for a performing arts center during the spring. The board cited excessive cost estimates from the contractors who submitted proposals on the project.

The board then went back and worked out the details to make the sure the project went ahead. The project was scaled back and a compromise was reached.

“The process was very lengthy,” said Kosowski. “We have been talking about this for four years. We went back to the drawing board and cut some costs. We were able to do that.”

Costs had escalated to nearly $26 million and the District 218 Board worked to reduce those finances. The current project figures are now at $14 million. Bulley & Andrews Construction, along with DLA Ltd. Architects, will be working on the performing arts center. The arts center will be attached to the current facility. Totaling 36,400 square feet, the addition will extend from the eastern gymnasium entrance of Richards toward the tennis courts.

The arts center will include 28,400 square feet of new space at Richards, with an additional 8,000 square feet of remodeled space to be included. The facility highlights include a new theater with 560 seats, a renovated band and choral area with six new practice rooms, teacher offices, a music library, and storage.

Construction is expected to continue through the fall. Harting said that depending on the weather, the project should be completed in August, 2018, in time for the 2018-19 school year.

Kosowski also applauded other schools, parents and students who also wanted this project completed. District 218 covers seven sub-districts and several high schools. District 218 extends as far east as Halsted Street and as far west as Harlem Avenue, and from 95th Street north to 143rd Street south. Kosowski said that some of these taxpayers will not benefit, at least initially, from the performing arts center at Richards. District 218 also includes Eisenhower and Shepard high schools.

“Some of these people could have complained that we should have built this at their high school,” Kosowski said. “They knew how important this was. We are very grateful to them.”

Harting agreed that the District 218 community really stepped up to see this project happen.

“I want to thank the community,” Harting said. “The community was very passionate about this project. These things matter, they really do.”

Bury, who studied art in high school, believes this project will be a great addition to Richards High School. A performing arts center is also currently being built at Oak Lawn Community High School, which is also scheduled to be completed by next fall.

“The kids really need this. I’m very happy for the kids,” Bury said. “This is a great day for Oak Lawn. If more kids entered the arts I think there would be less violence in the world. This allows them to articulate their thoughts and grow. This will help prepare them for the future.”