Month: March 2013

To See What Is In Front of One’s Nose Needs a Constant Struggle

Tom Kus was lured from Chicago by a jaw-dropping 13-room Queen Anne that dates to 1894 and, according to the Chicago Tribune, “could pass as a mansion with its bridal staircase, carved glass windows and third-floor outdoor terrace with a bird’s-eye view of the neighborhood.” He bought it nearly fifteen years ago after he saw it listed in a real estate magazine for $300,000.

Kus doesn’t live in Naperville or Oak Park or River Forest. He stays at the corner of 4th and Erie—in Maywood. Kus is just one of many transplants from Chicago and surrounding suburbs who’ve been tantalized by the prospect of living in a million dollar home for a fraction of the price.

Kus’s early enthusiasm for his own find didn’t wane. Since coming to Maywood, he’s made it his priority to make other residents and would-be homebuyers who may be unaware of these treasures realize just how much they’re missing. Back in 2005, he began the Historic Homes and Garden Walk, a guided tour of Maywood’s treasured housing stock held every July. Currently, Kus is chairman of the Maywood Historic Preservation Commission, whose creation he pushed for around 2003-2004, in an effort to raise awareness of the 17 edifices located here that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

“There are around 1,800 to 2,000 places that are on the Register in the state. Maywood has 17 of those, but probably another 50 that are eligible,” he said. In 2010, Maywood won the state Award for Commissions. And four years ago, the Village earned a Certified Local Government distinction, which makes it eligible for grants to assess and restore historic buildings. Kus believes that this kind of architectural restoration can drive more comprehensive economic development.

It’s a tragedy that the depth of Maywood’s architectural wealth is such a secret, even among its own citizens. I’d never known that Maywood had that many places listed on the Register. The fact made me squint in amazement. It’s a fact that shocks those both within and outside of Maywood. The Chicago Tribune reported a resident of La Grange saying, “‘The tour changed my perceptions of Maywood…I had no idea that Maywood had so many gorgeous homes. I was also impressed with the [village’s] history.’”

After talking with Mr. Kus, I realized that there is two kinds of embarrassment Maywood residents should feel. We should be embarrassed by the bad, of course. But we should be at least equally embarrassed by the overwhelming good about this town that too often gets obscured, if not downright overlooked, by our zealous preoccupation with the bad.

I hope to post more discussions with Mr. Kus on Maywood’s architecture, including in-depth coverage of the upcoming Historic Homes and Garden Walk, which is held every second Sunday in July. For more information on this event, email Mr. Kus at TKusTKT@aol.com. In the meantime, as a primer of sorts, you can take a tour virtually (below) and/or take a look at the slide show of some of Maywood’s historic homes provided on the Village’s website:

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Election Update, More Early Voting Info

Earlier in the week, I posted a notification regarding early voting locations and times. Here is more comprehensive information I found printed on pamphlets issued by the Cook County Clerk’s office and the State Board of Elections (but passed out by no doubt dozens of hard-working campaign volunteers). Here is some of the most noteworthy content, reprinted word-for-word:

If I vote early, but change my mind, may I vote on Election Day?

No. The law prohibits a person who voted during the early voting period from voting again on Election Day.

What are the safeguards against voter fraud?

Voters casting an early ballot must display valid identification such as a current driver’s license, a state-issued ID card or another government-issued ID with a photograph.

The votes cast during the early voting period will not be counted until after the polls close on Election Day.

Who authorized early voting?

The Illinois General Assembly approved House Bill 1968 in 2005, and it was signed into law as Public Act 94-0645.

What is the reason for early voting?

A major reason for early voting is to encourage greater participation in the election. People who travel for business, work long hours or are otherwise inconvenienced by the hours the polls are open may find it easier to vote early.

Is electioneering allowed at early voting sites?

No. Electioneering is prohibited at the early voting site and a campaign-free zone will be established like it is at the polling place on Election Day.

What is the deadline for registering to vote?

The traditional deadline for registering to vote is 28 days prior to an election.

However, Grace Period Registration is an extension of the deadline for registration. State law allows for the registration of voters and for a change of address at the office of an election authority, but it requires that a person participating in Grace Period Registration to vote at that same office or by mail at the discretion of the election authority.

People who register during the Grace Period are not eligible to vote at an Early Voting location or at a polling place on Election Day. Grace Period Registration runs 27 days to 3 days before an election.

How can I check to see if I am registered?

Illinois residents can check to see if they are registered by going online at www.elections.il.gov and clicking ‘Voters’ and then clicking ‘Am I registered to Vote in Illinois.’ This new service is made available through the Illinois Voter Registration Service database, a requirement of the Help America Vote Act.

Here’s an update on early voting locations throughout suburban Cook County that are in the Maywood vicinity:

Bellwood Village Hall, 3200 Washington Blvd., Bellwood

Elmwood Park Village Hall, 11 W. Conti Parkway, Elmwood Park

Melrose Park Village Hall, 1000 North 25th Ave., Melrose Park

Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison Street, Oak Park

Whitcomb Building (Near Maywood Courthouse), 1311 Maybrook Sq., Room 104, Maywood

Perverse Exceptionalism: Some Scattered Impressions of the NoMCO Forum (Part II)

The NoMCO forum began with its current president, John Yi, thanking the Maywood Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club for sponsoring the forum, and extending an open invitation for any Maywoodian in attendance to join. It was a moment freighted with elision, marked by the absence of those now-taboo realities that the present’s forward march is supposed to have trampled. Forty-three years ago, NoMCO was an acronym for North Maywood Community Organization—exclusion was implicated in its very name, a typical case of how much more sophisticated these things were up here than down there (remember when King came strolling heroically into North Lawndale, the first Mayor Daley welcomed him with a sheepish smile and, with style and grace, sent the bewildered preacher and his demands packing, on a flight in the other direction).

Now, times having changed, Yi said that the organization is growing fastest among members who live in central and south Maywood. But anyone who mistakes this name change for a happy ending will find it impossible to explicate from the proceedings anything approaching an answer to the questions on full display—‘Why is Maywood in the shape that it’s in and what can we do about it?’

The riddle’s solution is not in reviving the past—hard, yet bygone, realities like redlining and housing covenants and racist neighbors are not sufficient answers to why Maywood is embarrassingly behind in completing basic fiscal audits required by the state. However, a discussion focused solely on pragmatic issues like the failure of management or the lack of a strategic economic development plan won’t get us anywhere near explaining the charged current that powers what I might call the perverse exceptionalism of so many of Maywood’s residents, even those who’ve been here their whole lives.

“Time-out—she’s not here!” one woman, sitting behind me, shouted at the stage. “Who is this lady talking?” said another, joining the small, but vocal chorus of attendees who were angered by the fact that one candidate, Mary ‘May’ Larry, had been allowed to do the miraculous—Larry was there on the stage in spirit, but absent in the flesh. She’d assigned another woman to read a campaign statement on her behalf.

John Yi, who was moderating, assured the audience that NoMCO had pre-approved Larry’s decision to be there and yet not there. But this wasn’t enough to quell the communal sense of frustration and outrage that was felt around the room. The people’s grunts and sighs and curses and swiveled heads aroused a sum of energy that, if channeled, could’ve powered the entire Parish. After the woman read her candidate’s statement, she briskly left the premises. Mary and her double were gone, but they weren’t.

And then, they appeared, like mist from a rumbling fall—those words I’ve heard over and over again, from the mouths of friends and neighbors and family and foes alike, so much so that they’ve become local icons. They were spoken by the same woman who had been among the first in the audience to shout out her disapproval. “You can’t sit…nowhere and run for office and not be there…that don’t happen nowhere in the United States except in Maywood!!”

Only in Maywood. I might explain ‘perverse exceptionalism’ in the following way—people associated with failure long enough and prominently enough tend to take pride in the prominence itself, neglecting the fact that what got them to that point of prominence is having failed over and over again. First you fear the roaches and are embarrassed, then you fight them, then you grow tired and simply adjust to their ubiquity—but for some, they become pets whose presence you wear like a badge of honor, a boast of having overcome, even though, in truth, you simply got used to defeat.

I could tell by the sound of her voice (and the fact that she was there) that the woman in the audience had grown tired with Maywood to the point of exasperation, but she didn’t sound like she was ready to get comfortable, relax and blithely accept that her Village is what it is. Nor did she convey any sort of perverse pride in ignoble defeat. The old grow resigned. I know an old lady who’s lived so long with roaches that she now calls them her friends. The young, however, grow dumb. It’s become popular for some of the kids who come from Maywood to beat their chests about their hometown of “Murderwood,” a trope that’s the equivalent of bragging about having lots of roaches. I’ve seen baseball caps and t-shirts and rap albums into which the name has been etched in triumph, as if to say, ‘We may kill each other, but at least we do it so much that we’re known for it and it makes us tougher.” If you can’t have safe streets and an adequate number of local businesses and parks, at least you’re merely surviving in style, I guess.

The problem of Maywood’s perverse exceptionalism is one that neither a historical excavation of the past nor a technical, managerial evaluation of the present state of the Village can adequately explain. Perhaps there is no perfect explanation. But regardless of its origins and the source of its dynamics, there have to be ways to deal with it. It’s to those solutions that were either discussed by candidates at NoMCO or, I believe, should’ve been to which I’ll turn next.

The last part in this 3-part series will be published next week.

Some Apparently Uncommon Voting Knowledge, Candidate Round-Ups

A few very important things to know (if you don’t already) before you cast your ballot: Just because certain candidates may run on a slate, doesn’t mean you necessarily have to vote for everyone on it. So mix and match if you feel the need to.

And (what I didn’t know, until recently) you can even vote for as few (as long as you vote for at least one) or as many (as long as you don’t add candidates to the ballot) as you’d like. There will be more articles about, and statements from, the various candidates between now and the last day of the consolidated election.

If you have any questions for, or opinions on, the candidates, you can include them in the comments section adjacent this post or email them to thevillagefreepress@gmail.com, and we’ll put our best foot forward in tracking the candidates down to get your questions and opinions heard and, if necessary, answered. Here’s a comprehensive listing of area candidates in this year’s election. You can go to Cook County Clerk’s website to verify the accuracy of this list.

Candidates in the Upcoming 2013 Consolidated Election

[Candidate Name / Party / Ballot No.]

Supervisor, Provisor Township (4-year Term, Vote for 1)

Michael A. Corrigan / Township Party Alliance / 71

Clerk, Proviso Township (4-Year Term, Vote For 1)

Anthony ‘Tony’ Williams / Township Alliance Party / 72

Assessor, Proviso Township (4-Year Term, Vote For 1)

Steven J. Zawaski / Township Alliance Party / 73

Trustee, Proviso Township, (4-Year Term, Vote For 4)

Mari Herrell / Township Alliance Party / 74

Clarence E. Thomas / Township Alliance Party / 75

Joseph Christopher / Township Alliance Party / 76

Evelyn Chavez / Township Alliance Party / 77

President, Village of Maywood (4-Year Term, Vote For 1)

Henderson Yarbrough Sr. / Maywood United Party / 11

Gilberto ‘Gil’ Guzman / All In for Maywood / 12

Mary ‘May’ Larry / Independent / 13

Nicole Gooden / Independent / 14

Edwenna Perkins / Independent / 15

Clerk, Village of Maywood (4-Year Term, Vote For 1)

Audrey C. Jaycox / Maywood United Party / 16

Viola Mims / All In for Maywood / 17

Trustee, Village of Maywood (4-Year Term, Vote For 3)

Michael A. Rogers / Maywood United Party / 18

Melvin L. Lightford Sr. / Maywood United Party / 19

Antoinette ‘Toni’ Dorris / Maywood United Party / 20

Marcius Scaggs / All In for Maywood / 21

Isiah Brandon / All In for Maywood / 22

JoAnn Murphy / All In for Maywood / 23

Cheryl A. Ealey-Cross / Independent / 25

Commissioner, Maywood Park District (6-Year Term, Vote For 2)

Terrance Jones / NonPartisan / 91

Dawn N. Rone / NonPartisan / 92

Joseph Joe Ratley / NonPartisan / 93

Alejandro Palacios Torres / NonPartisan / 94

Patrick Winters / NonPartisan / 95

Robert Max Johnson / NonPartisan / 96

Jayda T. James / NonPartisan / 97

Warning: Do Not Mimic This Trend If You Can’t Afford To

Bodyguards try to block the view of Canadian singer Justin Bieber as he goes through Wladyslaw Reymont Airport in Lodz

For some, it pays to look stupid. For others, apparently it costs.

Last year, the Village imposed a new ordinance that “prohibits wearing pants in a fashion that exposes the individual’s undergarments or buttocks by determining that such behavior is an act of disorderly conduct.” Penalties of “not less than $25 on the first offense; not less than $100 on the second offense; and not less than $250 for each subsequent offense will be imposed. In addition to the civil penalties, the court may order violators to participate in up to 40 hours of court-approved community service.” Moreover, the parents or legal guardians of those violators who are younger than 18 years old will themselves be violated with the fines. According to police chief Tim Curry, the saggy pants trend “is associated with drug and gang activity.”

Heads up—so is being young, bored, male, apathetic, poor and black. So is being white for that matter (Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow first turned my attention to the fact that drug use is more prevalent among whites than blacks, despite the fact that blacks are much likelier to go to prison because of it). So are tattoos. So is walking a certain way and talking a certain lingo and living in a certain place. This just in, the American Dental Association may have concluded that bad teeth are associated with excessive crack use. I hear that running wearing a hoodie and jeans down Madison Street at night is associated with all kinds of deviancy.

I have some questions for the Village regarding this ordinance. One, is there any kind of empirical evidence suggesting this kind of ordinance will deter drug and gang activity? Is there any sound proof that the ordinance has worked as deterrence in Maywood since its enactment? Just how strongly do saggy pants correlate with drug and gang activity? And if such a strong correlation between the two behaviors does exist, why get rid of it? I say if sagging is such a strong indicator that someone is likely to be a drug dealer or gangster, then let the drug dealers and gangsters sag to their hearts’ content–the easier it is to identify them and make arrests.

How do citizens know that this recent power accorded to police won’t be used for such malicious designs as trying to supplement the Village’s meager, yet diminishing budget? How do citizens know that they’re protected from pressure put on certain agencies to ‘raise revenue’ by all means, even if they have to ramp up the enforcement of all kinds of fines and penalties, those given out for saggy pants included? This is far from conspiratorial thinking. If municipalities across the country have turned to parking and traffic tickets to slyly raise revenues, what exempts Maywood from indulging in the same ‘fundraising’ by other means?

If the point is to deter much more minor nuisances to the public, such as indecent exposure, aren’t there ordinances already in existence for dealing with this type of behavior? Instead of penalizing behavior so loosely associated with drug and gang activity (and essentially criminalizing the benign, albeit silly, behavior of the majority of people who engage in it in order to deter the deviant behavior of a minority), why not focus on enforcing penalties on behaviors that are much more indicative of drug and gang activity, such as loitering in front of known drug-ridden properties?

What measures will the village take to ensure that this won’t be yet another legal weapon in an already large arsenal those in positions of power can use against others at their personal discretion? (I can imagine the headline: “Mr. Y, seeking to oppose Mayor B in upcoming election, hit with $50 civil penalty for sagging pants as he was getting out of his car.” And the headline a month later: “Mr. Y no longer on ballot because of $50 fine owed to Village” And the word on the street: Mr. C was given $50 to challenge Mr. Y at local electoral board hearing).

In the absence of sufficient evidence that this ordinance does anything to deter gang and drug activity, won’t putting time and energy into its enforcement simply drain resources from much more effective means of deterrence?

And if the ordinance is just a ‘benign’ way to try to get kids (and a few adults) to pull their pants up, aren’t there more imaginative and productive ways to go about it? Besides, there’s no consolation in knowing that the drug dealers and gangsters that are terrorizing your town are doing so in pants that sit perfectly at the waist.

Oh, one last question: If Justin Bieber is ever caught walking through Maywood, will the police cite him?

“I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.”

Mortgage Asisstance Increased

According to a release posted on the Illinois Government News Network, Governor Quinn announced that “the Illinois Housing Development Authority is increasing the mortgage assistance available through the Illinois Hardest Hit program to $35,000 per household across the state, effective April 1…With $10,000 more assistance per family to allocate, more than 500 Illinois families could be assisted immediately. Over the next 30 days, program staff will contact the following groups of homeowners to see if they qualify to have their program terms amended in alignment with the new cap:

  • Homeowners who are currently receiving assistance;
  • Homeowners who were in the program but exhausted their benefits in 2013;
  • Homeowners who applied for the program in 2013 but were ineligible because their need exceeded the previous limit of $25,000

“Homeowners who exited the program or were denied assistance before January 1, 2013, should reach out to the housing counselor they worked with to re-apply. New applicants can apply at www.illinoishardesthit.org. IHDA expects an additional 100 families per month to be eligible for mortgage payment support under the program extended limits.”

Thanks to Sarah Lira for this tip.