Month: March 2016

D209 Board Officially Appoints Jesse Rodriguez As New Supt.

imageThursday, March 31, 2016 || By Proviso Township High Schools District 209

The Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Jesse Rodriguez as District 209’s next superintendent.

Dr. Rodriguez brings 20 years of education experience to the position, having taught high school Spanish and served as an administrator in the Milwaukee Public Schools. This includes three years as an assistant principal and four years as a principal. Most recently, he has been a regional superintendent in the Milwaukee Public Schools, overseeing more than 30 schools. Fluent in both English and Spanish, he also served as president of the Wisconsin Association for Bilingual Education for four years.

Dr. Rodriguez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and Spanish, with a minor in secondary education, from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He also has a Master of Science degree in educational leadership and research and service from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in leadership, learning, and research and service, also from Cardinal Stritch.

He was selected from a highly qualified candidate pool that was developed by BWP and Associates of Libertyville following a survey of community members, staff members, and select students who served in focus groups in December. Finalists were selected from the candidate pool and interviewed by the school board, with two finalists returning for additional interviews and a meet-and-greet with community members and staff.

Mrs. Theresa L. Kelly, President of the District 209 Board of Education, said that she was excited to be working with Dr. Rodriguez.

“He comes with a lot of energy, and wants to do a lot of great things,” Mrs. Kelly said. “We’ll be able to move Proviso forward, and Proviso will be known as one of the best schools in Illinois.”

Dr. Rodriguez said that he was honored to receive the appointment, and that he was looking forward to working in District 209.

“We’re going to continue to do great work here in Proviso,” he said. “It is something I really wanted to do, and I found a place I want to be at. This is going to be a great partnership with the state reps and this wonderful board and this wonderful community.”

Dr. Rodriguez will assume his new position on July 1. VFP

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Maywood Village Planner Karl Palmquist To Resign, Worsening Maywood’s Talent Drain

Karl PalmquistThursday, March 31, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

Karl Palmquist (pictured), the planning and zoning officer for the Village of Maywood, has announced his resignation, according to multiple sources.

Palmquist, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, was hired in 2014. According to the nonprofit government watchdog group Open the Books, Palmquist’s 2015 salary was $56,894. According to one source, Palmquist is scheduled to leave next month. No reason has been given yet for why he’s leaving.

This is the village’s second high-profile administrative vacancy this year and it only compounds the village’s general problems with respect to missing personnel.

In January, the village’s longtime HR coordinator, Wilhelmina Dunbar, was terminated. And at least two positions in the finance department, water supervisor and water technician, still need to be filled.

There’s a similar labor shortage in the public works and police department, which have been reeling from a lack of manpower for years. At a March 29 budget meeting, Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley noted that the department currently has 41 patrol officers even though the village ordinance sets a standard of 54 officers.

“When I was doing the history of the department, [I learned that] at one time we had 71 police officers on staff here in Maywood and that’s probably what the community got used to,” Talley said. “We now have 41. [That’s] half of what everybody was used to.”

At one point last year, 13 officers were out of duty because of various issues, including work-related injuries and sickness, according to Talley and Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. That’s the approximate equivalent of an entire shift, they said.

Attempts to immediately contact Palmquist and Norfleet weren’t successful. VFP

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Former Proviso East Pirate Now In NYC Helping Google Diversify

Manny Proviso East AlumWednesday, March 30, 2016 || Originally Published: Forest Park Review || 3/29/16 || By Matthew Hendrickson 

In a photo of Manuel Miravete in high school (see photo left), he is thin and moody looking, wears a black Lollapalooza T-shirt, tucked into his light blue jeans and a set of Converse All-Stars sneakers. His hair is shaggy and dark. He stands behind a bicycle and in front of the Proviso East welcome sign — the bike he earned as part of a student incentive program.

When he looks back on his time in Forest Park in the early ’90s, he says he’s surprised where he is today.

These days, Miravete doesn’t look all that different (see photo below). He still wears his hair long and shaggy, and despite the years that have gone by, his face has retained its boyish qualities, albeit with sparse facial stubble now. The Lollapalooza shirt, however, has been replaced by a white shirt and tie, an argyle sweater and a dark sport coat. He wears glasses now, but the thick rims suggest an alternative vibe. He still looks like he could be in a rock band.

A career in the music industry, in fact, could have happened. After college, Miravete worked as a DJ for an Illinois rock station. But on a fateful trip to New York City to visit a friend, he caught a bug for the city and decided that’s where he was destined to live. It was there he caught the first wave of the Dot Com Boom, working for AOL, Myspace and Microsoft.

Miravete still lives in New York City, currently in Brooklyn, and is now an employee with Google, about as big a corporation as you could hope to work for, in the company’s advertising department, helping Fortune 500 companies reach U.S. Latinos with their messaging.

He’s a long way from where he started.

Miravete moved to Forest Park in 1986 from Mexico with his mother and sister and lived in a house in the 900 block of Dunlop Avenue with his extended family. He came to this country and overstayed his tourist visa. When he enrolled at Forest Park Middle School he was barely able to speak English.

“I learned [English] quickly though,” Miravete recalled recently. “Kids at that age, they pick things up quickly, and by the end of the year I was a fluent speaker.”

Manny.jpg

Miravete said he was briefly exposed for being in the country illegally and had to move to Lombard to live with an older cousin the summer between eighth grade and his freshman year of high school. He returned to Forest Park after the summer and his aunt, who gained her citizenship through an amnesty program in the ’80s, began the process of adopting him.

Miravete recalled being slightly nervous before his first year of high school at Proviso East. He credits Glenda Gwynn, then the school’s principal, with helping to put him on the track that would lead to his success later in life.

“It was never really brought up; I don’t think anyone really knew,” Miravete said of his immigration status in high school. “[Gwynn] said I needed to be in school, and she saw I wanted to learn, and she enrolled me for freshman year. I’m really thankful for that. They prioritized my education over what my [immigration] status was.”

Miravete said he didn’t consider his high school experience to be all that different from other students, except that he couldn’t get a driver’s license and had a hard time getting a job, due to his immigration status. That’s how he ended up working as a summer caddy at the Riverside Golf Club in 1988.

“It was a job that paid cash,” he recalled. “I really enjoyed it. But I wanted the job because I had heard of [the Evans Scholarship] and that it would pay for college. My family didn’t have the money to pay for it. Ever since I could work, I worked.”

The Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship is given to hardworking caddies and provides the student full tuition and housing for college. According to the scholarship’s website, the fund sends more than 800 caddies to college each year.

He knew early on that he wanted to attend college. He worked hard in high school, graduating 14th in his class of about 500 students, he said.

“I really took advantage of the dedication of the teachers,” he noted. “I was able to exceed because I’d ask for help, after-school tutoring, that kind of thing. It’s not because I consider myself an exceptional person.”

At age 15, Miravete was able to get a green card as a result of the adoption process and finally received his citizenship in a ceremony in New York City near the Statue of Liberty in 2001.

Miravete now has a 7-year-old son and a job he’s extremely proud of with Google.

“Most audiences use Google platforms regularly — Google to search YouTube [etc.] — Latinos use these, too,” Miravete said. “A lot of marketers want to engage Latinos in the U.S. I provide them with the tools to do that in a relevant way.”

He enjoys Google for its corporate culture.

“Our company is fantastic. It’s a great place to work because you’re just surrounded by people who are so intelligent and so accomplished.”

When asked to review his own accomplishments and the obstacles he’s had to hurdle to achieve them, however, he quickly turns humble.

“These things that were obstacles were just a part of my life — I didn’t think of them much,” he said. “And I got help; it wasn’t a solo journey.”

For students currently attending Proviso East who might be in a similar situation, he advises knowing when to ask for help.

“The advice I have is to explore all your available options, all available resources,” he recommended. “To get a higher education, you should take advantage of all of these. There are people who will help you if you look for it and ask for it.” VFP

30 Years Ago, We Pirate Wrestlers Were Kings Of The Mats — Now We’re Kings In Life

Proviso East Champion Wrestlers.png

A team picture of the 1986 Proviso East Pirate varsity wrestling team, which went undefeated and won the the Illinois State Wrestling Championship. | Regi Ratliff

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 || By Dr. Regi Ratliff || OPINION 

As the final horn sounded on March 3, 1986 on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus, my teammates and I celebrated an Illinois High School State Wrestling State Championship.

Winning a state championship meant more than finishing the season undefeated. It was a moment of sweet revenge against a Joliet Central team who clobbered us one year earlier at the same site on the way to their own state championship.

It was a very gratifying moment, because some of my teammates were raised by their grandparents, some raised by their siblings, a few came from abusive homes and one who was homeless. Winning the ultimate prize made things better for at least for that moment.

The previous season, we were coming off a second place finish in the rugged West Suburban Conference championship that featured ranked teams Lyons Township, Hinsdale Central, York and Glenbard West, as well as returning conference champion and state runner-up Leyden Township.

We knew that the road to winning a conference championship went through Franklin Park (Leyden), but the road to the ultimate crown went through Joliet (Central). Although we respected Leyden, we believed our experience and athleticism would overtake the Eagles for the conference championship.

We were, however, upset by how we embarrassed ourselves in front of our family and friends in Champaign by getting throttled by a Joliet team we gave too much respect to. As we slowly walked off the mat with our heads down, our junior season having come to an end, a few of us looked into the crowd and witnessed the large section of Steelmen fans whooping it up as if they were laughing in our face. We knew we had to get revenge the next season and remove that bitter taste of defeat from our mouths.

We had one goal heading into our senior season and that was winning the state championship. We began preparing during the freestyle season after the regular season ended. We trained after school and lifted weights. We ran for miles in the blazing sun and competed in the toughest freestyle tournaments around the country.

The Chicago Sun-Times ranked us second in the state at the beginning of our senior season, just behind Joliet Central. Our season was off to a fast start, with tournament wins at West Chicago, Fenton, and Leyden. But our calendar was circled for January 11. That was our first revenge match against Joliet Central.

After coming away with a satisfying 32-27 victory over Joliet Central, we unanimously claimed the state’s top ranking. We knew Central would be gunning for us and we had to be ready.  While we were happy to defeat Central, we almost had one major slip-up during the season, as we barely slipped past the state’s fourth-ranked team, Marist High School, in a dual meet. After escaping with a win, we recognized that we had a target on our backs and it was time to take our intensity to the next level.

As the regionals approached, we were like a well-oiled machine. We dominated that level and won by a landslide in the sectionals. After defeating third-ranked Naperville North in the dual meet sectional championship, we were heading downstate for the second consecutive season. Unlike last season, when we were caught up by the soft mats and bright lights, we were ready.

After blowing past Leyden in the state quarterfinals, we showed Marist that our close match against them earlier that season was a fluke, destroying them in the state semifinals As a matter of fact, our head coach Bill Cartwright began forfeiting matches in the upper weight class in preparation of our rematch against Joliet Central.

Joliet Central had a lot of fans waiting for us, but this time would be different. We brought our own and we defeated the Steelmen 25-21. As I looked into the stands, I noticed the Joliet Central fans and all their different color pompoms and horns were eerily silent. We watched the Steelmen faithful stare at the mat in disbelief and celebrated our victory.

On the other hand, our family and supporters were in the stands and shared our tears of joy. They were behind us the entire season. The entire Maywood community was behind us as they packed the gymnasium for our home matches and represented in large numbers for both our away matches and tournaments.

To this day, the debate rages on about who was the best team in Proviso East history. Check this out! I started things off at 98 pounds. My buddy Robert Bond at 105 pounds, Roosevelt Williams was (112), Michael Webb was (119), Co-Captain Terry Murphy was (119), Bobby “Doolittle” Walton (126), Maurice Fields (132), Blair Walker (138), Keith Brown (145), Fred Woodson (155), Stanley Hayes (167), Ed Rossollille (185) and Co-Captain Ricky Stewart (heavyweight.)

We had 11 seniors in our line-up. Maurice Fields was a junior. Eleven of us made it downstate for the individual championships, with only Stanley Hayes missing state and that was due to injury in the sectionals. Ten of us wrestled in college and had fairly successful careers. To this day, we are still good friends.

As I reflect on this 30-year anniversary of winning the state championship, I still say it is the most satisfying victory I’ve ever experienced. As an All-State wrester on an undefeated state championship team, I felt a level of satisfaction that cannot be described.

That state championship gave me the confidence to know that anything is possible. My wrestling career continued, as I became a four time national qualifier, a two time NCAA All-American, and the first black All-American at Ferris State University.

More importantly, I completed my undergraduate studies in accounting and most recently my doctorate in organizational leadership. Other teammates have become responsible citizens, such as Murphy (NCAA All-American and high school Dean), Webb (wrestling coach), Williams (military and wrestling coach), Walker (wrestling coach), Fields (businessman/wrestling coach), Hayes (real estate), Brown (mathematician), Woodson (entrepreneur), Walton (business) and Bond (wrestling Coach)

Over these past 30 years, we lost teammates Curtis Jenkins, Ed Rossollille and Ricky Stewart at an early age. We miss them and they will always be with us spiritually.

On behalf of my teammates, we would like to thank Assistant Coaches Ben Kuss, Glenn Lid, and Charles Flowers, and Head Coach Bill Cartwright for their support on the mat. We also want to thank our family, friends, the Maywood community and Pirate nation for your support in guiding us to the mountaintop. VFP

Reverend Dr. Regi Ratliff is the Founder and Executive Director of Eternal Light Community Services, located at 200 S. Fifth Avenue in Maywood. Eternal Light provides the following programs:public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18.

Contact Rev. Ratliff at (708) 813-4722 to register your child for one of our programs today.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Village Free Press.

Maywood Fest Could Be Coming Back; Village Wide, Village Pride Plans Underway

village pride

Maywood Clerk Viola Mims, far left, talks with Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., far right, and Anthony Williams, Chamber of Commerce chairman and owner of Meal of the Day Cafe, during last year’s Village Wide Village Pride event. | File

March 30, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

At a March 29 meeting held to discuss the proposed FY 2016-17 budget, members of the Maywood Board of Trustees proposed bringing back Maywood Fest, the once popular annual village-wide event that’s been defunct for the last several years.

There was no discussion about specifics, such as target dates for when the fest would happen; however, the board was in general agreement that the event should be brought back soon.

The possibility of revitalizing the fest was broached during a discussion about the village’s special events commission, which has been inactive for the duration of Mayor Edwenna Perkins’s term. The mayor said she’s had a difficult time recruiting volunteers to sit on the commission.

Several trustees, however, suggested that an ad hoc fest committee could be sufficient for the purpose of planning the event, with each trustee appointing a representative to sit on the planning body.

“I am interested in having [the fest],” said Trustee Antoinette Dorris. “About six years ago, I know it cost us about $24,000 to $30,000, give or take … This is no slight to the turkey giveaway, Bataan Day, the employee party, Safe Summer or the Old Timers Picnic, but I think that, while these are great, they’re not hitting the entire village. We’ve gone three years now and have not had anything.”

Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr., said that village staff could add $20,000 to the budget down the line for the purposes of revitalizing the fest. He then upped that amount to $30,000 at the direction of Dorris. Trustee Michael Rogers, however, noted that the amount could be “a bit much.”

Considering that there was no money allocated for the event in the proposed budget that was presented on March 29, the additional funds for the fest would either have to be written into the proposed budget before the board approves the final version or added later through a budget amendment.

Village Wide, Village Pride Sets Sights Higher This Year

The Environmental Beautification Commission is looking for team captains and sponsors for its annual Village Wide, Village Pride event, which will take place Saturday, April 23, from 9 AM to 12 PM. The group will meet outside of the ReUse Depot, 50 Madison St., and convene there when the cleanup finishes.

Commission member Loretta Brown said that the commission is looking to build on the success of the first event, which attracted hundreds of volunteers that were broken up into groups and sent out across the village with rakes, brooms and garbage bags to cleanup certain litter hotspots.

This year, Brown said, the focus has expanded from merely cleaning up the village to initiating various beautification projects throughout the village that the commission hopes will last for “more than a couple of days.” Those projects could include planting flowers, painting structures and “creating focal points of beauty.”

The commission is calling on local businesses, churches, community agencies and governmental bodies to sponsor the event. Brown and Laura Lange, the commission’s chairperson, noted at a March 9 meeting that they’re looking for funds to purchase banners, yard signs, t-shirts, water, flyers, flower beds and other supplies.

The commissioners said this year, they’d like the event to saturate the town.

“Make a commitment to spruce up your own area,” said Brown. “Businesses want to move into a place where people take pride.”

For more information, contact Brown at ljbrown243@comcast.net or 708-865-8028. VFP

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Chronicle: Some Cook County Towns Reconsider Video Gambling Ban

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016 || Originally Published: Cook County Chronicle || By Jean Lotus

State-sponsored video gambling has been legal in Illinois since 2012, but 34 Cook County municipalities have resisted its allure either by opting out of the law, or passing specific ordinances against it, according to the Illinois Gaming Board website.

However, some of these holdout Cook County towns are taking a second look at video gambling, spurred on by restaurateurs and bar owners who say they can’t compete with establishments in neighboring towns.

In Riverside, restaurant owners have begged for video gambling to “level the playing field” and attract more business to downtown. In Palos Hills, a special category of liquor license was devised for video gambling cafés, which are said to appeal to women who don’t want to wager in a bar. In Forest Park, anti-gambling residents and business owners are preparing for a battle after the mayor hinted the village would be considering changing a no-gambling ordinance to boost town revenue.

Riverside

Last fall in Riverside, restaurant owners begged the Village Board to consider video gambling. Owners of the Chew Chew Restaurant and Mollie’s pub told the trustees they need video gambling revenue to “level the playing field” with restaurants in neighboring Berwyn, North Riverside and Lyons.

In Berwyn, bar-owners earn an average of $8,790 tax-free revenue per video machine in 2015, according to the Illinois Gaming Board website. Establishments can have as many as five terminals.

Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said village trustees asked him last fall to talk to neighboring police chiefs about any rise in crime or parking problems associated with legalized video gambling. His report to the village said he spoke to police chiefs in neighboring towns of Berwyn, Brookfield, Hodgkins, Lyons, McCook and North Riverside.

“Gambling did not increase crime or police calls for service to establishments that have gaming,” Weitzel’s September 2015 report said.

Weitzel said he also examined data from the Illinois Gaming Board.

“What they saw as the No. 1 problem is burglaries,” Weitzel said. “Somebody would break into a bar or restaurant with video gambling because they thought the money was still in the machines.”

Riverside residents opposed to video gambling showed up in force at the November 2015 village board meeting after amassing hundreds of signatures on an online petition.

The board has not brought the matter to an agenda.

On March 22, Riverside’s Economic Development Commission held a special “educational forum” on video gambling.

“We decided in an ideal world, we should start with the research first,” said spokeswoman Kristine Herbst, noting there aren’t that many restaurants in Riverside. “If this is out there we want to explore it.”

Kathy Gilroy, of Lombard, a state-wide anti-gambling crusader, parsed the math behind tax revenue from convenience gambling.

“To generate $100,000 per year in local taxes, gamblers would have to lose $2 million per year,” Gilroy said. “That gambling income doesn’t drop from heaven, it comes from families’ pocketbooks. Gambling money simply redirects what could have been used for local grocery stores, gas stations, furniture stores, thrift stores, church collection baskets, mortgages and rent.”

Larry Forssberg, Westmont Economic Development Director said the typical local gambler is a “woman over 35 years old.” Forssberg said local municipalities could use zoning codes to control signage or whether terminals are visible in a restaurant. He also said local towns can use zoning to reward local business owners and discourage chain operators from moving in. He said the promise of video gambling can lure companies to town that might otherwise ask for a tax rebate.

Tim Lattner, former owner of Lattner Entertainment Group Illinois, LLC, rattled off the amount of tax revenue generated in neighboring towns. Lattner also said having a video game license increased the resale value of a business.

Palos Hills

In Palos Hills, aldermen voted in December to expand the village liquor license categories to include a video gambling café license with a special $2,000 license fee. As a non-home-rule community, the town can only charge license fees of $25 per video gambling machine, while home-rule towns have been known to charge up to $1,000 per terminal yearly.

Casino cafés began to pop up in 2013, with names like Dotty’s, Betty’s Bistro or Stella’s. The business model provides video gambling in a feminine-style environment to attract female gamblers who are uncomfortable entering a bar.

“Video cafés are basically a turbo-chef oven with a couple of machines,” said Forssberg.

Critics, such as the national Stop Predatory Gambling group, have said video cafés expose children to gambling and are exploiting a loophole in the gaming law that allows any establishment with a liquor license to install video gambling machines.

Palos Hills earned $65,000 in 2015 in tax revenue from the village’s 29 terminals, according to the IGB website. Neighboring Palos Heights and Palos Park prohibit video gambling.

Forest Park

In Forest Park, Mayor Anthony Calderone has told business owners he plans to bring video gambling up for discussion among village commissioners in the next few months.

Calderone did not return calls and texts by press time to comment on the village’s timetable. But at the village’s 2015 budget meeting, Calderone said Berwyn’s video gambling revenue was enviable.

“The city made $30,000 for the month of May (2015). It’s a significant chunk of money. It’s real money.”

Calderone, who serves as village liquor commissioner, also liked the idea of a special liquor license tied to video gambling.

“For those establishments that would have a machine, we could create a separate liquor license classification and increase the fee $5,000 for that particular type of license,” he told commissioners.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us to lessen the tax impact to the local homeowner,” he said. “Let’s try to capitalize on things that we can raise revenue on without encroaching on that property owner, whatever that may be.”

Police Chief Thomas Aftanas said he believed the village would discuss introducing video gambling at the upcoming spring budget meeting, usually held in May or June.

Aftanas said he was not aware of any recent study or police training for crime related to video gambling. He also said his impression was that neighboring police departments didn’t consider it a crime problem.

The village has projected in the past that it could earn as much as $300,000 per year in revenue. Neighboring Berwyn earned $394,000 in tax revenue in 2015. But Berwyn residents say that tax money has come at a price. In a town of four square miles, there are 224 video terminals at 53 restaurants and bars. Neon signs advertising “live slots!” line Roosevelt Road.

“We passed video gaming in 2009,” wrote Berwyn Alderman Marge Paul March 23 on a Berwyn Facebook page. “I regret my vote in favor of it.”

In 2015, the Illinois Gaming Board revealed that one Berwyn operator, Vince Dublino, was illegally licensed by the state even though he had admitted under oath in court in 2002 that he previously ran a ring of illegal poker machines on behalf of a mob-connected partner.

Video gambling is currently prohibited in Forest Park under a catchall ordinance that prohibits gambling of any kind. Shortly after video gambling went live in Illinois, the mayor hosted a town hall where bar owners begged for the new revenue. But residents voted overwhelmingly against it twice in 2013, once in a paper survey sent with water bills and once in a nonbinding referendum.

Former Village Commissioner and bar manager Mark Hosty was discovered to be lying on his video gaming application with the Illinois Gaming Board when he said his bar had no connection to anyone in village government. He was voted out of office in April 2015.

Already business owners and residents who oppose it are getting ready for a fight. Signs against video gambling are popping up in windows along the business district on Madison Street.

Connie Brown, owner of Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor said she sympathized with her bar-owning friends who felt they couldn’t compete with bars in neighboring towns. But she thought video gaming would “change the vibe we’ve worked so hard to create.”

“What we need here is business development and marketing,” Brown added. “It’s not the easy solution — it is a long-term investment. But I feel it is the right solution.” VFP