2017 Year In Review

Sunday, December 31, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

If 2016 was a year of loss in Proviso Township and elsewhere, 2017 was a year of grinding (and in many cases incomplete) recovery in the township and beyond. It was also a time of transition — in politics and economics.

The year of Trump

The protests started in January, before Donald Trump was even elected. No doubt, scores of Proviso Township residents have since joined the millions who have taken to the streets in any number of protests: for women, for science, for immigrants, for keeping healthcare, etc.

Once an activity reserved, at least in the nation’s consciousness, for Black Lives Matter and the Tea Party, protest was now becoming the province of the comfortable — the middle-class and the middle-aged.

On a local level, Trump’s coming to power was perhaps even more visceral than his predecessor’s. It was raw and immediate.

State lawmakers said that they fielded calls from area students, most of them immigrants themselves or members of immigrant families, who were shocked and aggrieved and terrified that their lives would be upended.

Local school district officials braced for potential visitations from federal immigration authorities, with District 209 confronting a unique, rather Trumpian crisis of its own when a PMSA teacher posted a controversial statement to Facebook admonishing present and former students to go back to where they came from.

Local village boards, shook by a vindictive administration that threatened to withhold federal funding, grappled with the passage of ordinances that might provide some real protections to immigrants from the federal onslaught before ultimately voting on resolutions or affirmations of values.

But with the threat came resolve. Local pro-immigrant organizations like PASO West Suburban Action worked with local lawmakers like state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) to pass the Trust Act, the nation’s most comprehensive legislation designed to protect immigrants from intrusive, potentially unconstitutional federal immigration efforts.

And for the first time in a long time, the District 209 school board featured Hispanic representation in board members Samuel Valtierrez and Claudia Medina, who were able to leverage their voices and unique perspectives on behalf of the district’s immigrant and Hispanic population.

Immigration wasn’t the only area where the president’s presence has been viscerally felt. His administration’s apparent gutting of federal agencies, particularly the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, have caused confusion at the local level.

In Maywood, local HUD officials complained about withheld funds and the unresponsiveness of regional HUD officials to their plight (housing vouchers for hundreds of low-income people and potential income for landlords has been held up and could possibly do damage to the local housing market).

In other news, the president’s proposed budget would essentially eliminate Community Development Block Grant funds, which Bellwood, Broadview, Maywood and Melrose Park use for street repairs in low-income census tracts.

There is also the federal cap on state and local tax deductions that just became law after the GOP passed its massive tax bill. The frustration that this cap has brought middle-class homeowners across the country, Proviso Township included, is already apparent.

The year in local politics 

This year was a continuance of 2016 when it comes to grassroots political involvement, with the D209 school board getting a reform-oriented supermajority in April when the Proviso Together slate added Amanda Grant, Valtierrez, Arbdella “Della” Patterson and Rodney Alexander to its governing coalition.

Members Medina and Ned Wagner, who had won seats in 2016 while campaigning with longtime incumbent Theresa Kelly, who is now the only sitting board member who has served at least one full term.

In Bellwood, the April elections yielded new members — Dorothy C. Smith, Maria D. Perez and Deborah Giles — to that town’s problematic school and library boards. In the months following the April elections, those two governing bodies would eventually establish new majorities that would help stabilize taxing districts that had, in the last several years, been rocked by corruption, chaos and incompetence.

Historic mayors: The April elections also yielded historic firsts for Bellwood and Broadview, with Katrina Thompson becoming Broadview’s first African American female mayor (and its first woman mayor regardless of race) and Andre Harvey becoming Bellwood’s first African American mayor.

The year in economics 

Seaway fails: The writing was already on the wall in 2016, so when Seaway Bank and Trust, once the state’s largest minority-owned bank, closed down in January, no one was really shocked. The institution, which had branches in Maywood and Broadview, has since been taken over by a credit union. And Maywood, which once parked most of its liquidity at the institution, gradually began taking its money elsewhere.

Retail Doom N’ Gloom: This year was also transformational in the area of brick-and-mortar retail for area villages, with Maywood struggling to find a full-service grocery store to replace Aldi, which closed last December.

The damage wasn’t restricted to Maywood. Meijer in Melrose Park and Ultra Foods in Forest Park both closed within months of each other this year. The closures were in line with what industry experts took to calling the ‘retail apocalypse’ — a term that attempts to define a trend of brick-and-mortar retail closures that started in 2016 and accelerated this year.

Notable deaths

Eugene Cernan, the famous three-time space traveler and 11th person to walk on the moon, was born in Chicago on March 14, 1934. He was raised in Bellwood, where he attended McKinley Elementary School before graduating from Proviso East. Cernan died on Jan. 16.

Lester Tenney, the last man from Company B and the last Maywood-born member of the 192nd Tank Batallion, was born on July 1, 1929. He died on Feb. 24.

Mary Patton, a longtime Maywood resident and master seamstress, was born on May 21, 1917, in Lexington, Mississippi. She died on Sept. 3, just several months after celebration her 100th birthday.

Rev. Tyrone Crider, a prominent South Side pastor and social justice activist who fought alongside some of Chicago’s most notable cultural icons — from Harold Washington to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. — born January 6, 1959 in Maywood. He died from cancer on May 26 at a hospital in Chicago. He was 58.

Simeon Wright, who witnessed the abduction of his cousin Emmett Till in 1955 before moving North and settling in the Chicago area (he lived in Bellwood for many years), died on Sept. 4. He was 74.

J.W. Scott, a decorated Korean War veteran who went from driving cabs part-time while working at Campbell Soup Company to founding People Cab Co., based in Bellwood, died on Dec. 15. He was 86.

Mary Love, one of the few African American female professional volleyball players, died on Dec. 23. She was 96. Love taught her sister, Verneda Thomas, how to play the game. Thomas would go on to become the only African American on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team roster at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The year’s 10 highest-trafficked stories 

  1. Maywood Housing Authority To Open Waiting List For Housing Vouchers In May|128,012 views
  2. Woman Charged In Fatal Feb. 14 Crash That Killed Siblings | 22,189 views
  3. Victim Of Tuesday’s Drive-By In Maywood Dies, Identified As Ryan Jones | 20,972
  4. Bellwood Man Killed In Early Morning Shooting In Maywood | 18,923
  5. Lyft Driver Killed In Maywood | 18,482
  6. Ex-Melrose Park Cop Pleads Guilty To Selling Stolen Drugs | 14,479
  7. Son Of Maywood Park District Board President Fatally Shot | 13,526
  8. Maywood Police Arrest Three Teens Suspected In Lyft Driver’s Murder | 11,042
  9. The Tragedy And Triumphs Of Kerolos Sam | 10,742
  10. $200K Bond Set For Maywood Woman Charged With Fatal Hit-And-Run | 10,398

For more local news, ‘Like’ our Facebook page 


One thought on “2017 Year In Review”

  1. Happy New Year in 2018! Continue to achieve major things for “The Village Free Press.” This amazing local newspaper is accommodating the “Maywood Herald” newspaper that have been disappearing for a long time in the village of Maywood. I witnessed your dream becoming a reality, and I see the growth of the newspaper. Strive higher, Michael!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.