Category: Commentary

My Trust in Maywood’s Politicians is Broken and Only They Can Fix This — By Actually Getting Stuff Done

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ratliffWednesday, February 15, 2017 || By Rev. Dr. Regi Ratliff || OPINION || @maywoodnews

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-14-20-pmhere is a story about a snake who was having trouble crossing a bridge. He notices a man walking past and says, “Sir, I am having trouble crossing to the other side of the bridge. If you would be so kind to pick me up and walk me across this bridge, I would greatly appreciate it.”

Nervous at this request, the man looked down at the snake and responded, “I cannot pick you up, because you might bite me.”

The snake responded, “Sir, I am only trying to get to the other side of the bridge and nothing more.”

Although still skeptical, the man carefully picked up the snake and walked it across the bridge. Just as he was setting the snake down onto the ground, that dirty rascal bit him on the hand.

“Ouch!!” Squealed the man, “You bit me. You broke your promise,” to which the snake responded, “I am a snake, and biting is what we do!”

The moral of this story is quite simple. Never trust anything (or anyone) with a reputation for biting people.

There are times when we have trusted people and it has cost us dearly. We shouldn’t trust people who need us to co-sign so they can purchase a car, when they have a history of repossessions on their credit report. 

We should be cautious about trusting a person who says, “I love you,” but has a history of abuse. Love doesn’t hurt. Likewise, we shouldn’t trust a person who says he will call you right back, but never does. As a matter of fact, we shouldn’t trust a person who gossips to us about another person, because he is likely gossiping to someone about us.

There is a lack of trust toward black businesses in the black community. Why? Because of poor customer service, poor food quality or they overcharge?

Interesting, because I have the same experiences when I frequent stores that are owned by other ethnicities as well. Poor food quality, poor customer service and prices that are higher than black-owned businesses.

As a matter of fact, some of these other ethnic stores restrict you to a minimum $5 credit/debit card payment. That is a store rule and not a law. I don’t see many black-owned stores restricting patrons to this frivolous rule. If you can’t afford the transaction costs, go with a cheaper vendor. I trust black-owned businesses and will continue to support them.

Finally, we shouldn’t trust public officials who make promises they can’t keep, because they think you are dumb enough to believe their broken promises, play on words and “alternative facts.”

Have you ever noticed during an event when a politician reaches for that adorable little baby so he can kiss him in front of the camera? What is a child’s typical reaction? They are crying and screaming, because they don’t know that person and they are naturally afraid of them. The screaming and crying is their defense mechanism kicking in with a big message that they don’t trust you!

In my hometown of Maywood, that beautiful Village of Eternal Light, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard candidates from various political parties proclaim they will improve the economic conditions in the Village of Maywood.

I guess when you consider this community no longer has a grocery store, combined with the closing of this state’s largest black-owned bank, our economy can’t go anywhere but up!

I really want to trust the park district candidates who are running for seats. There are promises to improve the Maywood Park District. However, I struggle believing these promises when the recreation building on the corner of 9th and Madison Avenue has been under construction for over 20 years. I simply cannot stand, nor do I trust, the rhetoric because there has been zero substance.

Until real efforts are made to build the economic structure in Maywood, I will continue to lack trust in the political leadership.

When steps are actually made to attract new businesses with real incentives; partner with financial institutions such as Citibank, who has a tremendous first-time homebuyers program called, the “Home Run” program; support the quality of life (education, recreation, arts and culture); and improve our infrastructure, then not only will my trust in my hometown not be restored, but the trust of so many others who are disappointed in these pretend promises we hear every four years will not be restored. 

As a consultant and educator who has been blessed to contribute to the village by creating and leading Eternal Light Community Services since 1997, I believe that trust starts from within.

For me, that means you must be able to talk to talk the talk and walk the walk. If you aren’t contributing in any capacity that will improve our community, you shouldn’t be talking.

The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.

The perception of intentions is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually serving rather than self-serving motives.

If Maywood is going to really move in the right direction, we must first trust that God will bring the right leaders to us, place them in the right positions for us and trust them to move our community in the right direction for the right reasons. VFP

Reverend Dr. Regi Ratliff is the founder and executive director of Eternal Light Community Services. Eternal Light provides the following programs: public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18. Contact him at 708-940-2160.

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.

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Opinion: An Open Letter to Congressman Peter Roskam

Peter Roskam .jpgSaturday, February 11, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews

Dear Peter,

My name is Michael Romain and I am the journalist who was summarily told to leave a gathering of the Oak Park-River Forest Republican Organization, held at Good Earth Greenhouse in River Forest on Feb. 10.

I had RSVP’d hours prior to the event and was allowed entry when I showed up, roughly 30 minutes before you arrived, so I was at least able to glimpse some of the people you might consider your base.

They were all white and mostly middle-aged and older. I was ostensibly out of place — one of two African Americans in attendance, from what I could tell. The photographer who accompanied me, a Hispanic whose parents migrated from Mexico to the US seeking a better life — who would be considered a threat by the leader of your party — rounded out this minority.

But over the years, I have taught myself to recognize human beings when I see them. So, while I noticed this apparent racial incongruity and even felt some of the quizzical stares my presence attracted, I did not feel unwelcome. I spent a good part of my childhood and adult years in River Forest. I’ve fallen in love with this place. I was home and these people, for all intents and purposes, are my neighbors.

And they treated me splendidly. One of the first people to greet me at the door, as the event’s organizers checked for my name on the guest list, was the president of the local elementary school board — a man I respect and admire.

Before I even knew his political affiliation — and, quite honestly, I won’t simply presume to know that much now just because I saw him at a Republican event — I knew his love for Oak Park and his passion for education. We’ve met many times for coffee. And at Good Earth, I had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful wife, who flattered me when she said she actually reads what I write (for better or worse).

I was introduced to the only Republican on the Cook County Board of Review Commissioners, a man who has the utmost respect for you, Peter, and who told me so. I did not doubt his sincerity. And I did not doubt his decency. He invited me to some of his tax appeal seminars he hosts and, despite his proud fiscal conservatism, a philosophy that presents all kinds of problems for me, I may likely attend one or two.

After getting kicked out, I encountered a Republican radiologist who I’d interviewed over the phone when he ran for Congress last year in the heavily Democratic district where I live. He lost, but I wish he’d have fared a bit better because I agreed with the central theme of his campaign: congressional races need more two-party competition and would-be congresspeople should be forced to confront, and compromise with, a range of opinions, life experiences and political philosophies. That too many aren’t forced to do so has produced the likes of you, Peter, who apparently run away from forging consensus when push comes to shove.

Despite being mostly white, middle- to upper-class and Republican, the humanity inside of Good Earth was textured, diverse, complicated and authentic. It merited your attention, regardless of my suspensions that it was more than their innate humanity that brought you here to this affair.

But the humanity outside of the room merited your attention, too; perhaps even more so, since these people may be most affected by your decisions. These people holding signs and chanting outside of Good Earth are also decent and complicated and authentic human beings.

They are not, as you may be wont to think, paid agitators. They are doctors, retirees, stay-at-home moms. They are Democrats, but they are also Republicans. Some of them are more organized than others. Some live in your district. They are not astroturf dissenters.

They are people whose metaphorical lawns, their sense of ownership and agency, have been trampled on by the likes of you. They are people who feel that you aren’t listening (really listening) to them and that if you are listening, you simply don’t care what they have to say or how they feel or whether they live or die.

Many of them, Peter, are angry because of the aloofness and ignorance in which people in your positions of power — on both sides of the aisle — govern. For too long, this country has been held hostage by businessmen and politicians who have no skin in the games they play with other people’s lives.

Peter, your campaigns have been enthusiastically endorsed by the Tea Party, the closest analog of the current state of national outrage sweeping the country. The Tea Party, with its embedded racism, nationalism and xenophobia, paved the way for Donald Trump. It was the kind of protest movement that you’d probably sooner run toward than away from.

The Tea Party was a movement that was started by people who were legitimately angry and outraged, but whose message was exploited by wealthy propagandists looking to ride this wave of outrage into power and, ultimately, to the goal of lower taxes and fewer obstacles to even more wealth. The little people in this movement got what in return? Email scams?

Nearly a decade ago, instead of seizing the opportunity to actually empathize and learn from their plight, Democrats largely ignored those Tea Party protesters and Republicans used and abused them. Peter, you got several more terms out of the deal. Now, when the protesters are not of your kind, you shut them out, but not so much that it hurts your image as someone who, at least in front of a reporter’s camera, supports free speech and the right to dissent.

“The way that we’re interacting with opponents today, the ability of people to come out and express their views, we celebrate that. People can come out and let their views be heard. We’re free to meet now. We’re free to gather freely and have a discussion with one another,” you said to a crowd inside of the Palatine Township Republican Organization’s offices as the dissenters (those who might prove helpful to the discussion) were locked outside.

That detachment has brought this country to the breaking point and eventually, Peter, there will be no leaving out of the back door. You and the likes of you will be forced to confront the world you have made; instead of always running away, like chastised children.

Uninformed, your staffers consider the people who have started to protest outside of your appearances agitators, as if being legitimately terrified for their lives is not enough to bring even middle-class white professionals, your kind of people Peter, to action.

You, Peter, have turned down multiple requests from legitimate and well-respected civic groups to host town halls. You have claimed that you won’t hold public meetings of more than 25 people; even though there were definitely more than 25 people inside of Good Earth and you definitely appeared to address more than 25 people in Palatine. All of this begs the question: Is the matter really the kind of people, rather than how many people, you’re willing to meet with?

If you had stopped to listen to any of those people outside of Good Earth, for instance, you’d have realized that they were are not political radicals. One woman said she even entertained voting for John McCain in 2008, that is before he selected Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

Another woman, a doctor still wearing her white robe (who, unlike you, cannot simply gerrymander and cherrypick audiences in order to avoid facing the consequences if she violates her oath and actually does harm), this doctor simply wanted to appeal to your ego. She told me that her strategy was to deliberately avoid antagonizing you. She said that you can be a “hero” if you saved the Affordable Care Act.

Peter, this is the type of person your extreme sensitivity, your ideological zealotry and your emotional fragility has driven to protest. That you perceive these people as ‘the opposition’ as opposed to the people you represent is a sign of your own radicalism, not theirs.

If you, and your fellow party members, continue to treat them as dangerous radicals, you will turn them into the radicals you now, errantly, imagine them to be. And when that reality comes, you will not be able to escape it. VFP

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Opinion: An Aldi on the Brink of Closing, A Village on Edge

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ratliffFriday, December 16, 2016 || Rev. Dr. Regi Ratliff || OPINION || @maywoodnews

By now, most of you are aware that the Aldi grocery store in Maywood will close its doors for good. The thought that my hometown will become a food dessert is painful. It is perplexing to believe that a western suburb of Chicago will not have a grocery store.

Aldi’s reason for deciding to no longer conduct business in the Village of Maywood is really irrelevant. Rumors of lower than expected sales is a smokescreen. The rationale that other Aldi stores exists in Broadview, Bellwood and Melrose Park is also a smokescreen. Those stores have existed for a long time.

Anything related to tax incentives as another reason is senseless, considering they’ve received tax incentives from the beginning of their existence in Maywood and will do so until the end of this year, according to Maywood Assistant Village Manager David Myers.

I cannot resist the thought of gentrification taking place in the village. This typically happens when a community is reduced to little or no resources, opening an opportunity for a different group to move in and rebuild a community with very little investments needed.

Whatever the true reason for Aldi’s closure, the actions set forth state they are no longer interested in conducting business in the community. The bottom line is that the public will never know the true reason for Aldi’s departure.

It is my belief that the public is never made aware of the true underlying factors that cause a business establishment to move out of a communities like Maywood. What I do know is that a community of Maywood’s size should not operate without a grocery store. Our seniors deserve an opportunity to frequent their own grocery store and parents deserve the right to purchase healthy food for their children at their neighborhood grocery store.

In economic terms, the closure of Aldi translates into money departing the village going to neighboring grocery stores in Forest Park, Melrose Park, Westchester, Bellwood, Oak Park/River Forest and Broadview.

If you want to place blame on why the Maywood continues to face one economic challenge after another, there is plenty to go around.

Let’s make one thing clear, current Mayor Edwenna Perkins did not cause this debacle. This runaway train was inherited by her office. One could review as far back as the early 1990’s, when companies such as Canada Dry, Jewel’s, The American Can Company, TP Foods, A & P and White Way Foods all closed but were never replaced. Mayor Perkins was not the mayor during this time.

Furthermore, Mayor Perkins was not in office when Maywood Proviso Bank and First Federal Bank closed their doors. Was Mayor Perkins in office when Flash Car Wash, Horseman’s Club, the Volkswagen car dealership and the Maywood Branch Library on 17th Avenue all closed their doors? No, she wasn’t, so let us keep things in perspective. If you want to point the finger, look at the administrations dating back to the early 1990’s.

I am not the greatest fan of Mayor Perkins. She is a wonderful woman and is passionate about Maywood; however, it is no secret that she has not received the support nor respect she deserves to effectively lead her town as mayor.

Let us be fair in our judgment of leadership. Every single elected board member, in addition to Village Manager William Norfleet, is culpable. With the exception of Trustee Rogers and Norfleet, I have been associated with every single board member for no fewer than 20 years.

Trustee Brandon was one of my first public speaking students at Canaan AME Church when he was a very young man. I’ve seen Trustee Toni Doris at most of my family’s barbeques and Trustee Ron Rivers was instrumental in the success of my non- profit youth organization, Eternal Light Community Service. After 19 years, we are still bringing quality programs to our youth in the village.

My relationships goes across the board on a personal level and I love them all unconditionally, but their inability to move Maywood forward is a cause for concern. Instead of placing the blame solely on this administration, intelligent citizens need to accept the fact that Maywood has been in an economic depression for greater than two decades.

This pending closure is a much deeper economic issue. The arguments that have taken place amongst board members over the years are boring. I am reminded of outside firms, who made these glamorous presentations of how their 20-year economic development plan was going to increase business in the village exponentially.

Every generation of politicians who claimed their seat at the Village Hall made a promise to turn Maywood around, yet there is nothing to show for it. Whether or not Aldi decides to continue conducting business in Maywood is not the real issue.

Our elected officials must realize that the community is on edge. We must recognize the best approach is to not wait until an establishment decides to close its doors before responding. The best approach is to take a proactive approach and renew incentives no later than within three years of an expiration date.

It is my prayer that Maywood will avoid becoming a food desert and leadership will use this experience to work together and build a stronger village. VFP

Reverend Dr. Regi Ratliff is the founder and executive director of Eternal Light Community Services. Eternal Light provides the following programs:public speaking, financial literacy, health and wellness, and entrepreneurship classes to youth, ages 5-18.

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