Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Des Plaines police bring incident to positive ending

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At approximately 3 PM, Tuesday, May 31, 2011, the  Des Plaines Police Department responded to the vicinity of Plainfield Drive and Everett for a person displaying a gun and threatening kids in the area.  Responding officers called for a lockdown at Plainfield School and Maine West High School until the issue could be resolved.

It was determined that a person who resides in the mobile home park, 815 E. Oakton Street, parked his car in the vicinity of Plainfield and Everett.  He became involved in a dispute with some high school aged children near the corner and some words were exchanged.  The person went to his trailer and came back outside displaying a handgun - that was ultimately determined to be a BB-gun.  

Within several minutes of responding to the area, officers were able to determine which trailer the offender lived in and he gave himself up without incident.  Charges are pending and the lockdown was lifted within 20-30 minutes of its original implementation.  No one was injured in the incident and the offender did not come on to Plainfield or Maine West High School property.

Chief Jim Prandini

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I don't care if it's raining or not, It's Memorial Day and I will barbecue, Damn it!

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Beef and Corn on a Charcoal BBQ grillImage via Wikipedia
Comcast Cable TV was at least burping out sounds, unlike the times when yu finally sit down to enjoy a movie and the Internet goes out. But it was the automatic emergency system graying out the screen with the screeching sound and then a buzz and then what sounded like a computer voice warning about tornadoes in the far southwest parts of Will County.

The rain was slapping sheets of rain on the sidewalk and streets in front of my home and the sky was getting darker. But the smoke was steaming off the barbecue grill I had just lit under the chicken, burgers and salmon steaks I just defrosted from the "ice box." Okay, I call it the "ice box" and my 10 year old constantly reminds me of my age.

"Dad, that's what they called the refrigerator in the olden days?"

Yes, I replied. And in the olden days we didn't surrender to the weather or let Mother Nature get in the way of enjoying a Memorial Day weekend barbecue. Rain, sleet or snow, the barbecue must glow!

This has been the worst Memorial Day of any I can remember. Yes, we have had rain on this holiday remembrance of the veterans who have served our country, but there was always a day of hot sun tucked in between the thunderstorms. None was as bad as this weekend, one not even predicted by the often inaccurate weather forecasters. (I'd call them weathermen but 1 - it reminds me of the 1960's terrorists or 2 - most of the so-called weathermen are actually weather women, so much the better for that. Where's Michelle Leigh when you need her?)

So as the wind howled and the trees swung from side to side. As the puffs of gray smoke-like clouds sailed low above the swaying tree tops. As the lightning flashed and then seconds later the thunder boomed. And as the rain spit down soaking my head and shoulders, I pulled out the brand new spatula and kept wiping it clean as I turned the chicken on the low grill; then flipped the steak on the middle grill and then shuffled the middle grill. It was Memorial Day, damn it and I was going to enjoy my barbecue!

The crows were shaking under the trees hiding from the piercing rain drop missiles. But I refused to budge. It was the first real holiday of the impending summer and I wans't about to change my annual backyard hejira. (Look it up. It may be an Arab Muslim word, but it has meaning pal.)

The barbecue was ready to be grilled and I wasn't going to let it down. Over the past five weeks, all I have been doing was paying homage to the barbecue grill. Cleaning it off. Replacing the old grills with new ones. Swapping the gas tanks at Lowes -- I always have an extra one for that inevitable moment when the tank runs out of gas and the flame fades away into that barbecue heaven in the sky. Two minutes and we're back in the business with the new tank.

It was supposed to be a picnic. Where the hell was the sun? But I didn't care as I shivered in the arctic late May wind. It's going to be June in a few days. Don't you have any respect for Father's Day?

Puddles formed in the yard as the fast rain began to slowly flood. Thankfully, Orland Park installed new sewer and rain pipes in the street to help prevent another deluge that destroyed the home. It won't happen again I vowed with my aluminum pincers waving high and mightily above my dripping dreadlocks of short black and graying hairs.

We're not going on a vacation to the Caribbean this summer as we always do because airline tickets have risen so much -- and it's Ca-rib-bean not Care-a-be-yan. Gte it straight when you announce the third Johnny Depp pirate film. I'm just going to stand in my backyard and enjoy an hour of grilling and then a few minutes to devour the charred food.

-- Ray Hanania
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Hundreds of protesters target legislatures supporting cuts in public employee pensions

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The State of Illinois is in a mess. One of the causes is the enormous pension responsibilities placed on the state. I know that many public employees rely on those pensions for retirement because they don't qualify for social security. IT was a trade off. But I don't think anyone ever expected those pensions to rise to astronomical rates.

Here's a great analysis of the state's pension problems from the Chicago Civic Federation, which opposes much of the proposed budget cuts by Gov. Pat Quinn, but supports the proposal to pay for pensions from the state's operating budget.

About 300 protesters lined the street on 151st and 90th Avenue in Orland Park outside of the offices of Illinois Legislator Rep. Kevin McCarthy. They brought out a huge crowd, although some believe it's just a partisan political effort to embarrass the Democrats while ignoring that Republicans have been equally responsible for causing our statewide pension mess.

Should a teacher, for example, who retires make more than $100,000 a year in pension benefits? That's a little excessive, but typical of the problem the state pension faces.

Illinois’ overall liability is $85.6 billion to five pension programs which serve approximately 174,600 retirees:

- The State Employee Retirement System: $20,107.6 million
- Downstate Teachers Retirement Systems: $45, 969.4 million
- State Universities Retirement System: $17,998.9 million
- Judges Retirement System: $1,296.2 million
- General Assembly Retirement System: $197.1 million

When combined with retiree health care obligations, Illinois will have more than $140 billion in unfunded obligations by the end of Fiscal Year 2011. Without reform, the state can only pay 38.3 percent of what is expected to owe future retirees. 7% of Illinois population benefits from pensions that are supported by 100% of taxpayers.

We need to do something besides imposing more taxes on the taxpayers and filling the pension hole that way.

-- Ray Hanania

Southtown political writer Kristen McQueary moves on to Chicago News Cooperative

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There wasn't much fanfare in the apparent departure of Kristen McQueary from the Southtown Star. The 12 year veteran columnist and political reporter left the Southtown Star to take a position at the Chicago News Cooperative, the online news outlet that has a working relationship with the New York Times weekend edition -- some of their online material appears in the regional edition of the New York Times on the weekends. She's also doing some work for WBEZ 91.5 FM Public Radio.

The Chicago News Cooperative describes itself as "The Chicago News Cooperative produces public-interest journalism focused on Chicago, its politics and policy, culture and the arts, and the diverse communities of the metropolitan area. We publish in The New York Times on Friday and Sunday, the first outside news organization to produce entire pages for the Times. We also work in partnership with WTTW Channel 11, Chicago’s public television station." 

Her first story for the CNC was April 29, 2011 on the University of Illinois. She's listed on her LinkedIn profile as being the Statehouse reporter at the Chicago News Cooperative/New York Times, WBEZ/Chicago Public Radio.

McQueary is a past president of the Chicago Headline Club (the largest chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and she has won two Lisagor Awards for her writing (2000 and 2007).

She still has some columns in the SouthtownStar but no online articles about her transition. Her LinkedIn profile describes her employment at the SouthtownStar as "past."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


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-- Non-Stop Radio Control Action Planned for Chicago RCX --
CHICAGO (May 18, 2011) – Radio Control Expo (RCX), the nation’s biggest and best radio control show, is thrilled to announce attractions to be featured at RCX Chicago on Saturday, August 6, 2011. Taking place at the Odeum Expo Center, a full day of scheduled events will include professional radio control competitions, dazzling stunt demonstrations and plenty of hands-on opportunities for attendees to test their own skills on a variety of new radio control vehicles. With high adrenaline racing, “try me” and “fly me” hands-on interactive exhibits and new product demonstrations, RCX is sure to be a weekend full of non-stop exhilaration and enjoyment.
"RCX Chicago will be action-packed with activities for both radio control enthusiasts and newcomers to participate in," said Louis DeFrancesco, RCX CEO. "We're going to have nitro and electric car races, drifting competitions, airplane and helicopter stunts, rock crawling, micro cars for fans to play with and more — it's really going to be a blast and we just can't wait to bring all this fun to the Chicago Metro area."
Radio Control Expo organizers have released the following list of confirmed attractions for 2011 RCX Chicago:
  • Off-Road Dirt Track - This is the only place where you can see professional racers compete head to head and watch demos and stunts showcasing the hottest new nitro and electric cars. It all goes down at this awesome 80×60 ft. off-road dirt track.
  • Extreme Outdoor Fly Arena - See large nitro and electric helicopters and planes do insane stunts, demos and so much more in this outdoor extreme flyzone.
  • Horizon Off-Road "Try Me" Track - Step up and test your skills with all the hottest Losi and Electrix RC vehicles on this 30×50 ft. off-road dirt track. 
  • Horizon "Fly Me" Arena - Get an up-close and personal look at all the latest from the Blade, Force and E-flite lines of planes and helis.
  • Traxxas Off-Road "Try Me" Track - Attendees can test-drive the new Traxxas Monster Jam models—Grave Digger, Monster Mutt, Maximum Destruction and Grinder! Everyone is welcome to take a spin on this 25×40 ft. dirt track.
  • Indoor Fly Arena - Witness the latest indoor electric planes and helis do sick aerial tricks in this indoor fly zone! 
  • Rock Crawling Mountain - Watch the pros climb a 30×40 ft. mountain in this amazing competition and scale rock-crawling.
  • Kyosho Dnano Track - Don’t miss some of the smallest RC cars on Earth compete head-to-head on this 1/43-scale on-road track. 
  • RC Tractor Pull - This is your chance to see nitro tractors pulling sleds weighing 400+ lb. across the dirt! 
  • RC Drag Racing - Head to this 280×20 ft. outdoor track to see pro dragsters and their nitro dragsters reach speeds in excess of 80mph. You have to see it to believe it!
  • Mini RC Racing and "Try Me" Track - Watch the area’s most advanced micro RC drivers compete head-to-head on this giant RCP Track. You can also step up to the “try me” track to hone your mini RC driving skills! 
  • Asphalt Assault - Watch top-notch drivers race on this outdoor 1/10th scale racetrack. You’ll be able to burn up the asphalt yourself on the “try me” track between races!
Tickets will be available for $20 at the gate or $15 with advance purchase online. Children under age 12 will be admitted free with an adult ticket purchase. Discount $5 off coupons will be available at participating local radio control retail locations. Discount ticket locations will be announced later this summer. RCX has teamed up with EventWerks, a full service event management company, to bring the best and the biggest RCX to Chicago and future venues. Whether it’s airplanes, boats, cars, trucks, motorcycles or helicopters, RCX is the number one destination for all radio control hobbyists. For more information on Radio Control Expo and its upcoming RCX On The Road events, visit www.RCX.com.
About Radio Control Expo
The Radio Control Expo (RCX) is the country’s largest consumer event for radio control and diecast enthusiasts. Featuring the latest and greatest in radio control technology, the RCX showcases model airplanes, boats, cars, trucks and helicopters. Coming to Chicago’s Odeum Expo Center on August 6, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission tickets can be purchased at the gate for $20 or in advance online for $15. Children under the age of 12 are free of admission with adult ticket purchase. $5 discount coupons will be available at participating locations. For more information or to learn more about other RCX On The Road shows in Long Beach, California or Orlando, Florida, visit the RCX official web site at www.RCX.com.

For media information, please contact Lauren Williams, DRIVEN Public Relations, 951-719-1040 or lauren@drivenpublicrelations.com.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mourning death of Tinley Park Police Chief Michale J. O'Connell

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Tinley Park Police Chief Michael O'Connell was all heart. He was someone who really cared about people not just in his community of Tinley Park but in the surrounding community. He was a class act, and there are only a few others like him, including Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy.

O'Connell, 60, died on Wednesday morning reportedly as the result of complications from heart surgery.

His death is a monumental tragedy for Tinley Park, the suburban region and for police as a profession.

I knew him well. The man was genuine, and always so concerned. He played by the book but he also had so much common sense.

I can relate to his experience, too. I had heart surgery last December. I remember laying down on the very narrow marble slab in the operating room at Christ Hospital as the surgeons spoke to me as they put me under with anesthesia. My mind was racing, wondering if I was going to "wake up." I don't know exactly what happened to Chief O'Connell during his surgery at Ingalls Hospital, but I can imagine the concern he would have had about that very same experience. They put you under. They begin the heart surgery. And with an operation on your heart, you can never know what might happen.

I woke up. The nearly seven hours of surgery felt like minutes to me. No dreams. All black. Almost instantaneous but a lifetime to my family who waited outside the operating room and lived every minute of the surgery with apprehension.

O'Connell's death is a major tragedy. Our condolences go out to his family and to the Village of Tinley Park and to Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, who is one of the region's best mayors.

O'Connell had been on leave for nearly one month due to undisclosed health issues. He sent me an email in December when he heard I had heart surgery myself. Always thinking about other people.

O'Connell began his career as police officer in Riverdale in 1972 and later became the police chief there. He joined the Tinley Park Police Department in 1995.


A visitation is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 16600 S. Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, May 16, at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church, 17500 84th Ave., Tinley Park. The family has requested privacy during their time of grieving. In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105. To donate by telephone, call 1-800-805-5856. Chief O’Connell is survived by his wife, Barb, his daughter, Colleen; son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Liz; daughter, Michelle (Anichini), and son-in-law, Paul; and four grandchildren.

Friday, May 6, 2011

That damn squirrel

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If it isn't some love birds or wrens trying to turn my barbecue grill in to a nest, it's the squirrel and his pals in the constant battle to feed on the bird feed.

I've done everything, from wire-meshing the feeders to purchasing those special bird feeders where the outside cage sinks down to close the feeder openings when a squirrel climbs atop of it. But the squirrel is no idiot. They carefully gnaw through the plastic to open a hole. The eat the plastic straps to drop the feeder to the ground and then rip it to pieces. They even figured out how to lift the top (where you fill the feeder with bird seed) and then dislodge the springs that hold the top and the cage up around the feeder.

And they feast. That plastic feeder was about $12 from Lowes, Menards, Home Depot. They're all the same. But now I bought the Cadillac of feeders with metal holders and metal top and metal cage that puts distance between the inner plastic feeder and the squirrel's mischievous snout. It cost $29 bucks. Imagine, For a bird feeders.

The bird houses are worthless. They look cute but quickly are assaulted by the squirrels like Navy Seals on Osama Bin Laden's Pakistani hideout.

And they don't care that I'm out there when they do it. They eat and stare, making me walk up to them to scare them away. But they're not scared.

Who are these people who design this crap that they sell at Lowes, Menards and Home Depot? None of the designers have any idea how to design the perfect squirrel proof feeder. I think if you are going to design something, you need to have experience with the problem first. But like a lot of computer programmers who design programs that satisfy their ideas on what the public wants -- but that the public doesn't want -- these worthless gadgets are ineffective.

Too bad the manufacturers sell this crap and we consumers waste our precious dollars. I mean, we can't afford to waste money can we these days? We have to pay $90 to fill the gas tank.

-- Ray Hanania