Monday, April 3, 2017

pekau says he won't take pension benefit

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pekau says he won't take pension benefit

The high profile battle for the office of mayor of Orland Park in southwest suburban Chicago is fueled by the board's decision to give the 23 year incumbent Mayor Dan McLaughlin a massive salary boost and huge pension after only one term in office. The salary and pension spike has outraged many voters and for the first term in many years a challenger, Keith Pekau, appears on the verge of winning

By Ray Hanania

Public anger that Orland Park's mayor  will benefit from a huge pension is fueling the anger and tensions that have turned Orland Park's Mayoral Dan McLaughlin's re-election bid into one of the most contested elections in years.

The issue hits hard because so many people in our society today are facing retirement with either little or no pension to support their retirement, an issue that is especially sensitive to senior citizens who happen to be the largest voting block not just in Illinois but in Orland Park.

McLaughlin has said he did not push for the pay hike and that making him full-time would save the village millions. But his critics including a former mayor and trustee, Ed Schussler, insist that the pay hike plan was always McLaughlin's idea and that the board, which rarely votes against the mayor, just went along.

Tragically for Mayor McLaughlin, had he not accepted the huge pension, he would have been easily re-elected as many voters say they are content with the direction of the village. But finances and taxes and spending are too critical to voters and the mayor's pension spike controversy has turned the election upside-down.

About 100 Residents of Orland Park filled the board meeting room Monday Oct. 17, 2016 to protest increasing Mayor Dan McLaughlin's salary 375 percent from $40,000 to $150,000 a year. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania.

Opponent says he will reject pension if he wins

Keith Pekau, who never ran for office before, said he was as outraged as everyone else when the Orland Park Board approved the pay hike and the pension spike which would raise McLaughlin's pension from $30,000 a year to $110,000 a year. The salary hike increases his salary fro $40,000 to $150,000 a year.


Pekau said that he got in the race not just out of anger
but with the promise that if he is elected
he will not take the pension benefits
and will do everything he can to repeal the salary hike.


But a point that angers many is that the salary and pension spike was only intended to help McLaughlin and only takes effect during the next four years of the term of the next mayor, whom the board said they expected to be McLaughlin.

But the pension spike issue has changed everything.

And Pekau said that he got in the race not just out of anger but with the promise that if he is elected, he will not take the pension benefits and will do everything he can to repeal the salary hike.

"I didn't get into the race until right after the board voted," Pekau said. "I was angry about the salary and about the huge increase the mayor would get in his pension. There are so many voters out there who don't have a pension and it just didn't seem right."

Pekau said that if he is elected on April 4, he will refuse the pension benefits and save the taxpayers millions, whether he serves one term or more than four years.

"I will not take any pension benefits. I will opt out of the pension. That's my commitment to the voters," Pekau said.

I asked Pekau about this when a follower on Facebook asked me what Pekau would do.
"Some argue that I can't opt out of the pension and that I must take it," Pekau said. "But that's not true at all. Full time employees can't opt out of the pension but elected officials can if they have never been in the pension system before."

When you look at all the issues facing both candidates there are positives and negatives, but no single issue stands out more than the issue of the pension.

Voters who support McLaughlin are criticizing the influx of outside funding from the Liberty Principles PAC, a conservative Republican PAC.

But Pekau's supporters point out that McLaughlin is a Democrat who has received similar support from the Democratic Party.

The Republican-Democratic issue is of some importance especially since Orland Park voter overwhelmingly to break from the Illinois trend in the last Presidential Election to support Republican Donald Trump. Trump received 50.4 percent of the vote while Hillary Clinton received on 44.4 percent of the vote.

Click here to read how Democrats and Republicans are battling in the McLaughlin-Pekau race.

orland mayoral race has state's attention

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Orland mayoral race has state's attention

The battle between Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and challenger Keith Pekau has the attention of the entire state apparently creating a wild election contest filled with a lot of unusual issues, supporters and claims

By Ray Hanania

The battle to lead Orland Park, one of the fastest growing suburbs in Chicagoland, has never been as heated and as close as is this contest April 4 between 23-year incumbent Dan McLaughlin and his Republican challenger Keith Pekau.

McLaughlin has had challenges in the past but never as tough and as strong as Pekau is mustering this time around.

The battle is all out war.

Pekau's candidacy is fueled by a move made by McLaughlin last year to boost his salary from $40,000 a year -- which was already high for a part-time mayor -- to more than $150,000, the largest salary increase any incumbent politician has ever given themselves.

Keith Pekau
But more significantly, it's not just about a pay hike and a monthly wage. It's also about the pension McLaughlin will receive as a result of this record pay hike. McLaughlin has no pension with the Village of Orland Park because he was always part-time, and his primary fulltime job has always been with the unions.

Under the pay hike approved last year, McLaughlin will immediately qualify for a pension of more than $100,000 a year if he is re-elected April 4 and begins taking the record $150,000 annual mayoral salary.

In the past, the battles have been about policies. This time it's personal for many voters in Orland Park who are struggling with the still slow economy and changes in healthcare and retirement concerns. The issue of pension abuse has so bruised Illinois residents because this state tops the list of the worst government pension abuses on record.

McLaughlin's pension grab has fueled Pekau's candidacy and clearly has caused McLaughlin and his allies to shudder in some fear of what might happen Tuesday April 4.

That's why so many unusual things have happened. Here is a look at the few of the unusual issues at hand.

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin

Jim Dodge the Republican Democrat

McLaughlin is a hardcore Democrat but one of his supporters is a former Republican Committeeman and ally on the Village Board Jim Dodge. Dodge, who hasn't done much in the Republican Party in a long time sent a letter  hoping that his support will weaken the support Pekau is receiving from Republicans.

The Republican vote is important. Republican Donald Trump won Orland Park in the presidential election with over 50 percent of the vote over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who received only 44.4 percent.

Yet in his letter, despite supporting one of the region's strongest Democratic mayors, Dodge noted how he previously ran as a Republican for Illinois State Comptroller in 2010 and served as Republican Township committeeman.

Of course, Dodge didn't mention in his letter that in his bid, he tried to torpedo one of the most respected Republican office holders in the state, Judy Baar Topinka. Many people viewed Dodge's run for Comptroller not as an effort to win as a Republican but to weaken Topinka, the only Republican to hold a statewide office. She previously served as Illinois Treasurer, ran unsuccessfully for Governor, and then ran for Comptroller in 2010.

Topinka trounced Dodge with nearly 60 percent of the vote and criticized Dodge for entering the race rather than backing a Republican Party incumbent. She believed that Dodge's candidacy was intended to weaken her in the 2010 Republican Primary to make it easier for
a Democrat to defeat her in the November 2010 General Election.

But Topinka won anyway and was re-elected in 2014. Unfortunately Topinka, one of the most beloved Republican leaders in Illinois, died a month later on Dec. 10, 2014.

Reminding Republican voters of how he tanked Topinka probably wouldn't do his support for McLaughlin a lot of good.

Senator Durbin jumps into the fray

How often does a U.S. Senator jump into a local mayoral election. But that's exactly what U.S. Senator Dick Durbin did this past week,

Durbin sent an email to voters in Orland Park that urged them to support McLaughlin, which to me only reinforced the growing perception that Mayor McLaughlin is in real serious trouble.

If you thought Pekau had no chance of beating McLaughlin, Durbin's letter puts the nail in that coffin. Unofficial polling shows Pekau and McLaughlin running neck-and-neck and that is shocking for someone who has been in office 23 years and easily defeated every past challenger.

What's the issue this time?
Well, it's the issue Durbin's letter didn't address, the issue of the $110,000 pay hike and the corresponding pension boost that the mayor will receive.

You see, Durbin is one of those Illinois politicians who could be blamed for the huge pension turmoil that Illinois is experiencing, a pension crisis that has dragged Illinois to the lowest levels of the economic scale. Illinois ranks as the worst state in the nation economically and you can't blame that on Gov. Bruce Rauner. It was that way before he even stepped in the door.

Durbin's email talked about all the good things Orland Park has achieved but avoided any mention of the salary hike and the pension boost.
Durbin wrote:

"In Illinois many municipalities are in financial crisis, and have seen their credit and bond ratings tumble."

Yea, you should know Senator!

Durbin goes on to detail McLaughlin's assets and in and of themselves, they pretty good. Orland is one of the best communities in Chicagoland. That's true. There are some economic issues but the retail base is strong.

Yet, after listing all of McLaughlin's benefits, Durbin just couldn't get himself to acknowledge that his "pal of 20 years" made a huge mistake in ratcheting up his salary from $40,000 to $150,000, and gifting himself a pension of a record $80,000 a year after only a few years of service?

No wonder this country is so screwed up in Washington D.C.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

NEWS: Bridgeview police arrest adult male in sexting solicitation with under-age girl

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NEWS: Bridgeview police arrest adult male in sexting solicitation with under-age girl

The Bridgeview Police Sunday announced that charges have been filed against a 46-year-old male truck driver from Iowa who is accused of soliciting sex with an under-aged girl using cell phone texts.

Michael G. Bronkhorst was arrested at 2:15 PM on Harlem Avenue near 77th Street as he walked to meet a young girl who lives in Bridgeview who he had engaged in a text conversation.

Bronkhorst drove from Iowa to a fast food restaurant on Harlem where he parked his semi-truck and trailer expecting to meet the girl. Police arrested Bronkhorst as he walked to the restaurant for the meeting.

Bridgeview Detectives Robert Tomiczak, Tim Prince and Dan Matuszak were assisted in making the arrest by Oak Forest/ICAC Detective Greg Okon, Oak Forest Detective Casey Gallagher, Lyons/ICAC Detective Dave DeLeshe, and Forest Park/ICAC Detective Jarlath Heveran.

Detectives established surveillance after obtaining permission from the girl’s parents to access her cell phone and to continue the text conversations.

Bridgeview Police Chief Ricardo Mancha said that no harm had come to the young girl, who did not meet the suspect. He said that the girl’s parents notified police after viewing their daughter’s texts.

“The parents did the right thing and monitored their daughter's use of the cell phone and who she was texting. They immediately realized their daughter was being drawn into an inappropriate situation and called the police,” Mancha said.

“This is a common problem and a reminder that parents need to monitor the texting and social media of their under-aged children to protect them from predators."

Police said that the investigation began in late December when the girl was only 12 years old. She is now 13.

The Cook County State’s Attorney reviewed the investigation and approved charges for Indecent Solicitation of a Child (Class 1 felony) and Traveling to Meet a Minor (Class 3 felony).

BRONKHORST was charged accordingly and will be ready for transport to bond court in the morning.

(Photo Mugshot attached courtesy of the Bridgeview Police Department)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Waking up to a new world of a Cubs Pennant

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Waking up to a new world of a Cubs Pennant

I've always loved the Chicago Cubs since I was a little kid. Maybe it started with the name but it grew into admiring the great players that have been on the team, and being in love with one of the greatest baseball parks in America, Wrigley Field. Cheering for the Cubs to win the Pennant has always been fun in a large part because they have always fallen short, 71 years for a Pennant and 108 years since a World Series win.

By Ray Hanania

RayHananiaColumnPodcast_I've always loved the Chicago Cubs, ever since I was a little kid growing up on the South Side of Chicago where most of my neighbors were all diehard White Sox fans. Even Chicago's great mayors, Richard J. and Richard M. Daley were Sox fans.

Still, maybe that love was with the Cubs' name. But it grew into admiration of the many great players that have played for the team, and definitely true love with one of the greatest baseball parks in America, Wrigley Field.

Cheering for the Cubs to win the Pennant has always been fun in a large part because they have always fallen short of making it to a World Series game -- it's been 108 years since their last World Series victory in 1908. The Cubs played three back-to-back World Series in 1906, 1907 and 1908, winning the last two. But that led to a 108 year draught. The Cubs won the Pennant in 1945 but lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

It would be the last World Series they would ever play, until now. The Chicago Cubs were the "underdogs" of baseball.

The "underdog" is a powerful symbol of determination, persistence, stubbornness to succeed. It's something that I have always embraced, in everything, including politics. I'm definitely an "underdog" fan, not just of the symbolism but of the many other related spin-offs including the popular Underdog animated series that began in 1964 and ended in 1973.

Deutsch: Wrigley-Field, Chicago (IL)
Wrigley-Field, Chicago (IL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"There's no need to fear. Underdog is here," the proud and powerful yet "humble and lovable" Shoeshine Boy cartoon doggie would declare as he quickly turned into a superhero, whose goal was to save people.

The Underdog saving people. It's a heartwarming theme that kept Cubs fan's hearts warm for more than 108 years in this country.

The Chicago Cubs changed that last night, October 22, 2016, a day that will go down in history as one of the great days in American baseball. They won the National Championship and the 2016 Pennant.

The Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games, and the clincher was at Wrigley Field on Saturday night when Chicago's team shutout the Dodgers and their over-ballyhooed "fearsome" Goliath of a pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, our phenomenal pitcher that night, Ben Zobrist, David Ross, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Jake Arrieta and so many more brought it home together.

In my eyes, Rizzo, Bryant, Hendricks are the Mickey Mantles and Roger Maris' of my boyhood baseball heroes.

Aaron Hanania interviews Cubs First Baseman Anthony Rizzo in 2015 as the Cubs began their rise.
Aaron Hanania interviews Cubs First Baseman Anthony Rizzo in 2015 as the Cubs began their rise.

That feeling that the Underdog saved Cubs fans is overpowering, overcoming a mythical curse that many used as the excuse to explain why so many other Cubs greats had failed to bring their team to a Pennant sooner. Ernie Banks, who lived in Pill Hill, a few blocks away from where I grew up on Chicago's South East side in the 1960s, which was also right down the street by another underdog powerhouse, Muhammed Ali. And Ron Santo, and power hitter Billy Williams. The faces changed many times. Great pitcher Fergie Jenkins, Randy Hundley and power hitter Glenn Beckert.

We saw all the names come and go, dogged under the shadow of an excuse, a hyped-up curse about a Greek immigrant and bar owner, Billy Sianis, who tried to bring his goat into the 1945 World Series game, the last game the Pennant flying Cubs would play for 71 years. The blue and gold clothed Andy Frain ushers refused to allow Sianis and his goat into the ballpark, and he gave them an Old World, Middle Eastern curse. The Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers and it's been drought ever since.

Aaron Hanania at the 2014 Cubs Convention with Cubs Pitcher Fergie Jenkins
Aaron Hanania at the 2014 Cubs Convention with Cubs Pitcher Fergie Jenkins

No World Series victory since back-to-back victories in 1907 and 1908. No Pennant win since 1945. World Series hopes dashed year after year since. No wonder wags would manufacture a stupid excuse that would become folklore in Chicago and around the country about a goat and an immigrant bar owner.

Columnist Mike Royko, who I knew and worked with, glommed on to the story told by the goat owner's nephew, Sam Sianis, at none other than the Billy Goat Tavern under Michigan Avenue where Royko and his adoring entourage of journalist pals and bar admirers would sit, eat burgers and get drunk on beer. Billy Sianis was a entrepreneur and super promoter who was in the news all the time, mainly in Royko's columns. But Sianis also created his own news, like when he petitioned Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley for the first liquor license for the moon.

Royko later wrote that it was all just in good fun. A typical Chicago good story, or "gawd stawwy" as my City Hall journalism mentor would put it, the late great Harry Golden Jr. And it was a good story, the only believable explanation for why the Cubs had not won a pennant (71 years) or won a World Series (108) in such a long time.
Great players. Great fans. Great ballpark.

Aaron Hanania at a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field
Aaron Hanania at a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field

The truth is that the Billy Goat story is nothing more than an excuse to explain away years of not winning. Underdogs are often shouldered with that explanation. They just didn't make it. A team isn't just a few great players like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo who can slam in home runs. It's a team that comes together to keep the other team from scoring.

And that's what the Cubs did Saturday night. They kept the Los Angeles Dodgers from scoring. They played almost perfect baseball. Three memorable double plays took the Dodgers off the bases before they could get past First Base, the criteria needed to threaten runs.

The Cubs will play the Cleveland Indians, who are also in a mini-slump of their own, having not won a World Series since 1948. If only the Cubs just had that problem.

Winning the World Series is great. Playing in the World Series as the underdog is dynamic. Electrifying. Something that will charge up Cubs fans more than any other baseball or sports fan in the country.

This is a new world where Chicago Cubs fans can lift up their heads with pride. They did what everyone said they couldn't do. It took a long time to get there, 71 years, and who knows if they will win the World Series ... I hope they do ... something they haven't done in 108 years since 1908.

I don't care. We counted the years since Pennant and World Series wins like the statistics we count for the players themselves.

The Chicago Cubs won the 2016 National League Pennant and that is good enough for me. If they win the World Series, I will be happy, but we will always be the underdogs of baseball.
Where were you when the Cubs clinched it? It's a question that will go down in the history books along with several other. Where where you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Where were you when Princess Di was murdered by the paparazzi to prevent her from marrying a Muslim Arab playboy?


The Cub has become the Bear, and not soon enough, ironically.

"There's no need to fear. The Underdog Cubs are here!"

Check out Aaron Hanania's interview with Anthony Rizzo in 2015 and visit his website at

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Morton High school receives National Honors as District of the Year

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Morton High school receives National Honors as District of the Year

J. Sterling Morton High School named District of the Year for Advanced Placement by the National College Board in a recent evaluation of more than 6,000 campuses. Morton was selected from more than 450 schools that were credited with AP achievements.

J. Sterling Morton High school District 201 in west suburban Chicago was named “District of the Year” by College Board Advanced Placement, a national education association representing more than 6,000 educational institutions around the country.

Morton was selected from all school districts across the nation that participate in the AP program. More than 21,000 high schools take part in Advanced Placement testing.

Morton High school, which has two campuses in Cicero and in Berwyn, Illinois, has 2,350 students who are currently enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes through the collaboration between College Board and Morton.

“We are very proud of our students and staff and this achievement which once again proves that Morton High school is one of the best educational institutions in the Midwest and Illinois,” said the Jeff Pesek, president of the Morton High School Board.

“This award is a reflection of all of their hard work and dedication. District leadership will continue to work hard to ensure that every student continues to succeed.”

Morton High school District 201 named District of the Year by College Board, 2016
Morton High school District 201 named District of the Year by College Board, 2016

Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and instruction at the College Board, said the award is an important educational achievement.

“This award shows that the teachers and administrators at Morton are challenging students to achieve at the highest levels,” Packer said.

“They are succeeding in helping students attain the benefits of the AP Program — to gain confidence, learn to craft effective arguments, earn credit for college, and eventually graduate from college on time. The College Board applauds the district’s leadership to ensure that a more diverse population of students is prepared to succeed in college.”

College Board is an American private non-profit organization that was formed in December 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) to expand access to higher education. It runs a membership association of institutions, including over 6,000 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations. College Board develops and administers standardized tests and curricula used by K–12 and post-secondary education institutions to promote college-readiness and as part of the college admissions process.

Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools.

Morton High school students
Morton High school students

The competition for placement was intense, Pesek said, but added, “Our students academically are up to the challenge and are proud to showcase their educational abilities.”

Of 21,000 high schools that participated in the AP Program this year, Morton was one of 425 school districts across the U.S. and Canada that achieved placement on the annual AP District Honor Roll. From this list, three AP Districts of the Year — one for each category of district population size: small, medium, and large — were selected based on an analysis of three academic years of AP data.

From 2013 to 2015, J. Sterling Morton School District:

Simultaneously and continuously increased the number of students taking AP classes while improving successful outcomes (a score of 3 or higher out of 5 points) on AP Exams, with 33 percent of all AP students scoring a 3 or higher in 2015;

Increased student participation in AP by 19 percent annually and the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam by 7 percent annually; and

Increased the percentage of traditionally underrepresented minority AP students earning a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam by 9 percent annually — an increase of 266 students since 2013. (80 percent or more of the AP students in J. Sterling Morton School District is American Indian, African American, or Hispanic/Latino. In addition, over 90 percent or more of the AP students in the district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.)

Increasing access to AP course work while simultaneously increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher out of 5 points is the ideal scenario for a district’s AP program, indicating that the district is successfully preparing a larger array of its students for the rigor of AP and college studies.

Participating in AP course work can also lead to college savings for families because the typical student who scores a 3 or higher on two AP Exams has the potential to save, on average, $1,779 at a public four-year college and over $6,000 at a private institution.

Morton High school was presented with the honor in Anaheim, California during the 2016 AP Annual Conference held this month.

In 2015, more than 3,900 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement, and/or consideration in the admission process, with many colleges and universities in the U.S. offering credit in one or more subjects for qualifying AP scores.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Attempted Bank Robbery: Threat but no weapon visible

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Attempted Bank Robbery: Threat but no weapon visible

A suspected attempted to rob a Bank of America branch in the Town of Cicero at 2337 South Cicero Avenue this morning (Thursday July 7, 2016) at around 10 am.

The suspect did not display a weapon or imply he had a weapon but he did hand the cashier a threatening note.

The suspect fled without getting any funds from the clerk who immediately notified police. The FBI and the Cicero Police have released three photos of the suspect, an African American Male, taken during the attempted robbery.

 Police are asking anyone who recognizes the suspect to contact either the Cicero Police at 708-652-2130 or the FBI at 312-421-6700.

Cicero Attempted BankRobbery Suspect July 7, 2016,
Bank of America, 10:17 am, 2337 S. Cicero Avenue, Illinois

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ComEd Restores 99 Percent of Customers Affected by Wednesday’s Storm

ComEd Restores 99 Percent of Customers Affected by Wednesday’s Storm 

More than 53,000 customers restored since the start of the storm 

CHICAGO (July 6, 2016) - Following storms that brought strong winds and lightning that swept through northern Illinois Wednesday, ComEd has restored power to 99 percent of the 54,000 customers affected.

The damaging winds and lightning snapped power lines and brought down heavy trees onto electrical lines.

More than 600 ComEd and contractor crews worked around-the-clock in challenging working conditions to restore power to the majority of impacted customers in less than 24 hours.

The remaining outages are those where the power infrastructure sustained significant damage. ComEd and contractor crews continue to work on restoring power to the remaining pockets of customers.

“We recognize that power outages disrupt the lives and businesses of our customers,” said Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer for ComEd.

“With the heat coming into the area, our restoration crews are focused on safely and quickly restoring power to every single impacted customer. We appreciate our customers’ patience and thank our employees as we complete the repairs to our system following this damaging storm.”

ComEd urges customers to contact the utility immediately if they are experiencing a power outage. Customers can text OUT to 26633 (COMED) to report their outage and receive restoration information.

ComEd also offers a mobile app for smart phones that gives customers the ability to report power outages and manage their accounts. In addition, customers can report outages through the website at or on ComEd’s Facebook page at or by calling 1-800 EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661). Spanish-speaking customers should call 1-800-95-LUCES (1-800-955-8237).

Public safety is paramount during storms and ComEd encourages the public to remember to take the following precautions: If a downed wire is on your vehicle, stay in your vehicle and wait for help. Never approach a downed power line. Always assume a power line is energized and extremely dangerous.

If you encounter a downed power line, stay at least 35 feet away and immediately call ComEd at 1-800-EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661) or access our website at and report the location.

Spanish-speaking customers should call 1-800-95-LUCES (1-800-955-8237).

In the event of an outage, please do not approach ComEd crews working to restore power to ask about restoration times.

Crews may be working on live electrical equipment and the perimeter of the work zone may be hazardous.

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