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Cook County Unveils Historic $37 Million Investment to Support Small Businesses

Cook County Small Business Source
Cook County Small Business Source.

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Cook County unveiled its historic investment to support local small business resiliency and growth, the Cook County Small Business Source.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle shared details today about a $37 Million investment to support a network of over 30 business support organizations and forthcoming small business grants at Cook County’s Small Business Source Launch Event. The event was a part of the County’s celebration of National Small Business Week. 

President Preckwinkle, County Board Commissioners, small business owners and community-based experts gathered for a press conference and roundtable discussion to inform the Cook County small business community of new and enhanced resources for businesses to overcome the challenges caused by the pandemic and establish long-term strategies and practices.

“Our American Rescue Plan Act investment in small businesses through the Cook County Small Business Source will be groundbreaking and transformative to local businesses, the backbone of our communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The Source, as we call it, will help small businesses access the funding and services they need to continue to weather the ongoing storms of COVID-19. We’re aiming to help these businesses establish long-term infrastructure to thrive and build community wealth over time.”

This announcement parallels the unveiling of a new name and brand for the County’s small business initiative. The Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program is now the Cook County Small Business Source — a name reflective of the County’s continued commitment to the small business community in response to the pandemic and beyond. The new brand includes an updated and resourceful website at www.cookcountysmallbiz.org.

To date, Cook County’s Small Business assistance has directly served over 2,500 small businesses through grants and/or one-on-one, no-cost business advising, and has supported over 10,000 small businesses with additional types of assistance, such as grant application assistance, access to online toolkits and checklists and small group webinars. 

“We can state with confidence that our program reached business owners and communities hardest hit by COVID. This is evidenced by the fact that 66% of participants are members of Black, Brown, Indigenous Nation, or Asian American communities, and 55% of are women entrepreneurs,” said Xochitl Flores, Bureau Chief of Economic Development for Cook County. 

The Cook County Small Business Source is comprised of founding organizations such as Allies for Community Business, Berwyn Development Corporation, Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Chicago TREND, Chicago Urban League, Cook County Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Restaurant Association, The Joseph Center, Next Street, Southland Development Authority and Women’s Business Development Center.

The Cook County Small Business Source also is committed to continuing to partner with funding and advocacy organizations such as The Chicago Community Trust, Fifth Third Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, MacArthur Foundation, Polk Bros Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

To learn more about the Cook County Small Business Source, visit www.cookcountysmallbiz.org

What is Non-Partisanship in Park Forest?

Non-Partisan Committee in Park Forest, non-partisanship
The Non-Partisan Committee in Park Forest
By Elissa Seeman
Secretary, Non-Partisan Committee in Park Forest

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- As the Non-Partisan Committee in Park Forest restructures, we encourage residents to become more involved to keep this nearly seven-decade-long tradition moving forward. Look for a number of articles and videos from the Non-Partisan Committee in the coming months inviting you, members of the community, to learn more and become involved. Here we address the most basic question: What, exactly, is non-partisanship in Park Forest?

What is Non-Partisanship?

Non-partisanship is an agreement between each candidate to run for local office without affiliating with a political party or forming a slate with other candidates. Instead, the non-partisan agreement asks each candidate to stand on his or her own and speak to residents about his or her ideas for leadership.

What are the benefits of Non-Partisanship?

For the candidates, running in a non-partisan fashion means savings in the cost to run for office. The work of the volunteers of the Non-Partisan Committee reduces the cost of running for office by having the Non-Partisan Committee host forums and distribute a candidate statement brochure.

Likewise, each candidate stands on her or his own, in a unique position to share their platform, views, and vision for Park Forest.

For every resident, the benefit of bringing out the best in each candidate. When a candidate runs as an individual, the candidate is empowered to call on the best within him or herself and share that with the residents. 

What does the Non-Partisan Committee (NPC) do?

The committee plans and hosts public election forums held at Village Hall for residents to meet candidates. There are usually four forums held in the months before the election in April. Forums allow residents to get to know the candidates prior to voting in the election. Video of the forums is shared on the village website for residents to view after each forum.

What is an election forum?

An election forum is a meeting hosted by the board members of the Non-Partisan Committee or the League of Women Voters. At the forum, the Non-Partisan Committee Chairperson presents questions from residents for the candidates to answer.

Only candidates who abide by the signed agreement presented to them by the Non-Partisan Committee may participate in the election forums.

What is NPC membership?

Membership dues are good for two years and are $3 for an individual, $2 for seniors, $5 for a family, $20 for contributing, $25 for an organization, and $50 for an angel membership.

Dues help pay for:

  • Website domain
  • Post office box
  • Maintaining nonprofit status with the state
  • Brochure photocopies

Paid members have the privilege of asking questions of candidates aloud during the forums.

We encourage you to support the Non-Partisan Committee to ensure the non-partisan elections that residents value.

Here’s a video of the Non-Partisan Committee’s meeting last week, our first video podcast!

To learn more about non-partisanship in Park Forest and get involved, email the Non-Partisan Committee at [email protected], write us at PO Box 1001, Park Forest, IL  60466, or send a message to us on Facebook.

Facing A Park Forest Future Without Non-Partisanship

non-partisan, John A. Ostenburg
As chairperson for the Environment Committee of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an organization of 270 municipalities in the Chicago region, John Ostenburg oversaw the development of the MMC’s Greenest Region Compact, to which 125 communities are signatories. He served as mayor of Park Forest for 20 years. (PHOTO SUPPLIED)
By John A. Ostenburg

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Over the last few weeks, more than a few Park Foresters have given lots of time and discussion to the potential demise of the Committee for Non-Partisan Local Government, a volunteer group that has devoted itself for nearly seven decades to the vigorous work of assuring that Park Forest’s municipal elections are void of partisanship.

To meet its goal, the committee has held fast to three fundamental activities for every election of persons to serve on the Park Forest Village Board and the Park Forest Library Board: (1) candidates are asked to sign a pledge that they will not engage in any form of slating for the election in which they are running; (2) volunteers from the committee collect campaign statements from each of the candidates and print them in a brochure that is circulated to voters, at no cost to the candidates; and (3) the committee organizes gatherings where candidates will meet with local citizens, answer questions, and hopefully earn enough votes to be elected.

Of late, however, it has been increasingly more difficult to find volunteers to do the work of the committee, and the situation was exacerbated with the recent unexpected death of Al Sturges, the local resident who has been the strength of the organization almost since his arrival in Park Forest in 1962. Before his sudden passing, Al was reaching out to a wide variety of others in the Village seeking their ideas and involvement and explaining that almost all of the volunteers doing the work of the committee had decided it was time to quit and he needed some new workers.

Park Forest is a unique community as regards its local government. While some citizens find reason to criticize what the local elected officials do – Taxes are too high! Streets have too many potholes! Our young people must have more recreational services! We need more commerce, especially a grocery store! – the fact remains that Park Forest long has held the admiration of many other municipalities for the efficient way that government operates and for how so many of the deficiencies common elsewhere are nary to be found.

Non-Partisan Elections a Factor in Park Forest’s Success

Any analysis of how things are done in Park Forest will uncover three phenomena principally responsible for the municipality’s success as a paradigm for good government: (1) the non-partisan nature of elections, (2) strict adherence to the council-manager form, and (3) the well-structured absence of any nepotism or patronage in hiring of employees. These elements are the three-legged stool that supports good government in Park Forest. Remove any of the three legs and the stool likely will topple over. Each contributes to the stability that’s found at Village Hall.

Obviously, as regards the first of these, the Non-Partisan Committee has played an important role. To underscore the value of keeping some form of the committee active, we need to consider why non-partisanship is so important to local government. The basic reason is, it prevents the slating of candidates in local elections. Holding public forums and printing a brochure with candidate information are of value, but it’s really the preventing of slating that is most important to the committee’s work.

When candidates run on a slate (or part of a “political party”), they too often become more committed to the stands advanced by the slate than to careful consideration of the issues; one need only look at what too often happens at federal or state levels to see such problems in action. While local governmental slates most commonly are not the traditional Democratic Party or Republican Party, but rather such nomenclatures as Good Government Party or Community First Party, or something similar, the problems of adhering to positions advanced by the slate and not based on personal judgment are just as jarring. Many suburban cities and towns often find themselves ruled by a divided municipal council because of such partisan divisions among the elected officials. Fortunately, Park Forest has never faced such a problem: many times individual trustees will disagree on an issue but those disagreements will be based on personal evaluation of the matter at hand and not because of commitment to a position advanced by a political slate.

The other two principles of good government, council-manager form and no hiring of relatives or political cronies, have been just as important to the well-being of Park Forest over the years but fortunately, both are controlled by local ordinance. Non-partisanship, on the other hand, is simply a tradition that has been advanced by volunteer citizens themselves, with agreement from those seeking elected office. It is, therefore, more vulnerable and in greater need of protection. If the Non-Partisan Committee were no longer to exist, where would that protection be found? Does the Village Board have juridical power to mandate non-partisanship by ordinance? Might a referendum approved by the local citizenry codify its legitimacy? Such questions need to be answered and then some formal course of action needs to take place. The Village of Park Forest cannot afford to face a wobbly future by the absence of one of the legs of its stool of stability.

An interview with John Ostenburg on the Non-Partisan Committee and the benefits of non-partisanship:

John A. Ostenburg retired in 2019 after 20 years as mayor of Park Forest, Illinois. He previously served in the Illinois House of Representatives, and before becoming mayor, served seven years as a member of the Park Forest municipal council.

Former College Dean Sentenced to a Year in Federal Prison

Dean Sentenced For Embezzling More Than $650,000 From Student Organization

former collegte dean sentenced, scales of justice, guilty

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- A former college dean has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for embezzling more than $650,000 from a national student organization working to improve minority representation in the pharmacy industry.

While serving as the volunteer Executive Director of the student association, CARMITA COLEMAN withdrew cash and issued checks from the group’s bank accounts for her personal benefit.  Coleman used debit cards linked to the organization’s accounts to make various personal purchases, including for trips to the Caribbean.  She attempted to cover up the fraud by submitting false and misleading reports that concealed the withdrawals.  When a new individual was appointed to replace Coleman as Executive Director, Coleman knowingly delayed turning over access to the organization’s bank accounts so that she could continue spending the money for her personal benefit.

During the fraud scheme, which lasted from 2011 to 2016, Coleman separately worked as a dean and professor at various colleges of pharmacy.

Coleman, 50, of Frankfort, Ill., pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal wire fraud charge.  In addition to the year-and-a-day prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly on Wednesday ordered Coleman to pay the remaining restitution of $490,528.

The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI

“Coleman’s offense is particularly egregious because she was supposed to be the adult in the room — the faculty member entrusted with overseeing the student organization’s accounts – but instead used the organization’s funds as her own piggy bank,” Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Heidi Manschreck argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.  “As a result of her scheme, the organization was deprived of funds that were supposed to support its laudable mission, and not to line Coleman’s pockets.”

This is a release from the United States Department of Justice.

Rep. Kelly Underscores Importance of Increased Mental Health Care Access for Black Americans

Black Mental Health Awareness Month

Washington, D.C.-(ENEWSPF)- Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, released the following statement underscoring the importance of mental health care access, especially mental health care access among Black Americans:

“Data shows that both new instances of mental health issues and exacerbation of existing mental health issues are on the rise across the country. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress.

“However only one in three Black Adults who need mental health care receive it. Additionally, there is a growing mental health crisis among our youth. According to the CDC, only 20 percent of children with mental health issues receive care from a specialized mental health provider.

“We must continue working to expand availability of care, increase the diversity of our mental healthcare workforce, develop culturally informed models of care, expand telehealth options and make mental health care more affordable.

“Awareness of mental health conditions and treatment options are increasing, but stigma still exists, especially among Black Americans. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and there is no shame in asking for help.

“This Mental Health Month, we will continue normalizing talking about our mental health while connecting our communities to care and working to make our healthcare system work better for everyone.”

According to Census Bureau projections, the 2020 life expectancies at birth for blacks are 77.0 years, with 79.8 years for women, and 74.0 years for men. For non-Hispanic whites the projected life expectancies are 80.6 years, with 82.7 years for women, and 78.4 years for men. The death rate for Blacks/African Americans is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide.

This is news from Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s office.

Rep. Robin Kelly Introduces Health Equity and Accountability Act

This legislation would address social determinants of health, improve access for underserved communities, address maternal health and mental health crises, gun violence, and more. 

stressed teenager mgn, health equity

Washington, D.C.-(ENEWSPF)- Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA). HEAA is a comprehensive and strategic legislative roadmap that aims to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities. This is the only legislation that directly addresses the intersection of health inequities with race and ethnicity, as well as immigration status, age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, language, and socio-economic status.

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act will reduce racial and ethnic health inequities, address the maternal mortality crisis, strengthen health data collection & research, expand access to mental health care, target gun violence, improve language access in health care, diversify our health care workforce, and so much more,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “I am proud to lead this legislation on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus to improve healthcare access and services for every single American.”

Since 2003, HEAA has been introduced by the Congressional Tri-Caucus, comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). Rep. Kelly is leading the legislation this year in her capacity as CBC Health Braintrust Chair.

The bill focuses on 10 main topics: data collection and reporting; culturally and linguistically appropriate health and health care; health workforce diversity; improving health care access and quality; improving health outcomes for women, children, and families; mental health and substance use disorders; addressing high impact minority diseases; health information technology; accountability and evaluation; and addressing social determinants and improving environmental justice.

“As Co-Chair of the Health Task Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Health Task Force, I’m proud to join Rep. Kelly in the reintroduction of the Health Equity and Accountability Act,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “HEAA is a bold, comprehensive vision for addressing persistent ethnic and racial health disparities to improve health outcomes for communities of color. Health care inequities have always existed, but COVID-19 has laid bare just how deadly they can be. This is the moment to enact HEAA to systemically improve care to ensure that all Americans – no matter their race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or language background – can stay healthy.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought the troubling persistent racial disparities in our healthcare system to light. Our policies are grossly out of step with science and the overwhelming consensus from the medical community,” said Dr. Gary A. Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum. “Achieving health equity is critical for this country. The Health Equity and Accountability Act can provide the tools needed to ensure that healthcare disparities are eliminated as health inequities are prioritized.”

“The National Urban League is proud to work with and support Representative Robin Kelly and the Congressional Black Caucus in the introduction of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2022 (HEAA),” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “As our COVID-19 needs assessment report underscored, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the racial health equity gaps of this nation. This legislation addresses these gaps directly, including maternal mortality for Black women, mental health challenges for our youth, gun violence in our communities, and access to broadband internet and devices in our homes, and other social determinants of health in our society. HEAA would help us chart a path towards a new normal of health equity for all.”

HEAA is endorsed by more than 60 stakeholder groups representing a wide variety of health industry partners, patient advocates and diverse communities.

“We celebrate Rep. Kelly and the Congressional Tri-Caucus for reintroducing the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2022. Generations of Southeast Asian communities deserve to heal from unaddressed traumas with dignity. Too many of our SEAA families and elders are unable to access quality care because of inadequate coverage and a lack of culturally and linguistically competent care. The lack of adequate health data on our communities further erases these inequities and makes it more difficult to properly assess their health needs. HEAA reimagines a healthcare system that prioritizes health equity for all, and we call on lawmakers to advance this bill,” said Quyên Ðinh, Executive Director, SEARAC.

“People of color have faced persistent and detrimental health inequity for far too long. This is particularly true for the kidney community—as kidney failure disproportionately impacts people of color,” said LaVarne Burton, President and CEO of the American Kidney Fund (AKF). “At AKF, fighting health disparities is an integral part of our mission and we are proud to support this critical legislation to hold our country more accountable for equitable access to health care. The bill includes a vitally important section on kidney disease that would improve diversity in clinical trials, increase transplantation in communities of color and expand vital Medicare supplemental (Medigap) health insurance to patients in need.”

“Since the beginning stages of this legislation, the NAACP has been working closely with Congress to develop this bill which aims to eliminate racial health inequities that have impacted far too long the quality and quantity of life for many African Americans,” said Portia White, NAACP Vice President, Policy & Legislative Affairs. “The HEAA seeks to directly address the intersection of health inequities with race and other socioeconomic factors impacting individual and population health.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act is an important step to ensuring that our healthcare system works for all older adults, regardless of age, race, immigration status, primary language or other characteristic, and is free of inequities that disproportionately impact older adults of color,” said Denny Chan, Directing Attorney, Equity Advocacy, Justice in Aging.

“Passing the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) is critical for immigrant communities, which far too often face health disparities due to their immigration status, race, gender, and other combinations of health inequities, even as they disproportionally serve in roles that are deemed essential to getting us through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center. “We are proud to support this legislation and are appreciative of the leadership of Rep. Kelly, and the Congressional Black, Hispanic and Asian & Pacific American Caucuses for setting a standard for what truly delivering on health equity and justice looks like.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2022 (HEAA) represents a significant opportunity to break down barriers to care and fight inequities in health care. As a nation, we must act to build a stronger and fairer health care system. As we’ve seen over the last few years, the stakes are too high for inaction,” said Mara Youdelman, Managing Attorney of NHeLP’s D.C. office. “The National Health Law Program is thrilled that the Congressional Tri-Caucus has once again introduced HEAA and we hope that it will energize people across the country to continue to fight for policies and laws that foster health equity and fight racism. Race and ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, income, disability, health, immigration status, nationality, religious beliefs, language proficiency, or geographic location — none of these factors should predict a person’s health outcomes.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act takes a comprehensive and bold approach to reducing and eliminating health and health care disparities for communities of color, rural populations, and medically underserved communities,” said Juliet K. Choi, president & CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). “This bill will help address the ongoing health challenges faced by Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities by improving federal data collection and reporting efforts, promoting culturally and linguistically appropriate care, and fostering greater diversity in the health workforce. APIAHF is proud to be a leading partner with Congresswoman Robin Kelly and the Congressional Tri-Caucus in their leadership and commitment to advancing health equity, and we will continue to help ensure its advancement in Congress.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act is a critical piece of legislation that serves as a roadmap for how we can strengthen work to advance health equity across the federal government. From addressing social determinants of health to supporting data equity and improved access to care, this legislation is a call for Congress to take action on health equity,” said J. Nadine Gracia, MD, MSCE, President & CEO of Trust for America’s Health.

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) puts racial equity at the forefront as the most important consideration in our work to reform our nation’s health care system. The bill’s maternal health care improvements will produce widespread change in a health care system that has often failed people of color, women, LGBTQ+ folks, people with disabilities, and immigrants. In addition, the call for an end to the discriminatory and anti-reproductive health Hyde Amendment is an important part of the fight to protect abortion rights. The National Partnership is proud to endorse the Act and urge its swift adoption,” said Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Vice President for Health Justice, National Partnership for Women & Families.

“Now is the time for meaningful action to reduce the cancer burden across all communities. This legislation aims to address many of these gaps through a variety of measures, starting with prevention and extending across the entire continuum of care, including removing financial barriers for patients to improve their access to cancer clinical trials,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network President, Lisa Lacasse.

“The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is thrilled to endorse the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA). Our health systems have a long and unfortunate history of perpetuating health inequities and undermining the wellness of communities that have been marginalized for generations. This visionary, comprehensive legislation moves us toward a shared vision of health justice,” said Nia West-Bey, PhD Director, Youth Policy at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

“We applaud Congresswoman Kelly’s leadership and commitment to increasing access to quality, comprehensive care for underserved populations nationwide,” said Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health. “We are particularly encouraged by the inclusion of language ACH has been strongly advocating for regarding the development of a Pay for Equity strategy to incentivize interventions and documented health equity outcomes. We very much support this work which can ensure equity is at the core of all health care payment models by 2025. Federally qualified health centers across the country provide care to nearly 29 million patients each year and as health equity hubs, are uniquely positioned to help build healthier communities. We look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Kelly and leaders in Congress to design a future where health equity is a reality for all Americans.”

“For too long, members of the Middle Eastern and North African, or MENA, community have been underserved by the Federal statistical system, leading to the persistence of health disparities on racial and ethnic lines. At the same time, the issue of MENA exclusion from Federal policy and programs is an underemphasized element of health inequities,” Rima Meroueh, Director of National Network for Arab American Communities. “Like many underserved populations, MENA communities have been subject to systemic exclusion from the established pathways for community support. This exclusion is particularly significant within the Public Health Service, where Congress has authorized a variety of programs to address minority health concerns. By providing for equitable inclusion of ‘Middle Easterners and North Africans’ within minority-serving programs, the Health Equity and MENA Community Inclusion Act of 2022 will ensure that these programs can reach the full scope of the minority health landscape. NNAAC and the communities we serve applaud Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, Robin Kelly, and Anna Eshoo for their leadership on issues of health equity and MENA inclusion.”

Manager Mick Reports: Hydrant Flushing, Housing Fair, Market Returns

The Market returns Saturday. IPO Musicians Emily Mantell, Kristen Wiersum, and Linda Veleckis Nussbaum perform at the Park Forest Farmers Market.
IPO Musicians Emily Mantell, Kristen Wiersum, and Linda Veleckis Nussbaum perform at the Park Forest Farmers Market 9-11-21. (Photo by Deborah Gladstone)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Village Manager Tom Mick shared at Monday’s meeting of the Village Board that hydrant flushing has begun in Park Forest. Additionally, there will be a Housing Fair and House Tour on Saturday, May 7, which is also the day that the Main Street Market returns.

The Main Street Market, Park Forest’s Farmers Market, will run every Saturday for six months, through the last Saturday in October.

Here are the Manager’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Spring Hydrant Flushing

Spring fire hydrant flushing began today. Residents with questions can call the Public Works Department at 708-503-7702.

Saturday Morning Rules Meeting

The next Saturday Morning Rules Meeting will take place at 10 AM on Saturday, May 7th. The meeting is open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend.

Housing Fair

A Housing Fair and House Tour are being planned for Saturday, May 7th at Village Hall. It will take place from 10 AM to 2 PM with details to be provided on purchasing a new home, refinancing your current home, and more. For more details, visit the Village website or contact Community Relations Coordinator Evelyn Randle at Village Hall by calling 708-283-5621.

As part of the Housing Fair, CEDA will be on hand with materials for the public on their Weatherization and Beyond outreach. Attendees can learn more information on how income-eligible households can apply for weatherization improvements in addition to financial support with utility bills and more. Residents who may not be able to attend the event can also find out more by calling CEDA directly at 708-754.4576

Main Street Market Returns

Opening day for the Park Forest Main Street Market will be on Saturday, May 7th. Located on Main Street, just off Western Avenue in Downtown Park Forest, the Main Street Market returns at last, and takes place from 7 AM to Noon every Saturday through the end of October regardless of weather conditions.

Park Forest Business Breakfast

The next Park Forest Business Breakfast is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12th at 8 AM. It will take place at Dining on the Green. For more information, residents can contact the Economic Development & Planning Department at 283-5617.

Finance Director Presents the Next Budget

Director Mark Pries gives an overview of next year's budget to the Village Board Monday
Finance Director Mark Pries gives an overview of next year’s budget to the Village Board Monday. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Finance Director Mark Pries presented next year’s budget to the Village Board Monday night, a process Pries described as “continuous.” Board members received draft copies of the Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget. The draft of the budget will be available tomorrow on the Village website for those who wish to peruse it. Budget sessions will commence Tuesday evening beginning at 6:00 PM in the Board Room. These sessions are open to the public.

“We will start tomorrow night and have a lot of fun,” Director Pries told the Board.

The budget process in Park Forest is “continuous,” Director Pries reminded the board. The draft copy of the budget takes shape after board members set priorities, giving departments guidance. The various department heads then work to assemble a draft budget proposal for their respective departments.

After the budget is passed, it does not just sit on a shelf or in some cloud folder as a PDF in Park Forest. The budget provides guidance and sets limits on what monies may be spent during the fiscal year.

“The budget is a plan to spend, not a mandate to spend,” Director Pries said.

The budget sessions provide opportunities for board members to ask questions after each department head presents her or his proposed budget during these evening budget sessions. Such sessions can last anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to three or more hours, depending on the number of questions coming from board members.

In addition to Tuesday’s session, there are two other budget review sessions scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, May 9 and 10 respectively. Each session should begin at 6:00 PM also.

Members of the public may and should attend, but there is no opportunity for public comment or questions during these meetings. These sessions are between board members and members of staff.

The next budget was built off a 0% tax levy increase that was passed in December 2021. The tax levy increase in 2020 was 0.85% in the Village.

According to Director Pries, the budget is balanced. While there was a 0% tax levy increase from the Village of Park Forest, the village portion of the property tax bill is only 40% for residents in School District 163. School District 163 is roughly 53% of the average tax bill with the remaining 7% levied from other taxing bodies.

The upcoming budget includes “major infrastructure improvements” including a $3 million Public Works project, Director Pries said. Among these projects there will be three miles of water mains replaced, three miles of roads resurfaced, plus a resurfacing project for the southern portion of Shabbona Drive.

Board members will also discuss recently taken by the South Suburban Trades Initiative, an ongoing process “created by the Village of Park Forest to provide a workforce development classroom,” according to the SSTI’s website. The benefits of SSTI include rehabbed houses in Park Forest, covered here and here by eNews Park Forest.

Director Pries said the impacts to the General Fund from COVID-19 were minimal. Such was not the case for the Aqua Center, Tennis & Health Club, and funds for Village parking lots.

The Village Board approved a budget amendment in April that transferred $600,000 from the General Fund to the Tennis and Health Club, $75,000 from the same to the Parking Lot Fund and $50,000 to the Bond Retirement Fund.

“The $600,000 is coming from the General Fund’s annual surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021,” Director Pries told ENEWSPF in an April email. “There was enough of an annual surplus to make these additional one-time transfers of support.” Because of the surplus, this $600,000 will not be added to a future tax levy, Director Pries said.

For the same reason as the $600,000 transferred to Tennis and Health, the $50,000 transferred to the Bond Retirement Fund and the $75,000 transferred to parking lots will not go on a future levy either.

Previously the Village was supporting Tennis and Health to the tune of perhaps $30,000 a year, but the Tennis Club took a hit through the pandemic.

“This is due to COVID’s impact on the Tennis Club’s operations over the last 2+ years,” Director Pries said in an email.

The Village also received funds from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called ARPA. These funds will be used solely for water infrastructure, according to Director Pries.

Besides eNews Park Forest, there were no members of the public in attendance.

Rich Township Students Excel in National Poster Art Competition

collage of images showing signs and symbols for equal justice, national poster art competition
“Not Just Us!” by Aubrey Butler won first place in the Grade 10-12 category of the National Poster Art Competition, South Suburban Chapter (Image RTHS)

Rich Township-(ENEWSPF)- Rich Township High School District 227 has 14 student participants that have placed in The Links, Incorporated National Poster Art Competition via the South Suburban Chapter. This year’s theme was Social Justice. The students will be honored at a virtual ceremony on Friday, April 29.

The National Poster Art Competition was created in 1995 in conjunction with The Links, Incorporated’s national walk-a-thon. The competition’s theme has traditionally had a health-related focus and sought to depict healthy, energetic, and active lifestyles. The Links, Incorporated is an international, not-for-profit corporation established in 1946. The membership consists of more than 16,000 professional women of African descent in 292 chapters in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and the United Kingdom. It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women committed to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.

two arms holding the scale of justice
“The Balance for Us. By Us.” by Autumn Durham won first place in the Grade 7-9 category of the National Poster Art Competition, South Suburban Chapter. (Image RTHS)

The competition broadens the health focus by adopting the theme “Transforming Communities by Making Health a Habit.” Students incorporated sub-themes including, but not limited to, a healthy and clean environment, a bully-free world, and an inclusive and diverse society. The following winners will move on to the national voting portion of the competition.

National Poster Art Category III (Grades 7-9)

  • 1st Place: Autumn Durham (The Balance for Us. By Us.)
  • 2nd Place: Honesty Lacy (Dignity? Justice? Where?)
  • 3rd Place: Marlen Garcia (The Ideal Balance)
  • Runners Up: Bryant Kindered (Fractured–Justice for Women), Christopher LaGuerre (Accusing Silence), Jaylin Reid (Differences), Ashley Betts (Rainbow of Justice), Breyanna McClinton (This is Our World)

National Poster Art Category IV (Grades 10-12)

  • 1st Place: Aubrey Butler, Junior (Not Just Us!)
  • 2nd Place: Erin Eversley, Sophomore (Our Tragedy)
  • 3rd Place: Yaritza Sandoval, Sophomore (My Dream)
  • Runners Up: Juana Sanchez (The Battle Towards Social Justice), Kailen King (Climate Injustice), Tamara Harden (Vote Matters)

Rich Township High School District 227 serves the residents of Country Club Hills, Matteson, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park, a small section of Chicago Heights and adjoining rural areas in South Cook County. The district enrolls nearly 2,400 students and operates two campuses, a Fine Arts and Communications Campus in Richton Park, and a STEM Campus in Olympia Fields.

This news item is from Rich Township High School District 227.

Former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta Sentenced to a Year in Federal Prison for Participating in Bribery Scheme

Louis Presta on Facebook
Louis Presta. (Facebook)

Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The former mayor of Crestwood, Ill., was sentenced April 25 to a year in federal prison for improperly soliciting and receiving benefits from a representative of a red-light camera company that provided services to the Chicago suburb.

LOUIS PRESTA, 71, of Crestwood, pleaded guilty last year to one count of using a facility in interstate commerce in aid of bribery and official misconduct, and one count of filing a false income tax return.  U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin imposed the year-and-a-day sentence after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.

The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; and Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.

“Public corruption is an extremely serious offense that erodes the public’s trust in all levels of government,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Durkin argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum.  “It tarnishes by association the honest public servants who view their jobs through the lens of what is in the public interest, not their own self-interest.”

According to Presta’s plea agreement with the government, the red-light camera company provided camera services to Crestwood that enabled the municipality to issue tickets to motorists for certain traffic violations.  While the company was attempting to provide additional such services to Crestwood, then-Mayor Presta asked for and accepted benefits from a representative of the company.  Presta told the company’s representative that the percentage of red-light traffic violations that Presta approved would remain high or increase – in exchange for a cash payment to Presta from the representative, the plea agreement states. 

The plea agreement describes a Feb. 27, 2018, phone call between Presta and the company’s representative in which Presta updated the representative on the higher percentage of red-light traffic violations that Crestwood approved the previous week.  During the call, Presta stated, “We’re starting to get the numbers again… you got a new sheriff in town.”  Shortly after that call, Presta on March 7, 2018, received a $5,000 cash bribe from the representative of the company.  When subsequently questioned by federal law enforcement about his receipt of the $5,000 bribe payment, Presta falsely stated that he neither asked for nor received the $5,000 bribe.

In addition to the bribery scheme, Presta admitted in the plea agreement that he willfully filed a false personal income tax return for the calendar year 2015.

This is a release from the United States Department of Justice.