Sandy May

It’s Over! We Won! Clark Pays!

by Sandy May

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that has.

               -Margaret Mead

This is the first time that any refinery has actually PAID for damages done to a community. Blue Island stands alone.

Amounts paid out were calculated not only by how close you lived to the refinery but also scientifically how air patterns traveled.

Ten years ago, a jury awarded our community $120,000,000 (yes, that’s millions) for Clark Oil’s heavy duty, big time pollution to our community. This was a massive, class-action lawsuit. We then entered into about 5 years of appeals initiated by the oil companies.

Now, after the award and before the appeals began, Clark Premcor hired canvassers who attempted to make private settlements with some Blue Islanders as long as they didn’t consult an attorney and signed on the dotted line lickety-split. Some folks took that offer, some did not. It was stopped by a court order–issued by Judge Cheryl Starks, although some residents did take advantage of the oil company offer. A DePaul University law professor expressed concern stating that “to go out there and start contacting people who may indeed be represented, whose (legal) interest may have not been extinguished is troubling…it troubles me and seems like opportunism.”

Who deserves the credit? Well, first and foremost, crusaders Joan Silke and Nancy Madrigal under the auspices of the Good Neighbor Committee performed an absolute miracle. Year after year, for 12 years, they wrote articles, attended meetings, spoke to groups, did research—and most of all they just kept on keeping on. Then there is Anna Stange and Lionel Trepanier as members of the Blue Island Greens. Lionel gave interviews, did research, gave out flyers, and in particular was targeted and harassed. As a community activist, one of his arrests was for the crime (hold on, it’s a biggie, folks) of Jaywalking.

Crusaders such as Nancy and Joan were called “loonies” & “chicken littles” and much was said and done to ridicule and discredit them.

And, to pat ourselves on the back, the FORUM published articles which did not endear us to some local dignitaries. But, we (the FORUM) believed in them and truly supported their efforts for our community. And yes we took the heat. We told the truth and gave you advice and help when and where we could—throughout the years.

Above all, we gave you a Voice.

Then let’s acknowledge the attorneys who were steadfast in defending “we, the people.” Mary Ann Pohl in particular was instrumental and devoted to our cause.

Know what you can do for us?  Send thank you notes to our office, please, and we will forward them to these valiant activists who worked tirelessly for us. And, do us another favor, if you received a settlement check, note that amounts were generous. So….go around town, treat your soul buying a poesy at Flowers by Cathe, next an object d’art at Carr Gardens and Three Sisters or one of our other beautiful antique shops, stock up your freezer with Italian goodies at Stefanelli, buy a wonderful loaf of bread or a treat at Iversen’s, go to El Ranchito’s, go to two restaurants in town, one that you like…one that you have never been to…and think of making that donation to the FORUM who has not only given out a paper for 30 some years, but helped make this award possible, contacted as many people as we could think of….

Also write to us telling us what and how the money received meant to you-we’d like to publish a complete community page (names, amounts, addresses, will be omitted).

We were saddened to note that never once in City Council meetings was help and advice given to citizens—no announcement of the award and payout was extended by city officials.

One other thing: note that checks have a 1099 attachment which means that taxes will be due on the amount received.

There is no way I can convey to you, dear readers, how delighted I am to report this news! They said it couldn’t be done!

Purely, Personal, Perspective

by Sandy May

Way back, since 1989, to be exact, the first FORUM was published. To date, we feel that our community contribution has gone above and beyond. We are a free publication which not only gives YOU a voice, but lets you know what’s happening here. We encourage your attendance at everything our community has to offer, which is a lot.

Over the years, we have steadily voiced our concern over our small businesses and have done everything we can to assist them, including offering reasonably priced ads in a newspaper that we pay for—and we tell you, over and over to Shop Blue Island. Occasionally, I have even gotten snotty telling you “don’t go into stores asking for donations, if you have never shopped there.”

And now a word about journalism. We kill ourselves to be honest—to be fair, whether we agree or disagree. Some folks get really angry because they don’t like something that was written—i.e., they didn’t want to see their name in “lights” or a particular issue given publicity. And we try to stick to issues (not individuals) and how they impact our community. We’ve written “Some want the news written, the way they think the news should be.”

Also, did you know that the Code of Ethics for Journalism has included principles that outline “show compassion,” “be sensitive…even with photos” along with sharing concern for discriminatory references and of course honesty and accuracy. Unfortunately for several years now, much reporting certainly does not follow these guidelines. In fact, you wonder…

So hear is one thing I have to say – recently a local newspaper printed some inflammatory statements about an aldermanic occurrence in our community. No attempt was made to show another side, interview ALL folks involved and again only one point of view.   In the past, we have had a bundle of inflammatory statements that really were inaccurate. Things like remarks about “bidding” for a law firm—which is really not done, public officials interview. Then remarks about insurance coverage choose to neglect that previously our city being self-insured–risky at best. A catastrophic illness by a just a few employees could cause us a great financial burden. The list could go on and on but what I never read about was how are new administration immediately had in place a one to three year publication of their goals, a completely transparent and professional financial presentation, trying to work on bridge closing which was just one inherited problem. In addition, our new mayor has attended so many community events, it is absolutely impossible to list them. And yes, our state representative has gotten us absolutely tons of money.

Do you read City Council Minutes? We have a great reporter (Lynne Ingersoll) who does a cracker-jack job and we put forth the effort to print minutes for you. If you don’t read them, then I want to say, shut up, (but that’s not polite).

And speaking of inherited—notice any snow lately? Our city at this point has three snow removal pieces of equipment. One too large for narrow streets and alleys, one too small to remove the really heavy snow we had although it chugged along and tried, and one ancient one that broke down around 119th Street. The Code Reds were wonderful. You felt someone was out there working for you.

I felt extreme sympathy for our city workers who would make a real stride in plowing, only to be hit by new drifts and another snow. And I will also say, that this is the first time I have seen such “intelligent “ plowing as a real effort was made to pile snow in the most convenient places for drivers. Another thing, attempts were made to then pick up those large snow piles, again something I have never seen. They (Streets and San) deserve praise and kudos to Jim Poelster!

Maybe you don’t agree with me or maybe you even think I have taken leave of my senses and am just flattering for the sake of whatever, but those of you who know me, know that this is not the case. I pride myself on being as honest as I can. Above all I am refusing to concentrate on negatives and exploitation. And one more thing—approaching City Council should be done with respect for the positions of our public officials—not attack mode not repetitive. Most folks do that.

“Now is the time to get into a true spirit of helping one another…”Joining hands with your neighbor and pulling together for business and better homes. The economy is dealing a cruel blow – think about big box stores.

Out of Difficulties Grow Miracles

-Jean De La Bruyere

Gamaliel of Metro Chicago

Public Meeting seeking Freedom held at St. Benedict Catholic Church

April 19, 2010, 6:30 p.m.

by Sandy May

The crowd was overwhelming—400-500 (?) The church was packed with many standing. In the air you could feel the audience waiting, all was orderly, anticipatory but hesitant. Gamaliel distributed their agenda and with obviously impeccable planning, kept to it. The meeting was a peaceful “coming together” of and for our Latino residents, perhaps they stated as many as 50% of our population.

Gamaliel is a faith-based organization represented by 60 churches and institutions of diverse religions, races and cultures. They strongly Call for Public Policy Changes which secure civil rights for all immigrants, family unity which should not force separation of immigrant families, and providing a pathway to legalization for the protection of workers. They strive to provide humane border enforcement while protecting the security of our nation, coupled with putting an end to inhumane detentions and deportation. Put simply, their emphasis is on fair, unbiased treatment and concern when officials consort with immigration.

To begin, the voices of Father Tomasi from St. Donatus and Father Sandoval of St. Benedict’s rose in prayer and resonated with pleas for justice.

Carlos Salgado, who is a Calumet Township trustee, opened the program testimonials by stating how his parents, who came here from Mexico, were actually used to being treated as second-class citizens. As a Blue Island resident, he hopes we all will have a brighter future. “We have a city where a family can grow. All should be treated fairly. All have that right. It is important for our police department to foster good relationships—it will help them to better serve and understand our community.”

Three testimonials, presented by the Gamaliel organization, followed and mirrored how families have been torn apart and separated by deportation, in some instances without ever understanding the reason why. They felt that too many times, there were cases of mistaken identity, hence, no way or time to provide a proper defense—especially when individuals are simply taken from their homes. Minor traffic violations could escalate into criminal charges and being hauled away for possible deportation by ICE* Testimonials were powerful and presented in both Spanish and English, followed by a strong call for Justice.

What we want, Que es lo que pedimos. The crux of this meeting was that public officials, who faced the audience, seated at the altar, were asked to work with the Gamaliel organization to end unfair biased treatment of minorities and be considerate of immigration rights. In this way, they could meet and work together preparing a Resolution in three months time. If they agreed, to please state their intentions, if not they should simply say no.

Aldermen, Rita, Hall, Spizzirri, Stone, Vieyra, Janko, Vargas, Mayor Donald E. Peloquin, Chief of Police Douglas Hoglund and Detective Haro.

Each was then asked to answer Yes or No. Individual answers varied but all aldermen were in agreement. Alderman Hall offered a greeting in Spanish and gave his assurance, Alderman Vargas, (in Spanish) stated his position as Mayor pro tem and promised to provide a Resolution, Alderman Vieyra stated that she spoke “from the heart” and pledged to stop unfair treatment. Alderman Spizzirri stated her goal as “keeping families together.” Irrespective of the provided format, Mayor Peloquin declined to answer yes or no expressing his views as family values, fair housing, jobs, and health care.

Lots of others were in attendance. In the crowd, I spied Tommy Brown, David Mindeman of BI’s Building Department, State Representative Robert Rita, a representative from Congressman Bobby Rush’s office as well as the press, Telemundo (Channel 5) and Univision, and, of course, us.

In a Call to Action / Llamado a la accion / Alicia Ramirez called for reform and a vigil of strength. “We are Blue Island.”   Carlos P. added “We are American.”

As always, Reverend Peter Contreras, the stalwart Pastor of Bethel Pentecostal Church, ended a memorable, yet poignant event, with a prayer for peace, hope and understanding. He called on all to believe in change.

Then, we left. Many deep in thought.

*Immigration & Customs Enforcement


We always called you Auntie—it just seemed more fitting than Aunt. Actually you were our Auntie Chi-Chi (a shortened nickname for Frances in Italian).  You were the youngest of the three sisters and in my mind you never walked, filled with energy, you ran. And, oh how you laughed, always a lot, a little loud but with real gusto. Sometimes Harlan would say “Fran, stop it, the entire room can hear you!” but you didn’t always, and we laughed because you were laughing, not always because something was funny.

I remember your love for Carol and Harlan was almost fierce. There was almost nothing they could do wrong—you were staunch, devoted, intensely loyal. They were the nucleus of your life and there was, I think, almost nothing you would not sacrifice for them. The same was true of your love for Nini, DeeDee and Maria, all of us kids, Bob was splendid, admired…and the list could go on…You loved us—simple as that.

I remember you and Frisky, the little black Manchester Terrier you had. Yes, you spoiled him (although it runs in the family) but he was so completely devoted to you. The last year of Frisky’s life you carried him on a pillow and I remember some people made fun of you—but I just remember how kind you were. Frisky had been a very energetic pup and when he was old and so terribly arthritic you did not abandon him—and he seemed to know that. You loved him—simple as that.

And then there were the birds that visited your garden – before most of us were environmentally conscious, when you fed them you took extra care, cutting up scraps of meat fat, mixing it with peanut butter, oatmeal even leftover vegetables and those birds ate like the little kings you felt they were. When you moved from your home on Millard Street, your neighbor told me that the birds kept looking for you for what seemed like forever – long enough for her to start (somewhat reluctantly) feeding them.

And speaking of your home—it was meticulous inside and outside. With your unflagging energy, each spring you even washed the landscaping rocks. Everything shone and yet it was so very comfortable. You cooked great stuff—you baked—like those wonderful, delicious, buttery Christmas cookies which were packaged up for all of us each year.

Christmas brings memory of Noel—your Christmas Gerbil who also lucked out with you to watch over him. His devotion to you was also quite apparent; he really wasn’t that fond of us—

I don’t know exactly how you did this, but you always seemed to overlook our faults. You made us know that we belonged to you.

Shannon, Robin and Kelly were the Stars in your crown.

You loved us- simple as that.

from Sandy May

who loved you a lot