In October, 2014, after learning that Village officials had been working to secure other providers for senior programs, North Shore Senior Center notified the Village that it would not renew the agreement for 2015. At that time, the Village stated they were “surprised” by the announcement. But now, the story has changed.
In the Winter Edition 2014 of The Exchange newsletter, the Village stated that “earlier in the year” they began searching for alternatives for senior programs, such as the Park District or other “third party providers.” Village president DiMaria also writes that the Village will “expand and enhance” senior programs with those other providers. The new senior program calendar offered by the Village was printed in The Exchange.
This calendar is a day-by-day, to-the-minute exact duplication of North Shore Senior Center’s program calendar. They even used the same program names of NSSC’s programs. Nothing was “expanded and enhanced.” Instead, the same schedule and same class names are used for something else with different instructors, now run by the Village.
Apparently, the best the Village can do seems to be to try to duplicate exactly what NSSC offered before. The Village apparently believes that what NSSC offered is what people want. So then why all the upheaval, turmoil for seniors, and mistreatment of a good organization that ultimately chased them away?
With the Village staffing and paying for those programs, it will cost us taxpayers more money, and it will not match NSSC’s quality. Where we once had a nationally respected senior organization provide high quality programs at no direct cost to the Village, we now have smoke and mirrors at the Village’s expense. Their “big efforts” amount to nothing, and at the expense of our residents, especially our seniors.
The Founding Fathers created our government with a system of checks and balances to safeguard fair and equal representation for citizens by ensuring that no one entity could control government. We failed them!
We have let the Political Action Committees and Special Interest Groups essentially take control of our federal, state, and local governments. These groups raise millions of dollars that is used to get chosen candidates elected. This money has essentially bought control of almost every taxing body. And it’s all legal. The laws protecting them were made by the same elected officials who the groups got elected.
One such special interest group is teachers unions. While once created to ensure fair and safe working for teachers, their unions today have become extremely powerful and exert excessive influence onto many aspect of education. In fact, unions are systematically working to control the local school boards, the very boards that the teachers work for, and with whom contract negotiations take place. This is a conflict of interest at best, and a dangerous situation for any organization. This is not about the teachers themselves, who serve our communities in valuable ways and are respected individuals for the work they do. This is about the unions that represent them. (Current District 219 teacher union contract https://www.niles-hs.k12.il.us/sites/default/files/NTFTContract2009-2012.pdf )
Take our local Niles Township School District 219 Teachers Union, which has been very active in getting school Board Members elected who share the vision of the union. For example, candidates who have filed to run in the April 2015 school board have received a questionnaire from Progress 219
, a self-described “coalition of District 219 parents, teachers, support staff, and community members… (whose) primary mission… is to attract, endorse, and support highly qualified candidates to serve on the school board of District 219.” Sounds like an involved group of concerned citizens. But a little digging reveals it is not so innocuous.
The mailing address for Progress 219 is the same address as the District 219 Teachers Union. The District 219 Teachers Union is not made up of parents, support staff, and community members. It is made up of teachers. And it is a strong organization. The teachers union is screening and selecting candidates who will in essence become their boss. (Notice on the questionnaire how many questions there are about the Union, and how few there are about students and their education.)
School boards can, and do, endorse candidates. Many candidates eagerly seek out these endorsements. But for the teachers union to go to such lengths to hide their efforts to screen and endorse candidates and to provide support to Progress 219 is more than a bit underhanded and sneaky.
To influence this school board election, and the pay for the questionnaire postage, the Union is using revenue they get from dues, paid by teachers out of their salaries, which are funded by tax dollars, which are determined by the school board. See the vicious cycle?
While this is all legal, is it the best we can do for our community? Maybe it’s time to keep public sector employee unions from the governing body law of the land. Be aware in the upcoming local election who is asking for your vote and why they are asking it.
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks or 2 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Sour cream, chopped dill for garnish
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Soak noodles in warm water for 30 minutes, making sure they don’t stick to each other.
Meanwhile, in medium pot, boil potatoes in salted water until tender.
While potatoes are cooking, mix together cottage cheese, egg, and 1/4 teaspoon onion salt, and set aside.
When potatoes are tender, mash them and stir in Cheddar cheese, 1/4 teaspoon regular salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon onion salt and pepper, and set aside.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan that has been lightly coated with nonstick spray, place 3 drained noodles horizontally.
Spread cottage cheese over first layer of noodles. Lay down another 3 noodles.
Spread mashed potato mixture evenly over second layer of noodles. Cover with another 3 noodles.
Spread 1/2 cup caramelized onions evenly over the third noodle layer. Cover with remaining 3 noodles. Mix remaining 1/2 cup onions with bread crumbs and spread over the top of the last noodle layer.
Cover casserole dish with foil and place on pan to catch drips. Bake for 30 minutes or until dish is bubbly. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares as for lasagna. Serve with sour cream and chopped dill, if desired.
Make Ahead: Prepare recipe as directed. Do not bake. Cover with plastic wrap , then foil. Refrigerate up to 24 hours or freeze up to 2 months. When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap and replace foil. Bake refrigerated casserole about 40 minutes and frozen casserole about 1 1/2 hours.
For the pierogi dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, olive oil, eggs, salt and 2 1/2 cups warm water. Start the mixer on slow for a minute, and then switch to high for another couple of minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Then slow the mixer down to medium speed and slowly add the remaining 1 cup warm water. Once the water is absorbed, return the mixer to high and let the dough beat for 10 minutes.
Remove from the bowl. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form into balls, spray with nonstick spray, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in a warmer area for 20 minutes.
Spray the counter or large cutting board with the nonstick spray and begin to roll the dough with a rolling pin. Roll until a consistent thickness of 1/4-inch. Then spray with nonstick spray. (If it gets too thin, that’s ok as you can re-ball and roll out again.) Use about a 3-inch circle cutter and press down hard and give a slight twist to completely separate from the rest of the dough, continue this throughout the entire piece.
Remove the scraps and in-betweens, save, re-ball and re-roll. Then flip the circle cut-outs; they are ready to be stuffed.
For the mashed potato filling: Boil the red potatoes, leaving the skin on, in a stock pot with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Once the potatoes are soft, drain off the water and place in the mixer bowl with the dough hook or paddle attachment. Add the butter right away so it will start to melt. Then add the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated garlic, onion powder and black and white peppers into the bowl and mix on a medium speed. Mix until smooth and free of all lumps. Now add the farmer’s cheese and mix on high for a couple minutes until a little fluffy. Season with kosher salt. Loosen with milk if necessary. Let cool.
For the mushroom-sauerkraut filling: In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft.Before adding the sauerkraut to the pan, give it a squeeze over the sink to get out as much water as you can. It’s important to do this so that your pierogi don’t get all wet. You’ll need to add the sauerkraut to the pan a cup at a time. Add to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, cooking out any excess water. Season with the pepper. The filling shouldn’t look dry (a small amount of water is okay), but you shouldn’t be able to slosh around in it in rain boots.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray (so the delicate dough doesn’t stick. Place about 1 teaspoon of the potato and cheese filling in the center of all the cut-outs. (I like to use a bamboo skewer or large toothpick to remove the filling from the spoon to keep your hands clean.) Then pick up the dough with two hands and fold over the filling. Slightly pull out both sides at the base of the fold, then continue to pull, then pinch, and form and seal as you continue around the half moon. Double check for any areas that aren’t smooth or completely sealed. Repeat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat the process with the mushroom-sauerkraut filling.
In a large saucepan bring three-quarters of a gallon of water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to a rapid boil. One by one, drop in the pierogis. Par-boil them until they float, about 5 minutes. Then place them back on the baking sheet to let cool.
To serve: Cover the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, saute the pierogis; they should sizzle once they hit the oil. After a minute or so, flip them, looking for a golden brown color. Plate with the sauteed onions and a side of sour cream for dipping. Drizzle with the butter and sprinkle with the parsley. Enjoy!
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary “Leadership” is the power or ability to lead other people.
According to Forbes magazine, “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” Based upon the Forbes definition, those currently holding elected positions in Morton Grove are sadly lacking the quality of leadership.
According to an article in the Morton Grove Champion in May of 2014, a consultant hired by the current administration and paid with our tax dollars shared the following with our elected officials: “Morton Grove’s proximity to Lake Michigan gives it options few other suburbs enjoy to escape the steeply rising costs Chicago is charging for delivery of water.”
“Either Evanston or Wilmette can provide water more cheaply than Chicago”, said Patrick Glenn, senior engineer with Gewalt Hamilton Associates. One other option he presented was the Northwest Water Commission, which has a water main running through Morton Grove, but may not be able to provide enough water capacity.
“We see bigger savings with the Evanston project, but it’s a more expensive project to accomplish,” he said. “The savings would result from cheaper water rates, which would add up over the long term.”
Though Morton Grove is a relatively small customer, his firm’s number-crunching showed a clear benefit to Morton Grove, Niles and Park Ridge if they partner together to get either Evanston or Wilmette water delivered.
“Morton Grove, Park Ridge and Niles are small users surrounded by larger users. But when the three are grouped, they make the largest customer in the area,” he said.
If the three did enter an agreement to build an infrastructure of water mains, it would cost Morton Grove $25 million and provide a first-year savings of $1.5 million over Chicago rates, he said. That assumes Morton Grove will issue 20-year bonds that carry a 4 percent interest rate and an annual payment of $1.84 million.
Under that scenario, if Chicago raises its water rates by 2 percent a year, Morton Grove could save $95 million over a 30-year period by using Evanston water, he said.
Eight months later, the current administration passed a budget for 2015.
In that budget was a line item for a new position to handle the village media and communication at a combined cost of salary & benefits of $65,900, (the previous administration accomplished cable production with volunteers at no cost to taxpayers).
There is another line item for the part-time village attorney at a combined cost of salary & benefits of $134,400.00, (pretty good for a part-time job). Apparently, because the village attorney is a part timer there are also line items for a retainer for a village prosecutor in the amount of $25,000 and a labor relations attorney in the amount of $100,000.00. The budget shows a total of $309,000 for legal services.
These are but two of many questionable” spending decisions along with an additional request to hire another consultant to determine if the building purchased for the new police station is “suitable” and whether or not to relocate village hall to that location.
All this while police and fire pensions remain underfunded and there was no consideration given to a new water source. This year the “village” will “eat” the increase in Chicago water rates, (that means instead of receiving a 2% increase in your water bill, the 2% will come out of your property taxes at the expense of other needed programs.)
Warren Bennis said: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Bill Gates said: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
What we need are village leaders who know how to prioritize, to put first things first for the benefit of all Morton Grovers.
What we seem to have as elected officials in Morton Grove are folks who lack vision and go out of their way to accrue power to themselves. What we have, led by village president DiMaria and party boss Grear is a political machine that would make the old Chicago organization blush.
Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.
This coming Thursday, we will repeat the Christmas rituals that we have held dear for years, if not generations: The children will squeal with delight as they dive into treasures under the tree. Visiting grandparents will yearn to have gotten just a few more hours sleep. The dog will paw his way through wads of discarded wrapping paper then stand guard at the breakfast table.
Each of our mornings will be intensely familial and personal. Yet across our city, our state, our nation and our world, many households are engaging in the same ritual. No, not all in exactly the same way, but all in
celebration, whether as kingly kings, humble peasants — or something in between.
That’s the paradox of Christmas. While not all celebrate the spiritual on this day, the secular aspect of Christmas morning spreads across many countries and cultures. So what’s happening in Morton Grove also unfolds in Nairobi, Copenhagen and São Paulo.
Children and grandchildren across the world provide much of the Christmas magic, as we watch the special morning unfold through their eyes. Husbands and wives catch quiet moments to exchange gifts especially picked out for the other. Friends laugh at the gag presents — that carefully wrapped box that proves to be full of confetti — while others engage in rambunctious white-elephant gift exchanges.
The unique moments create the longest memories: The bike on which your daughter first pedaled solo. The brand-new football that Brother heaved through Mrs. Smith’s window. The wildly colored shirt sent by Aunt Sally that, well, didn’t work so well.
Then it’s on to the table and those foods that define each of our Christmas mornings: Our neighbor’s sweet rolls; Our aunt’s tamales; Our mom’s banana-nut bread or grandma’s pierogis.
Whether down the block, across the U.S. or an ocean or two away, it’s the same for other families. The street sweeper in France opens his packages. The teacher in Kenya shares gifts. A pen pal in Korea sings with her parents and siblings.
Yes, today’s ritual of exchanging gifts is part of the fun. But more important, we will remember that family member who is no longer here. We will recall that Bethlehem Christmas of long, long ago. We will take a deep breath and soak in the moment and those memories.
Then we will rise up from the tree with a new sense of hope and joy. Once more, the uniqueness of the season has touched us, in all its universal glory.
Luke 2:10-11; And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Merry Christmas to all of our Morton Grove friends and neighbors