Fact-Checking: Elmhurst ‘State of the Park District’ Address

by Dave Noble, City News Editor

ELMHURST – Ushered in by brass and percussion members from the York High School marching band and by a smattering of applause from the handful of attendees seated comfortably in metal folding chairs around banquet tables adorned with green disposable tablecloths, Elmhurst Park District Board President Vince Spaeth and Executive Director Jim Rogers delivered the first ever “State of the Park District” address at The Abbey on Thursday evening with a presentation of the park district’s recent accomplishments, current projects, and future plans.

The Elmhurst Funion editorial team – with the help of local playground vagrants and prominent park district program participants – has annotated everything Spaeth and Rogers said during the titillating 45-minute presentation. Portions from the “State of the Park District” address are listed below, followed by fact-checks to determine the accuracy of the statements.

Spaeth: “I love The Abbey. We should hold more events here.” (Overheard during the 15-minute networking session before the presentation began).

FALSE: A Yelp review under the name “Vinnie S.” verified as coming from Spaeth’s personal account shows a 1-star review of The Abbey from November of 2015, and states: “Refreshments at The Abbey are a joke. Stale potato chips and an off-brand version of Tang served in a Dixie cup.”

Rogers: “The Polar Express Storytime Train is a wonderful winter event for children that recreates the holiday magic from that Tom Hanks movie.”

FALSE: Refreshments ARE NOT served by the train’s conductor and service crew performing a dangerous musical number while dancing on tables and shooting hot chocolate from a decanter across the train car.

Spaeth: “Both kids and parents love the new playground at East End Park.”

TRUE: Parents at the playground are often heard commenting that they are relieved the park district didn’t install basketball courts nearby, keeping a more “communal” and “inclusive” atmosphere at the playground.

Rogers: “There have been a few bumps in the past, but we have greatly improved the online registration process for park district programs, and we are 100% confident that everything will go smoothly this year.”

FALSE: Both Rogers and Spaeth have booked vacations abroad during the park district’s on line program registration period this February so that they will not be available to address angry parents when the system fails again.

Rogers: “There were fewer incidents at the Wilder Park Easter Egg Hunt this year.”

TRUE: Arrests of parents at the event dropped significantly in 2016 from the previous year, and the number of eggs collected at the event rose sharply to an average of .75 eggs per child.

Spaeth: “Wilder Mansion has become a destination spot for couples to hold their wedding reception. The Park District took in a lot of revenue last year through weddings at the mansion.”

TRUE: But Spaeth failed to mention that the park district made an additional $11,000 last year from couples who divorced in 2015 and paid for the removal of the engraved paver brick that was placed within Elizabeth’s Friendship Walk to commemorate their wedding day.

Rogers: “Children enjoy dancing to live music with their parents at the annual Park Palooza.”

FALSE: Numerous children were seen hiding under lawn chairs and openly crying this summer at the site of their parents playing air guitar or attempting to perform “The Macarena” during Park Palooza.

Rogers: “Adult softball leagues are so popular, we are going to add additional time slots and lower the maximum duration of each game.”

TRUE: The start of the last scheduled game on weekdays will be midnight instead of 10 p.m., and the maximum duration of each game will be lowered from 50 minutes to 25 minutes.


‘Selfish’ Homeowners Force City to Scar Elmhurst with Stormwater Detention at York Commons 

by Dave Noble, City News Editor
ELMHURST – Leaning cautiously against a poorly-supported section of chain link fence that forms a perimeter around the recently-ravaged York Commons Park, Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Kennedy told reporters Tuesday morning that self-centered Crescent Avenue homeowners who frequently experience flooding are to blame for the “horrendous” sight of tree removal and digging underway at York Street and Cayuga Avenue that will culminate into a loathsome 11-acre detention pond, part of the controversial York Commons Stormwater Improvement Project that was approved by the Elmhurst City Council last Monday.

Scheduled for completion over the winter, the $2.1 million plan to create flood storage in the open portion of York Commons Park is intended to reduce the risk of flooding in three southwest sections of Elmhurst, including 38 homes along Crescent Avenue. Selfish and boisterous homeowners in that area were the primary reason why Elmhurst was forced to address the flooding. Kennedy was clearly emotional as he issued an apology to the majority of Elmhurst residents unaffected by flooding that must somehow weather the inconvenience of stormwater improvements going on throughout the city that are not benefiting them directly.

“We realize that this is an unpopular decision with most of our beloved citizens,” said Kennedy, clutching a portion of the galvanized aluminum fencing lacking a top rail and pole caps while surveying the land that once held no less than 15 trees and included an area most-commonly used for fireman at the adjacent Fire Station 2 to test hoses and scare teenagers entering and exiting the skate park with blasts of water from across the open field. “This black eye we’ve created is going to ruin the fire department’s open house next month, by the way.”

While a small minority of Elmhurst residents who experience flooding were thankful for the decision by Elmhurst to move forward with the project despite the resistance of more important citizens, others never affected by flooding were concerned with the appearance of a giant hole in the ground that will undoubtedly grow dandelions during the summer and will result in multiple traffic halts on York Street as ducks try to reach standing water that will build following heavy rain.

“I don’t want to see this every time I pass York Commons,” said resident and ‘stormwater anything’ opponent Jim Lucas, who stated that he drives past there ‘at least twice’ each month. “So what if they get a few feet of water here and there. Doesn’t everyone in town refurbish their basement every couple of years anyway?”

Other non-flooding homeowners expressed apprehension over the clear site line into the skate park and Smalley Pool that has been temporarily created after the trees were removed at the beginning of the project.

“It’s all visible from the road now,” said resident Mary Kuch, noting that non-Elmhurst residents who pose ‘numerous’ threats will clearly see the swimming pool and the skate park from York Street. “If they’re just coming into town to rob a bank or burglarize a home, that’s one thing. But I don’t want them swimming in our pool or performing Ollie’s on our half pipes.”

The York Commons Stormwater Improvement Project was finalized after the city entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Elmhurst Park District to provide the 11 acres for stormwater detention. The negotiation process between the city and the park district was “Easy peasy”, according to Kennedy.

Mayor Morley’s Mötley Crüe Tribute Band ‘Rocks the Block’

by Dave Noble, Elmhurst Funion Music Critic

ELMHURST – A crowd of more than 2,500 people at Elmhurst City Centre’s 3rd Annual “Rock the Block Party” Friday night were treated to an unscheduled and raucous 75-minute heavy metal set from Mötley Crüe cover band Theatre of Pain, led by Elmhurst mayor Steve Morley on lead vocals and backed by city manager Jim Grabowski (lead guitar), and aldermen Mark Sabatino (bass) and Bob Dunn (percussion).

Dressed head-to-toe in black and donning blonde hair extensions, Morley and his bandmates opened with “Shout at the Devil” and ripped through 13 more Mötley Crüe songs, delighting the crowd with power metal hooks, scream-along choruses and multiple choreographed pyrotechnic explosions.

Relying on the classic hits rather than deeper cuts, the band’s intoxicating combination of serrated guitars and polished drumming focused on the musicianship but was complimented by a spectacle of fog bombs, sparkle showers and Roman candles launched from the stage, located at the corner of Schiller and York Streets. While some numbers like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood” were hindered by overpowering vocals from Morley, the band’s thick, nasal distortion highlighted by Grabowski’s intricate and expressive guitar solos and licks created a sound that blended well with the rest of the band’s instrumentation. Dunn’s powerful and technical style of rhythmic drumming was outdone only by his cowbell solo on “Live Wire”, while Sabatino’s bass playing never reached any level of prominence during the show.

In addition to screaming “Hello Elmhurst!” into the microphone at an ear-piercing level before and throughout each song, Morley also took time during the performance to announce a surprise roadside safety inspection in multiple locations throughout town over the next six hours.  The band then launched into “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)”, followed by a dedication of “Helter Skelter” to everyone who works at City Hall. 

The band closed out the first set with “Home Sweet Home” as hundreds of people waved their cell phones back and forth throughout the ballad. After performing “Wild Side” for the first encore and looking on with approval as a mosh pit formed near the City Centre fountain, the band returned to the stage for a second time and jammed “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”. The song was halted prematurely, however, after Morley dove into the crowd during the second chorus and body-surfed out of sight from the stage, never to return. The start of headlining act Lucky Boys Confusion was delayed by approximately 25 minutes while security detail located Morley and maintenance crews removed explosives debris from the stage.

The Rock the Block Party continues Saturday with School of Rock at 11 a.m., followed by American English at 2 p.m., Run Forrest Run at 4:45 p.m., ARRA at 6:30 p.m., and Sixteen Candles at 8:45 p.m.

Local Man Scuttles ‘Pay it Forward’ Campaign at City Hall Finance Counter

by Dave Noble, City News Editor 
ELMHURST – A three-hour stream of people paying for the next person in line at the Finance Counter of Elmhurst City Hall came to an abrupt ending around 12:15 p.m. Thursday when a local resident accepted the “act of kindness” from the stranger in front of him but declined to continue the favor, breaking a remarkable streak of 58 consecutive customers who participated in the impromptu “Pay It Forward” campaign that is typically seen in the drive-thru line of various Starbucks locations around the country.

The string of paying the fee or debt for the next person in line began around 8:50 a.m., when a woman purchasing refuse stickers turned to the next person in line and asked if she could pay for his parking ticket, according to Finance Counter cashier Teresa Brinkman.

“She didn’t even ask him how much the ticket was for,” said Brinkman, who began to keep a tally after the man returned the favor by paying the $190 water bill of the person behind him. “This is the last thing you would expect to see at the Finance Counter.”

Noting that nearly everyone smiled and said “thank you” upon hearing that the person in front of them wanted to bear the cost of whatever it was they were there to pay for, Brinkman said there were mixed reactions when the recipient was then asked if he or she wanted to return the favor.

“This one lady was giddy when the person in front of her paid for her vehicle sticker,” said Brinkman, a grizzled veteran of the Finance Counter, known for her ability to instantly calculate the prorated amount of a yearly employee parking sticker and her staunch attitude with people who argue about the validity of parking, vehicle compliance and ordinance tickets. “But she got really mad when she found out she was going to have to pay $400 in parking tickets for the guy behind her if she wanted to keep the chain going.”

Despite the oddity of the phenomenon and the varying amounts of money spent, people continued paying-it-forward for more than three hours, until S. Stratford Avenue resident Dan Banks terminated the streak by accepting the offering from the woman in front of him but refusing to pay for the transfer stamp of the person behind him.

“People were paying out of guilt rather than generosity,” said Banks, reached by telephone Thursday night. “To be honest, I think this was a marketing ploy by the city to make people feel better about forking over money for garbage stickers and parking tickets.”