In what may be a historical first for the Village of Oak Lawn, a Trustee from Crestwood appeared and spoke during “public comment” about Crestwood’s village owned newspaper.
Trustee Patricia Flynn addressed the Oak Lawn Village Board and read from a prepared speech stating, “…It has come to my attention that the Village of Crestwood monthly newsletter has become a topic in Oak Lawn, as well it should”.
Flynn, an ally of Crestwood’s Mayor Lou Presta, said that the Crestwood Adviser provides the residents with “happenings of village life”. She said those happenings include village board decisions, public works projects, a busy senior center calendar, the recreational activity calendar and a letter from Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta. She said that she has received a letter from schools thanking the Adviser for recognizing the achievements of Crestwood’s students on the sports field as well as in the classroom.
Flynn claimed that some people in Crestwood call the village to complain when the paper’s delivery is delayed. “There is a considerable population that looks toward a paper form of news from the town that they live in that encourages a small town feel in a very fast paced world”, she said.
She said that Crestwood’s board would never allow the paper to be used as political fodder. She encouraged the Oak Lawn Village board to print a local newspaper but to leave the politics “to the political campaign”. While many in the crowd doubted that Oak Lawn’s officials needed any encouragement to blast out their own newspaper, Fanning Communications took notice late last week in a press release noting that Flynn praised the work of Fanning.
Flynn was not asked any questions by Mayor Sandra Bury or the Board of Trustees and she did not address the issues raised by the Oak Lawn Leaf in a series of investigative stories that found a political link between Crestwood’s Mayor and Fanning Communications, which produces the Crestwood Adviser. Village Trustees approved an Oak Lawn newspaper, by a 5-1 vote, despite the link between Fanning and Presta and the fact that Crestwood’s newspaper is bleeding red ink according to documents obtained by the Oak Lawn Leaf.
Trustee Robert Streit, who was the lone vote against the village owned newspaper in Oak Lawn, said it doesn’t make sense, although he stopped short of criticizing Flynn or Crestwood for its village owned newspaper. He said that the massive losses on the newspaper make it a “bad business model”. He also said that unlike Crestwood, Oak Lawn is served by multiple print and online media outlets. Streit said that if residents want a newspaper in their hand, the Daily Southtown, Oak Lawn Reporter, Village View, and Southwest News Herald do a fine job already. If they want to go online, the Oak Lawn Patch, Oak Lawn Leaf, and some of the hard copy newspapers have online news. Streit said that the Oak Lawn schools also do an “excellent” job of communicating with the community through newsletters and emails.
“Crestwood’s officials have to do what is right for Crestwood but that hardly includes telling Oak Lawn what to do”, said Streit. He said that in over 24 years he does not recall seeing a Trustee from another town come into Oak Lawn to blatantly push for a vendor.
Oak Lawn’s former Mayor Dave Heilmann weighed in on the controversy on Facebook writing:
Thousands of Crestwood residents lives were turned upside down when learning that their drinking water was contaminated. Critical was whether their public officials lied. In 2001 the Village owned newspaper, the Crestwood Adviser, informed homeowners that the Crestwood drinking water passed all EPA tests and was safe for drinking. That same year 51 million gallons of water containing toxic chemicals and vinyl chloride was sent to residents homes. This week the Oak Lawn Board voted to start a village owned newspaper to “get the truth out”. And they hired the company that puts out the Crestwood Adviser…..
Flynn and Fanning had claimed that the newspaper is factual but Heilmann’s post creates doubts about the idea since the Adviser’s statement regarding the water turned out to be totally false and resulted in the indictment of village officials. Fanning, in addition to being paid by Crestwood, is paid by its Mayor’s political committee for political work. Flynn did not address this issue in her comment.
Streit predicted that the paper will lose money and will be “political” in nature. “This administration believes that it can fool the people but I don’t know anyone who believes that this is a wise expenditure of taxpayers’ funds except the Mayor and my fellow Trustees”, said Streit.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak has bravely promised to eat his own shoes if the newspaper loses money. Streit said that he will provide the salt when Olejniczak is ready to digest the shoes but he would have preferred if Olejniczak pledged to pay the village back if the venture loses money.