The idea of an Oak Lawn taxpayer funded newspaper has been criticized by one Trustee, this media website and most village residents on social media but Mayor Bury’s staunchest supporters have revealed the “secret reason” for the publication.
When the idea of a village owned newspaper first came up, it was Mayor Sandra Bury who expressed frustration with the difficulty of getting her message out even though the village publishes an online newsletter, operates a website, owns an active Facebook page, televises board meetings and distributes flyers. At the time, Bury said that the residents were “confused” despite the village’s efforts to educate the public.
Since that time, Bury has also labeled a group of third district residents as “confused” over plans for an Anthem Memory Care facility that she would like to build in a residential neighborhood.
Trustee Robert Streit said that he was “confused” when he first heard the Mayor discuss the need for a newspaper by bringing in a no bid vendor to produce the publication. The no bid contract was awarded to Fanning Communications, which produces a newspaper for the Village of Crestwood also. The Crestwood Adviser loses money according to an analysis by the Oak Lawn Leaf based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. (Click HERE to read analysis)
Several ideas about what kind of content would be placed in the taxpayer paid newspaper were discussed at the board meeting. Fanning said that the stories would be factual and would not include any opinion. Both Fanning and Bury claimed that the village owned newspaper won’t compete with the village’s other news outlets, including the Oak Lawn Leaf, the Oak Lawn Patch, the Daily Southtown, the Oak Lawn Reporter, the Village View, the Oak Lawn Independent or the Southwest News Herald.
Fanning, in his presentation to the board, stated that he was talking about “an informative paper that would discuss what the village is doing and what events are occurring in the village”. He said that mainstream media writes “on breaking news” and that “we don’t want to compete with them because they are writing on breaking news”. He also said that the media outlets also cover events and do investigative reporting. Fanning said that the taxpayer funded publication would “tell the story of Oak Lawn and explain to the people of Oak Lawn what their administration is doing, what events are planned, and (would be) solely focused on Oak Lawn”. Fanning said it was unfortunate that mainstream media was withdrawing from local news. He said that most people get their news from “the internet or computers”. He said the publication is going to focus on what is happening with “very positive information”.
However, several of Mayor Bury’s supporters and appointees have let it slip that the idea behind the newspaper may be based on a political challenge to the Oak Lawn Leaf. Previously, the Oak Lawn Leaf was investigated by the village’s own attorneys during a pending case. More recently, the village demanded a video file owned by the Oak Lawn Leaf claiming it had to be turned over according to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
>Bill Vail, who was appointed by Mayor Bury to the Village’s Arts Commission did not hide what he believes is the reason behind the village’s new publication. In a comment on Facebook, Vail said, “I love it. Cant wait for the village to have a REAL news outlet. Hopefully it will put an end to the whole pro Streit leaf nonesense.”(SIC) Three people liked that comment including two of Bury’s other appointees, Vernon Zumhagaen and Andy Skoundrianos.
Skoundrianos, is a prolific poster of rants on Facebook and always defends Bury while consistently attacking anyone that disagrees with his opinions. On the subject of the newspaper, he said, “The more peole (SIC) complain about this newsletter the more I know it’s a good thing reasons are obvious”(SIC). He also responded to another poster with a rant that had so little logic it may be hard to decipher, “Oh terry you are missing the point all the anti administration people are up in arms over this that means it’s a good thing Remember the third dist trustee tried to get fanning to run his paper the leaf?? Guess it was a good company then things change though.”
In addition to the lack of logic and poor sentence structure, Skoundrianos falsely states opinions as if the statements were factual. Oak Lawn Leaf Company is an Illinois corporation registered with the Illinois Secretary of State and is not owned by any politician. Moreover, according to Dennis Brennan, the attorney for the Oak Lawn Leaf Company, Skoundrianos is “misinformed” when he states that anyone tried to get Fanning to run the Oak Lawn Leaf. “Mr. Fanning was offered an opportunity to solicit advertising during the infancy of the company in return for a commission. He said he was unable to do so and the company was unwilling to pay him anything other than a commission”, said Brennan. Fanning now claims that he will sell advertising for the village owned newspaper and be paid a commission in addition to $3,000 a month by the village.
Other Bury supporters, such as Dan Lupescu, whose father is appointed as a Traffic Review Committee member, sarcastically remarked, “I know right, OMG THEY ARE SPENDING MONEY ON A NEWSPAPER. Meanwhile, FOA (SIC) requests from the leaf cost money, taxpayer money.” This comment elicited two likes from Bury supporters, Skoundrianos and Jennifer Childs.
The diversion of speaking about Freedom of Information Act compliance costs is not solely used by Lupescu. In fact, Skoundrianos has used the same argument on Facebook while the Mayor and Larry Deetjen have both spoken in public meetings about the high cost of complying with FOIA requests.
Others have used a more reasoned approach such as Vernon Zumhagen, another Bury appointee, who said that he could be in favor of the newspaper. “If it prevents things like this Anthem debacle… I’m all for giving it a try.” He didn’t say how a monthly newspaper could prevent the “Anthem debacle” and he and others have commented that such a publication couldn’t possibly answer the daily stories that are elsewhere noting that the only use to such a newspaper would be for upcoming events.
However John Fanning, of Fanning Communications, claimed during his presentation that his company if hired by the village would “monitor” everything that is being said about Oak Lawn. He also said his company would “confront and correct publicly disseminated information”.
Fanning also spoke at the meeting about correcting social media posts. However, as set forth above residents often post opinions on social media pages such as Facebook and some add factually incorrect information.
Fanning said that the publication would include a “Mayor’s Letter”, which raises the question of whether opinions would be included in the letter. Bury has previously provided opinions in the Oak Lawn Matters newsletter attacking officials who have disagreed with her positions. She already maintains a blog that consistently broadcasts her own opinion.
In the most recent issue of the Crestwood Adviser, the village’s police chief mixes opinion with fact in announcing a red light camera program, writing:
In its effort to improve public and driver safety throughout the community, the Village of Crestwood, after careful consideration and detailed analysis, has decided to move forward with a new and cutting-edge photo-enforcement program, more commonly known as a “Red Light Camera” program.
The entire sentence is an opinion that ultimately not only supports the idea but seeks to convince readers that it is for public safety rather than for revenue enhancement.
Similarly, Crestwood’s Mayor Lou Presta is credited with writing an article in the Crestwood owned newspaper, noting his campaign promise as a candidate for Mayor and his accomplishments in fulfilling that promise:
I would like to address several important topics that will affect all of us here in our village. As you know, when I first asked for your support for my candidacy as Mayor, I promised that I would work to restore confidence in the administration of our village. I also promised that I would work to ensure that our village government becomes fully transparent in all of its activities and that never again would the people of Crestwood be left in the dark as to what their elected officials are planning or doing.
To honor my promise, we successfully instituted a number of changes including:…
The article goes on to list the accomplishments.
Streit said that he has no doubt that the newspaper will be political and a waste of money. I have not heard one person articulate a good reason to waste thousands of dollars on a village owned newspaper. Trustee Alex Olejniczak has promised to eat his shoes if the paper fails to make money.