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by Ian Lopez

Polish and Mexican restaurants in the Logan Square Neighborhood reflect the cultural diversity of the community. While strolling down the flower-lined streets the fragrance of carne asada and perogies instantly consume the senses, leaving the walker with a temptation to duck into one of the traditional eateries.

However, are all the restaurants really safe to eat at?  Documents filed with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CPDH) by city health inspectors may make some residents who enjoy dining out question where they’re eating.

In 2008 Polish restaurant Czerwone Jabluszko on Milwaukee Ave. violated regulations for adequate food protection and proper temperatures. The citation stemmed from a customer’s complaint about feeling ill after eating there.

Czerwone Jablusko’s general manager Anna Czarnecka-Hebal didn’t believe the allegation was true.

“How could someone get sick if employees eat it here three times a day and never get sick any day?” Czarnecka-Hebal said.

Also mentioned in the reports about Czerwone Jablusko, which is also known by its English translation, the Red Apple, was a recurrence of dirty dishes and improper handling of them while being cleaned. For example, dish racks were too close to the floor and there were crusted and cruddy pots.

However, according to restaurant consultant Danny Bendas, keeping a restaurant perfectly clean is by no means an easy task.

Bendas, who works for Texas-based Synergy Restaurant Consultants, a company that specializes in helping dining establishments maintain health standards, offered some tips for what to look for when considering where to eat.  Key clues, he said, are individually wrapped silverware that is shiny, clean and devoid of water spots. Clean bathrooms are also good indicators.

“Restrooms are a very important part of the restaurant,” Bendas said. “A dirty bathroom could mean a dirty kitchen. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of the restaurant, take a look at the restroom.”

The Red Apple restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood boasts numerous awards for its scrumptious Polish buffet spread, but health officials have cited this establishment and many others city-wide for code violations. Image courtesy of the Red Apple.

The Red Apple restaurant in the Logan Square Neighborhood boasts numerous awards for its scrumptious Polish buffet spread, but health officials have cited this establishment and many others city-wide for code violations. Image courtesy of the Red Apple.

Health code violations don’t necessarily affect popularity. The Red Apple is one of the most preferred restaurants in the area, and recently was crowned “the best buffet of 2009” by the Chicago Reader.

“We’re on the top,” Czarnecka-Hebal said. “There aren’t so many famous Polish restaurants on the market…lot’s don’t last as long as us.”

Fellow local eatery Zacatecas on Diversey Ave. is no stranger to CPDH citations either.  The restaurant serves what owner Michelle Medine describes as typical Mexican food.

“It is not easy to run a business like a restaurant,” Medine said.  “There are different codes and standards that need to be met. It is hard when (employees) don’t know what they do. But if you have the right people, it is not that hard.”

CPDH reports from 2006, 2007 and 2008 indicated that Zacatecas’ rules may not be up to the standards set by the city, citing the restaurant for having a dirty kitchen, not maintaining proper food storing temperatures and improperly storing dishes.  Also enclosed with the inspectors’ reports was a complaint filed in 2005 by a customer who claimed to have found a roach inside food, though no pests were found on the premises during an inspection.

“We have taken the necessary steps to ensure our systems are clean and sanitized,” Medine said about the improvements required of their kitchen.  “The health and safety of our guests is a priority.”

The health department’s reports stated that since the initial citations, improvements for Zacatecas’ hazardous conditions have been made.

The Zacatecas Restaurant in the Logan Square Neighborhood has lots of great food and reasonable prices, according to online reviews. Image courtesy of The Restaurant Place.

The Zacatecas Restaurant in the Logan Square Neighborhood has lots of great food and reasonable prices, according to online reviews. Image courtesy of The Restaurant Place.

The problems faced by the Red Apple and Zacatecas are common, both to the neighborhood and in general.  Nearby establishment Andrzej Grill, for example, was cited for problems very similar to the previous two restaurants, and was also cited for not having a pest control log.

Other notable problems with neighborhood restaurants were found at Armitage Shrimp House, which was cited for excessive grease build-up in their kitchen, an employee not wearing a hat while preparing food, and like Andrzej Grill, not having a pest control log.

When questioned about issues cited in reports from city health inspectors, Czarnecka-Hebal said, “Every restaurant has some kind of citation.”

“People are people,” Czarnecka-Hebal said. “Somebody put a biscuits (tray) near the floor for a minute and the inspector saw it.”

Copyright 2009

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by Jason Verhagen

Artist Ricky Allman’s “Apocalyzer,” (2007) an acrylic and ink on canvas, will be featured in the Hyde Park Art Center’s upcoming exhibit, “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture.” Image courtesy of Front Forty Press.

Artist Ricky Allman’s “Apocalyzer,” (2007) an acrylic and ink on canvas, will be featured in the Hyde Park Art Center’s upcoming exhibit, “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture.” Image courtesy of Front Forty Press.

Chicago – When scientists and scholars talk about black holes, asteroids and global warming it might be easy to ignore. But when artists depict the apocalypse people could be more likely to see the light. That’s what curators of the “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture” exhibit opening at the Hyde Park Art Center July 19 are counting on.

Utah born artist Ricky Allman contributes “Apocalyzer” to the exhibit. He grew up as a Mormon fully believing in and expecting the end of the world to happen any day.

“Many of my works are inspired by religious extremists who are striving and working for the end,” explains Allman. “One group’s utopia is another’s dystopia,” claims Allman, who confesses it is undeniably fascinating to contemplate huge cataclysmic changes altering everything we know.

Photographer and founder Douglas Fogelson of Front Forty Press, the exhibit curators and publishers of the companion book, explains that he and his collaborators spent over two years putting this labor of love together. Fogelson began to notice certain signs of the times and trends in art and music that corresponded with current events including war and climate change.

Fogelson saw that in certain art shows apocalyptic imagery was becoming more prevalent, and at the same time, in the world of music doom-laden bands were making a ripple in the scene.

San Francisco artist Andrew Schoultz is influenced by the effects of globalism and capitalism, and filters themes of man vs. nature in his work that tells stories of everyday life in America. Using graffiti art, underground comics and early 1900s clipart, to name a few forms, Schoultz aims to inform the general public through his murals, illustrations and photographs.

“Running with Chaos, Nature, War & Power,” (2007) an acrylic and collage on wood panel by Andrew Schoultz will also be featured at the “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture” exhibit. The show runs from the middle of July through early fall. Image courtesy of Front Forty Press.

“Running with Chaos, Nature, War & Power,” (2007) an acrylic and collage on wood panel by Andrew Schoultz will also be featured at the “Signs of the Apocalypse/Rapture” exhibit. The show runs from the middle of July through early fall. Image courtesy of Front Forty Press.

In addition to the explanations of scientists and scholars, theologians also offer answers. For years, preachers, apocalyptic thinkers, false prophets and madmen have been predicting the end of the world.

On the spiritual flipside Fogelson explains, “Rapture is often part and parcel of art, but specifically rapturous works are of themselves evoking a certain kind of peak feeling.”

Staying true to their mission statement HPAC features this peculiar exhibit with opposing viewpoints of destruction and ecstasy represented in visual and musical art.

The exhibit will feature works by over 25 artists from all around the globe, and a handful of Chicago artists: Illustrator Mark McGinnis, Cuban born Chicago painter Eduardo de Soignie and Art Institute of Chicago Alum Carrie Schneider, among others.

The exhibit runs from July 19 to Sept. 20. For more information visit the HPAC website.

Copyright 2009

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by Albert Corvera

Personal trainer Michael Salazar says his business is booming, despite the current economy. Photo from his website.

Personal trainer Michael Salazar says his business is booming, despite the current economy. Photo from his website.

Chicago – Personal trainer Mike Salazar is doing something he dreamed about ever since he was a junior in high school. Not many 23-year-olds can say they have a successful business, but he can.

Just a little over a month ago Salazar’s business, Evolution Personal Training, 2633 W. Bryn Mawr, opened its doors. As of now the profits of Salazar’s training facility have been increasing to go along with his base clientele he has had at previous employers including Bally Total Fitness and locally owned Fitness Defined. In the opening month Salazar netted nearly $8,000 in profit.

Despite financial success at the other gyms, the sports business and business management student at Loyola University in Chicago wanted to break away from the big box gyms and start something different. Something he can call his own.

“I wanted to create an environment where people of all abilities can work out,” he said. “From the busy stay-at-home mom, the competitive athlete, the junior high volleyball player, and senior citizens; there is a place for all these people here at Evolution Personal Training.”

The majority of fitness workers work part-time at one individual facility, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Strength professionals such as EPT trainer Dan Deitch end up holding multiple jobs to create a full-time workload.

“I have a few clients here, some at Fitness Defined and at-home clients,” Deitch said. “A lot of people compliment personal training with other jobs, whether it’s construction or something like that. People just like to do this for fun on the side because it’s such a fun and great job to have.”

Personal trainers start at various wages. To test out his ability Salazar first started training teachers and fellow classmates for a small fee. Once he got his first certification, he became a regular at Bally, which charged clients roughly $20-$30 per hour.

Now at his own facility Salazar charges about $69 per hour on average. With training being a luxury, Deitch said people can pay the rate. They just have to make sacrifices on the little things financially.

“I think a lot of people can afford it,” Deitch said. “It’s just a matter of whether they want to. People tend to budge on really what they want. If you really discipline yourself for a few months financially, you can put that into training. But eventually it’s going to eventually be a need because people aren’t going out for exercise as much.”

Despite the struggles in today’s economy, people will still take their health seriously no matter at what cost. With the prices skyrocketing for healthcare, Frank Miele, vice-president of operations for International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), says that more people are concerned.

“Personal fitness trainers fill the gap between sick care and health care,” Miele said. “Today, a personal fitness trainer can be defined as an individual who educates and trains clients in the performance of safe and appropriate exercises in order to effectively lead their clients to optimal health.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics a 27-percent increase has been predicted in the number of employment opportunities for fitness and nutrition professionals between 2006 and 2016. Reasons include many fitness corporations are looking for part-timers rather than full-times.

Deitch said there is only one reason to why being a personal trainer is one of the more prospective occupations – technology.

“I think within the last 20 or 30 years obesity in our country, at least among teenagers, will have almost tripled,” Deitch said. “More and more people are staying at home now, either with their ‘Crackberrys’ or their video games or on the computer.”

Twenty-three-year-old client Christopher Rivera recently signed for a few sessions with Deitch. In addition to getting in better shape and feeling healthier, Rivera said that he wanted personal training to learn how to workout smarter.

“You can look at training as a way to ease stress,” Deitch said. “There is nothing better about seeing your body in better shape and feeling better. Everybody has his or her own reasons, but stress alone is a key factor.”

Salazar has said that people want to exercise, workout and get in shape. But with the hectic schedules of everyday life, most people don’t have time to workout as much, which has caused many Americans to become out of shape and obese.

“These people want results,” he said, “but they still want to spend time at home with family and friends. Working with a personal trainer ensures they are getting the most from their workouts.”

“After a good workout it’s going to get some of that stress out,” Deitch said. “If you’re married, you’re going to be working out. If you’re a Cubs fan, you’re going to be working out.”

Personal trainers are self-employed. Many work by appointment. New trainers with a small clientele base go through prospecting, which Salazar describes as the salesman aspect of the job where the trainer attempts to sell him or herself to the consumer.

“As a trainer, you can’t sound like a salesman,” Salazar said. “You need to enjoy what you do, do it right and have integrity towards your work. You shouldn’t focus on the money, but on the client.”

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

The 2009 "Making Media Connections" conference brought together media heavy weights and nonprofit bleeding hearts. The event reflected the change in times, not the least of which is the Trib's online avatar, Colonel Tribune. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

The 2009 "Making Media Connections" conference brought together media heavyweights and nonprofit bleeding hearts. The event reflected the change in times, not the least of which is the Trib's online avatar, Colonel Tribune. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – Teams of communications professionals gathered for the final installment of this year’s Making Media Connections conference at Columbia College June 11. Keynote speakers included Columbia College President Warrick Carter, New York Times Chicago Bureau Chief Monica Davey, and the Chicago Tribune avatar Colonel Tribune created and presented by Bill Adee.

Davey said the biggest story of the year is the recession, and nonprofit organizations are in a unique position to be able to provide the real people stories impacting neighborhoods on the ground.

Adee spoke about the new online Chicago Tribune brands he spearheaded including Chicago’s Best Blogs, Chicago Breaking News and Chicago Now. Chicago Now retains 50 to 60 blogs currently, and Adee expected that number to grow.

He said his current project involves a news applications group. Adee did not elaborate on this item.

While the previous day of workshops seemed more hands-on, this day of events seemed to include more panel discussion type of classes. Two of these sessions were “News Columnists” and “Broadcasting Online.”

The “News Columnists” breakout session, moderated by Laurie Glenn of Think Inc., focused on what people need to understand in order to successfully pitch stories to some of the most well-known columnists in the region.

Phil Kadner, Southtown Star, said he was always surprised by how much people can change the world for the better simply by communication. He said the human-interest angle is the most attractive one for stories appropriate for his column. To illustrate the point Kadner said a story about a large veterans’ event was completely different than one about a real veteran. The life story was more compelling to read, and therefore write.

Burt Constable, Daily Herald, said one of the most important factors to consider is the entertainment and interest factor. While there are many important stories out there to be told, many of them go uncovered by columnists simply because their big picture pitches are too boring.

Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, emphasized the importance of timing and the necessity of accurate facts. Sometimes a planned column falls through at the last minute and a call from a public relations person, who at another time would have seemed less likely to yield attention, at that moment, becomes the foremost story to pursue under her looming deadline.

Schmich also said fact accuracy was essential. In one instance she actually decided to discontinue her reliance on a source because name misspellings were given on two consecutive occasions. Yes, Schmich said it’s up to her to do the best she can to check facts, but when sources provided misinformation more than once, that’s a deal breaker.

Ben Goldberger, Huffington Post Chicago, said it is okay to contact writers again when you haven’t heard back from them to let them know you are going to pitch your story to other writers. At the same time, he said tone is key. Do not take a threatening approach such as emphatically telling reporters, “If you don’t jump on this right now I’m going to another publication.” Goldberger said this kind of approach, which he was surprised by how often he received it, would inevitably meet with his answer, “Go ahead.”

Rather, the Huffington editor said to politely inform writers that since you haven’t heard back from them, and if you don’t hear back from them by such and such time, you need to move onto other journalists who might be interested in your story.

Another one of the breakout sessions, “Broadcasting Online” moderated by Center for Neighborhood Technology Director of Development and Communications Nicole Gotthelf, looked at the hows and whys to broadcast messages on the web.

The panelists were Kristine Ostil of Asian American News Network, David Marques of Southwest Youth Collaborative, Carlos Mendez of Radio Arte, and Michael Hoffman of See 3 Communications.

Ostil said her advice to nonprofit communicators is to keep your information up to date. Let your users know when you update your website, and they will trust you more. She also said it’s important to create a visual manifestation of your organization’s mission. Fonts and grammar need to translate into images, videos and graphics.

Marques said hiring young people to expand techno-outreach was not only good for the community, it was also good business. He cited a successful podcast created by a teenager from the southwest side of Chicago about how many police officers are good people. In an area where crime and corruption typically dominate the reputation, a strong young voice was able to counterbalance those views with a positive and true representation of benevolent public servants.

All in all, the conference was a huge success. Like years past, nonprofit communicators connected with influential journalists and media outlets. Also, like at previous conferences, these charity champions established and developed relationships with each other.

What was different in 2009 was the ludicrous level of speed of the evolving media ecosystem. What does this mean in regular words? Technology is changing fast, and it was healthy for professionals with causes to reaffirm their commitments to the public dialogue called the news, and, perhaps more importantly, to each other.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

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NetSquared and Community Media Workshop toasted the beginning of CMW's annual conference this Tuesday. Gordon Mayer and Thom Clark of CMW both spoke at the event. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – Nonprofit technology professionals from NetSquared co-hosted their monthly meeting tonight with Community Media Workshop at Columbia College. CMW used the occasion to kick off their annual Making Media Connections conference as well as preview their “the New news” report on Chicago media outlets. The Chicago Community Trust commissioned the research.

The gathering commenced with a streak of drinks and chatter, and moved onto the traditional introduction round robin that happens at most networking functions. There was a common question each person answered as we went around the room. What is the newest news source you have found and will love forever?

In addition to the expected support for traditional outlets including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and National Public Radio, it was notable how many people in the 50-plus group said their new great source was Twitter.

One man said he found out about the Hudson River plane landing on Twitter before he saw it reported by other news sources. This recognition of the relatively new immediacy of information dissemination folded nicely into CMW’s new media report preview.

While some folks get their news through classic channels, others are tweeting on their iPhones and clicking on hyperlinks for their info. At the same time, newspapers are laying off writers like there’s no tomorrow and millions of writers produce online content for zero monetary compensation. This has left many of us wondering how the new media revolution will grow with funding resources.

The report showed funding for the reviewed outlets in the following order, most to least: my piggy bank, for-profit, other (including from advertising dollars), nonprofit, donations, subscriptions, sales of goods and services, venture capital and no response.

The June NetSquared meeting and CMW’s conference kick-off wrapped with perceptive observations on the changing roles of media professionals and technologies.

CMW President Thom Clark said while the business model of online news sources continues to be a subject of debate, there is no doubt the new news has augmented the lob-sided public square of information with more diverse voices.

Copyright 2009

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Originally written in December, 2008.

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

searssnapshots

The Village of Palatine has its sights set on the retail space at the corner of Hicks Road and Baldwin Road for a new police station. They could decide to build a new village hall there too. Sears is suing the Village for breaking a contract which gives them tax incentives to fix up the property. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

If the Village of Palatine has its druthers, a large strip mall will be the site of a new police station and “other municipality purposes,” according to court documents filed by the Village.

But before the bulldozers chug and spit their way over the condemned property, the Village is going to have to resolve litigation brought to them by the largest tenant of the mall, Sears, Roebuck.

The retail giant is suing the Village for condemning their leased property. The Village evoked eminent domain in a complaint filed in 2007, about two and a half years after the Village and Sears signed an Economic Development Agreement together.

Sears also sued for breach of contract of the Economic Development Agreement. In the contract, Sears agreed to remodel the former K-Mart store space, and, if they did this, the Village would give the company sales tax rebates for 10 years.

The purpose of the Economic Development Agreement, according to Mayor Rita Mullins, was to avoid closing the store. The upside was to have the building converted into a Sears Essentials instead of closing the retail space.

At the time, K-Mart was shutting down some stores. They had just purchased Sears, Roebuck. Mullins said the hope was that the new store would increase sales tax revenue from what it was as a K-Mart store.

“We were very optimistic,” Mullins said. “We thought it might even double. But in the meantime, they did nothing to fix the parking lot, do a facade improvement, do anything there.”

Some residents are not in favor of the proposed changes to use the property for municipalities.

“One thing I’m not interested in having in my backyard is a police station,” said Bill Marley, a resident who lives behind the condemned property. “I just think in terms of number one, the activity. And number two, the people that they’ll be dragging in there, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.”

Resident Judie Baird lives adjacent to the property, and said she’s not opposed to the development plans being tied up in a possibly lengthy legal process.

“Tie it up,” Baird said. “I don’t want a police station there because of noise. They’re going to bring prisoners and stuff in there. Uh-uh.”

The police department currently shares a building with the Village’s offices, and is next to the Park District. The present space was the location of Palatine High School until the school moved in the late 1970s.

A new landowner purchased the strip mall with Sears in 2005. The original owners they bought it from, Palatine Associates, LLC, had owned it since the 1960s.

One expert on eminent domain cases said the condemnation would likely go through unimpeded.

Casey Piper, an attorney in Alabama who has worked on cases involving eminent domain, but who is not intimately familiar with this case, said “because the municipality played some role in encouraging the owner into making this investment, they’re going to look bad when they pull the rug out from under their feet. I don’t know that it’s an outright defense to the taking, though.”

The reason why is because the decision to condemn property is a governmental power, according to Piper.

“And the council cannot bind themselves, or certainly not any future administration to not exercise that legislative power,” Piper said. “It’s sort of like saying we won’t raise taxes. That just means that they didn’t raise taxes with that breath, but they still might raise taxes because it’s a legislative decision.”

Eminent domain basically says that the Village can take whatever property they want as long as they can prove it’s necessary.

The courts tend to broadly define what factors make an action necessary in these cases, according to Piper. That makes it extremely difficult to prove the action is not necessary. But that’s just what Sears’ attorneys are trying to do.

One of Sears’ attorneys representing their 537 North Hicks Road store, Natalie Spears, declined an interview, but emailed this statement.

“Sears has invested millions in that location and has loyal associates and customers who count on that store,” the statement reads. “We are working to prevent the village from condemning the site because we believe it’s unwarranted under the law and unnecessary for the public improvement.”

The Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London was significant for the legal use of eminent domain. Before Kelo eight states stopped eminent domain for economic development unless it was to eliminate blight. But the meaning of blight has been stretched to mean almost anything the governing bodies have decided it does.

While the condemnation action is difficult to stop, Piper said sometimes people are defrauded. If Sears proves the Village defrauded them by breaching their Economic Development Agreement, they may be awarded additional damages.

“There could be some recovery to the landowner,” Piper said.

Sears leases their part of the plaza. They do not own it.

“But their remedy wouldn’t be the outright defeat of the condemnation action,” Piper said. “The condemnation action will go forward, and that will cause some damages that might be actionable above and beyond what the normal damages that would be rewarded in an condemnation case.”

Baird said she would rather have them keep the renovated retail store, especially in these tough economic times.

“Mullins keeps saying the parking lot and everything looks terrible,” Baird said. “It doesn’t look any worse than any of the other places. She keeps saying the store looks run down, and it’s dirty. I think they’ve done a lot to improve it over there.”

Copyright 2008

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Originally written in December, 2008.

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Chicago – As far as white suburbs go, Palatine is the routine run of the mill. But increasing indulgence in ethnic foods could be bending the white bread cookie cutter into a more interesting shape.

Median to above average income census numbers coupled with its comfortable one hour by Metra rail to the city in a garden characterize the typical burb. Out of Palatine’s approximately 65,000 residents about 15 percent are of Latino country origin, according to the 2000 census. The population is about 8 percent Asian and 2 percent black.

Within the Asian group the largest subgroup was Indian Asian, which makes up about half of the 8 percent. While Mexican food and Chinese food have been well established dining choices, Indian food has been increasing in popularity with many Americans, according to workers, owners and customers.

Palatine has six Asian Indian grocery stores and restaurants, and another one on the way, according to Zum Zum Sweets and Carry Out employee Hakeem Aslam. Zum Zum has been at its Rand Road address for about 35 years. The newest Indian food source, India Bistro on Dundee Road, opened Nov. 26.

Hakeem Aslam at Zum Zum Sweets on Rand Road in Palatine served a samosa. It was good. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Hakeem Aslam at Zum Zum Sweets on Rand Road in Palatine served a samosa. It was good. Photos and graphic by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Due to the constantly increasing Indian and Pakistani populations in the U.S. and because people are more open-minded these days, Indian food stands to give other popular ethnic foods a run for their money during the next five years, according to Aslam.

“I have a feeling that because Indian food is moving up, it’s going to be compared to Chinese or Mexican food because that’s the most popular and the most wanted [ethnic] food in the States right now,” Aslam said. “Indian food is going to be number three coming up on the list.”

Krishan Kumer from New India Carryout & Sweets, 773 N. Quentin Road, opened a restaurant in Milwaukee in 2003, and moved that restaurant to Palatine in 2007. Kumer was born in northern India and moved to the United States about 10 years ago. In India he owned a restaurant and sweets shop like the ones he has owned here.

Kumer said one difference between his restaurant in India and his restaurant in the United States is the clientele. In India he served a more homogenous community of customers looking for the same kinds of foods. Here his patrons are more diverse. Therefore he customizes his food more, varying the amount of spices for example, to appeal to a wider range of preferences.

Krishan Kumer of New India restaurant on Quentin Road in Palatine used to own another restaurant in Milwaukee before deciding to move to the northwestern suburb. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Krishan Kumer of New India restaurant on Quentin Road in Palatine used to own another restaurant in Milwaukee before deciding to move to the northwestern suburb. Photos and graphic by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Aslam said though his second largest customer demographic is Americans, many people still have misconceptions about Pakistani and Indian food.

“As soon as you say Indian food, they go, eshhee, it’s too spicy,” Aslam said. “Technically, there are only two spices that make the food hot to your tongue, but most of them cause flavor. And if you want to order it without spices, or if you want to cook it at home, you can just exclude those and make your food, and it tastes good without the spices.”

A regular customer of Asian Island, 1202 East Dundee Road, is taxi driver Noshad Nizi. He said in addition to the importance of stores and restaurants like Asian Island for the growing Muslim community in Palatine, the foods are also becoming more and more popular with Mexicans and Americans.

“It’s actually good for everybody around here because it’s a lot cheaper for the same food,” Nizi said. “If you go to the India House, it’s a big restaurant in Buffalo Grove, that’s not the same price. It’s the same thing, same recipes, same everything, but it is a different price.”

Mayor Rita Mullins said she remembers eating round pizza for the first time on a family road trip in the 1960s. At the time, pizza was a foreign food to most Americans. Now there is a pizza shop on almost every corner.

Mullins said she enjoyed some food from New India recently, and although she doesn’t care for hot spicy food, they are able to make it to appeal to your individual taste. According to Mullins, businesses like these encourage relationships among people.

“It is diversity of the people in the world, and we are a microcosm of the world,” Mullins said. “And the more that we can familiarize ourselves, the differences become so much smaller between people.”

Simi Grocers on Quentin Road in Palatine is located between the New India restaurant and Old Oak Pizza. If you want to do some Indian cooking, this is one good resource for you. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Simi Grocers on Quentin Road in Palatine is located between the New India restaurant and Old Oak Pizza. If you want to do some Indian cooking, this is one good resource for you. Photos and graphic by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2008

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

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Does this front cover of a local poetry publication look like a duck head? When you turn it to the right, does it appear to be a bunny? This is the fifth CRAM booklet produced by CJ Laity of ChicagoPoetry.com. Laity distributed them at the 10th Annual Poetry Fest at Harold Washington Library last Saturday.

michellepoem1

Author Michelle Brinckerhoff’s poem about sexual violence is included in “CRAM 5.” Michelle read another poem at the 10th Annual Poetry Fest. Over 50 poets and 150 people attended the event.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Students, parents and teachers gather outside of Elizabeth Peabody Elementary, 1444 West Augusta Blvd., on Feb. 19 for a neighborhood march to protest shutting down their school. The school was taken off the list of closings four days later. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Students, parents and teachers gather outside of Elizabeth Peabody Elementary, 1444 West Augusta Blvd., on Feb. 19 for a neighborhood march to protest shutting down their school. The school was taken off the list of closings four days later. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – When Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman announced six schools would be taken off the list of school closings, he said it was because public hearing testimony and other evidence warranted the changes. But teachers, community activists and parents said Huberman’s decision had a lot more to do with politics.

Dr. Annie Camacho, assistant principal at one of the fortunate six, Elizabeth Peabody Elementary, said while it’s encouraging to hear that public hearing testimony was a factor in the decision, that does not take away from the reality that the school selection process needs to be re-evaluated.

“As part of the process these public hearings you have “independent” hearing officers that are in fact paid by the board to listen to testimony of schools,” Camacho said, “but with absolutely no board member present, the very people who made the decision to close you. You don’t know that any of the testimony that’s given in writing to them is seen by anybody else at all from the board. So the process itself is flawed. The hearings are flawed.”

Assistant director for parent advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education, Wanda Hopkins, said the main factor in getting schools taken off the list was the same main factor that put them on the list in the first place – the will of Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Mayor Daley’s controversial Renaissance 2010  school creation plan calls for 100 new schools by next year, many of them without union representation. Though the plan does not include a requirement for schools to close, the new school quota is inherently tied to shutting down existing schools.

“The politics of the city of Chicago is just unbelievable,” Watkins said. “I’m still saying it’s just based on gentrification and busting unions. It has nothing to do with educating children.”

Camacho said Peabody was spared, in part, due to political pressure ignited by legislation that would put a one-year moratorium on actions taken by the school board to close, consolidate, turnaround or phase-out schools.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Soto (4th), also calls for a House committee and Senate committee to review and approve processes for identifying schools for status changes. The bill is currently making its way through readings in the House.

“It is nice to at least read that Huberman supposedly took the time to look at public testimony as part of the decision making, but I really do believe that it was the pressure from the politicians, in particular Soto, that really made them reconsider and rethink what they were doing,” Camacho said.

Not everyone thinks the bill persuaded Huberman. Alexander Russo, an education reporter who has blogged about Chicago education for more than four years, said the legislation proposed by Soto was not likely to be a significant cause for the six schools to be taken off the list.

“I don’t think anyone was really worried about that piece of legislation,” Russo said. “Pieces of legislation like that have been introduced several times before, and they at times have passed out of a committee, but they’ve never gotten very far.”

The “District 299” blogger doesn’t think the hearings were the impulse either.

“The hearings have been going on for a number of years now, and people have rallied their evidence and done very similar things to what Peabody did,” Russo said. “And they still had their school closed. I think that this has to do with a change in leadership at the board.”

Huberman’s recent appointment to the CPS CEO spot vacated by Arne Duncan was a significant factor in the action to save the six schools, according to Russo.

“My sense is that at a certain level all the decisions about closures and turnaround have a certain amount of subjectivity to them,” Russo said. “They’re not purely objective. I think that, quite understandably, the new CEO wanted to proceed with caution on a set of decisions and recommendations that had been made before he arrived.”

“If Duncan were still CEO of Chicago Public Schools, I can imagine one or two schools getting off the list, but I don’t think six would have,” Russo said.

While the action to save the fortunate six came from the cautiousness of a new CPS administration, they are still going to close 16 schools this year, more than anyone else in the country, according to Russo.

“They still can say every year we weed out or close down more than a dozen schools,” Russo said. “So they don’t lose momentum; they don’t even really lose face. They get to keep moving forward with their idea of what reform is.”

By making this change CPS also gives the people who oppose the reform a feeling of success, according to Russo. This could be more than enough to mute the opposition.

The list of school changes was released earlier this year than in years past because of the transition from Duncan to Huberman. Politically that put Huberman in a better position because instead of producing the list as his first act, he could take schools off the list.

Lillie Gonzales, a local school council member and grandmother of a student at Peabody, leads the protest after school on Feb. 19. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Lillie Gonzales, a local school council member and grandmother of a student at Peabody, leads the protest after school on Feb. 19. Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2009

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Commentary by Albert Corvera

The infamous Cubbie curse is upon us yet again! Best record in the National League, and yet another three game flop in the National League Divisional Series (NLDS).

If you didn’t find a scary costume to wear for Halloween this year, I suggest that you go next year as a Cubs curse: the “Billy Goat,” “Black Cat” or the “Bartman.”

Put on a goat mask. Wear all black and put on cat ears, and you’ll make a “Black Cat” to spec. Or, don a Cubs cap, elbow on a blue sweater, and top yourself with a pair of headphones to look like the infamous Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who was blamed for knocking away a foul ball in the 2003 NLDS.

But one thing you have to ask yourself, either as a Cubs fan, or a baseball aficionado: are the Cubs really cursed? Has the 100-plus year drought of a World Series win gotten to us so that we now truly believe, after years of doubt, the Cubs curse really exists?

Lifelong Cubs fan and Northeastern Illinois University psychology major CJ Mina doesn’t think the curse is the case. Possible blame of the Cubs demise could be placed on the media hype that the team faces every single season with the insurmountable pressure to win it all, according to Mina.

“Cubs cursed?” Mina said. “No. How can any type of superstition account for the Cubs not producing runs during the NLDS this year. Besides, the dude with the ‘Billy Goat’ curse has been dead for almost 40 years now. I think it’s more of the media hype because that’s all [fans] can relate to when the Cubs lose.  Still sad and pitiful though, it’s gonna be 100-plus years.”

Cubs’ historian, author and lifelong Cubs fan George Castle said the Cub’s curse does not exist. Castle said factors within the organization and management gave the team their hundred plus year demise as a soft laden franchise. Not any single one of the curses exists, according to Castle.

“What gives Billy Sianis the right to put a hex on the Cubs?” Castle said. “No one in this world can ever have that power or right to do that!”

The Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture of a woman’s face sports a Cubbie blue lid at a playoff pep-rally in October, 2008. Photo by Albert Covera.

The Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture of a woman’s face sports a Cubbie blue lid at a playoff pep-rally in October, 2008. Photo by Albert Covera.

For those of you less or not familiar with the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” the story goes like this…

Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis brought his pet goat to Wrigley Field during a 1945 World Series game. Fans were bothered by the odor of the goat, and Sianis was asked to leave with his goat.

The request angered Sianis, and the supposed hex came about when he said that the Cubs would not win anymore. Some thought the Sianis hex meant that there never would be another World Series at Wrigley Field.

Unfortunately, so far, this has been true. There hasn’t been a World Series game there since then. The last time the Cubs even came close was in 2003 when the team was five outs away from clinching the NL Pennant. Then, disaster struck in the fifth inning, and another curse was born.

Bartman was listening to broadcasters Pat and Ron on the radio during game six of the Cubs 2003 NLDS. In the fifth inning Bartman reached up for a foul ball at the same time as Cubs left fielder Moises Alou jumped to make the out.

Sure, it was a catchable ball for Alou, but that ball was clearly within the grasp of all the neighboring spectators. In the close up photographs of that moment other fans near Bartman were also reaching for the ball. Unfortunately, one guy took the heat for the way it was. Bartman became a victim of his own human instinct to catch a ball headed his way.

But there is one thing that people are forgetting. How about the groundball through the wick-its (legs) of normally sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzales?

No one made a huge deal about that when the Cubs faltered in game seven against the Florida Marlins, the World Series champs that year. That was the fishes’ second in six years, compared to the Cubs zero in the past 100.

Castle said Cubs management and personnel have been the real reason and tale for the lack of winning by the organization.

“Most people, the media especially, like to use the curse as sort of a scapegoat for the Cubs’ miseries in the past century,” Castle said.

No one can explain it. No one can pinpoint the exact cause of failure. But one Sox fan explained it this way.

“The Cubs aren’t cursed! They just suck!” said Alvin Baetiong, a researcher Northwestern University.

Sadly, as a diehard Cub fan, I couldn’t agree more. 

Copyright 2008

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