Thousands return for 24th Chicago Polar Plunge amid sunny skies and high temps

Over 5,000 people sprinted Sunday into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan for the 24th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge, raising more than a million dollars for Special Olympics programs.

The participants, many of whom donned cheeky costumes and matching ensembles, were graced with sunny 60-degree weather as they splashed into the lake.

All proceeds will benefit Special Olympics Chicago athletes, funding transportation for competitions, uniforms and equipment. Last year, the plunge raised $2.1 million.

The event went on for hours as participants took turns running across the beach. Some waded up to their waists, while others dove in head first to cheers from the crowd. Groups posed for photos before rushing out of the frigid water.

After plunging, Kathryn Trnka, 45, danced across the sand to a Bruce Springsteen song blaring from the speakers. She wore a flowy white gown and a blonde wig.

“I like to think of myself as a modern-day Marilyn Monroe,” Trnka said. “I thought, ‘You know what? Go big or go home.’”

It’s her first time partaking in the plunge, which she joined through her employer, ComEd. The unseasonably warm weather eased the feel of the cold water, she said.

“It was great, warmer than I expected,” Trnka said. “We’re very lucky with the weather this year.”

The Shannon Rovers lead the procession as participants take a dip in Lake Michigan on a warm morning during the 24th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at North Avenue Beach. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)
The Shannon Rovers lead the procession as participants take a dip in Lake Michigan on a warm morning during the 24th Annual Chicago Polar Plunge on Sunday, March 3, 2024, at North Avenue Beach. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

It was 75-year-old Mariana Zoretic’s fifth year plunging. She shivered as she wrapped a towel over her shoulders. But the avid athlete, a 10-time marathoner, wasn’t deterred by the cold.

“It was fun,” said Zoretic, originally from Croatia. “It was slippery, though. You slip and you slide.”

Zoretic hopes to be back next year. “If I’m alive,” she added with a laugh.

The beach, lined with white tents, was packed with spectators. A line of hopeful participants, wearing bright swimsuits and athletic wear, snaked along the shore. Even Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was among those taking part, the city said Wednesday.

“This event embodies our city’s commitment to inclusivity, empowerment, and community support,” Johnson said in a statement.

Kate Kreissl, 43, representing the Chicago Athletic Club, waited in line with her two sons. Her group wore sparkly pink Barbie T-shirts.

“We just thought, ‘What’s been uplifting and inspirational this year?’ And it’s Barbie,” Kreissl said.

Kreissl added that the sunny skies alleviated her nerves. Her 8-year-old son, Bennett, stood expressionless beside her.

“It’s gonna be cold,” Bennett said.

Joe Vanis stood in line further back, wearing only a white apron emblazoned with the name of his employer, Progressive. It was his third time plunging — this year, his six-person team raised $1,500.

“You’ll be nervous right before, and then when you’re in, it is what it is,” Vanis, 37, said.

He recalled how, during the 2019 plunge, volunteers had to break the ice along the surface of the lake.

“So this is nothing,” Vanis said, smiling as the sun beat down.

karmanini@chicagotribune.com

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Mourners remember the musical legacy of the Kinsey brothers

After all the well-deserved accolades were given and the mourners retreated from the memorial service for two of the finest musicians to ever come out of Gary, Florence Kinsey wanted to talk about the love and funny frustrations that come with tight family bonds.

The ex-wife and forever best friend of Ralph Kinsey, who was the drummer for Blues band powerhouse The Kinsey Report from age 12, said she and Ralph had been looking at old family photos for some time before he died when he asked her if she noticed anything about them. She kind of looked at him and said, “No?”

Ralph, she said, then pointed out that in every single one, there was Donald — his younger brother by a year and 23 days — sneaking into the background with his infectious smile, making sure he was part of the action. When Donald died 21 days after Ralph, she couldn’t help but smile through the heartbreak.

Members of the Love Feast Church perform a gospel song during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Members of the Love Feast Church perform a gospel song during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

“I thought to myself, Ralph’s going to be sitting there thinking, ‘Man, I can’t even have my own memorial service without him butting in’,” she said, smiling wistfully.

Hundreds of family, friends and music lovers gathered at the Love Feast Church of God in Christ in Gary Saturday morning to celebrate Ralph, the stalwart drummer who believed in education, and Donald, the fun-loving guitarist who set out to travel the world only to bring what he learned back to his family. Ralph died Jan. 16 at 71 after a short bout with cancer, and Donald, 70, died Feb. 6 from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Before their dad, Lester “Big Daddy” Kinsey, put the band together with them and youngest brother Kenny, they were, by all accounts, an extremely close family raised in the church. Longtime friend Bruce Carey, who graduated from West Side High School with Ralph, recalled many a conversation with Big Daddy and his own father where they implored their sons to learn about their history.

Family members of Ralph and Donald Kinsey, members of the Gary blues group The Kinsey Report, bow their heads in prayer during a memorial service in the Kinsey brothers' honor on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Family members of Ralph and Donald Kinsey, members of the Gary blues group The Kinsey Report, bow their heads in prayer during a memorial service in the Kinsey brothers’ honor on March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

“These men gave us our foundation,” Carey said of their fathers. “It was a turbulent time in the 1960s, 1970s, and they were listening to Curtis Mayfield and ‘People Get Ready,’ and Gil Scott Heron and ‘The Message.’”

That love of history stuck with Ralph who, when he wasn’t touring, didn’t allow his kids to enjoy Saturday morning cartoons, according to Florence Kinsey, a fact confirmed by daughter Naomi Kinsey.

“No, there were no cartoons. We had to sit and read, and either write a book report or retell the story to him before we could go about our day,” Naomi Kinsey said. “We always wrote, and I know that gift came from him.

Family friend Bruce Carey laughs as he recalls memories of Kinsey Report blues band members and brothers Ralph and Donald Kinsey during a memorial service in their honor on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Family friend Bruce Carey laughs as he recalls memories of Kinsey Report blues band members and brothers Ralph and Donald Kinsey during a memorial service in their honor on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)

“We talked and talked and talked about education all the time, to the point that I was like, ‘I don’t want to talk about all that with you, because I talk about it all the time with other people.’ But he would’ve been a history teacher if he wasn’t a musician, if he’d have had more time.”

Carey recalled another time when Donald had returned from Jamaica, where he played a stint with Bob Marley and the Wailers. He was living at 37th and Monroe, and he and Carey were hanging out one evening when Donald busted out his reggae reworking of Chuck Berry’s monster hit, “Johnny B. Goode.” Carey was enthralled and told him he had to get someone to let him play it, he said.

Sure enough, several months later, he heard the Peter Tosh version, he said.

Musician Jerry Clemons sits in the audience during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, two of three members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Musician Jerry Clemons sits in the audience during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, two of three members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

“He loved playing with Bob Marley, but he really loved playing with Peter Tosh, so when I heard it, I said, ‘Donald arranged that! I was there!’” Carey said. “But radio didn’t play it, and Black radio didn’t play it, so you really had to be in the know to hear it.”

With his style of playing — lefthanded and upside-down — Donald never failed to blow away other musicians, Carey said. And again, the lessons came from Big Daddy, said Florence Kinsey.

“Ralph would tell me that Big Daddy would come home from watching a show, and he would wake all the boys up to learn the new song, but they would play in the dark,” Florence Kinsey said. “Then they would go back to sleep for a couple hours and head to school. But that’s how they learned, and that was smart of Big Daddy to have them do it that way.”

Radio personality and host of “Blues You Can Use” radio show Clarence Stevens speaks about Kinsey Report blues band members Ralph and Donald Kinsey during a memorial service in their honor on March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

Family friend and church member Cohane Habbakuk Levy also remembered playing in the Kinseys’ garage as a child, with Big Daddy always supervising. He did let his boys go out into the world to grow — Donald to Jamaica and Ralph to the U.S. Air Force — but when Big Daddy said to come home, that’s how it went, he said.

“You can travel around the world, but you can’t find the multitude of talent than that of here, and it came out of Love Feast (church),” Levy said. “They were brought here not because of the Blues, but because of love.”

Kenny Kinsey, who at 61 is the youngest of the Kinseys, said he and the family have always been proud to tell the world they’re from Gary. For him, growing up is filled with people convening in their basement every weekend and just jamming away.

Visitors walk by a display of photos during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, two of three members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Visitors walk by a display of photos during a memorial service for Ralph and Donald Kinsey, two of three members of blues group The Kinsey Report, on March 2, 2024 in Gary. (Kyle Telechan/Post-Tribune)

“We took the Blues and blended in funk, rock and reggae. It’s our own sound, and we were fortunate to have a label (Alligator Records out of Chicago) that never boxed us in,” he said. “And my brothers definitely had an influence on me. Seeing who they played with, you don’t realize how much you absorb. Being on the road with your dad and your brothers, just in a big mobile home traveling the world, it’s the best education someone could have. I’m so thankful for it.”

Andy Orgodzinski, who played second guitar with The Kinsey Report until 2012, met Donald when Donald was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2005 and put out a call for local musicians to play out. He wasn’t asked to play with The Kinsey Report as much as it was Donald just assumed he was in when Orgodzinski called after he’d heard the other second guitarist left the band.

“Donald saw something in me to where I could fit,” Orgodzinski said with tears in his eyes. “It’s so hard to sum up what I learned from them, but it made me a better player.”

Ralph Edward “Woody” Kinsey is survived by his children, Crystal (Tim) Bradley, Ralph “Rah” Kinsey Jr., Fred (Leketia) Kinsey, Ayanna (Dwayne) Troutman, Naomi Kinsey, and Isaac Kinsey; ex-wife Florence Kinsey; grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by his son, Ira Kinsey.

Donald Edward Kinsey is survived by his daughter, Latisha Kinsey-Blanchard; partner, Cathy Comforti; three grandchildren; six great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends. He was preceded in death by wife, Sharon; and Ralph.

Kenneth Kinsey survives both Ralph and Donald.

The brothers were preceded in death by grandparents, Lester Sr. And Fannie Bell Kinsey; and parents, Lester “Big Daddy” and Christine Kinsey.

Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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Ex-Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore gets standing ovation at game after 2019 car wreck

MADISON, Wis. — Former Wisconsin player and assistant coach Howard Moore received a standing ovation in his first public appearance at the Kohl Center since a 2019 car wreck killed his wife and daughter and left him with serious injuries.

Wisconsin honored Moore’s family during a ceremony before the Badgers’ 91-83 loss to No. 13 Illinois on Saturday. Moore made a surprise appearance and had his arms aloft as he was wheeled onto midcourt by former teammate Rashard Griffith after a video tribute aired on the scoreboard.

“You can see that he’s a fighter,” said Tracy Webster, Moore’s former Wisconsin teammate.

During a halftime ceremony, Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh said the newly constructed men’s basketball offices at the school will be named the Howard Moore Family Men’s Basketball Offices.

“Howard Moore represents the best of what it means to be a Badger,” McIntosh said. “His love for this university runs so deep, and his impact on this program is immeasurable and deserves to be memorialized.”

After he was wheeled onto midcourt during the pregame ceremony, Moore was joined by former teammates Michael Finley, Chris Conger, Shawn Carlin and Webster. Moore was surrounded by Wisconsin’s current team for a photo in front of one of the baskets.

Moore was working as an assistant on Wisconsin coach Greg Gard’s staff when his family was involved in a May 2019 car wreck in Washtenaw County, Michigan, that killed his wife, Jennifer, and 9-year-old daughter, Jaidyn.

Authorities said a 23-year-old woman was driving west in the eastbound lanes of the Detroit-area freeway when she struck the car head-on carrying the Moore family. The woman was also killed.

Moore suffered severe burns from the wreck and later had a heart attack during his recovery. He was moved to a long-term care and rehabilitation facility.

His son, Jerell, was 13 when he was injured in the car wreck. He spoke to the Kohl Center crowd at halftime while joined by Moore’s brother and parents.

“I’d just like to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you, all of you,” Jerell Moore said. “You have made this journey for me and my family so much easier and so much more powerful for us to move on and to keep going forward.”

During a halftime news conference, Moore’s brother, Darnell, offered an update on the recovery process.

“Physically he’s getting very strong in his legs,” Darnell Moore said. “We’re working on getting his strength within his legs, getting his core strong again, a lot of physical therapy. … Unfortunately, as you know, a cardiac arrest does cause a loss of oxygen to the brain. There’s things we have to get back to as far as motor skills and things like that. It’s a long journey.”

Moore met with Wisconsin’s current coaching staff before the game.

“He knew where he was,” Gard said. “I know that, he knew where he was. He gave me a big smile when I saw him prior to the game and squeezed me so tight.”

Howard Moore played for Wisconsin from 1993-95 and was an assistant coach with the Badgers from 2006-10 and 2016-19. Moore also was Illinois-Chicago’s head coach from 2010-15.

Wisconsin warmed up Saturday with shirts “Do Moore. Be Moore 4 Moore” and included the No. 34 that Moore wore during his playing days. That slogan also appeared on ceremonial ties worn by the Wisconsin and Illinois staffs during the game.

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Business news

Beyond 4 Walls Christian Center opens laundromat

Beyond 4 Walls Christian Center recently added a laundromat to the Harvest Square Strip Mall, 877 S. Lake St., in Gary’s Miller section, according to a release.

Located adjacent to the church, Blast Laundromat is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the last load in machines by 4 p.m., the release said. For more information, call 219-455-6648.

Northwest Health targets colon cancer awareness

Dr. D. Owen Young, a colorectal surgeon, will explain the importance of early detection and the most effective treatment options from 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 12 at Northwest Health’s next HealthyU wellness seminar.

The free event, “Screen for Life: Colon Cancer Awareness,” will take place in the Community Room at Northwest Health – Porter, 85 E. U.S. 6, Valparaiso. During his presentation, Young will share how regular colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45 – or younger if you have a family history – are the key to preventing colon cancer, the release said. To register, visit: nwhinfo.com/screeningforlife. Registration is encouraged and healthy snacks will be available. For questions, call 219-262-6446.

March bidder’s symposium announced

Geminus – Community Partners is requesting proposals from eligible applicants to provide child abuse and neglect prevention services for Lake County, according to a release.

Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations. Proposals are for the period from July 1 to June 30, 2025.

A bidder’s symposium is scheduled for 11 a.m. March 7, 2024 at Halls of St. George 905 E. Joliet St, Schererville, to review and discuss the process as well as answer questions, the release said. Current grantees are required to attend this symposium.

Register at https://forms.office.com/r/h77CvjJij8

PNW Innovators host inaugural StartUp Madness pitch competition

The Society of Innovators at Purdue Northwest (PNW) will host the inaugural Uthiverse StartUp Madness Business Pitch Tournament during a live event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 30 inside the Fitness and Recreation Center gymnasium at PNW’s Hammond campus, according to a release.

The Uthiverse StartUp Madness is a competition designed to give high school students participating in a diversity of entrepreneurship programs an opportunity to win $2,500 in seed money, the release said. Thirty-two teams will be selected from regional applicants to compete live in a bracket-style pitch tournament.

Application deadline is March 8. Startup Madness is also open to public spectators. More information and free registration can be found at pnw.edu/soi.

NIPSCO accepting Environmental Action Grant applications

NIPSCO is accepting applications for its Environmental Action Grant to support local nonprofit organizations with their environmental restoration and education projects, according to a release.

Since 2016, NIPSCO’s Environmental Action Grant has helped 124 projects come into fruition, the release said. In 2023, NIPSCO funded 15 projects across the area, including projects on Monarch butterflies, habitat restoration, youth outdoor nature education and sustainability programming.

Grants are available in the amount of $500 to $5,000 each, the release said. Applications will be accepted through April 5. Grant awards will be announced the week of April 22 in celebration of Earth Day. Nonprofit organizations with an environmental restoration or education project are
invited to submit a grant request at NiSource.GiveBesa.org/Grants/New. To learn more, visit NIPSCO.com/Community.

Franciscan Health Dyer eyes maternal health outcomes

Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Dyer is aiming to improve maternal health outcomes with its new “I Gave Birth” initiative, which uses bracelets to help identify postpartum women, according to a release.

As of Feb. 1, blue rubber bracelets with the words “I Gave Birth” printed on them in white are given to women before they are discharged from Franciscan Health Dyer, along with education about symptoms to watch for postpartum.

Patients are encouraged to wear the bracelets for at least six weeks after giving birth. The CDC reports 53% of pregnancy-related deaths occur between one week and one year after giving birth, the release said.

More information about the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Dyer is available online at www.franciscanhealth.org or by calling 219-515-3993.

LaPorte County conservation officer wins state award

Indiana Conservation Officer Alex Toth, who serves LaPorte County, has been selected as the 2023 District 10 Officer of the Year, according to a release.
Toth has served as a conservation officer since 2017. District 10 includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Starke and Pulaski counties.

The district award puts Toth in the running for the Pitzer Award, which is given to the top overall conservation officer in the state and selected from the 10 district award winners.

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An Indiana county hires yet another election supervisor, hoping she’ll stay

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An Indiana county lost its top election official nearly every other month over the last year after a longtime supervisor resigned following a counting error in the November 2022 tally.

Voting advocates hope fears of a rocky election year will ease now that Monroe County has named a supervisor who is vowing to stay. The county clerk promoted a 24-year-old elections office assistant to the top job on Feb. 12, just 12 weeks before Indiana’s May 7 primaries to choose candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and president.

“Given the national mood, public confidence in this election will likely be tested,” the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County said in a January letter urging county officials to quickly fill the role.

The Monroe County Courthouse is reflected in the window of a vehicle in Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. The southern Indiana county has cycled through election officials at a rate of nearly one every two months in a tumultuous turnover year after an error in the 2022 general election unofficial results led the longtime supervisor to resign. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Monroe County Courthouse is reflected in the window of a vehicle in Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 13, 2024. The southern Indiana county has cycled through election officials at a rate of nearly one every two months in a tumultuous turnover year after an error in the 2022 general election unofficial results led the longtime supervisor to resign. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Voting advocates and local party chairs say enormous responsibilities and relatively low salaries have made it difficult to keep recent hires in Monroe. As home to Indiana University, the county is a Democratic island in overwhelmingly Republican Indiana.

Increased scrutiny around elections and threats to election workers have prompted waves of retirements and resignations from local election offices across the country since former President Donald Trump led efforts to challenge the 2020 vote counts. The resulting loss of institutional knowledge in the midst of many changes in voting laws is making 2024 a challenging election year.

“Not having somebody who’s experienced in doing this and familiar with our county and how things have been done in the past makes the job heavier on the people who do have to do the work,” said Debora Shaw, spokesperson for the Bloomington-Monroe League of Women Voters.

Karen Wheeler, the longtime former elections supervisor for Monroe County, poses in Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Wheeler, she said was forced from the role in early 2023. Before her official resignation, the county hired an election training specialist. Wheeler said the county prepared that person to be the election official, but they too left just weeks after Wheeler. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Karen Wheeler, the longtime former elections supervisor for Monroe County, poses in Bloomington, Ind., Feb. 13, 2024. Wheeler, she said was forced from the role in early 2023. Before her official resignation, the county hired an election training specialist. Wheeler said the county prepared that person to be the election official, but they too left just weeks after Wheeler. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The turnover in Monroe began in early 2023 when Karen Wheeler, the supervisor since 2017, resigned following pressure that came mostly from her fellow Republicans over a mistake during the 2022 general election vote count. About 6,600 ballots were not added until the next morning — after unofficial results had already been sent to the Secretary of State.

Wheeler, 67, told The Associated Press that the early voting results had been kept on a digital storage device and were added to the unofficial tally by 9 a.m. that Wednesday. She said she took the blame and resigned to avoid being fired by the Democratic county clerk, but stands by the performance of her staff.

“Some people are always suspicious of elections, but people who know who we are had a lot of confidence,” Wheeler said.

David Henry, former elections board president and current Monroe County Democratic Chairman, poses in the offices of the Monroe County Democratic headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Monroe County now hopes fears of a rocky primary in May will ease with the naming of a new election supervisor promoted to the position Feb. 12. Voters will select candidates for president, governor and the U.S. Senate in the primary. But the institutional knowledge remains. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
David Henry, former elections board president and current Monroe County Democratic Chairman, poses in the offices of the Monroe County Democratic headquarters in Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 13, 2024. Monroe County now hopes fears of a rocky primary in May will ease with the naming of a new election supervisor promoted to the position Feb. 12. Voters will select candidates for president, governor and the U.S. Senate in the primary. But the institutional knowledge remains. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The county clerk, Nicole Browne, did not return the AP’s phone and email messages requesting comment.

Wheeler said an election training specialist hired before her resignation was prepared by the county to succeed her, but she quit just weeks after Wheeler left. Three others then briefly filled the job — one stayed only a month.

Wheeler said she both loved and hated the job. She administered eight elections and oversaw more than 80 workers during early voting and 300 each Election Day. Wheeler described her role as being a liaison between candidates, the media, vendors, the state and the public. The election supervisor also writes ballots specific to each precinct.

“It’s an extremely difficult job,” Wheeler said. “And with Monroe County, the pay was pretty low” — around $37,000 for the full-time, year-round work.

The starting pay was increased to $55,674 for the latest hire, according to a county job posting.

Elections are becoming increasingly complex, the laws governing them change regularly, and the high turnover means officials stepping into these roles are less likely to be aware of resources that can help them, said Liz Howard, a election expert with the Brennan Center for Justice.

In Indiana, for example, a bill proposed this year would add a proof of residency requirement for first-time voters registering in-person.

“Many people are unaware of the complexity and all the work that it takes to make that process so easy for voters,” Howard said.

None of the Monroe officials reported being threatened, but such incidents are up sharply around the nation. Indiana lawmakers may join other states in increasing criminal penalties for threatening election workers, and the Justice Department formed a task force to address threats.

Monroe’s party chairs, Democrat David Henry and Republican Taylor Bryant, praised Wheeler and lamented the office turnovers after her departure.

“That institutional memory is really hard to replace and replicate in a short period of time,” Henry said.

While Shaw, who has worked with the newly promoted supervisor before, said she is glad Kylie Moreland is reliable and has some experience, there is always a chance that a presidential election won’t go smoothly.

“It would be an awful job if you just got thrown in,” Wheeler said.

Moreland developed a passion for election law and the process last fall, and wants to build a lifelong career at “election central.” Despite lacking years of experience, she feels well prepared after working the November election and has support from the Indiana Elections Division, she said.

Indiana Secretary of State Diego Morales announced this year that more than 60 counties will split $2 million in federal funding for election security and other projects. Monroe County is not among them. His office said additional funding opportunities are being discussed.

As for Wheeler, she works now for the county parks and recreation department and volunteers to teach voter registration training.

“I have a much easier job and I get paid the exact same,” she said.

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Bike route could join group of routes across Indiana

A new long-distance bicycle route between Northwest Indiana and the Indianapolis area could soon join a group of bike routes across Indiana.

Don’t look yet for signs marking the routes, however.

The Indiana Department of Transportation plans to seek official designation for United States Bicycle Route 37, a 182-mile route from Griffith to Carmel, just outside Indianapolis.

The northern end of USBR 37 would be the place where the Erie Lackawanna Trail crosses the Oak Savannah Trail in Griffith.

INDOT asked last year for public feedback on the proposed route.

As a result of comments then, the route was altered in West Lafayette, White County and Jasper County to improve safety for riders.

INDOT does not incur a cost for implementing the bike route, because it doesn’t have to put up signs marking the route

It does, however, plan to look into the benefits and costs of route signs.

INDOT notes that USBR 37 is for “experienced, long-distance bicycle riders … who are comfortable riding on most types of facilities, including roads without special treatments for bicyclists. This group also consists of utilitarian and recreational riders who are confident enough to ride on busy roadways and navigate in vehicular traffic.”

Friends of the Veterans Memorial Parkway President Mitch Barloga speaks at the grand opening of the Veterans Memorial Trail bike path in Hebron Saturday June 6, 2020. Speakers and attendees gathered to officially open the the first mile of the Veterans Memorial Trail that is scheduled to eventually run between Hebron and Crown Point. Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune
Andy Lavalley / Post-Tribune

Mitch Barloga speaks at the grand opening of the Veterans Memorial Trail bike path in Hebron Saturday June 6, 2020. A new long-distance bicycle route between Northwest Indiana and the Indianapolis area could soon join a group of bike routes across Indiana. Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune

Parts of some USBRs use bike trails, but most of the miles are along roads and streets.

The effort to designate USBR 37, as with other long-distance bike routes, was led by the Adventure Cycling Association, based in Missoula, Montana.

ACA suggested a route made up of city streets, trails, county roads, state roads and U.S. highways, and INDOT said it received letters of support from the jurisdictions that the route goes through.

If approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), USBR 37 would join four other officially designated long-distance routes running about 700 miles across Indiana.

AASHTO is the same organization that coordinates the numbering of interstate highways and U.S. routes.

There are over 18,900 miles of USBR routes in 34 states.

“They’re trying to mimic our interstate (highway) system,” said Mitch Barloga, transportation planning manager and active transportation planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. “The more of these we have, the better for all of us.”

In Indiana, USBR 36 runs through Northwest Indiana from Illinois to Michigan. It uses the Erie Lackawanna Trail and the Oak Savannah Trail in Lake County and the Prairie Duneland Trail in Porter County, along with local roads and U.S. 12.

USBR 35 is a nearly 381-mile route through Indiana, from the Michigan border in LaPorte County to the Ohio River in Jeffersonville.

Two other routes, USBR 235 and USBR 50, go through central Indiana.

Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.

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Man killed, teen injured in Little Village shooting: police

A man was killed and a teen was injured in a drive-by shooting in Little Village Saturday night, police said.

The shooting happened on the 2500 block of South Trumbull at around 11:54 p.m. The men were in a vehicle stopped at a stop sign when a two-door white sedan pulled up and fired shots.

A 22-year-old man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital with a gunshot wound to the head where he was pronounced dead. A 17-year-old sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to Mt. Sinai in fair condition, according to police.

No arrests have been made.

karmanini@chicagotribune.com

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CPD: Officer shot while patrolling in Humboldt Park

A Chicago police officer was shot while patrolling in Humboldt Park early Sunday morning, authorities said.

Two officers were on patrol on the 3800 block of West Augusta Boulevard at around 2:02 a.m. when people began shooting at a group of men walking down the street.

A bullet hit the window of their marked squad car. One officer was shot in his bulletproof vest, and the other was injured by the shattered glass. They did not return fire, according to police.

An 18-year-old man was later discovered with a gunshot wound and taken to Stroger Hospital in serious condition.

The officers were taken to an area hospital and are listed in good condition, police said.

No arrests have been made.

karmanini@chicagotribune.com

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Homer Glen asks voters whether it should try to dissolve township

Homer Glen residents will be asked in the March 19 election whether the village should pursue efforts to potentially dissolve or discontinue township government, a move supporters say would be the first step to eliminate layers of government and duplicative services and save taxpayer money.

“This is a local advisory opinion on public policy,” village attorney Michael Pasquinelli said. “Whether this is accepted or rejected by the voters has no legal consequence.”

Mayor Christina Neitzke-Troike said the referendum is not binding, but rather will gauge residents’ feelings and give the Village Board direction.

If the referendum passes, it would show residents are interested in eliminating a layer of government, Neitzke-Troike said, noting Illinois has three times more government bodies than other states.

She said other elected officials are watching Homer Glen, and the village can be a trailblazer.

“If residents vote yes, this will put pressure on all taxing bodies,” Neitzke-Troike said. “Residents are fed up. We can’t afford it any more. If residents say ‘Yes, get rid of taxing bodies we don’t need,’ it will speak volumes.”

Homer Glen makes up nearly 62% of the township, with Lockport accounting for about 30%. About 6.8% of the township is unincorporated area and just over 1% is New Lenox and Lemont combined.

Homer Township collects $1.94 million in taxes, including taxes levied by the highway department, Homer Glen treasurer John Sawyers said. Of that, Homer Glen residents are paying nearly $1.2 million to the township, he said.

A home worth about $375,000 pays nearly $169 in property taxes to Homer Township based on the 2022 tax rates, Sawyers said.

Neitzke-Troike said the Homer Glen residents are paying for township services they don’t receive.

“This was never proposed to benefit us as a village in any way,” Neitzke-Troike said. “This was proposed to save residents money. We need to give some tax relief to residents.”

The Homer Township offices in Homer Glen.Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown, March 2, 2024, Homer Glen, Illinois
The Homer Township offices in Homer Glen. (Brett Johnson/Daily Southtown)

Homer Township Supervisor Steve Balich said, however, the township provides several services to its residents.

The township takes care of some roads that Homer Glen residents use, maintains open space and a dog park, has a medical supply cabinet to loan walkers, shower chairs, crutches and other items, offers senior services and plans events such as a senior expo and a pet fair, he said.

The township is also working on plans for a civic center that when complete would provide after school programs, gardening programs and recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs, Balich said.

“Are we going to exclude Homer Glen? No,” Balich said.

Homer Township operates at a low cost and connected to the people, and residents turn to township officials when needing help on various problems, Balich said.

Balich said what complicates the referendum is Homer Township serves an area larger than just Homer Glen, but only Homer Glen residents will see the question on the ballot.

Supporters of the referendum said the township was more necessary before the village incorporated in 2001.

Neitzke-Troike said the residents are paying for duplicative services.

She said the village’s Ability Awareness Committee also has a medical closet and the village offers senior services.

The village took control of several park s within its boundaries that the township used to maintain, she said. But the township kept its open space properties that generate it revenue from leasing to area farmers.

A few years ago, Homer Glen took over maintenance of 130 miles of roads as well as equipment from the Homer Township Road District when it formed its Public Works Department. The village can explore adding about 18 miles of roads still under the township road district’s authority to its system, Neitzke-Troike said.

It costs about $12,100 in taxes per mile for Homer Glen Public Works Department to maintain its 130 miles of roads, whereas it costs nearly $44,000 per mile for the Homer Township Road District to maintain 18 miles, Sawyers said.

Homer Township Road Commissioner Brent Porfilio disputes those numbers. He said it costs the township about $43,000 per mile for 18.5 miles of township roads. But when including the village costs from all of the funds used to support roads, sidewalks, sewers, lighting, curbs, gutters and other work in the right of way, Homer Glen spends about $53,000 per mile, he said.

The township road district has been able to operate more efficiently, employs two people, has better equipment and uses better road salt in the winter, Porfilio said. All inspections for engineering and construction projects are done by Porfilio, an engineer who has an Illinois Department of Transportation construction inspection certificate, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Because of its efficient operations, there is no way he would turn over the 18.5 miles of roads to the village, he said.

“It is not cheaper to taxpayers to dissolve the township,” Porfilio said. “People who live in unincorporated areas don’t want to be in the village. They had over 20 years to (annex). They don’t want the taxes or regulations.”

Neitzke-Troike said unincorporated areas would not be forcibly annexed.

The General Assembly must grant special authority to a county or municipality seeking to dissolve just one township, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization that advocates for improving laws and regulations affecting Illinois.

Neitzke-Troike said the Illinois General Assembly has granted some authority to consolidate or dissolve units of local governments.

A law was created in 2013 allowing Evanston Township to be dissolved and a separate law was also created to allow the DuPage County Board to dissolve or consolidate various units of government. In 2016, another law allowed McHenry and Lake counties to dissolve units of government and Belleville was also given authority to dissolve its township.

The village of Homer Glen has spent about $4,050 in legal fees exploring the referendum.

Neitzke-Troike said if the referendum passes, she would like to work on various ways that residents’ taxes could be cut.

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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17-year-old killed in South Loop shooting, police say

A 17-year-old died after he and another teen were shot in a parking lot Saturday night in South Loop, police said.

Officers were near the 500 block of West Roosevelt Road around 8:06 p.m. when shots were fired. Police discovered the two teens in the parking lot of a bank with apparent gunshot wounds, authorities said.

Officers performed life-saving measures at the scene. The 17-year-old was taken to Stroger Hospital with gunshot wounds to the chest and neck where he was later pronounced dead.

The second teen, a 15-year-old, sustained a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to Stroger Hospital in fair condition.

A person was arrested and a weapon was recovered at the scene, according to police.

karmanini@chicagotribune.com

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