Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

No appetite for restaurant after gov’t rudeness

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By Ray Hanania

Palos Park is a quaint, forest-laden southwest suburban community boasting beautiful trees, wildlife, and amazing looking homes on lush land. Literally designed to be a park, the population is only 4,900.

Yet, in that tiny picturesque island, you will find very disrespectful village council members.

The council met Monday, Feb. 27, inviting homeowners to express their views about plans by Wu’s House restaurant, 123rd and LaGrange Road, to increase their already large parking lot.

The disrespect and lack of civility I heard towards residents who have legitimate concerns about the parking expansion was disturbing. (Watch the video at Hanania.com on “Hot Topics.”)

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

After Hackney’s restaurant closed after 33 years of good neighborliness in 2019, the council approved Wu’s to build a humongous fifth location. Wu’s said they only needed 93 parking spaces.

But cars waiting to enter caused long traffic jams on 123rd Street in both directions. Wu’s hired a parking service, and the village let them park cars at Village Hall, apparently for free.

Last fall, Wu’s came back saying they needed more parking, asking to add 73 more spaces on an adjacent piece of land thick with 90 trees and used for storm water retention near a small creek.

When the plan was introduced to the Plan Commission, residents complained. They argued an increase in traffic, all those cars, the destruction of the land, the trees and retention pond would change the idyllic nature of the village. They also complained Wu’s leaves their bright lights on all night. All reasonable points.

In November, the Plan Commission rejected parking expansion and destruction of the retention land, but the Village Council demanded they re-examine it. The Plan Commission rejected it again in December.

At the February meeting, however, a Plan Commission member who twice voted against the expansion, Angela Roderick, changed her mind. It raised a lot of eyebrows and concerns. “What happened?” several residents asked. No council member would answer.

If the erosion of village landscaping isn’t enough to cause concerns, the subsequent disrespect board members showed to residents who expressed their concerns, should be.

All the speakers, the vast majority against and a few for, were respectful, although some pressed the council for answers, which the trustees wouldn’t give. After all, their homes are at stake.

Ronette Leal McCarthy, who is running to succeed retiring Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney, criticized the Plan Commission’s flip-flop and spoke against the expansion. She urged the council to reject it. McCarthy made great points that the council wouldn’t address.

As she started to speak, Trustee G. Darryl Reed gave a snarky expression of apparent disgust, prompting McCarthy to ask, “Mr. Reed, did I say something wrong?” Reed didn’t answer and only spoke after residents were done.

“There are children in the audience that clearly don’t know how to behave themselves. I would ask that maybe you put their big boy and big girl britches on, and just shut the hell up while we are talking,” Reed later snapped angrily, an apparent slap at McCarthy.

He lectured about process and criticized residents who “abused” Plan Commission members during their hearings, adding, “There is always ways to cast aspersions on someone’s good name or character. And I have heard some character assassination going on in here this evening under the guise of ‘Oh, this is just our position.’ Yeah. OK! And then privilege, when a black man [Reed is African American] makes a facial expression and someone has the audacity in a public forum to ask him to explain himself. No! No! It ain’t that kind of party, people. It’s not. And the children, and the children are still talking out of turn. When you don’t have anything important to say, then you make noise.”

Nothing important to say? Wow!

Council member Dan Polk angrily lectured, “At no time have I ever heard such denigration, such personal animosity directed to the citizens of the Village of Palos Park or the council of the Village of Palos Park. That might work in Chicago, but we don’t play that way here, homie! We respect people for what they bring to the party.”

“Homie?” Seriously?

The council’s disrespect for the concerns of homeowners is appalling, suggesting the council doesn’t care about the impact the destruction of beautiful land and more cars will have. It must be about politics, or something else that they are not saying.

Commissioner Nicole Milovich-Walters, also running for mayor, was deadly silent. In fact, other than attacking residents who spoke, none of the trustees addressed any of the specific issues.

After seeing the disrespect, I lost my appetite for Wu’s. Palos Park officials owe its citizens an apology.

(Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. Visit hanania.com for more information.)

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