My response to a local, hypocritical band of “Hate Has No Home Here” rogue warriors

I have been an Independent politically for my entire life. Neither of the major parties has won me over enough to identify with either. There are good policy views on both ends of the spectrum, and there are good people on both ends, too.

However, the Republican Party has a long way to go in restoring its reputation, or having any chance of winning me over at the voting booth. A major reason why: its coddling, enabling and outright support of soon-to-be ex-President Trump. As has been well documented, our 45th President has waged a ruthless and relentless assault on truth and longstanding norms that are essential to our country’s survival as a viable democracy.

Although it was somewhat understandable that GOP rank-and-file leaders tolerated Trump before the election three weeks ago, any Republican official who has not clearly and strongly denounced Trump’s behavior since then is now absolutely complicit in engaging in traitorous, despicable conduct.

“Hate Has No Home Here”–a sign liberally on display throughout Oak Park, Illinois. Alas, the absence of hate has not yet fully arrived in public discourse–including among those who are proud sign owners.

Locally, on the far left end of the political spectrum, another gut-check has arrived for my neighbors in Oak Park, one of the most politically liberal communities in the country.

Since 2013, I have been an elected official in Oak Park, first through my four-year term on the library board and then my current tenure on the District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School Board of Education. In that time, I have observed some of the most staunch anti-Trumpers exhibit the same repellent qualities of intolerance, bullying and racially charged rhetoric that they (accurately) ascribe to Trump.

Last year, I referred to this approach in the aftermath of one Village Trustee’s embarrassing tirade, in which she “seized on differences in gender, race and any other characteristics as a cudgel to silence and diminish others and their points of view.”

The latest episode occurred this past weekend, when a resident referred to Village Trustee Dan Moroney as a white supremacist. That’s bad enough. But it was exacerbated by eight others who “liked” or “loved” the comment about a man who has become a friend over the past four years. While Dan and I disagree on plenty of political points, I know his character well enough to see the comment for what it is: outrageous, irresponsible and slanderous.

Those who fanned the “white supremacist” labeler’s hateful flames behaved much the same as those Republican politicians who have shamefully cowered under Trump’s bullying shadow. These local enablers have so much more to gain by pushing back against the comment, while issuing civil critiques that they may see in Dan’s stance on issues or his overall philosophy of governance. By taking that measured, mature approach, they would bolster, rather than damage, their credibility.

I responded with this letter to the editor of the local newspaper, closing it with questions that I urge anyone reading these words to take to heart. Will you denounce hateful remarks that are beyond the pale, even–or perhaps especially–when they come from those with whom you agree politically?

When You See Something, Will You Say Something?

If you saw someone dump a duffel bag in the middle of a crowded gathering, then scurry away, would you simply move along and not say anything? Or would you speak up?

This weekend, commenting on a Wednesday Journal story posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page, a community member branded Oak Park Village Trustee Dan Moroney a white supremacist.

When that hateful comment–and the eight people who “liked” or “loved” it– came to my attention, I took a “when you see something, say something” approach. Anyone who had encountered those words was a witness to a form of terrorism: a vile, false accusation and character assassination that must not go unanswered.

Terrorism is defined as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” The attack on Moroney, while not unlawful, is emotional and psychological violence. And it is part of a longstanding local pattern of intimidation that is “in the pursuit of political aims.”

In short, this slanderous Oak Parker—and those who cheered on her remark with their “likes” and “loves”—want to bully Moroney and his family so that he won’t run for re-election.

These tactics are nothing new. Over the past four years, this local far-left Progressive bloc with unmistakable political aims has engaged in a steady drumbeat of baseless character assassinations against anyone who does not toe the Progressive line. If you are not with them all the way, not only are you against them, but you are also a racist or, at minimum, hell-bent on preserving the racist status quo.

Indirectly by innuendo and blatantly, as in this recent episode, this intimidation squad has resorted to smear tactics that send a signal to potential candidates: enter civic life at your own peril, because we have a duffel bag of goodies with your name on it, too.

Some observers say the campaign season for the Spring 2021 municipal elections gets under way soon. Not true. For quite some time now, an extreme, intolerant and hypocritical band of “Hate Has No Home Here” rogue warriors have been campaigning 24/7.

Any honorable local candidate will unequivocally condemn their despicable methods. Will they? And what about you, fellow Oak Parker? When you see something, will you say something?

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Pat Koko: for 50 years, a volunteer extraordinaire in & around Oak Park

A decade ago, the longtime chairman of the Oak Park/River Forest Seniors Services Committee, Jim Flanagan, launched the Celebrating Seniors Coalition. Its mission: honoring, recognizing and serving seniors in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, Illinois.

From the outset, I have served as the group’s publicist.

Although Celebrating Seniors Week, held each May for a week, was nixed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has made strides with an updated, upgraded website.

In addition to providing more details and a better experience for visitors, the revamped website spotlights several key volunteers who have been especially active over the years. They include Flanagan, as well as Dr. Lydia Manning, Richard Harrison and Nick Preys.

Among these leading volunteers has been Pat Koko, who has received the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award on multiple occasions.

In fact, I see Pat as the Oprah Winfrey of Celebrating Seniors. An explanation: while still a talk show host, Oprah took herself out of the running for Emmy Awards. Likewise, Pat could at least be a co-recipient of the award every year, and I would not be surprised if we eventually name the award in her honor. With energy, humor and steadfastness that are a powerful force, Pat is truly a volunteer extraordinaire.

A little more background about Pat:

Along with her husband, Paul, and their daughter, Marie, Pat moved to Oak Park in 1967. After she graduated from Dominican University (Rosary College at the time) with a degree in History, Pat volunteered to deliver meals to home-bound seniors for Oak Park Township. Thus began a dedicated 45-plus years of working with and for older adults in our communities.

For 20 years, Pat ran a home-care agency to provide assistance to seniors while she also served as a key volunteer with the Oak Park and River Forest Food Pantry (now known as Beyond Hunger) for 17 years. Her community involvement has also included being among the founders of a networking group, the Senior Citizens’ Services Coordinating Council. The SCSCC still meets monthly to gather those who serve seniors to strengthen their professional development.

Pat Koko (left) poses with Sandra Rowe at the 2016 closing luncheon for Celebrating
Seniors Week. Both were recipients of that year’s Volunteer of the Year award.

In addition, Pat served as Administrative Secretary of The Community of Congregations, and was Executive Director of the Senior Citizens Center before being reappointed to the Oak Park-River Forest Senior Citizens Advisory Council.

Since Celebrating Seniors’ inception, Pat has been Treasurer and Resource Coordinator for the organization–but I think “Volunteer Extraordinaire” captures it pretty well, too.

Related Posts:
The River Forest Citizen Corps Wants You
Packing for Retirement and Beyond: Jim Flanagan’s Passion to Help Older Adults

Our daily shopping choices: a super-simple way to boost local economy amid COVID-19 era

During this COVID-19 era, any trip through the commercial corridors of Oak Park, Illinois—my community along the western border of Chicago—has revealed its potential as a post-apocalyptic movie set.

But here in my town—and wherever you are, within your community—there is a simple mathematical principle that empowers us to revise the script: shop locally, as much and as often as possible.

The “multiplier effect,” powerfully displayed.

In explaining the multiplier effect of local independent businesses, the American Independent Business Alliance states, “The multiplier results from the fact that independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises). In other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.”

In Oak Park, partly to blame for our ghost-town vibe is extensive road and infrastructure work coursing right through the heart of the community. Given the current state of business distress, with little traffic anyhow, our village leaders have wisely accelerated those efforts. That full-speed-ahead approach, sort of like quickly ripping off a bandage to hasten the pain, is about the only lemonade to come out of this historically humongous lemon.

Efforts to preserve physical health through the COVID era have had major side-effects, not the least of which is a business community with numerous members who find themselves on mercantile life support. It is a condition that prevails across the entire country. Solving the United States’ problems is well beyond any one local group’s capacity to remedy. However, any community grappling on the commercial home front can take steps to minimize the damage in their own backyard, and then turn the tide.

For those in and around Oak Park, not every dollar can be expended within our few square miles. However, making a conscious decision to allocate a few more pennies per dollar can make a meaningful difference, especially when considering the multiplier effect. A decade ago, that philosophy was at the heart of my role for two years as marketing coordinator of “Shop the Village.”

It takes a courageous man (or at least a brazen PR guy) to wear red boots, mask and cape in front of a flower shop–or anywhere else for that matter.

A coordinated initiative supported by the Village of Oak Park, Downtown Oak Park and other business districts, Shop the Village was a marketing arm for dozens of businesses partaking in the campaign the first year (spanning three months before and after the year-end holidays). The next year, 2009, building on lessons gleaned from that first year, we engaged a “Super Shopper Spotter” campaign. It featured a super-hero character played by yours truly.

This is not a proposal to bring back that Caped Crusader of Commerce. You do not need to put on big red boots or have campy humor to recognize that shopping locally is a practical, powerful way for us all to serve our own best interests. It is through our daily choices that we each have a super-simple, super-heroic role to play.

Related Posts:
Super Shopper Spotter’ Picks Up Steam
In Oak Park, Helping to `Shop the Village’

On October 16th in Oak Park: “PR Secrets From a Media Insider”

Since 2001, associations and companies across the United States have hired Matt Baron of Inside Edge PR to train thousands of journalists, publicists and other professionals to develop immediately applicable, improved story-telling skills.

 

On Tuesday, Oct. 16th, through an Oak Park – River Forest (OPRF) Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn at Adam Doe State Farm, he brings PR Secrets From a Media Insider. In this practical workshop, rooted in the rapidly evolving communications landscape, Matt teaches how to:

• Craft compelling, publication-ready news releases
• Establish yourself as an expert in your field
• Use social media to expand your communications reach
• Secure media coverage that leads to greater profits

To register, contact Mark Walden at mwalden@oprfchamber.org.

Sharing the Story of StorySlam: A Benefit for Farther Foundation

Honored to be serving as the emcee, and to be providing some media relations support, for StorySlam: A Benefit for Farther Foundation. It’s coming up fast–on Thursday, October 11th, at FitzGerald’s Nightclub.

Tickets are $50 and include food and all the entertainment. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.fartherfoundation.org or call 708-497-7240.

Founded in 2008, the Oak Park-based organization has supported 221 students–mostly high school sophomores and juniors from Chicago and nearby suburbs–who have traveled to 27 states and 32 countries.

Farther Foundation enables students from economically disadvantaged circumstances participate in life-changing educational travel programs. While traveling, students interact with people from diverse backgrounds, become immersed in new cultures and experiences, learn and develop skills and engage in community service.

See the news release at the Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal.

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From Magazine to Video, My Two-Year Journey With the NIU Foundation
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