Lester: Bill to pay families after police officer suicides meets demise
A bill that passed last spring in the Illinois Senate would have compensated families of police officers who killed themselves on the job, like in the case of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz.
But in the weeks after Gliniewicz staged his suicide to look like a murder, the bill was gutted and turned into an unrelated state unemployment insurance reform bill.
Both Waukegan state Sen. Terry Link, the main sponsor of the original bill, and state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, a co-sponsor, say the changes had nothing to do with Gliniewicz and were made weeks before police and Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd announced the Fox Lake veteran officer's death was suicide.
"The timing doesn't match up," Bush told me this week.
The legislation was originally filed by Democratic state Sen. Michael Hastings at the behest of the Fraternal Order of Police. Hastings' staff noted the Tinley Park Democrat has introduced a number of bills relating to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder, citing this one as a way to "try to help families (of first responders) because ... the stress of their active duty services has contributed to them taking their own life."
Hasting's legislation would have changed the state's Line of Duty Compensation Act to list officers as "killed in the line of duty" if they died from self-inflicted injuries that were deemed by mental health professionals to be a result of active duty service.
Under state law, the surviving spouse of an officer killed in the line of duty is entitled to receive the officer's full salary at the time of death.
Just why did they empty the bill of its contents and swap in the unemployment measure? Amending an existing bill provides lawmakers a shortcut in the final days of their session, with the ability to move it faster than if they'd started from scratch.
Leaders of St. Viator Catholic High School's Justice League Group tell me their campaign to raise funds to help Syrian refugees settling in the Chicago area began with a visit to Marie Joseph House of Hospitality in Cicero, where they met refugees from Syria and Somalia.
"It struck me that many of them are educated, many of them are just like us," says Simon Mo, of Mundelein, a senior at the Arlington Heights school.
This week, the group is selling "Refugees Welcome" T-shirts for $10, with $4.50 of that going to resettle a Syrian family.
St. Viator's president, the Rev. Corey Brost, said he's heard from some parents unhappy with the students' efforts.
This week, several governors and members of Congress, including Republicans Gov. Bruce Rauner and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, said it's too dangerous to let refugees from Syria come into the country, for now. French and Greek officials have said one of the suicide bombers apparently had entered Europe among the refugees.
"It's never easy, particularly when people are afraid," said Brost. "We try to answer their questions with information."
Brost moving on
Brost will step down as school president to work with immigrants and refugees full time. A lawyer, he also worked as a journalist before joining the Catholic order several decades ago.
French sister city
Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek tells me she's been exchanging emails with Mayor Gregoire De La Ronciere of Sevres, France, Mount Prospect's sister city. Juracek says she informed Ronciere that local residents' "hearts are with them." However, "it's not a situation that lends itself to sending anything or doing anything," she said. "My concern is that we not pester them at this time."
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra plans to perform "La Marseillaise," the national anthem of France, at the beginning of its "French Connection with Isabella Lippi" concerts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Hemmens Cultural Center of Elgin. The ESO is among orchestras around the nation that are performing the anthem in response to the terrorism in Paris, reports The League of American Orchestras.
Equality Illinois picks Pelosi
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has been awarded the 2016 Equality Illinois Freedom Award by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization Equality Illinois. Pelosi will accept the recognition in February at a gala at the Hilton Chicago.
Here's longtime Daily Herald photographer and gourmet pizza chef extraordinare Bob Chwedyk and his wife, Kathy Chwedy,k with their most recent masterpiece -- a double top pepperonni pizza (that's four layers of cheese and pepperoni in all) grilled on a pizza stone with wood chips for that "wood-fired, clay-oven vibe." For a long time, I've made a habit of asking Chwedyk what he's cooking up. "I've always said we like to play with our food ... and if you have a favorite sandwich, you can make a pizza out of it," he tells me.