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Local
'Concerns ... raised' regarding city police
 09.26.20

KANKAKEE — Are Kankakee police officers being less-than-responsive when it comes to calls for assistance? Are officers failing to address situations promptly once they arrive at the scene of a disturbance?

Those two accusations were raised by Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong near the end of the Kankakee City Council meeting this week. She took the situation a step further by stating if some police officers no longer want to work for city residents, then she would help them transition elsewhere.

“We’ve been getting a number of calls. It’s pretty regular,” Wells-Armstrong said two days after Monday’s city council meeting. “Concerns have been raised. There are concerns that officers are not intervening when things are happening. They’re not responding in a way the public has confidence.”

Patrolman Kris Lombardi, president of the Kankakee Federation of Police and an 18-year veteran of the department, said the mayor’s comments are not a reflection of the department nor representative of the manner in which officers carry out their job.

“Everyone here takes their job very seriously. Each call is handled professionally. I have no idea where she gets her information,” he said, noting he has not spoken to the mayor regarding these allegations. “I’m confident [Kankakee Police Chief Frank Kosman] knows we are doing our job.”

Attempts to gain comment from Kosman were unsuccessful.

Lombardi said in policing, it is difficult to make everyone happy. Emotions often run high, and police encounter individuals when they might not be at their best.

NATIONAL FUROR RAGES ON

Police work has been under continued scrutiny as the national furor rages on regarding accusations of police misconduct. The nation has seen daily protests and acts of violence committed in the name of police reform.

Lombardi said the fact the mayor is questioning the department’s professionalism publicly does not help this situation.

“It doesn’t help when our city leadership is going along with what is portrayed in the national media,” he said. “People tend to disrespect us. Her comments don’t help at all. We are not perfect by any means. I’m the first to say that.”

During his tenure, Lombardi said no city leader ever publicly has questioned the department.

“I have no idea where she is getting this,” he said.

At the council meeting, the mayor stated if there are officers who don’t like working here, she would help them transition to another location.

“I’m not in support of defunding police. We need the police department,” she added.

She did note the police department is the largest consumer of city tax dollars, and if there are betters ways of spending that money on public safety, then that should be explored.

“I support good police,” she said.

In follow-up comments Wednesday, Wells-Armstrong said police are accountable to the community, whether the officers live within the city or outside its limits. Few Kankakee police officers live in Kankakee.

“You must be responsive when people call you,” she said.

Lombardi said he has not heard criticism from the public regarding the performance of the force.

Wells-Armstrong noted that fact didn’t surprise her.

“Kris is not the mayor. People are not reaching out to him. They are calling me,” she said. “This is not about attacking the police. But if you are not doing your job, that’s a problem. And I’m not saying the public has lost faith.”

But, she said, there is work to be done and building relationships with the city’s youth — especially the brown people here, she said — might be a great place to start.

POLICE NEED SUPPORT

Ald. Carl Brown, D-7, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he has heard of some things happening regarding police that should not be happening. He didn’t go into specifics. He said criticism of police is not uncommon, especially now.

“I’ve heard questions and concerns of how they are doing their job, but that’s normal. Police are the most criticized group out there right now,” he said.

But in today’s world, they must know they are under the microscope.

“When police act professionally, it goes unnoticed. When they act wrong, everyone notices. But anytime I hear people are not acting professionally, I’m concerned.”

Ald. Chris Curtis, R-6, who is running for mayor, said the city has an outstanding police department. He said he’s not heard anything about police failing to respond or responding in an inappropriate manner.

“What the police department needs right now is support, more than ever. We have shootings taking place, ATVs riding all over the city, and the police still have to protect themselves. It’s a very difficult time for them,” he said.

After the mayor’s comments toward the end of Monday’s meeting, Curtis asked to continue the meeting to discuss short-term ideas on ways to at least slow down the spike of gun violence. The mayor said it was 9:45 p.m. — the council meeting began at 7 p.m. — and it was time to end the meeting.

“I believe the public wants to hear us talk about this,” Curtis said. “We can’t bury our heads in the sand. The council meeting was the perfect time to discuss this.”

The mayor suggested another meeting be set up to discuss the matter. That meeting has been set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. A special Kankakee City Council meeting, it will be conducted via video conferencing because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Curtis hopes Tuesday’s meeting with bring forth ideas as to how to turn around the downward spiral of crime in the community.

“What we need right now is strong morale and strong support from city leaders, and I’m not hearing that,” he said, adding beating down police officers does not help the situation.

“We all need a pat on the back, a word of confidence. They have one of the toughest jobs out there right now. They need our support and encouragement.”


Local
Season 4 of 'Fargo," featuring Momence, begins Sunday
 09.25.20

MOMENCE — The streets of Momence again will hit the small screen at 8 p.m. Sunday as the FX network airs the Season 4 premiere of “Fargo.”

Some scenes of the anthology drama were shot in the “old bordertown” streets of Momence. The series started shooting parts of its fourth season, set in 1950 Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 15 in Momence. The film crew transformed a block of Washington Street from Dixie Highway east to the post office into 1950 Kansas City. Filming occurred at the former Jensen Drugstore building. A chase scene also was filmed on Maple Street.

The fourth season of “Fargo” centers on two syndicates who are fighting for a piece of the American Dream, albeit with a criminal element, and have struck an uneasy peace, according to the network’s website. Together they control the alternate economy of graft, exploitation and drugs.

“Fargo” stars Chris Rock as Loy Cannon, the head of a Black crime family, while Tomasso Ragno stars as Donatello Fadda, the head of the rival Italian mafia. Rock was on set in Momence in October 2019.

The drama also features Momence’s own Lamar Lillard, who plays an active role in the production, cast as Mars Freeman, bodyguard to Cannon. Lillard, a 1997 graduate of St. Anne High School, has played background roles for the past five years in shows such as “Empire,” “Chicago PD,” “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Med” and “The Chi.”

Other actors in the fourth season include Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw and Timothy Olyphant. The first three seasons of Fargo were set in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

“Fargo” starts at 8 p.m. Sunday, and FX is carried by most local providers. Check local listings for channel information.

As an “old bordertown,” Momence’s nostalgic feel has grabbed Hollywood’s attention more than once. The community’s downtown was in parts of the 2002 crime thriller “Road to Perdition,” starring Tom Hanks. The small city also has appeared in “American Pickers” and “Mysteries at the Museum.”


Local
Trick-or-treating a go in Bourbonnais, Herscher
 09.24.20

Daily Journal staff report

Trick-or-treating will take place in the villages of Bourbonnais and Herscher.

After weeks of review and awaiting public health guidance, Bourbonnais Mayor Paul Schore and village officials announced the community will go forward with the annual tradition. Official trick-or-treating hours will be 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 31.

“Our community’s ongoing patience amid continued mitigation efforts during COVID-19 has been remarkable,” Schore said in a release.

“It is important to remember that Halloween and trick-or-treating is not a village event. We believe our residents will make the safest choice that is best suited for their families on Halloween. Participation is an individual choice, and parents have the right to choose.”

The Village of Herscher announced its board’s decision to participate in trick-or-treating hours via a Facebook post Tuesday. The post did not include the village’s officials hours but said more information will be forth-coming.

In Bourbonnais, village officials will be providing social-distancing suggestions and best practices from the Halloween and Costume Association in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In order to make Halloween safe yet keep it fun, the village set official trick-or-treating hours earlier in the evening than in years past.

and is suggesting the following best practices for trick-or-treaters, homeowners and parents:

Trick-or-Treaters

• Stay home if sick

• Trick-or-treat with people you live with

• Remain 6 feet apart from people not in your household

• Wear a face mask covering both your mouth and nose

• Use hand sanitizer frequently while out

• Wash your hands as soon as you return home

Homeowners

• Do not hand out candy if you are sick

• Wear a face mask covering both your mouth and nose

• Position a distribution table between yourself and trick-or-treaters

• Distribute a treat bag or baggie, if possible, with commercially packaged non-perishable treats — not homemade items — on a disinfected table to help eliminate direct contact

• Refrain from distributing treats out of a large container, such as a bowl, with each trick-or-treater placing their hands inside to select items


Local
County finances weathering the storm
 09.25.20

cbreach@daily-journal.com

KANKAKEE — Kankakee County has weathered the COVID-19 storm so far this year, as its finances for the fourth quarter of 2020 unfold.

Financial documents presented at Thursday’s finance committee meeting at the county administration building reveal an upward trend.

“It’s all positive news considering everything that we were suspecting could’ve happened when all this started,” said Steve McCarty, county finance director.

Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said the county definitely was affected by the pandemic.

“We had almost a $3 million surplus built in to the budget, and that evaporated,” Wheeler said. “It would’ve been a lot more if we wouldn’t have controlled costs in other areas. We had a minimal impact on sales tax and property tax and those types of things, but other revenue streams were severely impacted. The good thing is we were able to adjust on the expense side to compensate for that so we could tread water this year.”

Sales tax collected by retailers for the county for June, the latest month available, was $377,189 compared to $379,096 for 2019, a decrease of 1.9 percent. That’s an upward trend from May, when $377,663 was collected compared to $423,788 in 2019, an 11 percent decrease. Use tax collected for June was $107,861 compared to $76,143 in 2019, an increase of $31,718.

Income tax continues its increase with $220,466 collected in August, the latest month available, compared to $170,756 in 2019, an increase of $49,710. It’s the third straight month for an increase in income tax after two down months.

“For the most part, I’m pleasantly surprised the use tax continues as nothing has happened,” McCarty said. “The income tax has now turned positive where we saw a negative trend for the year. We’re still watching the sales tax really close. … We’re only 1 percent off from a year ago. We’re almost break-even there.”

Sales tax collected for the villages of Bourbonnais and Bradley also was up from 2019, and Kankakee sales tax was down from the previous year. Bourbonnais collected $306,959 in June compared to $258,598 in 2019, an increase of 19 percent. That stopped a trend of three straight months of decreases from the previous year. Bradley collected $660,304 compared to $637,109 in ‘19, a 4 percent increase. That also reversed a trend of three months of decreases. Kankakee collected $626,543 in June compared to $709,507 in ‘19, a 12 percent decrease. It’s the fifth straight month of decreases from the previous year.

The county’s cash flow analysis showed an ending cash balance of $6,368,179 actual for August 2020, down from $7,578,036 in July. The September estimated ending cash balance is $12,352,707. Those numbers bode well for the 2021 budget.

“We are working on the future, working on what next March, April and May will be at this point with budget information that we’re going to be discussing soon,” McCarty said.

PROPERTY TAX COLLECTIONS

Property tax collections also have continued to be strong in contrast to previous years, reported County Treasurer Nick Africano.

“We were worried at the beginning of this tax season about what collection would be, and I think, rightly so, based on what was going on and what’s still going on,” he said. “… We’re under 1 percent difference between ‘18 and ‘19. If I look back at other years, that’s really a negligible difference, so I guess the upshot of that is we’ve collected this year the same that we’ve always collected. COVID-19 hasn’t hurt us, and I think that’s a testament to the residents of our county. I know for a lot of people, it’s a struggle, and I salute them.”