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Maternity BVM celebrating 175 years

BOURBONNAIS — Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church is celebrating its 175th anniversary this weekend with two days filled with family, fun, history and worship.

The anniversary celebration began earlier this year with two events in April, including a concert at the church and a dueling pianos event at Quality Inn.

The celebration continues Saturday and Sunday with three events.

BVM’s Family, Food & Fun

From 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the church, located at 308 E. Marsile St., Bourbonnais, BVM’s Family, Food & Fun will take place. The celebration will include bounce houses and kids games.

Taste of BVM

From 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday will be the Taste of BVM, held at the BrickStone Brewery facility, 572 Brewery Ln., Bourbonnais. Food and drink tickets will be available at the event.

On hand will be Jimmy Jo’s BBQ, Mi Casa, Chicago Dough Company, Bennett-Curtis House, Sweet Darren’s, Pattycakes Cupcakery, LoveALatte and The Sisters of St. Roger Abbey French Organic Patisserie. BrickStone beer, as well as wine and other beverages, will be available for sale.

Live music entertainment will be provided. At 5 p.m. will be a performance from the Swing Kings and at 8 p.m. will be the South Side Social Club.

At 9 p.m., a split-the-pot drawing will take place. Raffle tickets can be purchased by calling the Parish Office at 815-933-8285. Tickets also will be sold throughout the evening of the event. The pot is currently at $7,000.

This event is cash only and there will be an ATM on the premises. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets for the live music.

Worship & History

At 10 a.m. Sunday at the church, Maternity BVM will host a mass in honor of the anniversary.

The mass will be celebrated by Bishop Ronald A. Hicks.

Immediately following mass will be a reception with light refreshments in the Parish Center.

At noon, there will be a history tour of designated areas of Maternity BVM and Olivet Nazarene University.

Informational guides will be at each stop to share some of the history at Maternity BVM at both the church and on the grounds of ONU.

A special blessing in the grotto will be held after the conclusion of tours.

For more information on the anniversary events, call 815-933-8285.

Voters will decide Kankakee's home rule status

KANKAKEE — Past and present Kankakee political leadership will be putting on a full-court press to get city voters to the polls and vote against a Nov. 8 ballot proposition.

The proposition has the ability to immediately strip Kankakee of its home rule governing authority as the city’s population has dipped below the 25,000 threshold, which has kept this power in place since the early 1970s.

At a news conference Monday, the city showed a unified front — meaning Democrats and Republicans gathered together to promote the vote to keep home rule in place.


Home rule was made available to Illinois municipalities as a result of the 1970s Illinois Constitution. Communities with a population over 25,000 automatically gain home rule and smaller communities can earn it by passing a referendum.

In its simplest terms, home rule allows a municipality to pass numerous measures, but most importantly, it gives a municipality the power to borrow money through the sale of governmental bonds and to implement new taxes — without taking these measures to the municipal voters.

Instead, these programs can be adopted by the majority vote of the city council, in Kankakee’s case, the 14-member Kankakee City Council.

The city’s 2-percentage-point increase in its sales tax rate would not be affected as those monies are being dedicated to pension funding.

As a result of its population dropping from 27,537 in the 2010 U.S. Census to 24,052 in 2020 — a drop of 12.6% — Kankakee’s home rule proposition now must be requested from the voters during the next election.


The proposition question will read:

“Shall the City of Kankakee cease to be a home rule unit?” Voters will be asked to respond yes or no.

A “yes” vote would seek to remove that power. A “no” vote would keep home rule in place.

A simple majority vote will determine the city’s fate.

A multi-level campaign will begin immediately to encourage voters to maintain home rule, according to officials at the press conference. The first plan of attack is yard signs reading: “Save Kankakee. Keep Home Rule. Vote No on giving up our home power.” The “No” is highlighted in a circle of red.

The campaign will include city leadership and supporters going door to door and is to be funded entirely by private donation. Use of taxpayer money is prohibited.

If the city were to lose it home rule powers, the change would take place immediately.

The ability to sell bond and implement taxes — such as the yearly $35 vehicle sticker tax and the monthly $10 public safety tax — could only be completed by asking for voters’ permission through a referendum on the ballot of a scheduled election. Referendums have a long history of being rejected by voters.


At the news conference, Mayor Chris Curtis said home rule allows for more than taxing ability.

He said it enables the city to pass certain laws such as the chronic nuisance abatement ordinance. It allows for the city to hire experienced police officers from other departments at an earlier point.

“Home rule gives us more tools to keep our community safe,” he said.

But, Curtis said financial flexibility is key.

He said because of new revenue sources such as the increased sales tax rate, the city was able to ease the burden on property taxes. He noted the city’s portion of a Kankakee property tax bill has dropped 34% during the past five years.

The city’s portion of the property tax rate has dropped from $8.31 per $100 to $5.48 per $100 of assessed valuation. The city has used all of the proceeds from the 2-percentage-point increase in sales tax to fund the police and fire pension accounts.

“This is an example of home rule helping our residents,” he said.

With few other areas to turn, the loss of these alternative revenue sources would likely mean fewer city employees — specifically police and fire as those are the two major consumers of tax dollars.

“That leaves the city with two choices: We can reduce city services, including our police and fire departments, or we can increase property taxes. We would probably have to do both of these things to balance the budget,” he said.


Kankakee is not the only Illinois municipality facing this dilemma. Six other communities are facing the same threat: Freeport, Harvey, Carbondale, Collinsville, Melrose Park and East St. Louis.

And even though Kankakee is planning to challenge what it believes was a Census undercount, likely to take place in 2023, that fact fails to enter the equation.

Even if it is determined there was an undercount and a new special census is taken, the results of those new numbers would have no bearing on the home rule power because a vote has been taken.

Whatever the results of the lost home rule may ultimately be, Alderman Mike O’Brien, who is chairman of the city council’s Budget Committee, said the 2020 U.S. Census — conducted during a pandemic — is the cause.

The city is in this situation, O’Brien said, due to a “failed census.”

“Without home rule, our hands are tied,” he said. “We have the next 75 days to save Kankakee.”

Speaker focuses on reaching 'problem' kids in school

MOMENCE — About 300 teachers from Momence, St. Anne and Grant Park school districts gathered Tuesday to hear author, motivational speaker and former teacher Brian Mendler talk about how to engage hard-to-reach students.

Drawing on his own experience as a “problem” student and overcoming his addiction to gambling and drugs, Mendler, from Rochester, NY, presented to a full auditorium of teachers at Momence Community High School.

Mendler has been clean and in addiction recovery for nearly 21 years, he said.

Over the past 12 years, he has written or co-authored several books related to teaching, including “That One Kid,” “Tips for Teachers,” “Power Struggles,” “Turning Tough Parents into Strong Partners,” and “Watch Your Mouth.”

He also hosts an education podcast, and he spoke at 104 schools last year, he said.

“My goal today — my goal everyday — is to remind teachers why they do this job,” Mendler said. “It’s easy for teachers to get burned out and tired.”

Mendler was a nine-year teacher in New York.

“I try to remind them what that [reason] was, so that this year, when they’re feeling frustrated and annoyed, aggravated, they can be reminded, ‘Oh yeah, but I can go impact this kid’s life.’ That’s what it’s all about — changing their lives.”

Though he struggled with being placed in a self-contained special education classroom as a student, it became his focus as a teacher.

With severe undiagnosed ADHD, Mendler had difficulties reading and listening in school, he recalled.

In fourth grade, a teacher suggested he might be “lazy” and “unmotivated” when he didn’t finish his math homework.

The young Mendler felt like crying. Instead, he lashed out.

“When you’re a kid, you can’t really fight back against a teacher, I mean not with your hands,” Mendler said. “You have to fight back with your words. I was really good at that.”

At that point, Mendler was labeled not only as “learning disabled” but also “emotionally disturbed.”

He talked about the lasting emotional effects of being labeled and feeling like an outcast when separated from the rest of his classmates.

“Today, I’m smart enough to know I’m not disabled. Not one ounce. Not even a little. They had it all wrong,” he said. “I do struggle with something in my life. I struggle with reading.”

Although he had a hard time, Mendler said he believes the “good outweighs the bad” when it comes to self-contained classrooms.

It is up to teachers to make sure students are included and not forgotten about, he said.

“What I am asking though, is that some of you regular education teachers don’t forget about us, because the truth is that some of you do forget about us,” he said. “The truth is that some of you put us in that room, and it’s like we don’t even exist anymore. What I’m asking is that every once in a while, you come knocking on that door.”

In sixth grade, Mendler started cheating on his classwork and got positive feedback when his grades improved.

His teachers only found out when another student told on him.

He then got into an argument with his principal, leading to him getting kicked out and sent to a special school.

“I didn’t care. I simply did not care. And see, when you are a kid who doesn’t care, you become dangerous,” he said. “I had no hope. I believe hope is the single most important thing we can give kids.”

He noted that a teacher at his new school got through to him more in five minutes than his past teachers did in kindergarten through sixth grade, and that teacher helped him to change his life.

When Mendler himself was a teacher and on the road to addiction recovery, he turned that concept around and asked his students to help their teacher in return.

“When you spend all that time in your life getting helped, it’s easy to become helpless; that’s kind of what helpless is,” he said. “When we can flip that on its head and get the kid who’s always being helped to become the helper, you often see a change in kids like no other.”

Mendler’s students were asked to help keep him accountable. Their homework assignment each week would be to ask questions about how his recovery meetings went.

“In 21 years of going to a recovery meeting, I have never been to one in my life where I haven’t learned tons of things I could teach my students the next day.”

Mendler’s mother, who was also a teacher, suggested he look into the profession when he felt lost and lacked direction in his life.

“I wasn’t a huge fan of school,” Mendler noted. “I struggled in school as a kid, and I actually didn’t want to be a teacher.”

He resisted the idea at first, until his mom said one day that maybe he shouldn’t become a teacher after all because he lacked patience.

“I’m oppositional, so I said, ‘Why not?’” he recalled.

Then, he discovered he could become a special education teacher, and he set out to make a difference in the lives of kids who have a hard time in school like he did.

“I realized there were parts of teaching where you could work with kids who got in trouble,” Mendler said. “You didn’t have to be the traditional teacher who taught 30 kids in a classroom.”

Momence Superintendent Shannon Anderson noted that the presentation was a collaboration among the area districts, with Momence hosting for the use of its auditorium.

“I think it’s great because we’re all closely located together,” Anderson said. “A lot of us know each other.”

Grant Park Superintendent John Palan added that the opportunity to bring the three communities together after the pandemic was also a benefit.

“And obviously having Brian here is a major plus,” Palan said. “He has a great message.”

After the first hour of Mendler’s presentation, which lasted from about 8 a.m. to noon, Anderson said he started getting feedback of how poignant the presentation was.

“I’ve already been getting some comments on my phone that this is just what we needed today — really focusing on students and focusing on kids,” Anderson said. “Brain is really hitting the mark with so many of those things … I really like the way that he brings information from a student’s point of view, but also from a teacher’s point of view. It’s really cool for our staff to be able to see that.”

St. Anne Superintendent Charles Stegall said he has known Mendler for about 15 years and always known him to be an inspirational speaker.

“I always appreciate how he interacts with the audience, and he is not afraid to push the boundaries a little bit and make people think,” Stegall said. “At the end of the day, everyone is going to leave here recognizing that he loves what he does, he loves kids, and he loves the profession of teaching.”

Passwater's leadership questioned

KANKAKEE — An attempt to have the Kankakee administration seek a new chief of police was brought to Mayor Chris Curtis, but he quickly noted he likes the direction the department is traveling.

Curtis noted that while one murder is one too many, he said he believes steps are being taken in many areas to deal with crime.

Led by 1st Ward Alderman Michael Prude, the group of four council members — Prude; Cherry Malone-Marshall, D-1; Carmen Lewis, D-5; and Mike Cobbs, D-6 — suggested the city begin advertising for a potential replacement for Passwater, who was appointed as the department’s leader when Curtis was sworn into office in May 2021.

Prude read from city council minutes in which Curtis noted every city department leader was working on “1-year contracts,” meaning if they were not performing well, they would be replaced.

The mayor said near the conclusion of Monday’s council meeting that he has stuck to that pledge. He noted he was making a change at the leadership level of the Environmental Services Utilities department.

Prude said city violence has not improved. In fact, he noted, it has gotten worse. He was referring to the fact there have been seven people murdered in the city since January.

He noted the bulk on these cases have not been solved. He said the public, at least certain segments of the public, do not have confidence in the police department and therefore are not stepping forward to share critical information.

At the council’s Aug. 1 meeting, Prude questioned what steps the department was taking to make arrests in the recent murders, with one of the incidents being a triple homicide in the 600 block of West Merchant Street.

To date, no arrest has been made regarding that incident.

At a recent neighborhood meeting, Passwater noted frustrations within the department’s investigation’s division regarding the lack of witness cooperation.

“We are still asking you to do that search,” Prude said. “Back up those words. It has gotten worse.”

Alderman Carl Brown, D-7, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, did not back the request for a search for a new chief.

Instead, Brown said, progress is happening. He noted Passwater has brought new technology to the department as well.

“Progress has been made. One person or one thing is not going to solve the problems of Kankakee,” he said while noting the council must stick together.

“This is the wrong time to think about this. To me, he’s working as hard as he can. There is no quick fix in this field. I believe right now we are making progress. To stop [change leadership] now is the wrong decision.”

Alderman Reggie Jones, D-7, also backed the administration.

“The chief can’t break the code of silence. ... I’m not here for political games. We have to get serious about helping our police,” Jones said.

Malone-Marshall said this is not about political games. “This is not a blame game. Robin is not a bad guy. He’s a good guy. Do a national search.”

Cobbs said the “stats speak for themselves. ... I think Passwater is doing a great job, but the stats speak for themselves.”

Lewis noted the previous chief, Frank Kosman, took the blame when crime numbers rose.

Curtis said some council members simply have a difference of opinion of what type of job Passwater is doing.

He said these crimes will be solved, at least the majority of them.

“In my opinion, the chief and the deputy chief are doing the best for the city.”

After the meeting, the mayor said he is not upset with the direction Passwater is taking the department.

“They are doing what we would want them to do. He’s doing exactly what I need him to do.”