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Proposed law targets ATVs, dirt bikes on Kankakee streets

KANKAKEE — The cold, snowy weather has aided Kankakee police in keeping unlicensed ATVs, dirt bikes and mini bikes off the streets in recent months.

The Kankakee City Council soon will be considering a more consistent way of dealing with this issue other than Mother Nature.

The council’s Ordinance Committee endorsed an ordinance this week by a 4-0 vote to make it an ordinance violation to have any such vehicle on any city street, sidewalk or even at a park.

Voting to move this ordinance to the full council were committee chairman Tyler Tall Sr., D-5; Stacy Gall, D-2; Mike Cobbs, D-6; and Cherry Malone-Marshall, D-1. Alderman David Crawford, R-3, abstained.

The proposed ordinance is not expected to be acted upon at Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting.

Tall said he hopes the law is approved before warmer weather arrives and these mini bikes are taken out of garages and start invading the streets once again.

“If we don’t have anything on the books, if there are no consequences, this situation will only continue,” Tall said after the meeting. “I believe this is a good ordinance for a start. If changes are needed, things can be added.

“... I fear someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed doing this. This situation has gotten way out of hand. All it takes is one accident.”

The law also requires owners to annually register these vehicle as well as have proof the vehicles are insured.

The law does not allow for the licensing of golf carts.

The ATVs and dirt bikes will be allowed to use private property, but they must first obtain written permission of the property owner if the property is not owned by the operator of the motorized bike.

The committee sent the measure to the full city council. The law would require a yearly $20 registration fee.

Whether registered or not, the vehicles will not be allowed on roadways, sidewalks and parks. Anyone caught riding in these prohibited areas will be cited and fined $250 for a first offense.

The fine escalates to $500 for a second ticket and $750 for a third. Passengers on these vehicles also will be ticketed.

If the operator of the vehicle is a minor — younger than 16 — the citation will be the responsibility of the minor’s parent or guardian.

The proposed ordinance also states it is unlawful to sell gas for these vehicles unless they are on a trailer or transported in a similar manner. A gas station can be fined $100 for selling gas to someone using the vehicle in an inappropriate manner.

Police Chief Frank Kosman told the committee Tuesday this law would give police another tool to combat this issue.

“These vehicles are still illegal on the city streets. These vehicles are not licensed to be on the road. This measure makes it a city ordinance violation,” Kosman said.

During this past summer, there was a dramatic uptick with these unlicensed vehicles traveling along city streets and sidewalks. In many cases the drivers of these mini bikes, ATVs and dirt bikes blatantly disregarded traffic laws, such as stopping at red lights or stop signs.

‘Feels like redemption:’ repeat contender from Bradley Central takes 1st in regional spelling bee

KANKAKEE — The first-place winner of the 2021 Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Spelling Bee, Bradley Central eighth-grader Quinn Meadows, was no stranger to the competition, but he still never had experienced anything similar to Thursday night’s event.

“I’ve been here before, so I know how it is, but it felt different than other years,” the 14-year-old said. “I didn’t really feel like I had that much of an advantage over everyone else because I’ve never done a test like this before.”

Spelling 30 out of 50 words correctly on a virtual test, Quinn received the highest score out of 12 contestants Thursday.

Quinn also won second place in the 2020 regional competition (lasting nine out of 10 rounds) and was 2019 regional champion (emerging winner after 33 rounds).

Three tied for second place Thursday with 16 out of 50 words spelled correctly: Maryam Zaidi, seventh-grader at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center; Lydia Mustered, seventh-grader at Glenn Raymond Middle School; and Kaleb Kuester, eighth-grader at Milford Grade School.

The competitors had a hard time recalling words that tripped them up, but when asked about easy words, several said they breezed past words such as “napkin” and “science.”

As a result of his victory Thursday, Quinn advances to represent the region in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held virtually during several weeks.

The top 10 to 12 spellers to advance in preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal competitions will continue to the in-person finals July 8 near Orlando, Fla., which will be televised on ESPN.

After his 2019 victory, Quinn traveled to Washington, D.C., for the last national competition held before the pandemic hit. The 2020 national competition was canceled.

“I’m glad I got another chance, especially because I didn’t win last year,” Quinn said. “I know I wouldn’t have gotten to go to nationals, but it still feels like redemption almost.”

The regional competition typically is held in a high school auditorium with family members watching from the edges of their seats as words get tougher round after round until only one speller is left standing.

This year, 12 contenders from local middle schools sat down and logged onto computers to compete while maintaining social distance at the I-KAN Regional Office of Education. They were given one hour to spell 50 words while a family member or two watched via livestream from another room.

In place of the usual live announcer, students listened through headphones and were able to ask for the definition, origin or a repetition of words from their computers.

While the format of Thursday’s competition was different, Quinn said there were positives to doing a virtual spelling bee.

For example, all competitors took the same test; there were no advantages for those happening to step up to the mic to spell a more familiar word.

Quinn also noted he couldn’t hear anything other than his own exam, which helped him to focus.

“When you’re on stage with everyone else, you can see people spelling, and you’re like, ‘Oh, that guy is good’; your brain is kind of working, but there I was only thinking about the words.”

Angel Meadows, Quinn’s mother, said seeing her son compete Thursday was bittersweet.

“This is it; after this year, next spring is gonna come around and no spelling,” she said, referring to her son’s entry into high school and out of the spelling bee age range. “It’s going to be different to not be part of this world.”

Lydia Mustered, first-time regional competitor from Glenn Raymond Middle School who tied for second place, estimated about 15 percent of words were easy to spell.

“There were a lot of words that were derived from other languages, so it was kind of hard because I had never heard of them,” she said.

Lydia spent about 30 minutes per day studying from the 20-page list provided to competitors in preparation for Thursday’s event, she said. Not all words on the test came from the list.

Ryan Mustered, Lydia’s father, said he enjoyed seeing his daughter compete.

“I was thankful that it was kind of a low-pressure scenario,” he said. “You got to do a lot of words instead of maybe wondering if you’d get a difficult word or not.”

Maryam Zaidi, first-time regional competitor from Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center who tied for second place, said although she was aiming for first, she was happy with how she did Thursday.

The most stressful part was not receiving immediate feedback after spelling a word like in a traditional spelling bee, she admitted.

Maryam thanked her teacher and spelling coach, Mrs. Flowers, for helping her to study and going over how different languages of origin, such as Latin or French, factor into the spelling of words.

After hearing the announcement he won first place, Quinn said he felt as though he fulfilled the expectations he set for himself after his success two years ago as a sixth-grader.

“I felt like I did really good last year; I just missed that one word [‘transference’], but this year, it was a better chance to show my overall spelling abilities,” he said.

While he would love to return to D.C., he said he’s more motivated to study now that he has to fight for the top 12 spot for the finals in Orlando.

Pedestrian hit by vehicle while crossing Court Street

Daily Journal staff report

KANKAKEE — A 49-year-old woman was taken to a Kankakee hospital Wednesday night after being hit by a vehicle while crossing Court Street, according to police.

The victim was conscious when transported to the hospital, police said.

Kankakee police said officers responded at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday to a report of a hit and run in the 1600 block of East Court Street.

When officers arrived, they learned the woman was crossing Court Street going north when she was struck by a vehicle traveling west on Court Street. The vehicle did not stop, police said.

The vehicle was described as a dark-colored Chevy Impala.

Bourbonnais teachers, school board continue attempts at contract agreement

The last meeting scheduled before Thursday, when the teachers union has said it would initiate a strike if there is still no agreement, is set for Tuesday.

Officials from both the Bourbonnais School Board and Bourbonnais Education Association maintain reaching an agreement to avoid a possible strike is paramount, especially during a year when so much class time already has been lost because of the pandemic.

“All we want is our kids back in school full time and not to have a strike,” said John Hall, head of the school board’s negotiating team. “Personally, the fact that our kids have already missed out on a full year of school as far as full time, the thought that we could miss more time is as disheartening as it can get.”

Any school days missed because of a strike would be made up during the summer, school officials said.

“We’re working to compromise,” BEA President Lauren Lundmark said. “We’re working to get to an agreement so the strike doesn’t have to happen. We don’t want it to happen, and at this point, our members are willing to compromise.”

Union perspective

Lundmark said she thought there were “productive conversations” during Thursday’s meeting.

“I really feel like we could be so close [to an agreement],” she said.

While the board verbally presented offers Thursday that would include percentage-based increases — a key feature the union has been pushing for — they still are not in agreement on an entire contract.

Lundmark said teachers want to maintain current retirement and insurance benefits as well. Those features have been included in recent board offers, but they have not been presented all together with the salary increases and structure teachers also want, she said.

“I feel like our conversations were good; we just didn’t reach the point where we had an agreement yet,” she said.

Union members originally pushed for a “traditional” step-and-lane salary structure as well, which lays out raises for teachers based on increased experience and education. The district has offered fixed dollar amount raises since 2014.

The union now is willing to concede on that feature, but it still is pushing for percentage-based increases, Lundmark said.

“We still have our same goals as a union,” she said. “We want a fair raise that is going to keep the gap between us and other districts from getting bigger, and we don’t want a cut in benefits, either to our current members or teachers that we don’t have yet. We want to continue to attract good, quality teachers to our district.”

Board perspective

Hall said the board verbally presented three different supposals (nonofficial offers) Thursday. Two of the offers included straight percentage-based increases, and one offer included a hybrid of percentage-based and fixed dollar increases.

One of the board’s verbal offers would have modeled the contract Bradley Elementary District 61 approved in April 2020, featuring 3.5 percent raises the first two years and a 4 percent raise the third year of the contract, as well as Bradley School District's current insurance and retirement benefits.

The thinking behind that offer was the union has maintained teachers want to be treated like their neighbors when it comes to salary and benefits, Hall said.

“We’ve tried to listen to everything that they’ve asked,” he said.

The most recent official offer from the BEA was a two-year contract with 4.25 percent increases proposed each year, but Hall said the board is not willing to accept a contract that would put them back at the bargaining table in only a year’s time.

He said the board would be willing to accept three- or five-year proposals.

The only other meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, but Hall said the board also would schedule one for Monday if the mediator and union representatives also can meet.

“The closer we get to that [strike] date, the more frantic it is to get a deal done,” he said. “After meeting Tuesday, that literally gives us one day [before the possible strike].”