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National Night Out set for Aug. 4; free swimming at Paradise Bay

by Bonnie MacKay                                     
It will be porch lights on for millions of people across the country on Tuesday, Aug. 4, as the Lombard Police Department joins police departments nationwide as residents gather to celebrate National Night Out (NNO).
Introduced by Matt Peskin, executive director of National Association of Town Watch (NATW), in 1984, 23 states and about  2.5 million people participated that first year, according to the National Night Out Web site.
Residents are asked to “leave a porch light on” to show their support for National Night Out. Today, in its 32nd year, the event, which is dedicated to promoting police-community partnerships, garners participation from more than 37 million people in all 50 states.
The event will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at Lombard Common on the east side of Paradise Bay Water Park, 433 E. St. Charles Road.
National Night Out is a cohesive effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships, neighborhood camaraderie and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back, according to the Web site.
“We look forward to this event every year,” said Lombard Police Sgt. Will Mitchell, event coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity to meet and talk with the community and to show off some of the great equipment they provide us with to do our job.”
Mitchell outlined that this year’s event not only includes free swimming at Paradise Bay, but also a DJ, educational materials on crime and prevention issues, a Taser demonstration, and the department’s bike and K-9 units.
New this year will be National University of Health Sciences, which will provide  educational materials, as well as free chair massages. The Village of Lombard will have information and a presentation on the proposed villagewide pedestrian and bicycle plan.
Officers demonstrate the use of a Taser by shooting at a target, which is made of foil and sparks are visible when the electricity goes through the target.
Once again, Target, which has participated at earlier National Night Outs in Lombard, will take part in the event.
The Lombard Police Department’s command vehicle will be on display at the park during National Night Out. The command vehicle was purchased using drug seizure and DUI funds and will be open for tours during the National Night Out event.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for communities nationwide to promote police-community partnerships, crime prevention, and neighborhood camaraderie. While the one night is certainly not an answer to crime, drugs and violence, National Night Out represents the kind of spirit, energy and determination to help make neighborhoods a safer place year round,” Peskin related on the group’s Web site last year. “The night celebrates safety and crime prevention successes and works to expand and strengthen programs for the next 364 days.”
Nationally, over 38.1 million people participated in NNO in 2014, not only by turning their porch lights on, but also by holding block parties, cookouts, parades, ice cream socials, neighborhood visits by law enforcement agencies, flashlight walks, safety fairs, poster and essay contests, neighborhood meetings and other events and activities.
National Night Out is hosted by the Lombard Police Department in cooperation with the Lombard Fire Department, Lombard Park District, Tri-Town YMCA, Lombard Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and others.
For more information on National Night Out, visit the official Web site at www.nationaltownwatch.org.

Helicopters cause a stir during training exercises in the suburbs

Houses shook and people questioned what was going on last week as Blackhawk helicopters flew over Lombard as part of a routine military training exercise.
According to a statement from the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Training (OEMC), the routine training in Chicago July 20-25 was being conducted by military personnel in cities across the country, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments overseas, as service members meet mandatory certification requirements and prepare for upcoming deployments worldwide.
The OEMC statement alerted residents that as part of the training, there would be increased aircraft activity, including helicopter flights. All training activities were pre-coordinated with federal, state and city officials. The locations were carefully selected to minimize the impact on the daily lives of residents, according to the statement.
The training was not open to the public and the sites were secured to ensure the safety of residents and participants.

Barricaded subject

SEVERAL LOMBARD MIDNIGHT shift police officers responded for a well-being
check of a 32-year-old man in the 800 block of Foxworth Boulevard at about 5 a.m. on Tuesday, July 28. According to Lombard Police Deputy Chief Tom Wirsing, the officers were sent to the residence in response to concerns about messages the man reportedly had posted on social media about harming himself. As officers attempted to make contact with the 32-year-old Lombard man early Tuesday morning, a gunshot was heard. Wirsing related that a bullet struck the wall in the hallway of the apartment building, where the officers were standing. At that point, officers requested the activation of the FIAT (Felony Investigative Assistance Team) SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, as they continued to make contact with the man. “Lombard officers maintained the perimeter until they were relieved by the SWAT team,” the deputy chief said, adding that the officers acted properly by contacting the SWAT team and continuing to try to make contact with the person inside the apartment. The SWAT team secured the apartment and eventually gained entry, where they found the man deceased. A weapon was recovered near the deceased, Wirsing said. Lombard police detectives are conducting a death investigation in conjunction with the DuPage County Coroner’s Office. As of press time, the name of the deceased had not been released pending notification of family members. There were no additional injuries during the incident and police are not seeking any suspects at this time, according to a department press release.

Lombard Area AAUW to hold annual book sale

The Lombard Area AAUW opens its annual Used Book Sale on Wednesday, Aug. 5, from 5-9 p.m. at First Church of Lombard, 220 S. Main St. (corner of Main and Maple). Wednesday is “Pre-Sale Night” and timed entry tickets will be given out at 3 p.m. Admission this year is only $5. Admission is free on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 6-7, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as on Saturday, Aug. 8, when the sale is open from 9 a.m. until noon. This year the AAUW will again have special pricing—fill a bag of books—for only $10 on Saturday morning.
Over 15,000 sorted books will be for sale including “collectibles,” children’s books, and “better books,” in addition to hardback and paperback fiction and non-fiction. Most books are priced from 50 cents to $2, with better books and collectibles $5 and up. Come and look for a book you’ve always wanted to read or a recent bestseller.
Proceeds from this annual event fund local and national scholarships and grants. In 2014, Lombard AAUW donated $7,000 to scholarships and grants for women and girls. The mission of the American Association of University Women is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. For more information, check the Web site at lombard-il.aauw.net.

Judge rules against effort to tweak ailing pension fund

by Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s effort to shore up two of Chicago’s ailing pension funds was voided Friday by a Cook County Circuit Judge.
Judge Rita Novak issued her decision in a lawsuit brought by workers, retirees and unions who argued the plan amounted to a reduction in benefits and violated the state constitution’s pension protection clause.
The city last year negotiated a deal with 27 of 31 unions to revamp the rules for its pension funds for laborers and other city workers, excluding police officers and firefighters, who have their own pension funds.
In return for concessions such as greater contributions from employees and reduced cost of living allowances for retirees, the city agreed to bolster its own contributions to the funds.
The two pension systems are underfunded by more than $9 billion and are projected to fail in roughly a dozen years if nothing is done to address the shortfalls.
Novak rejected the city’s contention that its actions actually strengthened the pension benefit by ensuring the funds’ solvency, as well as the argument that the changes were acceptable because they’d been bargained with most of the unions involved.
The judge wrote the strengthened-benefit argument failed on many levels, including running afoul of the state constitution, which defines membership in a public pension plan as “an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
She also cited several faults in the argument that the deal had been bargained and was therefore binding.
“There is no evidence that, in reaching an agreement with the city, the union officials followed union rules and bylaws in such a way as to bind their members as true agents,” Novak wrote. “Nor is there evidence that the membership voted on the agreement.”
And, the judge wrote, “There is no showing that the unions could have acted as agents of retired members while at the same time acting as representatives of active employees.”
The city said it will appeal.
“While we are disappointed by the trial court’s ruling, we have always recognized that this matter will ultimately be resolved by the Illinois Supreme Court.  We now look forward to having our arguments heard there,” said the city’s chief attorney, Robert Patton.
Patton said the measure in question “not only rescues the municipal and laborer pension funds from certain insolvency, but ensures that, over time, they will be fully funded and the 61,000 affected city workers and retirees will receive the pensions they were promised.”
Moody's, which had already downgraded Chicago’s bond to “junk” status, said it considers Friday’s decision as “credit neutral” because it already expected the case would end up before the state high court.
The Illinois Supreme Court in May ruled unconstitutional a similar state law intended to bolster the state’s pension systems, which are an estimated $110 billion short of adequate funding. It held that the 1970 constitution’s pension protection clause clearly and unambiguously applied.

Former Lombardian knows the power of a song; to perform in Algonquin Saturday night

by Suzanne Bolur                           
Mark Allan Licht hasn’t given up on his dream of being a rock star.
“I’m like a little kid,” said Licht, who dropped his last name professionally and goes by Mark Allan. “I still think I’m going to be a rock star. When you get older, the chances are slim to none, but it doesn’t hurt to try. You never know what could happen.”
From a lead role in an elementary school musical to performing at shows around the Chicago area in bands to recording an album in Nashville, music has always been a driving force in his life.
Licht, 44, grew up in Lombard and delivered the Lombardian newspaper when he was younger. He lived on Kramer Avenue, near Schafer Elementary School. He recalled playing kick the can, riding bikes and hanging out with the other kids on his street. They called themselves the “Kramer Kids.”
“We rarely left the block,” he said. “It was a great area to live. I have so many memories of Lombard.”
When he was 10 years old, Licht got the lead role in his elementary school’s production of the musical “A Christmas on Angel Street.” He surprised everyone with his performance.
Despite his growing interest in music, Licht pursued sports when he got to high school. He was involved in baseball and wrestling at Willowbrook High School. However, it was around this time that Licht starting listening to rock music like Poison, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, and watching music videos on MTV.
“Before school we’d go to my friend’s house and watch videos at six in the morning ‘til we had to leave for school,” he said. “I wanted to be those guys. They influenced me.”
After graduating in 1989, Licht worked as a teller at Old Kent Bank.
“I used to goof around in the microphone and sing,” he recalled. One day, a coworker suggested he try out for her boyfriend’s band. He auditioned and was picked to be the band’s lead singer.
He spent the next five years performing with the band, Desiree. He said they played original songs and described the music as glam rock.
“Once you get a little recognition, you want more,” he said.
Licht went on to sing in a Poison tribute band, Posen, for 10 years. He also learned how to play guitar and starting writing his own songs.
In 2009, Licht decided he wanted to do his own music. He saved up money, packed his bags and headed to Nashville, Tenn.  
“I always wanted to write and record my own record,” he said. “Do it my way. It was a personal goal.”
He hired the best producer and musicians he could find and headed into the studio to record his album, “Destination Out of Here.” He described his music as a combination of pop, rock and country.
In 2010, his first single, “With Just One Kiss,” reached number 10 on the adult contemporary charts.
“It was really cool to see my name with names like Bon Jovi and Katy Perry on the charts,” he said. The song became the 30th most played song in 2010 on the FMQB National Radio Charts. He did a radio tour around the country to promote his album, which he said was a lot of fun.
“That’s how you really get your songs on the charts,” he explained.
He released two additional songs from the album. He also wrote and recorded a Christmas song, “It’s Christmas Time” in 2011 and donated all of the profits to Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. He was even featured on ABC 7 News.
Licht started working on a new album, but soon realized it wasn’t quite right.
“The second record, they call it the sophomore slump,” he said. “I started recording and I’m like, this is not what it should be.” He decided to take a break and work on his music before returning to the studio.
In January of this year, Licht joined the band Smash. Licht said the members all knew each other from other bands and decided to put a band together. In addition to Licht on vocals, the group is made up of: Laura Teschner-Licht (vocals), Katherine Sonya (vocals), Maria Evan (vocals), Karl Lindwall (bass), Jerry B (lead guitar), Chris Thornburg (drums) and Brian Patrick (keyboard).  
“They’re all great people,” said Licht. “We really enjoy being around each other. That’s what makes it fun. There’s no egos and no attitudes.”
The group practices every Sunday. Licht said it can be a challenge balancing work, family and band responsibilities. Licht, who currently lives in South Elgin, works at First American Bank as a maintenance supervisor.
“It’s hard to balance personal life and music, but if you really love it, it works out,” he explained. “We’ve had to turn down shows because we have stuff going on. But it always seems to work out.”
Despite being fairly new, Smash opened for 7th Heaven, a well-known Chicago-based rock band, in April at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, Wis.
The band plays a wide variety of country, pop and rock music, from current to classic hits. Some songs they enjoy playing are “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.
“We do everything,” said Licht, adding that cover songs are popular in the Chicago area. “We only do hits, what people want to hear. They’re fun.”
Smash has a show  Saturday, Aug. 1, at Thirsty Whale Bar and Grill in Algonquin. Licht is hoping to get a big group of friends together to go to the show. While they keep in touch through Facebook, he hasn’t seen many of his friends in years.
“I just think it would be a cool thing to see them all again,” he said, adding that many still live in the area.
Licht said that while he’s always enjoyed glam rock, he listens to everything because he feels it makes him a stronger musician.
“Becoming a good songwriter is incorporating music that’s not your favorite,” he said. “It makes you a better songwriter. It expands your horizons.”
While Licht enjoys rocking out to cover songs at shows, his passion is songwriting.  
“I really love to write songs,” he said. “It comes from your heart. When you’re writing your own songs that mean something, that’s what keeps me going.”
In addition to music, Licht loves sports and is a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, something he can trace back to his days growing up in Lombard.
As kids, he and his friends used to play football on Sundays. One of his friends had an older brother who loved the Cowboys.
“He loved the Dallas Cowboys, so if you liked the Dallas Cowboys, you’re on his team,” he recalled. “He actually made us study and take a test to be on his team.” Licht passed the test, got on the brother’s team, and has been a fan ever since.
Licht is currently preparing for his next album, which he’d like to record as soon as possible. His album will feature his unique sound, which he refers to as “country pop party rock.” He calls it “turn it up” music–the kind you turn up while driving in your car.
The album will also include one slow song, “I Let a Good One Get Away,” which came to him one night in a dream.
“I woke up at like two in the morning and I started writing the song, and stayed up the rest of the night to write the song,” he said. “I can’t wait to record it.”
Licht said his goal is to have a hit song.
“I always believe in the power of a song,” he explained. “I know looks and image and all that matters. But if you have a great song, and people really love it, they don’t really care what you look like. When I was younger, it was all about how you looked. It’s different now. It’s more about the music now. I still have that little kid dream in me. I want to make music. I’m probably going to do it til I’m dead. I want to have a hit song. That is my ultimate goal and dream.”
Check out http://markallan official.com for updates from Mark Allan on upcoming shows, his music and more.