Mosque shooting tops Morton Grove’s year of news
Andrea Mounadi, 41, attends a panel discussion sponsored by the Morton Grove Community Relations Commission to help educate the community about Islam on Nov. 14. | Chandler West~for Sun-Times Media
- Official: Man fired BB shots at Morton Grove mosque
- Support voiced for Morton Grove mosque after air-rifle attack
- Supporters disappointed by referendums’ failure in District 67
- District 67 voters reject tax hike, approve bond sale
- New Morton Grove library director seeks consensus in contentious times
- Land buy could mean new Morton Grove village hall, police department
- Morton Grove trustees OK land buy for new village facility
- DiMaria challenging Staackmann for mayor in Action Party contest
Updated: December 27, 2012 8:24AM
MORTON GROVE — As the economy slowly recovered during 2012, Morton Grove took steps toward development of a new municipal facility while an ongoing dispute between a neighbor and the Muslim Community Center culminated with the man’s arrest this year. Meanwhile, a race for mayor of Morton Grove heated up as two members of Dan Staackmann’s Action Party decided to challenge his reelection and the Morton Grove Public Library finally appointed a new director nearly one year after the previous director departed. These were among the village’s top news stories of the year.
1. Neighbor charged in mosque shooting
Morton Grove police records showed that there was an ongoing feud between the Muslim Community Center and David Conrad, a neighbor charged with firing a high-powered pellet rifle at the building’s exterior on Aug. 10 while more than 500 people took part in Ramadan prayers.
Conrad, free on bond, was charged with three felony counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one felony count of criminal damage to property stemming from the attack.
“Over the years there have been various noise-complaint calls from the offender,” Morton Grove Chief of Police Mark Erickson said at the time of the shooting. “In the past, they tried to work out issues among themselves without the police being involved and the mosque has done everything they could to minimize noise at night during Ramadan, so it hadn’t been much of an issue lately.”
No one was hurt during the incident, which was the second attack on Chicago-area mosques that week.
In response, the village’s Community Relations Commission held a well-attended forum on the Islamic faith that included a presentation by Habeeb Quadri, principal of the Morton Grove Muslim Full-Time School and a member of the staff of the school.
About 80 people attended the event at the library that included general information about Islam and questions from the audience.
2. District 67 has partial success with referendums
In March voters turned down a pair of referendums in Golf Elementary School District 67.
One of them would have increased the maximum tax rate in the education fund and brought in about $1.1 million in additional revenue. The second would have authorized the sale of bonds to finance improvements to both Golf Middle School and Hynes Elementary School and construction of a new gym at Hynes.
District officials tried again in November and had a bit more success.
Voters approved a reduced bond sale referendum and officials began immediately planning for construction to begin next summer.
But voters again turned down a tax increase.
In December district officials decided to try a third time to convince voters to provide the district with more money, agreeing to place a duplicate of the November question on the primary election ballot in February. The measure asks voters to let the district increase its levy by 16.3 percent. If approved, the district will not be limited by the Cook County Tax Cap and will be able to increase revenue by about $1.1 million. On the negative side, officials said they will not be able to levy the new amount until they set the 2013 levy in December of next year.
3. New library director appointed
It took almost a year for the Morton Grove Pubic Library Board to name a new director after the departure in 2011 of former director Ben Schapiro.
The board appointed Pam Leffler at a special meeting June 11. She was introduced at the June 14 meeting and started July 2.
A conflict between Schapiro and the board, in part over his support for a new library building, developed after a raucous election in April of 2011 in which a new party calling itself B-PAC took control of the Library Board of Trustees.
Leffler admitted that she had some concerns about accepting the post, but said the positives of the library, including the quality of the staff, were enough to outweigh those worries.
Leffler, the sixth full-time Morton Grove library director since the position was created in 1955, came from the Carol Stream Public Library where she held the post of assistant director.
Board members never publicly stated the reasons for Schapiro’s departure or even whether he was dismissed. Schapiro also has declined comment.
4. Village buys land for new building
Morton Grove trustees in October took the first step toward what could be a new police station or other municipal building.
The board approved the purchase of a 2.4-acre industrial site on Lehigh Avenue. Only Trustee Larry Gomberg voted against the measure.
Under the resolution the village will buy the site at 8300 Lehigh for $1.15 million. The agreement with the property owner allows the village to put down $100,000 and close by the end of next year.
The building, held by a trust, now houses General Bandage Inc.
The Oct. 8 vote was just the first action the village must take before actually taking over the site. Any new village facility could be several years away, officials said.
Gomberg contended the village should take more time in deciding whether to purchase the site and complained that trustees received the documents on the proposal just three days before the Oct. 8 vote.
Under the agreement approved by the Village Board, the village will pay the $100,000 into an escrow account. Horne said that money will come out of the General Fund.
The resolution called for the site to be “land banked” for possible use as a municipal facility.
5. Staackmann challenged within own party
Morton Grove Mayor Dan Staackmann, running for his second term, faced challenges from within his own party as filing began for the election next spring.
Staackmann’s Action Party came out with a full slate including candidates for three seats on the Village Board and village clerk.
But Trustee Dan DiMaria, elected to the board on the Action Party ticket, sought the endorsement of the party’s slating committee to run for mayor. When that failed he decided to run against Staackmann in the February primary.
Even before DiMaria made that move Trustee Larry Gomberg, also elected on the Action Party slate, announced that he plans to run as an independent candidate for mayor in April. He will face the winner of the Feb. 26 primary race between DiMaria and Staackmann.
Gomberg said that regardless of who wins the primary he plans to press forward with his independent campaign.