By Jeff Vorva
One of the most explosive issues the Palos Heights City Council had to deal with in the 2010 decade was gambling.
Council meetings in 2013 were filled with restaurant and bar owners in favor of allowing video gambling in their establishments and opposing citizens making passionate speeches against it. That July, the council voted 5-3 against it.
The issue was brought up again Tuesday night at the council meeting by Ald. Jerry McGovern (4th), who asked the council to consider putting a gambling question on the April ballot to help out local establishments that are taking financial hits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Bob Straz suggested that the license, permits and franchises committee look into it. After the meeting, McGovern said he knew it was a hot-button issue back in 2013 but this is a different era, and it would benefit the local businesses.
“These restaurants are local – this isn’t Lettuce Entertain You or any of those other big-name corporations,” McGovern said. “This is something where an owner is going to the bank and borrowing against his house, borrowing against his garage and borrowing against his cars and everything under the sun. He’s been in and out of business up and down for the last nine months.
“This time it’s important. These people are going to need something. If this ends, they will have a double mortgage because they have to pay back everything from this period. They have to recover some way.”
McGovern points out that many surrounding communities have video gambling and that gambling is much more accessible now than it was in 2013.
“That was one of the strongest issues we dealt with,” he said. “And that was when the video gambling in restaurants began. We lost one restaurant to Crestwood because of it. I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution, but it’s a start.”
Palos Heights Channel 4 was not able to do a live remote of Friday’s lighting of the Christmas tree because members of the station’s staff were exposed to COVID-19 and even though no one tested positive, the remote was shut down.
It would have been the station’s first live remote in its 21-year history.
“We spent hours and hours and weeks and weeks prior to this knowing this would be the place to start,” Channel 4 Producer Ron Jankowski said. “And we came down with being exposed. We did the proper safety things. We have postponed all of our operation in which we had contact with people from the outside.”
The council voted to adopt an ordinance providing for the tax levy from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, for $10 million. It also approved a resolution proportionately reducing all levies except city corporate, library corporate and police pension.
City Hall has been closed to the public since Nov. 23 because of COVID-19 concerns and Gov. J.D. Pritzker’s Tier 3 mitigations and restrictions. It will open again when restrictions are lifted.
By Jeff Vorva