Niles Votes To Remove Sign Honoring Corrupt Ex-Mayor

After deadlocking in a vote a year ago, they voted 4-2 Tuesday after citizens, including ex-mayor Nicholas Blase's wife, made emotional pleas.

After some residents complained that honoring a former mayor convicted of felony made Niles a joke, and others insisted the village honor the ex-mayor, Nicholas Blase, for successes during his 47 years in office, the Niles village board voted Tuesday to remove the "Nicholas Blase Plaza" sign outside of the village hall.

The controversy over the sign split opinion in the north suburb, which Blase presided over from 1961, when it was relatively small, until 2008, after prosecutors brought fraud and tax evasion charges. He was later convicted, and was released in March.

The village board considered whether to remove the Blase Plaza sign at its September 2010 meeting and deadlocked 3-3, with Mayor Robert Callero breaking the tie and . However, who was elected in April, proposed revisiting the matter, saying last year's tie vote was not decisive.


When the board entertained the idea of removing the sign Tuesday, residents spoke passionately during the public comments period.

Blase gets credit for village's success some say

Some maintained that Blase's efforts in making the village a thriving retail hub, the sales tax revenue from which created good public services, such as a free municipal bus, should earn him the honor of having a plaza named after him.

"Blase has brought great services to all of us. We are the only village of its size in the state that can brag of having two Targets, two Home Depots, three Jewels, two Walmarts and a Costco. Thank you, Mayor Blase," said George Alpogianis. "The fact that (Bloomberg/Business Week) that all started with Blase leading all of us."

'Do the right thing and lead'

Other residents said Blase sullied the village's good name. The former mayor admitted accepting kickbacks from an insurance agency, which businesses in the village were pressured to use, according to prosecutors' documents in court.

"I think we have to have at least the appearance of good government. I travel all around, people I talk to think it’s kind of a joke this sign has not been taken down," said Gerry Kirschbaum. "Sorry if I sound like a goody two shoes, but public opinion can be wrong. I ask the board to do your jobs and lead. Do the right thing."

Ex-mayor's wife has harsh words

Faye Blase, the former mayor's wife, scolded some of the trustees who had said they wanted to remove the sign after the former mayor violated the public trust.

"What’s holding Niles back is Niles trustees who love to create chaos for their own political aspirations," she said. "Grow up and work together with your mayor. Quit making Niles the laughingstock of the suburbs."

Words used to describe Blase

Another resident, Steve Doughty, argued in favor or taking the sign down.

"I’ve put together a list of published words and phrases that newspapers have associated with the name of Nick Blase," he said, and proceeded to cite a few:  insurance scam, took bribes, took kickbacks, pleaded guilty, extortion, mail fraud tax evasion, violated public trust, abused public trust.

"I ask you to remove the sign," he concluded.

Weighing reliability of poll

Most of the trustees also weighed in with their opinions. Trustee Louella Preston showed photos of seven other plaques in Niles, mostly building dedication plaques, which featured Blase's name and said she would not vote to remove those, but would vote against the Blase Plaza sign because it honored the mayor individually.

Preston also cited mail delivery problems with the village's Fall 2010 newsletter, which polled residents on whether the sign should be removed. Those problems led to an unscientific survey result, she said, and did not provide a reliable gauge of residents' opinions on the matter.

Trustee Joe LoVerde countered that, however, saying that the 910 residents (a majority) who indicated in the survey they wanted to keep the Blase name on the sign should not be discounted.

Palicki commented that keeping the name of a convicted felon on a village sign sent the wrong message.

"Blase abused the office to which he was entrusted... Let us move forward in reestablishing our village as one that honors integrity and honesty above all else," she said.

The vote and aftermath

Trustees Palicki, Preston, Chris Hanusiak and Jim Hynes voted in favor of removing the sign; Trustees LoVerde and Andrew Przybylo voted to keep it.

According to the terms of the vote, the sign must be removed before the board's November meeting.

Blase's conviction spurred a movement in Niles towards ethics and transparency. Within the past two years, the village board passed an ethics ordinance and created an ethics committee.

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Clark Kent October 26, 2011 at 03:51 PM
One can understand Mrs. Blase's emotional defense of her husband, he is after all her husband. But not the tirade against trustees doing what they consider proper public policy. Her comment "Grow up and work together with your mayor. Quit making Niles the laughingstock of the suburbs" only fans the flames more. Niles is not a laughing stock because of what the trustees did; it is a laughing stock because of what Blase did. People weren’t beating down the doors to get into Niles because they thought Blase was so efficient. Niles developed not because of what he did but in spite of what he did to businesses through the insurance scam to the detriment of unsuspecting shoppers. And it wasn't a single event...it was continuous for YEARS! Defenders who claim he made a “mistake” conveniently forget that the “mistake” was repeated ruthlessly for at least a decade. What does "work with the mayor" mean? Being a rubber stamp like many past trustees were for her husband? Blindly following the current mayoral “leader" who can't even conduct a meeting properly? And THAT was certainly apparent again last might when he came to the microphone to make his comments without giving the gavel to another board member (even with an attorney/parliamentarian he still can't get it right). Pushing a budget that lay off employees and then created a silly position to bring businesses into Niles? Trying to push for tax collections at Golf Mill so that the mall owners get the money?
Jerry Szczepanski October 26, 2011 at 03:57 PM
I'll follow George Alpogianis and say, "Thank you Mayor Blase". I am really disappointed in the four trustees that voted to take down the Blase sign. These are the trustees that want to 'go green'.....the 'do-gooders'. I believe the four of them are Christians. Where is their 'forgiveness'? Our village trustees should be working on more relevant issues such as dealing with Chicago and insuring the Village of NIles is not trapped into paying for Chicago's water resources! My last set of votes put faith in these trustees. Once elected, one by the slimmest of margins, they have appeared to let their 'Christian upbringing' and 'common sense' go by the wayside. I now know better on how to vote next time. Jerry Ski
Clark Kent October 26, 2011 at 04:30 PM
The comment of Mr. Alpogianis needs clarification. People and businesses move into areas because of strategic opportunities due to proximity for work, road access, and a variety of economic and financial factors. His reference to the Bloomberg/Business Week recognition is specious because it ignores and denigrates the contributions of the competent teachers who did good jobs in the schools, a functioning library district and a tremendously competent park district. Hundreds of people with their brains and their backs contributed to Niles’ success, not a politician who callously crushed his political opposition as mightily as an elephant stepping on egg shells. Mr. Alpogianis would have us believe that ALL this (as he claims) was due to Nick Blase. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Niles grew because the 1950s and early 1960s economies boomed and the population pressures encouraged migration. Blase was the “beneficiary” of processes over which he had no control. Land was available and people were moving in. Simple as that. What Blase did have control over was his own behavior…and THAT was where the problems lay. Anyone who dared oppose Blase and his minions were eventually “removed” in some fashion. Total control was the goal and tax-funded “projects” for the public was the carrot. Neighboring suburbs grew at similar and often greater rates, all without the “wisdom” of Nick Blase. Time to let the new group of trustees do their real job.
Clark Kent October 26, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Apparently the kind of Christian "forgiveness" you extend to Blase doesn't extend to trustees who voted their consciences.
George D. Alpogianis October 26, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Mr. Kent, Please don't hide behind a false name. You need to come out of the shadows and speak your mind like everyone else did, in public. Two of the trustees voted with vengeful intentions, like I said yesterday, prove what you said, they didn't and can't!!
Doug Bressler October 26, 2011 at 07:30 PM
How do you know they voted with vengeful intenetions? Did they come right out and say it? How about the other two who voted to remove the sign? Do you know their motivations? A convicted felon cannot serve public office, so why should we honor one with a sign?
Lex Luther October 27, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Clark Kent...? Wasn't there a "Clark Kent" that got laid off by the "Daily Planet" due to budget cuts and is now so full of sour grapes that his eyes are purple? Best regards, Lex Luther
Clark Kent October 28, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Hey, Lex! Golly...what a coincidence! I remember you under your old moniker...when it was Lex LUTHOR! Absolutely amazing! You must be trying a new, highly ingeneous name disguise. Much cleverer than usual for you. Naw, never ever got laid off. Still doing special interest stories which makes your note even more amazing. Mr. White asked me to do a story about the criminally insane, politically duped, cranially challenged and the usual ho-hum ordinary idiotic losers. Your name came up for a possible interview. Please call the "Daily Planet" and leave the address and phone number for the mental institution where you are currently being restrained. Hope that Hannibal Lecter is your roommate...I could cover two stories at the same time. You must have me confused with someone else regarding the grapes and purple eyes. Mine are still as blue as Heaven and they still make the girls happy! Are you still full of....well, what I mean is-- Are your eyes still brown? PS: Johnny took your chronic mantra, changed a few words, and is now famous. Looking forward to quoting you. Bye! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QkcHbg6Xk4&list=PL2A9B0F707FA97FF3&index=70&feature=plpp_video
Clark Kent October 28, 2011 at 03:34 AM
This just came into the news room---- http://mortongrove.suntimes.com/news/8454584-418/as-sign-comes-down-blase-charges-niles-trustees-usurped-the-will-of-the-public.html How pathetic that this man has the unequalled, arrogant audacity to claim that the unverifiable "survey" his clone Bob "Mr. Las Vegas" Callero promoted (which had no monitoring guidelines, no real securirty measures) showed the "will of the people" and then to have the nerve to claim that trustees who wanted the signs down did so for selfish reasons! Many think that you want the sign there for your own selfish reasons. EGO! YOU VIOLATED THE PEOPLE'S WILL AND VIOLATED YOUR NUMEROUS OATHS OF OFFICE IN ORDER TO SCAM MONEY FROM DEFENSELESS BUSINESS PEOPLE. YOU DARE TO CLAIM THAT OTHERS ARE MOTIVATED BY 'PERSONAL INTERESTS'...DOES THAT INCLUDE THE PERSONAL INTERESTS OF THOSE WHO VOTED TO KEEP THE SIGN? "USURPED THE WILL OF THE PUBLIC?" YOU USURPED THE WILL OF THE LAW FOR COUNTLESS YEARS! HOW DARE YOU ABRADE PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY AREN'T UNDER YOUR PERSONAL CONTROL? Was it in the interest of the public to permit the plaza to be named after you WHILE you were mayor? Sort of like the naming of Stroger Hospital. An honorable and dignified and truly repentive man would have showed moral courage and would have sent a letter or spoke at the meeting saying: "I appreciate the thoughts of some of you to keep the sign, but Trustees...take the sign down and let peace and harmony reign." NO! NOT YOU!
Clark Kent October 28, 2011 at 03:53 AM
YOU had to resign and yet YOU "backed," YOU chose your own replacement???? What brazen disdain for the public. Now we all know who is STILL trying to run this village. Now we all know what we have to do to protect ourselves.
Lex Luther October 28, 2011 at 07:43 AM
Hee! Hee! You seem to be quite easily amazed.....as most self-aggrandizing blabbermouths are. Come on Clark, it's time to quit jumping on the furniture, take off your bath towel cape, and take a little nappy.....and DEFINITELY take a closer look in the mirror. By the way Purple Eyes, ingenious is spelled with an "i". Very best regards, Lex Lex
Clark Kent October 28, 2011 at 02:06 PM
@Dear Brown Eyes (or Lex Lex or whatever you have decided to call yourself today) Yes, ingenious is spelled with an "i". But you should have written that as "i." You're a naughty, naughty boy who hasn't learned his composition lessons! Contrary to reports, I jumped on the furniture with a towel only in a vainglorious attempt to imitate you as an attempt to "get into" your mind. Unfortunately even with that hopelessly vacuous activity I still am unable to muster any empathy for you. Don't loose your pass this weekend!
Lex Luther October 28, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Awww, what's the matter Purple Eyes...feeling like your shortcomings have been exposed..? Well, put your pants back on and learn to live with it. Try stuffing your shorts with your hubris....See? Now you've got the package you've always longed for... Yours truly, Lex
Pam DeFiglio (Editor) October 28, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Folks, emotions are running high here, but please no personal attacks. Thanks.
Kathy Ruhnke October 28, 2011 at 07:17 PM
"The Blase Plaza sign was removed this morning. “I’ve got it locked up and out of sight,” Public Works Director Scott Jochim said of the sign, which is being stored at a Public Works facility. Jochim said it will remain at the facility until he is told what the village wants to do with it." ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Perhaps the sign could be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
Pam DeFiglio (Editor) October 28, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Kathy, That would raise some money. But perhaps the Niles Historical Society would want dibs on it.


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