Transphobic extremist group does not represent the values of Des Plaines

The extremist group Awake Illinois booked a speaking event at the city-owned Des Plaines Theatre for February 8, 2023. In response, residents of Des Plaines spoke at Tuesday’s city council meeting to express their concerns with inviting this group into the community—a community that “embraces and honors diversity in all forms including: race, ethnicity, gender, transgender, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability and disability.” Additionally, SPEAK Des Plaines and Buffalo Grove Pride planned to organize a peaceful protest outside of the Des Plaines Theatre on the evening of the Awake Illinois event.

A resident of Des Plaines stated, “this is not a free speech issue. Nobody is arguing that this group doesn’t have a right to exist or assemble, as much as we dislike the hate and misinformation that they are spreading. But we are stakeholders in this taxpayer-funded theater and have a right to peacefully object when the theater is used in a way that harms our community. The panel has ties to hate groups and we do not want our city to condone this type of rhetoric. It is baffling to me that so many of my neighbors want to roll out the red carpet for them while accusing the people who don’t want them here of being the hateful ones.”

Awake Illinois is not just a local conservative group. Under the guise of “protecting children,” Awake Illinois uses extremist, harsh, and offensive language to push a transphobic, anti-science agenda, while promoting the stalking and harassment of those with opposing viewpoints.

Awake Illinois has a history of associating with hate groups and members have targeted threats against local businesses, school boards, and libraries. These attacks have included infiltrating school board meetings to dominate discussions about sex education curriculum, mailing bullets to the Downers Grove Library to threaten a planned story time drag show; and threats, harassment, and vandalism targeting a local bakery for a planned family-friendly drag bingo event. 

On Thursday, January 19, Des Plaines Theatre operator Ron Onesti published a press release on Facebook canceling the Awake Illinois event claiming he received threats as a result of the booking. SPEAK Des Plaines and Buffalo Grove Pride both do not condone harassment of any kind and encourage a full investigation of these threats against the theater. Onesti also wrote “I firmly believe in the First Amendment right to free speech,” and “homophobia is a disease of which I have not been afflicted.”

When asked by the Windy City Times, Carolyn Pinta of the Pinta Pride Project and Buffalo Grove Pride stated “while I am happy to see the event canceled, I was struck by Ron Onesti’s being accused of being anti-LGBTQ as making him ‘sick to his stomach.’ Honestly, if this were the case, he would have acted immediately upon finding out earlier this week that groups like Awake Illinois are hate groups. I very much hope that he will put a more rigorous vetting plan in place for who is able to rent the theater in the future.”

Trans rights are human rights. SPEAK Des Plaines will continue to advocate for human rights and listen to the lived experiences of people while Supporting Positive Efforts of Action and Knowledge.

Read local news coverage:

Pride Flag Public Comments

🏳️‍🌈 Emailed public comments were not read out loud at Monday’s city council meeting, May 17, 2021. In order to show our community all of the voices of support in Des Plaines, here are some of the comments that were submitted in favor of flying the rainbow flag on city property during LGBTQ Pride month this June. 🏳️‍🌈

To celebrate with your Des Plaines community this June, fly a flag or decorate your home and add its location to the Des Plaines Pride map so that our neighbors can travel around town and commemorate the struggles, accomplishments, and pursuit of equal justice for all LGBTQ+ individuals.

Earth Day – April 22, 2021

Earth Day is April 22, and Earth Week runs April 16-22. Celebrate and grab a garbage bag and head out on a walk through your favorite park, trail, or neighborhood in Des Plaines and serve your community by picking up any litter you see.

Post on social media and use #trashtag to show off your progress or before/after pics!

Prefer a cardiovascular challenge? Go plogging!

plogging / noun / a combination of jogging with picking up litter originating in Sweden around 2016 and spreading to other countries in 2018

If you’re looking to join in a group effort this Earth Day or throughout the year, check out the Des Plaines-based organization Clean Up – Give Back. This organization facilitates community cleanups throughout the Chicagoland area and can connect you to existing campaigns or help you create your own.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Land Acknowledgement for Cook County

The Cook County Board will hold a public hearing in May on whether to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. They will vote in June.

All of Cook County and Cook County Forest Preserve lands were Native lands before colonizers arrived. The 65,000 Native residents of Cook County today aren’t asking that everyone leave, but they are asking for recognition, and deserve honoring their presence here.

If you are a constituent of one of the 11 districts listed below who have commissioners that are currently “maybe” or “no,” please phone them and log your call here:

Most of Des Plaines is in district 17, with some areas in district 9. Find your Cook County district:

Cook County Commissioner (Indigenous Peoples Day “maybe” or “no” votes)District Phone #
Dennis Deer2nd(773) 722-0140
Stanley Moore4th(773) 783-2412
Deborah Sims5th(708) 371-4251
Donna Miller6th(312) 603-4216
Luis Arroyo Jr8th(312) 603-8530
Peter Silvestri9th(773) 444-0346
Bridget Gainer10th(773) 561-1010
John Daley11th(312) 603-4400
Larry Suffredin13th(847) 864-1209
Frank Aguilar16th(312) 603-4735
Sean Morrison17th(708) 603-1336

Sample script: “As a constituent in district [#], I strongly support changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day (File #21-0565) and the reading of a Land Acknowledgement at monthly Board meetings. I am counting on my Commissioner’s vote in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day (File #21-0565) and the Land Acknowledgement Resolution (File #21-0597).”

Please log your call here (takes approximately 1 minute):

For continued updated information, follow Indigenous Peoples’ Day Coalition – Illinois on Facebook:

Des Plaines Avoids Garbage Disposal Rate Hike With New Deal


Entrance to Des Plaines City Hall and Police Station — the Civic Center — on Miner Street (Northwest Highway).

With a new garbage disposal contract set to take effect in Des Plaines on March 1, residents can expect to pay $.01 less per month for waste removal services.

Though this amount may seem minuscule, the new, seven-year, $3.4 million contract with Lakeshore Recycling prevents garbage removal rates from jumping by around $5 per month, as they would have if the city had stayed with…

See the full article:

Key Take Aways

The current garbage contract with Republic Services ends February 28th – during the garbage pick up days prior to this day, Republic will collect refuse containers.

Lakeshore Recycling Services will keep the same pick up schedule and provide residents with the same size containers – 95 gallon for trash, 65 gallon for recycling.

Unlike Republic, Lakeshore Recycling has their own recycling center located in Forest View, handling 20 tons of waste per hour.

DP Native Aims To Promote Community Service In Communities Near O’Hare


“We can’t change the world until we can change Des Plaines and our own district,” Des Plaines native Kevin Murphy told the Journal & Topics.

On Nov. 23, Murphy was preparing to launch the Facebook page for The Jet City Coalition, a community group he founded in October focused on community service projects in Illinois 55th Legislative District.

Read more at:

Make an Election Safety Plan

Regardless of tomorrow’s election results, there is the potential for unrest. Make a safety plan for yourself, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

“Activists and extremists alike from both the right and the left fear what could happen this election and are preparing for what’s to come (The Atlantic). As a result, businesses are hiring security. Streets are boarding up their storefrontsGun sales are up. And police departments are staffing up. And although a tiny percentage of people actually support violence, it doesn’t take many incite it–more on this via Brookings.

It’s important to note how this violence is likely to most impact marginalized communities–the essential workers that don’t have a choice not to go to work. The low-wage workers that aren’t given Election Day off. The people of color most likely to be targeted by racial violence from the right. The people that rely on public transportation that could be disrupted by protests. If you have the privilege not to be directly impacted by the election violence, it is your responsibility to protect their well-being.”

Nicole Cardoza, Anti-Racism Daily

Make a safety plan for you and your household, and encourage your friends and family to do the same in preparation for the week ahead. This can be as simple as self-care like limiting your time on social media to protect your mental health, or as far as preparing resources in your home like food and medication.

Here is a guide to help you make decisions for preparing for the week ahead:

Des Plaines Taking Next Step Toward S-Curve Bike-Pedway

Originally Published by Journal & Topics by Todd Wessell October 26, 2020

Des Plaines aldermen last week voted to take the next step that will lead to the construction of a pedestrian-bicycle path underneath the Northwest Highway S-curve west of the downtown area.

Council members agreed to submit an application for federal funding for Phase 2 engineering for the approximately $3.6 million project. That money will be earmarked for engineering, right-of-way property acquisition, and construction, which could start in 2023.

For the last several years, city officials have been working to develop a pedestrian-bike path that would stretch from an area near residential units west of the bridge on the north side of Northwest Highway, under the wooden trestle that’s used by three rail lines, to a point east of the bridge at Western Avenue.

In 2017, the city completed a year-long Phase I feasibility study that recommended an underpass along the north side of Northwest Highway. In addition, city engineers have been working to secure permission from the railroads. the task is nearing completion.

Phase I engineering is expected to be completed in early 2021. Phase 2 engineering would be completed about two years later allowing for construction to begin.

The federal funding provides up to 80% with a maximum award of $2 million per project. The city is expected to pay the remaining cost. City Manager Mike Bartholomew has said that the money the city will pay might be secured through another federal grant.

Read more at Journal & Topics

Proposed Cumberland Crossing Development for Des Plaines

Cumberland Crossing is a proposed apartment development at Golf Road and Wolf Road where the unoccupied United Feather & Down facility currently stands.

For a deeper look at the developer’s plans along with residents’ concerns, watch the October 19th city council meeting, available on the city’s Council Meeting Videos webpage, as well as this PDF packet of information which was provided at the city council meeting. This article also provides some insight on population density development.

Facts about Cumberland Crossing:

  • The proposed building is 6 stories tall and will contain 449 studio, one, and two bedroom apartments and is estimated at being a $100 million private investment in Des Plaines
  • The apartment building requires re-zoning to allow for the structure to be 26 feet taller than is currently allowed
  • The Des Plaines Planning & Zoning Board voted in favor of the development (5 to 2)
  • The majority of parking will be indoors and screened from view (65 studio units will have 65 parking spaces, 299 one bedroom units will have 299 parking spaces, 85 two bedroom units will have 128 parking spaces, 13 outdoor spaces are allocated for the proposed coffee shop)
  • Cumberland Crossing would provide renters easy access to the Cumberland Metra train station
  • The apartments would be built in two phases–phase one starting May 2021 through December 2022 and and phase two September 2022 through October 2024
  • The development includes a drive-thru coffee shop
  • Water drainage will be maintained on site in underground vault storage
  • Improvements to the traffic circle were completed with development in this area in mind
  • There will be additional intersection improvements to help traffic flow–an eastbound left turn lane and a westbound right turn lane, as well as improvements at the Golf-Wolf-Seegers intersection
  • When operational, 250+ employees worked at the United Feather & Down factory, and more than 300 employees were employed at Bantam Books at that location through 1996 (source), all traveling in and out of the parking lot each work day
  • The s-curve section of Northwest Highway will become more bicycle and walker friendly with the construction of a pedestrian underpass, effectively connecting the Cumberland Crossing neighborhood with downtown Des Plaines
  • For this development to proceed, there needs to be a first reading of preliminary approval, a second reading of preliminary approval, a first reading of final approval, and a second reading of final approval (it is a long process through city council)

Cumberland Crossing Cons:

  • Denser population in the area has the potential to increase local traffic
  • The apartment building will be taller, and therefore more visible throughout the surrounding neighborhood
  • Metra ridership is currently down by 89% (source), affecting transit-oriented rental rates
  • Increased population has the potential to put extra strain on local schools, an impact study should be done
  • The approved variances can apply to future land use in other areas of Des Plaines

Cumberland Crossing Pros:

  • Eliminates an abandoned factory in the middle of a residential neighborhood
  • When fully occupied, it will generate $1.6 million in property taxes and $37,000 in retail sales tax (currently it generates $235,000 in taxes)
  • The developer is required to pay a $850,000 impact fee to fund the park district developing local recreation
  • The apartment complex can attract young professionals to Des Plaines with easy Metra access, and keep them in Des Plaines when they want a single family home
  • Has the potential to positively impact local businesses, and increase business developments in the area