Unity Temple has been awarded $80,000 in restoration funding as part of a contest that some have labeled the “American Idol of historic preservation.”

Earlier this year, 25 historic sites were selected to compete in the contest, called “Partners in Preservation.” An Internet vote was set to decide which of the 25 would gain funding from a $1 million purse provided by American Express.

The Pui Tak Community Center in Chinatown, which won the Internet vote, was the only site guaranteed funding, and received $110,000 to repair its roof. It was up to a committee of 20 local experts to decide which of the remaining 24 would earn funds.

Unity Temple was awarded $80,000 to help repair its roof drainage system, which its director says is a critical project. The temple has 19 different roof levels and water drainage has always been a problem, she said.

Fourteen sites were awarded grants by the committee, and the remaining 10 sites (including Oak Park’s Pleasant Home) will receive a $5,000 award “in recognition of their participation in the initiative and their commitment to preservation efforts,” according to the Partners in Preservation website.

Unity Temple asked for $150,000 at the start of the contest. Pleasant sought $250,000 to strip and repaint the surrounding fence and clean its limestone base.

“We are immensely grateful to American Express Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and to everyone who logged onto their computers and voted for Unity Temple-day after day after day,” Emily Roth, interim director of the Unity Temple restoration foundation, said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Barwin cleans up newspaper riff-raff

After hearing numerous complaints about unsightly publication boxes, Oak Park’s village manager is attempting to clean things up.

“We seem to have a proliferation of publication/advertising boxes cluttering up some of our right of ways,” Barwin said. “Some have deteriorated to the point where they have really become trash receptacles and have not been maintained.”

The village reviewed the situation, and found that none of the publication boxes in Oak Park’s right of ways are in compliance with village ordinances, including Wednesday Journal, Barwin said.

In response, the village pulled 25 boxes off the street three weeks ago, mostly from the corners of Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street and Oak Park and South Boulevard. The village will soon notify the remaining box owners that they need to comply with village ordinances.

Some requirements include not chaining boxes to poles and maintaining them in a timely fashion.

Dan Haley, publisher of Wednesday Journal, urged the village to slow down and open discussions with representatives of the newspaper industry, particularly the Illinois Press Association, a trade group representing more than 600 Illinois newspapers. “We understand the clutter argument,” said Haley, “but we also understand the First Amendment argument. As much as I like Tom Barwin, I’m not ready to appoint him to decide what is a ‘legitimate’ publication. This is not an unsolveable problem, but it has complexities that, so far, the village has not respected.”

The community design commission, said Barwin, is exploring “consolidated box options,” larger receptacles with eight or so doors, holding numerous publications. Such boxes are used in Downtown Chicago.

Barwin said the 25 boxes were removed because they did not provide news and service to citizens, they were becoming trash bins, or they were the “grossest” of violators. Boxes also must be registered and permitted. The 25 boxes were taken to the public works facility and can be picked up by their owners.

Before an inquiry last week by Wednesday Journal, only one newspaper publisher had called the village, Chicago Free Press, a gay publication which had three boxes removed.

“It’s a shame when public officials try to restrict people’s access to the press,” said Gary Barlow, managing editor of the newspaper. “It’s even more of a shame when they discriminate against smaller newspapers. Perhaps they don’t want to go against the Tribune’s few hundred lawyers.”

Barwin said pubs like the Trib, Wednesday Journal and Sun-Times will receive notices and have days or weeks to adhere to village codes or “we’ll be required to take action.”

“We have an industry-wide concern about this, and we would not like to see it spread across all of Oak Park without there being some opportunity to sit down and discuss what they want to do,” said Andrew Johnston, director of operations at Wednesday Journal.

Dan in reel life

The new film, Dan in Real Life, has a couple of Oak Park connections. No, it’s not based on real-life Oak Park columnist Dan Haley, though it is about a columnist. Actor John Mahoney, an Oak Park resident, is part of the distinguished acting ensemble. He plays the columnist’s father. And during the film’s front-lawn football scene, the female lead, Juliette Binoche, wears a sweatshirt that clearly says “Oak Park.” Mahoney’s influence or just a coincidence?

Barack in real life

Meanwhile, back in the real Oak Park, candidates for president seem to be finding their way here. According to the Tribune political blog, posted Monday, Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani planned to stop by the Maple Tree Restaurant for a “meet-and-greet” during a swing through Chicago to pick up an endorsement from former Illinois governor Jim Edgar. Giuliani apparently didn’t get, or didn’t seek, former governor George Ryan’s endorsement. And all this, hypothetically, happened yesterday after our deadline, so we don’t know if Rudy made an appearance at ground zero for the Marion Street grand reopening.

This Friday evening, however, you can meet and greet Democratic candidate Barack Obama during a reception at the home of Elise and Ted Dysart in Oak Park, but it will cost you $1,000 to get in. An RSVP is required. Call Sarah Rosenzweig, 312/819-2412, or e-mail slr@barackobama.com.

Kathy in surreal life

Meanwhile, back in the dream world of Hollywood, OPRF High School grad Kathy Griffin, “quick-witted zinger maven,” according to the Sun-Times’ Bill Zwecker, also an OPRF grad, is currently in a relationship with Apple computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, whom Zwecker describes as a “jillionaire,” and the romance seems to be serious. Zwecker quotes a friend of Griffin’s saying, “She loves the fact he’s so smart and quick and she gets a kick out of kidding him about being so rich.” Griffin has been married once before and Wozniak twice-for those keeping track. Can OPRF’s Tradition of Excellence award be far behind?

Mike in deal life

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Oct. 22, “River Forest billionaire Michael Kelly, whose banking empire stretches to California and Texas, is ramping up his local deal-making.” Kelly’s Oak Park-based FBOP Corp. (i.e. First Bank of Oak Park) is the second-largest bank headquartered in the Chicago area, and they recently purchased one “thrift” and acquired stakes in two others. The Crain’s article says Park National Bank (located at Austin and Madison) has 28 branches, mostly on the South Side and in the south suburbs (plus one up at Austin Boulevard and North Avenue).

Try Roy Rivera’s

Those of you a little short of the $1,000 needed for the Barack Obama fundraiser can drop a more thrifty $35 at the “Re-Tooling with Roy” fundraiser at TGI Friday’s this Tuesday, Nov. 27. The bucks will help Oak Park auto mechanic Roy Rivera purchase replacement tools for his auto repair business, which was totally destroyed by fire in September. Some $60,000 in tools were uninsured.

Appetizers and soft drinks are included, and there’s a cash bar. Tickets can be purchased at Gloor Realty, 114 N. Oak Park Ave. Contact Mike Cochran at 848-8025 or Matt Baron at 708/860-1380 for more info, or log onto www.oakpark1.com.

What’s that? You don’t think Roy is on a par with Obama? Well, just try calling the good senator when your car won’t start this February, buddy.

Join the discussion on social media!