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Columnist
Mr. X earns rep by ripping poor, library and firefighters
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/30/2010 12:00 AM

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"It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. Or it could be that his head wasn't screwed on just right. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small." _ description of the Grinch from Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

•••

Constantine "Connie" Xinos says things that could lead some people to see him as the meanest man in all of Oak Brook. But Xinos seems as comfortable wearing that reputation as he is tooling around his gated community in his Mercedes-Benz.

"That's his title and he's very proud of it," notes Barbara Benezra, a nice woman who would rather I write about the village's free jazz concert featuring Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24, in the 120-person-capacity Friends Meeting Room of the Oak Brook Public Library, 600 Oak Brook Road.

Benezra is a Xinos survivor.

A year ago, Benezra, the longtime president of the Friends of the Oak Brook Public Library, was in the cross-hairs of Xinos' vitriol. As the village made difficult and emotional cuts to the library budget, including laying off the head librarian, Xinos gleefully said he wanted librarians and friends of the library to suffer.

"I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books," Xinos snarled at an 11-year-old girl who stood up at a public hearing to say nice things about librarians. "Don't cry crocodile tears about people who are making $100,000 a year wiping tables and putting the books back on the shelves."

Xinos, a 70-year-old attorney who hasn't won a villagewide election but has been president of his home association since 1983, attacked the girl with such meanness that it made her little friend cry. He knew he was ticking off professional librarians and people who like libraries and 11-year-old girls, and he liked it.

"I wanted that kid to lose sleep that night," Xinos, with a smile most unpleasant, told me during a two-hour, profanity-filled interview last year in his car.

This was not his first dip into the pool of publicly spewed vile. Once, when Oak Brook considered a subsidized housing unit for seniors, Xinos successfully campaigned against it by proclaiming, "I don't want to live next to poor people. I don't want poor people in my town."

Now, as Oak Brook, which levies no property taxes to pay for village services, looks at ways to cuts costs in these harsh times, Xinos goes after village firefighters.

"Firemen, like cops, are street people. They only understand civilized force. That's what they understand. Fire 'em!" Xinos said at a recent meeting, suggesting the village fire one firefighter every month until the firefighters retreated on salary and benefits.

But he didn't just want to put a village employee out of work. He fantasized about ruining the lives of firefighters, their wives, kids and pets.

"She'll leave him. He'll be out of the house," Xinos said, envisioning the demise of the family. "The dog will be dead and the kids will be out on the streets."

In an environment when villages, and all of us, have difficult financial decisions to make, Xinos uses dead dogs and homeless kids to wage a debate.

"That's the way you get through life," Xinos said. "You don't get through life being a namby-pamby."

Xinos' comments have been picked up by a national firefighters' website and expanded his audience. When ABC 7 News gave Xinos a chance this week to explain his harsh comments, Xinos replied, "I regret nothing."

That sort of viciousness surprises Rob Sherman, the well-known Buffalo Grove atheist who, during his three decades of activism, has drawn venom ranging from muttered wishes that he acquire a fatal disease to Sherman's spot as one of Keith Olbermann's public "Worst Person in the World" rants.

Sherman's "incendiary comments," such as referring to Christians as "Constitution-hating Christers," are simply attempts to get attention, Sherman says.

"I'm not doing it to be mean or hurtful," the atheist says, noting he even removed the "God is Make-Believe" bumper sticker from his car in a show of tactfulness. "I don't say things just to make people feel bad or to be rude or insulting-Apparently, what this guy is doing is insulting people."

Yep. Some folks in Oak Brook chalk up Xinos' behavior as another case of Connie being Connie. But I think Dr. Seuss might be on to something. Maybe Xinos needs bigger shoes.