Thursday, July 24, 2008

Writer notes something I forgot

Orland Park was ranked 92 on Money Magazine's 100 Best Places to live. But Heather Warthen, one of my favorite journalists and the editor of the Orland Park Prairie, noted in her feature that in 2006, Orland Park was ranked 45.

I'm always hammering Orland Park's politicians. Some people say I do it because I don't like Orland Park, but I know two things about criticism: 1) Criticism is what forces elected government officials to do the right thing, the jobs they are paid to do but often contend they do as a favor for us; and 2) identifying faults and shortcomings is th efaster way to becoming even better, far more effective than patting yourself ont he back as our Mayor Dan McLaughlin often does to himself.

See I think Orland Park is a great community. But I also think it can be even better. Why aren't we number 1 on Money Magazine's top 100. Don't get me wrong. There are only about 100 "cities" in America (a city defined as having a population of more than 200,000), and there are thousands more towns and villages like Orland Park. How many thousands? I don't know. But I still think we are the best.

So how do you become better? By patting yourself on the back all the time and NEVER saying anything bad? (Criticism is considered a "sin" in Orland Park. You say something critical of Orland Park and the politicians put you ont heir blacklist.) I don't think pretending something is great when it is not is the right way to become even better.

You become better by identifying your faults, areas of shortcoming, and then correct them. You correct them and in the process you improve the bigger picture.

We have a lot of great things. A Great Police Chief. A Great Trustee Patricia Gira. A Great looking Village Hall. A TREMENDOUS civic center and director there. We even have great events like Taste fo Orland Park which is far better than Taste of Chicago. Okay, the Orland Days Festival can be better -- and I sure took some grief for saying that, but it's true. It has developed a bad reputation over the years and I am not sure why. But the Lions should figure it out, recognize it and then make it better. This year's Orland Days was better, I'm told. Maybe and other Orland Parkers will return to the Festival which has lost crowds over th eyears due to being sho ved around from dump to dump (like the old Homemaker's Mall -- that was the worst!) We have a great public pool. It's one of the best. And we have great schools and an even GREATER Recreation Department.

Some of our elected officials are lacking, deficient in leadership. But what else is knew in politics?

So I say, yes, let's be cheerleaders. Let's be community boasters. But, let's also be honest. And make Orland Park an even better community by not just applauding everything. But by also acknowledging where things need to be improved.

My list of things that need to be improved:

1 -- Office of the mayor -- needs to be more responsive and willing to listen.
2 -- Several trustee seats -- need to be replaced with people concerned about the community, not themselves or local politics.
3 -- Retail planning in the village needs to be improved. There are too many empty storefronts (When is the old Orland Park movie theater building going to be turned into the bright jewel it once was?).
4 -- Traffic control. Traffic in Orland Park is abysmal.
5 -- Flooding is still an issue in many areas, even on normal rainy days.
6 -- More openness in government: Put village board meetings on cable TV instead of those events that are videotaped that spend more time showcasing the elected officials.
7 -- More public participation in events like theater and comedy performances. (Get rid of the cliques).
8 -- More diversity at our summer festivals. I love Irish music but there is more in Orland Park, isn't there?
9 -- More funding and support for our schools.
10 -- How about one place where you can get a great corned beef and rye sandwich, instead of all the pasta and steaks. I'm just saying more variety!

Okay. That's my wish list.

Ray Hanania

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