Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Village backs down from Vehicle Sticker hike as they head towards election

Well, you can thank this column for helping to force a delay in the Village plans to increase at least one more fee, the cost of a vehicle sticker.

A little birdie in the village told me that they had hoped to push this through, but the Finance Committee decided to "vote it down" in the face of growing anger with Mayor Dan McLaughlin, and Trustee Brad O'Halloran's strategy to raise new-money by raising taxes and fees in Orland Park to make up for their poor planning in the face of the current economic crisis.

Orland Park is one of the communities hit hardest by the recession because the village has put all of its revenue eggs in one big retail-driven basket driving more and more retail stores into the community hoping to reap revenue from sales taxes. It was a great strategy as long as the economy played along. But as soon as it tanked, it turned out to be a bad policy with more and more retails tores closing all over town. As retails sales revenues tank, McLaughlin and his 19th Ward -driven pals on the village board have been forced to find new ways to raise money and they haven't hesitated to raise property taxes, fees, make residents pay for services that have long been free, and cut many other programs.

The vehicle sticker increase was a minor one but a symbolic one. O'Halloran reportedly told the Finance Committee Monday that now was not the time because of the situation with so many residents feeling the economic pinch.

A day late and a dollar short, Precinct Captain Brad!

These guys have never delivered on one major promise. And now they are facing a challenge in the April 7 election from independent Gerald Maher, no relation to the village clerk David Maher or the village clerk's son in the Fire Protection District Patrick Maher. Gerald Maher, the mayoral candidate, promises better fiscal management and longterm planning so the village doesn't find itself in this horrific financial crisis again.

"They none too happy that you were tipped off about the increase and all they have been hearing from your column were complaints about the taxes, fees and now this," a little birdie tweeted.

People. When you have some independent voices on the village board and we end this Chicago Machine Style (19th Ward) political oppression we have in orland Park and on the board, maybe we will see some balance and better policies and an improved direction.

The biggest problem with McLaughlin is not that he is a bad person. It's not the arrogance of the village trustees, who think they are "Gods" instead of lowly little suburban trustees. It's that they are NOT ACCOUNTABLE and have no reason to be accountable.

Having voices on the village board is good for the people of Orland Park. If the officials won't be accountable voluntarily, you have the chance to force them to be accountable and force them to improve their leadership.

Don't believe all the PR spin that passes for "journalism" around here. Fluff is fun but when it comes to your homes, it is unhelpful. Someone needs to keep their feet to the fire and make then answer the tough questions instead of pretending everything is so great.

These are tough times. It's nice that someone finally admitted it. Maybe even possibly acknowledge they could have taken other actions to protect our town?

Besides accountability, transparency is also a necessity in Orland Park.

Here's my prediction. If they win handsdown with the help of 19th Ward precinct captains from Chicago -- you might want to be kind and help them because there will be a lot of lost people wandering around Orland Park in the next few weeks looking for streets and addresses in our spaghetti-loop road map -- they will come back and hammer Orland Park with the biggest, largest, unprecedented tax and fee increases this village has ever seen. And, they will completely eliminate the property tax rebate, instead of gutting it down to nothing as they have.

Just my prediction!

-- Ray Hanania

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