Sunday, February 1, 2009

Although Orland Park Village is hurting for money, its elected officials are not

Orland Park may be facing the toughest economic times, but the people who run the village are swimming in funds.

The village's problems have a lot to do with the poor planning of the Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his down-the-line domino trustees who nary challenge him, and do what they are told.

Orland Park has raised its property taxes and even gerrymandered the "fiscal year" from 12 to 15 months because they couldn't meet their expenses. They said they were changing the fiscal year in order to re-align it with the annual calendar. But many suspect the real reason is they just don't have the funds to pay all the bills in the 12 month budget and use a cute trick to turn the budget period to 15 months to cover 12 months of expenses. It's typical bad management to delay troubles until after the election April 7, 2009.

  • Property taxes have skyrocketed.
  • Fees continue to climb.
    Once free programs now cost money.
  • The Tax Rebate program has been gutted to barely nothing.
  • Millions have been wasted in poorly managed projects.

But that's the problem of the village and the taxpayers -- you and me, pal -- will be made to pay out of our hard earned tax dollars.

That's not the problem of Mayor McLaughlin and his running mates this year, trustees Brad O'Halloran, the Orland Park ambassador from the banana Republic of the Chicago 19th Ward; Kathy Fenton, and former Republican Committeeman Jim Dodge.

When you look at their campaign finance reports, you discover a whopping cumulative total of more than $275,000 in their combined campaign war chests. That is one of the largest gross campaign funds available to any local election outside of the Chicago Machine. And that assumes, of course, that this election has nothing to do with the Chicago Machine. (And I wouldn't assume that at all.)

That $275,000 breaks down as follows, based on the campaign disclosure filings this past month by all of the McLaughlin Machine candidates:

  • Citizens for O'Halloran, $12,000
  • Jim Dodge for Trustee, $20,000
  • Citizens for Kathy Fenton, $13,000
  • Orland Park First Party, $5,000 (all loans from Dodge, O'Halloran, McLaughlin and clerk David Maher)
  • Citizens for Daniel J. McLaughlin, $61, 905
  • Citizens for Daniel J. McLaughlin investments, $163,239 (up $6,000 which McLaughlin amended since my first report).

Every penny can be spent on inundating you with crafty spin, double-talk, happy talk, misleading campaign advertisements on issues like property taxes, fees and the tax rebate int he form of direct mail pieces.

They also have access to the very costly and slick regular village newsletter in which McLaughlin, like former Jane. M. Byrne 30 years ago, fills with references to his great achievements. The newsletter includes "reports" from O'Halloran, Dodge and Fenton, too.

And, they are regularly the stars of the Village's rerun self-promotional videos, paid for by the village taxpayers, of course, on Comcast Channel 4. Over and over and over again, ad nauseum.

Yet in the face of these overwhelming odds, one brave soul in the village has the guts to say that our elected officials must be accountable. They must be forced to explain why they raised property taxes, gutted the rebate program and increased fees, and cut back programs.

That one man is Gerald F. Maher and his slate of candidates who recently formed their committee, but have yet to report one dollar raised in their campaign.

That's why the local newspapers -- that feed on McLaughlin's good will and press releases -- keep hammering home that the last time Gerald Maher ran against McLaughlin, he got less than 30 percent of the vote.

Yet, that was 8 years ago when the economy was at its best.

Retail stores keep closing and vacancies fill strip malls like this was a neighborhood in a New York Ghetto. And if you think the tax increases they have approved are it, you are wrong.

-- Ray Hanania

1 comment:

  1. I'm coming home from college after getting my Industrial Management Master's degree. There are literally NO jobs out there in industry.
    So since I'm coming home, I might as well do "something" and get involved in my community.
    I'd like to take a stab at being a "fresh, young perspective" in our Village.
    We'll see where it goes.