Thursday, March 12, 2009

Candidate Gerald Maher comes out swinging

Politics is starting to come alive in Orland Park with less than four weeks left to the April 7 election. That might tell you about how tough it is for non-incumbents to find the resources to challenge incumbents.

Gerald Maher is running a second time against Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. They're both good men. They both love Orland Park, but one of them is the incumbent with a huge campaign warchest. The other is not, with a huge hurdle -- convincing voters to take notice.

While McLaughlin's warchest is significant -- I've written about it -- it does reflect his 16 years in office. He's built up a lot of alliances, good will and a decent track record. The current economy has put the spotlight on the village's taxes and the decision to trim back the property tax rebate has ruffled some feathers.

But it still takes a lot to mount a campaign.

Maher is focused squarely on the taxation issue, a smart move with taxes rising all around Orland Park and revenues dropping like fundamental words out of Chicago Mayor Daley's sentence structure. It is the heart of a two-sided, yellow flyer with black ink that was inserted into the weekly home-mailed edition of former Senate candidate Jack Ryan's Orland Park Prairie newspaper. It's an affordable way to get the word out, but far from what is needed.

His single disclosed campaign contribution came two days ago from Kang Lee, the restaurant in the heart of the controversial dust-up of the village's stalled multi-million dollar "Main Street Triangle" project and the planned razing of the Orland Plaza Shopping Center. It's the last parcel of land the village needs to begin plans to create an old town atmosphere around the train station west of LaGrange Road at 143rd Street. But the $2,000 from Kang Lee two days ago is small change to fuel the ambitions of the Concerned Citizens of Orland Park and its admirable slate of candidates. (Between now and the election candidates need only disclose contributions of more than $500 so the donation amount may not be a true indicator of what he has available.)

There are five positions up in the April 7 elections in the village. Mayor, clerk and three trustees. Two of the incumbent trustees running with McLaughlin are vulnerable, Kathy Fenton and Jim Dodge. The other incumbent is trustee Brad O'Halloran and the Village Clerk Dave Maher.

Dodge, who has more ambition than successes in politics, has a campaign photo that haunts him with a smile that looks like a bent tin can. He's close to Orland Township Republican Committeeman Elizabeth Doody Gorman, who doesn't have a great record in terms of helping the Republican Party at all, but that her friends in politics keep insisting has great potential. I've yet to hear from her and can only go by her public record. Gorman's biggest anchor is her political ties to Ed Vrdolyak, who pled guilty to corruption but managed to skate out of a jail term only through what observers conclude is either the senility of U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur, or political cronyism.

While Maher is known by many, his slate is not as well known, but courageous. They are Patrice Pykett, the candidate for clerk, and trustee candidates Kenneth Wzorek, Kenneth Houston and Marian Klemme.

Although Maher is basically a Republican, and McLaughlin a Democrat -- he's the Orland Township Democratic Committeeman, in fact -- party labels won't help much.

Maher's literature makes some good points, like addressing the village's mounting debt of $94.2 million. But using the term "pay-to-play" goes a bit too far. When asked about Maher's candidacy, McLaughlin asked where Maher has been the past eight years since the last election, but then took a swipe quoted in the newspapers that was too negative. Still, the election will help bring out issues citizens of Orland Park need to understand.

The expected turnout for April 7 will probably be low, though past mayoral elections have drawn some 9,000 votes.

But without deep pockets and more Kang Lee's, it will be very tough to mount the kind of campaign one needs to bring out the votes and crack McLaughlin's very tough to beat record.

It's going to take a lot more than an insert in the Orland Park Prairie to move people to vote on April 7 and Maher's people, despite a soft campaign warchest, are promising more. Money is the measure of a candidate's viability, not just the issues.

The Township race is also starting to percolate, too, with Maher's brother and Orland Township Supervisor Robert Maher being challenged by Paul O'Grady, who is not related to the former sheriff nor any of the powerful O'Grady clan. O'Grady's blue and white signs have already popped up on LaGrange Road.

For more information, you can visit Gerald Maher's web site at McLaughlin's slate does not have a campaign web site that I know of and I couldn't find one for Robert Maher, either, but you can find info on both McLaughlin and Robert at their official government sites, and the township's web site is Paul O'Grady's web site is for the Orland Township First Party.

-- Ray Hanania

1 comment:

  1. It is easy to think that the amount of money a candidate can raise determines their viability. This idea is really a sad reflection on what Elections in the United States have degenerated into.

    The premise that the most money wins is not historically accurate. If this were the only measure of a candidate, or even an important measurement of a candidate, then Jim Oberweis would be a congressman, Mit Romney would have been the Republican Nominee in the last Presidential race, Steve Forbes would have been President at least once, and Michael Sessions, a 19 year old high school senior using a write in campaign, would never have won the 2005 mayoral race in Hillsdale, Michigan against the incumbent.

    In an election with no issues, the incumbent usually wins. Why? Because no issues means the incumbent is probably doing a good job, and the voters are comfortable.

    However, this election is different. There are a number of very serious issues, including the abuse of a TIF District, an improper use of Eminent Domain, excessive Debt and Debt Financing, questionable budgets (despite the touted Awards), and an insensitivity to businesses and jobs that don’t fit into someone’s “vision”. The current national economic climate is not the cause of any of these issues. In fact, the current economic climate has probably helped to put a spotlight on these issues, otherwise, the Mayor and the Board might still be “merrily” sailing along, bullying businesses and piling up debt at the taxpayers’ expense with no one being the wiser.

    Elections still come down to ideas and issues and what the voters are thinking for those few minutes when they are actually voting. We have an optimistic view of the electorate, and we believe that especially here in Orland Park, voters are free thinking and capable of making informed decisions based on more than how big someone’s war chest is or how big or how many “yard signs” they have. This election will be won at the kitchen table, the break room, the water cooler and any other place where people get together.

    It is true that the incumbents in this race have a lot of money to spend. Some might say that makes them good candidates. Others would say a lot of special interests stand to lose a lot of Orland Park tax dollars if the incumbents aren’t re-elected. It really doesn’t matter.

    Orland Park needs a change in leadership. The Concerned Citizens of Orland Park and the CCOP party candidates, lead by Gerald F. Maher for Mayor, are putting these issues in front of the voters (literally in person as well as in their mailbox).

    Some have commented that this election really breaks down to Republicans vs Democrats. While it is true that Gerald F. Maher is a lifelong Republican and that the incumbent Mayor is a Democratic Chairman, what Orland Park really needs now is less “business as usual” and more independent thinking. The CCOP party candidates; Gerald F. Maher, Patrice Pykett, Kenneth Wzorek, Kenneth Houston and Marian Klemme offer a new, fresh alternative for the future of Orland Park.