Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Orland/Tinley area resident Deputy US Marshall John Ambrose convicted in leaking info to mob

John Ambrose, a resident of the Orland/Tinley Park area and a Deputy US Marshall, was convicted today of stealing and leaking information to the mob (Chicago Outfit) on the whereabouts of Nick Calabrese, a key mob informant for Federal Authorities who helped bring down numerous Chicago mobsters in the "Family Secrets" investigation.

Ambrose's father was a convicted felon and former police officer who was close to several of the mobsters involved. His son, John Ambrose, was assigned to protect Calabrese at a Chicago safehouse on two occasions.

A jury convicted Ambrose of stealing information on Calabrese that he was not entitled to obtain and leaking that information to individuals who passed it on the mobsters.

One of the Alternate Jurors in the case joined me on a aspecial edition of Radio Chicagoland Tuesday afternoon minutes after the jury decision was announced (4-5 pm when I substitute hosted for Judy Baar Topinka). The alternate juror, whose name is being withheld for safety, discussed the case and the evidence and his observations in this 25 minute interview during the special broadcast program.

Click here to listen to the podcast of the interview?

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 27, 2009

Orland Park business to make its own movies and films

The Chicago Tribune did a full length feature on MPI based in Orland Park, the former video distributor owned by Malik Ali and that has the rights to thousands of old movies. Ali tells the Tribune he plans to make at least three major motion pictures, a response to predicted slow growth and also the economy.

Click HERE to link to the story

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Apprehensive about getting a Camera Traffic Light ticket? You have one chance

Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy said that the Police Department is processing tickets from the traffic cameras at 151st and LaGrange and Harlem Avenues, but that no fines will be assessed. At least for now.

"We're only going to issue warning tickets for now," McCarthy said. "It will take time to get them processed."

The time delays in processing traffic camera tickets are notoriously slow in most municipalities. But for now, you'll get a warning, which should be taken seriously. Chances are those who get the warnings probably have the bad turning and red-light habits. So, if you get one, make a mental note to make that full stop at the light, before turning. And, that means you will probably keep doing it if you don't pay attention now.

So be thankful the first citations will be warnings. (And if you get one, email me and tell me what happened.)

The actual tickets are not scheduled to begin possibly for another month, McCarthy said.

It shows government compassion and sometimes there isn't enough of that going around.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

23 home foreclosures just this week in Orland Park

Home foreclosures are hitting a new high all over and including in Orland Park and there is no typical home cost involved. They range from small condos in the $90,000 range to two homes in the exclusive Crystal Tree gated subdivision.

There have been a total of 23 foreclosures just this week. And that's consistent with the prior week.

It's slightly worse in neighboring Tinley park where 24 homes went into foreclosure this week.

You have to be careful about realtors and banks. They're like predators hoping to turn a high profit off of your personal family tragedy.

Hopefully, some of President Obama's programs might be able to turn around the disaster that former President George W. Bush brought on all of us.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cook County Commissioners call for probe of Dunnings scandal

Commissioner Lawrence "Larry" Suffredin (D-13th District) called on the U.S. Attorney to investigate the circumstances surrounding the firing of Cook County Chief Financial Officer Donna Dunnings.

Dunnings was forced to resign late Thursday night last week from her position as Cook County’s CFO by her cousin, County Board President Todd Stroger. It came in the wake of questionable dealings Dunnings had with another fired county employee, Tony Cole. A busboy working at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in River North, Cole was hired by Stroger when Stroger met him while having diner there. Cole had been arrested on domestic violence charges involving an ex-girl friend and was bailed out several times by Dunning who used undisclosed credit cards to pay the court bails.

“I am concerned about how much money might be missing. I don’t know that there is any. I have discovered over the weekend that one of these PR people Stroger hired was with Ms. Dunnings when she bailed out this individual Cole from the County Jail. She used a credit card,” said Suffredin during an interview Monday on WJJG 1530 AM’s “Radio Chicagoland.”

“We don’t know if it was a county credit card. We don’t know if it was reimbursed by the county. I am going to make a demand on the president and the state’s attorney, the U.S. Attorney and the inspector general that there is an accounting of all the funds. If this were a small corporation, and at 1:30 in the morning the CEO accepts the resignation of the CFO, there would be an emergency meeting the next day.”

Suffredin Friday called on Stroger to resign. He said new details demand careful scrutiny to insure that Dunnings had no abused her powers to come to Cole’s aid. Stroger said he expected Cole to make “explosive” charges against Dunnings.

“It’s outrageous,” Suffredin said. “This is a person who as the Chief Financial officer has access to all of the county’s money. When Stroger uses the word ‘explosive’ it moves it from a personal indiscretion to a public indiscretion.”

Suffredin said he fears “There are some real issues involving the credit cards that Dunnings may have used. … We have no transparency. We have this bizarre activity at 1:30 in the morning on Friday Todd Stroger calls the Chicago tribune City Desk to announce he has requested and received the resignation of the Chief Financial officer, who happens to be his cousin. The CFO of a government that is the 19th largest government in the United States.”

Clearly Stroger was being vindictive trying to punish the Chicago Sun-Times which was digging into the Dunnings scandal and was preparing to break details on Dunning’s relationship with Cole.

Suffredin pointed out that after announcing it in the middle of the night, and then 15 hours later informing members of the county board, he departed for a personal vacation.

“I am speaking with board members. We do have provisions for special meetings. Our next meeting is May 5th,” Suffredin said, noting the county lacks re-call provisions.

Suffredin said the bond rating companies will probably downgrade the county’s bonds increasing interest rates on the county’s massive outstanding debts, which would increase the need for more taxes.

“The citizens need to be outraged over his lack of candor on this and his refusal to answer questions,” Suffredin said.

Suffredin said there are two separate individuals involving employees who were in trouble, including Cole, who Dunnings has helped and may have used the power of her office.

Suffredin said Stroger has refused to be accountable, refused to answer questions and refuses to properly lead the county.

No one in Stroger’s office would return repeated phone calls for a comment Monday.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Orland Fire Vehicle makes distant calls, from sports parking lots

Randy Reeder has been a longtime member of the Orland Fire Protection District hired in 1989 after serving in Palos for almost a decade before.

So you would think he would know better.

Reeder was promoted to Battalion Chief last November and now drives a Battalion Chiefs “Command Car,” a huge, fire-engine red SUV with “Orland Fire District” in large letters on the side doors and back, and “Battalion Chief” emblazoned on the front fenders of the big FORD Expedition.

The vehicle is hard to miss. So it was easily spotted in many locations by Orland Park residents who called me to ask why an Orland Fire Protection District vehicle parked, late at night, at some unusual public places like the parking lot of the Bo Jackson Sports Complex 12 miles away in Lockport neat I-355? And other places outside of the District? (His ID was dangling visibly from the rearview mirror in the car so it’s obvious whose vehicle was in use.)

I asked OFPD President Patrick Maher and he explained that Reeder is on 24 hour call this month. He’s the “Safety Officer” also. It’s done for the benefit of the district residents in the event of an emergency.

I understand every father has family obligations outside of the Orland Fire Protection District. And while they are vigilant and ready to rush to the scene of a fire or emergency where they may be needed, but do they really have to use a Fire District Car on personal time to be ready?

Insured by the District, in case something happens to their car outside of the district. Gasoline paid for by the district. Maintenance, wear and tear. Sounds like nothing. But it’s a lot.

I like Pat Maher. He runs the OFPD and the buck for all of the foibles of all the clout heavy people with the clout heavy names that he has to oversee stops at his desk. That gives him all kinds of political hassles to contend with outside of trying to manage the OFPD budget and operations.

He’s related to Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes through Dan’s mother’s side of the family. You see the Hynes name on the OFPD employment roster (they are not all related). We also saw all kinds of 19th Ward workers swarming around polling places at the past election handing out palm cards. And then there are the relatives of the former Orland Park village president, who I knew personally, Fred Owens. That’s just the beginning. So I don’t envy the job that Maher has to do. He’s also planning to run for higher office – isn’t that the mandate of every relative of a 19th Ward Dynasty?

I wouldn’t accept the excuse he was given. It’s hard to believe that Randy Reeder needs to be in his OFPD gas-guzzling SUV every minute of the day even if he is on call for the month.

Reeder is one of four Battalion Chiefs who work under Fire Chief Bryant Krizik. There’s also Raymond Kay, Joe Copeland and Dan Smith, who was promoted with Reeder last November from the fire ranks. All these guys are listed under “Administration.” That means “clout.”

Then there are three Battalion Chiefs who actually do all the hard work under “Fire Operations” who split up the day, every day, into three 8 hour shifts Black, Red and Gold. They are 1st Shift (BLACK) - BC Steve Smith; 2nd Shift (RED) - BC Nick Cinquepalmi; and 3rd Shift (GOLD) - BC Bill Bonnar, Jr.

I give Maher credit. He’s not like the other politicians and government officials I deal with who run like scared rabbits when you ask them to account for the taxpayer’s dime, like the ones who call your publisher and try to get you fired, or have people drive by your house giving you threatening looks. Or joke around that if something were to happen to me, would I get my garbage can lid?

Maher explained it and stood by his explanation. Personally, I think the political animals who do occupy some of those OFPD jobs are pulling the fireman’s wool over his eyes. And I don’t buy the on-duty 30-days at a time explanation.

“The day-time battalion chiefs are assigned an on-call month which rotates between the three of them. During their assigned month, they are expected to be available 24/7 throughout the month to respond to secondary calls, extrication needed car accidents, working fires, and any technical rescue incidents,” Maher explained.

“Their ‘on-call’ time is outside of their working hours. They are not compensated for being on call, it is an expectation of their position. Additionally, the reason that we required our chiefs to live within the District boundaries is so that they are available to respond in a timely manner to incidents. When they are on call they need to be available and ready for response – which means not getting too far away from the district boundaries. If while on call the assigned chief needs to leave town, or is otherwise incapable of response they need to call one of the other off duty chiefs and find coverage.”

Maher adds, “Battalion Chief Reeder is the Department Safety Officer so even when he is not assigned “on call” duty, he still has a level of expectation to respond in the safety officer role. Again, he is not paid additional money. The practice of having off duty chiefs take home cars is practiced by practically every department which was evident during our inquiries when we decided about three years ago to change our policy. Many chiefs have that as a provision of their contracts.”

Hey. It is baseball season after all.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

County to consider full roll-back of Stroger Tax at next board meeting

Fearing a real backlash from over-taxed residents in Cook County, Board President Todd Stroger proposed rolling back only a modest .25 percent of the 1 percent he added last year to the county's sales tax. The Stroger Tax raised the county portion of the sales tax from .75 percent to 1.75 percent, which in turn increased the burden on taxpayers already strapped by state and local sales tax hikes.

That proposal was swiftly sent to committee during this morning’s Cook County Board meeting. But tonight, a coalition of Republicans and progressive Democrats are weighing a new plan to roll-back the entire Stroger Tax not just by one .25 percent increment, but by four .25 percent increments in each of the next four years beginning this year until the entire “Stroger Tax” is repealed.

Leading the charge is 17th District Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, who has the backing of several commissioners whose ears have been ringing with voter opposition to the Stroger Tax.

Stroger can count on his City Machine minions to defend the tax, but there might be nine of the 17 commissioners who like Gorman have the courage to stand up to Stroger’s waste-filled rule.

“We plan to introduce the proposal to the next board meeting,” Gorman said Wednesday night. “I just got off the phone with several commissioners and the proposal has a lot of support.”

That puts emphasis on the comment from her anticipated county board rival, Pat Maher, that “there is more to just voting no” at board meetings. Gorman actually has not just voted “No,” she puts meaning behind the word voting “no” to unnecessary tax hikes that Stroger has forced upon the over-taxed residents of Cook County.

Gorman questioned the need for the millions that the Stroger tax will reap from over-taxed county residents, and challenged Stroger’s claim that the county can use the $100 million in stimulus money to pay county operating costs.

“That stimulus money should go to stimulate the economy and not to cover his expenses,” Gorman said. “We can’t put that in operating expenses. It’s supposed to go for new project to help create jobs and strengthen the economy.”

Gorman is right on when she argues that the money shouldn’t go into Stroger’s back pocket to pay for his city Machine patronage army, cronies and consultants.

The next board meeting is on May 5th. In the meantime, voters can help make this work by contacting their local county board commissioners and telling them to follow Gorman’s lead.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Orland Park Police Chief defends his department

Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy defended the conduct of his officers against claims that they may have abused the rights of Nour Hadid, the Arab Muslim woman charged in the murder of her two year old niece.

Ghia Hadid was found dead and a pathology report, which attorneys for Nour Hadid dispute, concluded the two year old died from blunt trauma over a four day period. The baby’s body reportedly had 55 bruises.

But McCarthy insisted the Nour Hadid case was handled not by the Orland Park Police but rather by the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.

“The reason the investigation was initiated was that a team of experts at the Medical Examiner’s office said the 55 wounds on this little girl were consistent with child abuse. There is no other way these could have occurred other than by the belt,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the probe was not conducted by the Orland Park Police but by the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force. Nour Hadid, after two days of interrogation, confessed to the killing.

“The interview of the suspect, at that time, was monitored by the assistant state’s attorney from beginning to end. And finally, the interview was not done by an Orland Park police officer,” McCarthy said during an interview Monday morning on “Radio Chicagoland” on WJJG 1530 AM Radio.

“We assisted. We called in the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force. The interview of the suspect was done by Arab speaking members of the Task Force. In fact one of the members works with the FBI… all of which was monitored by the Assistant States Attorney.”

Nour Hadid’s attorneys, Reem Odeh and Joel Brodsky said they believed that the pathology report is incorrect and that their client was “humiliated” into a position where she falsely confessed.

Odeh said that Nour Hadid had her Hijab removed during the mug-shot booking. The mug-shot showed Nour Hadid naked from just below the shoulders up.

“When someone is booked, there is no police department in the country that allows people to wear a hat, sun glasses like that. As far as the rest of the clothing, it is what the person had on at the time. No more. No less. And that is what is in the picture. The press requested the picture,” McCarthy explained.

Controversy surfaced over whether or not the police humiliated Nour Hadid by forcing her to remove her Hijab. But the Hijab that Nour Hadid wore was not a typical Hijab that simply covered her head. The Hijab she wore was an extended Hijab that covered the upper torso of her body.

With the Hijab removed, she would appear as if she had also been stripped of her clothing, a view confirmed by Amani Ghouleh, who is the publisher of the Arab Horizon (al-Offok al-Arabi) Newspaper and who has closely monitored the situation.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Ghouleh explained.

But she added, “Her Hijab when the police came, was a long Hijab that covered her head and shoulders. It is more than just a Hijab it is outer wear,” Ghouleh explained.

Ghouleh said that McCarthy does have “great respect” in the American Arab and Muslim community, but noted that McCarthy did acknowledge responsibility for releasing the photograph. She said the police should have used discretion to only release an appropriate photograph, not one that was so revealing.

While McCarthy and Odeh will square off on the issue of the humiliation and evidence reviewed by the pathologist, rightwing conservatives have been portraying this as a Muslim trying to get special treatment in the United States, a common theme advocated by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racists.

Nour Hadid is being held without bond. Odeh said she will be interviewing the suspect soon.

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lawyers insist the woman accused of killing child is innocent

EXCLUSIVE: Lawyers for woman accused of killing baby cries foul
By Ray Hanania

Attorneys for Nour Hadid, who is accused of the murder of her two-year-old niece in Orland Park last week, charged that over-eager emergency techs and a history of anti-Arab police practices in the Southwest suburb are behind a strategy to use humiliation to force her to “confess.”

Nour Hidad was charged in the alleged beating death of her two-year-old niece, Bhia Hadid.

According to reports, Nour Hadid confessed to killing the baby, who reportedly suffered a beating that left 55 bruises.

But Joel Brodsky and Reem Odeh, who now represent Nour Hadid (www.brodskyodeh.com), said their client was forced into a confession “using humiliation tactics that we saw at Abu-Ghraib.”

Nour Hadid, who is Muslim, was stripped down, according to reports, during her arrest and interrogation and forced to remove her clothing including her head covering, or her “Hijab.” The mug-shot or police booking photograph of Nour Hadid was released to the news media by the Orland Park Police – a standard procedure for police departments.

Brodsky and Odeh said the removal of the Hijab and other forms of pressure “were used to humiliate her” into providing an “alleged confession” to the child’s murder.

“I don’t know how many members of the Orland Park Police Department have served in Iraq or are a part of the military either the guard or full time,” Brodsky said Sunday during a telephone interview. “But this whole thing smacks of what happened at Abu Ghraib.”

Brodsky referred to Abu-Ghraib repeatedly during the interview. Abu-Ghraib was one of several prison sites used by the U.S. Military during the Iraq War to torture and interrogate prisons, many of whom were innocent of allegations they supported the terrorist group al-Qaeda.

Abu-Ghraib was forced to close under President Bush as evidence of the extensive torture become public knowledge. His successor, President Barack Obama, has also ordered the closure of Guantanamo and other secret CIA prison centers where torture of prisoners was also alleged.

Brodsky and Odeh pointed a finger at the Orland Park Police Department saying the department has a history of anti-Arab policies that date back more than a decade. In fact, Odeh has had run-ins with the Orland Park Police over Arab and Muslim clients who have alleged abuse at the hands of the department. In one incident, a police officer retaliated against Odeh by filing a complaint with the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) which was later proved unfounded and cleared.

“It was clearly an act of punishing her,” Brodsky said.

Anti-Arab incidents date back to the 1990s when Arab American parents were brought in by members of the District 230 school board and told that incidents where their children were abused, harassed or discriminated resulted from allegations that Arab students at the District’s three high schools, Sandburg, Andrew and Stagg, were engaged in gang and drug activities.

Over the past two decades, Arab and Muslim students have been targeted for harassment by school board officials and teachers, including at nearby Stagg High school where a large percentage of students expelled from the school were Arab or Muslim. Arab and Muslim students make up about 10 to 15 percent of the district’s student body, yet often reflected higher percentage of disciplinary measures.

Since, other incidents including cases where Arab students and Irish students have fought, resulted in the Arab students being charged while the other students were treated as victims and never charged.

However, community leaders have expressed confidence in Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy and Orland Park Village Officials who have actively reached out to Arab and Muslim Americans in cases where Arab suspects have been involved.

“McCarthy has shown a high sensitivity to the concerns of Arab Americans and Muslims,” one community leader said.

But both Brodsky and Odeh noted that despite that, what motivates individual police officers to do may have nothing to do with McCarthy.

“There is no way that Nour Hadid is guilty in this death. Clearly, humiliation was used to pressure her just as it was used at Abu-Ghraib. And, in the case of the pathology report, it was probably based on the observations of individuals in the emergency room at the hospital and they are not trained to conduct autopsies or to conclude whether incidents are or are not murder,” Brodsky said.

Brodsky and Odeh said the conclusion was rushed and may also have been the result of this atmosphere of humiliation to force Arab and Muslim suspects to confess to crimes they did not commit.

Odeh is also Arab and Muslim. She will be the guest on “Radio Chicagoland” Monday morning at 8:20 am to discuss the significance of a Hijab and Muslim culture. The show is broadcast on WJJG 1530 AM Radio and is available live on the internet at www.RadioChicagoland.com.


Friday, April 10, 2009

East and West clash even in backdrop of child's killing

East and West collide even in a child’s death
By Ray Hanania

Earlier this week, a woman was arrested and charged with the murder of her two year old niece. The story itself is tragic enough, but on top of it are details of her religion. She happens to be Muslim in a region of Chicago where anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hatred has been notorious prevalent.

In this case, though, the woman, Nour Hadid, was charged with beating her niece by the Orland park Police Department. The police followed routine procedures and finger printed and also photographed for a standard police “mug shot” the accused suspect. But her attorneys, represented by Brodsky and Odeh LLC, claims she is the victim of pressure and intimidation.

The victim was two year old Bhia Hadid and an autopsy concluded the child was beaten to death by blunt trauma. She had 55 bruises police and medical examiners concluded occurred over a four day period at her home.

The mainstream media carried the story, which is amazingly tragic on its face. Few mentioned that Nour Hadid is a Muslim or an Arab, although to those in the community the race and religion seemed obvious.

The mug-shot of the suspect showed the suspect with an expression of great pain and grief, like she was crying. There was nothing unusual in the picture. But this morning, Nour Hadid’s husband accused the Orland Park Police of “discrimination,” arguing that his wife was innocent and had her religion disrespected because she normally wears a Hijab, or head covering.

Removing the Hijab and forcing his wife to pose for the picture and then making the picture public, he alleges in several media interviews, violated her rights as a Muslim and depicted her in a disrespectful manner.

Is it really racism? Should the debate be focused on whether or not the accused woman was in fact the victim of discrimination, which the Orland Park Police denied claiming they followed the same procedure for Nour Hadid as they do for all suspects?

Or, is the real story the tragic death of the two-year old girl. Beaten to death, according to the autopsy report?

There was no outrage over the death, but there have been many calls and emails complaining that Nour Hadid’s rights were violated. The incident has also drawn the ire of conservative media fanatics who have blasted the husband and who are using the discussion as a basis to foment their continued anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred.

According to the media, Nour’s husband, Alaeddin Hadid said Orland Park police are “really going to be in big trouble” for releasing the woman's booking photo to the news media after she was charged with first-degree murder. He continued that Nour, who is Muslim, “never leaves the home without covering up.” He vowed to file a lawsuit. He asserted, “It [being shown without your hijab] is against our religion; we do not do this in our culture.”

One Muslim activist is quoted in the media saying that the police would not have been so disrespectful to a Christian Nun. The constant comparison of Muslim women who wear a Hijab and Christian Nuns is a constant argument used to support charges of anti-Muslim bias in this country. But are the two really relevant?

Another said it was disrespectful, adding that she looked like she was in her “underwear.” The photo showed Nour Hadid from just below her shoulders upwards. Her arms were crossed over her chest which was not visible.

The comment regarding the nuns is especially offensive to Christians – mainstream Christians and Arab Christians, too – as it was made on the eve of Good Friday as Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter (this Sunday for mainstream Christians and next Sunday April 19th for Orthodox Arab Christians).

The fact is that a Nun is not just any woman who observes her religion and wears a head covering, called a “Habit.” In fact, they are official members of the Catholic Church and represent the Catholic Church in official capacities, working at Churches. The “Habits” are obligated by specific Church doctrine to be worn at all times.

Some Muslim women wear a Hijab, which is not to be confused with the oppressive “berqa.” A Hijab is a head and hair covering, similar to the coverings worn by Orthodox Jewish women and very conservative Christian women, too. A “berqa” is a full body covering that also includes the covering of the wearer’s face, which is offensive and reflective less of religious belief and more of male arrogance and domination over women, and not just Muslim women, but Jewish and Christian women too, who are often as easily enslaved in gender-driven oppression.

But the husband asked in the media, “Would they do that to a Nun?” Would they force a nun to remove her Habit off her face to pose for an official criminal identification photograph called a “mug shot?”

The answer is yes. Nuns arrested and charged in crimes have been photographed for mug shots without their head coverings, too. The mug-shots are not private either because police agencies are public institutions. That means that the mug-shot is a legitimately issued public domain property. The public has a right to know who is charged and alleged to be involved in a criminal offense, especially offenses of such heinous nature.

Is Nour Hadid guilty or innocent? Too often in America, Arabs and Muslims are guilty until proven innocent. That was in fact the policy of this country for the past eight years after Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists who happened to be Muslim, became the poster children of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab conservative fanatics and mainly Christian zealots in this country.

Nour Hadid is innocent until proven guilty. But is this an incident of discrimination? I’m not sure. The Orland Park police were simply following procedure in events that were out of their control. A woman is accused of murdering a two year old child. And Orland Park has had a history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents.

It’s the murder of the child that is really the significance in this matter. In the face of such atrocities, some – I repeat some -- individual rights must be sacrificed, especially those rights with which have to do with identification.

You cannot permit anyone accused of a crime to hide behind their religious observance. The real tragedy is that the crime, whether Nour Hadid is innocent or guilty, imposes on us a vigilance that must place the need to determine the truth as our cumulative priority.

Let’s determine who did or did not kill baby Ghia Hadid. Everyone should be ready to make a personal sacrifice for that.

Orland not out of the woods on contested elections: Patrick Maher to run for County Commissioner

Pat Maher is the president of the Orland Fire Protection District. Under his tenure, the district has tightened up its finances, although there has been some controversy. But Maher has huge support from not only his father, David Maher, who is the Orland Park Village Clerk, but also from the growing Democratic organization that gave Mayor Dan McLaughlin and his father's slate an overwhelming victory this past Tuesday (April 7).

The rumors have been around for months that Patrick Maher was planning to run for higher office, and the one most discussed is the office of Cook County Commissioner in the 17th District, which is now held by County Board Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Gorman was elected commission in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006 with an overwhelming voter support. Click to read Gorman's bio?

(If you visit www.RadioChicagoland.com you can hear a brief interview with Gorman that we did this past week, and also the audio of the fight the Todd Stroger taxes forum March 30 we organized in Orland Park that Commissioner Gorman attended and participated in as panel member.)

This week, Maher has confirmed that he is strongly leaning towards running for commissioner challenging Gorman in the November 2010 elections, telling me he is "75 percent sure" he will run.

But, it's not official. Maher will have a fundraiser on May 15th where he is planning to make a formal announcement on his decision. Click here to read Maher's bio.

This is going to be a tough race. But, Commissioner Gorman will not be an easy incumbent to unseat. She has a strong organization and a strong record. That campaign is going to start fast. Stay tuned for more details.

Asked about the reports, Gorman said she was aware of Maher's intentions, smartly responding, “The Chicago Tribune hailed me for being one of the hardest working Commissioners in Cook County and being on the right side of the issues, standing up to Stroger and his tax increases. I look forward to a positive campaign and welcome Pat to the race. This gives me the opportunity to work even harder for the expansive district that I have the privilege of representing.”

The 17th District is huge also encompasses O'Hare International Airport. It is 47 miles in length and 17 miles at its widest point and encompasses mainly the Republican suburbs. Gorman is a Republican. Maher is a Democrat.

(We spoke with Pat Maher this morning on "Mornings with Ray Hanania" about his possible candidacy and the interview audio will be podcast also on the web site at:

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dan McLaughlin wins Orland Park elections, for himself and everyone else

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin once again easily slid into re-election Tuesday to begin a record 5th term. McLaughlin served as a trustee for 8 years and 16 as mayor. But it was McLaughlin's coattails that are the story in this victory.

McLaughlin's challenger Gerald Maher, with little money, tried and did better than he did 8 years ago, garnering a higher percentage of votes. And while his candidacy insured that voters would get to hear the issues addressed, his message was swamped by mud-slinging. Not from McLaughlin, but from some of McLaughlin's circle of allies.

Clearly, the winner in this election was McLaughlin, although he ran the way any professional candidate would run, not taking anything for granted. I thought the race could have been friendlier, with less animosity. But while there were some contentious moments in the village elections, they didn't even come close to the namecalling and mud that dominated the Orland Township election fight.

The unofficial totals (all of the numbers here are unofficial) for Orland Park Village President (Mayor), with 58 or 60 precinct reporting:

OPF - Daniel J. McLaughlin 5287 64.02%
CCO - Gerald F. Maher 2971 35.98%

In the race for village Clerk:

OPF - David P. Maher 5327 66.50%
CCO - Patrice E. Pykett 2684 33.50%

In the race for 3 trustee seats:

OPF - James V. Dodge 4995 21.53%
OPF - Kathleen M. Fenton 4870 20.99%
OPF - Brad S. O'Halloran 4814 20.75%

CCO - Kenneth M. Wzorek 2847 12.27%
CCO - Marian M. Klemme 2880 12.42%
CCO - Kenneth M. Houston 2791 12.03%

In the election, some 8,258 votes were cast above for Mayor. In 2005, uncontested, McLaughlin received 9,248. In the 2001 election, McLaughlin won 6,775 votes to Maher's 2,704 votes. McLaughlin received more than 71 percent of the vote in the 2001 election battle, and slipped slightly with only 64 percent in this election.

Orland Township election results showed only real upset:

With 84 of 88 precincts reporting, Paul O'Grady swept into office on McLaughlin's coattails, easily defeating incumbent Robert Maher. McLaughlin made a last minute pitch and his pitches have resonance with voters who have supported his leadership for the past 16 years.

OTF - Paul A. O'Grady 7028 65.04%
OTP - Robert J. Maher 3778 34.96%

Maher, who was hammered by O'Grady's constant attack brochures and literature, didn't come close to spending the money that O'Grady was able to raise from his Democratic supporters, union and 19th Ward supporters. Although O'Grady denied he had any ties to the 19th Ward -- something that really irked me about a candidate -- he had many 19th Ward workers including 19th Ward office holder Sheriff Tom Dart pitching for him in Orland Township.

But O'Grady didn't win it on the issues. He won it because McLaughlin gave him his public blessing and McLaughlin's blessing is the crown in Orland Park, without a doubt. he also had the hard backing of the Democratic Machine and lots of money, as seen by his assault of direct mail literature.

O'Grady also won because the Democrats came out strong behind him, while the Republicans seem to be losing some of the former grip on the township. That's an assessment that needs closer examination. Orland Township Republican Committeeman Liz Gorman tried to be more focused on what is best for Orland Park instead of simply following a hard ideological line. Gorman is focused on the bigger challenge facing voters, the rising taxation in Cook County. A member of the Cook County Board, Gorman strongly supported the Fight the Taxation Forum that Radio Chicagoland sponsored Monday March 30. And McLaughlin also came out. (So did Orland Trustees Pat Gira and Ed Schussler, indicating they, too, oppose the higher taxation choking suburban Cook County residents.)

Former Republican Committeeman Jim Dodge did what he always does, pushed himself hard in his bid for Orland Park trustee; it showed with him leading the pack of three incumbent trustees behind McLaughlin.

Voter turnout was pathetic for most of Cook County, but Orland Park voters maintained what they always do in elections, turning out better. Not strong. Better than the rest of the county. But that turnout is in part a result of the contested races, and contests and criticism may not be liked by the candidates or the incumbents, but it is what is best for the voters.

Total Registration and Turnout in Cook County was 299,178. That is about 19 percent of the 1,463,070 registered voters. Yikes!

The shift, though, clearly seems to reflect a move in Orland Park from the once strong Republican base to a voter base driven by Democrats and their Chicago machine ties in the 19th Ward. There were several 19th Ward former precinct captains and captians (some who I know personally) and others who just shrugged they were there as a part of a push by the downtown unions, to help O'Grady ... at McLaughlin's bidding.

In other races:

District 135 race, with 51 of 52 precincts counted, the four winners are:

Ann M. Gentile 4374 19.15%
Tom Cunningham 3567 15.62%
Lynne Donegan 3408 14.92%
Mary A. Bragg 3369 14.75%

The closest challenger is James W. Leib 3243 with more than 126 votes behind Bragg, making it difficult to win.

In District 230 schools, for sure 3 of the 4 winners are:

Laura Murphy 8201 16.66%
Frank J. Grabowski 7095 14.42%
Michael E. Hastings 6391 12.99%

Michael Hastings, whose resume impressed many voters, is the son of controversial Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings. Baker was leading Peterson by 39 votes.

Carol Baker 6170 12.54%
Kathleen J. Murphy-Peterson 6131 12.46%

But, the site shows only 139 of 145 precincts were counted, which means the final results in that 4th place seat could easily change.

In the Moraine Valley Community College Race, the apparent winners for the two seats are:

Patrick D. Kennedy 28407 39.41%
Mark D. Weber 25234 35.01%

Robert M. Stokas received only 18,441 votes. Weber was a young appointee to the MVCC board who ran with the support of a lot of voters who believe the board needs more younger representation and fresh ideas.

In the race for Orland Fire Protection District, the result was unquestionably decisive for the one available seat.

James P. Hickey 3958 49.57%

Cynthia Nelson Katsenes 1539 19.28%
Robert K. Brennan 1119 14.02%
Christopher Ciciora 959 12.01%
John Jacobsma 409 5.12%

Ciciora was a young student who ran his first election and did a great job, although he fell short of what he needed to win. And Katsenes, a former board member battling OFPD President Patrick Maher, the son Orland Village Clerk Dave Maher, came in second.

On the issue of breaking from Cook County and fighting increased taxation:

The battle for secession from Cook County inched forward, the only real race worth fighting. Voters in Orland Township responded with a resounding rejection of the county sales tax increase. Voting NO by a whopping 9905 votes or 91.18% of the ballots. Not that Stroger is going to listen to anyone, and now that the Democrats have pretty much locked up Orland Township, the voice of the voters when it comes to Stroger, will be muted.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

While Orland Mayor holds his own, Paul O'Grady moves in for a sweep

Democrat Paul O'Grady, who pelted Orland Township with expensive and tough literature, appears to have pulled off the impossible in a suburban election defeating an incumbent, Robert Maher.

Here's the latest election results as of 9 PM CST from the Cook County Clerk's election monitoring web site.

Township Supervisor Orland
2 Candidates - Vote for 1
Precincts Counted: 56 of 88 (63.64%)

Candidates Votes %
Paul A. O'Grady (OTF) 4,609 65.02%
Robert J. Maher (OTP) 2,480 34.98%

The odds of overcoming that lead are slim indeed.

Mud and mean campaigning in a low turnout election has its merits. O'Grady's slate may make it a sweep across the board. Who knew 19th Ward heavy Sheriff Tom Dart had so much pull in Orland Township.

Meanwhile, Robert Maher's brother, Gerald Maher, is on his way to losing his second try at unseating incumbent Dan McLaughlin.

Orland Park Village President
2 Candidates - Vote for 1
Precincts Counted: 37 of 60 (61.67%)

Candidates Votes %
Daniel J. McLaughlin (OPF) 3,403 64.70%
Gerald F. Maher (CCO) 1,857 35.30%

-- Ray Hanania

names, names, names -- Maher's make for much confusion and fighting

First, the "Mahers" related to Village Clerk Dave Maher slammed the Maher's related to Gerald Maher allegedly for telling people they are related. They're not. The Maher's are two big families and, conincidentally, their main profession seems to be politics.

Dave Maher's son is Patrick Maher, president of the Orland Fire Protection District. Gerald Maher is running against Dave Maher's running mate, Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin, in today's election. Gerald Maher is also the brother of Robert Maher, the Orland Township Supervisor who is seeking re-election to a second term and being challenged by Paul O'Grady, who has the backing of the Mahers (Dave and Patrick and their slate) but not the Mahers (Gerald and Robert and their slate). (O'Grady has some 19th Ward friends but he is NOT related to the former controversial sherif Jim O'Grady. His friend from high school is an O'Grady successor, Sheriff Tom Dart.)

Confused? Don't feel alone. A few days ago, in reviewing the Orland Park elections, the Chicago Tribune mixed up a photo of the Maher's and put a photo of Gerald Maher in the place for Dave Maher. Ooops!

I haven't even included Brian Maher, who is a trustee in Tinley Park and cousin of Dave and Patrick Maher.

This week also, a letter has been circulating from the Orland Township Republican Organization slamming the Dave and Patrick Maher side of the unrelated Maher family.

Can we call the Maher's a clan? Wouldn't it be easier on everyone if the political fight was between two families with different names like the Hatfields and the McCoys? Actually, I think this Maher duel is more ferocious and the Hatfield and McCoy fued ever was.

I'm sure we all can't wait until this election is over. Although in the dust and muck, voters did get a chance they would be denied in an uncontested race, to mull the local issues that impact all of us. So for that, we should all give a big shout out of thank yous to the Maher's, the McLaughlin's, the O'Grady's, the O'Hallorans, and the Younkers and Yunkers (another name similarity which I am sure was definitely politically intentional).

-- Ray Hanania

Things I have learned about suburban elections

Today is suburban election day: Here are some things I have learned over the years as a political reporter about suburban elections:

Early voting or absentee voting usually is an indicator of how many "activists" are actually out there working, mixed in with who will be on vacation during the election. Especially now with early voting, the candidates and their precinct workers will get the voting out of the way so they can concentrate on placing signs at polling places (some will be out there ripping down signs. Tsk! Tsk!).

Signs don't vote. No matter how many signs you see, it's rarely an indicator by itself of a candidate's ability to win or to lose. The signs on the parkways and mainstreets are usually a turnoff to most voters. The public really hates to see candidate signs on the side of a major road, empty prairie or shuttered business lined up like an endless advertisement.

Signs on a front lawn usually do suggest a real-live voter. Although the voter is usually either a candidate, a relative of a candidate, or a worker for a candidate. Sometimes, they are voters who just don't want to argue with the people bringing the signs.

Lots of strangers will be walking through the neighborhood on election day. Be kind. When they come up to ask you for directions, help them get back to their Chicago-based Machine Ward havens. There are outside forces from Chicago's Tax-the-hell-outta-ya Machine battling to take control of several suburbs, and some like Orland Park, Oak Lawn and a few others will have Chicago precinct captains crawling over them like ants.

Suburban turnout is always low. One thing that happens when you run from Chicago -- either as a result of White Flight in the late 1960s; Black Flight in the late 1980s; or Fireman and Policeman flight (ever since the residency rules were created to keep mostly White residents int he city) -- you lose the motivation to vote or participate in local elections. In fact, suburban elections usually have the lowest voter turnouts.

No matter how technologically advanced we become as a society, politicians are usually the last to get on the train. You can tell which candidates use technology (and reach a growing audience in the public) and which rely on the old fashioned, and increasingly ineffective, direct mail.

Newspapers are losing more and more of their clout. Instead of leading, they are back-patting. Instead of criticizing -- an integral part of an accountable government-public system -- they are always praising. No substance. Just a lot of blah!

Although you couldn't convince the incumbents of this, the fact is the more controversy there is in an election, the more the people become aware and motivated to vote. Controversy is what stimulates people to think, not blah articles that so obviously pat some politician's ass or strokes a candidate's ego. Controversy usually means that issues are being debated and discussed. Happy talk means people are sleeping. It's one reason why the print newspaper business is dying.

Being challenged is not only good for a community, it is good for the incumbent politicians. But I stress, elections where offices are challenged are good for the community, the public, the homeowners and the taxpayers. Those communities where incumbent bullies have kicked challengers off ballots are where most of the corruption residue and scum settle each year. Where the taxes are the highest. Where the corruption is the greatest. Where the politicians have denied their publics the ability to participate.

If you have a contested election in your community, you are lucky. It means candidates and media care -- willingly or by force -- about what you think.

Despite the loopholes, hassles, mud, namecalling, anger -- some politicians need to go to anger management classes -- you have to give credit to everyone who runs for office. Those in office and those out. And, you must give credit to the registered voters who will take the time to vote today (or who voted at early voting).

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rounding the corner to the election on Tuesday

Gerald Maher, the mayoral candidate for the Concerned Citizens of Orland Park, hasn't had a wealthy campaign, so he hasn't been able to buy the full color, glossy mailers that the incumbents, the Orland Park First Party led by Mayor Dan McLaughlin, have been able to produce.

Most of the literature has focused on the issues. And if there has been any "mud" thrown around, it's been by people unfortunately associated with Mayor McLaughlin. I don't blame Mayor McLaughlin. He is a part of a tenuous team. I definitely like the mayor and trustee Brad O'Halloran. I haven't heard a thing from Trustee Kathy Fenton and I am always suspicious of the politics and policies of Trustee Jim Dodge.

The letter published in the Orland Prairie last week attacking Gerald Maher and his brother, Robert Maher, the Orland Township Supervisor, which endorsed Paul O'Grady (the candidate for supervisor challenging Robert Maher) and Mayor McLaughlin, was about as dirty a letter as I have ever seen.

I don't think McLaughlin had anything to do with that.

But I do think that the incumbent village officials have a responsibility to 1) accept criticism and not brush it off as "mud" just because it challenges public policy and 2) they should focus on positive achievements instead of trying to pretend that Gerald Maher has been throwing mud. He hasn't.

Mayor McLaughlin is right about one issue that I even challenged him on. The Property Tax rebate was 80 percent of my property tax collections. I had calculated the property tax rebate on the entire property tax levied by the village, not just the portion levied on homeowners. I don't think it is accurate to say you rebated the property tax when you only rebated a portion of the property tax. But, McLaughlin was right, technically, and I was wrong. Homeowners who submitted their forms did get 80 percent of their property tax rebated.

But I think it is legitimate for Gerald Maher to campaign using his last name, even if the Village Clerk, David Maher, and his son Patrick Maher the President of the Orland Fire Protection District, all share the same last name. That issues is just ridiculous, but I blame that on the Paul O'Grady campaign.

Paul O'Grady is a decent person but his campaign has been all about mud, slamming Robert Maher very hard. I do think Robert Maher has to do a better job of communicating with the residents of the Township, but I think his original claim that O'Grady may be a front for the 19th Ward politicians resonated when O'Grady got 19th Ward bigshot County Sheriff Tom Dart to pose for a campaign brochure picture and make those annoying telephone calls to my home phone.

Mayor McLaughlin, for the most part, has done a good job with Orland Park. This is a great community. But, it is an even GREATER community when citizens of Orland Park become involved in local elections and challenge the incumbents. McLaughlin shouldn't be so bitter about being challenged by Maher -- although I suspect it's not McLaughlin really running his odd-couple slate that he has. It's the consultants. And putting out a las minute mailer accusing your challenger of throwing mud is "an old political trick" of the common kind.

Given how much has been spent, and how little local residents vote in local elections, I am going to predict that McLaughlin will win his 5th term. He's been a good mayor for 16 years and was a great trustee for 8 years before. In fact, I remember when he first ran for trustee and got involved in the Orland Township Democratic Organization, once headed by an old school politician, Tom Charnagorsky.

Mayor. You're going to win Tuesday. Be magnanimous and let the lesser of the candidates in your coalition who are vulnerable deal with the bitterness and animosity. You don't need to stoop that low and don't allow the others to drag you down to that level. Keep the rest of the campaign positive.

If Gerald Maher is bringing up issues of increases in property taxes and village debt -- which you contest -- he is doing it because like you, he cares about Orland Park. Saying that you raised fees (the fees on the water bill have increased in almost every area including actual water rate which you don't really control.)

I also know you agree that village board meetings should be broadcast on Cable TV and I hope in this next term, you will make it happen. Find new people to run the cable camera, though, mayor. Someone with some creative talent. Not every resident of Orland Park has the time to attend the meetings -- village officials attend because they are paid to attend and they run for office and that is a requirement. But tell some of your running mates that taxpayers who can't find the time to attend the village board meetings are not apathetic. They are just busy working hard. Make the village board meetings more accessible and make village government completely transparent. In today's day-and-age, every public document and record should be made available on the village's very well-done web site. It just needs more public records. Put the village board meetings on the Internet too. (You can do that for free with a fast Internet connection, computer and a good camera.)

You are better than the other candidates on your slate. Stay that way. Criticism is a part of being in office. Learn to take it, accept it and turn it into something positive.

By the way, did we really need another issue of the "Orland Park Public" village magazine? That's a waste of money.

-- Ray Hanania