Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maher's Orland Fire Protection District jacks up taxes a whopping 12.51 percent of the total bill

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I have to say when I first met Patrick Maher, the president of the Orland Fire Protection District, I thought he was a pretty decent and honest person. Of course back then, the meeting I had with him was to simply put to rest many of the issues that plague the Orland Fire Protection District that he heads.

Since then, Maher only answered one issue, arguing that he's not going to make senior citizens pay for ambulance service by the OFPD. He just wanted the seniors who have insurance to submit the ambulance service costs to their insurance companies to see if the OFPD could recover money.

I wasn't sure why any Fire Protection District would have to worry about money but over the past year, I have seen why. Maher's OFPD spends like there is no tomorrow. And he has not been accountable on the major issues I have asked him about.

I am not sure why. He seemed like a good guy. A father with kids who takes them to sports games the way I take my son to participate in sports leagues too. But I do think it has a lot to do with the people he has chosen to associate himself with. Of course, for some, there was no choice.

But first, let's talk about the issues I have concerns with that Maher just can't seem to answer no matter how many times I ask him. Which makes me believe there are no real answers.

First, Maher has a battalion chief whose big-assed SUV is seen all over the place by a lot of people outside of the Orland Fire Protection District. This battalion chief drives his gas-guzzler everywhere like its his personal limousine doing personal things like taking his kids to sports activities outside of the district in places like Lemont.

Maher promised to look in to it, but apparently he doesn't want to do anything about it. The only vague response I got was that somehow Lemont and Orland have some kind of deal. I think it has to do with the fact that Maher's brother, David B. Maher, ran and lost in a bid to become a trustee out in Lemont this past April.

Maher did absolutely nothing about it.

Next, Maher decided to run against Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman for the office of Cook County Commissioner from the 17th District. Originally, I wasn't a big fan of Gorman's and my criticism has been published -- mostly dealing with minor political issues. But since then, Gorman, on her own, has done some amazing things fighting for the rights of taxpayers not just in the 17th District but in the entire Cook County. I have gotten to know her and recognize that she has the chutzpah to take on Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's government-as-usual, tax-hike driven antics.

If it wasn't for Gorman, the fight to repeal Stroger's 1 percent sales tax would have been forgotten long ago. The board would have made one effort and then turned their backs on the issue. But Gorman wouldn't let them do that. She persisted. Gorman made the fight against Stroger's Sales Tax a key focus of the county and she was the spirit behind the repeated efforts to repeal the tax. She just wouldn't give up. That fight helped give taxpayers hope that the repressive 1 percent sales tax will be repealed.

And, if it wasn't for Gorman making this tax fight the high profile battle that she did, the Illinois legislature would never have taken notice and finally, after many attempts, decided to roll back the number of votes it takes on the Cook County board to override a veto by the board president. It was 14 votes before and thanks to the legislature, and Gorman, it is only 11 (of 17 commissioner) today. That means that the county board commissioners -- who had 14 votes to repeal the Stroger tax, (betrayed only by the shameful conduct of Deborah "Do Nothing" Simms who voted for the repeal and then flip-flopped to support Stroger's veto)  -- can override Stroger's veto and put him in his place until he is replaced in office next year.

Liz Gorman's name is synonymous with the fight against rising taxes. And she has promised to try AGAIN to repeal and rollback the sales tax.

Yet this is what Maher wrote on his slick web site about the whole issue:

Patrick Maher supports legislation proposed by Illinois Sen. Dan Kotowski to lower the threshold for overriding a veto by the Cook County Board President. On two recent occasions, Todd Stroger used his veto to block the will of the voters to rollback his wildly unpopular tax increase. The proposed legislation would allow a 3/5th majority, rather than a 4/5ths majority, to override a veto. Currently 14 of the 17 members must agree for an override to pass.
Patrick Maher has reached out to local legislators to encourage them to support the measure. The incumbent Cook County Board Member from the 17th District has turned a blind eye to this important issue.

Gorman has "turned a blind eye to this important issue?" What planet are you on Maher? Why would you say something so stupid on your web site? 

But I don't think Maher is really running the show. When I first met Maher, the political enabler for the meeting was Tom Dubelbeis, the former Orland Park trustee whom I never had any real contacts with. He told Maher he could arrange the meeting. Turns out Dubelbeis not only is helping to run Maher's campaign, he is on the Orland Fire Protection District payroll.

Maher has to make it through the Democratic primary February 2 where he faces a tough challenges from independent Democrat Dr. Victor Forys. Forys has gotten all the big Democratic endorsements and most Democrats view the Maher race as a case of clout: a father (Orland Park Village Clerk and Cook County government patronage employee David Maher) using his clout to help his son get on a better more lucrative public payroll.


I'm most concerned about taxes. Maher says he is going to fight taxes and he cites the great job he has been doing heading the Orland Fire Protection District.

Yikes! Maher's Orland Fire Protection District spends more money than most other Fire Protection Districts, it seems.

And when it comes to fighting taxes? Well, like all of you, I got my tax bill this weekend and I am pissed off!

Outside of the taxes for schools, which ALWAYS go up, Patrick Maher's Orland Fire Protection District had the highest tax increase in the county for Orland Park. The taxes for Maher's Orland Fire Protection District claimed 12.51 percent of the pot, which drove up taxes as much as 30 percent in some cases.

The Orland Fire Protection District is taking more money from your taxes than any other government agency on the list, with the exception of the school districts. The village is taking 7.4 percent. The Library is taking 3.01 percent. The OFPD District is taking twice as much as the county, which is taking only 6.86 percent for all county agencies.

What the hell are you spending all this money on Mr. Maher?

For the life of me I don't understand why a major city like Orland Park doesn't just have it's own Fire Department. Why do we have this overlapping tax-spending government called the Orland Fire Protection District taking more money out of our pockets?

Under Maher, the costs of politically connected attorneys hired by the district have skyrocketed. Some insist that the spending is politically motivated and that the legal work should be done in-house. And there is a big messy lawsuit out there, too.

But 12.51 percent? That is absolutely outrageous.

And yet, this is what Patrick Maher has to say about taxation and his promise to protect the interests of the taxpayers:
As President of the Orland Fire Protection District, taxpayers in Orland Township have seen the reforms initiated by Patrick Maher.
Patrick Maher and the fire protection board inherited a multi-million dollar deficit and, with a responsible spending, the district eliminated its deficit, balanced the budget, improved fire and emergency services AND saved taxpayers over $1.3 million.
Was that before or after you hammered the taxpayers with an increase this past year (12.51 percent of the county's total tax bill) in new taxes Mr. Maher?

Pat Maher was first elected to the Orland Fire Protection District in 2003. He was then fast-tracked as OFPD President in 2006 after being anointed with his father's clout.

So, Maher above says he "inherited" a multi-million deficit. Who did he "inherit" the deficit from? Himself? He was on the board for three years before becoming el Presidente!

And, if he turned the table on the so-called "deficit" -- every politically connected child put in office by their father always insists they had a "deficit" that they "inherited" -- but never from their parent, of course -- when and how did that table turn?

Did it turn in 2006 when he "inherited" the deficit from himself on the board? Or, is he using this windfall tax increase to cover the excessive spending in the OFPD?

Patrick Maher is a huge disappointment for me personally. I really liked him. I just don't like the bull-s--- that seems to be written all over his phony PR claims and campaign boasts and I am cautious about some of the political people he has chosen to surround himself with.

I am not convinced that Maher's Orland Fire Protection District's really cares about the  taxpayers at all. I have a nagging suspicion that his administration is all about the same old political patronage and insider clout that plagues the very Cook County Board he's trying to get elected to; a county board where Maher's 19th Ward relatives have had a longstanding and cozy political relationship with the Stroger's.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2nd Maher throws hat in for Cook County board ... and Orland Township committeeman

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Gerald Maher, who was soundly defeated in a bid to unseat Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin last Spring, has turned his sights against his own Republican Party and is soliciting signatures to challenge Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman both as Cook County Commissioner and the GOP Committeeman.

Maher, a Republican, believes he didn’t get enough support from Gorman and the Orland Township Republican Party in his bid to unseat McLaughlin and even alleged that Gorman backed McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, a union communications director, is also the Democratic Committeeman of Orland Park. Here's how Maher and McLaughlin did in the past three elections:

Dan McLaughlin      6771 votes
Gerald Maher          2704 votes

Dan McLaughlin      9248 (unopposed)

Dan McLaughlin      5427
Gerald Maher         3049

Gerald Maher denied his candidacy is intended to help the candidacy of Patrick Maher, the Orland Fire Protection District president and the son of Orland Park Village Clerk David Maher, a McLaughlin ally.

“I am running because I want to make a difference in the 17th Cook County District,” Maher said Tuesday during a telephone interview while soliciting signatures for his petitions. “Liz Gorman has been in office eight years and what has she done? Nothing. But absolutely, this has to do with her not supporting me and not doing what a committeeman is supposed to do when I ran for office.”

Maher said he is running for both positions that Gorman holds including Republican Committeeman for Orland Township.

Gorman, who has been leading the effort to repeal Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s oppressive 1 percent Sales Tax, scoffed at Gerald Maher’s assertions.

“He’s a stalking horse,” she said. “I put out a mailer for every one who ran for office and the only group I endorsed who lost was Gerald Maher’s slate. The highest vote getter came from the Republican side and I am proud of that. I had him in the endorsement sheet and he didn’t even have a mailer,” Gorman said.

“At the end of the day, everyone will figure out that Gerald Maher is a disgruntled wannabe public official who is upset not because I and the Republican Party did not help him. He is upset because has tried repeatedly to win office and has been consistently rejected by the voters. ‘Liz Gorman’ didn’t make him lose. We did everything for him. He lost because the voters don’t like him. He did it to himself.”

Gorman also said that she finds it ironic that Gerald Maher and David Maher got into a high profile battle over who was using whose name to win votes. (Read the story on the Maher vs Maher name controversy?) She is referring to the letter that was published in the Orland Pairie newspaper just before the village election in which David Maher, the village clerk, blasted Gerald Maher for using their good name.

Gerald Maher said he despises the tactics David Maher used in the last election and he insisted his own candidacy is not an effort to boost David Maher’s son’s chances next year. He also denied that Gorman endorsed his candidacy, but Gorman showed me her Township GOP brochure that in fact did include Maher's Ad, discounted.

“Is my candidacy a plus or minus for Pat Maher. I see it as an absolute minus. Contrary to what his father claims, I have been to Tipperary, Ireland and that is where the Maher name originates,” Gerald Maher said.

“They don’t pronounce it Mah-her there. They pronounce it ‘Maer.’ That name belongs to me as much as it does anyone else. For them to think they have the ownership of that name is na├»ve at best. Is it helping Pat Maher? Absolutely not. It is just the opposite.”

In an unexpected move, Gerald Maher's brother Robert Maher announced his unequivocal support for Gorman, blasting his brother and blaming him for his own election defeat. Robert Maher served as Orland Township Supervisor and was ousted in the April 7 elections by Democrat Paul O'Grady.

"I lost the election to Paul O'Grady mainly because my brother Gerald ran against Mayor McLaughlin and that caused a lot of confusion. But I think worst of all is my brother Gerald ran a terrible race," Robert Maher said in a telephone interview.

"I want to make it clear that I wholeheartedly support Liz Gorman's re-election for the Cook County Board and for Republican Committeeman. She has led the fight to repeal the 1 percent sales tax and to challenge County Board President Todd Stroger. She could not have done more for me in my election bid and I believe she is one of the most effective Republican leaders and county commissioners we have."

Patrick Maher is expected to file next week for the office of County Board in the Democratic Primary. He is expected to face Dr. Victor Forys in the February primary election. The winners of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face-off in the November 2010 general elections.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Reading the election fine print in the 17th Cook County District

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A friend went to Randy's Market Monday in the Mall that the Village has been trying to shut down for the past year at 143rd and LaGrange when a woman came up to him and said, "Can you sign this petition? We want to get rid of Todd Stroger."

Now, my friend is no big fan of Todd Stroger, the Cook County Board President who shoved a 1 percent sales tax hike down our throats forcing businesses in Orland Park and other communities on the county's western borders to flee. So he said he stopped to sign and saw that it was actually a petition to Put Patrick Maher, the Democratic candidate for the Cook County 17th District on the ballot.

The friend was smart enough to ask what was up considering Pat Maher's father is in fact David Maher, the clerk of the Village of Orland Park, the very same village trying to shut down Randy's Market. And of course, he also knows that those "Mahers" are related to the powerful 19th Ward family of Tom and Dan Hynes, who both, by the way, have been big political backers of the Strogers, Todd and his late father John, for years.

I emailed Pat Maher (earlier today) asking him if in fact he is campaigning to oust Todd Stroger, because that would be a good story. It's especially a good story since Maher and Stroger are both Democrats and he is trying to unseat Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman, the Republican incumbent from the 17th District who has been a serious pain in Stroger's ass this past year. It was Gorman who wouldn't relent on the campaign to repeal Stroger's sales tax. Although the effort fell short several times, her efforts have made the Sales Tax repeal the most talked about issue for voters in Cook County. Maher, by the way, is the president of the Orland Fire Protection District.

Maher must face-off first with Victor Forys, who has a penchant for raising huge campaign contributions, in the Democratic primary. It's not a certainty that Maher will win and Forys has lined up significant Democratic backing for his campaign from Gov. Pat Quinn and many Democratic commissioners and party leaders in the bowling alley district that stretches from Orland Park to the northwest suburbs.

When asked about the incident, a manager at Randy's Market told my friend that he thought the petitions were for the Mahers (Gerald and Robert) who opposed the closing of the mall but who are not related to the David and Patrick Mahers. Ironically, David Maher published a letter in the local paper blasting the "other" Mahers claiming they were telling people they were "related" and abusing their "good name."

(I emailed Maher asking for his response and comments and also also Gorman and Forys. I'll post their comments in an update if and when they come in.)

Candidates turn in their signatures for the February election beginning Monday October 26 and have until Monday Nov. 2, which is another story I'll be writing about called "coincidences." (There are no coincidences in politics.)

Aaah. Politics! Nothing changes whether its in Chicago's Machine backyard or in the mini-19th Ward called Orland Park.

-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Local legislators stand with taxpayers on fight to repeal Cook County sales tax

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Two legislators stood by taxpayers and voted to repeal the repressive 1 percent Todd Stroger Cook County Sales Tax. That's the tax that Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman has been fighting to lift off the backs of taxpayers. Without Gorman's campaign and repeated attempts to repeal the tax, that fell short on the county board, the issue would not have made it to the agenda of the Illinois House of Representatives.

Two legislators in particular stood out, State Rep. Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox) and State Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) both voted to repeal the sales tax in Wednesday's (Oct. 14) vote in the Illinois General Assembly.

Here's an overview of all the legislative skanks though who stuck it to the taxpayers. The vote was SIX (6) VOTES shy of passing and relieving you of the oppressive Stroger 1 Percent Sales Tax and several Cook County Legislators were responsible for keeping it in place.

Click here to read the full story and see the list of how your legislator voted.

Although McCarthy voted to repeal the sales tax, his critics said he was given a pass by Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan who ordered the failure of the repeal. His army of legislators, who rely on his for campaign funding to win re-election, include McCarthy who may or may not be facing a challenge from Orland Fire Protection District Trustee James Hickey (who has been trying to solicit signatures on his petitions. Click here to read story.) McCarthy was told he could vote "for the repeal by Madigan to protect his re-election bid. McCarthy would dispute that but he doesn't talk that much with the local news media, so who knows?


Monday, October 12, 2009

Orland holds annual Fall Cleanup Campaign Oct 22-24

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Orland Park announce Fall CleanUp Campaign

ORLAND PARK, IL – The Village of Orland Park will hold its annual Fall Clean Up Campaign in cooperation with Waste Management of the South Suburbs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 22, 23 and 24.
            Dumpsters will be placed at the Public Works facility, 15655 South Ravinia Avenue (one block west of LaGrange Road). Residents may dispose of normal household garbage on Thursday, October 22 and Friday, October 23 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. and on Saturday, October 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All disposed materials must be placed inside of the dumpster and not along side the dumpster. Construction and other hazardous materials are prohibited.
            For more information, call the Public Works Department at 403-6350.


Marcus Theaters expands its 3D theaters and revenues

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Dig Deep folks. Marcus Theaters on LaGrange Road is expanding its 3D screens adding a second one. That means going to the movie is going to send you to the poor house. They are also adding 3D screens at their Addison, Gurnee and Elgin theaters, too. I can hear the change clanging -- if you use those gold presidential dollars to do business.

Most of the 3D movie selections are animated and for kids, which is great, although the quality of the 3D showings are poor. Toy Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are a good example of poor 3D quality. One of the benefits of 3D is not only seeing depth in a film but actually seeing the characters and animation jump from the screen. So far in watching all of the 3D films at Marcus -- and this is probably true at most other theaters, the experience has been costly and only so-so. There were only a few films where the 3D jumped from the screen.

Animation films are doing well mainly because Hollywood has lost its creativity, All they do is remake this and remake that. I don't want remakes. I want original creative thought and it's just not there. Gun shy? Maybe. They are afraid to take chances so they look for what they've already had success with and then they try to spin it into something else.

Not good enough.

Of course, we don't have much choice. There's not much competition in the movie theater business these days. They shut the one at the Orland Park mall long ago. To be honest, I was talking with my son and if the Hollywood theater industry wants to do anything, they should go back to drive-in movie theaters.

That would be far more fun that the cheap theatrics in today's 3D films that only occasionally impress. My son would love the animated film with or without 3D and frankly, for what little excitement that we get, so far, I would too, saving the price hike and the added charge for the 3D glasses.

Here's the press release from marcus Theaters that was sent out last week:

Marcus Theatres® Announces Six New RealD 3D InstallationsOver 60% of company’s theatre locations will offer life-like digital 3D technology for moviegoers
Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE: MCS), today announced plans to install six new RealD 3D systems at Marcus Theatres locations in Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The company plans to install the six additional 3D systems in time for the December 18 opening of Avatar, James Cameron’s highly anticipated 3D release. With the addition of the six RealD 3D equipped screens, Marcus Theatres will offer digital 3D at 32 locations in seven states.

“Expanding our digital 3D footprint is part of our growth strategy, as the studios produce more and more digital 3D films. With up to 14 digital 3D films scheduled for release in 2010, this powerful technology is expected to continue to have a positive impact on our box office,” said Bruce J. Olson, president of Marcus Theatres.

Olson said digital 3D technology continues to attract a wide variety of audiences. “Digital 3D films are not only animated films, but live-action films, comedies and documentaries. Popular 3D films opening this fall include re-releases of Toy Story 1 & 2 and the popular Nightmare Before Christmas, as well as a re-make of A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey.”

“The positive response from moviegoers to digital 3D films continues to grow. That’s because digital 3D technology engages the viewer with interactive graphics and life-like images, providing a much more dynamic form of movie entertainment. We are excited to provide our guests with these realistic 3D images using the latest RealD digital technology,” added Olson.

When the six new 3D screens open, over 60% of Marcus Theatres’ first-run theatre locations will be equipped with digital 3D technology. RealD will provide the equipment and glasses for the six new digital 3D systems.
New 3D Locations:
The new RealD installations will be introduced at Sheboygan Cinemas in Wisconsin; Chicago Heights Cinemas and a second 3D screen at Orland Park Cinemas in Illinois; Elk River Theatre and Shakopee Town Square in Minnesota and 20 Grand in Omaha, Nebraska.
Existing 3D Locations:

Bay Park Cinemas, Green BayPoint Cinemas, Madison
Cedar Creek Cinemas, WausauRidge Cinemas, New Berlin
Eastgate Cinemas, MadisonSouth Shore Cinemas, Oak Creek
Hollywood Cinemas, Grand Chute
La Crosse Cinemas, La Crosse
Marcus Cinema at the Renaissance, Sturtevant
Marcus Majestic Cinema, Brookfield
Menomonee Falls Cinema, Menomonee Falls
North Shore Cinemas, Mequon


Addison Cinemas, AddisonDuluth 10 Theatre, Duluth
Elgin Theatre, ElginOakdale Cinemas, Oakdale
Gurnee Cinemas, GurneeParkwood Cinemas, Waite Park
Orland Park Cinemas, Orland Park


Coral Ridge, CoralvilleLincoln Grand Cinema, Lincoln
Crossroads, WaterlooTwin Creek Cinema, Bellevue
Village Point Cinema, Omaha


North Dakota
Crosswoods Cinemas, ColumbusCentury Cinemas, Fargo
Pickerington Cinemas, Pickerington

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Local restaurant review and the meaning of "all you can eat"

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My wife hates my blogging. Not because she disagrees with everything I write. She does! And so does everyone else, I think. But because every time we find something great, I have to share it. "Why are you going to tell the world about this vacation resort?" ... "Why are you going to tell the world about this great restaurant?

"Well, dat's vat I do wit da writin and stuff!" I shrug in my Chica-ga accent that I can't shake with a Louisville Slugger. (I know, you're asking yourself, "Who learned you English?")

Anyway, Alison told me about this great sushi restaurant and I am figuring, what's so great about a sushi restaurant? They serve a chunk of rice with a sliver of raw fish on it and sell it for 5 times the cost. Kind of like the American Auto industry trying to get me to unload one junk lemon and pay $10,000 more to buy another junk lemon with a "energy efficient" label slapped on its fat, sluggish and unreliable ass.

Worse, I was in the middle of my freakin diet. I've been on the Atkins diet for 8 weeks and my arteries have turned into stone. But I have lost 22 pounds on that diet and I am within the strike zone. Well, I'm 206 and I want to be 195, which is kind of like saying that the Chicago Cubs will make the World Series. They get close and I guess that's good enough in Chicago-ese.

So we decided to kill my diet and she takes me to the Big Tuna sushi restaurant at 13137 S. LaGrange Road. I've been watching with amazement how some developer is building this exclusive, gated home and condo and town house community, with an Aldi at the front entrance. Why not just go all the way and put Cub Foods there and a Wal-Mart? But I did notice two new restaurants popping up. One called "It's Greek to Me," which sounds intriguing and the other called "Big Tuna."

Now, tuna is on the Atkins Diet so I don't say "no" right away. But then that hunger for carbs is eating away at my inside like a politician for a campaign donation, I'm ready to compromise my diet ethics faster that a Cook County Commissioner protecting the casino industry, and I yelp "Yea Baby! Let 'er rip."

Hey, I can also follow Bridget Gainer's lead on the county board and explain away $2,000 in donations from two casino interests trying to squash the video gaming machine legislation by saying "I met the restaurant at a social gathering of Atkins dieters. I didn't know that the restaurant served carbs. I thought they just liked me!" (Come to think of it, I think some members of the Cook County Board have replaced the Chicago motto "Where's Mine" with a new one, "All-you-can-eat ... in donations.")

So we drive to Big Tuna in the Big Lincoln Clunker for a Big Day of Big Meal.

Hey, $20 to stuff my face. That's not bad. And I have a face that is craving eight weeks of badly needed carbohydrates. My hunger is roaring, and it's not even Saturday so I can't eat a pizza. The "all-you-can-eat" option is only good for lunch between the hours of 11:30 am and 2 pm, not a minute past, my wife explains making me wonder how often has she been to the all-you-can-eat sushi trough? So we get there at exactly 11:31 am.

And, I wave to the waiter and tell him I want a nice booth by the window, but he points out (again like a U.S. Attorney laying out the indictment for a Chicago alderman) that no, the rule says we have to eat at the restaurant's bar. Okay. Fine. We'll eat at the restaurant's bar. We're the first ones there and every stool is empty. So we plop down on two seats. Not just anywhere though. I'm one of those OCB people who plans all seating in movie theaters and counts the seats. Have to be an even number group. Can't be next to the wall or the corner. Two seats away from the wall in the next two seats. Right here honey!

Normally, Alison would be rolling her eyes but she's thinking "all-you-can-eat" sushi so I can get away with a lot of crap at this point. "Hey look at that hot babe honey. What a set of mellons, huh? Don't you think?" Her response at this point with the sushi she loves staring her in the face would be a simple, "Yea sure, honey. Go ahead. Jump all over it." At which point my internal neurons start to overload and I go into cardiac arrest.

But we are at Big Tuna and I'm ready to jump all over their sushi. I am craving a hunger like no other hunger in my life. And for $20. That's the kind of patriotic American spirit President Obama is talking about when he says we have to do a service to our country and help the needy because I am needy for carbs at this point.

We sit down and the waiter brings us out Miso Soup and a salad. I take the seaweed salad because, well it tastes like Gummy Bears without the sugar. And it's sprinkled with sesame seeds and that's the secret to any Ay-rab's heart.

Then the big question. What would we like to order? "All-you-can-eat?" Yes sir the waiter smiles back. After all, I'm only on my first order. Turns out, he explains, there are some rules. You can order only three items at one time. But he doesn't tell me that right away. Being polite I order two sushi roles. Spicy Tuna and a California Roll with avocado.

It takes seconds to gobble those down and I sit there staring like a Chicago County Commissioner at a campaign donation in a contributor's hands. Not moving. Like a statue. Waiting patiently because I don't want to give away the vast emptiness of my internal hunger's abyss.

Finally, the waiter gets the hint and comes back and says can I get you another order? Sure, I say, "King Crag Avocado Roll and a Dragon Roll." Those are the top dogs when it comes to sushi. Alison puts in her order, too. We're each paying $20 for "all-you-can-eat."

I noticed that the waiter's smile seems to be twitching and I mention my observation to Alison. "Honey. He flinched when I ordered." She tells me I'm just seeing things as she waits for the second round of food to arrive.

By this time, the bar area is getting jammed packed with cheap-assed customers like me. I think they wandered in from the Aldi. Or maybe they came from the Cub Foods at 159th Street and Harlem, which is a long way to smell a good deal.

The waiter brings the food. Beautiful. As he puts the food down, he says "No Waste the food." I'm oblivious to what he says, of course, because I am hungry. It's great tasting. And gone in 90 seconds flat. And I go into statue mode again when I am done consuming. I want my sushi the way my dog wants his chew-bone every time he comes in from going outside to poop. I even try scratching my paw on the counter-top the way my dog tells me he wants to go outside to get the waiter's attention. It doesn't work.

Finally, and I mean finally, he comes back and asks if we are "done." Done? Done? Are you kidding? This is America, buddy. And Americans are NEVER done when it is "all-you-can-eat." So, I politely say "No" and then ask if I can order more. After all, we've only been here 25 minutes starving to death and we have two more hours for the "all-you-can-eat" period to end. Right?

So I ask if I can order "three" sushis this time. He did say three at a time per order, right?

And I swear, the waiter looked like he went into cardiac arrest. He stared at me like I violated some kind of Geisha Code or something. "More?" Yes more, I'm thinking. But I am too polite to tell the waiter what I really think so I purr out, "Yes, please?"

He pulls out his pen and pad and I ask, "Can I have three?"

Get the defibrillator for the guy. "All-you-can-eat" sir means "all-you-can-eat," even in Arabic, buddy, I'm thinking. "Yes, three. Is that okay?" I purr in response.

"Yes. But no waste. No waste." He looks at my wife's plate and she has four asparagus sushis on her plate and hasn't eaten them. (Who eats asparagus sushi?) "Ma'am," he says, "you must pay extra if you leave four pieces on your plate." So I quickly reach over with my chop sticks and grab two at the same time and swallow them like a Chicago Cook County Commissioner pocketing a campaign donation. And I smile. Broadly.

I order three. And he says agin, "You must eat them all."

Sieg Heil! We must succeed. We cannot fail. Failure will not be tolerated. Four sushis and I wack your dinky. (Okay, that's a comedy term from the 1960s. I like sushi but I am not Gay.)

I could feel the pressure. All of the restaurant's staff's eyes were on me. If they had a spotlight on the ceiling it would have been shining on me. Smiles with internal scowls, if you know what I mean. Like I violated a "goes-without-saying" agreement or something. Sure, we offer "all-you-can-eat" but we don't really mean it. We're just trying to get people into the restaurant and get them addicted so they come back when we whack them with the $10 dollar charge per sushi roll! We are going to make lots of money in this country from these stupid Americans! Yea baby!

So now, I am slowly eating my 5th, 6th and 7th rolls and they are huge. And they are all looking at me wondering is this a-hole customer (me) going to order more? It's not even 12:15. We're at the start of the "all-you-can-eat" strike zone. It's like being the Chicago Bears at the one yard line with 90 minutes left on the clock and I can't jump over Big Tuna's defensive scowls and order more?

"More?" the waiter asks. It's not a question but it sounds more like a statement to me. My wife jabs me with her elbow.

"No. Thanks, though. Just the bill," I reply.

Suddenly, the place breaks out like it's Christmas time. Everyone is happy. Two of us only $43 including the tax. I leave a $6 tip because 15 percent of the dollar amount is 15 percent, even if "all-you-can'-eat" isn't really "all-you-can-eat." They should call it "All-you-can-get-away-with-eating." Or, "how much can you eat while we stare at you in disbelief, you fat gorging pig of an obese-assed customer?"

I'm going back. And this time I'll be there by myself. And they won't be able to pull me out of there with a Chicago police tow truck. I'll be a fixture there for the whole "all-you-can-eat" time period, eating all I can eat!

Check it out. Big Tuna is loads of fun. All kidding aside, the food is great. And, check out my restaurant review page where I post more of my out-to-eat experiences. Click here to go to the Restaurant Review page.

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More fallout from Gainer's sloppy campaign disclosure forms

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Leaders from Cook County and several unions decried Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer's proposed ban on video gaming machines that comes up for a fast-tracked vote this morning before the full board, citing possible conflicts of interest and the damage the legislation could do to local and state economies and job losses.

Visit for more on the story this morning.

Monday, October 5, 2009

SCOOP: Drive to ban video gaming in Cook County has ties to casino industry

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Check out my SCOOP on the donations commissioners on the Cook County Board received from the casino industry only three weeks before introducing a bill to ban the video gaming machines from Cook and DuPage counties. 

Click here to read the story or go to

Video Gaming Machines would compete for dollars with the casinos and some casino owners and lobbyists do not want it. The subject will be the topic of this morning's radio show on WJJG 1530 AM (8-9:30 am). You can also listen online at

Here's the link to the story on donations Commissioner Bridget Gainer, the chief sponsor of the video gaming machine ban in Cook County, received.

I'll be posting updates on the story as I receive them. Not all of the commissioners commented (I've been trying to get comment since Thursday from some).

-- Ray Hanania

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dodge hires Dean Casper as campaign manager for comptroller's race

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METRA Board member and Orland Park trustee Jim Dodge hired Dean Casper, a former Orland Township trustee with campaign experience, to manage his campaign in the Republican race for Cook County Comptroller.

He previously ran Dodge's campaign for village clerk in 1993 and is best remembered for the slugfest with former Orland Township Supervisor Mike Brennan many administrations back.

Here's some background on Casper:

BS Public Administration Northern Illinois U, 1986
AA Liberal Arts Daley College 1984
Brother Rice HS 1982

Commercial Sales Rep, Pep Boys

George Bush for President 1988
State Legislative campaigns
Local elections
18th Ward Republican Committeeman 1992-93
Stevenson Local School Council in Chicago 1989-1993
Orland Park Parking & Traffic Commission 1994-97
Orland Township Deputy Republican Committeeman 1994-98
Orland Township Trustee 1997-2001
District 146 Facilities Committee 1993-Present
District 146 School Board Member 2003-Present
District 146 School Board President 2007-Present

Managed Jim Dodge's election runs for:
Village Clerk -1993
Republican Committeeman 1994

Dodge is in a tight race with former Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, who lost a battle for governor against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Also in the Republican comptroller's race is broadcaster William Kelly, owner of an Emmy award-winning TV production company and formerly Executive Director of the National Taxpayer Union of Illinois.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Orland Park Vets Commission to host 10th Annual Veterans' Steak Fry

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ORLAND PARK, IL – The Village of Orland Park Veterans’ Commission will hold its tenth annual Steak Fry for Orland Park veterans on Sunday, November 8 at 1:00 pm. The cost is $9.00 per person and includes dinner and beverages, with a limit two tickets per veteran.

Held each year at the Orland Park Civic Center, 14750 South Ravinia Avenue, the event is for Orland Park veterans only. If a non-resident belongs to an Orland Park military organization, i.e., American Legion Post 111 or Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #2604, a membership card must be presented to purchase tickets. Tickets are currently available at Orland Park's Frederick T. Owens Village Hall, 14700 South Ravinia Avenue.

Each year, the Orland Park Veterans’ Commission honors a person or group that has promoted veterans’ awareness in the community. This year’s honorees include USMC Sgt. Sean Kaspar, an Orland Park resident who was injured in Afghanistan in June of 2008 and the late John Hennessy, a member of the Orland Park Veterans’ Commission who recently passed away.

For more information, call Commission Recording Secretary Gail Blummer 403-6203.

Community News: Orland Park garage sale planned Nov. 7

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Orland Park hosts community garage-sale program

The Village of Orland Park Special Recreation group is holding it's semi-annual Garage Sale on November 7, 2009 at the Orland Park Civic Center from 9:00am to 1:00pm.
This event is held to help raise funds for the Special Recreation program.

For more information, contact the Recreation & Parks Department at (708)403-7275 or check out the link below.

Garage Sale


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Orland Park begins "Warm a Heart" winter drive

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Village of Orland Park Begins “Warm A Heart” Winter Drive
New Hats, Gloves and Scarves Being Collected

            ORLAND PARK – The Village of Orland Park is hoping to warm some hearts this winter, along with some heads, hands and more. Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin and Village Clerk Dave Maher have teamed up to lead Orland Park’s “Warm a Heart Winter Drive.”
            “We’re calling on residents to donate new winter hats, scarves, and mittens for needy children and adults,” McLaughlin said.
            Orland Park is collecting the items beginning October 1 through the winter months. Collected items will then be delivered to Orland Township for distribution through its assistance program.
            Contributions may be delivered to the Frederick T. Owens Village Hall at 14700 South Ravinia Avenue or the village’s Sportsplex, 11351 West 159th Street.
            “We’ve had a number of people come into the Village Hall, asking how they can help this season, especially with so many families having a hard time with the current economy,” said Orland Park Village Clerk Dave Maher. “We’re happy to be able to offer this cooperative effort with Orland Township,” he added.
                  “When we first offered this program two years ago, the community’s response was wonderful,” said Deputy Village Clerk Joe LaMargo. “Now, with many families struggling to make ends meet, winter wear may not be a part of a family’s budget. That’s where our donations will help keep people warm this winter,” LaMargo added.
            Further information is available by calling the Office of Special Services at 708/403-6188.

Commissioner Joan Murphy tells Orland audience her tax policies not driving business out of town

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Leave it to Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy who appeared on a  panel hosted by the Orland Park Chamber of Commerce to show how much she closes her eyes to reality, declaring that her tax increase proposals have not driven businesses out of town.

Of course Murphy would argue that going in to a re-election campaign against challenger Nick Valadez that she is Miss I-Love-The-Taxpayers, when she doesn't. Murphy introduced the largest tax proposal ever to come to the Cook County board, and tried hard to increase the sales tax in Cook County by 2 percent, double what County Board President Todd Stroger proposed -- the Oppressive 1 percent Stroger Sales Tax.

Businesses are fleeing from Cook County, especially from the Cook County region and I am surprised that some of the panelists and members of the Orland Park Chamber of Commerce didn't challenge Murphy or put pressure on her since they are the ones being hurt the most.

Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman also participated and detailed her own, different, strategy from Murphy. Gorman has been the leading voice in fighting and repealing the Stroger 1 percent sales tax and although the effort did not succeed -- thanks to the flip-flop vote of Deborah Sims, the fact is that thanks to Gorman, the sales tax is now a front-and-center issue going in to the elections next year and taxpayers feel that they have someone on their side -- Gorman -- who at least will fight for their rights.

That's more than what Murphy and Sims have done. And they are upset that I am criticizing them, but the FACT IS that THEY voted to increase taxes and if they don't want to defend that or if they just want to make excuses, that is their problem. Not everyone knows how to represent the best interests of the community.

Also attending the event were State Reps. Renee Kosell and Kevin McCarthy, State Sen. Ed Maloney, and representatives for Congressmen Bobby Rush and Judy Biggert, and US Sen. Roland Burris.

Click here to read the Orland Prairie article on the Chamber's event?