Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why is Orland Park selling "Open Lands" to the bloated Fire Protection District?

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This is like an incestuous political soap opera.

The Orland Fire Protection District is one of the most bloated, over-budgeted, over-spending fire protection districts in Illinois. Maybe that's why so many local politicians like them, and do whatever it's leaders ask. Or maybe, it's all in the family and a dad and his pals can't say no to a son and his political ambitions.

This week, according to the Southtown/Star (read story?) the Village Board voted to sell land (cheaply by the way) to the Orland Fire Protection District so that the district can what? Expand a fire house? Build a new fire house? None of the above. The Orland Fire Protection District wants the land so it can expand its administrative center, which some firefighters privately call "The Castle."

That's where Patrick Maher reigns supreme, the son of Village Clerk Dave Maher, the pal of, well, the village's trustees. They all work together. Dave Maher doesn't have a vote but he has a lot of friends who are elected officials in the village.

So when Pat Maher wants something, he gets it.

The funniest part of the story is the quote from Ed Schussler, the trustee who served briefly as a village president back in the day when sharing was a great way to end political fights. Schussler's quote, according to the Southtown, is worth noting; but it makes no sense to me:

Trustee Ed Schussler said he voted in favor of the land sale because fire district officials had worked with the village on the plans, and he didn't believe he had the authority to tell another government body how to operate.
"They have to be accountable for how they spend their money," Schussler said.
What? He voted to sell the over-taxing Orland Fire Protection District the land because, the Orland Fire Protection District "worked" with the village? So maybe next time some big shot developer wants to come in and turn some neighborhood in to a multi-level apartment housing complex, as long as they "work" with the village to do it, it's okay?
Schussler says, according to the Southown/Star, that he didn't have the authority to tell another government body how to operate.
It's not just some other governing body, Ed. It's one that is taking taxes out of your pocket and my pocket and for what? So a lot of big shot Battalion Chiefs can drive their expensive Fire Protection District SUVs anywhere they please, anytime they please and at taxpayer expense?
Maybe that's the problem we have. Elected officials who bury their heads in the sand and don't want to tell other taxing bodies, including those headed by their political colleague's son, how to be fiscally responsible?
And I understand Trustee Kathy Fenton's vote even less:
The village board voted 4 to 1 to sell one-third of an acre to the fire district for $68,500 to allow for the addition. Trustee Kathy Fenton cast the dissenting vote; trustees James Dodge and Bernard Murphy were absent. Fenton later said she did not want to set a precedent for the village selling open space.
But she then voted along with the three other trustees and McLaughlin to approve the addition, including zoning changes and an intergovernmental agreement for parking. Fenton said she had some quality-of-life concerns for residents near the proposed addition, but some changes to the plans allayed her concerns.
What does that mean?

You voted against it and you voted for it? Sounds like a position someone takes when they are about to run for re-election again. At least that would be a good excuse. But Fenton isn't running for re-election in the Spring. Trustees Bernie Murphy, Patricia Gira and Schussler, are. Murphy was absent and so was Jim Dodge, and that leaves Gira voting for the sale, too.
Maybe they're worried, though. After all, the Orland Machine is gearing up to push for Pat Maher's campaign against tax-fighter Liz Gorman, the Cook County Commissioner from Orland Park who represents the tear-drop bowling alley district called the 17th that is based in Orland and stretches all the way north to Wheeling and Northfield Townships. With that machine in place, you don't want to ruffle any political feathers.
Gorman, who has made a career of fighting tax hikes, sent a letter expressing concerns about the deal and its impact on taxpayers. No one on the village board or at the Fire Protection District bothered to read the letter. (The letter is copied below at the end of this post.) Why would they? It's only about protecting the interests of the taxpayers. Even the representative of the Maher Dynasty at the meeting, Fire Chief Bryant Krizik, said he was unaware of the letter defending the taxpayers. What would he say?
I have one rule in covering politics. When someone fights for the taxpayer's interest as consistently as Liz Gorman has over the past many years, you listen to her, even if she is not on the local village board. At least pretend like you know what the issues are and respond to them, rather than give wishy washy answers that make no sense at all.
Politics makes great people sound so dumb. Courage makes them sound smart.
The first day to file petitions for local races in the Spring of 2011 is August 24, 2010.

Gorman's Letter:

Mayor Daniel McLaughlin
& Village Board
Village of Orland Park
14700 Ravinia
Orland Park, Il 60462

August 2, 2010

Mayor McLaughlin and Village Board:

Please accept this letter as my opposition to the approval of plans for the construction of a new administrative center for the Orland Fire Protection District.

As an elected official I cannot, in good conscience, support a project that has no tangible benefits to the taxpayers of the Orland Fire Protection District and is significantly over budget before ground has even been broken. In light of the current economic conditions, we have all had to learn to do more with less. Considering the slowdown in growth and the fact that our area is at the downturn of new growth, one would have to question why the Orland Fire Protection District “needs” to build a structure of this magnitude and substantial costs to our taxpayers at this time.

In my capacity as a Cook County Commissioner, I have made a commitment to oppose wasteful spending and mismanagement of taxpayer funds. I have fought corruption and waste at every turn. As resident of the Orland Fire Protection District, I have objections to my tax dollars being so grossly mismanaged by the Orland Fire Protection District Board of trustees as evidenced by this proposed construction plan and other questionable spending practices.

While we all have separate taxing districts to watch over, we are all representing the same taxpayers. We must each stand up and do what is right and in the best interest of those taxpayers.

Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman
Cook County Commissioner, 17th District
-- Ray Hanania

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